Table of contents
- AF Beer Club
- Founder - Robin Lomax
- Started in 2020
Welcome Robin. What's your backstory?
I grew up in the shadows of High Wycombe, before going to Leicester University to study History and serious social drinking.
After graduating I moved to Oxford and worked for colleges and charities in welfare roles, before moving to London and refining my taste in beer during the craft beer boom of the early 2010s.
I met my wife in 2012 and we had our first baby last year after six years of marriage.
I took an initial break from booze in January 2019 after getting to my mid-thirties and not really knowing when you say "no" to a beer.
I've always been a big real ale drinker, choosing local independent brewed cask ale: pale ales, stouts, IPAs.
Although I knew the health benefits of stopping or moderating booze, I was worried that a big part of my identity would be lost so I delved into the world of alcohol-free beer.
I'm a primary school teacher by day and run AF Beer Club in the evenings with Wise Bartender.
What is AF Beer Club?
AF Beer Club is a subscription box service showcasing the eight best alcohol free beers every month to our subscribers, alongside the largest online AF beer community organically grown over three years by Robin Lomax, founder of AF Beer Club.
The subscription boxes are a product of Wise Bartender, curated and promoted by Robin at AF Beer Club. Wise Bartender is one of the largest online AF drinks stores in the country and the official Dry January suppliers.
The physical monthly boxes and social media platforms go hand-in-hand, with a recent podcast added to further the wrap around experience. The values and ethos of AF Beer Club can be summarised in four key points: Quality, Community, Representation and Fun.
How did you come up with the idea?
I had been discovering and posting about AF beers for almost a year when we had the first lockdown at the start of the pandemic.
I had built a healthy little online community of people who had a shared interest in AF beer and trusted my opinion.
I started in May 2020, getting hundreds of beers delivered to our small flat in Sheffield. The first couple of months went from 20 members to 50.
My wife said if it goes over 70 I had to come up with some logistical ideas - the hallway was full of beers and packaging with our dog having a field day rummaging through it all.
The third month hit the target, so I approached Wise Bartender about partnering. We've been working together since and finally met in person at their festival last summer.
How did you go about launching the business?
I launched it after hosting a very successful virtual beer festival on Instagram across three days. It was a real celebration of the industry and people were keen to find more beers and continue the AF beer discovery.
How have you grown the business?
I've continued to keep posting online, not just about the beers in the boxes but an array of AF beers and products. We're proud that the club has grown organically and continues to do so - showcasing breweries to a members on a monthly basis.
What have been some of your biggest failures along the way?
In the early days, I spent too much time peering over the metaphorical fence at what others were offering. Instead of focusing on relationships with breweries and our members,
I was wasting valuable time and getting obsessed out of my control. Now I focus on great beers and experiences for my members.
What's next for you and your business?
Continue to grow the club while keeping the personal and community element.
I would really like to host an IRL alcohol-free beer festival but my life I currently heavily occupied by a ten-month-old baby!
What books have been a great inspiration to you as a founder?
Any podcasts, websites that help you run your business?
Any quotes you live by?
"Stop thinking so much. It's almost dinner time" (unknown)
What do you love and hate about being a founder?
I love that I can keep it ticking over in my spare time. But I hate that I can't yet dedicate all the time to it.
What do you do to look after your mental health?
Running 40 miles a week.
Sum up what it means to be the founder of a business.
"I'm very proud of the community I've built up within the beer world. I hope that when people think of alcohol-free beer, somewhere in their head they have AF Beer Club taking up some space."
What advice would you give to other founders?
Build a genuine community with a shared common interest.