Established in 2021 in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, The Filling Station is a craft beer retailer that combines the freshness of draught with the convenience of a take-home format, all while working to support local breweries.
After being crowned Independent Beer & Cider Retailer of the Year at the Drinks Retailing Awards 2023, shop founder Matt Kelly tells Rachel Badham what the retailer has in store for the rest of the year
It was phenomenal to win a Drinks Retailing Award. We’re still a relatively new business, so it was a real shock and a real honour to win it. We were among some really well-established retailers. Since winning, we’ve got more of a national reach. We get a lot more traffic on our online store, and we’ve found that we get people travelling to come and see us, which has been really good.
Our premises is a 40ft shipping container. It’s been converted into a craft beer tap room and retail space. So customers come in and choose one of 10 UK craft beers from our draught beer wall, and then dispense them into either 1-litre or 2-litre US-style glass beer growlers which, once sealed, can keep beer fresh for a month. Then customers can come back and refill the growler, so it’s fresh UK craft beer but it can be taken away to drink at home.
We support local breweries. I worked for Carlsberg for 20 years, and the beer landscape gets a bit tiresome in terms of brands. It’s the same old beer brands on the bar when you go to the pub, yet there are all these amazing local breweries that don’t really get a look in. So setting up The Filling Station was a way to give great local breweries a platform to get their draught beer out there.
We do a lot of work with other local businesses. One example is a Christmas beer where we worked with our closest local brewery and a local independent coffee shop to create a Christmas coffee porter, which was a lot of fun. It was great to have three local businesses coming together.
It’s hard to keep up with craft beer. There’s so much new stuff coming out every week. I don’t have a particular favourite, but I love any kind of higher-strength IPA. They’re complex, they have a bigger mouthfeel and I think they really tie into this trend where people are drinking less, but drinking higher quality. I’ve found that while I don’t drink as much as I used to, I do opt for things that are higher quality and have those in smaller amounts.
2023 is going to be a massive year for us. We’ll be setting up an additional container which will be a drink-in space. At the moment, we are primarily a takeaway shop. We have a beer garden, which is popular in the summer, but we want drinking space for the colder winter months where we can also run tastings. We’ve also submitted planning permission for a roof garden, and we’re looking at around five other locations for additional sites.