overseas demand for Scottish beer is helping a home-grown brewery expand its business despite the economic climate.
Midlothian-based Stewart Brewing – launched by husband and wife team Steve and Jo Stewart from their garage in 2004 – has just dispatched its first crates for export to the continent.
And the opening of a new plant later this year will allow the company to step up its production to meet growing demand from both home and abroad.
The new 5500sq ft building at Bilston Glen industrial estate – three times the size of the current one, on the same estate – will quadruple the production capacity from 3000 to 12,000 barrels of beer a year.
The current workforce of ten full-time staff and several part-time workers is expected to increase by two full-time posts this year and a further five posts by 2013. The expansion is being backed by a £50,000 loan from Midlothian Council.
The brewery has already established an award-winning reputation. Earlier this year its Hollyrood Beer was named best blonde/golden pale ale at the World Beer Awards for the second year in a row. And in the summer, the same beer won gold at the International Beer Challenge awards in London.
Marketing manager Sheonagh Mackie said: “We obviously started off pretty small, but we’re getting into a fair few pubs in Edinburgh now and we go up as far as Blairgowrie and all the way down to Newcastle.”
She said the new plant should be ready within three or four months. “It’s an exciting opportunity for us. We’re getting requests from larger wholesalers and we can’t deliver what they ask because we can’t brew the quantity they want.
“But when the new brewery comes in, we will be able to brew enough beer to supply the big wholesalers.”
It also means the firm’s export business – which began only last week – can expand.
A pallet containing a range of bottled beers was picked up on Friday, destined for a wholesaler in Italy, who will distribute them across the country.
Ms Mackie said: “We get e-mails every week from people in other countries asking if we can export to them.
“We hope it’s the start of something quite exciting.”
Russell Imrie, Midlothian Council’s cabinet member for strategic services, said: “This company has a good plan for growing the business. This is exactly the kind of local business which we need to help to grow if we are to achieve our aim of creating up to 10,000 new jobs in Midlothian by 2020.”