Dec 28, 2019
Opening a bottle shop is many beer drinkers’ ultimate dream. After all, it’s hard to argue with a work day spent surrounded by delicious beers and excitable people, where passion and knowledge for a product can carry you through. Stock it and they will come.
Of course, if it were really that easy, we’d all be doing it. The beer industry is in a state of constant flux, and it seems that the retailer at the end of the chain is usually the first to suffer the consequences. The downfall of the British pub is well documented—if perhaps exaggerated—but fewer column or website inches are given over to stories from the independent off-trade.
Since the British craft boom kicked off around 2010, the scene has changed immeasurably, and the independent bottle shop is where all those forces are made visible. Fights break out over hyped releases, six-packs go to war over pricing, customers scan best-before dates, supermarkets steal customers, and rents skyrocket.
The fallout from most industry issues becomes clearest at the point of purchase—and that means bottle-shop owners have a wide view of the industry, and to some extent control the narrative about it, too. After all, they are the ones interacting with drinkers first-hand.
With that in mind, I headed to Caps and Taps, a small, independent bottle shop located at the bottom of Kentish Town Road in North London. Owners Phill and Steph Palgrave-Elliott are present at just about every industry event, tirelessly supporting the scene and its breweries whether in the shop or outside it. By committing to refrigerating their beers, stocking a wide range of Belgian releases, and making sure they have the licensing to serve on site, they have marked themselves out as one of the best places to drink and shop in North London. But it hasn’t been without its challenges—not least of which is the fact that a close competitor opened minutes away, just weeks after Caps and Taps did.
This is Phill and Steph of Caps And Taps. Listen in.