It is not an auspicious start to a career, missing a flight to Australia, but Jasper Cuppaidge has made the most of it. Instead of buying another ticket home on that day back in 2001, he decided to stay in England and get a job in a bar, like a million ex-pats before him.
He worked as a glass collector first, and then as a waiter and barman, until he was eventually taken on as the manager of the Century Club on Shaftesbury Avenue, London. His real break, though, came in 2006 when he took over the licence of the Horseshoe Pub in Hampstead.
It was there that he decided to start brewing beer in the basement.
Nine years later and Camden Town Brewery has outgrown the basement. Outgrown the pub, in fact. Now it lives under a railway arch in Kentish Town, has a staff of 60 and a turnover of £9m. But even this relatively palatial set-up is too small for the company – which sold 7.5 million pints in 2014 – and they are looking to build a new made-to-measure brewery.
Instead of turning to commercial investors or the bank, however, they've gone to the people they know: their punters.
Following the success of Brewdog's crowd-sourcing scheme, Camden Town Brewery is selling off a two per cent stake in the business on Crowdcube.com. They have currently raised £583,800 of a £1.5m target (which puts a valuation of around £75m on the business).
On top of equity, they are also offering some boozy inducements. As the value of the investment increases – you can put in anything from a £10 to £500,000 – so does the reward.
Things kick off with the offer of bar discounts for those investing small sums, then move up a notch with the offer of free crates of booze delivered to your door. Then they reach a beery zenith with their offer to cater a party for 50 of your friends, take a small group on an all-expenses-paid trip to Bavaria, and indeed, allow you to "suggest what the reward should be, with Jasper happy to listen to any and all requests – so long as they're within legal and moral restraints".
It is a fine idea. Not just because a new brewery means 100 new jobs, but because the whole scheme is a recognition of a novel trend in consumption: when you have a good enough product, people are willing not just to support it by buying the shop-shelf offering, but also by taking a stake in the company, if that means that they are able to preserve its character.
Of course, for years people have raised money to save buildings and fields and all manner of things, but when it comes to food and drink, it is an infant trend. It will be agreeable when it reaches maturity.
This week saw the announcement of the National Pub of the Year Awards, with the laurels going to The Salutation Inn in Ham, Gloucestershire. During the two years that The Sally, as it is known, has been in the hands of its current owner, Peter Tiley, pubs have been closing at an average rate somewhere close to 30 a week. Is the way forward to ape Camden Town – sell a bit of equity, offer regulars a discount? Pubs and, for that matter, local restaurants are as valuable things to the community as the village shop or community hall.
If it works for Camden Town, let's hope it does for your local – it might just be its final chance.Reuse content