REFLECTING ON VERY HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

VOTE FOR CANADA'S NEXT GREAT BEER FLAVOUR

REFLECTING ON VERY HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

By Dougal Sharp

On the 19th of September we celebrated our 10th anniversary at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh and what a party. It was wonderful to see so many suppliers, customers, staff and friends of the brand.

The 600 people who came along drank lots of beer, ate some fantastic food, danced to brilliant music from a local band and shared many laughs.

But it wasn’t always like this. In the beginning, things were tough. The entire assets of the company were one laptop computer and a printer which I rescued from a skip. I was a fresh faced 31 year old with no experience at running a company.

I founded Innis & Gunn because of the discovery of flavours in beer that I had never experienced in the 15 years of brewing I had done prior (yes I started young!). The immense depth of character imparted to beer by oak barrel maturation was an incredibly exciting new road to follow. I believed so strongly in the potential, I took the scary step of leaving my job and setting up in business on my own.

Our first bottling was on the 16th of July 2003. Back then there was nothing else like Innis & Gunn on the market and so of course there were queues of people ready to tell us that we had the wrong beer, wrong strength, wrong bottle size, wrong price.

To say I was terrified is an understatement. I had left a perfectly good job to jump into this madness. But our research suggested our new beer had potential so we ignored the naysayers and pressed ahead.

So on the 3rd of August we launched the beer at a party in the famous Spiegeltent during the Fringe Festival and the reaction  was terrific. People couldn’t believe you could have so much depth of taste in a beer. Their reaction was both exciting and humbling.

Belhaven were our first customer – they ordered 60 cases to supply the launch event and a few other Edinburgh bars saw it on the Belhaven price list and took it in.

In the week following the event, Safeway placed an order for 120 cases. Orders trickled in through August and then Sainsbury’s ordered 1200 cases for a special introductory offer. I thought I was in clover!

I can still vividly recall the sheer thrill of receiving the first payment from Belhaven of £1200. I was less thrilled when I had to hand it straight over to pay for the launch event.

Back then I ordered the bottles, labels, crowns etc. I arranged the brewing and the bottling and the lorry to deliver the stock to customers. I produced the invoices, printed them out, folded them up, popped them in an envelope and posted them. For anyone who knows me personally you will recognise the complete unsuitability I have for such responsibilities. It’s a miracle we survived at all.

In the first 5 months to the end of December 2003 we sold 41,000 cases. We made a loss. But 2004 was the turning point. The business started to grow faster, we started winning high profile awards, then we shipped our first cases to Sweden, and we made a small profit.

In 2005 we started shipping to Canada, and the US and our UK business grew even faster. The trickle of orders became a flow.

From the outset one thing about Innis & Gunn has been the bedrock of all of this good stuff – great beer. We passionately believe in brewing flavoursome, memorable, boundary pushing but always delicious beer.

Since the start we have added many more beers to our portfolio, including recently our new lager and Toasted Oak IPA – if you haven’t tried them please give them a go, we hope you like them!

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  • 3 - KURT”S ALRIGHT BEER IDEA

    3 - KURT”S ALRIGHT BEER IDEA

    Let your imagination run wild. Submit your dream beer idea below and our Founder and Master Brewer Dougal Gunn Sharp and his brewing team will choose the best suggestions to be put to a national vote to select the winning flavour innovation.

Vote for Canada's new limited edition Innis & Gunn beer

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