London’s Camden Town Brewery has marked its “official” launch in the northern English cities of Leeds and Manchester by opening a weeklong pop-up called the Little Camden Beer Room. Leeds welcomed the brewery from May 23-27, and it heads to Manchester for its next five-day stint on June 5, featuring a series of events including a comedy night and an art exhibition.
ZX Ventures—the investment arm of the world's largest brewing company Anheuser Busch-InBev—acquired Camden Town brewery in December 2015 for a reported £85 million ($113M). The brewery opened its brand new £30 million ($40M) facility in Enfield, North London, in May 2017.
WHY IT MATTERS
From the moment it was established in 2010, Camden Town built its core identity on the back of the North London borough that shares its name. From its original facility in neighboring Kentish Town—which still serves as its taproom and pilot brewery—it steadily began to plant roots within the British capital. The opening of its Enfield facility saw its capacity leap from around 14,000hl (11,930 BBLs) to 200,000hl (170,500 BBLs). The latter figure is expected to double once the brewery hits full capacity in its current state.
With that significantly larger capacity at its disposal (80% of which is reportedly its flagship Hells Lager), Camden now looks outside of its homebase in order to drive volume. Leeds and Manchester are two of the most well-regarded beer markets in the UK, both home to a thriving range of pubs, bars, and breweries, including Northern Monk in Leeds and Cloudwater in Manchester.
“Every year we’ve seen more and more bars pouring our beers in Manchester and Leeds, so now felt like the right time to take Camden on the road and say hello to the people in both of these great cities,” Camden Town founder Jasper Cuppaidge tells GBH. “The Little Camden Beer Room brings a few of our favorite things from home and allows us to partner with some great local friends in each city to create a special series of events.”
Camden says it currently has no plans to open a permanent site in either city, and that these pop-ups are strictly one-off events. The Leeds edition of the Little Camden Beer Room took place at the Victoria Quarter Shopping Center in the heart of central Leeds, around 100 meters (328 feet) away from a local bottle shop, Little Leeds Beer House.
“One of our biggest concerns personally is how big beer brands attempt to mimic the feel of genuine independents in an effort to align themselves with that market,” Little Leeds Beer House proprietor Richard Brownhill tells GBH. “Having said that, we’re always open to people getting on the craft beer ladder—it will only lead to more people discovering what real quality is, and going on to support their local independent businesses.”
Richard, along with his wife and business partner Bryony Brownhill, went on to say that there’s a huge temptation to be reactionary when larger beer businesses like Camden roll into town. However, they also felt that they don’t see Camden as a genuine competitor. With the London brewery’s offering being non-permanent and targeted squarely at the mainstream, it currently poses little threat to specialist retailers like Little Leeds Beer House.
Camden Town’s focus will increasingly look outside of London as it continues to expand in efforts to become a nationally recognized brand. They've also explored international markets, such as the small play they made into New York City back in November 2016. It remains to be seen what kind of welcome Camden will receive in Manchester when the Little Camden Beer Room opens there on June 5. And it’s likely we can expect many more pop-ups from the brewery in a similar vein, as it looks to win over new customers throughout the UK.