Inspiring Indies: Bier Huis

Former TV executive David Jones opened his beer shop in the West Yorkshire town of Ossett in November 2011, with the aim of giving beer fans a go-to store for northern brews where they could park easily.

Its lead focus is Yorkshire beers, but it has a huge range of national and international brews. Jones went for a continental feel with the Flemish-sounding name Bier Huis instead of Beer House.

Bier Huis has some 425 packaged beers, as well as beer and cider on draught to take away. It was the first UK stockist of Rabarcello and Rhucello, and hosts events – including its own Oktoberfest and a video link to a Belgian beer festival for a simultaneous in-store tasting of the same beers.

Can you sum up your shop in one sentence?

Possibly Britain’s biggest choice of Yorkshire beer with the best from around the world, along with a selection of ciders, wines and spirits with a key focus on Yorkshire.

What sets you apart from other drinks retailers?

Our range, knowledge and events.

Who is your fiercest competitor?

There are many craft beer retailers springing up but we do tend to bounce off each other. At the moment I would say the Co-op, which has placed many Yorkshire beers in store at three for £5. It disappoints me that breweries which create a premium beer allow it be sold as a discounted product.

And how do you maintain an edge over them?

Stock rotation is key to bring in new and up-and-coming UK breweries, seasonal drinks or getting in products from abroad which are hard to obtain here.

How do you keep customers coming back?

New products weekly, great service, product knowledge and our in-store events. 

What area of the business is performing best at the moment?

We go big on Oktoberfest and again this year managed to obtain the sought-after Augustiner Oktoberfest beer. Not many places in the UK have that, and we also hold our own Oktoberfest with a feast of beer and German sausages.

What’s your biggest challenge as a retailer?

Keeping up with everything, be it the latest beers or what the competition is up to. I tend to make time to go and visit not only regional competitors, but also to see what is happening UK-wide.

Give us your top retailing tip.

Keep focused, and don’t chase the next big thing if you can’t manage it.

What has been your biggest business mistake?

The Tour de France in Yorkshire was a great success for the shop, in terms of having our beer created and stocking 15 or so other themed beers. But I stood at Holmfirth hub, where the Grand Depart was shown on big screens, for two days – and although the footfall was huge no one was interested in beer either to drink or take home. That was a lot of wasted time and money.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

There may be daily highs and lows, but you’re in a job you love. 

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