WARRINGTON is welcoming its first dedicated craft beer bottle shop and micro bar in December.

Chris Kelly is bringing his experience from Salopian Brewery to Stockton Heath with the launch of Anchor and Hops.

The shop and bar will be opening in early December in Walton Road where the short lived tapas restaurant Bocaditos used to be.

Great Sankey resident Chris worked as an account manager for Salopian for four years but was made redundant due to the coronavirus crisis.

He said: “It was unfortunate but everything has a silver lining – I wouldn’t be doing this if that hadn’t happened. It gave me the drive to do something for myself.

“It put me in good stead because I’ve got some really good contacts. The people I sold beer to are guiding me along with a bit of advice on who to go to for what.

“The beer industry is cracking for close-knit relationships with people helping each other along. I think the sense of camaraderie is really nice.”

Anchor and Hops will stock 350 to 400 different craft beers in cans and bottles and six ‘ever changing’ keg lines featuring breweries from all over the country and draught beer in all manner of modern styles.

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Chris, a big fan of the new wave of Manchester breweries like Cloudwater, Track and Pomona Island, added: “They’re always going to be rotating. I’m not going to tie myself to anything or anyone.

“I’m a big fan of supporting north west breweries. I’m fortunate enough that within a 30-mile radius of here we’ve got some of the best breweries in the country.

“So there will be a heavy local influence, beers from further afield and some US and Europe stuff as well. There’s some really good stuff coming.”

The shop will also have a ‘crowler’ machine – which allows visitors to take away draught beer in a sealed can – so whatever the restrictions are people can still enjoy what is up on Chris’s board.

Chris first fell in love with beer when he went to Belgium with his dad Graham for his 18th birthday.

The 37-year-old said: “The drinking culture in Belgium is second to none.

“It’s kind of what I want here in terms of taking your time with a beer and appreciating it. It’s not about glugging pints down.

“It’s been quite rewarding getting friends into craft beer. It’s a slow process but when they get it there’s no turning back.

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“Mates who used to drink Carling are asking me what imperial stout I’m going to get in and things like that. I want to create a chilled atmosphere where you can come and appreciate good quality beer and learn a bit of the backstory about where it’s come from.”

As for the location, Chris chose Stockton Heath with the encouragement of his partner Tara Fraser, a fitness instructor for Diva Fit UK.

He added: “I’d just been made redundant and I couldn’t sleep so I was looking through ideas.

“I investigated the possibility of running my own bar and how that would look.

“I did the business plan and put the numbers together and when I started to look at premises, Tara said: ‘If you’re going to do this, you need to do it in Stockton Heath – it’s just the right area for it’.

“I quickly came to agree. Stockton Heath is one of those areas where something like this – which is niche and concentrates on quality over quantity – can work well.

“You see places like Dexter and Jones in Knutsford which fit right into the community and I want it to be the same with Anchor and Hops in Stockton Heath.

“There are so many independent businesses here. People want that. They want to buy local. They want to buy from a face they recognise rather than a major corporation.

“That’s represented by the number of successful independents in the area.

“Another good thing is that with my previous role I was visiting new businesses all the time – bottle shops and bars and pubs – and so I’ve got to see what works and what doesn’t and what I like and what I don’t.”

The fit-out has not always been plain sailing though.

Chris said: “It feels like things have moved really slowly and lockdown hasn’t helped get people in to do the work.

“For three or four weeks we were sat waiting for things to happen but this week we’ve had plasters, plumbers and builders in – so it’s all coming together.

“The next job is to get the cellar guys in to get all that fitted out. We struck a deal with the landlord who has been really kind with us. So he’s given us a payment holiday until we’re open which is amazing.

“We’ve had the keys for a while and we’ve been slowly plugging away at stuff. It’s only been in the last week or so where we’ve been all hands on to make it look like a bar.”

Now Chris can’t wait to introduce Warringtonians to some of his favourite independent craft breweries like Deya, Verdant and Cloudwater.

He added: “As soon as you start hitting craft beers there’s no going back. You’re just on this slippery slope to more expensive and crazy beer styles.

“And previously people in Warrington will have had to drive to Knutsford or Altrincham to get their craft beer fix.”