A family of entrepreneurs from Warwick have taken their first steps into hospitality with their new craft beer bar and shop which recently opened in the town.
Father and son Paul and Harvey Brown, supported by mum Jacqui and brother Regan, have launched The Craftsman, in Smith Street.
The venue, which opened last month, is already attracting the craft beer community with its extensive beer menu, including 16 rotating beers on tap plus more than 50 product ranges in the bottle shop.
As well as pints, the drinks are available in third, half and two third pint servings and it is believed to be the only bar for miles around to offer 16-beer flights – one third pint measures from each of their pumps, from hoppy IPAs and pale ales to rich stouts, fruit sours and lagers. Takeaway containers – called growlers – can also be requested. A selection of wines, spirits, liqueurs and ciders are also available.
The enterprise marks an unexpected change of direction for 20-year-old Harvey who has, for years, had his heart set on becoming a sports agent.
“I had offers from a couple of the universities who sold me a dream and how they’d be able to get me into the industry but it just wasn’t for me in the end. When I came back from uni for Christmas after the first semester I told my parents, I’m not enjoying it and I don’t want to stay on,” he said.
Inspired by his dad who has more than 30 years’ experience in running small businesses, it was Harvey’s new-found entrepreneurial spirit that brought him to the door of the former Switch and Revive café premises which were sitting empty.
“It all started with a mad conversation at Christmas about taking over my girlfriend’s dad’s beer shop in Warwick. He was looking to sell up, and I thought it offered me a great opportunity to get started in business. So I quit uni and became the proud co-owner of Warwick Real Ale with my dad. That was a blast for a few months, and I learned absolutely loads about beer and business, but we knew it would never make money, then the old Switch unit came available and we just went for it!”
“It was a huge step up and has been a massive learning curve for me. I’m getting quite a decent knowledge of beer now just from listening to the craft beer community who know their stuff.”
The bar also offers a modest food menu, curated by head chef and general manager Lee Mallen, to complement the beers. It’s all home-made using ingredients that are fresh and locally sourced wherever possible. Lee is a familiar face to regulars at the venue as he also headed up the teams at the former cafés that occupied the site.
The team is keen to work with as many local producers as possible, from a host of microbreweries through to its coffee suppliers.
Harvey said: “It’s such fun buying in all this new beer and putting it on the tap and then you’ll get someone that’s been drinking craft beer for 15 years and they find something new and they love it because of you. I get massive satisfaction from that.”
“People are coming from afar because they just love the vast and ever-changing range of beers we have. What we’re offering is an experience that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s a sub-culture. Craft beer people are just the loveliest people. We’re really loving it.
“I have put a lot of pressure on myself because dad’s had such a fantastic career in business himself. He massively inspires me.”
But Paul admitted: “To actually come into the hospitality industry as an owner is completely new to me, but I have drawn on all the business and consumer experience I’ve had before. And we’re learning from the people around us who know the industry.
“We threw ourselves into this but we’re still ambitious and, longer term, we’d like to have a chain. This is Craftsman WRK and hopefully there’s going to be Craftsmans in other areas too.”
But how is the working dynamic holding up for the Brown family?
Jacqui, whose background is in customer services, said: “We butt heads occasionally. It’s like any family really. We all have frustrations. But we have a discussion and move forward.
“I think back to a year ago when some friends said to us ‘we would really love to have a pub’ and Paul and I said we couldn’t think of anything worse. ‘Why would you want to do that?’ we quipped, ‘wrong side of the bar!’. This was never something we sat down to discuss as a family. We’ve just fallen into it. It’s an opportunity that’s come and we’ve grabbed it. It’s been an incredible journey so far.”
The Craftsman is open between 11am-9pm on Tuesdays, 11am-10pm Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11am-11pm Fridays and Saturdays and 12-6pm on Sundays. Visit The Craftsman here