The company aims to have five beers available all year round, starting out with two of these initially and it then plans to add in special limited edition brews. The beers will mostly be bottled and sold through the existing wine shop, a store that has been in the Mitchell family since 1935, specialising in wine in the 1960s.
Owner John Mitchell told OLN: “The unit next door is also ours and it was let to an Italian restaurant operator for a number of years but he left the premises in December 2015. We didn’t want to sell the unit, partly because we have a shared passageway between the stores; it left us wondering what we should do with it, and then we came up with the idea of brewing.
“So we built a brewery with a museum upstairs. We will bottle as much as we can sell in the shop and we will also have a wholesale draught operation for local pubs.”
The first beers include the 5% abv Madness Session IPA and the 5% abv Marilyn Golden Ale, which is a nod to the statue of Marilyn Monroe that has sat on the balcony in front of the store for many years “because it makes people look at the shop”, Mitchell explained.
Independent Blonde is a blonde ale that will be part of the permanent range, as well as Let’s Have a Butcher’s Pale Ale, which was named because the family-owned company was once a butcher’s shop. Dennis Beer & Beef Bitter, which will complete the line up, is a tribute to Mitchell’s father who established the wine shop and the original butcher’s store.
Later in the year the company will also distill its own gin.
The brewery has been in the making for most of 2016 and is ready to sell its first beers in a few weeks.
“We built the brewery from scratch; getting the machinery into the building was quite an operation, but it’s now in and we are cladding the tanks with wood. It will be visible to consumers and it is directly next door to our wine store.”
Investing in the new brewery operation cost the business around £15,000, he explained, with costs required for plumbing and putting in concrete floors. The shop also needed rewiring, but this would have been needed anyway.
Above the brewery is a museum containing brewery memorabilia Mitchell has collected over the years.
“I have around 600 bottles to put on display, including Bass Double magnums, which are probably £80 or £90 each and also some celebration beers from when Charles and Diana got married, of which only a few were made. It’s also a nice area for tastings and events.”
Mitchell’s Wine already has a range of 400 beers in stock and Mitchell said demand for these has shot up over the past year, which led to the idea of creating a brewery on site. At present the store sells around 120 English beers, 120 craft beers, of which a third are in cans, and a selection of global beers.
“People are drinking less but spending more. Logistically for us it used to be difficult to sell beer – we would sell six pallets of cans a week and it was hard work. Our sales are still going up but the amount of customers has dropped off a bit; I would say that perhaps we have lost the cheaper end of the market to supermarkets.
Our margins are good for things like craft beer and we have loads of fridge space; we are now attracting a different clientele and younger drinkers.”
“We can be quite competitive with prices for our own beers and with other local brewers.”