Boundary Brewing, Export Stout
Launched this time last year, we immediately fell in love with Belfast-based Boundary Brewing. Not just because they make ace beer. But also because we (like everyone else on the planet) were given the opportunity to invest a relatively small sum to become members and part owners in the first co-operative brewery in the UK. We caught up with one of the co-founders, Matthew Dick, earlier this week.
BeerBods: What was the catalyst for this adventure you’re now on?
Matt at Boundary: I used to live in America. When I moved home to NI, the beer scene made me sad. I started to dream about what it’d look like to open a brewery in Belfast that specialised in American and Belgian style beers.
BeerBods: Why Belfast?
Matt at Boundary: Because that’s where I grew up. I love Belfast. And I also saw a massive opportunity to do something here that hadn’t been done before.
BeerBods: What’s with the name?
Matt at Boundary: It comes from a quote from a French author, Gustave Flauber… ‘Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you might be violent and original in your work.’ This has been my experience in life so far. That boundaries and rhythms, in your day, schedule, week, month, year, life, relationships, in all that stuff, they are really important. And make life better. So it’s that idea that gave birth to the name ‘Boundary’.
BeerBods: Why a co-operative?
Matt at Boundary: The beer scene in NI isn’t great. It’s improving loads, but slowly. When I moved home from the States, I couldn’t believe how bad it was. So I began to dream… I knew that selling 7% IPAs and barrel aged coconut and lemon Berliner Weisse in NI was going to be difficult. I knew that Boundary needed to be something to be shared with others from the outset. I knew we needed some sort of momentum- with sales and with fans and from the start. At that point I was introduced to Matt Scrimgeour, my co-founder. He’s crazy about starting co-ops. He thought a co-op brewery might be a good idea. I wanted to open a brewery. As we spoke, and as I googled ‘what is a cooperative?’ I realised he was giving language to my dreams. So we opened Boundary Brewing Cooperative to members in Dec 2014. Boundary is a brewery that is owned and run by its members.
We launched 1st Dec 2014 with a Community Share Offer. We asked people to come join us. We asked that they didn’t invest what they couldn’t afford. We explained that this wasn’t like a normal investment in another company- the share value will never go up, you can’t transfer (sell) your shares to someone else, and you don’t make any money at all for 3 years. But you do get one equitable vote in how we do things. Big picture things. It didn’t matter if you invested £100 or £20,000. You got one vote; for the Board of Directors and for what we do with profits. You can even run for the Board.
BeerBods: That's really cool. What has happened in the year since then?
Matt at Boundary: We were looking for £70,000 in 5 weeks. And we got £100,000. In. Eight. Days. So that was crazy. 447 members invested and own a brewery. Within our first year of trading we have brewed more than 19 different types of beer, used lots of crazy ingredients, been the first beer to sell out at the best Beer Festival in NI (with some other pretty awesome breweries in attendance). We’ve sold four unique beers exclusively to members, grown to over 50 accounts in NI, started to distribute to Scotland, London and Paris. We’re about to go into the ROI, NE and NW England markets, have specific interest from America (Disneyland Florida - Padawan Porter anyone?), China, Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, UAE, Sweden, Denmark, and Spain. Boundary is sold in a Michelin starred restaurant, we’ve opened the first ever pop-up Brewery taproom in NI, have worked with Stormont to help change our Northern Irish archaic licensing laws, bottled 40,000 bottles of beers (with the help of the best bottling collective ever), we’ve recruited interns and hired sales reps, and begun to break even financially in the first year. All in a beer scene that was used to pedestrian four per cent lagers, stouts, wheat beers and red ales.
So in the last few months we started to see some crazy interest in our beer outside of NI. We needed and wanted to scale. We had the floor space, the volume space and the time. But we had been bottling by hand. Every single bottle.
So last Monday we re-opened another Community Share Offer for an automated packaging machine. We were looking for £90,000 in 5 weeks this time. The first day we opened to the public we got over £70,000. We are currently sitting at over £120,000. And we’re still open for membership. How convenient!
BeerBods: We love the artwork on your bottles. Tell us a bit about it.
Matt at Boundary: A few years ago I had a moment while walking the dog. Loads of stuff about Boundary came to me all at once; that it needed to be shared, that we should do American and Belgian styles, that we should be called Boundary, and that my friend, John Robinson’s work should be on he labels. He’s a lifelong friend and a local artist. I love his stuff and knew it’d look great on a label.
So we worked out a deal. We gave him a studio in the brewery (yes, we have a resident artist!) rent free and he did a new piece for us for every new label. So each new beer, we sit down and discuss concretely and abstractly what I’m trying to do and to not do with the next beer. He paints a piece, we get it photographed and then our designer makes it into a label. We think John is great.
BeerBods: Talk us through this week’s beer, the Export Stout.
Matt at Boundary: We absolutely love this Stout. It’s rich, dark, roasty, astringent, dark chocolately, espresso, awesomeness.
Check out more on Boundary and become a member here.