Following St Andrews Brewing Co managing to raise £400,000 in five days, Money editor Jolie Minh Tran reached out to the company's general manager to discuss what lies ahead.
St Andrews Brewing Co opened as the town’s one and only local brewery in 2012, 111 years after its predecessor closed down. The town of St Andrews has a superb national and international reputation, so the brewing company was on its mission to serve the town with high-quality beer. Having wild ambitions in mind, the founders chose the most promising location as their brewing birthplace: a garage.
As in the case of Apple and Hewlett-Packard, St Andrews Brewing Co’s garage did not let them down. Three years later, the company gained momentum to expand out of its humble birthplace. Fast-forward to today, the firm has once again outgrown itself as another success burgeons: a remarkable Crowdcube fundraising achievement saw them £400,000 in 5 days, and it’s still ongoing.
St Andrews Brewing Co’s record campaign has stirred talks revolving around its investment plans: 17-fold brewery capacity expansion, overseas exports development, additional venues, and the takeover of Rascals, a local bar that previously captured the interest of the giant craft beer company BrewDog.
The Saint decided to join in the bustle and conduct an interview with St Andrews Brewing Co’s General Manager, Mr. Robbie Docherty, to find out what the hype is all about.
The Saint: How would you describe St Andrews Brewing Co to a stranger in a sentence?
Robbie Docherty: Your friendly, local brewery, with pubs that serve great beer and food!
TS: What is St Andrews Brewing Co’s unique selling point (USP)? What distinguishes you from your competitors in the market?
RD: Hopefully we have many USPs, but certainly our largest are our particular range of enjoyable and accessible beers as well as being the only brewery in the heart of St Andrews.
TS: Aside from your beers, what other experiences do you hope to bring to the people who come to your venues?
RD: We love to have a diverse range of products available, that way we get to support smaller businesses, provide customers with a product they might not get elsewhere and make ourselves stand out. Aside from our popular beers and gins, we’re proud to be one of the few beer-orientated bars that has a great food menu. Two of our chefs’ wonderful creations are the St Andrews GinCo pink grapefruit gin cured salmon and the Wee Blond brined chicken hot wings. These dishes incorporate our customers’ favorite drinks. Most importantly, however, it is our great staff who create an environment where everyone feels welcome and comfortable.
TS: Who are your target/typical consumers?
RD: We’ve certainly never limited ourselves to a target market, as we want our venues to be enjoyable for everyone. Particularly, in St Andrews that means: locals, students, tourists and families. While the rustic room upstairs is many students’ favorite meetup location, the bar downstairs is ideal for artsy events and celebrations. The diverse menu, which offers different-sized plates, sharing platters and snacks, satisfies its customers whether they are in for a great bite or just a quick treat.
TS: What kind of factors do you consider while looking into new venues?
RD: At the moment we’re still finding our mould, and I don’t think we’ll ever see each venue being a copy of one another. We want each venue to keep its own distinct feel. The most important part of any venue for us is that it’s a great space and provides great beer, food and spirits to go with it.
TS: What do you believe to be the key reasons that helped St Andrews Brewing Co raise more than 400k in five days?
RD: The response to the crowdfunding was amazing (and at the time of writing this it’s still going up!). I can only speculate, but I imagine that everyone who has invested so far has tried our beer or visited one of our bars and decided that it’s worth being part of and that the business has a great future. Also who wouldn’t want to own a bit of their local brewery?! Indeed, being an investor of St Andrews Brewing Co comes with perks. Depending on the types of investments, the benefits included vary from discounts, invitation to annual general meetings, brewery day, and even exclusive hospitality with the founders (which may or may not be a perk..)
TS: What main challenges do you have to overcome in order to scale quickly? How are you addressing these challenges?
RD: More challenges than would fit in an article, believe me! But we have an ever growing team in our brewery, bars and offices who work incredibly hard all hours of the day.
TS: Where will St Andrews Brewing Co be in five years?
RD: St Andrews! But hopefully further too. Soon our beer will be making its way to the US, Canada and Asia. Maybe in five years we’ll see some bars there too…
TS: Could you tell us more about your Rascals takeover? What exciting plans lie ahead?
RD: We’re delighted to be bringing Rascals onboard. Their stance as an independent bar matches our own ethos and we’re looking forward to all the possibilities there. We don’t want to give too much away at the moment, but the offering will be very different to that at the Brewpub. There will definitely be a new brand, new range of drink and a new menu all in an amazing venue to watch sports and live events.
TS: An article mentioned that Mr. Colin Donaldson, Rascals owner, has joined St Andrews Brewing Co in a senior role and will help develop your overseas exports. Could you elaborate further?
RD: Colin’s valuable experience and networks in the Asian market should see us broadening our exports, at first in China and then further. At the moment we are also developing our barrel-aged beers. Building on the success of our previous beers “Quafftide” and “Party Like an Australian”, these beers will be aged in genuine Glenturret whisky barrels and we expect them to be particularly popular in the American market.
TS: What makes St Andrews Brewing Co “St Andrews”? How do you keep this authentic experience when you expand your products and venues to other places?
RD: St Andrews has a fantastic national and international reputation, we hope that our beer does the town justice. Our business is owned and run by people who care about the town and we want as much of our business to be part of St Andrews. Our brewery, warehouse and offices are all based in town, there’s no hidden base of operations in Glasgow or London! By increasing the scale of our brewery we can produce more, improve consistency and make sure our beer reaches further, that way you can have a little bit of authentic St Andrews wherever you are.
TS: Anything else that you wish to share!
RD: Largely a big thanks to everyone who has invested in our crowdfunding so far! Also please keep an eye out for our new venue in Dundee this winter (it’s going to be HUGE). We’re all looking forward to seeing the students back in September and showing everyone what will be new in 2018 and 2019!