Name: Jason Clarke.

Age: 50.

What is your business called?

Genius Brewing.

Where is it based?


What does it produce?

In 2018, we launched Gen!us, the UK’s first light craft lager with a mission to make responsible drinking a pleasure, rather than a compromise. It is brewed with pilsner malts and three hop varieties yet is only three per cent ABV and 79 calories per can. Our 330ml gold cans, contain exactly one unit of alcohol.

To whom does it sell?

Gen!us is available in smart wine shops, bars, gastro-pubs, restaurants, hotels, and online.

What is its turnover?

Around £200,000.

How many employees?

Three. This number will be increasing in 2020 as we look to grow our sales in London.

When was it formed?

The company was established in 2016 and began trading in April 2018.

Why did you take the plunge?

Back in 2016, we’d identified that the wider social trend toward healthier lifestyles had yet to impact the alcohol industry. It felt the craft beer revolution was heading the other way; producing products with much higher ABVs and calories than traditional beers. While craft has been great, recalibrating people’s expectations of quality and flavour, we thought it was sailing in the wrong direction when it came to health.

So, we set out to create a beer that would offer a ‘smart drinking’ choice; a lager combining the quality of craft with the healthier attributes of ‘light’.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I don’t come from a brewing background, having spent the previous twenty years as a filmmaker. After serving as a captain in the Royal Scots I left the army in 1995 and studied film in LA and then spent fourteen years as a freelance writer and director working across television, advertising, corporate communications and feature films. The entrepreneurial itch began in 2011 which lead to the founding of SIGNAL2NOISE, a digital media production company based in Aberdeen specialising in corporate communications.

My business partner in Genius Brewing, Charlie Craig, brings the brewing industry expertise having been operations director at Fyne Ales for nine years. He began when craft beer was in its infancy and took the company’s turnover to almost £1m.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

An initial angel investment of £150,000 in 2017 enabled us to launch in 2018. A further £100,000 from the same investor helped grow our marketing and produce a further 75,000 cans in 2019. We’re currently fundraising £450,000 to scale up our team and launch in draft this summer, of which £170,000 has been secured.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

After twenty years as a filmmaker, I was ready for a new challenge, one with a wider creative remit. Now as Genius Brewing’s Creative Director I look after our brand, its marketing, our Corporate Social Responsibility, and corporate communications, across all channels. I’m also enjoying running the day-to-day business alongside Charlie who focuses on operations.

What do you least enjoy?

I rarely dwell on negatives but work-life balance is undoubtedly tough at this point in our journey. We’re still a small business in a hyper-competitive industry dominated by giant brands. We never thought it would be easy.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

Our ambition is to make Gen!us the UK’s leading light craft lager. We then see strong potential for export in North America and Asia, most likely via strategic partnerships.

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

In Scotland, the government has been admirably pro-active in introducing Minimum Unit Pricing which has delivered a 3% reduction in Scotland’s consumption in its first year. Westminster should follow this lead.

Alongside regulation, governments have an obligation to help consumers make informed, healthier choices. The Scottish Government’s Count 14 campaign was a good example; helping drinkers to understand the ’14 units a week’ guideline.

But this leads on to a far bigger issue for public health – nutrition information. Currently in the UK there is no legal requirement for alcohol producers to provide ANY nutritional information on packaging – no calorie content, carbs, sugars, salts…nothing. This is extraordinary. Milk, orange juice, and Coke have to provide a full nutrition breakdown. Why not beer and wine?

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

One of the great lessons from my army days was, “No plan survives the first contact”. Even a smart strategy rarely goes to plan once the bullets start flying. Our experience of the beer battlefield has been similar. Although the healthier drinking trend is clear, buyers have been slower to adapt than we anticipated and nervous of trying new brands, especially ones without the backing of the big brewers. So, patience and persistence are key.

How do you relax?

When I force myself to take some time off, I like to read autobiographies and watch rugby.