Nick Fleming.



What is your business called?

Ovenstone 109 Ltd.

Where is it based?

In an old John Deere tractor showroom and workshop just outside Anstruther, Fife.

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

We produce hand-crafted ales on our four-barrel brewery kit and provide a space used for events such as exhibitions and ceilidhs.

To whom does it sell?

Local bars and bistros, as well as a number of convenience stores and farm shops. We also sell our beer online.

What is its turnover?

Approximately £60,000.

How many employees?

Two: Myself and my brewery partner Nickie. Nickie makes sure we pay the right people at the right time and chases invoices. I do the rest.

When was it formed?

The company was registered in 2017 and we started brewing in June 2018.

Why did you take the plunge?

I am a chemical engineer and until 2014 my day job was being one of the directors of my family engineering firm, Scott Process Technology Ltd. We built things like the Cornish Sea Salt factory and made a fuel reprocessing system for the solid rocket boosters of the space shuttle. I was a jack-of-all-trades engineer and would usually oversee the building and commissioning of equipment. My dad, Al, who was also a chemical engineer, made sure the company operated correctly and generally made some money.

We were reasonably successful and as a result we were lucky enough to be able to go motor racing with 1960’s sports cars in the British Historic Championships. We raced at places such as Silverstone and Brands Hatch and occasionally ventured onto the continent to race there. However, during qualifying at Hockenheim for the Jim Clark memorial race in 2014 my dad was killed in a crash. It was during a time when we were working on our biggest project to date.

Eventually to save the company I had to sell off many things and reduce the workforce and I was left with a very large building and pretty much just myself and my accounts manager, Nickie, rattling about in it. I tried to cut my losses and go back to a small office and rebuild the company but nobody wanted to buy my workshop. With my back against the wall I decided to build a brewery in the old tractor showroom to show off my engineering skills on the basis that if the worst came to the worst I might sell half a dozen bottles of beer but would at least have some equipment to show potential clients and bring in more business.

The idea had come from my very first engineering job where I had been sent to Singapore and discovered a restaurant called Brewerkz that had a microbrewery behind the bar. It looked amazing and I said back then that one day I would build something similar. That was in 1999.

I floated the idea of the brewery past Nickie as a solution to our situation and she instantly agreed and we threw all our efforts into building Ovenstone 109.

I didn’t learn to brew until I was half way through installing the brewing equipment. But my career had always been about learning new processes quickly so it wasn’t an issue.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

Personal finance from myself and Nickie.

What was your biggest break?

Getting a tweet from Ardross Farm Shop in the East Neuk asking us to give them some beer as soon as we started brewing in earnest. Ardross have supported us from the outset, promoted our beer, helped us with getting other customers and even nominated us for an award. Without their help this story would be completely different and I owe them a huge amount of gratitude.

What was your worst moment?

Last year our initial planning application for an events venue was refused by the council. It put the whole future business plan in jeopardy and I was very worried it might break us. It took as a whole year and an appeal but we eventually got it passed.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Brewing is a very friendly and supportive industry. Also, people come in and say they really enjoyed your beer and their party/evening/night out etc was more enjoyable as a result. You can’t buy the feeling you get from someone telling you that you made their day better by something you put your heart and soul into.

What do you least enjoy?

Cleaning casks! Brewers say that being a brewer is 95 per cent cleaning. It’s never ending. But you have to look after the beer and that means everything needs to be spotless

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

We’re very environmentally conscious but the deposit return scheme for drinks containers proposed by the Scottish Government will put very small producers like ourselves at a disadvantage. More discussion is needed to get the system to fit the needs of producers.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Customer complaints can be turned into a good thing if you work hard enough. We have had less than a handful and I always try to deal with any issue personally and promptly. This effort can be rewarded if you’re honest and helpful.

How do you relax?

Being able to sit at your own bar that you made out of pallets and look at your own brewery that you built from scratch practically with no prior experience is something that still gives me goosebumps.