Logan Plant – son of Led Zeppelin’s Robert – tells The Morning Advertiser (MA) that despite Beavertown having to survive via other channels during lockdown, pubs play a massive role in the north London craft brewer’s business model and vision for the future.
"When pubs and bars closed, about 85% of our volume suddenly just dropped off,” he explains. “As you can imagine they're a major part of what we do.”
Plant adds that with pubs closed, lockdown was spent trying to understand how Beavertown, which in June 2018 sold a minority stake to Heineken, whose pub arm, Star Pubs & Bars operates more than 2,000 UK pubs, can continue to support the beer and pub markets as well as finding new ways to connect with drinkers.
“The support from the Government with furlough has really helped us through – everybody's back now, which is great and we haven't lost anyone which has been positive for the team,” Plant says.
“As you can imagine with 85% of the business gone we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle but as a team, I'm very proud of the way we pulled through it and we still managed to supply a few of the supermarkets we worked with.
"For all of us it's really interesting to see how shopping habits changed,” he continues. “We had a web shop, it was doing great, there were two people running it, but suddenly we went into lockdown and everybody became even more thirsty so the web store grew 1,000%. Now there's eight people working there and it's become a company on its own and our second biggest revenue driver.
“It's heightened our relationship with the drinker directly, which is great because for us it is about our relationship drinkers and how we can give them the most stimulating experience possible. The more that we can have a one-to-one with them, the better, really. It's been a positive.”
Plant adds that Beavertown is now up and running at its new facility in Enfield, Beaverworld, where it brewed a company record 15 times during the first week of July and recently produced new 2.8% session IPA Nanobot.
"Brewing continued but with the understanding that once we had a date – Super Saturday – it was about then going from being 100% can for three months to getting kegs of Neck Oil and Gamma Ray up and running,” he says.
"You've got to look for the opportunities in these times - not that we've seen many times like these.”
‘The only way is up’
Plant adds the 105 days between English pubs and bars closing on 20 March and resuming trade on 4 July have reinforced the local's place as a focal point of communities.
"The local has become a big thing again - it was before, but it's really pushed that,” he says. “The way we live and breathe ourselves has changed a lot.
“I saw some really creative, quick thinking, which many of us have had to do during this, to keep our businesses going. For example, my local in Kensal Rise turned into a deli - they were selling takeaway pints, but they also brought in fruit and vegetables, you could buy fish and meat, all sorts of bits and pieces. They really switched their business model. That shows even more so that the pub is definitely a focal point and I think it can be even more so to a local community.”
Reflecting on the reopening of pubs and bars on 4 July, Plant continues: "We have one of the best hospitality industries in the world and it's run by amazing professional, experienced, operators - they've done a great job to begin with.
“Not all pubs have reopened, but from what I've gathered it's been steady. It's up from where some groups predicted and the only way is up now – the more we work with these amazing operators, with the great bar staff out there to make it as confident an experience as possible then it's only going to grow.”
Love letter to the pub
Plant spoke to MA after the launch of Beavertown’s Art of the Queue campaign on 4 July, which saw an ode to the pub penned by British comedian and poet Tim Key emblazoned on the pavement outside 10 north London sites to welcome drinkers and mark the resumption of trade.
Lines from Key’s love letter to the British pub were spaced one metre apart outside the Clissold Park Tavern, Royal Inn on the Park, Faltering Fullback, the Rose SE1, the Pineapple, Three Compasses, Howl at the Moon, Neighbour, the Old Ship and the Beavertown Taproom, to keep customers entertained and socially distanced.
"It was about how could we support pubs and create some sort of rallying cry in a very Beavertown way to heighten that level of anticipation and be part of the moment creatively,” Plant explains.
“The team came up with this great idea of Art of the Queue. Working with Tim Key – an amazing performer, poet and actor – then using our creative director Nick Dwyer to use the power of the imagery and be part of that thing that we've all become so at one with, and all seem to do very well as British people – queuing.
“Tim did a great job with his feelings that mirrored our feelings and a lot of people's feelings in what we missed about pubs – whether it's the smell of smoky bacon crisps or whatever it is, and that anticipation of when you're at the bar and you've got a thirst on.
“It was about being part of that moment – a kind of love letter to the pub, about why they're so special to us.
"For Beavertown the pub is where we were born. I started in a brewpub and was brought up in pubs in the West Midlands - they mean a lot to all of us, they're a community hub if you like."