After winning three awards at the Scottish Beer Awards, Steve Stewart, who also won Master Brewer of the Year award, is obviously delighted at the brewery’s success.
He spoke with The Fountain about how much of an impact winning these awards has on Stewart Brewing, their simple philosophy as a brewery and where their focus will be in the forthcoming future.
TF: Winning three prizes at the Scottish Beer Awards you must be delighted?
Yes, we are really really pleased. Last year we never entered the Scottish Beer Awards, in fairness we never entered any awards last year. A lot of that is because of the challenges we have had facing growth, coping with growth and the business over the last few years or so. So we are a little bit better, a little more on top of things this year so we did enter a few categories so we are completely chuffed to bits that some of the hard work is recognised and it was a great night with the team all being there to enjoy the success.
TF: And to personally be awarded with Master Brewer of the Year is quite a feat, how do you feel with this success?
I concentrate very much on the basics in the brewery and brewing good beer is not rocket science. I think a lot of brewing good beer is about getting the basics right and if you can get the basics right more often than not you end up producing some pretty good beer. I think to have that level of confidence in me from brewers in the industry is really fulfilling. I know how stiff the competition was, with some of the guys I respect loads in Scottish brewing also up for it. I am delighted I received that award.
TF: How important do you view these awards, do they make a huge impact on the success of Stewart Brewing?
Yeah I think so. I think in the past when we began there was no doubt it that getting awards is a great thing, whether it’s for the quality of the product or whether it’s for the quality of the business, whatever it is. It’s a great way to benchmark yourself. Nobody goes into business to make bad beer, everybody does it do their best, to make what they possibly can. Awards are great, psychologically to say, yes you did a good job but also to shout about it a bit but also to have some proof that what you are doing works. They are very important for any brewery starting up or for keeping you on your toes as you continue.
TF: You have won previous awards and done well in previous years. Do you want to elaborate on that?
We focus on products and we have always been a product-led business. First, let’s get the beer right and we have worked on the marketing side afterwards. Today’s market with the level of competition there is, it is even more fundamentally important that brewers concentrate on getting the product quality right as well as good branding and marketing. We’ve been lucky over the last ten years in winning awards which has helped with the branding and the marketing. For example, our Hollyrood one, a few years ago, that won a number of awards at the World Beer Awards, which says a lot about the quality of the products but it also helps us then get behind the branding and marketing of that, to get the distribution a bit further afield. The awards we have had in the past have certainly helped with the distribution of the beers, especially Hollyrood and Radical Road.
TF: Moving back to Scotland I have realised that the quality of beers is high in this country. How do you feel that this industry translates internationally?
Well there are some great breweries in Scotland and I think Scotland punches above its weight in terms of what is happening in craft beer. I think internationally that is recognised when you see the quality and the talent of beers and brewers coming out of Scotland. Certainly you’ve got Heriot Watt, the brewer school here, and a lot of our brewers are trained and educated so to have an award, a Scottish Beer Awards, means that we translate well nationally and internationally. I think that is evident by the quality of the beers that the Scottish craft brewery community is producing at the moment.
TF: And what now, now that your achievements have been recognised, what is next on the cards for Stewart Brewing?
More of the same. We have a very simple philosophy, which is brew great beer, offer great service and have fun. We strive to do more of the same. We will keep working to improve the quality of our beers, both the core beers that we sell well, and the one offs. What comes out of the craft beer kitchen is always interesting and some of those beers make it to the big brewery. I think one of our main focuses over the next 12-18 months will be developing the retail offer that we have here at the brewery. I see that as competition increases in the Scottish beer scene and then there’s the craft beer scene, it’s good. It does a couple of things. It forces brewers to make sure the quality of the product they are producing is as high as possible but it also means that brewers look for alternative ways to sell their beers. One thing that we’ve got which is really successful is the Brewery Tap here and the Craft Beer Kitchen so we can hopefully invest further into the retail experience here at the brewery, do more tours, do more events and that’s what we are going to be concentrating on.
For more on Stewart Brewing click here.