Craft beer is having a big moment in the UK and Fourpure Brewing Co, located in South Bermondsey, has created a business that doubles its revenue year-on-year. The Manufacturer paid the brewery a visit to learn how best to brew craft beer success.
The company, which was founded in 2013 by brothers Dan and Tom Lowe, has doubled both its workforce and revenue every year by providing London with high-quality craft beer.
Most recently though, Fourpure has been wholly-acquired by Australasian beverages giant, Lion, which follows a string of other independent breweries – such as Beavertown, Brixton and Meantime– who have either partly or entirely merged with larger companies.
The Manufacturer visited the South London brewery and sat down with Dan Lowe in Fourpure’s taproom, to talk about the deal, their journey so far and their future plans.
Lowe explained that both him and Tom wanted to be the first company to can craft beers in the UK, so that is exactly what they did, he said: “We went out to Canada, bought some equipment, brought it over to the UK and then by March  we were putting our beers into cans.”
Cans reportedly account for a quarter of craft beers sold in the UK, achieving triple-digit growth year-on-year.
Lowe also explained how Fourpure actually manufactures two things; beer, and animal food: “All our materials, the grain we use in the brewery, we actually only partly use it, and so what remains is converted and taken for animal feed directly back into the food chain.”
The deal with Australia’s Lion
Lowe explained that as an independent business, the team has invested as much money as possible and created the best brewery they can, but now are continually coming “up against it” and are “absolutely out of capacity”.
About 12 months ago, the brothers made the decision to explore external investment. During the latter stages of this search, Lowe said that Lion joined the conversation.
When asked if the investment represents the company “selling out” its craft roots, Lowe replied: “We are a business who wants to carry on growing, we want to continue to do things better.
“When you are a rapidly growing business, getting that focus and level of investment all across the factory is very difficult, it is a natural step for someone like us and our team. The beer quality isn’t going to be reduced, that doesn’t make sense.”
He added: “It is just the shareholders have changed, that is standard business.”
When asked about the craft beer market in Australia, Lowe replied: “It is bigger than here, probably second to the states, and growing quickly. They don’t quite have the preciousness over independence we do here, quite a lot of the larger craft breweries are owned by bigger breweries themselves.”
Introduction of automation increases productivity nearly 10-fold
One aspect of the business that will be further propelled by this investment is automation and technology at the brewery.
Lowe spoke about the current automation introduced: “We have already heavily invested in our automation last year. Previously, it was very manual, we would load every empty can to be filled and take every empty can off by hand.
“We were running at 30 cans a minute and we now run at 250 cans a minute, with the same number of operators.”
He added that the next area to be automated with Lion’s investment is the cellar: “The fermentation tanks that are here, a lot of time is spent getting hoses from here to here, therefore the next step is to automate the cellar, so human error is reduced and the process is accelerated.”
The future for Fourpure and craft beer
The brothers are looking to expand the Bermondsey base by “almost double” and take on more staff. They believe it is really important to the brand to stay in London, as 90% of the company’s exports are to the City and South East London.
So, what’s the future of craft beer? According to Lowe: “It will continue to mainstream, it will be something available in supermarkets, more specialist craft beer bars will open, the audience for craft beer is wider than the audience for regular lager – it will also become increasingly more gender-balanced.”
What’s the secret to Fourpure’s success? Lowe replied: “From the very start, we have focused on getting a really good team, investing in good equipment and taking risks.”
He concluded: “We’ve always chosen to do things because they are hard and other people aren’t doing that, I think that has set us in a strong position for now and the future.”