“I just love beer!” says Robbie Sykes when asked what it is about the industry he loves the most. And, as General Manager of the Craft Beer Co pub in Clerkenwell it certainly comes in handy. Robbie’s work and passion has led to him become one of the leading lights in the company.
The Craft Beer Co opened their first pub in Clerkenwell in 2011 and quickly established themselves as the go to place for the best craft beers, claiming to stock the widest variety of beers in London. They have since opened five more pubs in Clapham, Islington, Brixton, Covent Garden and Brighton.
The Clerkenwell pub which Robbie manages recently celebrated it’s third birthday with an IPA event which saw the pub have 33 variations on tap. It’s this personal relationship that the Craft Beer Company has with their suppliers and customers that Robbie loves.
“I love talking to customers about beer – who brewed it, where, and how – for me it’s all about the beer. It’s also a really exciting, dynamic industry to work in which is always growing and changing.”
Robbie graduated from UWE in Bristol with a BA in History and was unsure what career path to follow. He returned home to Macclesfield where he began working behind the bar in his local pub the Treacle Tap, owned by Sedgwick Riley, and it was here that his love of beer was born and developed. He started out behind the bar and learnt about the aspects of running a pub. When the owner brought a second pub he became more involved with buying and purchasing.
“I was helping to run the pub day to day, and was also taking on more responsibility sourcing and buying the beers. I was picking and choosing all the beer that was to be stocked and negotiating with suppliers. I was really focused on using local breweries and bringing in new, different beers. We introduced de Molen and Emelisse Breweries and that was probably the proudest moment of my career so far – bringing craft beers into a small town pub in the north of England,” says Robbie.
In 2012 Robbie moved to London where he worked as assistant manager of the Cask Pub and Kitchen in Pimlico. Here Steve Gray took on a mentor role to Robbie, teaching him everything he knew about craft beers and in particular cask ales, and Robbie took that knowledge with him to the Clerkenwell Pub.
“I can get a bit ‘old mannish’ about my beers and could talk about it for ages but my favourite beer is a pale ale on cask, cask ales have different qualities to ‘craft’ keg beers, they are often more nuanced, more subtle and that’s why I really like them.”
A typical day for Robbie is varied and it’s certainly action packed. There is usually a delivery to arrange, a visit to the bank, a busy lunchtime period with customers and then a hectic afternoon catching up on emails, taking bookings and organising any upcoming events before the evening comes around. Robbie says there are often misconceptions about what working in a bar involves.
“People see it as a stop gap job but once they get into it they realise how cool it is and also what opportunities there are on offer to them. There’s so many chances to learn and to progress – you meet so many influential people, it’s a great industry to be involved in.”
He says young people should be willing to work hard and always have a smile ready for customers.
“It’s a bit of a cliché but you have to be a people person and be ‘on form’ all the time as you want to create an atmosphere that makes people want to come back. It can be tough but is also hugely rewarding and something I’m really passionate about.”
The Craft Beer Co pub in Clerkenwell also offers tasting sessions for groups where they can come and learn all about the process behind the brewing of the beer. Robbie is also working on a beer and food-matching event with a local restaurant.
Looking to the future Robbie’s ambition is to come full circle and open his own Brew Pub in the North of England and to continue championing the world of craft beers.
To find out more about The Craft Beer Co visit www.thecraftbeerco.com