I have been running pubs for 17 years now and I have to say that for me there has never been a better time to be in the industry. I am still surprised by the new entrepreneurs that are joining the trade and the innovative ideas they are bringing. This goes not only for the pubs/bars they are creating but also the beers they are brewing. The two examples of this I am going to talk about epitomise the fact that a new way of looking at something very old and traditional can bring some amazing results as long as some key elements/values stay the same.
While looking for a place to have a drink in Exeter I found this bar called the Beer Cellar just outside the square where the Cathedral is located.
On the outside it looked a bit crash so I peered in through the window to see what was going on, its name the "Beer Cellar" held a lot of promise and we all know pubs that look awful on the outside and are amazing on the inside so I was determined to give it a try. It was a bit weird on the inside, chrome furniture and very small and I was just about to walk out when my eye was caught by the selection of beer. Not only did it have 6 ales but it also had 6 craft keg beers. Which totally blew me away, on closer inspection I noticed they had a detailed list of bottled beers totalling nearly 60 different brewers. Wow!! The best bit was no Fosters, Guinness, Blackthorne or anything that the big branded houses would have sold. 3 years ago no-one in their right might would have opened a new pub in a town centre without selling a standard lager, bitter and the usual range of off the shelf bar supplies, this place has none of it. The staff were knowledgable and helpful and there were a few people coming and going. I was particularly interested in the English Craft beers, real pride in the English brewing industry, amazing beers you will not find elsewhere. I had a half of an IPA from Pen pont brewery and a bottle of stout from Kubla brewery both excellent. The big thing that appealed to me was that they were selling a lot of beer as off sales. Loads of people were popping in to buy a beer to drink with their evening meal at home. What a great idea. I know this has been done before but when you are doing it with such niche beers it suggest this is more than just a passing phase.
All the old stereotypes around what products to sell and what customers really want have been thrown out the window in this bar. In a recession that has been really cruel to the pub industry it is great to see a bit of genuine innovation be really successful, what is more still with the values I was brought up with from the pub trade. Knowledgable staff, selling beer they believe in, from local suppliers, with pride and passion. This for me epitomises the pub trade I know and love not the pub trade high jacked by the big corporations. Fantastic.
The other entrepreneur was the Kubla brewery owned and ran by Kaite Loomes.
As you can see from the website truly something different, having tried their beer at the "Beer Cellar I decided to get in contact and get some of their beers on draft. Kaite explained that they deliver every other week to Exeter so I promptly ordered my selection of beers and awaited delivery. When the beer arrived I was stunned to find that not only was it Kaite delivering the beer but that it had come in her car, I was taken aback and once we had loaded the beer into my cellar we had a chat. She explained that she had a 1 barrel brewery that is 36 gallons per brew. When you think I ordered 27 gallons for my order it gives you an idea of how small her brewery is. When it says on her website hand made I can quite believe it.
The beer will be on sale this week in the Grapevine so we will be able to give Kaite our opinion then, I am sure it will be fantastic if the stout I tried is anything to go by. Again the values of this small company are written all over the it, from the styling of the website to the uniquely small size of the business as she keeps saying "handmade beer". A far cry from dealing with the big boys such as St Austall, Miller brands etc, who to my mind are now making factory beer, relying on brand loyalty more than taste and quality to sell their products.