DRYGATE Brewing Company is on track for further expansion and to make a significant move in the export market – despite signs of slowing growth in the once-meteoric craft beer market.

The Glasgow-based brewery, bar and events space, a joint venture between Tennent Caledonian and Williams Bros, has grown consistently year on year since its launch in 2014, as the craft beer boom has swept across the country.

And managing director Matt Corden said he expects the run to continue in the current year, even though the growth of the wider craft beer market is not quite as explosive as it once was.

Mr Corden, who arrived at Drygate from BrewDog around 18 months after its launch, said: “When I joined, we turned over £1.2 million [in my first year]. Last year we turned over £3.7m. We have been seeing, on average of 40% growth year on year. If we maintain that this year, we will be more than happy.

"We are not the kind of business that is going to be targeting 100% growth year on year.”

Scotland has seen numbers of craft brewers proliferate in the last decade, shaking up a traditional order where choice was considerably more limited for beer drinkers in pubs and supermarkets.

More recently, the craft sector has started to slow as the market has become increasingly crowded.

Noting craft beer’s share of the overall UK market is currently around 8%, Mr Corden said: “It still has momentum, [but] it’s slowed a little. And I think for the first time since craft beer started making waves in the wider industry it is experiencing some challenges.”

Asked to elaborate on the challenges, Mr Corden suggested some of the more recent market entrants have started businesses without the passion that the trailblazers have.

Rob MacKay, Drygate’s creative director, and one of only 18 master Cicerones the world, suggested some smaller brewers have “created a rod for their own backs” by staking their reputations on repeatedly bringing out new and different beers.

Mr MacKay said: “If you haven’t got a core range, and if you haven’t got a strong, solid offering that is recognisable and consistent, how can you ensure you can keep paying the bills and keep yourselves afloat?”

Drygate itself has recently brought a degree of order to its own range, having moved to rationalise its product offer and introduce new branding to provide a “more consistent approach” on bar tops and supermarket shelves.

While Drygate does offer its brewers the scope to experiment at its 2.5 hectolitre pilot it (the heavy lifting is done by its 25-hectolitre kit, Mr MacKay said: “We’re glad the [other] breweries have the outlets to do whatever they want, but we’re really far more interested in brewing accessible, drinkable, “sessionable”, unpretentious beer styles.

“Lager was kind of the easy target for the craft beer industry as it grew, having mass-produced lager as a straw man to beat and rally against. That’s now kind of gone full circle and what you now find is craft breweries having to back pedal and explain why lager is good, and try and brew some good lagers.

“Lager has been around for a long time, [and] it’s not going anywhere. It is an accessible style because it is not challenging.”

In that spirit, the Drygate sales drive is being spearheaded by its Bearface Lager.

Mr Corden said: “We’re putting a lot behind Bearface at the moment, in terms of developing that as a premium Scottish pilsner, not even necessarily trying to play too heavily on the craft side of things

“At the end of the day, it’s a high-quality lager produced in Scotland that we are really proud of. That’s the story behind the brand. We’ve taken all the elements lagers from around the world we like, and tried to mash them together to create something that’s more than the sum of its parts.”

He added: “The word craft doesn’t appear anywhere on any of the new packaging. I don’t want that to be a stick that people can beat us with.”

Drygate recently announced the creation of the Bearface Trust, which will see it donate 2p for every unit of beer sold to various charities.

The business, which was developed in a former box factory next Tennent’s Wellpark Brewery, is 49%-owned by Tennent’s, with Alloa-based Williams holding 40% and the remaining 11% in employee hands. The brewer sometimes finds itself being criticised by purists, who argue Drygate cannot be a craft producer because it is biggest shareholder is a major brewer. But Mr MacKay said: “I would rather be making good beer, than something that somebody deems to be craft beer.”

Meanwhile, Mr Corden said the firm is also preparing its first meaningful move into the export market. He believes Drygate, which currently ships small amounts to markets such as France and Russia, has the potential “not just to be a national brand, but an international brand”.

He said: “We know the market is there.”