A Surprising New Local

Our neighbourhood has a new place to drink, and a new type of place to drink at that: a specialist bottle shop with bonus beer on tap.

Bottles & Books opened as a shop only at about the same time we moved to Bristol last summer. Combining beer with comic books it never quite seemed right, with not quite enough room to look at anything comfortably, or to fit more than two browsing customers at once. A month or so ago, though, it moved into the empty shop unit next door, to great effect.

Bottled and canned beers are clearly organised and laid out with plenty of space to browse. The hippest of hoppy beers are refrigerated while most other styles are on open shelves for now – perhaps not perfect by 2018 standards, but a marked improvement on another nearby beer shop which keeps many of its beers on display in a hot window.

It’s an indie shop so costs a little more than the supermarket, but not outrageously so, and the range is certainly more exciting.

Keg taps.

The draft setup is neat and discreet — a handful of taps on the wall behind the counter with a small menu chalked on a board. The selection tends towards the strong, intense and trendy — Verdant and the like. They are served in measures of one-third and two-thirds and there are tables in the window and (for now) on the pavement outside.

We’ve popped in a couple of times now and found it surprisingly busy. On another occasion, walking home from work, we looked across the road and saw it heaving. So there is clearly pent-up demand for the craft beer experience out here in the suburbs.

The owners of the local micropub, The Drapers Arms, seem sanguine about what might look like competition because, actually, there is almost no overlap: Bottles & Books is about keg and packaged beers, The Drapers cask only; the former is focused on foreign beer and High Craft, while the latter tends towards the traditional.

From our point of view, it looks like the convincer to get people on the bus and out to Horfield where there are now the makings of a decent afternoon’s crawl with enough variety and quality for anyone.

Bottles & Books is at 354-356 Gloucester Road, Bristol BS7 8TP, and is open six days a week, 12-9pm. It currently closes on Sunday but there are plans to open seven days a week down the line.

4 thoughts on “A Surprising New Local”

  1. Not surprising to see this kind of thing spreading – without the comics they’ve been locally common for a few years in places like the market towns of Cheshire and Hertfordshire. Obviously a bit more middle class than the Herne micros – but not that much more so.

    I’ve seen several that have started off going heavy on bottles but most (not all) have cut down to mebbe 3-4 fridges/shelf units of bottles, and gone much heavier on draught – 3-6 keg lines and optionally 2-3 cask lines if there’s a significant “codger” market.

    What fascinates me is the gender mix in these kinds of places, which is very different to the Herne micros, particularly if they’re sensible enough to lay on a reasonable fizz and decent selection of gins.

    I guess the only concern if you’re going down the bar + shopping route (qv Record Café etc) is that you’ve got to be good at three things – business, bar and comics/records/books – rather than just two.

    1. Great line ….”…and optionally 2-3 cask lines if there’s a significant “codger” market.” 🙂 !

      I think that this type of venue is a fantastic development!

      As usual in craft beer terms, we are several years behind the USA in this approach, where bottle shops and supermarkets have been routinely adding craft tap walls for a while.

      This type of drinking-cafe culture has been curiously absent from the UK up until now….

  2. we drove past it last year but the family wouldn’t spare me half an hour to investigate. Comics and beer seems a natural mix. Maybe they could be persuaded to sell some cheese and I’d probably never leave

  3. Can you have your two-thirds in a pint pot and top it up with another third of the same beer? 🙂

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