One of Scotland’s best-known craft brewers has outlined ambitious plans to build a new facility in Alloa which will future-proof it for the next two decades.

Williams Bros hopes to build a brewery capable of producing up to 200,000 hectolitres annually on a greenfield site near its current base in the Clackmannanshire town.

In terms of scale of Scottish craft beer production, it would be second only to Brewdog’s one million hectolitre site in Ellon.

The plans also include canning and bottling lines which could be contracted out to smaller brewers.

“It will cost an awful lot of money but it will give us 20 years of security in terms of production capability, new machinery and efficiencies,” said Mr Williams.

Mr Williams, who established the brewer with his brother Bruce in 1992 as an offshoot of the family home brewing business, said the development was being undertaken in two stages. Funding is in place, a site has been identified and discussions are underway with the council for acquiring the land.

In the meantime, the current site will double in capacity to more than 100,000 hectolitres, which Mr Williams said would allow for a seamless transition to the new site.

“Realistically that would be two years before we got the keys to the new site and start up.”

The canning and bottling lines are envisaged to also offer assistance to fellow brewers – with Mr Williams noting the canning line ordered is capable of running off 17,000 cans per hour.

“We want to offer a bespoke packaging service,” he said. “We’ll be able to can and bottle for all the other brewers and soft drinks manufacturers who want to go into small scale production right up to 200,000 cans in a run.

“We want to be able to offer a service that allows them to really compete in the export market so they can focus on branding and sales and all of that while we package for them.”

The move means Williams Bros has for now shelved its plans to open a brewery in the Finnieston area of Glasgow.

That plan would have built upon the company’s successes in brewing in the city, where it operates Drygate in partnership with Tennent’s.

Williams Bros also operates Inn Deep and Crossing the Rubicon on Great Western Road.

And Mr Williams, who in addition to running Williams Bros. is chairman of the The Brewers Association of Scotland, said he has seen an uplift in brewers opening bars.

This was pioneered by Brewdog, which opened a bar in Aberdeen in 2010 and now has almost 50 branded bars globally.

Coming off the back of a year where a £230m investment by TSG Consumer Partners valued it at more than £1 billion, Brewdog’s co-founder James Watt said more bars was part of the company’s plans for 2018.

“Our target is to open 15 bars in the UK, including our first brewpub in London,” he said. “We’ll be expanding our brewhouse at our Ellon brewery to meet growing demand, and our sour beer facility, The Overworks will come online next year too.”

Bars in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Ellon are among those expected to open. The Glasgow Hopworks bar is expected to open near the Barras Market, and will include 50 litre pilot kits which can be hired by anyone wanting to make their own beer.

At the other end of the scale, another Aberdeenshire brewery, Fierce Beer, plans to open its first bar this year.

The company, fresh from winning Beer of the Year at the Scottish Beer Awards for its Café Racer porter, raised £121,000 in a crowdfunding initiative for the bar, which it hopes to open by March.

Dave Grant said it was located in the heart of Aberdeen’s craft beer scene. “I’d like to think we’d kick on from there. Bars were always in our plans but not for 18 months, but we found the perfect site and wanted to get money through crowdfunding to do it quicker than we’d hoped.”

In 2017 the brewer more than doubled capacity and revenue in what Mr Grant called a “real breakthrough year”.

The company also began brewing in South Africa through a contra deal with Devil’s Peak, a brewery which has had investment from private equity group Southern Cross, which invested £400,000 in Fierce Beer.

“We had a look at exporting to South Africa as it’s a great new market for craft beer, but exporting wasn’t going to work financially so they are brewing for us under licence and we brew their beer for the UK,” he said.
In 2018, the plan is double revenue to more than £1m, and capacity to 600,000 litres per year – and grow its exports beyond the 12 countries it is currently present in.

Exports and further bar openings are also the focus for Innis & Gunn, following its £15m investment from L Catterton in September.

Founder Dougal Sharp said: “We have some limited-edition beers in the pipeline, and with expansion of our brewery and barrel store already underway, as well as plans to open new Beer Kitchen [bars], 2018 is set to build on the strong foundations put in place over the past 18 months.”

Read the original story in The Herald Scotland here.