Scotland’s first community brewery celebrates fundraising success

The Isle of Eigg Brewery has made £80,000 of its Community Shares Scotland community shares target

The community share offer for Scotland’s first community-owned brewery has reached £80, 000 in its first 20 days.

An hour off the north west Scottish coast, the Isle of Eigg is renowned for its community ownership and its innovative renewable electricity grid. It now has ambitions to produce beer in Scotland’s first community-owned brewery.

Open to people on and off the island, the Isle of Eigg Brewery aims to raise £125,000 to build the renewably powered brewery. Just halfway into the 40-day share offer campaign, the co-operative has already reached over 64% of its target, from over 266 investors.

Founder Stu McCarthy said: “We want to provide better opportunities for our younger generation; building long-term community resilience for Eigg, while providing a quality product with strong environmental credentials.”

As well as producing a range of beers, the brewery will have a brew kitchen, where visitors to the island can brew their own beer from Eigg’s natural spring water. Powered 100% by renewable energy, the heat generated from brewing will be fed back into system. Spent malt will feed local animals and used hops will be composted for the Eigg Tree Nursery.

There are around ten community-owned breweries in the UK, but the Isle of Eigg Brewery will be the first in Scotland. All share-holding members will co-own the brewery, developing its strategic direction and choosing a team of directors to oversee the management.

Representing 723 small independent UK brewers, the Society of Independent Brewers 2020 report said consumers will increasingly choose to buy beer made by brewers with strong ethical and environmental credentials.

Seen as a premium product, a growing number believe genuine craft beer should come from a small independent brewery. While SIBA members’ beer production fell by 3% in 2020, overall brewers predicted the outlook is good, with more than 88% of brewers saying trade will be the same or better this coming year than last.

Mr McCarthy said: “Our vision is to increase economic diversification and sustainable growth on the island by brewing year-round beers, seasonal exclusives and limited edition longer-fermented ales for pubs, restaurants and specialist beer shops throughout the Scottish Highlands and beyond. An on-island and online shop will allow everyone access to our beers wherever they live.”

Community shares in the Isle of Eigg Brewery are priced at £1, minimum investment is £100, maximum £20,000. There are options for earning tax relief of up to 50% on investments made. The aim is to pay 1.5% interest on investments after Year 3.

Morven Lyon, programme manager at Community Shares Scotland, said: “The community shares model is highly resilient, particularly in rural areas of Scotland which might struggle to maintain a private business.

“With the uncertainty and upheaval which the Covid-19 pandemic has wrought across the country, there appears to be an appetite for socially conscious projects and investment models which deliver a renewed sense of community and local identity. Community shares deliver this and so much more as well.”