Published on March 10, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Small but perfectly formed
A tiny shop in a city suburb has beer lovers forming a queue, writes Alastair Gilmour
While turning over the idea of opening a dedicated beer shop, James Andrews put in endless legwork. Quite literally, he would wander the streets and avenues of Newcastle’s suburbs, taking note of single premises and shopping parades where he would feel comfortable and where a customer base was likely to emerge from.
James knew the Heaton area of the city quite well so he let his ideas and dreams filter subconsciously into what has become Champion Bottles And Taps. (He already knew a fair bit about filters as he had worked in the coffee machinery industry, helping set up independent business around the region.)
“I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time and kept looking for the right premises,” says James, now firmly settled into Warton Terrace, just off Chillingham Road. “We used to wander round different areas to see if we could find anything and happened to stumble on this.”
James fitted the tiny shop out himself and even converted a commercial catering fridge into a cooler for storing and dispensing a revolving range of keg beers to take away. The idea is that litre-sized bottles branded with the Champion logo cost an initial fiver so you can bring it back to get it filled as often as you like. Alongside that there are shelves lined with interesting and exciting beers from breweries run by enthusiasts with innovation woven into them.
Champion Bottles And Taps probably about as small a shop as you can get, but it’s packed with double IPAs, sours and modern interpretations of classic styles from the likes of Magic Rock, Twisted Barrel and Partizan. There are also a couple of shelves of small production ciders and a selection of naturally-produced wines with low environmental footprints. A full beer list is updated daily which is where an organised mind comes in handy, although James doesn’t take credit for that.
He says: “My wife works at Northumbria University library and she knows as much about beer as anybody I know – and she’s much more organised than I’ll ever be.
“We want to keep what we offer as high quality as possible. You can grab any bottle in here and it’ll be a good one. Our off-sales license means we can only offer small tasters in a certain size glass, but it’s very popular and most people will then buy a litre.”
Things are going so well in this can’t-swing-a-cat shop – open only since January 5 – that he’s already got his eye on another unit. Further plans – apart from expansion and a self-congratulatory pat on the back – include a couple of tables and chairs on the equally tiny terrace to take full advantage of the afternoon sunshine. Champion.