May 23, 2020
I’m Jonny Garrett, and you’re listening to the Good Beer Hunting podcast.
Today’s guest is Paul Jones, founder and sole owner of Cloudwater Brew Co. in Manchester, England. Since founding Cloudwater just five years ago Jones has, perhaps knowingly, become a spokesperson for the British beer industry. To be fair, he has plenty of right to that job. Cloudwater was previously voted the fifth-best brewery in the world by the users of RateBeer, and is one of the country’s fastest-growing beer businesses. Jones has also had a hand in many of the major developments in the U.K. beer scene—including New England-style brewing, canned beer, direct-to-consumer sales, off-site taprooms, and an emphasis on cold-chain distribution and storage.
As we explore all of that, some listeners may perceive Jones’ self-championing as arrogance, but he’s the first to admit fault and is his own biggest critic, as you’ll hear throughout the interview. On the occasions I get a word in and challenge him, it’s clear he’s already asked himself the same questions a thousand times and played out all the scenarios in his mind—probably while wide awake in the middle of the night.
We start the interview reminiscing about happier times, with what was perhaps a celebration of everything Cloudwater has achieved so far—the Friends & Family & Beer Festival, held in February. Bringing together an insane brewery list and a festival with charity and inclusivity at its heart it was supposed to be a signal of where beer was headed. Looking back now, it feels a bit like the last supper.
After going through the highs and lows of running a fast-growing, much-hyped beer brand, I knew Paul would have some insight into how the beer scene and the beer industry—because they are very different things—will play out once the threat of COVID-19 fades. Jones has been ahead of the curve on so many occasions, and it’s worth taking note of what he says. While he’s had to change his expectations and the specifics, his approach remains the same—if you do the same thing as everyone else, you’re going to find yourself crowded out.
In the face of the biggest challenge craft beer has ever faced, the fact that Jones is still excitable and upholding his admirable beliefs about beer, industry, and society is comforting—even if I don’t completely share his optimism.
This is Paul Jones of Cloudwater Brew Co. Listen in.