Going back to where it all began

Innis & Gunn turns its focus to the beer which kickstarted the brewer’s brand

Brewing up change: Innis & Gunn has transformed its Beer Kitchens into Brewery Taprooms

FIFTEEN years ago, Scottish craft brewer Innis & Gunn launched The Original – a beer which the firm reckons to this day remains “[unlike] anything else”.

Barrel-aged and brewed to 6.6% ABV, The Original “broke the mould around what beer was at the time”, according to Aly Bayne, head of brand marketing at Innis & Gunn.

It also acted as a catalyst for the creation of the entire brand, which today is said to be worth more than £1 million to the Scottish on-trade.

But a lot has changed on the craft beer scene since the early noughties.

With this in mind, the team at Innis & Gunn decided that, following years of developing sales of Innis & Gunn’s lager in the on-trade, it was time to refocus efforts on the beer where it all began.

Speaking to SLTN, Aly said: “It’s such a unique beer; and such an interesting beer at a time when beer generally is so interesting.

“So we thought it was time to show it off again.

“We talked to a lot of people about it and one thing that kept coming back was it doesn’t really taste, or isn’t made like, any other beer out there.”

This served as inspiration for the brewer’s marketing campaign for The Original.

Customers want to try new things and they want to know the stories behind what’s being made.

Said to represent the firm’s biggest advertising spend to date, the new campaign runs until November and includes a targeted digital advertising campaign that is expected to reach over three million people.

On-trade stockists will benefit from new POS materials, as well as the brand’s newly designed tulip-shaped chalice glass, which is said to have been designed to “showcase the beer in all its glory”.

But for pubs and bars, Aly reckons it’s the beer itself which will prove to be the biggest selling point, reminding consumers of the different styles and flavours available to them.

“I think the best thing The Original can do for pubs is remind consumers that there is a huge variety of beer out there – and chances are there will be a flavour profile they haven’t discovered yet,” said Aly.

“And actually, it’s about being original and being proud to be a wee bit different; it’s these things that encourage people to broaden their [drinking] repertoire – and that’s really what we see as being the key to successful pubs.

“The broader people’s repertoires are, the more reasons they have to have a drink in the on-trade, the more it supports the on-trade.”

Offering something different also provides natural talking points for bartenders, which is more important than ever, according to Aly.

He said: “More and more, it’s what people who go to bars want.

“They want variety of choice, they want to try new things when they go out in the on-trade. And they want to know the stories behind what’s being made, how it’s being made, why it’s being made a certain way.

“People really care about what they’re drinking now.”

This view has also informed the new direction Innis & Gunn has taken its venues in.

Its three units, which previously traded as Beer Kitchens, in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, have all benefited from major refits that has transformed them into Innis & Gunn Brewery Taprooms.

“We rebranded all our beers, but left our Beer Kitchens as they were for a long time,” said Aly.

Admitting that there was a higher food to drinks ratio than the company was after, it was decided that the refit would see the three units major in beer.

“We decided to turn the focus back a lot more to the beer,” he said.

“And that lended itself to a bit more of a stripped back, bit more relaxed kind of vibe, with a simplified food menu, brighter beers, more experimental stuff.

“The GMs of all the Taprooms have done a brilliant job and it’s absolutely flying just now.

“It’s allowed the guys in here to focus a lot more on the beer and really that’s what we’re here for at the end of the day.”