From scooping a number of accolades to recently hitting a milestone of selling more than 100,000 bottles of its craft beer, all of which are hand-bottled, Burnside Brewery has proved quite the success story over the past three years.
Head brewer Steven Lewis, from Stonehaven, took on the brewery with his wife Margo and their friend Gary Gibb in July 2018 after its previous owners, brothers Gary and Dave Metcalfe, were set to retire.
Hand making and packaging every beer at the independent Laurencekirk-based craft brewery, which was originally founded in 2010, the brand’s portfolio now stands at 17.
This includes various seasonal flavours and a core range of six.
Steven, 32, who grew up in St. Louis, Missouri but moved to Scotland in 2018, is proud that the business has adapted so well over the past 18 months by introducing a home beer delivery service.
As well as this, its beers can now be found in 40 pubs, restaurants and shops across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Angus, including The Bieldside Inn (Aberdeen), The Strong Water Co. (Banchory), The Creel Inn (Stonehaven) and Milton Haugh Farm Shop (Arbroath).
By launching a home beer delivery service, it allowed customers to continue enjoying the brewery’s products while the hospitality venues that stocked them were closed to the public.
The range includes craft lagers, blonde beers, pale ales, IPAs, red ales and dark beers in bottles, casks and kegs.
“We started doing home deliveries in March 2020 just after the first lockdown started,” Steven said.
“The three of us knew we had to adapt to the pandemic somehow and this seemed to be the best way of doing it.
“Doing home deliveries gave us the opportunity to connect with our customers more by finding out feedback on our beers and our company brand. It also allowed them to try each one.
“People really got a kick out of receiving beer directly from the guy who brewed it and we developed a lot of personal connections this way.”
Although Steven explained it’s difficult to know how many customers have been gained since introducing the service, he said: “Our sales revenue direct to the public was eight times higher in April 2020 than it was in April 2019.
“But of course this was offset by a very large decrease in our trade sales to pubs and restaurants, which had closed during the pandemic.
“Overall, we have been growing our business year on year since we took over. We’re still looking at a changing market as restrictions and consumer behaviour fluctuates, so we need to be ready to keep adapting.”
Focusing on the home market
Something that has remained important to the close-knit team is focusing solely on the home market, rather than exporting or transporting the beers at large distances.
Steven said: “We want our roots to be deep rather than wide.
“This means we can really get to know our local market, work with lots of great (and nearby) establishments and we don’t have the added carbon footprint of transporting a heavy product great distances.
“From this perspective, home deliveries have really helped us get our brand out there and build those relationships with our customers on an individual basis.
“Web traffic was up tremendously during the lockdowns, so lots of people were seeking us out. And we’ve been taking advantage of this by producing more new beers than ever.”
The company reached brewing capacity this summer, resulting in Steven, Margo and Gary doubling its number of fermentation tanks, from four to eight, in July.
“With all of this beer going out of the door, we took the plunge and doubled the number of fermentation tanks we have this summer, doubling our capacity in the process,” Steven added.
“We have breached the 100,000 bottle mark, but have a way to go before one million. It’s a pretty solid effort considering every bottle is hand-filled and capped.
“We’ve been growing our sales since we took over the business in 2018, but with our tank increase, we’re looking to grow as much as possible and double our sales over the next year.”
Burnside Brewery also offers brewery experience days once or twice a month, which can be booked privately and are open to groups of six to 10 people.
They run from 9.30am to 5pm and tickets cost £65.
Steven said: “It’s a hands-on experience where you spend the whole day making beer with all of your food and drink for the day included.
“Then, four weeks later, you get a case of the beer you helped make. There are dates available on our website but we are already sold out for the rest of 2021.
“We also have an onsite shop at the brewery that’s open 11am to 2pm Mondays to Fridays.”
The business has received a number of accolades for its beers and was the only brewery north of Dundee to win a Great Taste Award this year, and one of only four in Scotland.
Given its increasing success, Steven is considering searching for a new brewery to relocate the business.
He added: “In the future we’re looking to keep growing, both in the number of staff and the capacity we have at the brewery.
“This will also mean expanding our stockists further across Scotland and getting into more pubs, restaurants and shops locally.
“Going from the positive feedback we get from our stockists, this means people are enjoying the beer.
“And as we’re growing, we may also be on the lookout for a larger location for a new brewery.”