Leith Pilot Beer brewery scoops top award

Patrick Jones, left, and Matt Johnson brew ales flavoured with bramble crumble and Parma Violets. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Patrick Jones, left, and Matt Johnson brew ales flavoured with bramble crumble and Parma Violets. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A MICROBREWERY in Leith set up by a pair of former city students has been named the overall winner of the inaugural Buchanan Business Awards.

Pilot Beer owners Matt Johnson and Patrick Jones started brewing at the end of 2013, after buying a second-hand brewery, dismantling it and moving it to the heart of Leith.

On Thursday the duo, who met while studying for masters degrees in Brewing & Distilling at Heriot-Watt University in 2012, were the toast of an awards ceremony set up to honour the late Councillor Tom Buchanan, and admitted they were surprised to be named double award winners.

“We just had our heads down in the brewery for a year so it was a real surprise to get the two awards, but we’re absolutely made up about it,” said Mr Jones. “It will be a big help for us, and will hopefully allow us to get personal licences and do touring events.”

As convener of the economy committee of the city council, Cllr Buchanan was a key driver in shaping and developing the council’s economic and jobs strategy over many years. He was especially passionate about creating opportunities for all, supporting the critical role that micro businesses play to the economy.

The awards were established following his death in 2013 after a long battle with illness, and are specifically for businesses with under ten employees.

The inaugural event on Thursday was hosted by RBS in the conference centre at its Gogarburn HQ and compered by comedian Jojo Sutherland.

Pilot Beer was named winner of the Overall Business of the Year Award, sponsored by the Capital City Partnership, and the Growth Award, sponsored by the Business Gateway.

The craft brewery was created almost entirely from scratch, with the owners even digging their own drainage and building a cooling system, as well as designing and brewing a range of beers themselves.

Among its creations is an Iced Tea Ale, a bramble crumble ale and the very popular Ultraviolet, a beer flavoured with “hand unwrapped” Parma Violets sweets.

The Employer of the Year Award, sponsored by Skills Development Scotland, went to specialist holiday operator Flavours of Italy, Young Entrepreneur of the Year, sponsored by Fort Kinnaird, was awarded to French macaron company Mademoiselle Macaron, the Developing Business award, sponsored by RBS, was won by CAHOONAS Ltd, which specialises in male grooming and underwear, and the Innovative Business award, sponsored by Brookfield Multiplex Ltd, was given to bicycle services company Grease Monkey.

Councillor Frank Ross, convener of the economy committee and chair of the Capital City Partnership Board, said: “It is heartening to see the quality and diversity of talent that is in our Micro Business sector in Edinburgh,” he said.

“The Buchanan Business Awards is an excellent opportunity for many businesses to showcase their entrepreneurial spirit and to gain support and recognition for their hard work.”

Award host Susan Fouquier from RBS said: “RBS are proud to be hosting the Buchanan Business Awards at our Gogarburn Conference Centre.”