Edinburgh craft ale club Beer52 eyes spirits market after funding deal

Craft ale subscription service Beer52 is looking to move into the growing sector of artisan spirits after securing fresh funding from a handful of high-profile entrepreneurs.

Beer52 began life in the Edinburgh accelerator of Entrepreneurial Spark
Beer52 began life in the Edinburgh accelerator of Entrepreneurial Spark

The Edinburgh-based firm, which claims to be the world’s largest independent craft beer club, is also working to expand its e-commerce offering following the six-figure cash injection. New backers include Skyscanner co-founder Gareth Williams, Andrew Brendon of Secret Escapes and Alex Carlton, who recently sold his Funkin Cocktails business to AG Barr in a £60 million deal.

Beer52 was launched in August 2013 by James Brown, with support also coming from Fraser Doherty, the brains behind the SuperJam brand. Brown said this latest investment will create five new full-time jobs at the beer club, which works with thousands of microbreweries from around the world. “To get backing from such a group of distinguished entrepreneurs is all we could wish for,” Brown said. “It does far more than simply funding our ambitious expansion plans – it also provides an invaluable wealth of expertise to draw on and represents a huge vote of confidence in our business and its prospects.”

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Set up after Brown discovered a passion for craft beer during a road trip from Edinburgh to Faro on the back of his dad’s Harley-Davidson, Beer52 was initially financed by a £20,000 grant from publicly-funded knowledge exchange hub Design in Action (DiA). It began life in the Edinburgh accelerator of Entrepreneurial Spark, the free start-up service for small growing firms.

The company quickly went on to raise £100,000 in a crowdfunding drive on the Angels Den platform, completing its funding round in just 38 days.

Details of the latest funding round were not disclosed, but Brown said part of the cash will be used to launch a “new lightening-fast delivery e-commerce model”. There are also plans to move into the expanding craft spirits sector.

Growth in the latter has been driven in part by financial necessity. A number of start-up whisky distillers, for example, are also making gin because it is faster to produce and generates cash flow while whisky stores are maturing.

However, there is also a general trend towards unique and hand-crafted beverages in all categories. Younger consumers in particular are driving demand for new flavour combinations in spirits.

Brown credits Entrepreneurial Spark for helping Beer52 get off the ground. Last year’s turnover of £2.6 million is expected to triple in the current 12 months, making it one of ESpark’s biggest success stories to date.

“It’s wonderful to see businesses that joined us as little more than the seed of an idea growing into world-beating companies,” said Jim Duffy, chief executive of ESpark. “That is what we are all about, and the success of so many companies that have been through our system amply illustrates the benefits of providing suitable mentoring.”