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Exclusive: Innis & Gunn seeking Edinburgh brewery site to bring beers back to capital

Dougal SharpInnis & Gunn is looking to build a brewery in Edinburgh that will see production of its beers return to the capital.

Daily Business understands that the company, headquartered in the city, is on the hunt for a suitable site to brew its eponymous and expanding range of brands. They were produced at the Caledonian Brewery in Slateford until Heineken acquired it as part of the takeover of Scottish & Newcastle.

Production was moved in 2011 to Tennent’s Wellpark brewery because of capacity constraints at Belhaven in Dunbar and Marston’s down south where it is also produced.

Two years ago the company said it couldn’t afford to build its own brewery, but it is thought growth in the business has enabled it to start a serious search for a site.

It would enable it to brew its own beers for the first time since the company was launched in 2003 by Dougal Sharp, former head brewer at the Caledonian, who set it up as a joint venture with whisky firm William Grant & Sons until leading a management buy-out in 2008.

Sharp has invested heavily in new equipment and streamlining operations, including transferring the firm’s bottling operation from Bury St Edmonds in Suffolk to Wellpark. A re-design of its bottles has reduced the amount of glass used, cutting further on transport costs and carbon emissions.

The company also financed the six-figure design and development of second-generation “Oakerators”, the hi-tech vessels used to mature its beers. These went into service in December 2013.

Even though most of the company’s sales growth is overseas, Sharp said that year he would not switch production abroad. He said at the time: “The brand is built on its Scottish heritage so I wouldn’t be comfortable brewing our beer abroad.”

However, finance director David Cockburn said the firm may team up with other micro-breweries overseas to create limited-edition beers.

The company saw sales rise by 15% to £10.5 million in the year to the end of December 2013, driven by a 30% increase in volume sales.

A spokesman declined to comment on the brewery plans.

Last week it announced the appointment of James Coyle as a non-executive director. The relationship with Mr Coyle dates back to the company’s launch when he helped first to bring its flagship brew, Innis & Gunn Original, to market in the UK.

Tony Hunt, chairman, said: “James has been an Innis & Gunn fan since we first produced the beer and as his career has moved forward he has always maintained a strong professional interest in its progress. We were keen for James to join our board because he is passionate about beer, has a great understanding of the beer trade and is someone who has real entrepreneurial flair. Although we are still a relatively small company we have big plans for the coming years, and someone with James’ experience will be able to contribute to our mission of changing the world of beer for the better.”

Mr Coyle has worked in the beer industry for 20 years, first joining Marston’s to set up a take home and export division in 1995. Following almost a decade at Wychwood Brewery (latterly Refresh) – where he played a key role in the UK launch of Innis & Gunn – he returned to Marston’s in 2008 as national sales director and has since become the deputy managing director of Marston’s.

He is the second non-executive director to join the Innis & Gunn board.

 

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