Innis & Gunn, Scotland’s craft beer that oak-ages all its beers before bottling, has taken the bold decision to bottle its flagship beer, Original, in solid oak bottles. The founder of the Edinburgh-based brewer, that has made a name for itself as a pioneer of oak-aged beers, had the epiphany after an acorn fell on his head during a woodland walk with his dog Woody.
“It was quite incredible,” said Innis & Gunn CEO Dougal Sharp. “In that moment, I knew exactly what I needed to do – it was a calling. We’re exploring new frontiers here, going where no other brewer has gone before: putting our best-selling beer in solid oak bottles and letting it mature on shelf! To be honest, anyone these days can release a beer matured in oak barrels, so this is really ground-breaking stuff.”
He added: “This is definitely not a foolish whim. Like a fine wine, and some may even say me, Innis & Gunn Original is a beer that improves with age and this way consumers can decide how much of the oaky character they want from their beer. Innis & Gunn is dismissed by many as not being truly ‘craft’ so all I can say is ‘back at ya’!”
Commenting on the environmental impact of moving to wood, Dougal said: “This is a really positive step in lowering our carbon footprint. Think about it, in one fell swoop this will cut right back on road haulage and shipping because we will use the great British canal network and float the bottles over to Sweden, Canada and the US. Think how nicely chilled they’d be after a few weeks’ crossing the Atlantic!”
In designing the bottle, Dougal bought a lathe and taught himself the art of woodturning by watching videos on YouTube. “This is a wonderful skill to learn but it took some time, as you can imagine, to create a bottle identical in size and appearance to our glass one. The oak tree that the children liked to climb in the garden had to go but they understood it was for a greater cause. They’re now helping me with the oak nursery we’ve planted behind the office. And ‘wood’ you believe it, we’ve discovered that the saplings like the sound of The Proclaimers…Sunshine on Leith is their favourite!”
The bottles, which will be available in all markets from 29th February 2015, will be lovingly made by hand by every member of the Innis & Gunn team in Edinburgh. “We’ve now trained up everyone in the company in the art of modelling these bottles,” Dougal said, “and will be producing them by hand from our head office. They’ll have their work cut out as we sell over seven million bottles of Original every year but this project is too important to axe. We’ll also be running bottle-making courses as part of our events programme, so guests can make and take away their own.”
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