Starting a brewery in a pandemic is not how we ever planned to begin our journey in the world of beer, but it certainly has been the making of us.
In November 2019 we sat round our dining table and agreed to put our plans to start a nano brewery in motion. I had some ideas of what I wanted to call it which were shot down pretty quickly by my lovely wife, but it was on that night after a long brainstorming session with a few beers I registered our business - Copper Beech Brewing Company - on companies house. If you don’t know the reason for the name, it is because our brew shed sits under an ancient Copper Beech Tree at the bottom of our garden.
Even at the point of registering I will admit that I didn’t think it would happen; that we would have too much red tape to battle through or that it would be too costly to achieve. Looking back now I was naïve to think that a 100 litre set up would work long term as a commercial brewery, but only because we have never been able to keep up with demand.
What has happened with Copper Beech in the last 2 years has changed our lives for the better, with my own outlook and mental health being the most significant improvement.
I have met people that I wouldn’t have met before, some of which have now become friends for life. I have willingly been interviewed on a podcast, on the radio and most recently at our market pitch. I have even taken it upon myself to contact local Brewers and ask to shadow them in their breweries. For many of you this may not seem such a big deal, but for me as I write this, it’s a timely reminder of how far I have come and how much the beer world has given me. For those who have known me a long time, they will know that I have struggled with social anxiety and depression for most of my adult life, but the last few years - amidst a horrendous period in history - I have started to find myself and my place in this world. I also, after years of daily close shaving, now have facial hair - how I have changed!
This industry is vast. It’s full of diversity, innovation and creativity. It attracts some of the most fantastic personalities and I have to say I am proud to be a part of it and to be able to say that we have some wonderfully loyal customers that we have had the great pleasure of getting to know this year.
It’s because of this that I look to give back at every opportunity we have. Delivery with a Difference is an example of that, but while we may have come up with the idea, its success is down to our amazing customers who have donated so generously throughout the year. I can’t thank you enough for embracing the initiative and as we grow bigger we will continue to look at ways in which we can add value to our community. Whether this be charitable activity or volunteering, I intend to ensure that Copper Beech gives back.
As we approach our second year in business, it’s time to reflect and look at what we have achieved and what is next for us.
Those who have followed our journey know that we have been painstakingly trying to find a permanent home for our brewery and one where we can give it the space to become what we dream it to be. We have spent many a night trawling commercial property sites with no luck, deliberating bidding on larger brew house equipment on eBay knowing we may not have anywhere to put it, leading us question whether the next step is beyond us (mainly me, twice a week).
My wife Sam will always remind me that things happen for a reason and although there have been times this year where I have felt the odds have been against us, I truly believe everything was meant to work out this way. For example, we may not have had the amazing experience of the Edgbaston Village Artisan markets if we had secured a unit and put all of our focus into that.
So here is where we are at...
- We have plans to increase our production. Initially we will be looking to produce 6 times what we do now, but will have capacity to increase that to 20 times.
- As a result of the above we will finally be going into keg!!!
- We will be opening up our shipping nationally but also will be looking to do more frequent deliveries locally as per our current set up.
- We will be working on more bespoke projects, working with local businesses to create personalised beers, as well as event projects such as weddings.
- We will continue with our attendance at Edgbaston market.
- We are looking to get involved in several festivals and events this year so watch this space!
How are we doing all of this?
- First step is to move into a bigger premises. We enquired about the unit in question back in March 2021. We hope we will be able to move on early March 2022! It’s been a long road to get there, but fingers crossed it all comes together. It’s the first step of many, but it’s very exciting!
- We have acquired brewing equipment that gives us the capacity we need and is within our budget. We ideally would like to go bigger but it’s just not feasible at this time. We intend to invest heavily on our fermentation side of the brewery.
- My sister Shelly will become a bigger part of the business over the next year. Shelly has worked in Hospitality her entire life and will be a massive asset to what we are trying to do. Recently she has been working the markets with me as well as canning, so you will start to see more of her from May onwards.
It has been an interesting experience just writing down these thoughts of mine and I am going to try and commit to doing this once a month at the very least. Especially as we move into this next chapter of our journey.
So, as I close my first ever blog post I just want to list some of the humbling experiences our little brewery had this year and also say thank you to a long list of people who have influenced our first year.
- Finalists of 2 SIBA business awards in our first month of trading. Up against truly great breweries in each category.
- Produced 9 new beers across the year
- Brewed 46 batches of beer, or 3220 litres / 6440 cans! Considering the size of our brewery, I am proud of that.
- Our beer has been stocked in 3 different retailers, with a waiting list of people we are so desperate to do business with.
- We have seen our beer be distributed far and wide from these Retailers, even as far as Glasgow.
- We have produced bespoke beer for a wedding and a local business.
Thank you roll call…
My wife Sam - for being my biggest supporter, the driving force behind our marketing and branding, as well as putting me in front of people when she knows how uncomfortable it can make me!
My in-laws Trish and John - for believing in the project, not only investing money in it but their time and energy to support me at cold markets, labelling cans or delivery days while I’m at the day job.
- we are so fortunate to have a great friend who is also a hugely talented graphic designer. Ed brought our brewery to life with the concept and we will forever be grateful for the work he has put in to make sure our website was up and running on time and that print deadlines were met for labels.
My sister Shelly - after we found out that Sam was pregnant my first reaction was “Who is going to do the canning with me?” As Sam stepped back from the physical aspect of the brewery, in stepped my sister to support and is now becoming an integral part of the business.
- For all of their hard work on our branded items throughout 2021. They're amazing at what they do.
- The Hop Vault were the first retailer to contact us and take a punt on our beers. Mark, Tom and Pete have continuously supported us through 2021 and have been great advocates of our beer.
- We never would have thought that being invited to a podcast interview would lead to us making some incredible new friends. These guys have been such a great source of support and really have helped champion us through our first year in business.
Tim and Alex - Towards the latter end of the year I reached out to two guys who in any other industry may have told me where to go. Both Tim (Bewdley Brewery)
and Alex (Brothers of Ale)
let me spend a day in their respective breweries and allowed me to pick their brains. I thoroughly enjoyed my time getting to know both of these chaps and will hopefully try and spend more time learning from them when the time allows. Weirdly I found racking cask at Bewdley Brewery and then cleaning the casks at BOA two of the highlights! You can tell I’m new at this!
- for taking our spent grain. As silly as it may sound, I really enjoy my Monday drive out through Bewdley and Kinlet to drop it off. I get to see the goats and pet their dogs when I’m there and it puts a smile on my face knowing these animals are benefitting from what would normally be landfill waste.
Finally, our customers. If it wasn’t for GDPR I would name most of you. Especially those of you have ordered pretty much every web shop. Without you we wouldn’t be at the point we are now. One day we hope to create a space where you can come and enjoy a beer with us in person so we can get to know you even better!
Cheers to 2022 guys - we hope to make this one even bigger and better than the last.