Mash of the day

Mash of the day

Scotland’s craft brewing sector is booming. Stewart Brewing, based at Bilston Glen Industrial Estate outside Edinburgh, are reaping the rewards of their hard work. Founder Steve Stewart talks to BQ Editor Kenny Kemp

Stewart Brewing is now a well-established beer brand. How have you gone about building your brand?
We were established in 2004 and although the brand has evolved over the years, our original values still remain at the core of the business. We pride ourselves on brewing beers of the highest quality possible and maintaining an excellent standard of customer service.
Back in 2004, our main focus was simply to sell great beer in Scotland’s capital, which has a rich brewing history. Since then we have developed and innovated to uphold that ethos.

What business lesson have you learned? There are two that spring to mind. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Someone once told me that you are never the first person to take the long way around a short cut. After a lot of time and effort, you get to where you already were! Also, keep being creative, enjoy what you are doing, and never give up. If you are not enjoying it, then change it.

There is a real revival in locally produced beers and ales. How have you been able to scale up to meet demand?
Craft beer is self-propagating. There is, however, a definite ethos of ‘the more the merrier’. Brewers tend to share the same passion. Being one of the more established names in Scotland, we are fortunate in that our supporters have been with us for years. That said, we are always on our toes and keep up with the market changes.

SB02

Can you give us some sense of the growth in the last five years?
From 2010 to 2012, we were quite simply unable to keep up with the demand for our beer. Frustrating at times, we weren’t able to trial new beers and tinker with the ideas that our team of brewers had. Then we built our new brewery in the summer of 2012. We now brew from a 50 hectolitre brewkit and have the facility to produce 18,000hl of beers per annum.

As such, head count has doubled since 2010 and considerably so in the past year. The Craft Beer Kitchen (brew-it-yourself facility which is open to the public) and our on-site bottleshop have developed a new strand of our business and this continues to grow.

You have the flexibility and ability to make beers for different markets and occasions. Is this all part of the plan?
We are able to produce, and perhaps more importantly store, more beer than ever. With that in mind, we have been able to extend our Hop Series with a couple of new additions, as well as bring some limited edition beers to market. Beers such as First World Problems and Hopricot have demonstrated what we can do, and just how well we can do it. In terms of small scale releases, our Craft Beer Kitchen enables our brewers to produce one or two kegs/casks of a brand new and exciting beer, and in turn, offer our loyal trade customers something unheard of.

In Year of Food and Drink, what are you doing to encourage more people to enjoy your beer?
We have been working closely with VisitScotland during 2014 and will continue to work together to encourage more of Scotland to visit our facility and try locally brewed beer. Having hosted a successful event shortly before Christmas 2014, which invited our loyal customers to spend the day at the brewery sampling beers, talking to brewers and touring around the brewplant, we are planning on hosting several more in the coming year. We are targeting people who perhaps aren’t aware of Stewart Brewing or even aren’t huge beer drinkers. We also will host events in various pubs around Scotland and plan to produce a series of one-offs on the Craft Beer Kitchen with specific themes. We’ve plenty of other tricks up our sleeves as well!

What foods go well with a pint? (other than pies, that is!)
I enjoy eating lighter dishes such as seafood with nice pale hoppy beers and enjoy matching more darker, malty beers with desserts. We’ve also had beer and haggis events, teaming up with Macsweens, the famous haggis makers.

SB03Tell us about the team. What is their passion for beer?
We have such a mix of people working here, from Scotland to Tunisia to Australia, we have such a fantastic mix of characters and, of course, hard workers! Our passion is most definitely making high quality beer. As far as the collective team goes, they all share a passion of wanting to take Stewart Brewing to the next stage, while upholding our core values, continuing to innovate and have fun!

Is there exporting opportunity for you – after all Export was once a popular Scottish ale.
I would say we have been more ‘receptive’ rather than ‘proactive’ to export potential.

For no reason other than needing to focus on our local market and ensuring that we brew the right beers for them and can meet their demand. That said, our beers have been shipped over to Australia, Brazil and Canada in the last 12 months. This year, however, will have an emphasis on tackling the export market.