Graduates Vladimir Stamenkovic and Daniel Santiago want to use the skills they developed at Edinburgh to break into the vibrant Scottish brewing scene.
Beer and brewing is big business in the UK. Even though an average of 21 pubs close every week, the number of breweries continues to grow. According to figures from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), a total of 1,424 now operate across the UK, 93 of which are based in Scotland.
Much of this growth has been driven by small independent microbreweries producing a huge variety of beers that are a world away from the mass-produced keg bitter and lager that dominated the UK in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
It all started with an Edinburgh alumnus. In 2002, then chancellor Gordon Brown introduced Progressive Beer Duty, which gave tax breaks to brewers below a certain size. Innovation and experimentation followed and now the British brewing industry is at levels not seen since the 1930s.
A love of beer
It is this vibrant brewing scene that graduates Vladimir Stamenkovic and Daniel Santiago were attracted to and are now ready to make their mark on.
Unlike many who enter the market, Vlad and Daniel aren’t homebrewers who scaled up their operation. They are beer lovers who have always wanted to start a business together. With experience gained in current and previous roles - Daniel owns a whisky and tobacco shop in Edinburgh (Jeffrey Street Whisky and Tobacco) and Vlad has experience in the tobacco industry and now works for Alternative Communication, a brand and design agency in Geneva – they teamed up with a master brewer and created Exiled Brewers.
Despite a lack of student bedroom brewing, their time at Edinburgh was, nevertheless, a critical part of the process.
Our degrees definitely helped us learn how to think critically and assess risk, which is obviously key when you're running a business. Above all they gave us a strong work ethic and that's the most important ingredient for success.
An international affair
With headquarters in Edinburgh and brewing facilities near Stirling, Exiled Brewers seem to be a very Scottish proposition. This is quite a long way from the truth and the clue is in the name. Exiled refers to the international composition of their fledgling brewery and harks back to their time at Edinburgh where non-UK students now make up more than 40% of the student body and come from two-thirds of the world’s countries.
Daniel is Mexican but grew up in Spain and then moved to the UK. Vlad is originally half Serbian, half Italian, born in the US and grew up in the US and Switzerland. The two other partners Joanna and Fernando are Polish and Mexican, respectively.
This blend of British and international also extends to the beer where they use a use a combination of German and British malts.
Given the explosion of microbreweries in Scotland over the last five years, entering the market now could be a daunting proposition, but not to Vlad and Daniel. They both consider themselves competitive people and are motivated by the challenge.
They have also done their research and have started with a style of beer - the cream ale - that is not common in the UK, while also adding a continental twist to a traditional stout that combines their love of British brewing with their international outlook.
It is this outlook that forms the final piece of their business plan and why they feel optimistic about the future of Exiled Brewers.
Because of our backgrounds and where we are based (Joanna and Daniel in Edinburgh, Vlad in Switzerland and Fernando in Berlin) we can export and will have access to multiple markets. Most small breweries stay quite local, either regionally or nationally, we can go beyond this and we're definitely planning on it.
The Edinburgh connection
Vlad and Daniel aren’t the only Edinburgh graduates who have identified the brewing revolution as the route to a successful career.
Law graduate James Watt led the way in 2007 as the co-founder of BrewDog, now the UK’s biggest craft brewers. In recognition of his role in reinvigorating the sector, James was awarded an MBE in the 2016 Queen's Birthday Honours list.
Smaller success stories can be found in Leith with mathematical physics graduate Patrick Jones, Director at Pilot Beer, and in Hull where Sarah Thackray applies the scientific principles from her Chemistry PhD to Atom Brewing.
In the US, where craft brewing is defined by the Brewers Association as
small, independent and traditional with
annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less and
at least 75% owned or controlled by a craft brewer, social sciences graduate Dan Kopman is making his mark as the co-founder of Schlafly Beer in Saint Louis.