20 July 2018 Online exclusive

Capital gains: the out-of-town breweries opening in London

Independent breweries are opening taprooms in London, bucking the trend of pub closures – all in the name of freshness.

People are going out less and business rates are rising, while an average of 18 drinking venues have closed each week in 2017. Despite this, several regional craft breweries are coming to London to open their own bars.

In autumn, Manchester’s Cloudwater will join Falmouth’s Verdant, and Moor brewery from Bristol in calling London a second home. The venues, known as taprooms, are stripped back bars, often set up in abandoned shops and railway arches, which serve a single brewery’s wares. 

Despite the challenges facing bars and pubs, the taproom has become a popular alternative for independent breweries to sell direct to the consumer rather than through distributors.

Tank fresh

Cloudwater, which was recently names as the second-best brewery in the world by Rate Beer, says its largest market is in London, not its home town of Manchester. To better serve these customers, it’s decided to open a taproom on Enid Street, Bermondsey, later this year. 

‘It’s vital that we meet our customers needs for convenience, whilst we directly control our freshness and service quality standards,’ says Paul Jones, founder of Cloudwater.

Beer is essentially a living thing which can lose flavour over time – particularly if it’s not stores correctly. Customers at the Enid Street site will be able to sample beer delivered from the north of England the previous night, ensuring freshness.

Better together

While Verdant and Pressure Drop breweries were collaborating on ‘The Experiment Requires That You Continue’, a hoppy IPA, the idea of opening a taproom together was floated. Pressure Drop had a vacant taproom which needed filling, and Verdant were keen to sell direct to customers in London. ‘Pressure Drop got me into craft beer. They’re legends,’ Adam Robertson, director at Verdant, says.

The venture gives both breweries the opportunity to produce a retail revenue stream. Pressure Drop, established in 2012, already has links that Verdant can benefit from, sharing the burden of running costs and sourcing staff. ‘The Experiment’ opened its doors in Hackney Central on 6 July.

Increased exposure

Initially, Moor Beer set up its tap room in London to ease the strain of distributing to customers who wanted to buy direct from the brewery, rather than from recommended suppliers. ‘This put a real strain on us running vans there and back every week, so we were looking for a distribution hub to take some of the strain away,’ says head brewer Justin Hawke.

The Bristol brewery opened its premises on Bermondsey’s ‘Beer Mile’ in January, the first out-of-London brewery to do so. The move has had its complications, with costs being a particular challenge – ‘to some extent you have to accept that as marketing [and] brand awareness expense’ – but the benefit, Hawke says, is that people are more aware of the brewery than ever before.