Yorkshire-based beer retailer and distributor Beer Hawk will open its first bar and bottle shop in London this year. It expects to open its first brick and mortar site on Stamford Street, near London’s South Bank in May 2018. The area is one of London’s thriving tourist spots, a stone's throw from the Royal Festival Hall and a short stroll from the Houses of Parliament. Until now, the company—which was acquired by ZX Ventures (a division of Anheuser Busch-InBev) in February 2016—has been online-only. Beer Hawk was originally founded in 2011. Following an expansion in June 2016, it added a distribution wing in 2017.
[Disclosure: Good Beer Hunting's studio side is the Executive Producer of a Condé Nast project, October, in which ZX Ventures is an investor.]
WHY IT MATTERS
London has been attracting a fair share of new beer businesses lately. Bristol’s Moor Brewery recently opened a taproom and distribution center in Bermondsey, South London in December 2017, sidling up alongside breweries such as Brew by Numbers and The Kernel. Leeds-based Northern Monk also has its sight set on London, revealing in its recent crowdfunding manifesto the potential for it to open a brewpub. Distributor and retailer Beer Merchants also opened its own bar—which will also feature a barrel aging and blending project—this February in East London’s Hackney Wick.
“Leeds, Manchester, and Liverpool all have amazing craft beer scenes—but the number of customers we have in London and the sheer size of the scene means it’s the UK’s most sensible city to launch our first bar,” Beer Hawk co-founder Chris France tells GBH. “We’ve picked somewhere near Central London so that we can use this as a place to treat our existing London customers to unique events and new beer launches too.”
The location Beer Hawk has chosen is already a relatively popular beer destination, with The Hop Locker, Waterloo Tap, and The King’s Arms all nearby. Beer Hawk will offer both on- and off-site sales, employing the hybrid bar and bottle shop model that has seen a huge rise in the UK during the past five years. It will offer a selection of more than 80 beers in bottle and on tap, and feature some outdoor drinking space. Customers will even be able to order beer for home delivery via the Beer Hawk website direct from their table via iPad. While different in the UK, it's worth noting that ZX’s connection between technology and IRL interaction has been piloted in-depth in Brazil, where ZX has maintained a series of mobile apps, delivery services, and physical locations to create a network of methods to order and buy beer.
It’s not just smaller beer businesses like Moor and Northern Monk that are looking to tap into London’s thriving market, either. This will also be the latest in a series of investments ZX has made into the British capital. There was the £30 million ($41.5m) spent on the brand new Camden Town Brewery facility in Enfield, North London, which began production in May 2017. And in December 2017, it opened the Goose Island Vintage Ale House—recently rebranded simply as The Goose Island Tap—in Balham, South London. For his part, France is unbothered by the association.
“For some people in the beer community, the ownership structure of the brewery or retailer is the defining factor, but for us it’s more about the actual beer itself,” Beer Hawk’s France tells GBH. “All we’ve ever wanted to do is to help as many people as possible drink the best beer for them, and we’re 100% committed to making that happen regardless of where that beer comes from.”