Burnside Brewery in Laurencekirk is a family-run brewery making refreshing, honest, craft beer using premium Scottish malt and mountain water. The team brews and packages artisanal beers onsite using natural processes and no artificial flavours or additives.
Autumn is a busy time as they are ramping up production for Christmas. This includes getting ready to release the newest barrel-aged beer, an imperial stout aged in whisky barrels from Fettercairn distillery. It is also a time of transition for the business as it has increased its staff to accommodate a new arrival to the Burnside family - owners Steven Lewis and Margo Macnab are expecting their first child any day now.
In the past year, Burnside has been part of the Opportunity North East food and drink business growth programme and been supported with an innovation award.
Steven Lewis, who is head brewer at Burnside, said: “The ONE business growth programme enabled us to think more concisely about our business, where we are at the moment and how we're planning to move forward. It was also a great way of networking with other businesses in the North East.
“With the innovation award, we were able to move into a market that is completely new for us - producing alcohol-free beer. We needed new equipment to do this safely and, with the award, have now got this in place. We have now released the first in our alcohol-free range, Right to Roam - Alcohol Free IPA. This has made a massive difference to our business, as it's something that we've wanted to do for a while but couldn't have realistically achieved without the award.”
Burnside has established a loyal customer base through its own retail channels and distribution via independent pubs and retailers across Scotland. Looking ahead, the business is targeting new sales and plans to innovate and expand its product range.
“We're looking to keep growing the business and expand further by supplying more independent pubs, restaurants and bottles shops in the north east and beyond. We're proud of the strong relationships we've built with our customers and we want to put down deep roots in the area as we grow,” explains Steven.
“We're also excited to keep expanding our range of products, including our alcohol-free beers and barrel aging programme. One of our favourite things to do is create new recipes that our customers can enjoy, whether that's with or without alcohol!”
The sector is not without its challenges but Burnside is optimistic about the future.
Steven said: “It's certainly been a difficult time for breweries, as with lots of businesses, mostly due to the challenges the hospitality industry has faced over the past few years and the rising costs we're seeing now. We are having to adapt all of the time. We will continue to source from Scottish farms and keep right by our staff as those are the principles we stand behind as a business. Hopefully there'll be a bit more stability soon and we can keep seeing the great variety of beers coming out from different breweries.”
Burnside also sees the region’s established strengths in food and drink and the unique role the private sector is playing in supporting growth and economic diversification as significant plus points.
“North east Scotland has a lot of advantages for food and drink businesses, especially with its combination of rural and urban areas and the quality produce that can be found here,” explained Steven.
“Not only can food and drink businesses use these, but this legacy had also already created support for and interest in local, craft products. This interest is reflected in the many events that showcase north east products, such as the Provenance Festival, Taste of Grampian, and Aberdeen Inspired Nights.
“We're also very lucky to have Opportunity North East helping businesses grow, including in the food and drink sector. People may not realise how unique it is to have these resources available and how they can make the difference to smaller enterprises as they're looking to expand. We genuinely couldn't think of a better place to be!”
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