Becoming one of the owners and head brewer of Burnside Brewery a year ago was something of a love story for Steven Lewis.
Originally from America, he hadn’t intended on putting down roots in the north-east of Scotland – until he met and fell for his wife Margo.
Then Steven found he had fallen out of love with the oil industry which brought him here but discovered a passion for craft beer instead, one shared by his longtime friend, Gary Gibb.
The end result was Steven, Margo and Gary deciding to team up to buy the Laurencekirk-based Burnside Brewery and run it as a trio of directors.
Now the team are the innovative masterminds behind a refreshing craft beer range, which is being stocked in several venues across the north-east.
Whether you’re a fan of light and fruity refreshments or opt for rich flavourings in your pint, their varied offering is even enjoyed by self-confessed non-beer drinkers.
Already coming on leaps and bounds since taking the leap into brewing, the directors are aiming to continue building on their growing and respected reputation.
Steven said: “I worked in the oil industry for a number of years in America before visiting Scotland, and it was actually my job that brought me over here in 2014.
“Unexpectedly, while I was in the north-east I ended up meeting my wife Margo and decided to stay because I couldn’t see myself leaving.
“I also started getting really tired of the grind that comes with working in the oil industry and always had a love for craft beer, so I put two and two together and thought about starting up a brewing business.
“I’ve been a home brewer for around six years now and used to make beer for birthdays and celebrations. It’s something I love doing and Margo was incredibly supportive of the whole idea before the business was established.
“There are three of us acting as directors of the company, myself, Margo and Gary. Margo and Gary work full-time and lend a hand when they can so it’s just me that works here all the time.
“The Burnside Brewery shop was only opened one year ago after buying the venue from the previous owners. They left us recipes and all the kit needed to make our beer. Everything seemed to fall right into place.”
Despite two thirds of the team having additional working commitments, the trio are happy to continue with their current crafting process which requires them to get hands-on throughout.
“Everything is done manually,” Steven said.
“We lift the grain, add the hops – a plant part used in brewing beer to give it bitterness – and even do all the bottling ourselves. All in all, it’s a 10 hour process to make one batch, which normally consists of about 11,000 litres.
“When the steps involved in brewing our beer, which includes boiling the grain, adding aromas and fermenting the yeast, are eventually complete, we move onto the bottling. We’ll hand bottle around 250 beers an hour, and tend to not go beyond 1,500 per day because the job can become a bit tedious.
“There are no plans to implement a bottling line in the near future because we’re trying to be savvy with our investments and grow organically. We’re doing everything step-by-step and it seems to be working.”
Burnside Brewery currently boasts six core beers, from blondes and light IPAs to chocolate stouts and porters, as well as seasonal editions to keep their offering as diverse as possible.
Steven said: “Currently, we stock seven products in our shop consisting of six core beers and one seasonal, with the seasonal products being made in limited quantities.
“Previous seasonal products have included our Pumpkin Ale, which was released last fall, as well as Snowed In – our winter ale. We also have our new strawberry beer named Berry Parade, and this is made with fresh strawberries from Castleton Farm in Laurencekirk.
“The popularity between our core and seasonal beers is really balanced, however, we seem to be selling the seasonal products at a much quicker rate the more times we introduce a new one.
“With regards to thinking up new flavours, we’ll determine a number of factors including what we want the overall sweetness, ABV – alcohol by volume – and colour to be, as well as trying to determine if we’re hoping for a dry or lingering finish.
“We’ll then move onto establishing which hops we want to use, hops being a wide range of varieties which give beer its different but distinctive flavours and aromas. There are 15 hop varieties in our brewery, so we work on a combination that we think works best to give the product its unique style.”
The business distributes stock all over the north-east, including Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Angus, with their beers being showcased in a number of pubs and eateries.
Having introduced their very own brewing tours and visited several Scottish beer events over the past year, the team are extremely proud of their achievements and growth so far.
“We love getting involved with events and collaborating with local businesses, and since July last year we’ve been doing a lot of this,” Steven said. “Although the initial set-up and organising can be a bit stressful, it’s all worth it after we start pouring beers and sharing our story with people. Even those that initially say they aren’t the biggest fans of beer really enjoy our products, and I think it’s mainly down to the fact that our beer is very approachable.
“It’s an amazing feeling getting compliments and positive feedback.”
As well as showcasing beers at events, Burnside also offers Be The Brewer tours, an intimate experience for a group of eight people to see the ins and outs of the business for themselves.
Steven said: “We’ll get everyone stuck into our manual process, such as stirring the grain and tasting the flavour profiles in our beers. Essentially, everyone has a laugh and gets to make a batch of beer together.
“The past year has been a whirlwind, and the three of us love having Burnside Brewery and being able to control everything we do.
“The most rewarding part of the whole experience has been watching the venture go from strength-to-strength. Our aim has always been to encourage people to enjoy the outdoors but do so with a refreshing beer that makes you want more and more of it.
“We’re just a team of young people trying to make our way in business and create beer that people enjoy. And hopefully we can continue building on our reputation.”
Visit www.burnsidebrewery.co.uk for more information