Craft Beer

How to open a craft beer bar in a shipping container

By James Evison contact

- Last updated on GMT

Boxing clever: the Cronx Bar at Boxpark Croydon
Boxing clever: the Cronx Bar at Boxpark Croydon

Related tags: Craft beer bar, Brewing, Beer

The Cronx Brewery has opened a craft beer bar in Croydon's Boxpark site. The Morning Advertiser caught up with the owners to find out about the opening.

Local and proud, the two owners of the New Addington-based brewery, Mark Russell and Simon Dale, are two of the most hard-working individuals you could meet in a trade notorious for being hard working.

Not only do they do all the brewing, they have just opened the Cronx Bar at the Boxpark to showcase their own brews and the best of London and the UK's craft beer trade on keg and cask pumps.

It is a considerable achievement. After all, this is a beer bar in a shipping container. So the inevitable questions arise quickly – where's the cellar? How did you fit the lines? How do you cool the beers?

Experience in the trade

And remember, these are not experienced operators – this is the first bar they have opened, discounting the on-site brewery tap in New Addington, south London. But one week after opening, and the craft beer bar full of punters on a Thursday night, it would appear they have pulled it off. 

But how? What are their top pieces of advice?

Russell says: "Get yourself a good shop-fitter. That is the most important thing you will do."

"Absolutely," Dale agrees. "We couldn't have done this at all if it wasn't for the contractor – the builders have been so helpful with setting it up."

This is plain to see as soon as you enter the venue. Despite being a shipping container, the bar is full of the latest modern technological conveniences and it doesn't feel as though you are in a temporary space.

Russell continues: "We knew there was going to have to be multiple plug points with USBs for customers – and we made sure that the bar was fitted out with enough for all customers."

Seating and tables are all wooden with steel and metal fittings to give it the real stripped back, contemporary craft beer bar feel you see across the UK. But, it also feels surprisingly warm, due to the soft, yellow lighting. 

cronxlamp

Space usage

The bar, which forms the back part of the shipping container, includes a cold room for the beer and even a small office space. There are six handpulls and 10 keg lines in the venue, which, considering the size of the venue, is impressive. There is even a food offer – cheese toasties – to go with your pint. 

Russell says: "We've sold a lot more of our cask ales in the first few weeks than we expected, but this was mainly due to the keg lines not being ready for opening."

This caused the problem of the Cronx Brewery supplying its other pub and on-trade customers and its own site, surely? Dale and Russell shrug, seemingly taking the additional brew days in their stride.

"Potentially, we do need another one or two people down the line to help out with the deliveries and ensuring the brewery is working – the last thing you want to do is over-work." Dale says.

cronxbar

The staff

Interestingly, considering Craft Beer Co was one of the other beer bars expected to arrive at the Boxpark in Croydon, there is some continuity between the two brands.

The Cronx Brewery has employed a former worker at Craft Beer Co's Brixton site as the general manager of the Cronx Bar – and their sales assistant back at the Brewery HQ also worked for the brand.

Dale laughs: "As you can see, the beer and brewing world is a small world."

The obvious advantage of this is knowledge – one of the crucial elements to the success of any craft beer bar. Often the customer is as experienced in the finer elements of artisanal, small-batch brewing as the bar staff.

Russell says: "You must have faith in your staff and give the people a chance. Young bar staff really work in this kind of environment."

The future

cronxexterior

This is the first site for the brewing duo so it may be some time before operations are expanded. 

"We will be looking to expand operations in the brewery at some point in the future, hopefully when have some more capital," Russell says.

"The bar has been a big part of our time and resources for the past few months and it will good to see how it goes, and we can look to building on that in the future," Dale says.

Related topics: Other operators

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