Tap Social grew out of a passion for good beer and social justice. We are a craft brewery and hospitality organisation that creates employment and training for ex-offenders because we believe that everyone benefits when no-one is excluded from the job market.
Tap Social Movement was founded in 2016 by Paul, Amy and Tess. Having experience in a range of positions across the criminal justice system, we have all witnessed the difficulty people face when trying to turn their lives around after coming into contact with the law. There is a lack of support and assistance available to navigate complicated career pathways, and criminal records often dissuade employers from hiring otherwise eligible candidates. Many of the people we have worked with, especially those who have spent time in prison, struggle to access education, training and employment, hindering their rehabilitation, and drawing them back into a life of crime. But having worked closely with many people who have been through the system we know that there is so much talent and potential that is going to waste. Tap Social Movement was founded in an attempt to stop this vicious cycle by providing opportunities which set people up for long-term fulfilling employment.
The Craft Beer Solution
Whilst we all have different experience and qualifications (Paul is an independent criminal barrister and university tutor; Amy is currently undertaking doctoral research in criminology and Tess is a bachelor of commerce grad with craft beer bar and retail management experience who worked as a counsellor securing Canadian pardons for ex-offenders), we share a passion for social justice and wanted to create a space where people from all walks of life come together to share skills and talent, exchange ideas and experiences and create new opportunity, particularly for those people who have had contact with the criminal justice system. We all had a keen interest in craft beer and had been homebrewing, and with Tess’s industry knowledge, we realised that the rapidly growing craft beer industry presented a really exciting opportunity to create something huge. Craft brewing is a young, social and vibrant industry in which people are proud to be involved; it involves practical but skilled work; and it requires technical, transferable and highly marketable skills. Speaking to as many breweries as we could confirmed our idea: brewers are the most helpful, open-minded and awesome people and we couldn’t imagine a better environment to begin breaking down barriers and creating something new and exciting. When we first pitched the idea to the prisons, we were really excited by how receptive they were to it – there is a real need for new employment and training opportunities for people who are in custody.
Creating the Movement...
We bought a 1000L brewery, got a premises in an amazing location in Oxford and were joined by Jason, an award-winning brewer from the US and long-time friend Matt, an economist and spreadsheet wizard. And most importantly, they share our passion for great beer and social justice.
And off we went!
Jason started developing awesome recipes including American pale ale - originally named Goodsize eh? and now known as Cell Count, Inside Out (formerly known as Grebe’s Procession), a roasty oatmeal stout, and some exciting sours like our Bleeding Heart Numbskull series. We developed our brand around beautiful prisoner artwork that needed a platform. And we spent several months transforming our space from a disused industrial unit to a brewery and welcoming community space.
We have worked closely with several prisons whose staff and inmates have shaped our direction and ethos. We hire people currently serving and recently released from prison sentences and support them to develop new skills, learn about setting up and running small business and get real work experience in an engaging and fast growing industry.
The period after prison is a difficult transition, involving rebuilding family relationships, finding jobs, securing housing and readjusting to freedom. Tap Social supports this crucial transition, offering fairly paid employment and continuity during and after prison. Many of our employees have stayed on post-release because the Tap Social community provides an inclusive and welcoming work environment.
We also offer one-on-one support in securing permanent employment, including help with CVs, interviews and career planning to anyone who trains and works with us. And we work with other breweries and businesses to find permanent placements across the brewing industry and in related sectors.
We are very lucky to enjoy the support of the Forward Enterprise Trust, Oxfordshire LEADER, The Blenheim Estate, Covington & Burling LLP and UnLtd. Without them we would not be where we are today.
After a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2017, we expanded our brewing capacity to a second site in Oxford, and in 2019, we further extended our capacity with several new tanks, and our Botley brewery became home to a new barrel-ageing programme, thanks to our friends at The Wild Beer Co.
We also work as an employment brokering service that links ex-offenders who are looking to turn their lives around with employers who share our commitment to inclusive recruitment across the hospitality industry.
In addition to our brewery, our original Botley premises holds our community event space, taproom, and bottle shop which are open to the public and available for event hire.
In January 2020, we launched our Brew School where we offer brewing courses/equipment hire for individuals and groups of any size to learn how to brew and take home their own beer.
May 2021 saw us open The White House by Tap Social, a community cafe, bar and kitchen situated in a Grade 2 historic listed building just outside Oxford's city centre.
We also ventured to Banbury, opening the flagship bar in Lock29, a multi use space and independent food market.