Start your bar tour of Bristol with the brewpub that started it all: Zerodegrees
Wednesday 19 December 2018
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This issue, we’re exploring some of the most exciting spots in one of the UK’s most vibrant craft beer cities: Bristol. And there could be no better place to start than with Zerodegrees, the original and still definitely one of city’s best craft beer bars and restaurant. Zerodegrees is a family business, with four bars stretching across the south of England and Wales, each of which has its own high-end brewkit, supplying thirsty locals with five excellent core beers and a rotating range of monthly seasonals. While there’s always something sufficiently intriguing on-tap to tempt even the most jaded craft adventurer, Zerodegrees’ focus has always been on quality, flavour and drinkability, rather than on gimmicks.
The family business started back in late 1990s, when Nick Desai – travelling for his family’s restaurant business – was inspired by a visit to a microbrewery and pizzeria in California, and by the small regional breweries he saw in west coast USA and Germany. He began to wonder why no such businesses had sprung up in the UK. While many thought he was mad – this was a time when British breweries were closing in their droves – Nick managed to raise the funding to open the first Brewpub in Blackheath, with a million-pound brewkit and an interior to match.
“We sponsored a brewer to come from San Francisco, we started flying over yeast – I wanted to get this absolutely right. The whole concept for the brewpub was giving people fresh beer, something the UK just hadn’t seen at the time. Obviously the whole market has changed and everyone's trying to do it fresh, but still nobody can do it as fresh as we can because in each of our bars its brewed on site and you're drinking from tank to mouth, as we call it.”
The other side of the equation was, unsurprisingly, food. The approach here was very similar: authentic recipes, made with ingredients sourced (often directly) from other craft producers, from mussels and cheese to flour and tomatoes.
The formula proved a roaring success, and sister bars – each with their own brewkit and unique character – opened in Bristol, then Reading and Cardiff.
The Bristol bar is the largest, based in a beautiful old tram shed. It’s decked out in the work of local artists, with recycled sculptures and a huge graffiti mural along one wall. Inside, the atmosphere is both welcoming and grand, the gleaming stainless steel beer tanks reflecting the light from a sea of coloured globes hanging from the ceiling.
“We treat each site as a local entity, rather than a chain. We're a family business. It's very important to us that this is seen as Bristol's brewery – we were the first. Quite a number breweries have now opened in in the city on the back of what we did, which is great because it's opened up this whole huge craft beer scene here. And it really is a great scene here. And it really is a great scene here; very dynamic, and has the one of the most progressive scenes in the UK.”
Highlights from 2018
• Won four SIBA awards 2018/19: Two gold and two silver
• Won two awards at the World Beer Awards 2018
• Runners up at Imbibe, with the Best lager in the UK
• Shortlisted for Best Beer Designs – Beer Marketing Awards.
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