THE self-styled captain of Aberdeenshire craft-beer maker Brewdog has revealed that the firm is on the hunt for a brewery site in Asia after unveiling turnover growth of 61 per cent for the 2016 year.

James Watt, who co-founded the Ellon-based business alongside Martin Dickie, said in the company’s accounts for the year to the end of December that Asia was next on the agenda for Brewdog, which last year completed the construction of a $30 million brewery in Columbus, Ohio.

“China is on course to be one of our biggest export markets in 2017 and we also have significant distribution in Japan and South Korea,” he said.

“Given the proximity from our Ellon brewery, we feel we can only really take advantage of the Asian opportunity by having a brewery in Asia and we are now actively looking at locations and opportunities in the regions.”

The planned brewery is part of a growth strategy that will also see the firm open 10 new bars over the course of this year, in locations including Edinburgh and London, in addition to bringing its Lonewolf Distillery online. The distillery, which will initially offer a gin and a vodka with a whisky to be added in due course, will launch in April, when the US brewery will also begin production.

Mr Watt said that the firm, whose pre-tax profits rose by 19 per cent to £3.2 million in 2016, will continue to reinvest its profits to drive further growth.

“The plan is to continue to invest all profit into fuelling further growth as we continue to invest in our beer and our people,” he said.

“We have been a high-growth company since we started, but that high growth has always been underpinned and driven by solid profitability.”

The 2016 profit figure came on the back of a rise in turnover from £44.7m to £71.9m. Mr Watt said that figure is expected to be considerably higher in the current financial year thanks to a new facility at its Ellon headquarters allowing it to increase production capacity.

“In 2016 we grew strongly with our overall revenue up 61 per cent on 2015,” he said. “This growth was however constrained by capacity as our new 300 [hectolitre] brewhouse in Ellon only came online in September.

“We are forecasting strong revenue growth for 2017 as we can now take advantage of the capacity we have built in Ellon and also our new brewery in Columbus coming online.

“We have invested significantly in capacity and for the first time in our history we actually have excess capacity in our brewery in Ellon, meaning we can continue to grow strongly over 2017 and beyond.”

The UK accounts for the bulk of Brewdog’s sales, with domestic revenue rising by 75 per cent to £58.5m last year. Sales in Europe rose by 14 per cent to £9.8m and in the rest of the world by 89 per cent to £3.6m.

Given its expansion, the amount that Brewdog spent on property and equipment increased in 2016, from £17.6m to £21.4m. The company’s cost of sales grew by 69 per cent, from £27.8m to £47.1m, and overheads rose by 47 per cent, from £14.1m to £20.7m.

Part of the increase in costs was as a result of Brewdog’s headcount rising by close to 200, going from 398 to 586, the majority of whom work in the company’s 47 bars.

Total staff costs rose from £10m to £14.8m in 2016, with the pensions part of that increasing from £67,000 to £643,000. Brewdog, whose “overarching ambition” is to be “the best possible employer in the world” according to Mr Watt, pays staff pension contributions of up to 10 per cent of salary. The statutory minimum currently required under auto-enrolment is one per cent.

The company’s directors also saw an increase in their pension contributions in 2016, with the total the company paid rising from £1,000 for five directors in 2015 to £16,000 of seven directors in 2016.

The average director’s pay packet increased from £129,800 to £148,857.

Looking to the future, Mr Watt said that in addition to more bar and brewery openings Brewdog is focused on developing a sour-beer facility at its Ellon headquarters.

“As part of our Ellon brewery, this standalone 2,000 square metre building will enable us to make a variety of esoteric beers fermented in oak foeders and barrels, as we look to ensure that as well as selling more of our flagship beers like Punk IPA, we stay at the forefront of innovation in craft brewing,” he said.