Local micro-brewery Gypsy Brew has gone from chatting about brewing craft beer to launching three varieties and opening a bar in only two years
Despite the destruction caused by lockdown and the obvious trauma of the pandemic there are positive stories that have emerged. Not least people rethinking their careers and going it alone on projects and businesses they might have only dreamed about before. Gypsy Brew was one of them, born out of a chance conversation during lockdown that is now thriving.
Craft beer is what Gypsy Brew is about and as well as brewing, they’ve now launched a no-nonsense bar serving a brilliant collection of drinks and snacks called The Garrity in Barnt Green. We caught up with one of Gypsy Brew’s founders, Gary Meads who it seems was always destined for hospitality. He was born in the Coach and Horses, an 18th century coaching inn near Withall, grew up there which he says was ‘brilliant with unlimited Vimto and crisps’, tried to leave to forge an alternative career then bought the pub from his father and still runs it today.
During lockdown when the Coach and Horses was shut, Gary started brewing real ale and doing take-out delivery. Gary’s regular barber, Al Smith was also shut. (Stick with us this is going somewhere). While chatting to Gary during lockdown, Al revealed he was thinking about brewing a craft beer using a brewery in Gloucester. Gary said to Al: “Why are you doing that you prat? I’ve got a brewery.” Voila. A serendipitous moment that spawned a cracking business that’s now thriving.
CRAFT BEER NUT
Gary wasn’t brewing craft beer before the chat with Al, so they brought in head brewer Rob Walker who’s a ‘craft beer nut’. Gary says: “Although I hadn’t brewed craft beer, it’s the same principles and I had the kit.” They played around with a few recipes and came up with three ‘excellent’ beers they were happy with. The term craft beer is bandied about a lot and it’s very trendy, but what makes a beer a craft beer? It’s essentially a fruity IPA, handmade and natural, so it’s not clear like a mass-produced lager. Gary says: “We don’t add actual fruit, but the hops used have mango and grapefruit tones.”
The biggest hurdle was not being able to sell to pubs as they were shut, so they sold through the website – still do actually. Looking back, what seemed like a negative just gave them time to get it right. They’ve now launched their own bar called The Garrity in Barnt Green. They wanted something small and niche that felt very independent and that’s what they’ve achieved. They’ve teamed up with Midland’s 200 Degrees and Brighton based Bird & Blend to bring snacks and light bites alongside a fantastic drinks menu.
The top tipple in the bar so far is Gypsy Brew’s Garrity Mash. There’s been a slight issue with the food as the bar has the same landlord as the café next door and they’ve put a clause in the lease that restricts The Garrity to serving only cold food, so they don’t compete. Discussions are ongoing so that might change, but the bar is flying nonetheless.
While there’s Al and Jules (Gary says they’re Mr and Mrs Trendy) smashing the branding – the Garrity logo is particularly brilliant – Gary brings his hospitality expertise. Jules has never worked in hospitality but has thrown herself into it too. They’ve recruited a top-quality management team as well as a crew of bright enthusiastic youngsters to bolster the team. In hospitality Gary says ‘you live or die’ by the people ,so getting that right was an absolute priority.
They’re already making noises about expanding and potentially opening more bars, but they’re keen to concentrate on The Garrity before opening a second site. Having said that, Gary has one eye on venues, so we reckon it might not be too long before The Garrity mark II pops up.