Calum Bennett.



What is your business called?

Loomshed Hebridean Brewery.

Where is it based?

In the Outer Hebrides - in Tarbert, Isle of Harris.

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

High-quality beers and ales. Our first brews are an IPA and a Craft Lager. The brewery includes a taproom with merchandise, coffee and some good home baking. In the long term we see Loomshed growing into other food categories with strong links to the islands.

To whom does it sell?

Restaurants and bars both in Harris and throughout the Western Isles, We will expand into the mainland in 2020.

What is its turnover?

We’re looking at mid six-figures as a reasonable target.

How many employees?

The company was founded by three of us - myself and two Investors/directors. Jamie McGowan runs a local fragrance company, Essence of Harris and will look after sales. Rob McKinnon has worked in a number of food and drink roles, including a spell running Duchy Originals. Currently, I am the only employee. We will take on another full time worker this year as production ramps up, and it being the islands there are a number of part time support roles.

When was it formed?

We were incorporated in December 2018, although Jamie and Rob have been talking about it for years! I was brought into the conversation in summer 2018.

Why did you take the plunge?

The purpose of the business is to create opportunities for young Hebrideans to stay in the islands or return home, to grow the working population on the islands.

The success of the Isle of Harris distillery has built a great profile for Harris, and created opportunities across food and drink.

We felt that the three of us formed a good team with all the skills required. I provide the production expertise and make the beer and my fellow owners have the commercial experience and extensive networks on the islands and on the mainland.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I was studying for my M.Sc. in brewing and distilling at the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling, a department of Herriot Watt University.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

The directors are funding the project with great support from the local enterprise agencies - Highlands & Islands Enterprise and Business Gateway.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Being able to design my own brewery from scratch and also create the core range of beer. I only expected to be doing that much later in my career rather than right out of university. I feel fortunate to have landed the role with people who have put their faith in me.

What do you least enjoy?

Definitely some of the more tedious paperwork that I’ve had to do!

What are your ambitions for the firm?

I’d like to see us become a major employer on the Island.

I’d like to see the brewery being just one arm of the overarching Loomshed family with additional products made by other young islanders who are as passionate about their craft as I am about mine.

What are your five top priorities?

The top priority has to be creating sustainable employment for the island, we do this by focusing on growing while keeping as many processes as possible on island.

Secondly we have to contribute to the excellent food and drink reputation that Harris has by making sure the beer is absolutely the best it can be. This is what I spend the vast majority of my time as head brewer doing, we have invested a great deal of time into carefully perfecting our core range.

Thirdly we are passionate about protecting the local environment, we do this by using as little plastic in our packaging as possible, our brewery electricity is supplemented by our solar panels and our waste water is fed into a biological digester.

Additionally we want to be ambassadors for the Outer Hebrides and our island home. We hope to bring the islands story to new people.

Respecting the culture and traditions of the islands is very important to us - they are a very special place. Encouraging the use of Gaidhlig, not brewing on a Sunday and supporting the crofting community by giving them our spent grain for feed (My father is a sixth generation crofter and I hope to take on the family croft from him one day, so I know too well the challenges of a crofting life).

What single thing would most help?

If we could find larger premises for later in the brewery’s life I think that could be a big boost for us.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Make sure enough is being built in rural areas of the Highlands and in particular the Western Isles, to encourage people to return to the island after their studies.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

To back my instincts and be more confident in my abilities as a brewer. The support from Rob and Jamie in time and pound notes has been a great boost to my confidence.

How do you relax?

I like to go for a walk on one of the wonderful white-sand beaches we have here on Harris with a couple of friends, and a few beers of course! Slàinte mhath!