Toasting 40 years of success at Lincoln craft beer business

A Lincoln cask and craft beer wholesaler is celebrating 40 years of business, having expanded from an off-licence to a leading wholesaler stocking over 2,000 beers, 400 gins and more than 400 wines.

Small Beer started out in a former greengrocers shop in Lincoln on September 25, 1980. The first beers on the off-licence bar in 1980 were Everards Tiger and Bateman’s XB. The two ales are still firm favourites for Small Beer’s customers.

Fast forward 40 years and Small Beer is now an £18 million turnover business based in Bracebridge Heath that employs almost 60 people. It works with 500 breweries up and down the country, selling around 55,000 firkins of cask ale every year. Small Beer also sells hundreds of other ciders, spirits, world beers, soft drinks and snacks.

As part of its anniversary, it revealed its top 40 best-selling cask ales of all time, with Timothy Taylor’s Landlord (4.3%) coming out on top. The firm has also chosen the Lincolnshire & Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance as its charity of the year and will be hosting a series of fundraising events from wine tasting to golf days.

The opening of Small Beer off-licence in 1980. Rob Eastwood (centre), the current managing director, with his parents and company founders Tone and Jude Eastwood.

Small Beer history

Small Beer was founded in an off-licence in the West End of Lincoln in 1980 before its founders Tone and June Eastwood opened The Victoria pub on Union Road three years later.

It moved to its first proper warehouse on Kingsway in Lincoln in 1988 before joining the National Drinks Distributors as a fully composite wholesaler a decade later.

It became a second-generation family business when their son Rob Eastwood joined in 2008, before his wife Karen was appointed as Commercial Director in 2012.

Rob and Karen Eastwood from Small Beer toasting the 40th anniversary in 2020. Photo: Chris Vaughan Photography

Small Beer moved to a new 30,000 sq ft site in Bracebridge Heath in 2013. It expanded by building another 12,000 sq ft of storage on the same site five years later.

In 2019, the firm brought out its new app for customers to order their stock 365 days a year.

Small Beer works with 500 breweries up and down the country. Photo: Chris Vaughan Photography

Rob Eastwood, Managing Director of Small Beer, said: “It is a very special year for us at Small Beer as we celebrate our 40th anniversary.

“My parents Tone and Jude Eastwood started the business taking that leap of faith to open their first off-licence all those years ago. The risk paid off and Small Beer soon grew to meet demand with two further shops, three pubs and an expanding wholesale arm.

“Wholesale is all Small Beer Ltd does now and we are as passionate as ever about being the best version of this as we can, every day. We are the leading independent cask and craft beer wholesaler in the country as well as offering a huge range of other brands from wines and spirits to soft drinks.

Small Beer sells around 55,000 firkins of cask ale every year. Photo: Chris Vaughan Photography

“What started out as one off-licence is now an £18m turnover business employing almost 60 people. Myself and my wife Karen, our Commercial Director, are so proud of everyone who has helped make Small Beer what it is today from our fantastic staff over the years to our suppliers and customers, some of which have been with us from the beginning.”

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