Product Guru Supplier Focus | Into the world of Lennox Brewery and the Scottish Craft Beer market
At Product Guru we are proud to support a growing community of small independent suppliers. We list products across all FMCG and gifts categories and we like to share the stories behind them.
Our latest 'Supplier Focus' blog looks at Andrew, at Lennox Brewery, who told us more about his business in a recent interview.
Tell us a bit about your company and its background.
Myself and my business partner (Iain McLaren) formed the business at the tail-end of 2017, after a particularly boring day at the office. Both of us used to work for the same IT company (I'm still here - Iain managed to escape!) and one day, while clock-watching, Iain turned to me and asked: "Do you want to start a brewery?!" I was caught off guard a little, but given I love beer and working in a brewery seemed like a dream job, I of course agreed! Next thing I know, we're registered with Companies House and a business bank account has been set up...
It took us a bit longer to source an industrial unit where we could set up our equipment, but eventually, we located one in Dumbarton, where we are still currently based. It then took a bit longer to sort all of our licenses and other paperwork out, but once that was all done, we began brewing beer in July 2018 and have been steadily building up our customer base since.
At the moment we brew six different beers - a lager, a stout, an IPA, a golden ale, an amber ale and an ale based on the cranachan dessert (raspberries, oats, honey). We're also hoping to increase our range with some other alcoholic beverages very soon...
As I said above, I still work for a large IT company just now, while Iain is a councillor in Dumbarton. We brew mostly in the evenings and/or at the weekend and the plan is to build the business up to the point where we can both work full time at the brewery. So far the dream is still out of reach, but we're slowly and surely starting to build up a good reputation and it's hopefully only a matter of time before I can hand my notice in (I can dream can't I?!)
How many people work for the business?
Just myself (Andrew) and Iain. Our plan is to bring in some extra workers once we're more established. Then we can both retire to the Maldives or something and live on the proceeds. We have a bit to go before that can happen though!
Who does it sell to?
We're currently stocked at a few retailers local to our brewery - an independent off-license and a few others. Most notably, we've just in the last week had four of our beers on draft at the Captain James Lang Wetherspoons in Dumbarton, which has been amazing and a little surreal! The beers seem to have gone down really well there, so as a result, there are also plans to stock this at another two branches of Wetherspoons, which I'm really excited about. Always good when the feedback is positive!
If you're in Dumbarton on a Saturday afternoon, you can also pop into the brewery and buy from us directly. We're open most Saturdays - unless we've been invited to another event - and it's always good to meet the people who are actually consuming our beer!
Is there a specific product you are particularly proud of and why?
All of them! I genuinely couldn't choose one of our beers that I'm more proud of than the others - just to be able to create these drinks that people actually want to buy is amazing. We put a so much effort into brewing our beer, that you really start to get attached to them all - in effect, these are our babies and we're putting them out to be judged by all and sundry!
I still find it amazing that people I've never met before are drinking and enjoying the beer that I've made. That makes me incredibly proud of all the work we've done over the last year or so and everything we've achieved over that period of time.
What do you most enjoy about running your business?
It can be really hard work sometimes - there's a lot of physicality to working in a brewery, a lot of heavy lifting and moving hot liquids about. But there is an immense satisfaction in designing a recipe, then brewing that and creating the finished product. There's also the hard task of testing all of that beer before it actually goes on sale! It's a hard job, but someone has to do it!
For me, as I mentioned elsewhere, this is a dream job. I mean it's great that we're in effect our own bosses, with no one else to answer to except each other - but I've been interested in craft ale and beer for about the last ten years, brewing my own at home as well. So to be able to come and do that as a job (hopefully full time eventually) is amazing. I sit in an office five days a week, just waiting for finishing time, so I can escape to the brewery and make some more beer - I don't think I've ever had a job before where I actually look forward to getting to work! It can be difficult and it can be hard, but ultimately it's really rewarding.
What are your ambitions for your company?
We've created a new company in an incredibly competitive market, so for me, I just want it to grow and become successful. If we can get to the point where myself and Iain are able to pay all of our bills by working at the brewery, I'd probably be content with that.
Of course, I'd love to grow it to become the next Brewdog, but I think it's probably unrealistic to expect to achieve that level of success. So just being self-sufficient and successful would probably be enough for me.
And enough to pay for a Porsche would be nice too! :D
What do you enjoy doing during your spare time?
It might not be much of a surprise when I say this - but I love beer! So in my spare time, I like trying out different beers to get inspiration for the brewery. I also find myself brewing up smaller test batches when I should be relaxing at home! I do feel like my life does revolve around beer at the moment!
I also enjoy music - listening to it, (trying to) play the guitar (badly). I find it helps me relax and I usually have some kind of rock music blaring when I'm working!
And I also like spending time with my family - I've got a young son (turning five in a few weeks) who runs me ragged (probably my only source of exercise these days!) - so spending time with my wife and son is another way to keep me sane these days!
What do you think of the Product Guru platform?
We've been looking at ways to increase the reach of our brand - there's only so many emails you can send out to retailers, or miles you can put on your car trying to visit shops, etc. I had been on the website of a well known local supermarket, hoping to register as a supplier, when I was pointed towards the Product Guru site and encouraged to register.
The site itself seems great - its well laid out, fairly easy to use (after a little of trial and error on my part!) and is a great way for our brewery to reach potential customers - some of which we may never have thought of approaching - with minimal effort.
It's been difficult for us to balance every aspect of our lives at the moment - between 'work', the brewery and our personal lives, it's difficult to then try to get on the road and approach potential customers without burning out. We both really believe in the beers that we're producing and the feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive (to the point where I still pinch myself reading some of it), so to have a platform like Product Guru to help get our name out there, is excellent.
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