Innis & Gunn - pioneers of the Scottish craft beer movement - are raising a glass to beer, Scotland, global success and a new Edinburgh brewery. Cheers!
For global drinks superstar, Innis & Gunn, beer runs through the company’s veins. Co-founder and master brewer, Dougal Gunn Sharp, worked in his dad’s brewery aged 14 and his passion and success has poured the perfect ‘Made in Scotland’ story.
Dougal worked for £1 an hour at his dad’s brewery and he admits that he hated it - but he did learn - and by the time he graduated from university his ambition had set in. Scotland is well-known as a country of explorers and globe-trotters and we have a strong international mind-set - which fitted perfectly with Innis & Gunn's global vision.
The brewer has never felt geographically constrained by Scotland, and always wanted to go further. Scotland, though, is the perfect place to build a business, having the prospect of continental markets on its doorstep and America a few hours away.
Though his success overseas is great, the entrepreneur is proud of his accomplishments closer to home. In particular, the plans to build the first new large scale brewery in Edinburgh for over 150 years. It’s the kaleidoscope of talent at this Scottish business, thanks to Scotland’s education infrastructure, that supports this growth of the company.
Innis & Gunn continually innovate in business to drive success and overcome challenges. Dougal also tips his hat to the growing popularity of food and drink tourism in Scotland and hopes visitors will enjoy the company’s new brewery in that way.
“Any time I walk into a bar, a supermarket or a liquor store anywhere in the world, and see one of our products I am filled with pride and astonishment in equal measure. But for all that we’re quintessentially a Scottish business. Nearly everyone who works for us is from Scotland, and it seems to unify us in our belief that we are making the world of beer better.”
Innovation is a funny word to this beer lover: he reasons that some people believe that innovation is just about product. Yet, as far as Innis & Gunn is concerned, it’s about much more than that. He stresses there’s really no end to the ways companies can innovate across their businesses.
Dougal understands that building any product, beer included, takes focus, commitment and market knowledge. Making the leap from the home market to the overseas market isn’t easy, and comes with major challenges.
“We’ve got access to great people in Scotland, thanks to fabulous universities, schools, and places of further education, and I think we’re able to draw from all sorts of different walks of life. Different educational backgrounds enrich both our business and our country. That’s the really great strength of doing business here. This and the luck of being in the middle of two of the most developed beer markets, in North America and Europe!”
One of his biggest learnings from building the business internationally has been to get out into the marketplace and listen and learn. He says all new businesses have to leave their preconditioned ideas at the departure gate, because everything is different.
The businessman has come a long way from that 14-year old working in his dad’s brewery for £1 an hour. He even has to pinch himself sometimes when he thinks of how far he and Innis & Gunn have travelled.
Dougal believes that building the business has been an incredible life experience. Every day it does something new, expands further, meets new people and learns new things, all of which is a great privilege for him and his colleagues.
And the ultimate toast? Innis & Gunn believes it is writing history - and its beer is brewing the sweet taste of success.