Q and A, UK Beer and Breweries

Innis & Gunn | Q&A

Innis & Gunn | Q&A
Originally Posted on Oct 12, 2016

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.
Today’s post features Innis & Gunn. Located in Scotland, they mature their beers with oak resulting in uniquely flavoured beers that are being enjoyed around the world.

Who are you and what do you do?   I am Dougal Gunn Sharp, founder of Innis & Gunn.  I am also the Master Brewer and make sure we produce the very best beers and are constantly pushing boundaries in flavour and innovation.

When did your love affair with beer begin?   You could say brewing is in my blood.  My dad owned Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh, and I earned my pocket money cask washing and rolling barrels from when I was 14 or 15 and from those first days of working with my Dad I always knew that making beer was something that felt natural to me.
When I finished my chemistry degree at Sheffield University I helped rebuild the Caledonian Brewery after it was ravaged by fire in 1994, drawing me into the brewing process and re-developing the brewery’s old recipes.  I started to look through them and read up on as many brewing books as I could before doing a brewing pupillage with Timothy Taylor’s in Keighley.  That was where something clicked.

What was the inspiration for starting the brewery?   I’d always had an acute sense of smell and understanding of flavour, so it became second nature to start experimenting and creating brews that I had had in my head for years.  It’s the scientist in me to question everything and I’m still the same today with every brew we make, there are no hard and fast rules to making beer.  In 2002 I was Head Brewer at Caledonian and just after I won Champion Beer of Britain for Deuchars IPA, I was approached by Grant’s distillers to create an ale to season their oak casks with the malty character of a full-flavour beer.  This resulted in a highly acclaimed dram, and I thought that was it, job done.  Then, months later I got a call to say that some inquisitive workers at Grants had been sampling the beer that came out the casks, trying it myself I discovered the beer had been transformed by its time in oak casks into an unusually refined brew.  We were onto something and it became our Original Oak-Aged beer and the starting point for Innis & Gunn.

What’s the story behind the brewery name and logo?   The name comes from the middle name of my brother, Neil Innis Sharp, and my own middle name.

Where do you see, or hope to see, the brewery in 5 years’ time?   We bought Inveralmond Brewery in April this year, which gives us the dedicated brewing facility that we need to meet the growing demand for our beers. It gives us a home where we can innovate and experiment with some of the new brewing processes we’ve been dreaming up. Our immediate priority is investing in increasing production capacity and building a launch pad for our continued expansion at home and abroad.

Looking ahead, what new things can we expect from Innis & Gunn over the coming months? Everyone at Innis & Gunn is passionate about pushing the boundaries of brewing to introduce drinkers to new experiences and open up the world of beer to more people.  There are lots of very exciting new beers in the pipeline, we’re looking forward to seeing what drinkers think of these new bold and flavour filled brews that we’ve created at our new brewery.  Another huge development for us is the expansion of own bar and restaurant group.  In the past year we’ve successfully opened The Beer Kitchen in Edinburgh and Dundee, and we are adding a St Andrews location in November, with Glasgow to follow early 2017 and we are looking at a Toronto venue – watch this space!

Are there any other breweries which have influenced you?   I take inspiration from all sorts of places, a formative influence was Timothy Taylor’s where I did my brewing pupillage

What have you found to be the hardest thing to master when learning to brew?   Patience!

What do you think makes a great beer?   For me, depth of flavour and balance are the most important elements,

What was your first drink and where were you when you had it?   Well my first job was in a brewery when I was a teenager, it’s not all 15 year olds that have access to a brewery’s sample cellar and let’s just say we made the most of it when we could get away with it!

What drink can you no longer face having had one too many?  Malibu!  I probably shouldn’t admit to that!

What is your favourite style of beer?   Too numerous really to single out any one particular favourite, I’m really for all beer and love to experiment and try different things

What is the silliest thing you’ve done whilst drunk?   Without a doubt, when I commandeered a ferry.

What is the best part of your job?   That I get to be creative every day, I’m always inspired by the people around me and I am very lucky to do a job I love working with a fantastic team of people to make great beer.

You are stuck on a desert island, what three things are you taking with you?   Just the basics would be good enough for me, my children, enough food to keep us going, and a few beers.

Thank you to Dougal and Innis & Gunn for chatting to us.

You can view and buy beers from Innis & Gunn here.