WITH a record that includes almost making it to the peak of Everest at the age of 22, Murray Campbell has shown a willingness to take risks in life that reflects a pretty simple philosophy.

“You can investigate something for ever and never get on and do it,” says Mr Campbell who runs a brewery that bears his name in Peebles in the Scottish Borders.

The business only brewed its first pint in March last year but is already making a name for itself.

Former Scottish rugby internationalist Craig Chalmers recently described the company’s Gunner Blonde as the best ale he has ever tasted.

But Mr Campbell says the launch followed an investigation of the market that took just three weeks.

“It was pretty thorough,” he insists with a wry smile over coffee in a busy Edinburgh cafe. The 38-year-old laughs easily and with the air of someone who does not take himself too seriously.

But the good humour may also owe something to the fact it looks like his decision to risk £100,000 on starting the brewery was a sound one.

Campbell’s has already done deals to supply 12 pubs in which at least one of its four beers features in the regular offer. The business supplies beer to a further 130 outlets, which offer it on rotation with other brews.

Growth may be about to accelerate rapidly following the launch last month of an India Pale ale, White Tail, which Campbell’s developed with a view to supplying the mighty Wetherspoons chain.

The beer is on sale in five Wetherspoons outlets, with the potential for it be rolled out in many others depending on the response.

“The feed back we are getting is really, really good,” reports Mr Campbell.

The company’s early success may owe more to Mr Campbell’s personable way than to any management theory.

“A lot of it is just walking into a pub, introducing myself and hoping they buy a cask of beer.”

Mr Campbell must turn his hand to a variety of tasks at what remains a microbusiness, with three employees.

“I’m the salesman, drayman; a bit of everything really,” he says. “If a cask needs washed out I’ll happily do that. I’m prepared to get my hands dirty. Whatever it takes.”

But Mr Campbell enjoyed some luck in getting the business going after a contact alerted him to a bright young brewer who has played a key role in developing its first offerings.

The man concerned, Canadian Isaac Knowles-Gruft, is the company’s brewer. He learned the trade with Black Isle Brewery after migrating from Vancouver in 2014.

Mr Campbell was also fortunate, or shrewd, in the timing of the launch of the business, which came amid a boom in the popularity of craft beers.

As a brewer producing on a small scale in a rural area using local ingredients, Campbell’s has the kind of story that plays well with consumers who want products that have a story behind them.

The company says it has a mission to bring the finest range of local quality seasonal British craft beer to the Scottish Borders.

“People are just becoming greater experts at everything to do with food and drink. Our beers are local barley and wheat; people like that.”

However, Mr Campbell has shown an entrepreneur’s nous in building the business.

He describes himself as a “silentish partner” in a venture that took on the lease of the Wally Dug pub in Edinburgh’s affluent New Town some months ago.

“They are getting through a lot of our beer.”

The bar enjoyed what Mr Campbell thinks was probably the best day in its history in February when it got Craig Chalmers to conduct a Q&A before Scotland went on to enjoy a famous victory over England in the 2018 Calcutta Cup rugby clash.

The sports lover enjoyed Scotland’s win although he hails from near Oswestry on the English side of the border with Wales. With a doctor for a dad and a mum who ran a flower shop and served as a magistrate he enjoyed a happy childhood. His interests include “a bit of shooting and fishing”.

The assault on Everest came after the young Mr Campbell completed a law degree at Edinburgh university which left him sure of not much other than that he did not want to go into the profession.

“I finished university and I thought I was not ready to go straight into a job. I didn’t know what to do. I was quite fit and I thought I would take up ice climbing,” says Mr Campbell matter of factly.

After taking a two week course in the Alps which he loved, Mr Campbell went on his first expedition to the Himalayas and climbed Pumori, known as the daughter of Everest.

The course and Pumori climb provided the only preparation he had before taking on the big one with a friend.

Mr Campbell got to 450 metres from the summit in 2002 after coping fine with the challenges posed by climbing at altitude only to be undone by a stomach illness.

“I ran out of steam then.”

Looking back on the near miss Mr Campbell says he was not that disappointed at the time.

“I was just thinking I was happy to get down in one piece.”

While none would have doubted he had chutzpah, he went on to show this in spades by completing the equivalent of six marathons in six days in the Sahara in the Marathon des Sables in 2007 for Mencap. Billed as the toughest foot race on the planet this involves carrying all food and equipment needed for a week as well as running around 150 miles.

Mr Campbell never considered pulling out.

“We were put together in a tent with eight other people and I found it was such a great bunch of people, the camaraderie was so good that it really made life a lot easier.

“If you get to the end of the day and manage to crack some jokes that seems to take your mind away from some of the hardship you’re going through”

The running may have been tiring but Mr Campbell notes with satisfaction that he did not get a single blister.

He then cycled across Australia in 2008, raising over $50,000AUD for New South Wales’ charity Paraquad in the process.

As well as giving him a chance to see the natural splendours of the country close up, the ride gave Mr Campbell chance to enjoy the warmth of some of its people. The expedition was followed closely after an Australian radio channel gave updates on its progress.

“Sometimes we were in sleeping bags under the stars. Two or three times we got put up for nothing by people.

“The overwhelming thing was the Australian hospitality … They always wanted to have a couple of beers.”

Asked what he learned from his varied travels, Mr Campbell says the key lesson was the importance of not giving up.

“Perseverance gets you where you want to end up normally.”

Mr Campbell decided to have a go at the Australian ride when a connection forged through his first business venture had suggested driving across the country – which would have been small beer by comparison.

The venture concerned is a marquee hire business which Mr Campbell founded with a friend, Miles Craig, in 2004. The men became curious about the potential of the trade while attending a wedding reception in Killiecrankie in rural Perthshire.

“We bought one, paid ourselves next to nothing for the first year and put all our money into buying another marquee and it just kind of went from there.”

He had been working in a flat letting business owned by two mates long enough to know he didn’t want to be doing such work for ever.

The Green Fields Marquees business is still going well with turnover in six figures.

However, Mr Campbell felt ready for a change by the time he started the brewery, for which he has high hopes.

He would be disappointed if the brewery does not have £250,000 turnover in year two, compared with around £100,000.

It may be possible to hit the 500,000 litre annual production level within five years.

The craft beer trade is competitive but then what business isn’t.

“You’ve just got to do things better than others, charge a decent price and give a decent service.

If we say we will deliver between ten and 12 we do deliver between ten and 12.”

The dad of two says he has no plans to do anything else, observing: “It’s lovely going into a pub and drinking your own beer and seeing someone else drinking it.”


What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?

Nepal I have visited many times for climbing trips and have loved the country the people and the mountains.

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?

Running my own business as I would be my own boss and success or failure would be down to me ether than relying on others.

What was your biggest break in business?

Probably winning a few big contracts for marquees in our first year. It gave us a lot of confidence and was a big springboard for the following years.

What was your worst moment in business?

Touch wood there haven't been any disasters so far.

Who do you most admire and why?

My parents for putting in so much effort bringing us up and making all sorts of sacrifices to make sure we had every opportunity in life.

What book are you reading and what music are you listening to? What was the last film you saw?

I don't really read many books or listen to music - I much prefer reading the sports pages of the newspaper cover to cover (and spend half an hour on the main news as well). Fiction doesn't appeal to me that much when there are so many real things to read about and learn about.