The young brewer and bar owner Jaspal Purewal tells Shelley Carter how he went from part-timer to successful businessman competing with the big boys
The Indian Brewery Company on Livery Street is a lively bar and street food eatery that’s about to take over the unit next door, doubling its footprint. Founded by Jaspal Purewal as a small brewery in Warwickshire producing a handful of beers, the business has grown rapidly and now employs more than 20 people.
After going through the motions in a part-time job, Jaspal realised pretty quickly that he didn’t want to work for someone else. He applied to the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy in Solihull and wrote a cracking business plan in order to bag a place on the course. The business plan focused on producing a range of beers – ‘real ale brewed by an Indian’. Jaspal recalled: “That process meant that when I graduated I knew what I wanted to do.”
Jaspal stumbled across the ideal brewery quite by chance as he drove past it on the way to his auntie’s house in Warwickshire. Jaspal and his mother pulled over for a quick nosey around the brewery and ended up meeting the owner and signing a deal on the spot. The owner was planning to move on in six months’ time, so Jaspal took up a role working with him and learning the ropes with a view to taking over the premises along with the staff at the end of the process. Michael, who he’s worked with since that time is now Jaspal’s head brewer.
A move to Birmingham last year saw Jaspal introduce a lager as well as real ale. “We toyed over the name for ages and then settled on Birmingham Lager of course!” Jaspal said. Initially the lager began life in a can, but quickly progressed to a keg which pitted it against the big boys in the industry. Established brands are able to offer incredibly low prices to bars and restaurants which Jaspal just couldn’t match. He stood his ground refusing to drop his prices which as a small brewer would have been disastrous. It worked. Indian Brewery products are now stocked in many bars including 22 branches of Wetherspoons which is notoriously price driven, as well as restaurants and stores such as Harvey Nichols. “When the e-mails came in it was like we had won the lottery! Harvey Nichols was a six-week process convincing head office in London, so it was exciting.” Harvey Nichols is now one of their top customers.
FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH
Jaspal started to dream about opening a bar of his own which his mum thought was a crazy idea, but when he saw the site of the old Brewsmiths coffee shop he jumped at it. With the keys in his hands Jaspal stalled. He recalled: “The thing is I had the keys for a year without touching the place as I didn’t know what to do.” After 12 months he bit the bullet. Without large investment – just family input and sales from the product – it was all hands on deck as he and his brothers grafted to make the place come alive.
Anything apart from skilled trades like electrics they did themselves furnishing the place via B&Q mainly. They’d planned to open last Christmas, but that slipped to January 2017 – Friday the 13th actually! “Friends thought I was mad opening on that date. We had an accident on the way to the opening, so we did start to wonder if it was the right call…”
The soft launch turned into a packed bar within a few hours. Of the bar’s success, he said: “It was the first street food bar in Birmingham – there are more now – but we were the first, so it was new for people.”
It’s important to Jaspal to use local products where possible, so as well as brewing his own beer and lager, the bar uses bread from Peel & Stone and coffee from Quarter Horse which they grind on the premises. Jaspal has taken on the building next door, so it will double in size and staff numbers will rise to 30.
“I’m more confident now. I know what I’m doing. There are areas we can improve on and it will be a complete refurb. No trips to B&Q this time!” Expansion won’t stop there as Jaspal has his sights set on the capital next. So, watch this space!