I ‘Heart’ Sunny Worthing, a sign states, fixed to a lamp post, but the day is anything but sunny, in fact, it’s as grey as the street furniture the sign is attached to. The South Coast town was given the nickname ‘Sunny’ due to its mild climate, just one of the reasons why over the years it has grown a reputation for being home to many a retiree, but times are changing and Worthing is having a renaissance. Renewal is something that is happening up and down the South Coast, as investment has brought redevelopment- new homes, infrastructure and facilities- as well as new independent business. It seems unfair to drop the B word in to the mix but it’s natural to make comparisons and it seems that Brighton, although still very firmly the trendy, cultural capital of the South-East, is struggling to retain-or even attract-the latest wave of creatives and entrepreneurs, as prices rise and space becomes limited, towns such as Worthing are picking up the over-spill and thriving. The South Coast has always been a draw for creatives, among which I count those who make the decision to set up ventures in food and drink, be those the artisans who skilfully create the products, or those who choose to be purveyors; passionate fans of a craft who want to share and grow the scene with locals; people like Gareth and Gemma of Beer No Evil; Bottle Shop and Taproom.
Beer No Evil sits nestled in the middle of a parade of shops, sitting on Brighton Road, just up the way from the Splashpoint centre- more signs of regeneration-and beams as the smartest, newest shop on the block. The unit had sat empty for four years prior to its new life as a beer house, being used as a dumping ground it took a lot of vision to see past the grot and debris that had gathered within, but now it looks contemporary, the shopfront spruced up with a lick of fashionable grey, the interior open and minimal yet with handmade wooden shelving, table and bar, plus the choice of warm lighting it’s now a charming and welcoming space.
Four keg lines glisten and shine toward the back of the shop, behind an open bar which has been designed to allow customers to step right up to where their beers are being poured. There’s no ‘Us and Them’ attitude when it comes to the customer, instead there’s an encouragement here to be part of the space. Despite the beers on sale being the draw it’s the big communal table- handmade by Gareth- that you’ll notice first and is very much the focal point of the shop. Fridges sit either side of the eight-seater, stocked with many recognizable names of modern brewing and, crucially, local beers sit among them. It’s the local beers that have proven to be some of the most popular so far, “Our biggest sellers have been Sussex Small Batch Brewing’s Tiramisu Stout”, states Gareth, “[it was] brewed by my homebrew buddy Jim. I tasted and inputted into it with various mates which was nice. And Arundel’s Maple Stout.”
Craft beer culture in Sussex has exploded with upward of sixty breweries making a home here- there’s no shortage of great beer- with that comes the bars, the taprooms, micropubs and shops, and that’s when you know you have a healthy scene, one that Beer No Evil is keen to support. They’re getting the support too, having only been in business for six weeks (at time of writing), they already have regular, friendly faces making the effort to travel to the shop and that’s something that has felt heartening to Gareth and Gemma, and in turn gives the shop more heart, with the table acting as the center for larger conversation, a community feel is blossoming.
Community, it must be said, is a key part of what Beer No Evil is all about and becoming a part of the local Worthing community as well as the local beer scene was always a part of the dream, Gareth and Gemma say, “Even though we are relatively new to Worthing we love it here and we wanted to spend our time and energy in the location we have chosen to live. We also wanted to do something we could feel passionate about that can be part of the local community. So, it seemed like the right time to put our five year plus dream into action, leave our corporate world careers behind and open our craft beer shop and taproom.” They look at home here in the space that they’ve created, it all seems to come naturally to them, completely relaxed chatting about future events that are in the pipeline and excitedly discussing the potential the space has to offer, such as being the hub for a new homebrew club. Gareth is just as at ease as he clears the keg lines ahead of the afternoon’s trade, whilst he talks about the beers that they’ve had on, or shows off the incredibly flashy counter pressure bottle filling system they’ve had installed. This system has allowed them to be the first in Worthing to offer glass bottle refills, meaning the beer will stay fresher for longer. It also helps to reduce their reliance on plastic which is another important aspect of the Beer No Evil plan. “We want to be part of the local community. We plan to work with local artists and community led initiatives which are important to us, particularly focusing on the environment. The environment is important to us, as it should be to everyone, and we really want to ‘do our bit’ and be as environmentally friendly as we can. We are trying to reduce our reliance on plastic. This is why our growlers are glass and if a customer needs a bag it will not be plastic. We will also operate as energy efficiently as possible.”
On a sunny day the draw to head to Beer No Evil, fill up a glass bottle with a session strength beer and head to the beach will be a strong one. It’s starting to drizzle outside as I purchase a can of the Tiramisu Stout and a bottle of Kernel London 1840, I say my goodbye’s and make my way out of Worthing. I spy that little sign again, ‘I Heart Sunny Worthing’, and I think I do, it may not be sunny but there’s a lot to love about the seaside town, Gemma and Gareth’s shop alone is a great reason to, and even on these grey days, the future looks very bright for Beer No Evil.
This article was originally published in Beer Imbiber magazine January 2019