When Andrew Barnett was 16, he accidentally got a job in a brewery. Although too young to taste the produce, he immediately loved the role and wanted to learn more.
“Through chatting with the experienced brewers, they all recommended the brewing course at Heriot-Watt. So, I went to night school to earn the qualifications, and got a place on the undergraduate Brewing and Distilling course. I graduated with a First in 1992, and haven’t looked back.” Andrew was profiled in Heriot-Watt’s 1994 Undergraduate Prospectus, which you can see here.
His career since then has taken him all around the world, working in marketing roles for major brands like Whitbread, Scottish & Newcastle and the Edrington Group.
“But then, something changed. I decided I wanted to work for myself, and it made sense to do what I had been working to promote all these years – I started to brew my own beer.”
Andrew made initial contact with the management of Falkirk’s Behind the Wall bar to enquire about buying their brewing equipment. When the offer to brew his on beer on their premises was raised, he jumped at the chance. “Brewing my own beer, on my own, on site, was a golden opportunity. It got me a foot in the door, I could speak to owners and customers alike.”
A brewing tradition in Summerhall stretches back to the beginning of the 18th century.
In 2012, Andrew moved his equipment to Edinburgh’s Summerhall, the former site of the Royal (Dick) Vet School in Newington.
“I was keen to get in here. A brewing tradition in Summerhall stretches back to the beginning of the 18th century, and I’m proud to be continuing this legacy, although at a much smaller scale. Summerhall is such an eclectic place to work, the opportunities that present themselves to me are unique and exciting”.
90% of what I brewed for the Science Festival has already been drunk – I don’t think there will be a problem in moving the remainder!
One such opportunity was in 2013’s Edinburgh Science Festival, when Andrew brewed a beer made from the first “pure culture” yeast discovered in 1883 allowed us to taste history.
“The idea came from Heriot-Watt’s Prof. David Quain, and so with Dr James Bryce we used this culture to create a unique drink which we called Culture #1. 90% of what I brewed has already been drunk – I don’t think there will be a problem in moving the remainder!”.
“I’m looking forward to this. Whilst Song, By Toad will be releasing 250 vinyl LPs, I will be simultaneously releasing 250 custom-made 4-packs, with codes to download different songs, but by the same artists. The challenge is to see who will sell out first! I’m also creating specially branded beers for Deadinburgh – a unique event at Summerhall where we see what happens when a deadly virus infects Edinburgh’s residents”.
Luckily, with Andrew’s beer on hand, we might just survive.
Finally, what advice does Andrew have for aspiring brewers?
“Get experience – a mentor is good, but first hand experience is essential. There’s a lot of benefit in working in the marketing side of this industry too – in many ways, making the beer is the easy bit. Selling and distributing and finding a market for it is hard. And don’t try to do it all yourself – I use a distributor for my beer, which means I can get on and focus on the craft.
I’m having a great time doing this. It’s a perfect work-life balance, I get to see all aspects of a company and I’m very happy with the way business is going. I’m getting to do something which I genuinely love doing – what’s better than that?”