EXPLORA7ION

#5 VAULT CITY

WELCOME TO OUR FIFTH EDITION OF EXPLORA7ION, SHOWCASING INTERVIEWS WITH SOME OF OUR DYNAMIC, CREATIVE AND ENTREPRENEURIAL CLIENTS.

In EXPLORA7ION #5, we’re chatting to Vault City, the Modern Sour Beer people! We were first introduced over a Defender (of course) and couldn’t resist showcasing this four year old business. From home brewing in the kitchen, to a brewery in Portobello, Steve and his partner Adele now distribute their Sour Beer across the globe… a ‘one to watch’ craft beer business based in our very own Edinburgh.

READING TIME: 15 mins

EXPLORA7ION

#5 VAULT CITY

WELCOME TO OUR FIFTH EDITION OF EXPLORA7ION, SHOWCASING INTERVIEWS WITH SOME OF OUR DYNAMIC, CREATIVE AND ENTREPRENEURIAL CLIENTS.

In EXPLORA7ION #5, we’re chatting to Vault City, the Modern Sour Beer people! We were first introduced over a Defender (of course) and couldn’t resist showcasing this four year old business. From home brewing in the kitchen, to a brewery in Portobello, Steve and his partner Adele now distribute their Sour Beer across the globe… a ‘one to watch’ craft beer business based in our very own Edinburgh.

READING TIME: 10 mins

EXPLORA7ION

#5 VAULT CITY

WELCOME TO OUR FIFTH EDITION OF EXPLORA7ION, SHOWCASING INTERVIEWS WITH SOME OF OUR DYNAMIC, CREATIVE AND ENTREPRENEURIAL CLIENTS.

In EXPLORA7ION #5, we’re chatting to Vault City, the Modern Sour Beer people! We were first introduced over a Defender (of course) and couldn’t resist showcasing this four year old business. From home brewing in the kitchen, to a brewery in Portobello, Steve and his partner Adele now distribute their Sour Beer across the globe… a ‘one to watch’ craft beer business based in our very own Edinburgh.

READING TIME: 10 mins

“The kitchen and cellar became my own personal brewery…”

STEVE

“We ended up having to redo the kitchen so that I could get eight beer taps installed.”

STEVE

JANE: Since we met you, my perception of Sour Beer has really changed overnight. I am not a beer drinker and certainly not a sour beer drinker, but this has turned my head. Mind you, Kir Royale Sour beer at 11.5% would turn anyone’s head!

From university to working in IT and then creating your own sour beer… tell me your story.

STEVE: Yeah, I bummed out of uni in 3rd year having started out in Accountancy and then jumping into Economics. Loads of debt and no degree!

JANE: Excellent, nothing finer.

(Both laugh as Steve drinks a fine looking beverage.)

JANE: Are you drinking Sour Beer?

STEVE: No, it’s an IPA from Other Half in Brooklyn, America. We get some really crazy beers imported in for the team to try so that we keep ahead of the curve.

And seeing as we have a four-day week and its Thursday, this is technically my Friday night.

I am trying to cut down, you should think about it too, I have seen your recycling bins!

JANE: Yes, but there are four of us in the house at the moment, remember…

Back to topic… From the security of an IT job to making Sour Beer. Vault City, formed in your kitchen just under 4 years ago, has a team helping you run it. It is fully independent, no angel investors or family money.

STEVE: Yeah, the kitchen and cellar became my own personal brewery. So much so that we ended up having to redo the kitchen so that I could get eight beer taps installed.

I was dumping so much good beer, because of all the flavours I wanted to explore, it got to the stage where we decided it was time to go professional. It’s not cheap to make!

I had been working on the idea for around 7 years and the job I had in IT was a great education because my main role was to understand how business worked and how technology could help them run. I got to go through the whole gambit of speaking with HR and Sales, marketing and accounts so the mechanics of running of business was being formed during that time.

JANE: You are hugely entrepreneurial, creative, and pioneering. Part of your ‘why’ as a business is simply to deliver a relentless exploration of flavour combinations, and you certainly deliver on that.

STEVE: Yeah and it’s the whole process. Standing over a pot for five hours is quite amazing and then from the day you make it you have three weeks to know if what you’ve made is actually good. That is part of the allure for me.

“We ended up having to redo the kitchen so that I could get eight beer taps installed.”

STEVE

STEVE: Sour beer has been incredibly underrepresented worldwide so I want to share our taste experience with as many people as we can.

With our sour beer we have opened a whole different colour palette altogether. We are able to paint pictures with all forms of fruit, spices and herbs. We are only scratching the surface of the possibilities in terms of flavour combinations and explorative inventive ingredients.

We are steeped in traditional ways but use modern techniques. My connection to beer as a home brewer has allowed me to poke a stick at everything in the industry, question it and go let’s do it this way, why do we have to do it that way?

Change it up a bit.

It’s all about experimentation and being at the cutting edge, doing this differently. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s the fun. A combination of traditional brewing history and modern brewing science.

Our base beer is your basic IPA but instead of adding hops, we throw in copious amounts of raspberries, strawberries, tropical fruits and all the spices in between!

JANE: So for you it’s the explorative nature of your business that you love. It’s a very artisan product… and yet sold throughout the world, and in Tesco’s, all in under 4 years!

STEVE: When I started off my dad said ‘why are you brewing your own beer when you can just buy it in Tesco’s’ and I didn’t have an answer then but now I say, ‘well now you can Dad’. It’s a family joke around the dining table!

When I take a step back, it’s been a crazy journey. To have our sour beer shipped globally around the world, – We’ve just sent a batch over to Australia and we are about to ship out to the USA. Yes, it’s gone beyond my wildest expectations.

We are the Modern Sour Beer people, the go to, and more and more breweries are adopting that phrase ‘modern sour beer’ which originated from our brewery, and that makes me proud.

“It’s all about experimentation and being at the cutting edge, doing this differently.”

STEVE

“It’s a very artisan product… and yet sold throughout the world, and in Tesco’s, all in under 4 years!”

JANE

“It’s a very artisan product… and yet sold throughout the world, and in Tesco’s, all in under 4 years!”

JANE

“It’s fine that it didn’t make us a profit because it gave us and our customers a fun experience.”

STEVE

JANE: Would you say you are unique in the craft beer world because you are not afraid to explore the seemingly impossible blend of flavours? I mean you create new limited-edition beers every fortnight, right?

STEVE: Yes! Three beers a fortnight, and it’s limited because when it sells out, it’s out. We do however, bring back the more popular sours. We aren’t precious and we don’t want to seem like gatekeepers. A lot of craft beer can be a bit like that. We want to take our product and introduce it to the world. We are growing organically, and if we see a need we fill it.

Take our session sours, they are flying off the shelf. People want to sit outside in the sun with a cold 6 pack, or around a fire in the winter, and taste something a little different, something that replaces your pale ales, IPA or lager. Why not have some fun with it?

JANE: You have your Silly sours, Session sours and Serious sours. Some come and go, some make a yearly appearance and some stay forever.

STEVE: Yeah, so for example our Cloudy Lemonade will come as a spring or summer special, because it’s what the consumer wants.

We are completely led by the consumer without the usual restraints such as; being pushed by a board or investors trying to maximise profit.

We can have our own fun! Our birthday beer, one of the most unprofitable beers we have ever made, had edible glitter in it that we shipped from the states! And it’s fine that it didn’t make us a profit because it gave us and our customers a fun experience.

JANE: How many folks do you employ now?

STEVE: Well, including our newest recruit who is joining in a couple of months, 11.

JANE: You have a good culture. You are a straight talker, say it as it is, and you also look after your team like they are part of your family. As you mentioned earlier, using it as an excuse for drinking, you even do a four day week now! What the heck?!

STEVE: Well, that’s because I hate working 9-5, 5 days a week. I mean whoever spun that idea was telling such a lie. Who says it needs to be like that?

Having said that, it has been a challenge introducing and implementing it. Not so much for the team but more for the suppliers and customers.

I fully believe in a work life balance, and I believe you get more out of your team when you have that. It’s about being honest with each other, working hard and enjoying yourself in the process of work and in life. That is really important to me.

The four day week works for that. People are more efficient. They come in on a Monday completely refreshed because they have had three days off. Life is here to enjoy, and our culture really embraces that.

JANE: What’s your weirdest mix to date?

STEVE: Coffee and Bramble! My favourite review of that was ‘it tastes like brambles being rolled around in the dirt for a few days’. It was an acquired taste and didn’t really catch on! But that’s all about taking a risk, because then you get one that’s brilliant and it was worth the pain. Yeah, people weren’t ready for that one, but I was!

The Mango and chilli mix was incredible. When we come up with our flavours, we look to the culinary world for inspiration. Hence the Mango and chilli pair. It was a huge hit!

JANE: Do you think there will be a time and place for Sour Beer pairings with food? Like wine?

STEVE: Yeah sure, we did a cheese pairing with Mellis’s and it was really successful. The food combo piece is huge for us. One of my goals for next year is to monopolise on that.

JANE: Would you like the Coffee and Bramble Sour beer with your fillet sir?

“I hate working 9-5, 5 days a week. I mean whoever spun that idea was telling such a lie. ”

STEVE

“If anyone in Scotland can take a 1950s ice cream van and make it reliable it’s going to be the boys at ENGINE710.”

STEVE

JANE: You never stop do you? Tell us about your ranges.

STEVE: Yeah, so the ABVs and fruit levels in our beers lent us to grouping them in a fun way.

Sessions are the lower ABV and there for a few reasons. It’s the beer I’ll drink, the kind of thing you can go out in the sun, enjoy a few, taste the cloudy lemon or you can savour it and really taste the Sicilian lemon zest, the dry hops and the Vault City house culture, with lemon sherbet coming through.

The Serious is our Farm to Fermenter mid-range, where we get fruit from the fields of Scotland into our beer within 24 hours. That’s all about showcasing the freshest and the greatest ingredients we have available to us. And that range is a gateway into the Silly Sours, like a Kir Royale at 11.5%.

It’s like a day at the water park. You start off on the small flumes and then by the end of it you want to try out the big flume!

JANE: Great way to put it! What does the future hold?

STEVE: Over in America there is a huge tap room culture, the next big thing for us is our 250 person capacity tap room in Portobello where you can come and sit and get a Vault City beer as fresh as you can get it, sit in the secret garden overlooking the brewery and enjoy it with friends, or have a tour and discover how it’s made.

And then we have our Haymarket bar opening at the end of this year. The smallest bar in the UK, sitting 20 people. That will be the first introduction to many people!

JANE: Talking about the introduction, we were introduced over a coffee (with no brambles in it) and your stunning Defender that we now look after for you. We also just recently had a lorry drop off a vintage Ice Cream van at our door. Chris thought we’d just bought one… which to be fair, is the sort of thing Ben would do.

STEVE: Yeah, that’s my dream, Vault City on tap, served from a really cool vehicle for festivals. I thought if there is anyone in Scotland who can take a 1950s ice cream van and make it reliable it’s going to be the boys at ENGINE710. The Vault City battle bus!

JANE: Well, they love a challenge. As long as payment is coupled with Sour Beers they’ll be happy.

Vault City Modern Sour Beer can be found and bought online at vaultcity.co.uk as well as the Tesco beer aisle!

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SOUTH QUEENSFERRY
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UK
EH30 9SQ

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