Steve Stewart’s mission, as he heads up Stewart Brewing, is beautifully simple: brew great beer, offer great service and have fun…
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
When we started I used to do all the product development, sales, finance, and hands-on brewing, but we now have a team of 26, many of whom are absolute specialists in their field and carry out the jobs way better than I could.
My role is to ensure that everyone enjoys what they are doing, that we produce the best quality beer, and we are constantly innovating. I spend a lot of time building up the capacity of the business (installing plant and equipment) to cope with the growth we are experiencing.
Every day, every week and every month we make progress.
What is it the company does?
At Stewart Brewing, we have simple values – brew great beer, offer great service and have fun. Our key strength is the team, after all, we are just a group of people making and selling great beer but we strive to do it really well.
We produce great tasting beers of the highest quality and provide exceptional customer service.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
After gaining a 2:1 (Hons) in Brewing & Distilling Science at Heriot Watt, I went on to obtain the Institute of Brewing, Master Brewer's qualification, one of the most difficult exams in the brewing world.
I worked at a Vineyard & Distillery in Jersey before joining Bruce & Scott Williams, (of Heather Ale fame), squeezing in a Masters degree in Energy and Environmental Science, where he met his wife Jo.
I went on to work for Bass, one of the brewing industries biggest names, learning all aspects of beer production from the cultivation of the malt & hops, through commercial brewing, to marketing, sales, and delivery.
But I never quite settled in corporate life, and a 6-month placement at Harpoon Brewery in Boston, USA provided that spark. A great brewery with a fantastic range of quality, contemporary beers and a culture that exuded their motto – "Love Beer, Love Life – Harpoon", Jo and Steve decided that their future lay in their own hands.
2002: Upon returning to the UK Steve and Jo built a pilot plant to begin trying out recipes on their friends and family. With some successful recipes in the bag, a decision to move back to Edinburgh was made and plans were put into place for the brewery to be built on its current site in Loanhead.
November 2004: After four months of hard graft and with plant materials sourced from far and wide a 10 barrel brewhouse was completed in time for the first mash.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
The ability to share a vision and enthuse passion in people.
Our success is entirely down to how well the team performs. I still see ourselves as a really small business, but we always aim high. Whatever I lack in talent and natural ability I try to make up for with hard work and perseverance!
I would not at all describe myself as a natural leader but I love what I do, and I try to share that with the team. The results can be amazing.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Having enough resources. For 13 years we have been struggling for space, creaking at the seams, filling every tank, and always at a push for more. Maybe we never financed it properly, as we always waited until we had cash to reinvest. Life will be easy when there is enough space, staff, cash and beer!
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
There a few things I like to do aside from drinking beer. Mountain Biking, (Scotland is the best for this..!) Sailing and Skiing work well, and keep me connected with the kids (we have 3 young boys). We also have a VW Camper, so very quickly we can be sleeping out somewhere, camping in the most beautiful parts of Scotland.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a scientist. I also liked cooking. My dad was an engineer and taught me how things worked. So when I discovered that you could do a degree in Brewing and Distilling - everything about it just seemed to fit.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?
Moaning or gurning – it’s not acceptable. If you don’t like what you’re doing, do something else. Life is too short, and you don’t know what’s around the corner, so spend each day well. If you don’t like it then do something about it.
Where do you see the company in five years time?
We are a Scottish brewery and our home market will continue to be a huge focus for the business but we are starting to see an increased demand for our beers overseas and now export to Russia, China, Canada, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
We’d like to see this growth continue, both at home and abroad. As long as it’s fun, and the beer is good, then it’s worthwhile. Being nominated for awards such as the ‘Brewing’ category at the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards will help build our reputation locally, nationally and internationally.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Put in the effort – it’s worth it in the long run….