Brewery’s focus on locals serves up quality and sustainability
Rebellion Brewery in Marlow serves customers within a 30-mile limit. The result is better quality beer and a lower carbon footprint.
Rebellion Beer was one of the first small-scale brewers to provide a local alternative to the mass market drinks industry. In doing so, they believe they are crafting better beer that’s also better for the environment.
Rediscovering a tradition
There is a good reason why brewing was once small-scale. Real ale doesn’t travel well and should be consumed as close to the brewery and as soon as possible. That’s why Marlow residents Mark Gloyens and Tim Coombes decided to set up a new brewery based on ancient traditions.
From the start, they embraced localism. Rebellion beer now makes 98% of sales within a thirty-mile radius. “It used to be seventy miles, but as we grew locally, we made a decision. Rather than increasing the brewery capacity, we just shrank the area we delivered to – first down to fifty miles, then down to thirty.”
Most other small breweries send beer all over the country. But, as Mark says, “From a commercial point of view transporting beer is expensive. And from an environmental point of view, it’s best to sell as close to the brewery as possible. It's not just the distance, it's the time it takes. And we don’t pasteurise the beer or add preservatives."
Of course, delivery isn’t the only sustainability issue. Lloyds Bank helped Mark and Tim fund an on-site bottling line. “For a while, we had to outsource our bottling to a company in Kent – a 160-mile round trip. The new investment has helped us save 16,000 miles a year in transport costs.”
Another way they minimised haulage was by opening a brewery shop. “We offered our regulars a free drink when they came by – and then they would take some home with them. Eventually, the 20% of sales we made through retail became 50% of our profit.”
The return of returns
There were other benefits to their local strategy. One of their sustainability initiatives was the introduction of 1-litre refundable bottles. Mark had always wanted to try it and Lloyds Bank supported them with a loan.
But it was a leap of faith. As Mark explained, “Other brewers had tried this initiative before and failed – mainly because the new bottles cost three times the amount of a one-trip bottle. However, because our customer base is local we get returns of 80%. So, the new bottles now cost a fraction of those they replaced.”
Against the grain
They even grow their own barley from a farm at the back of the brewery where a sign says ‘Your beer is growing here.’
Mark knows bulk buying would be cheaper, but he likes the story. “Money was never our prime motivation. We wanted to produce something we liked and that others liked too. So, our business decisions are less about profit and more about whether it’s the right thing to do.”
Their approach has paid off, but it took a long time. After initial resistance, the big brewers now sell Rebellion beer in their pubs. Public demand for more variety means they’re now part of a brewing revolution. Back in 1993, there were fewer than 100 small-scale brewers; today, it’s closer to 2,000.
“Mark and Tim are passionate advocates of small-scale, authentic brewing. We believe we’ve helped them become a more sustainable business by supporting them with some ambitious initiatives.” Martin Bacon, Relationship Manager, Lloyds Bank
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