It’s been a pretty busy 2017 in Glen Fyne, so as we approach the end of the year, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what we’ve been up to, and give an idea of what 2018 holds in store. Heads up – it’s a bit of a long read, so if you're looking for info on something particular, use the links below to jump to the relevant section:
Overall, 2017 saw growth in production and sales of beer in all formats - cask, keg and bottle; with production exceeding 10,000HL for the first time in a year, which was pretty much in line with our expectations.
In total, we brewed over fifty different beers in the past twelve months, at least forty of which were brand new recipes. Of the new beers, 19 were cask exclusive, 13 were keg exclusive and 14 were bottled; that’s quite a lot of new beer. The numbers are somewhat illustrative of the year the increased demand for diversity we had for bottled and keg beer, leading to lots of creative freedom to brew new and interesting beers like Devine, The Mystic and Cold Brew Mills & Hills.
We’re quite proud that we’ve continued to grow our cask beer sales - in a time when too many people are saying that the cask beer market is in crisis, we’ve managed to push forward on our quality standards and grow our sales around the UK and overseas in a way that is sustainable now and for the long term. For us, cask beer is a key part of being a British craft brewery - it’s a big part of the UK’s contribution to the story of brewing. One of the key contributors to the growth is the structured approach to creating small-batch specials and making sure we’ve got the right amount of beer in the right styles at the right times. We’ve played around with styles a little bit too, producing some fun new beers that seem to have been very well received.
We’ve been privileged to work with some awesome breweries this year to produce some great, interesting beers, including Canediguerra, Orbit Beers and Out Of Town. We’ve also been lucky enough to collaborate with some talented folk outwith the brewing industry - Pork’N’Roll from Rome, Brewdog’s Glasgow bar, coffee-kings Artisan Roast and our friends from Inver Restaurant and Springbank Distillers for the first Origins Brewing collection. These kind of collabs are really fun for us - each of them bring unique contributions that add new dimensions to our beers. Thank you to all of them.
We spent a lot of time on IPAs this year. Back in 2012, Sanda Blonde was the result of a development series, but five years is a long time in brewing, so it was time think again about what we want from a core range IPA. The Workbench project has allowed our brewers to get creative with hops and ways to use them; we were aiming for a particular fruity and floral vibe for our new core range IPA and we’re pretty confident Workbench Fourth Draft is close to what we were after. Stay tuned for news on the new beer coming early next year.
The most recent and arguably most exciting milestone in beer this year has been the launch of Fyne Ales Origins Brewing. This project has been years in the making, particularly for brewer Andrea and myself. The two of us, plus Iain our Marketing Manager, have put a lot of work into getting the beer and brand ready to put out into the world, but despite all the preparations, we were still nervous about how it would be received. Writing this blog a couple of hours after putting the beers on sale on our website, it seems like the risk has been worthwhile - the response has been incredible and we’re all hugely grateful for the support. From everyone here, we sincerely hope you enjoy the beers.
A lot of new beer this year, but amongst all the brand new beers there was continued success for our year-round beers, with Mills & Hills winning Champion Bottled Beer of the UK in Spring’s SIBA national awards, and Jarl picking up a silver medal at this year’s Champion Beer of Britain, plus a few prizes in this year’s Scottish Beer Awards. Awards aren’t the be-all-and-end-all for breweries, but it’s nice to have continued success for beers that have become part of our core offering. It’s not only awards-recognition that matters, though, we also appreciate everyone who takes time to talk about our beer online - we keep an eye on all feedback, so cheers to anyone who’s chipped in a comment on any of our beers this year. Got a particular favourite from 2017? Let us know.
2018 will see us expand our production capacity significantly; even with two breweries, we’ve found ourselves hitting our limits far more often than we’re comfortable with this year, and with what we’ve got planned for beers next year (below), there’s no way we could avoid investing in some new tanks. The current plan will allow us to double our output over the next few years, so hopefully you’ll be seeing a lot more Fyne Ales beer out in the wild.
And what beers will they be? Well, more of our core cask range, but also a revamped keg and 330ml packaged range featuring the result of the Workbench project as a new flagship beer, along with a couple of other new year-round beers. We’ll be working to try and get as many of our small-batch specials into both bottle and keg so you’ll be able to find our beer whether you’re a bottle shop or bar drinker. We’ve also already got the first four collabs of 2018 in the diary, visiting friends both old and new - stay tuned.
We’ve been lucky enough to be invited to events all over the world this year, and relished the opportunity to pour beer for enthusiastic beer-drinkers close to home and further away. Events are a crucial part of what we do - whether it’s chatting to members of the local community at the Inveraray Highland Games or flying the flag for Scottish beer at Shelton Bros’ The Festival in the US, we love getting out there and talking to people about what we do.
And FyneFest was pretty good this year - we welcomed more people to enjoy more beer than any year in the festival’s history. Our flagship event is an amazing way to bring people to the brewery estate for a weekend of fun, but it’s also a huge amount of work for our team, so picking up a runner-up award for Best Outdoor Festival in Scotland, in addition to a Scottish Beer Destination of the Year prize towards the end of the year was a lovely way to get us excited about planning next year’s festival.
And I can’t write this section without a quick plug for our last event of the year - this Friday I’ll in be Glasgow at the great Grunting Growler to talk Origins Brewing and eat cheese. I think there’s a few tickets left if you’re stuck for something to do and fancy enjoying the Autumn 2017 Collection with me!
So, 2018, what shall we do? Well, next year’s FyneFest is already on sale (and selling faster than any of us expected) and we’ve got a few festival dates in the diary. One of the things we will certainly be doing is making more of our unique location, using the Brewery Tap & Shop plus the courtyard with the new stretch tent covering installed in Summer this year. There’s tentative plans in place for something a little more high profile to launch the next Origins Brewing collection, too; keep an eye out for something cool in April.
It is always sad to see friends leave the business, but in a business our size it is inevitable that people reach the time to move on, so we said goodbye to a few friends, but we have a great core team of people who have worked incredibly hard this year and also had some new people join the team.
The first addition to the team was Iain Smith who joined as our marketing manager. Iain’s first task was to get stuck into FyneFest which he did with great gusto, in particular leading the curation of the beer list, which seemed to be very well received! The next major project was the branding for Origins, which we are all really happy with. Look out for more great initiatives next year.
We were also delighted to welcome our first technical brewer, Yvonne Wernlein, to the production team. Yvonne joined us with a brilliant track record in brewing science and we’re proud to have brought her to Fyne Ales to be 100% focused on driving improvement in the quality of our beers and brewing processes, without having to balance competing demands of production and getting the beer out. We are confident with Yvonne on board that that beers that we will be producing next year, will be even better than the beers that we produced this.
In early 2018, we’ll be taking on two new members sales team members to work with our newly promoted Sales Manager, Matt Thomasson and a new Retail, Tap & Events Manager to lead the efforts in developing our presence in Glen Fyne and at events around the country. There’s still a few days left to apply for two of the roles - head over to the blog (sales, retail & events) to find out more. There will also be an exciting opportunity to join the brewing team in the new year – more news on that soon
So that’s 2017 pretty much wrapped up - if you have any questions about what we’ve been doing or are going to do, please don’t hesitate to drop a comment below, or catch me on Twitter at @FyneJamie. From myself and everyone in the Fyne Ales team, a sincere thank you for all your support this year, may you have a very pleasant Christmas and hogmanay - see you in the new year.