At the end of 2016, Innis & Gunn smashed its £1m crowdfunding target in a mere 72 hours. A drop in the ocean compared to the £2.5m it went on to raise. It’s safe to say the craft brewer is taking the UK and, for that matter, the world by storm. Founder and master brewer, Dougal Sharp, spoke to Holly Motion about the company’s stratospheric rise and the beer market in the UK on-trade
'Consumers have long cultivated a discerning curiosity for great flavoursome beers, and our global success comes from our focus in delivering just this,' Sharp says. 'Our constant push for innovative barrel-aged beers, without ever compensating on quality, has been the catalyst to us becoming one of the UK’s most successful international craft beer businesses.'
At the start of this year, the Scottish craft brewer announced it had teamed up with Teeling Whiskey to launch a limited-edition stout. A few weeks later it told the world it was eastward bound after signing a distribution deal in China and Taiwan. It’s full steam ahead.
'Following our recent crowdfunding campaign, where we raised £2.5m, we are about to launch our fourth Beer Kitchen in Glasgow this April,' Sharp adds. 'We have also invested in the production capacity at our brewery, where we plan to triple volume in the next 12 months, and we have a new barrel-ageing store which is enabling our brewers to develop some really amazing new beers to come out over the course of this year.'
Despite being available in more than 25 countries, Sharp vows he won’t lose sight of the UK and maintains the on-trade plays a key role in its success here. 'The on-trade is where consumers are most likely to experiment with the varieties of beer and plays a vital part of our business,' he says.
'It’s where preferences are formed and we encourage curiosity in trying different styles of beer at our Innis & Gunn Beer Kitchen bar and restaurants.'
Craft beer in the UK
The craft beer scene in the UK has been integral to the brewer’s success and there is still potential to be tapped into, Sharp says. 'It is still a rapidly growing market with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. If anything, beer drinkers are now more curious than ever and attitudes towards beer have changed.
'Consumers now demand variety and a range of interesting, experimental brews. In addition to our core range, we create a number of limited-edition beers that offer drinkers new flavours to try, such as our limited edition Irish whiskey stout collaboration with Teeling Whiskey, Kith & Kin.'
Innis & Gunn know how to please its consumers and do this by insisting on two things: consistency and flavour. 'Consistency and flavour are what craft beer drinkers are looking for and they will be very supportive of local brewers, as well as developing loyalties to brands that consistently deliver on quality and flavour.'
He adds: 'Consumers are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about craft beer styles and flavour, and becoming more experimental in their choice, which creates a fantastic opportunity for craft brewers to encourage new drinkers to try their beers.'
When it comes to the craft spirits scene in the UK, Sharp says: 'It’s really exciting to see it develop, the growing number of distilleries opening reflects the demand from consumers for more good quality products that are full of flavour.'
There’s the 'F word' again.