While studying at Plymouth University, Joel Barnard and Andrew Whyte realised that they shared a mutual passion for beer, but rather than simply drinking it, they decided to turn their passion into profit.
In 2018 they set up the Whyte Bär Brewing Co – (pronounced White Bear) and started to brew their beer commercially. They describe themselves as a ‘de-localised Cuckoo brewery’ that rents space.
Joel explained: “Cuckoo birds don’t have their nests; they lay their eggs in other nests. What we do is make beer by renting and occupying space in existing breweries in Exeter and the Southwest, as well as London and Birmingham. That’s why we have decided to name the bar Cuckoo“.
After making five of their own label beers, the pair took a break to learn the ins and outs of the trade. Andrew became head brewer of Dig Brew Co in Birmingham, and Joel, an Exeter local, managed the now closed ‘Pursuit of Hoppiness’ on Longbrook Street.
Joel describes the decision to go from part-time brewers to opening their first premises:
“We [had] been looking for an outlet to set up a craft beer bar and decided to brew again. As I’ve already been a manager of a craft beer bar I already know the ins and outs, but have never had my own space.”
After submitting a change of use petition to Exeter Council, the pair opened their first premises on Paris Street in Exeter, in May 2021. With Joel in charge of the day-to-day running of the bar, and Andrew leading on the brewing side ‘Cuckoo’ had the key USP of trading their own locally made brand, separating them from other big chain pubs on the high street.
The brewery has gone from strength to strength, hosting everything from comedy nights to a mini Oktober Fest. Next month they are and are teaming up with other local breweries for their second annual ‘Cider Feast’ on the 1st of October (not one to miss if you’re a lover of apple liquid!).
Cuckoo Tap Room and Bottle Shop can be found at 25 Paris Street in Exeter.