Five years ago when Kiwi university friends William Jack, 26, and Tom McKim, 28, settled in London, there were just a handful of London-based breweries. The pair, craft beer fanatics who had been working in London's Borough Wines, noticed that though many pubs were serving boutique brews, very few stores stocked a decent range.

Jack had had the idea of opening a refill-based beer shop for a while, but at the beginning of last year, the duo realised a craft beer store could be a feasible standalone business.

Quitting their jobs in November, they found premises in the up-and-coming Hackney borough, a hotbed for new businesses. Relying on the support of family and friends, the pair expected to be open by Christmas but the opening was delayed until April.

"There were a few lean months in between," says McKim.

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Enticing curious locals and craft-beer-fanatics with their range of local, British and imported beers (at last count they had around 300 types not including their rotating cast of 12 craft beers on tap), they sold out of their initial shipment of 300 refillable 64oz (nearly two litres) glass growlers in under a month.

Serious about their stock, they splashed out, investing in a top-notch, counter-pressure system, popular in microbreweries, to ensure their beer stays fresh for up to six weeks and they have registered the shop as a nano-brewery and plan to start making beer this year.

They deal directly with many small breweries and specialist importers and there are plans afoot to source beers directly from Brussels. On his upcoming trip to New Zealand, Jack hopes to visit Kiwi breweries and look at shipping options.

Finally, the boys can afford to pay themselves a living wage. "We're working with a great product in the right area and the reception has been very positive," says Jack.

They hope to open more shops in London, and McKim's Scottish passport and Jack's Indefinite Leave to Remain means they can take as long as they want - even though they say they hope to eventually bring their beer empire home. For now, though, they are committed to being based in Britain, McKim admits.

"We're fairly settled, and opening a shop definitely commits us to being here for a while. With such a great craft beer scene in New Zealand, though, we hope there will be plenty of opportunities to get back to New Zealand regularly."


Tom and Will's and their Hackney store. Picture / Sophie Barclay.


WILLIAM JACK AND TOM MCKIM
Why did you come to London?
McKim: Initially for postgraduate study.
Jack: I wanted to pursue a career in wine, but started off harvesting peas in Yorkshire.

What do you think of London?
Jack: It is going from strength to strength.
McKim: I love it; it's forever changing so year to year you never really feel like you live in the same place.

What do you miss about New Zealand?
Jack: I really miss the outdoors, particularly fishing and the family batch in Whangapoua - and of course friends and family.
McKim: Family and friends of course. Aside from that, feijoa juice and a good brunch are definitely up there.


• See claptoncraft.co.uk.


- VIVA