Innis & Gunn building £20m brewery at Heriot-Watt University

Scottish brewer Innis & Gunn has announced that its new brewery will be located at Heriot-Watt University’s research park in the west of Edinburgh.

The firm has outsourced brewing for the past 15 years, most recently at Tennent’s Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow, but it feels the time is right to launch its own operation.

Subject to planning permission and further corporate and regulatory approvals, it will be the first major brewery to be built in Edinburgh for 150 years.

There will be a collaboration project between Innis & Gunn and the university, which has an eminent International Centre for Brewing and Distilling.

They will work together to create a centre for brewing studies and applied learning on the world stage, hoping to rival projects like Weinstephan in Germany.

Innis & Gunn has launched a £3 million crowdfunding campaign called Beer Money via the Seedrs platform in order to help fund the new brewery. The campaign runs until January 31, 2020.

The brewer is also taking out a financial loan, which is subject to due diligence, to complete the build out.

Founder Dougal Sharp told DRN: “We took the decision to huge cheers at our AGM to build this brewery in the west end of Edinburgh. We are hoping to open the doors in early 2021, and we can’t wait, because that’s the ultimate investment in the long-term sustainability of the business.”

He hopes to have the brewery up and running by New Year’s Day in 2021.

Sharp founded the firm back in 2003, combining his and his brother’s middle names to form Innis & Gunn. He initially outsourced brewing to Caledonian Brewery, which was run by his father.

The firm bought Inveralmond Brewery a few years ago, but it has continued to brew Innis & Gunn beers at Wellpark.

The outsourcing model has allowed it to invest in marketing and distribution, driving 15 consecutive years of double-digit growth.

“It’s our malts, our hops and our liquor treatments, but we have brewed in other companies’ breweries,” said Sharp. “That has worked really well over the past 15 years, but it has become evident that the outsource model has driven more and more complexity into the business. It is time to change the way we manufacture.”

Innis & Gunn saw turnover grow 22% to £22.4 million last year, although it swung to a pre-tax loss of £388,000 after investing £1 million in developing the brewery.

Sharp said that off-trade sales were up 36% in 2018, with its lager and IPA performing well. The UK accounts for 60% of its sales, and it now aims to invest in driving growth in Innis & Gunn Original in order to give its flagship brand a boost.

The new brewery will produce Innis & Gunn’s core range, featuring: Original, craft lager and session IPA, plus some unique barrel-aged beers.

It will house a high speed canning, bottling and kegging capability, streamlining several outsourced brewing and packaging sites in one location, plus a visitor centre, while a tap room will be added at a later date.

The brewery will cost around £20 million in total to build. It will have capacity of around 400,000hl. It is anticipated that up to 30 new jobs will be created, with Innis & Gunn’s existing 45 office-based staff relocating from their current location in Edinburgh’s Randolph Crescent.

Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Brewing & Distilling students will be able to gain hands-on experience across all aspects of brewing operations at the a large-scale production brewery.  Innis & Gunn and Heriot Watt University will announce details of the academic collaborations between them including Innis & Gunn’s commitment to learning in due course.

Sharp, said: “Building this brewery is a big step for Innis & Gunn in delivering our ambitious growth plan, from which we can capitalise on the existing strong performance of our craft lager and portfolio of IPAs and barrel-aged beers.

“We are creating a centre for brewing, collaboration and applied learning on the world stage. Innis & Gunn and Heriot-Watt University are both highly respected international brands renowned for their quality and forward thinking. This collaboration brings these two brands together in the most exciting way we can imagine.

“Working with the International Centre of Brewing and Distilling opens up endless opportunities by combining our creative abilities and the talent pool at the university with our new world class, modern brewery. We hope to be able to research new beers and brewing techniques, develop pioneering carbon and water saving technologies and create new products that respond to changing demands from consumers, as well as facilitating in-work learning for students.

“Edinburgh was in the past a centre of brewing renown, with over 40 breweries in the capital. We are especially proud to be part of the revitalisation of Edinburgh as a world centre for brewing. Having our brewery here, where we first brewed Innis & Gunn, completes the journey I started back in 2003. Building it next to a centre of excellence for brewing and distilling talent makes absolute business sense; cementing a long-standing relationship with the University and enabling us to add on-campus practical experience for students.”

“It’s a great location for a purpose-built facility that will be the beating heart of our business.  It will give us huge flexibility for our current and future needs, increasing our agility in the market and simplifying our existing brewing and logistics operations.”

Prof Stephen McLaughlin, Head of the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, added: “Heriot-Watt has a long and distinguished history of excellence in research in brewing and distilling, built on a foundation of collaboration with the Brewing and Distilling industries.

“The choice of Innis & Gunn to locate their new Brewery on our research park is an affirmation of our role in this vitally important Scottish industry. We look forward to welcoming them on to our research park and to successfully collaborating with them.”

Innis & Gunn’s Inveralmond Brewery in Perthshire will continue to brew the Inveralmond range of cask and bottles ales, and it will focus on small scale experimentation and limited edition barrel-aged beers.

DRN asked Sharp about how he thinks his business and the UK craft beer scene will develop in the years ahead. 

“Right across the board, by market and by channel, our business is performing well,” he said. “It’s very clear to me that the whole craft beer movement is becoming more mainstream. Our job is to get as many people into drinking great beer as we possibly can.

“Innis & Gunn is going to be around for the next 500 years. Brands with real long-term potential are emerging now. It’s really exciting. As long as you have a guy like me at the top of it, looking after quality and making sure people have a smile on their faces.

“Craft beer has become more affordable. It allows more people to join this revolution and to discover the absolute joy of drinking artisan beer with real flavour.”

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