Some years ago, Kevin’s dream of brewing his own beer was mysteriously rekindled. We don’t know what prompted it: maybe his love of creating things from scratch (he’s a good cook, too), maybe thoughts of economy, but probably just because he loves drinking it so much.  Anyway, the family clubbed together for a ‘special’ birthday gift (no numbers will be mentioned!) and surprised him with all the equipment needed to create his own 10 gallon all grain brews, all bought from the Hop and Grape, of course.


Thus we became introduced to John and Patsy and continued to frequent the Hop and Grape for all our brewing ingredients and equipment.  We came to realise that Hop and Grape was not only a well-established home brew shop in Darlington, it was also a nationally and internationally successful business.  It was on one of our shopping sprees that we discovered John and Patsy were due to retire and the business was up for sale.  “Wouldn’t it be nice…,” we thought, as middle aged people disillusioned with their jobs often do.


And that was that… for a while.  But the thought had lodged somewhere in the back of our minds and, although we initially thought it would all be pie in the sky, a look at the price turned into a call to the bank followed by many late nights with a calculator and the rest, as they say, is history.


In September 2013, solicitors did their thing and we took charge of the keys.  ‘In at the deep end’ does not come close!  There are over 1800 products on the Hop and Grape website, from brewing equipment to beer kits, grains and hops to grape concentrate, beer yeasts, cider yeasts, wine yeasts, dried yeasts, live yeasts… you get the idea.  Some of these products incur VAT when sold, but some don’t.  Some do not incur VAT when sold to us, but do when sold on to customers.  Then there is the VAT set up for export countries – some do, some don’t.  There are accounts to manage, VAT returns to complete, bills to pay, utilities to set up, PAYE, National Insurance and so on and so on.  As with most set ups, things don’t all go smoothly and we were hit with big website problems during the first week.  All our fanciful notions of dusting shelves and doing window displays while chatting to customers about the joys of beer and wine making quickly vanished!

 

Fortunately, we had Patsy and John around for the first few weeks to guide us in the right direction and we can still find them at the end of the phone (or in 22s!) if we need help with practical matters or some home brewing advice.  With their help, our first quarter was very successful and then we had time in the early months of 2014 to catch our breath.  Much of this time was spent working with our fabulous, newly acquired web developers and the new website was launched in March 2014.  Although we are as averse to change as the next people (more so in most cases), we have to say that the new website was absolutely essential and we have been extremely pleased with the look and functionality it offers.

 

And now, in what seems like the blink of an eye, we find ourselves at the start of 2016, not really able to believe it has been over two years already.  It is still hard work (if you have bought a stainless steel boiler or mash tun it was probably made sometime between 8 and 12pm) but generally, I guess we have ‘settled in’.  Things are in place, we’ve learned a lot and we now have a sense of looking ahead to what’s next. 


So, would we recommend it?  Impossible to answer – a decision like the one we made should always be entirely personal.  Nobody else has the power to predict what would work well for your life.
Was it worth it?  Only time will tell!


Your Comments
One of the main things we decided before taking over the Hop and Grape was that we wanted to provide the level of service we would like to receive ourselves.  We always try to ensure we respond promptly to queries and never fob people off with nonsense – if we don’t know the answer we will say so and get back to you when we have found out.  If you have any suggestions or feedback for us, we’d love to hear them.  Please email any comments to mel@hopandgrape.co.uk.

Happy Brewing!