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Drink in the history

With a brewing tradition dating back over 5,000 years, Scotland has long prided itself on producing top quality beers and ales.

From the days of exporting India Pale Ale (IPA) to the Raj, to Glasgow brewer Hugh Tennent’s introduction of lager to Scotland in 1885, the country has always been at the leading edge of brewing technology. Names such as McEwan, Younger, Tennent, and Belhaven helped carry the fame and flavour of Scottish ales around the globe. 

Today, a new generation of ambitious, small-scale breweries are taking on the global giants, taking beer back to its roots, updating and improving crafts and traditions which date back to Neolithic times.

There are over 90 craft breweries in Scotland, producing innovative beers, ales, lagers and stouts

A taste of tradition

The unique and distinctive flavours of Scottish beers come from the high quality of malted barley and pure natural water that go into their production.

While our ancestors may have used honey, broom and a variety of bitter herbs to flavour their beer, today’s brewers are just as imaginative, using everything from seaweed to heather to create new and unique brews.

The innovation doesn’t stop there. In 2003, in a true marriage of flavours, Edinburgh-based brewers Innis & Gunn started producing a range of oaked beers, matured in imported American bourbon barrels.

The brewing sector is positively fizzing

In recent years, inspired by the craft ale revolution in America, the Scottish brewing industry has burgeoned, spawning a host of new breweries and brands:

  • The UK premium bottled ale market in 2015 was worth £490 million, up 10.5% year on year - by 2020, that figure is expected to top £1 billion
  • 109.4 million barrels of beer were sold in the UK in 2014, making the total UK beer market worth £2.2 billion, up 1.7% year on year
  • Overall beer sales in the UK were estimated at £16.5 billion in 2012
  • US beer imports in 2014 accounted for 14.9% of the market
  • China is developing a taste for premium imported beers, with the market expected to grow dramatically in the coming years

Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International have been pivotal in the internationalisation of our business. A lot of the time government-funded economic development agencies take some criticism for not being effective, but SE/SDI have been incredibly important in us growing our business.


The UK beer market is worth £2.2 billion a year

It's no small beer

While the vast majority of new Scottish breweries are small-scale, manufacturing less than 50,000 litres a year and focused on supplying local customers, others are much more ambitious.

The rise of Fraserburgh-based Brewdog reads like a beer-lover’s dream. From small beginnings, they have rapidly become the big name in Scottish beer, launching a global chain of branded bars, each stocked with their own Scottish brewed beers.

With a new production and distribution centre set to open in Columbus, Ohio, they now look set to conquer America.

Their crowd-funded business model and innovative advertising and marketing mean that this Scots-born ‘dog’ is teaching the beer world a whole host of new tricks.

Food for thought

As the craft brewing revolution continues, it’s bringing unexpected spin off benefits to Scotland’s hospitality sector.

With a new type of tourist - ‘beer hunters’ - visiting Scotland, more and more pubs are now offering beer tasting menus, and matching specific ales to their food.

Many microbreweries, often in remote or rural areas, are also now offering guided tours and opening their own visitor centres and on-site shops, meaning tourists linger longer, and spend more money locally.

Scottish travel entrepreneurs have been quick to latch on to this trend, with various companies now offering guided and escorted ‘real ale trail’ tours, for both domestic and overseas visitors.

Surely that’s something we should all raise a glass to?


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