Building a new beer store


As part of our ongoing efforts to improve the pub, we needed more space to store our beer.

A small space

For years, we’ve struggled with an undersized cold store for our beer. When I say undersized, what I mean is that we are constantly brewing “just in time” to ensure there’s enough space for the newly brewed beer. The beer store can hold a maximum of about two brews of beer.

Because the beer store is so small, whenever a new batch of beer is ready, we have to unload everything to get the new stuff in. This is basic stock rotation. However, when you’re dealing with 9, 18 and 36 gallon barrels, this can be a lot of hard, heavy lifting.

In addition to all this work rotating stock, the lack of space means we are limited to what we can brew. It makes it difficult for us to make a strong dark winter special, ideally brewed months in advance, because of the precious space it occupies. It also means that our brew schedule is strictly dictated by demand from the pub. Planning around this and taking holiday is hard.

Towards a solution

For the last year or so, we’ve been thinking seriously about what could be done. My father’s workshop, located next to the brewery, seemed to be the ideal space. It receives a lot less direct sun than the current beer store, and has the potential to be much better insulated. It just needed decluttering. Years of accumulated odds and sods from the pub and brewery needed organising, giving away, selling, throwing away, repurposing. Over the course of several weeks in autumn 2021 we did this, and at the same time we planning how to use the space.

Between the brewery team, we came up with a plan to split the space into thirds, allowing the leftmost third as space for the cold store.

Peter Fisher from ACM Ltd, based in Norwich, came to visit us and from our conversations sketched a design.

We sat on this, happy with the design. The quote seemed reasonable, but was on the high end of what we were able to afford. We were trying to figure out how to make it work.

A timely email

Then in September, through Bungay Events and Business Association, I received an email advising me that East Suffolk Council had launched a new grant for businesses affected by Covid-19 restrictions. This “Plan for the Future” grant scheme seemed to be a really good match for our beer store project:

Businesses which are looking to bring forward investment projects that will have a significant impact on their business will be able to apply for grants of between £5,000 and £25,000 to help support their projects.

I sent an email to East Suffolk council and within hours Margaret Oakley at the New Anglia Growth Hub had responded with some registration forms, helpfully partially completed based on the information they already held about us. The forms themselves do ask for quite a bit of detail, but Margaret responded very quickly to all my queries.

By the following day the registration forms had been completed I was assigned a growth advisor, Robert Turnbull, also at the New Anglia Growth Hub. Robert called me that day, and we had a long chat about the project. Robert listened carefully and was able offer excellent advice on how to complete the application form. Again, the form required some technical detail, and in every case Robert was able to provide a clear and concise answer on how to complete it.

Over the course the next few weeks, working through the details of the application form - figures from my accountant, how much state aid we’d already received, turnover, balance sheet, etc - I finally managed to complete the final bits and submit our application on October 1st. A couple of weeks later, on the 15th of October, our application was approved!

A small rethink

Once the grant application was approved, we knew we’d be okay to schedule the work. With that in mind, we had another look at our plans.

A local refrigeration engineer, and a regular at the pub, Bo came to look at the space. Bo is an expert in this field and has been working with refrigerated spaces for years. He advised us to try to envisage exactly how we would use the cold room. This exercise proved invaluable.

Along with my father, Digby and Luke, we started pacing the space out, laying it out with masking tape on the floor, shifting versions of where the barrels would go.

One of the biggest problems with the existing beer store is that once it starts to get full, there’s really no room to move around. When we started looking at the space with these barrels in place, we realised that having 3 sliding doors would not only overcomplicated things, it resulted in multiple “channels” that did not make the best use of the space.

After thinking things through, we asked Peter to come back and consider a plan using the rear half of the workshop instead of just the leftmost third. This would mean we could get away with only one large sliding door instead of three smaller ones, and would give us a lot more usable space. In retrospect, I believe this was the correct choice - it’s a much better design overall.

A job well done

In the second week of December, ACM send their team to install the cold room. They work very quickly and professionally, completely nearly all of the work in 2 days. A week later, Beeline Refrigeration come and install the cooler and LED illumination. The only thing left to install is the door, a 1500mm wide custom built sliding door made from foam covered with sheet steel and PVC. ACM return a few days later and install it.

Overall, I’m very happy with the result. The workmanship is of the highest quality and the additional breathing room it gives us means that there is much less work moving barrels as part of the stock rotation. Now, with the larger beer store, we can potentially look at slightly increasing production - perhaps producing a kegged product to sit alongside the craft kegged beers that we have been buy in as part of our ever-changing craft beer selection at the pub. This will not only make us more competitive, but will create a product that’s brewed onsite instead of couriered to the pub.

Thanks to East Suffolk for the Plan to the Future Grant, and the New Anglia Growth Hub for being so helpful during the application process. Thanks to ACM and Beeline for their patience and professionalism throughout the build process.