A craft brewer with a ferocious appetite

Aberdeen-based Fierce Beer has entered the marketplace with a roar

The Fierce bar in Aberdeen

FIERCE Beer co-founder, Dave Grant, was still employed in the oil industry when he was approached by supermarket chain Aldi to supply a batch of craft beer.

The request might have phased some fledgling brewers. But Dave, who had already brewed small volumes of beer for local customers including Brewdog, didn’t hesitate.

“I was sitting in the office in my old job and they phoned up,” Dave told SLTN.

“They have quarterly seasonal specials, where they have festivals going on. This was for the spring festival and they must have had a directory of new breweries and thought I was already fully-fledged, when I was really just working from my house.

“They phoned me up out the blue and, being a salesman, I said yes and then worked out how to do it. ‘Of course it’s a deal!’”

Having now pre-sold their first full batch to Aldi, Dave and business partner David McHardy threw themselves into completing their new brewery, which began production in April 2016.

Since then the brewer has grown its presence in Scotland and further afield through working with Edinburgh-based specialist wholesaler New Wave, establishing a presence in both the on and off-trade (roughly half of the brewery’s output is bottled or canned, the other half is kegged).

The company’s output is squarely in the contemporary craft camp, and is split into several categories: Hoppy Beers (including Easy Shift pale ale, Split Shift IP and Night Shift black IPA), Fruity Beers (such as Tangerine Tart and Very Berry), Dark Beers (including Peanut Riot porter, Moose Mousse chocolate milk stout and Dirty Sanchez porter) and Seasonal Small Batch (limited edition beers and collaborations with other brewers).

We try to do as many high profile collaborations as possible.

The regular and special edition beers are easily distinguishable by their packaging: the core range is packaged in silver, specials in black.

“We try to do as many high profile collaborations as possible,” said Dave.

“It does work out at least one collaboration a month, so half our specials are collaborative and half are beers that we bring out either because we want to make a bit of a wave or a statement or just because it’s something we want to drink ourselves.”

A collaboration last year with Brewdog – a 12% ABV chocolate stout that was stocked in Brewdog bars around the world – was a particular favourite for Dave, and Fierce was in the process of working on a beer with Danish brewer Tool last month when Dave spoke to SLTN.

The two Daves: Grant and McHardy

Another Scandinavian collaboration, this time with Swedish brewery Dugges, was due to take place in the following days.

The collaborative nature of craft brewing, said Dave, was one of the factors that attracted the founders to the industry in the first place.

“Everyone is very collaborative, because we don’t feel that we’re truly in competition with each other,” he said.

“We feel that craft brewers are in competition with big beer.”

New beers aren’t all the company has on its plate.

In April Fierce opened its first bar, on Aberdeen’s Exchequer Row, and expects to have several more in operation in the coming years.

Dave said bars were always part of the brewery’s long-term plan.

“We’d taken a look at the model a lot of the breweries in America have, which is having a taproom attached to the brewery,” he said.

“But we’re in an industrial unit where buses don’t go and it’s hard to get to, so we just started talking to one of our friends, who’s a developer, and he came up with a fantastic location for us.

“And this will be the first of many.”

Taking its design cues from the Scandinavian, minimalist style, the bar is staffed by a team recruited from across the Aberdeen trade.

“We’ve been very lucky in our staff,” said Dave.

“We were very hesitant to poach people from our friends so we didn’t do that.

“The team is outstanding – they’re all either from the craft beer trade, or the cocktail trade, so they understand flavours but not beer, but it’s easy to teach them that.

I really do think we’re going to see a lot more taprooms and bars opening up.

“What was really critical to us was how they dealt with the customer.”

Dave described the beer range at the bar as “Fierce and friends” – with the full Fierce range as well as a selection of beers from brewers the company has collaborated with.

The company works with Liberty Wines, with locally-produced spirits supplied by Royal Mile Whiskies.

At the time of speaking to SLTN, the team was in discussions about where to open its next bar, with Edinburgh and Glasgow both prime contenders, along with Manchester and London.

Dave said the ambition is to open further bars “within the next two years, three years maximum”.

Fierce is just the latest Scottish brewer to become a bar operator, with Brewdog, Innis & Gunn and Six Degrees North among the established players. And with more and more craft brewers entering the fray in Scotland, Dave reckons more breweries will look to open their own venues.

“I really do think that if you’re going to try and keep alive we will see a lot more taprooms, a lot more bars – just so you have a direct route to market,” he said.

“I would personally like to see it move away from bars and more into the brewery taprooms, so it’s a destination, you can sit and eat and drink and have a great day out at a small place.

“It’s a great model. I’d like to see a bit more of that going on and I think I will.”