Are you curious to know about the people behind the beers you buy? Or perhaps you want to know what inspires brewers to brew and beer bloggers to blog? Our “Q&A” posts are a light hearted way of getting to know people working in, and connected to, the beer and alcohol industry.
This week sees us talking to Harviestoun Brewery who are nestled at the foot of the Ochill Hills in the village of Alva, Clackmannanshire, Scotland.
Who are you and what do you do? My name’s Scott Ferguson and I’m the Business Development Manager for the West of Scotland and the North-West of England (fancy talk for ‘beer salesman’)
When did your love affair with beer begin? I have always loved beer, even the crap stuff. When I started working part-time at 16 one of the first things I bought was a beer hat and a corona neon light, shipped all the way from Hong-Kong…my mum swiftly banned me from eBay when they both arrived on the same day. As for the good stuff, I would say I started getting really interested in my first year at uni. I studied history at uni so nothing directly related to beer or brewing, I was just pretty passionate about it. I didn’t get the job at Harviestoun the first time round but I got a sales job and worked casually with another brewery, a year later Harviestoun gave me a shot!
What was the inspiration for starting the brewery? It all started back in 1983 with a man called Ken Brooker. He had a substantially sized garden shed where he would brew his own beer. He started to hold tasting nights for his friends but these proved popular and quickly became the hottest ticket in town. Ken would give out tasting cards and listened to all the feedback he was given, by doing this he progressively refined the quality and flavour of his beers. After doing this for a few years Ken bought a 200 year old farm steading and little by little, it became a functioning Brewhouse.
What’s the story behind the brewery name and logo? Harviestoun is the name of a bit of land very close to the original farm steading and where the current brewery is. Our logo is Harvie the Mouse! Basically, before health and safety concerns, there were some mice at the farmhouse brewery who would steal the barley. There was one in particular who we couldn’t catch and, admiring his courage and tenacity, we adopted him as our mascot!
Where do you see, or hope to see, the brewery in 5 years time? I believe we will go from strength to strength in the premium channel, especially with our Schiehallion craft lager and brand new Harviestoun Stout. Whilst our ‘originals’ range will remain our primary focus and rightly so, we also have some amazing products in development which will add to the prestige feel of Harviestoun and afford us further agility in an ever moving category and market. More and more businesses are opening up to quality beer and the idea of a British premium lager or stout in-place of some of the more mainstream, mass-produced brands. We already work with some of the most prestigious hotels, bars and restaurants in the country so we have an amazing platform to build on.
Looking ahead, what new things can we expect from Harviestoun over the coming months? We are releasing a new range of kegged beers this year, ‘The Mischief’. The collective noun for a group of mice is a mischief, and this range of beers will basically just be the Brewhouse running riot. We’ll be releasing beers such as an Ugli Fruit IPA and a Royal Tokaji barrel aged pale ale (Tokaji the Noo!).
Are there any other breweries which have influenced you? If I’m being honest, we do our own thing and have been viewed as pioneers from very early in our history, particularly going back to barrel ageing. We do talk about cool and interesting things other breweries have done and are doing because great beer is great beer whether ours or not. It’s not so much being influenced to the extent that we feel we should do something similar though. In terms of admiration, if we’re keeping it British, I have a lot of time for the Titanic Brewery and Thornbridge. In Scotland, I personally really enjoy drinking beers from Fallen and Cromarty!
What do you think makes a great beer? For me a great beer has to have a beginning, middle and end. It has to smell great, taste great, feel good in your mouth, glide down your throat and linger pleasantly afterwards.
What was your first drink and where were you when you had it? I can vaguely remember stealing a sip from a bottle of Miller at a Hogmanay party when I was around seven or eight. Big night.
What drink can you no longer face having had one too many? Sambuca makes me so sad.
What is your favourite style of beer? I just can’t see past a good juicy IPA. There are too many good ones to single out a specific brewery but I find myself going back to Stone’s Ruination fairly often.
What is the silliest thing you’ve done whilst drunk? A few years ago I got really drunk in a park with a bunch of Bosnian football hooligans. I was in Sarajevo innocently walking to the shop with my friend to buy some beer when they called us over and invited us to drink with them. They were really friendly but in retrospect things could have got a bit hairy.
What is the best part of your job? I meet tonnes of really nice people who are as passionate about beer as I am. I also travel quite a bit and have visited amazing parts of the country that I’d never visited before!
You are stuck on a desert island, what three things are you taking with you? Monty Python box-set, Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis and a crate of Old Pulteney 21 year old.
Thanks to Scott and Harviestoun for chatting to us.