Meet the Maker: Billy Mathers, site general manager, Belhaven Brewery

Billy Mathers, site general manager at Belhaven Brewery talks to SLTN

Q: What do you make?

A: Belhaven Best.

Q: Where do you work?

A: Belhaven Brewery, Dunbar.

Q: How long have you worked there and how did you start?

A: I have worked on the brand for the last year.

Q: Describe the production process.

A: Belhaven Best is produced at Scotland’s oldest working brewery in Brewery Lane, Dunbar, East Lothian, which celebrated its 300th Birthday in 2019. The product is brewed using malt produced using only Scottish-grown barley, local water, hops and our own Belhaven yeast. The brewhouse still operates with a traditional direct fired burner to boil the wort which imparts the typical flavour to Belhaven beers.

Q: What’s a typical working day like?

A: The day starts at 8.30am with a review of production to confirm that all the processes are running to plan. When we are happy the day is progressing as expected we will have a tasting at 10.30am to check the water, raw materials and the beers at various points during the process so we are sure everything is meeting the correct standards for our flavour and appearance. The rest of the day will be taken up with a range of meetings and reviews with staff, reviewing process and cost performance and making the necessary adjustments on the ‘tiller’ to keep things ‘sailing in the right direction’. I generally finish around 5.30pm and return home for a small refreshment in the early evening.

Q: Please provide brief tasting notes for your products.

A: Belhaven Best is Scotland’s number one ale and altogether a wonderfully-balanced, refreshing drink at 3.2% ABV. It is a bright amber colour with malty aromas all crowned with a smooth, creamy head, which makes Best an extremely easy-to-drink pint when people come together. After all, good times shared are the Best!

Q: What would you say sets your product apart?

A: Belhaven Best is Scotland’s Original Best and remains the largest selling keg beer in the Scottish market. It originates from Belhaven Brewery, which stands on the Scottish east coast, between rolling fields and a beautiful bay, and uses local ingredients that contribute to a lovely creamy head and a full malty flavour with good body.

Q: What one fact should bartenders know about your brand?

A: This Scottish beer should be poured into a clean glass and placed on the bar with the branding to the front, allowing the consumer to anticipate and appreciate as the creamy head forms at the top of the glass.

Q: What’s your favourite part of the job?

A: I love working with my team, helping them understand and appreciate the beer and grow in their roles; and of course I enjoy the beer at the end of the day or with the team at the end of the month when we enjoy a beer together (of course this was pre-COVID and the prevailing social distancing restrictions).

Q: What’s your favourite way to drink your brand?

A: Best is a beer I appreciate when socialising with friends and colleagues in a bar having a relaxed chat about life!

Q: What’s your career highlight so far?

A: I have been lucky enough to brew many different beers and beer styles all around the world in different countries and different cultures. The highlight was brewing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the last four years before returning to East Lothian and joining Belhaven.

Q: Who do you admire in the industry and why?

A: I admire many people throughout the global beer industry in brewing, marketing and all aspects of the business. It’s really difficult to pick any one individual as it’s always a team who make it work. However I was always highly impressed by Jean-Francois van Boxmeer, who was able to inspire and lead the Heineken company successfully through the bulk of this century of industry consolidation and challenges before retiring last year.

Q: How do you relax outside of work?

A: I like to spend time with my wife and children and relax in the garden. I have recently installed a new pond in my garden and I’m renovating the whole area with new planting and infrastructure.

Q: If you could invite anyone for a drink who would you ask, where would you go and what would you drink?

A: I would love to buy a drink for the footballer David Gray to thank him for scoring that goal in the 92nd minute of the 2016 Scottish Cup final and ending the 114 years of pain all Hibs fans had felt for so long. I would be happy to have a beer in any of the bars down Easter Road and of course toast him with a pint of Belhaven Best.