People travel hundreds of miles for Liverpool bar serving the 'world's best beer'

Vicky and Gareth Morgan run The Dead Crafty Beer Co on Dale Street
Vicky and Gareth Morgan run The Dead Crafty Beer Co on Dale Street -Credit:Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo

It was a moment on holiday that started Vicky and Gareth Morgan on the road to running their own much-loved Liverpool bar.

The married couple, who live in Garston, have always been interested in American craft beer. They would plan holidays around visiting breweries in the USA, trying rare beers that they couldn't get back home.

A trip to the states in 2015 led to the inception of The Dead Crafty Beer Co. - the bustling craft beer bar on Dale Street in Liverpool city centre. However, setting up the bar was far from straightforward.

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Vicky, 47, was working as an intelligence analyst in the NHS at the time, while Gareth, 44, worked in the entertainment industry. They overcame many bumps in the road to set up their bar.

Vicky told the ECHO: "Opening a bar was never even a thought - it wasn't even on our radar. But we were at an event in Houston, run by Goose Island brewery. They bring all their rare bottles - things like sours and Bourbon County stouts.

"People will raffle for them, so then you get the opportunity to buy them if you're pulled out of the hat. We were sitting there, thinking it was a bit weird.

"But The lightbulb moment was in this bar. People had paid $80 for a bottle of beer and were giving randomers a glass. These strangers were sharing beer, nobody knew each other but everyone was chatting.

"I thought we had nothing like it at home. We needed to bring it back."

The couple's first thought was to run a pop-up - not wanting to leave behind their careers and take the risk of running a bar when they had a mortgage to pay. But that idea proved to be more complicated than expected and their minds changed for good when they walked past the Dale Street unit that has housed their bar for the last eight years.

"It changed when we walked past this place", Vicky explained. "It was all boarded up, it had been empty for years.

"I went to see it with my mum and we both just said 'yes'. Gareth came around. We went for it.

"We wanted to be about the world's best beer. It wasn't about fancy chrome fittings - we wanted bare floorboards and bare brick.

The Dead Crafty Beer Co on Dale Street
The Dead Crafty Beer Co. on Dale Street -Credit:Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo

"Nobody in their right mind would have touched this building. It had no water, no electricity, we didn't have stairs going downstairs - it was just a shell.

"We had no money, but we just thought it was it. Our families, anyone who had a lunch hour, we gave them a wire brush and got them working.

"People thought we were crazy, looking at the state of it. We had to hand wire every brick, it took basically a whole month - my mum and brothers were helping with the painting. It was a team effort."

At that point, the couple had not set themselves a target for an opening date. This all changed, however, when they spoke to Brooklyn Brewery - a pioneer in the craft beer industry.

Vicky said: "At this point, there was still no water and still no electrics - we did have a staircase. We got a phone call from Brooklyn, asking if we could open in a month.

"Gareth said 'oh, yeah'. I was like 'what?'. They were saying that Steve Hindy, the owner of Brooklyn Brewery, was coming over on holiday - he's heard about you and they support independents, he wanted to officially open the bar.

"Gareth was like 'no problem'. He put the phone down and we were panicking. It was then the most stressful month in all our lives."

Things did not run smoothly, but with help from friends and family, Dead Crafty got over the line in time for the big opening party in March 2016.

Vicky said: "We had no architects. I had drawn on a piece of paper what I wanted the bar to look like. When we look at it now, it's like a little sketch.

"We had a guy booked to do all the carpentry - two weeks before we were due to open, he said he had a better deal elsewhere. We had nothing - no bar, no toilets, nothing.

"My mate put me in touch with a carpenter called Rod and he came around and started instantly. Gareth, 44, joked: "I don't think he left after that."

Vicky added: "On the day of the opening, Steve Hindy was arriving at 6pm but at 5pm we still had the cellar upstairs and the furniture downstairs.

"My dad was still putting skirting boards an hour before people walked in. When Steve walked in, he wouldn't have even known how stressed we were."

The bar managed to open on time, with Steve Hindy from Brooklyn setting it on its way. In the years since, it has become the epicentre of Merseyside's craft beer scene, supporting new breweries and being the place to be to try new beer.

About that, Vicky said: "We're eight years on and I think the secret behind our success is that we live and breathe it. I buy all the beer and everything I buy is because I want to drink it, not because it's the latest craze.

"The majority of the American craft that we pour, we've been to those breweries and we've met the brewers. The staff who work here are just as excited by it as we are. You can teach anyone to pour a beer but you can't teach everyone to have that passion - we're lucky that everyone who works here has that passion."

Their passion for beer has led to a committed band of regulars making the bar a second home. For Gareth, that is among the most rewarding parts of running the bar.

Vicky and Gareth Morgan have run the pub since 2015
Vicky and Gareth Morgan have run the pub since 2016 -Credit:Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo

He said: "We've had a group of regulars from day one. I always thought, being a city centre bar, having regulars would happen over time.

"It happened immediately. The people that came in the first day are still coming to this bar to this day - they're not just customers, they're friends."

Much of that group of regulars would consider themselves craft beer aficionados, but Vicky and Gareth get as much satisfaction of opening non-craft drinkers' minds up to rarer beers.

"There is more to this world than lager, says Gareth. "It's nice to give people the confidence to go into other places and be able to talk about what they like and ask for something similar.

"People come in here and they may not really know what craft beer is. I say 'listen, we don't brew any of them, if you don't like them, you won't offend me, but I'm going to try to get something that you like'. Nine times out of 10, we'll find them."

Vicky added: "We'll have people come in here who say they don't like beer. They say they've had lager or stout and they don't like it. We ask if they've had something like a sour, you give it to them and they go 'that's amazing, it doesn't taste anything like beer'.

"That's great, we've given them the tools. So they know what they like, they can go to another craft bar and say what they like, they can take that with them. We love that, opening people up to a new world.

"We're like a beer festival. Everything constantly changes in the fridge and on the taps."

The bar uses popular beer app Untappd to keep customers up to date with what's on offer. This has led to many situations where people heading in to try something as soon as they get a notification. Vicky likens this to Batman's bat signal.

She explained: "We get beer tourists, it's a big thing. We once had a phone call from a guy in London who saw a notification - he asked if that beer was on now.

"He said 'right, I'm getting the train now'. Gareth didn't know he was from London at that point. We thought he was getting the Merseyrail but he said 'I'll be about 2.5 hours because I'm coming from London'."

Gareth added: "When he got here, I asked 'were you the one who called'. He said 'yes, I got the first train from Euston'. This was the only keg in the country of that beer."

Dead Crafty is found at 92 Dale Street in Liverpool city centre.

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