£10m sales cheer Innis & Gunn

SALES at Edinburgh-based beer company Innis & Gunn are poised to break through £10 million this year as the firm continues its push into overseas markets.

Managing director Dougal Sharp says America and Canada present huge opportunities for Innis & Gunn. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
Managing director Dougal Sharp says America and Canada present huge opportunities for Innis & Gunn. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

In Sweden, the brand has overtaken Newcastle Brown Ale to become the best-selling imported beer, while demand in Canada is also rising.

Managing director Dougal Sharp told Scotland on Sunday: “America and Canada still present huge opportunities for Innis & Gunn. We’re starting to make in-roads into Spain and we’ll be looking at other markets too.”

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His comments come as Innis & Gunn will tomorrow unveil a 23 per cent surge in turnover for 2012 to £9.1m, driven by a 96 per cent leap in revenues from its subsidiary in the US.

Gross profits rose to £5.9m from £5m but pre-tax profits dropped to £229,000 from £1.2m after the firm launched an expansion drive, doubling its headcount to 32.

Administration costs jumped to £3.5m from £2.1m, while distribution costs hit £2.2m from £1.7m.

The company is two years into a three-year investment cycle, at the end of which sales volumes are expected to hit two million cases, having only just broken through the one million-case mark last year.

Sharp said that the firm is starting to work with chains in the US including Total Wine and Trader Joe’s.

The company has also been working with keg management firm Microstar, allowing Innis & Gunn to sell its beers on draught in America.

Oak-aged beers are becoming popular with other producers, with Irish drinks company C&C – which owns the Tennent’s lager brand – unveiling plans to launch its own brew.

Sharp set up the firm in 2003 as a joint venture with whisky distiller William Grant & Sons before leading a management buyout in 2008.

Grants approached Sharp, who at the time was head brewer at the Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh, to ­create a beer that could add flavour to oak casks, which would then be used for whisky.

Sharp spotted an opportunity to sell the oak-aged beer in its own right and has since extended the range to include ales matured in rum casks and Irish whiskey barrels.

Innis & Gunn uses Tennent’s Wellpark brewery in Glasgow to make the majority of its beers – with some brewing taking place at Belhaven in Dunbar and at Marston’s south of the Border – but Sharp said he had not been involved in C&C’s plans for an oak beer.

As well as ageing some of his beers in whisky casks, Sharp also introduced the “Oakerator” in 2008, which involves placing pieces of oak within the beer to impart flavour, which are later removed.

Despite 80 per cent of the company’s sales coming from overseas, Sharp said he won’t switch production abroad.

He said: “The brand is built on its Scottish heritage so I wouldn’t be comfortable brewing our beer abroad.”

Finance director David Cockburn said the firm may team up with other micro-breweries overseas to create limited-edition beers.

New tipples for the year ahead include a bottled version of the firm’s craft lager, which was launched on draught this year, and a beer aged in oloroso sherry casks.

The new beer that’s exciting Sharp the most is his return to India Pale Ale, which became the signature drink at the ­Caley Brewery with Deuchars IPA.

He said: “Our toasted oak IPA ­recreates the style of the IPAs made in the 1800s for export to the colonies.”