Beervana: Dead Crafty Beer Company
Friday 08 June 2018
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We had a great time exploring Liverpool’s craft beer scene in issue 26, and enjoyed meeting some loyal Beer52 members for a tasting at the city’s Dead Craft Beer Company. In all the excitement though, we neglected to include Dead Crafty (Liverpool’s first and still our favourite craft joint) in our city bar guide. Sorry guys. Every cloud has a silver lining though, as this gives us the perfect excuse to catch up with the bar’s founders, husband and wife team Gareth and Vicky, and to share their story.
The couple’s route into the bar business was unconventional to say the least. Vicky was an Intelligence Analyst for the NHS and Gareth a rigger for the entertainment industry. But the pair had always had a deep love for craft beer, building their family holidays to the USA around breweries they want to visit. But the spark of inspiration came during an event in Houston, Texas, at a bar called the Haymerchant.
Vicky recalls: “Goose Island was holding its annual event, Migration Week and, not having heard of it before, we went along. We were blown away by what was happening; people were coming in for a drink on their own after work and striking up friendships with total strangers over beer. Vintage bottles were being sold for at least $80 and those who bought them were going round and sharing them with people they hadn’t met before. It struck us then that this is what Liverpool was missing. As soon as I came back home I drew up a business plan. A lot of my NHS colleagues thought I was insane to leave a well-paid job and walk into the unknown, but I can honestly say it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Dead Crafty’s founding ethos is that there’s a beer out there for everyone, and that the staff will find the one for you, even if it means sampling every one of the 20 taps.
“It’s great when you have a ‘non-beer drinker’ come in and they leave having discovered a beer they love – it’s very rewarding,” continues Vicky. “For us, it’s vital that we have the best, newest or rarest beers from around the world, so we spend hours researching what brewers are making, collaborations that are happening, and new breweries opening.”
One of Dead Crafty’s great strengths – and perhaps the thing that makes it most attractive as a visitor to Liverpool – is the extent to which the local community has embraced the bar, and how willing the regulars are to pull up a stool and chat with visitors. With a rolling calendar of regular and special events, there’s usually something interesting going on, and a fun time to be had.
As we saw last issue, Liverpool has emerged as an important and hugely exciting craft city in the past couple of years – a transformation that Gareth and Vicky have witnessed first-hand. When they first opened, the city’s beer epicentre was undoubtedly Dale Street, where nine excellent bars specialise in cask beer, making the area a mecca for beer lovers across the north west and beyond. Gareth admits they were nervous about how a keg-only bar would be received in such a traditional scene, but was quickly reassured that customers don’t mind how the beer is dispensed as long as it’s good.
Gareth and Vicky continue to travel for beery inspiration, seeking out the newest and best to bring back to thirsty Liverpudlians. I ask Gareth whether there have been any recent standout visits.
“Most of the bars we’ve loved on our travels have always been brewery taps,” he says. “Visiting Dogfish Head Brewery in Deleware was definitely a pinch yourself moment as it’s one of our favourite breweries and getting to meet Sam Calagione was amazing. It also doubles as a live music venue too. We’ve recently come back from a trip to Florida, Cigar City Brewing Co, Funky Buddah and J Wakefield have all been on our brewery wish list for ages so getting to see them all in one week was fantastic.
Vicky picks up the thread: “A favourite of ours is Harpoon brewery in Vermont, it’s on such a picturesque site. There’s not many breweries you can go kayaking in their back garden. Finally Bissell Brothers tap was just a super cool place, vibe and most importantly some of the best beers I’ve ever tasted. Six months after we visited the brewery in Portland, Maine we had a phone call from Northern Monk asking if they could bring them to our bar to do an event while they were visiting the UK. It was such a surreal night, from being in awe of their tap room then fast forward six months and they were in our actual bar.”
Located bang in the city centre, there’s really no excuse for a self-respecting craft lover to skip Dead Crafty if they’re in town (or even near town, frankly). Pop in, chat with a local, explore the beers and see what all the fuss is about.
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