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Lessons from Scotland's craft breweries

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

Scotland’s craft breweries offer an inspiring example of how local production can help build thriving local economies and communities.

When goods and services are produced near where people live it creates bonds between businesses, communities and the

land. It rescales the economy to a human level and encourages us to rediscover the purpose and value of our communities.

Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland’s report, Tapping into a Wellbeing Economy, documented the myriad ways Scotland’s craft brewers contribute to the development of local economies, collaborate with other businesses and put human connection and mutual support at the core of their work.

Craft brewers typically employ people who live locally, and they often hire flexibly, creating or adapting roles to accommodate the individual needs of people in their communities. Their strong sense of place and connection to their location tends to be part of their brand identity, product range and business strategy. For example, craft beers might feature local ingredients, or play on aspects of local heritage.

A key feature of a Wellbeing Economy is moving away from the idea of continual growth as the primary yardstick for success. Our society’s “more is more” mindset seems particularly in evidence when we think about the goals of enterprise. Craft breweries are part of a growing body of companies who are redefining what it means to succeed. Building a sustainable, independent and resilient business is often seen as a prize in itself.

Craft brewers commonly collaborate with each other in everything from production to marketing and distribution. For example, the tradition of “co-lab” brews sees brewers share skills, knowledge, and recipes to create a shared product. New firms often use or borrow their peers’ supplies and equipment and it is common for brewers to discuss the details of their recipes with each other. This collaborative mindset goes against the dominant business model that celebrates fierce competition.

Milngavie-based Jaw Brew is just one example of a brewery doing business differently. The family-run firm aims to become a world-leading circular economy micro-brewery. They seek to use as few raw materials as possible and extract the maximum value from them to minimise waste.

For its award-winning ‘Hardtack beer’, Jaw Brew partnered with a local bakery to use unsold bread rolls to partly replace the malted barley they would otherwise use. The team are also exploring making snack bars using spent grain, experimenting with compostable packaging made from waste products like cardboard or prawn shells and scoping the feasibility of capturing the CO2 emitted during the fermentation process and reusing it to carbonate their beer. Jaw Brew are committed to sharing these practices with other brewers to increase their impact.

The firm has no interest in growing the business for its own sake. Expansion for Jaw Brew could instead mean bottling their beer themselves, which would limit their transport footprint and create local jobs. Businesses like Jaw Brew prove that successful enterprises can put people and planet ahead of profit and positively contribute to the development of resilient communities.

Read the full report:

Tapping-into-a-Wellbeing-Economy report
Download PDF • 977KB

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