Happy Friday and a happier pub day – We hope you all enjoy your time in the beer gardens & get out to support and drink all the local beery goodness!
Speaking of drinking local, we caught up with Sam and Phil, two pals in Manchester who had the idea of licensing their bedroom in order to set up a beer delivery service.
How did they do it? We put that question to them and much more.
Check out their web site: Hip Flask
Read the full interview below…
Seán: Hi Phil, cheers for coming to chat to us at cansacrosstheworld.com. Could you tell us a bit about yourselves and how you got into craft beer?
Phil: Me and Sam have been friends since we were at school. Sam is to be Best Man at my wedding in September and I’m to be Godfather to his son, due to arrive in mid-May.
We started out with craft beer in much the same way as I think many people do. We got a bit fed up of the same bland, mass produced lagers that are so readily available and started looking further afield for something different. My Dad lives over in Belgium, so when I went over to visit I could try out some of the weird and wonderful inventions that they create. I got the taste and started looking for something similar close to home and discovered Manchester has a thriving craft beer scene!
Seán: So, you guys had the fantastic idea of starting your own beer delivery service called Hip Flask. How did that all come about?
Phil: We’d always wanted to start up a craft beer delivery business. Visits to the pub would usually end up in us fantasising about running Hip Flask from Manchester for the evening but when the morning came nothing would come of it. We both had full time jobs (me in Pubs / Sam’s in Advertising) and the thought of taking the plunge and giving it a go was terrifying.
However when the pandemic hit and we found ourselves furloughed we thought why not? Let’s give it a go! We’ve been selling Manchester craft beer ever since. There were a number of obstacles to overcome along the way, not least the acquisition of our premises licence (which we eventually obtained at a spare bedroom in Sam’s house), but by the start of June 2020 we’d began trading.
Seán: The bedroom licence idea was pure genius I have to say. How did you come up with that and how difficult was it to get a licence sorted?
Phil: In our naivety we didn’t realise we had to licence a premise to sell alcohol. We couldn’t justify paying to rent a place out like a warehouse or an industrial unit (particularly to our partners and particularly during a pandemic) so we had to be a bit more creative. The only viable option was to licence a spare bedroom in Sam’s house.
It wasn’t easy at all; there were a lot of companies online that for a fee would do it for you. But again we couldn’t justify the expenditure so we decided to do it ourselves. It took a long time for us to get everything needed together. It was the first lockdown so everything took a while to go through – but we eventually got everything we needed and our application was successful.
Seán: I’d imagine the local officials would have taken some convincing. What was the reaction from the council to your application?
Phil: Not great! As soon as we submitted our application we had an objection from a local Councillor. Sam’s house is on the former estate that the TV show Shameless was filmed – specifically the same site as The Jockey pub in the show.
The Councillor was understandably apprehensive of what he deemed to be an off-licence appearing on an estate that has had money pumped in for regeneration of the area. Once we had spoken to him and explained that we’d be delivering our beers to people’s houses, and people weren’t allowed to come up to us and buy directly, he was fine.
Seán: That’s incredible and very inspiring to aspiring business startups. It’s a massive task starting a business at any time, let alone under the stress of constant lockdowns. How did you grow the business and what were the main challenges you faced?
Phil: With the licence under our belt we could start trading. We initially started selling craft beers to friends, and then friends of friends and then grew from there. We found our niche in curating Manchester beer boxes. We realised that we have all of these brilliant Manchester breweries on our doorstep. We created our first box, Manchester Craft Beer Box: HIP_1 as a celebration of not just the brilliant craft beers of Manchester, but also a nod to its cultural and industrial background. It contains 12 craft beers from around Manchester, tasting notes, beer mats, and a map of Manchester with details of each of the breweries.
We thought most of our customers would be from Manchester initially, and whilst we have had a lot of local orders, we’ve had people buy our boxes from Barcelona, Warsaw and Rome (among many others). There is a real love of Manchester from all over the country and we continue to ship our orders all over the UK. At the start of the year we launched the second in our series of Manchester craft beer boxes; Manchester Craft Beer Box: HIP_2. This contains 12 beers from 12 different breweries from around Manchester, including some of the best breweries in the world in Cloudwater, Track and Pomona Island.
On Challenges… I think the most difficult was just having to work everything out by ourselves. If you start a new job the chances are you’ll have a couple of weeks to settle in and find your feet. If you’re stuck on something you can ask a colleague or your boss. A lot of our learning came from things going wrong and endless YouTube tutorials!
Seán: Thankfully, we’re at the stage where pubs and businesses are allowed to open again. What are your future plans for Hip Flask?
Phil: We’re delighted that we seem (fingers crossed!) to be on track to getting back to some normality. Looking ahead, we want to keep on producing our series of Manchester craft beer boxes. We have just about finished curating our third edition (HIP_3) and that is due to be released in the next few weeks. We also have a 6 can box planned as well which we intend to release in time for Father’s Day.
We really want a physical shop / bar in Manchester and we’re discussing how to go about that and get ourselves a home before the end of the year. We’re also looking at brewing our own beer and looking at curating a spirits offer and talking with distilleries and creating our own gin.
Seán: That sounds unreal! We’d like to wish you all the very best for the future and thank you for speaking to cansacrosstheworld.com about your incredible business. Hopefully when we hit up Manchester, we’ll be sitting in your pub enjoying delicious Manc brews or grabbing some beers from your offy. To wrap up, do you have any advice for anyone looking to start their own business?
Phil: Try and do everything yourself as much as possible. It might be easier to outsource the job to someone else but we found we really know our business inside out by giving everything a go ourselves.
So… There you have it, the story of how two childhood friends in Manchester started their own craft beer delivery service. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did!
Thanks again to Phil and Sam for taking the time to speak with us.
We hope you’ll join us in wishing them all the best for their continued success!
Check out Hip Flask online and at the social links below:
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Shop
Until next time, keep supporting your local breweries, pubs and companies!