Beer pioneer Jesse Wilson, whose startup Jubel has just moved into Workspace’s brand-new Edinburgh House, explains how a self-deprecating brand video was the key to getting stocked in Sainsbury’s

Inspiration can come from unlikely places. In the case of university pals Jesse Wilson and Tom Jordan, it was a bar in the French Alps. It was there, while on their final year ski trip in 2015, that the pair discovered a local tradition called “demi-peche” — peach-flavoured beer. “It had the refreshment of a fruit cider but was sessionable like a lager,” says Jesse. They couldn’t understand why it wasn’t available in the UK.

The following year, the pair met for a pint to bemoan the grad jobs they’d started. When a song called Jubel came on, it brought the ski trip flooding back. The friends vowed to try and recreate the delicious demi-peche from scratch and sell it in the UK. Only this time they’d call it Jubel.

Jesse and Tom started experimenting with brewing beer in their spare time at a Cornish brewery. “Over 18 months we went from knowing nothing about brewing to having something ready for the market,” says Jesse. They poured their savings into 5000 bottles, which they sold at a music festival in a single weekend.

It was then that Jesse and Tom knew they were on to something. They quit their jobs and spent eight months raising money and building the business. They initially launched in summer 2017, getting stocked in 300 pubs. After receiving plenty of useful feedback they took a step back and spent another six months rebranding and tweaking the product with the help of a top London branding agency.

Having initially positioned Jubel as a light lager like Corona, the pair realised that its natural fit was actually as a craft beer. “If you look at the craft category it’s full of beers that are very hop-forward, which is quite a challenging beer style for the majority of consumers,” says Jesse. “We’re trying to make craft more accessible.” They changed the bottle from clear to dark, like the majority of craft beers. Jubel’s relaunch in April 2018 featured a new elderflower flavour.

Around this time the pair shot and starred in a two-minute brand video as part of an application to a Virgin Group start-up competition. The video begins with Tom in a bath full of peaches and tells the Jubel story in a funny and self-deprecating style.

They couldn’t have guessed how useful the video would be. Last summer, a representative from Sainsbury’s watched it on LinkedIn and contacted the guys. “We ended up getting listed in their November range review,” recalls Jesse. “We were in 600 Sainsbury’s stores by the end of November.

Since then the only way has been up. Jesse and Tom hired three staff and moved into Workspace’s brand new Edinburgh House in Kennington last month. “We loved the building,” says Jesse, mentioning amenities like the bike storage and café area. “If we need a bigger space we can move into another office within our existing contract. It felt like a really good fit.”

The location in Kennington, within striking distance of central London, was a key factor, enabling Tom and Jesse to get to meetings around town easily. Visiting clients have been impressed by the space already, says Jesse, although it’s still early days: “We’re still ordering our furniture so we’re spending a lot of time in the breakout area!” he says.

In the short term, Jesse and Tom hope to increase Jubel’s presence in Sainsbury’s stores and push draft distribution in London and the South West, their two main markets at present — all the while growing the team.

Looking further ahead, Jesse has his sights set on the export market. “In three years’ time we’d hope to have established ourselves in the UK and got some good footprint abroad,” he says. “We’ve just sent our pallet overseas to an importer in Taiwan, of all places.” Perhaps the ski bar will stock it one day, too.

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