Craft beer for the people

Cold Town Brewery

Cold Town Brewery’s beers were first created to be sold in their own chain of pubs but proved so popular they quickly decided to start selling them in the off-trade.

by Antony Begley

The story of how Edinburgh’s Cold Town Brewery came into being is a fascinating one and, as so many things do, it all started in a pub. “It began when we decided that we wanted to brew our own lager to serve in our pub estate,” explains Cold Town Director Euan Bain. “It was literally an idea that came to us over a couple of pints and the back of a fag packet. For various reasons, we wanted to be able to offer our own beer that was really well made with high quality Scottish ingredients but that was also sessionable – and that was incredibly important to us. A lot of craft beers can be quite challenging for many consumers and we wanted to create a craft beer for the people.”

Fast forward six months and the company had bought a 6,000sq ft site in Edinburgh and was ramping up production. That was back in 2018 but Bain rapidly began to see another opportunity opening up for him.

“Within a year of starting to brew our own beer we realised that we had a really good liquid and by the second year it was the best-selling line in every pub we operate,” he says. “We started to realise that we were onto something and began that the beer could have an appeal beyond our own estate.”

That though process culminated in the installation of a brand-new state of the art canning line in October 2020.

Bain breaks into laughter at this point. “I know what you’re thinking,” he says. “Great timing, eh? Trying to launch a brand new range of beers into the off-trade for first time is hard enough without having to do it during the worst pandemic we’ve ever seen. And I will admit that it was like trading through treacle at the end of 2020 and the start of this year, but I’m confident that we’re on the cusp of major growth now.”

Cold Town didn’t sit twiddling its thumbs through 2020, however. Bain moved to recruit drinks industry veteran Graham Storey in October last year to spearhead the company’s drive into the convenience market, and it’s the convenience market that is the key focus for Cold Town.

Storey has decades of experience, predominantly with global beer and wine businesses, but latterly with Alva’s Harviestoun Brewery running the retail and e-commerce side of the business.

“I really like the company, its range of beers and its plan,” says Storey. “But in terms of how to bring those plans to life, it was a blank sheet of paper and I liked the idea of helping build a brand new company and take it forward.”

Storey accepts that his first five or six months in the job were hard going, but believes that he’s now beginning to see the benefit of all those hard yards that he put in. “The back end of last year and start of this one was a lot of shoe leather, visiting retailers up and down the country, presenting the products and talking to them about the brand. The rest of the time it was death by Zoom calls, which was hard because I’m a real people person and I like getting in front of people.”

Over that time, Cold Town also expanded its range and the company has now brewed over 20 different beers including pale ales, IPAs, pilsners, and Berliner-weisse sour beers, all under the watch of Head Brewer, Ed Evans.

“The one thing they all have in common,” says Bain, “is that they’re beers for beer’s sake. They’re all approachable, easy to drink and honest. We don’t do stunts or gimmicks, we just make great tasting beer for the people.”

The shoe leather paid off and Cold Town’s core range is now available via JW Filshill while Dunn’s offers its range of specialist beers. Cold Town beers are also available online via Amazon, Liquid Vault and Flavourly as well as in a number of retail outlets including eight Margiotta Food & Wine stores across Edinburgh, Woodwinters in Bridge of Allan and Edinburgh and The Cave in Glasgow.

“It’s been a long, hard slog to get here but we’ve tried to do it right all the way through the process and it’s starting to feel like we’re on the edge of something special,” concludes Bain. “We’ve gone from selling just a few cases a week at the very outset to selling pallets and pallets worth every week – and it’s only going in one direction.”