The year that was 2016
We know that many of you will have spent much of the festive season entertaining customers or indeed family and friends, in what can be a frenetic season for all of us in the drinks and hospitality trade. Nevertheless. the team at Boutique Bar Brands hope you had a fun and hopefully restful Christmas and New Year.
For some of you it may have been a while since we spoke, but 2016 was somewhat of a milestone year for Boutique Bar Brands as we looked to expand our drinks portfolio, build on our efforts championing the best independent drinks producers and introducing new, exciting drinks bands to the UK market. We wanted to take this opportunity to give you an update on our achievements in 2016, our new brands and our capabilities.
After doubling the size of our team in 2015 (you can read a bit more on our history here) we signed a lease for a dedicated BBB office space in Battersea (SW London), which also couples as a tasting room and events space complete with its own bar! After a few late nights decorating and building our own furniture, we settled into Out Of Office in February 2016. Since then we have had the pleasure to host tasting events with American Brewers Association, Bronx Brewery and Yeastie Boys among others.
Island Records Session IPA Launch
Also in February we launched the first Island Records beer; Island Records Session IPA taking over the decks on the Friday night of Craft Beer Rising with music dedicated to the legendary Island Records artists. It is fantastic brand to be involved with and we have been delighted with how the market has reacted to this craft beer and music collaboration.
A proud moment came in the summer when Island Records Session IPA was awarded ‘most innovative marketing’ at the Beer Marketing Awards with the ’Shazam-able’ can functionality. With national distribution now available and a listing with Matthew Clark just around the corner it is sure to be a big year for this beer. Also look out for the second beer in the range, the Jamaica Porter brewed with rum, vanilla and coconut!
Beers from Belgium
In June 2016 BBB were chosen to represent De Brabandere Brouwerij, Belgium’s 10th largest Brewery as their UK agents. The beer connoisseur might be familiar with their exceptional Petrus sour beer range which are the world’s first beers designed to be blended together. Whilst the sour beers were the focus for 2016 we will be launching their unpasteurised pilsner Bavik Super Pils and their Wittekerke Wit in 2017. We enjoyed a successful (if quite boozy) brewery visit with some key trade customers and media in September 2016.
Expansion into Spirits
In a landmark deal for BBB, we brought on our first spirit contract in June 2016. Avua Cachaça is an artisanal and sustainably produced spirit from Rio de Janeiro available in steel aged and oak-aged expressions. Our big challenge is to elevate cachaça outside of its Caipirinha bubble, but with South American cocktails being identified as one of the key cocktail trends of 2017 and some cocktail menu listings in premium London cocktail bars coming in January 2017, hopefully we are at the start of a deserved evolution of the category.
Our second spirit followed relatively soon afterwards with drinks entrepreneur Dave Wallwork assigning us with the task of launching a completely new spirits category with his Nordic inspired spirit made from 100% birch water called Freya. We enjoyed seeing Simon Rimmer and Tim Lovejoy try Freya on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch on New Year’s Day! See how we have got on with Freya so far here.
We are proud that 2016 has also seen our off-trade business develop. In April 2016 we achieved a national listing for Bellerose in Marks & Spencer’s followed by Cranes cranberry and blood orange liqueur hitting the shelves in Partridges. Now you can shop online at Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt to pick up our spirits and Ales By Mail for our beers. London based consumers can stroll into any Borough Wines branch dotted around the city to pick up a few of our beery tipples. Island Records was featured in Beer52’s November box for their 9,000 subscribers alongside a beer and art feature in the Ferment Magazine. The team from Island Records even developed a Spotify Playlist matching each beer in the box with a track from the Island Records back catalogue. Jazzy.
BBB Ventures North
As the number of clients almost doubled in 2016 it was obvious that we needed to increase our presence in the North of England and Scotland. George Tudor-Williams came on board as our man in the North covering Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. Those of you in Scotland will be familiar with Charlie’s trips up to build sales North of the border, the success of which eventually led to BBB hiring Faye Woodcock as our Scottish Account Manager.
Not Standing Still
Throughout 2016 Charlie and Phil have been busy running countless tasting and educational events including Petrus blending sessions, beer and food pairings and were successfully beaten in our very own beer pong tournament. Along the way we have consulted on a beer list for London’s first dedicated beer and food restaurant as well as advising on all the beer and food pairings for the menu. We have also worked with two London based restaurant chains develop their ‘own label’ beers.
Tripling our headcount in the space of 12 month certainly caused some headaches and sleepless nights, as any small business will attest to. Luckily we managed to weather the storms and even found time to refresh the BBB website and launch a brand new website for our dedicated events business The House of Boda, with help from our talented designers Blank Design.
Not ones to stand still, as the end of 2016 approached we even had time to agree to work with Porterhouse Brewery from Dublin and their sister company Dingle Distillery (from the West Coast of Ireland) to manage both brands in the UK.
In the last throws of 2016 we employed Kirsten Jarin, a London based drinks enthusiast who has built up her own extensive network in the London pub and bar scene through her various jobs in the industry. Kirsten’s contacts and her knowledge of all things beer and spirits related has already proved invaluable to the business in the short time she has been with us.
The next twelve months of 2017 will undoubtedly be another busy year for us as we aim to continue to work hand in hand with you; our colleagues in the drinks industry. Our aim for 2017 is to work closer with all of you introduce you to new premium and ludicrously tasty products to help satisfy the continual evolving needs of your customers.
We ask that you take a look at our portfolio of drinks and please get in touch at any time if you would like a sample or a meeting to discuss our products and how we can add value to your business, especially if you are reviewing your beer or cocktail list for 2017. Equally, if they are not for you at the present time, I hope you will recommend our products to anyone who you think might be interested.
You can contact any of the team at their first name @boutiquebarbrands.com or call 0207 585 2294.
Best of luck for the year ahead.
Don, Phil, Lee, Charlie, Kirsten, George and Faye
Boutique Bar Brands
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