Sheffield Beer City: Matt Beety on opening The Bear – a hoppy haven on Abbeydale Road

As part of our focus on Sheffield’s beer scene, we spoke to retailer Matt Beety, who left behind a career in education to indulge a passion for craft beer, opening cosy bottleshop and bar The Bear on the corner of Abbeydale Road in June last year.

Photo: Ross Jarman

So, we’re coming up to eight months since The Bear first opened its doors. How have you found the experience so far?
It’s been great, but there’s been a lot of hard work involved. I think the only way you can make a good go out of something like this is to completely throw yourself into it, and that’s what I’ve done. Like any new business, there have been ups and downs, quiet days, but the last two months have been my best two, which I think bodes well. I’ve met some lovely people and we’ve had some fantastic days and evenings here.

Have you managed to build up a regular clientele yet?
Yep, there’s a solid base of people who come in regularly. Even on football days, we’ll get a fairly regular crowd of craft beer fans, people looking to try something a bit different before the match. The atmosphere’s always a friendly one and it seems to have gone down well. We’ll get a good range of ages and characters in – everything from students, families and couples, to Nigel who regularly pops in to drop off some of his homebrew in exchange for beer from the taps.

What sort of beers seem to be on-trend at the moment?
The sours are doing particularly well at the moment. You get such breadth with sours, a real broad range of flavours and types – from the thick, smoothie-style brews to the other side of the spectrum with very tart lipsmackers. I’ll pretty much have a sour on draught all of the time now.

I think the only way you can make a good go out of something like this is to completely throw yourself into it

Amongst the many shelves within the shop there’s plenty of local love for the local breweries too?
Yeah, we’ve got a Sheffield section. There’s plenty in there from Abbeydale Brewery, who are just up the road; and Triple Point, who are also just a few minutes’ drive away. Loxley Brewery have recently started doing cans and they’re really good, especially their West Coast IPA Kasper. Supporting local is a big part of what we do; I got a message just the other day on Instagram asking if I could curate a local offering for a Sheffield street food event. Stuff like that’s great.

It seems that social media has been quite influential in the rise of smaller bottleshops and bars like yours: you can build up a dedicated following by showing what’s in your fridges and joining in conversation with the local craft beer community.
Of course, it helps, especially when it comes to discovering new beers and breweries. But it can be quite misleading at times. You might put a post up that gets plenty of engagement, or reach a certain number of followers, but then find that your bar is empty the next night. I enjoy the social media aspect and have some fun with it, but likes and follows don’t necessarily equate to customers, so it’s about keeping that in mind, too.

How’ve you settled into the Sheffield beer community?
I think I’m the quiet one, to be honest! But the support I’ve had from a handful of people has been fantastic. The guys from Pangolin were in the other day; The Bar Stewards guys, who are like beer royalty to me, popped in the other day; and Mikey Pomranz from The Cider Hole is another one who has been great to speak to and learn from. Sean from Beer Central came down and did his Hopcast podcast from here, plus the staff from Abbeydale and Triple Point. When people with that level of beer experience and knowledge spend time here, it really makes you feel like you’re doing something right!

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