A brand new bottle shop opened last month in East Sheen London. It offers an impressive range of beers from all over the world including UK exclusives from the likes of Cigar City. The shop also boasts wines, growler fills and taps pouring on sight. The space itself is beautifully designed. It’s open, bright and welcoming. Empties spoke to owner Sean Looney about his newest craft beer venture.
So, how did Micro Beers get started?
I was approached by my father in the summer about going in to business with him on a beer project of some sort. I think we’ve both seen that the growth of the craft beer industry in the UK is steadily on the rise and it’s a constantly growing market that we really wanted to be a part of.
What can we expect from the shop?
We want to be the best we can be. I understand that being the “best” is very subjective and that what might appeal to my tastes might not appeal to others but on the whole, at least from feedback we’ve received since being open, I think we have made a good impression on people who have visited the store. We want to create a bottle shop that is central to the community, where people can embrace the fact that they have a choice in what they do and do not drink and don’t feel limited by the often dire choices you are served up in the off licenses, supermarkets and pubs around the area. As for the future? The immediate future, looking to the next few months is to start hosting events such as meet the brewers, tasting evenings as well as food and pairing evenings. Further down the line we’d like to start selling our own beers off the taps, and we think that is really doable but it will all depend on the quality of what we produce. Of course expansion is at the back of our minds too but we want to grow organically and not rush things too much. If people continue to love what we do and we can grow what we already have the rest will fall in to place.
How long has Micro Beers been in the works? What’s the history behind the shop?
The idea for Micro Beers came about in the spring of 2016, somewhere around April or May? It moved really quickly from there and within 2 months we’d already found our site. I spent a couple of years living out in Norway and about a year ago my girlfriend and I decided to move to London. Originally my plan was to spend a couple of years here in London and then head to Copenhagen and see if I could forge a way in to the beer industry there. As I mentioned previously my Dad approached me about going in to business together in the summer and after a couple of discussions with him and my girlfriend we decided this is something we wanted to pursue. Copenhagen will have to wait!
Will the shop be exclusively for take out or do you have plans to serve on the premises?
We are licensed to sell for take out and drinking on the premises. It was a pretty drawn out process to get the license for serving on the premises but it was pretty central to the concept we wanted to create and if we hadn’t been granted the license here we’d have gone and found somewhere else. In my mind I’ve always liked the idea of a beer shop that you’d walk in to and immediately draw parallels with a coffee shop. Basically I wanted Micro Beers to be everything that a pub isn’t, to draw a line in the sand between being a bar and being a bottle shop. The main emphasis will always be that this is a place where you come to buy your beers to take home with you but we also want to be open to people sitting in and creating an interactive relationship with the product and the people coming in to buy their beers to take home.
Do you have any plans for events or tastings in the shop?
It’s something we are looking to start doing in the new year.
Do you have any favourite Breweries you plan on having in the shop?
I stock most of my favourite breweries, or at least the ones that I can get my hands on in this country. I wouldn’t mind having some Three Floyds or Treehouse in the fridges though! Our main emphasis is on London breweries with our international selection having a Scandinavian feel to it. In terms of stand out breweries you can’t really go wrong with The Kernel, Brew By Numbers, Beavertown, Magic Rock, Omnipollo, Mikkeller, To Ol, Modern Times, Trappistes Rochefort, Westmalle, Cigar City, Ayinger, Amager and the likes. I think we have a pretty solid selection of beers.
How is the craft beer scene in the UK and London?
It’s great. There seems to be so much going on at the minute and the “scene” appears to be in a fairly healthy state. Maybe I’m in a bit of an echo chamber but I feel like the best days are still to come. There is still this idea in the UK that craft beer belongs to millennial’s and hipsters and that it is an invasive and expensive “fuck you” to CAMRA and the traditional breweries and styles of Britain, but when you actually scratch below the surface there is a big demand for choice and quality across all demographics. People are waking up to the fact that pubs and big beer are ripping them off when it comes to price and quality and those people are coming over to craft beer as an alternative to both. There are now pockets of craft beer drinkers and breweries popping up up and down the country in towns and places you’d never expect and that is a really good indication of the health and growth of the scene.
Will Micro Beers be a spot for everything and anything or will you have a limited hand picked selection?
It will always be a hand picked and curated selection. Some shops do well selling 1000 different beers, others 50. We want to make sure that the beers we have are beers we feel confident in selling to people and for that reason we have picked quality over quantity. We will make sure our fridges and shelves rotate enough to give all the breweries we love and respect the space they deserve whilst also being responsible with our ordering and making sure we don’t sit on bottles of beer for months and months on end. Freshness is as important to us as anything else we do.
Are you working with any breweries or bars or are you flying solo?
We are 100% solo. We work directly with some breweries when ordering from them (especially London breweries) but other than that we aren’t currently working with any other companies in so far as collaborations or exclusivity in our fridges or on our taps is concerned.
Do you have any plans to open a webstore or would you prefer to stay a stand alone shop?
It’s something we are actively speaking about, although we have also got to be conscious that as a shop we cannot compete with dedicated online retailers on price. It’s something we need to sit down and discuss because it’d be foolish for me to sit here and say “no” when I know that online shopping is something that is such a vibrant and growing part of shopping culture in this country. At the moment we deliver locally through Deliveroo but we want to reach out a bit wider if we can.
While it’s early days still, do you have more plans for Micro Beers for the future?
Expansion, expansion, expansion. Of course, nothing is definite in this world but we really want to branch out and take this concept to more places and more people and continue building on what we’ve already built. As I mentioned previously though, it is very important that this company grows organically and doesn’t force itself to grow quicker than it should so I want to make sure we build proper foundations before we move on to the next site.
Cheers Sean anything else you’d like to add?