Bottle and Bean, founded by Charlie Pountney (pictured left) and John Clegg (pictured right) , offer a new and exciting opportunity for coffee and beer lovers alike. Imagine returning home and, alongside the usual post you receive through the door, there is a large box of craft beer, speciality coffee beans and snacks. Furthermore, you are invited to online tasting sessions, focusing on that month’s speciality coffee and craft beer selections, to ensure you enjoy the best their featured breweries and roasters have to offer. We catch up with Charlie Pountney (pictured left), one half of 'Bottle and Bean', find out a little more about the man behind the bottle.
What inspired your concept of craft beer and speciality coffee, delivered to the door? Why coffee and beer together?
The main inspiration came from the fact that when John and I met we both realised we had a passion for sharing our love for our favourite drinks, mine for great beer and John’s with speciality coffee and cafes. We saw the trajectory in which both the beer and coffee markets were moving closer together and it seemed obvious to us that there would be a demand for a service which helped people discover both products.
What’s your background and how has it lead you to Bottle and Bean?
Around 2012 I started getting really interested in craft beer. It was about the same time that there was a real threat that I would be made redundant from the bank I worked for. I decided it was time for a change in direction. I wanted to raise awareness of great beer and help people get access to craft beer and the obvious way to me was through an online shop. While I worked out how to do this, in October 2013 I started running beer tasting events in my spare time to try to inspire people to drink better beer. Whilst I had no clue about how I would setup the website, starting the events turned out to be a good move. At my first event I met my now current girlfriend Alison, who introduced me to my business partner John a few months later!
Mail order beer and coffee is a competitive market – what makes Bottle and Bean stand out?
There are a few things.
Firstly our selection and curation of the coffee roasters and breweries we work with. We only feature producers who meet our selection criteria of quality, those who have an interesting story communicated through great branding, a commitment to sustainability as well as an innovative approach to help drive their business and the industry forward. We must be completely happy to stand behind the coffee and beer we place in front of customers, and our suppliers only want to be associated with those of equal standing to themselves.
Second, we aim to provide a complete immersive drinks discovery experience. Every month we film a behind the scenes brewery and roastery tour video which we put on our website and we stream live coffee and beer tastings filmed with the brewers and roasters which subscribers can tune into live on their laptops/tablets. This gives the consumer a real connection with the producer and the people who made the product they are enjoying. We believe this visual and interactive experience makes the discovery and consumption of the products so much more enjoyable. The thinking behind focusing on a single brewer and roaster each month is to offer Bottle & Bean customers a real appreciation and insight into the products. We hand pack and deliver 3 x 120g bags of different coffee from each roaster and 4 different beers x 3 bottles (12 beers in total) from the brewery. From what we know, 3 x 120g bags of coffee is completely unique offer in the market.
You boast an impressive selection of featured coffee and beer brands (Coffee: Notes, Caravan, and Square Mile coffee roasters; Beer: Beavertown, Five Points Brewery; all highly reputable) – How do you choose which speciality coffees and beers to feature?
A lot of tasting! We try to work closely and build a relationship with each producer. As I mentioned, John and I have an idea of who we want to work with based off our criteria of only providing products of the highest quality but it also comes down to drinking a lot of beer and coffee and talking to people in the industry. When we have met with producers, they have been really receptive to what we are trying to do which is great.
You offer live online tasting sessions paired to that month’s craft beer and coffee selections. Talk us through these.
These are great fun. Basically we want to help introduce people to these great producers and help educate them a little into the products, how they are brewed, the best methods to prepare them etc. We send the subscription packs out at the beginning of the second week of the month. In that same week (when the products are nice and fresh) we stream the live tastings, at the feature brewery on the Thursday evening and the roastery on the Saturday morning. It will be John or I running the tasting, along with either the owner, brewer, roaster or some key members of the team. It is a really nice way of bringing the personality of the people behind the products and the brand as a whole to life and filming live, anything can happen!
What’s your vision for Bottle and Bean in the future?
Ultimately, we just want to introduce as many people as possible to great beer and coffee and we are working hard on achieving this. John and I have talked about opening a physical space somewhere down the line where we have a physical (as well as online) presence in the beer and coffee communities and meet our customers face to face. It would be great to be able to run events, tastings, classes and invite other people in the industry to share it with us.
Now on to the serious questions. What’s your perfect coffee, how would you drink it, and where would you be?
I’m still definitely more comfortable talking about beer than coffee, but right now i’m really enjoying coffees with a nice fruity acidity but plenty of body. I like the aeropres because it lets the brightness in the coffee really shine, whilst giving a bit more bite to the body than in a chemex for example, which is a bit light for my tastes. Location, I’d probably transport myself to a nice quiet spot in a sunny European market square. I love the open squares you find over Europe which we don’t get in the UK. Perfect for drinking coffee and relaxing.
It’s the end of a busy week, and you’re out with friends. What is your perfect:
a) First pint?
I’ll start with something hoppy like a big fruity pale ale or IPA before moving in to try a few of what other brews are on offer. I just love the balance between refreshing hoppy flavour and sweet, resinous, biscuity body you get out of a well made beer. Once you get a taste for it there is no going back.
b) Session pint?
There is nothing better than a few pints of cask ale in the pub with your mates, chewing the fat. Try to get something fresh!
c) Pint of something special / unique?
Something dark, rich, sweet and brooding. I’ve had some stunning beers from Siren Brewery this winter, Shattered Dream 9.8% (notes of sweet vanilla, salted caramel, chocolate and coffee like drinking a liquidised dime bar) and Caribbean Chocolate Cake 7.4% (milk chocolate, mango and vanilla). I would enjoy this at the end of the night, sipping it slowly and savouring each gulp.