It’s been a long journey since we first launched Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing Brewery in July of 2021. Starting a brewery has been a thrilling and knackering rollercoaster. But in many ways, despite all we’ve been through, it feels like we are still at the beginning of our story.
Over the past 18 months, we have encountered many wonderful people who share our values and our love of beer. A mere blog post would be unable to do them all justice. While we can’t paint a complete picture of everything we’ve been through, we can tell you how everything is going so far.
This story begins with a man in a pub (typical we know). After spending time in mechanical engineering, pro rugby, and working for AB InBev (yes, the baddies) Matty decided it was time to try something new. When his application to London Business School’s MBA programme was accepted, he had to pinch himself. What an amazing opportunity it would prove to be.
During this time of intense studying and hard work, Matty had many escapes to de-stress and carry on. Naturally, having a good chinwag down the pub was an essential activity. While at his local, Matty had a few eye-wateringly strong ales–he felt like he’d been hit by a train! Maybe it was age, but he couldn’t help wondering if is this all people drink these days.
While getting ribbed and jibed by his mates, he had an epiphany: why isn’t there readily available and tasty alcohol-free beer? ‘That’s it’, he thought, ‘I’m going to start a brewery that focuses on non-alcoholic beer’.
His mates replied as expected, ‘sure you will mate, sure you will’. Perhaps neither party realised the monster they had just created.
Our Sheepies represent individuals who have been crucial the success of the brewery
While feeling a bit worse for wear, Matty had a mostly clear head the following day. Sobriety hadn’t changed his mind, he was going to start a non-alcoholic brewery. Matty didn’t know where to start but he was ready to put in the work.
Soon afterwards, a business plan was slapped together (maybe that was the easy part) and some partners jumped on board. Branding concepts were drafted, evaluated, and redone for weeks.
Believe it or not, the brewery was almost called ‘Lager Day Saints’ (we knew we had something there worth saving for later). Eventually, the sheep-friendly branding we all know and love was settled on!
At this point, alcohol-free or not, we knew we couldn’t be only about beer. What other reasons did we want to start a brewery?
Well for starters, Matty’s childhood took a right turn when his father got in a car accident and was severely and permanently disabled. He saw first-hand the lack of accessibility and inclusivity that his quadriplegic father had to endure on a daily basis.
That led to our first value, inclusivity. We aim to build inclusive drinking hubs and workplaces that are accessible and welcome to all, especially the physically and neurologically diverse.
Additionally, as was pointed out to Matty, only brewing non-alcoholic beers aren’t inclusive. Instead, SiWC proudly offers no-, low-, and full-strength beers–something for everyone!
You can find Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing on our Instagram page or with #WeGiveAFlock
SiWC has been built together from nameless contributions both before and after the brewery launched. Many of our plans and relationships were deeply affected by Covid-19. It’s time for healing. One of our three values is community.
We plan on using our business to support good causes and as a platform for positive change. We’re all in this together, and while we make beer, we hope also to foster social changes in our local and national communities. We do this by partnering with good causes like #WrestlingDemons and Edinburgh Blue Balls.
Climate change is real and waits for no one. Meanwhile, our dependence on oil and other finite sources drives energy prices into the sun. While much of the damage has already been done, there is no time like now to try and fix our ways.
This brings us to our third and final value, sustainability. Professionals and homebrewers alike are aware of how non-green craft brewing can be. We use a lot of water for brewing and cleaning. We end up with loads of organic waste from raw materials. And we use a hell of a lot of energy, not to mention carbon dioxide gas.
Additionally, breweries rinse through tons and tons of packaging materials every year. There’s not one single fix but there’s more all of us can do. This starts with implementing processes for more sustainable brewing and packaging.
This includes environmentally friendly packaging as well as committing to using nearly 100% renewable energy. We also aim to build earth-friendly brewpubs in multiple locations across the UK, but we won’t be able to do all of it on our own. Watch this space for more details!
We’ll get back down from our soapbox now and continue the story. After building a brand, we needed to spend some time in the lab. Let’s set the scene with a montage sequence:
[A garage brewery somewhere in the UK; the Rocky Balboa theme song plays in the background♫]
A mash paddle fights through a thick porridge of barley, oats, and wheat.
Steam fills up the brewhouse during the boil, filling the air with the fresh aroma of new world hops.
Carboy bubblers dance to the rhythm of fermentation.
A ball valve is slowly opened (perhaps too slowly)-yeast and trub spray all over the walls and onto our dog (poor Max).
Yep. That’s pretty much how things went. As we got our process honed in, we focused on recipe creation. Most importantly, we learned that yeast is the heart of brewing. After much testing (and tasting), we settled on some workhouse brewing yeasts that we feel elevate our beers above the status quo.
Unfortunately, members of the SiWC team have had to come and go. Sometimes other things in life take priority and that’s okay. Despite the uncertainty, we continued to move forward with single-mindedness.
We had many big ideas (and small ones too). During the past 18 months, some of those have had to be put on hold, altered, or completely dropped. Starting a niche business is a learning process after all!
Since July 201, we’ve been doing what’s known as ‘gipsy’ or contract brewing. This means that we make the recipes and oversee the brewing process. However, we use another brewery’s kit, tank space, etc. This is just the first step that many breweries opt for in their early phases.
We plan on having a state-of-the-art brewing facility in the future but will spare you the details for now. Funnily enough, the first time we brought an actual brew house was probably one of the biggest mistakes we’ve ever made!
We ordered a kit with an eye on opening a brewpub somewhere up north. Before we knew it, we ended up with a brew kit and no brewer! Not to mention the demand for our award-winning beers like Lager Day Saints was beyond the capabilities of such a humble kit.
Luckily, lessons like that one have all contributed to our ability to better plan the future and run the business more efficiently. Like most of us, we have had to adjust our expectations and business objectives due to the approaching recession and rising costs of living. We’re still here, alive and kicking!
Despite all the ups and downs, we’ve spent the past year and a half producing beers at multiple sites within the UK. This has made it hard to maintain consistency but we’ve got good news for you. We’ve locked down a brewing partner who makes world-class beer so you can expect great beer from us every time you crack open a can!
During this time we are quite proud of our award-winning lineup of NA, low-alcohol, and full-fat beers. We challenge you to see for yourself just how much our 0.5% and 2.5% ABV beers punch above their weight.
Speaking of which, we have a new seasonal stout on the way just in time for Christmas! It's only 2.8% you can actually remember this upcoming holiday season.
Our first Seasonal Stout release features chilli warmth, perfectly paired with tangy, juicy apricot notes.
And if you find yourself in the land of AUS, you will be able to grab a refreshing can of Lager Day Saints brewed locally in Australia.
We have brewed several batches of 0.5% beers during our short brewery lives. However, we are proud to announce that early 2023 will see us put out our first 0.0% pale ale.
We’ve already told you to watch this space and with good reason. There are a lot of exciting things planned for SiWC in 2023 and we can’t do it without your help!
You can find us on Instagram with #WeGiveAFlock to find out more about the causes we support. And as always, don’t forget to check out our online shop and pick yourself up some single cans or a party pack of our delicious beers!
Talk again soon, cheers!