Cloudwater Brewing Company has revealed plans to open a London taproom this year. Specifics are still up in the air, but founder and managing director Paul Jones said the site will likely open in South London in autumn 2018. The venue will also serve as a new retail arm for Cloudwater, as well as distribution center and training and events hub, giving the brewery the ability to both improve its customers' product awareness while entertaining them.
The brewery, established in 2015 within Manchester’s Ancoats district, quickly shot to ascendancy, as it became one of the first breweries in the UK to popularize trendy styles such as New England IPA. Its capacity has already expanded from 3,000hl (2,550 BBLs) in its first 12 months of operation to an expected 7,500hl (6,400 BBLs) this year. At this January’s RateBeer awards, Cloudwater was named the second best brewery in the world, placing behind only Hill Farmstead and ahead of other much-loved beer makers such as Trillium and Other Half.
WHY IT MATTERS
Jones is quick to point to his American counterparts as to why operating a London-based site is key to his business’ future. While some breweries in the U.S. can retail around 100% of beer produced out of their own front door, Cloudwater is selling just 12% of its beer via own-premise, above average for a typical UK brewery. Jones said that increasing Cloudwater’s revenue via direct retail is pivotal to growing the company.
“By putting ourselves in a more stable financial position this doesn’t just help us, it helps all of our retail partners,” he tells GBH. “We’re constantly held up in comparison against breweries that operate on near 100% self-retail, and we’re expected to keep up.”
London has become an incredibly important beer market over the past decade, with a population that’s held steady at just shy of nine million during that time. The number of operating breweries within the city has increased from 10 to 110 in that time as well. Four of these breweries—Brixton, Camden Town, London Fields, and Meantime—have also been subject of major acquisitions and investments. It’s clear there’s great interest in London beer from small players starting out to large corporations such as Anheuser Busch-InBev and Heineken, who have invested in operations in the city.
The viability and potential of this particular marketplace continues to grow, giving Jones confidence in the investment. Since his brewery opened its doors three years ago, London has been Cloudwater’s biggest market.
“Our new site will ensure that we can offer our London customers, as well as so many visitors to the UK who pass through the city, every beer we’ve packaged over the last two weeks, including what has been packaged within the previous 24 hours,” Jones says.
Cloudwater won’t be the first or the last brewery from out of town to carve out its own slice of the London market. Bristol’s Moor Beer Company opened the Moor Vaults in Bermondsey, South London in early 2018, its site serving as both a taproom and distribution center. Two Tribes Brewing from Horsham, Sussex is due to open a pilot brewery and taproom near Kings Cross on April 14. And in its recent crowdfunding portfolio, Northern Monk Brewery stated a goal of opening a London brewpub by 2020. Cloudwater’s move to open in London could simply be a signifier of the battleground the London beer market has become. With further breweries already planning to make their mark on the city, it’s certain that competition within this market will only become greater.
“Our taproom won’t just benefit us, it’ll benefit the whole London market,” Jones says. “Anybody selling our beer in London who wants to get into our headspace will be able to do so, and we’ll all be able to serve our customers better.”