Case Study - CRATE Brewery 

Cheers to China - brewer raises a glass to Chamber International


AN on-trend craft brewery in the heart of London’s East End is raising a glass to Chamber International after it helped the firm complete its first consignment of ale to China.

Founded by Neil Hinchley together with New Zealand-born siblings Tom and Jess Seaton, CRATE Brewery has been serving handcrafted beers from its Hackney Wick base since 2012.

A key player in the capital’s craft beer revolution, CRATE began life as a small microbrewery, bar and pizza restaurant and has since gone on to open a bigger brewery and event space next door.

It has a dedicated following across the capital and also supplies specific bars in Budapest, Berlin and Sweden. But it has just stepped its toe into the potentially-lucrative China market with its first order for bottled IPA, pale ale, lager and cider.

The customer is Drinking Buddies, a China-based business launched in February by a group of ex-pats and locals who share a passion for beer and craft-brewing. It operates an independent import and distribution arm, supplying craft beers to select bars, restaurants and hotels around China, as well as offering a straight-to-consumer Brew Club.

Drinking Buddies got in touch with CRATE as part of its search for small, local and independent breweries which offer “unfiltered, pure flavours that make each and every bottle unique”, and with an order agreed, the team at CRATE needed to navigate its way through customs and export regulations to get the product to China.

The search for expert help led them to Chamber International.

Neil at CRATE said: “We came across Chamber International online. They helped us with the paperwork needed to ship the goods.

“It was helpful and the whole process was pretty speedy and straightforward. We are just sending them samples at this stage to get through customs, but hereafter, the bottles will be going all through mainland China.

“In terms of if we’d do it again, we will for sure so long as we have enough stock. We are actively seeking international customers and have a few possibilities on the horizon to look forward to. 

CRATE’s first steps into selling beyond the EU are a natural progression for a firm which has tapped into a burgeoning craft-brewing market.

Neil, Tom and Jess started small, setting up in a former print factory in 2011 when it was a graffiti-covered wreck “more likely to contain cans of Red Stripe left behind after the odd illegal rave than anything resembling a brewery,” said Neil.

Enlisting the help of local artists, they went looking for materials to convert the space and soon had a clean ‘up-cycled’ interior with a bar made from old railway sleepers, ladders and ratchet straps for seating and rusty old bed springs make for eccentric light fittings.

With the bar set up, the team just needed to brew some beer. The first attempt didn’t go according to plan, nearly flooding the car park in the process. They soon got the hang of it though, helped by Neil’s early memories of brewing gorse and nettle wine with his dad in Wales.

They now produce a core range – lager, Golden Pale Ale, IPA, Best, stout and cider – all hand-crafted on site from a bigger brewery premises, The Brew-Shed, which was opened in 2013 to meet demand.

Taking advantage of its spot by the river, the CRATE team has been hard at work converting a wide-beam canal boat into a dedicated floating bar which will fully launch this year.

Chamber International - CRATE Brewery Case Study

ENJOY: The upcycled bar and restaurant in London’s East End