We’ve been putting out teasers for a couple of weeks, bar staff have been wearing Northern Rising T-shirts and we did a little interview for Good Beer Hunting earlier this week. By the time you read this blog post, many of you will know of our decision to accelerate our growth and raise money through selling a portion of our company, to you...
It’s fair to say, this is a monumental moment in the life of our business and the blog post to accompany it has not been easy to write. Do we tell the full story of how we got to where we are today? Do we just detail bullet points and answer some FAQ’s from the outset.
We decided to do both. For those with an intense schedule for their day, we’re going to kick off with some headline info and answers to burning questions. For those with a leisurely Sunday planned (this blog was originally posted on a Sunday) we’ve included a long read to accompany your morning coffee or afternoon beer.
Here we go...
Why have you decided to crowd fund rather than use other sources of finance?
Inspired by the role of beer at the centre of communities for thousands of years, Northern Monk has always been built around a collective of people and the idea of community is at the core of what we do. For us, this is an opportunity to add likeminded people to our ranks. By giving you the opportunity to buy into our brewery, we hope to surround the business with bright ambitious minds and feel this is as fundamental to accelerating our growth as the funding is.
The timing just feels right, but I guess there's a whole heap of reasons. We’ve grown rapidly over the past three years, with sales doubling year-on-year and our targets set on £4M this financial year. To be honest, it’s been a whirlwind. We’ve concentrated on making the best beer we possibly can, and the rest has largely just fallen into place. It feels like every once in a while we lift our heads from the job of trying to improve what we already do, to look at what’s next, and something pops up that compels us to take the next step...
We’ve had friends, family, key business customers as well passionate followers and believers in our brand want to invest from the outset. We’re at a stage in the business now where we’ve seen consistent and good growth (effectively 100% year on year), solid profitability (trading profits / EBITDA at £255K last financial year). Where we can be fairly confident saying to those people, "Now is the right time to invest". We’re stable, we’ve shown we can do it and we effectively want to triple what we’ve achieved over the next three years.
What will you do with the money?
100% of the money will be spent on growth and development of our brand.
- 8 X 10,000 litre fermentation vessels effectively tripling our current capacity.
- A new canning line capable of canning over 8,000 cans per hour
- Developing our wild beer and barrel ageing programme adding new barrels from across the world as well as oak foudres and a coelschip
If we surpass our initial target of £0.5M and get close to the £1M mark, we will look to fast track the opening of new tap rooms in London and Manchester. The ideal situation would be to have a brewpub in London and possibly look to do this in conjunction with one of our friends from the U.S. In terms of the food offering, we've always been believers in using third party caterers for our kitchen space and we see this model being rolled out. We're excited by the prospect of brining some of the North's finest progressive food to the capital with us too.
How quickly do you see these things happening?
We have two established production sites with the second ready for imminent expansion. These are not long term plans, the 8 additional fermentation vessels should be ready to ship in April. The canning line will be with us within a matter of months. The plans for further tap rooms would come to fruition in 12 to 24 months.
Do you see a number of crowd funding rounds in the future of Northern Monk and is this part of future growth plans?
The short answer is no. We believe we can self fund our future plans once we have the boost from this initial crowd funding round. We feel for our business building a community around the brand at this stage when we're in a solid position and about to enter another major growth phase is the right time to ensure that those that do join us on our journey see the most value and return on that investment.
Your growth plans are hugely ambitious. How do you plan to achieve them?
We’re still unable to keep up with demand. There’s huge potential overseas, we’re inundated with enquiries from China, Russia the USA. We haven’t begun to tap into South America. There’s lots to go at. At the moment we have someone who manages our international enquiries alongside a host of other responsibilities. With a dedicated approach, we believe we can get our international sales up from ~15% to ~30-40% of turnover.
Our sales are currently >60% can. This is the reverse of many breweries and we plan to build on our draft volumes with key products that we feel occupy a unique space in the market. We want to brew a lot more Faith and see it readily available on draft a lot more...
Opening a small number of Northern Monk tap rooms in key cities is also an important part of our plans. We feel we can offer something different by rolling out The Refectory experience, offering super fresh Northern Monk beer straight from our production site as well as using everything we've learnt over the past four years to brew site exclusive beers in a brewpub format.
Following the success of our Indian inspired beers both with Drew Millward and Bundobust, we're hard at work on R&D as we look to build on this range and roll out the collaboration.
Your forecast for 2020 is almost £10M. Do you feel you can retain Northern Monk's identity and ethos when brewing at such a large scale?
We wouldn't do this if we didn't. We feel we are lucky (and work extremely hard to) count ourselves as one of the few breweries who's output has only improved throughout a rapid growth phase. We still know we can do better though and we use every day as an opportunity to improve our output.
Last year we commissioned one of the largest street art pieces in the North working with Nomad Clan, Tank Petrol as well as local government partners. The piece is a homage to the industry and history of the surrounding area. Our rapid growth will only increase our ability to do large scale collaborative and community driven projects in addition to further innovation in beer, packaging and ultimately your experience.
Is there any support available to would be investors?
Yes, there is a government scheme which means you can claim 30% of your investment back from your tax. More information can be found here - https://www.crowdcube.com/pg/eis-tax-relief-for-investors-44
When will the campaign go live?
A matter of days. We’ll let you know. Watch this space or submit your email and we’ll let you know as soon as we do. We value all investments and we look forward to welcoming as many people on board as possible. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us at jointherising [at] northernmonkbrewco.com. Please state the amount you are considering and we can look to provide further details and answer any questions in advance so you do not miss out on your opportunity when we do go live.
When will the payment be taken?
Initially Crowdcube will just ask for the pledge to be made, payment will be arranged upon completion of a successful campaign.
Will there be perks?
We want to structure this offering so that the main perk will be owning a piece of a rapidly growing business making an impact on the world beer scene. Will there be perks in addition to that? Damn right there will. Lifetime Hop City weekend passes. Exclusive merch from Drew Millward. Drinking Goblets we’ll fill for you at any of our tap rooms. Exclusive investor beer. Not 100% set yet but we’re thinking Glory turned up to 11 with our biggest dry Hop addition to date. Let’s make that decision together once you’re in though. Want a new title, we got you. Knight of the North, Lord of the Realm, King or Queen of the North. Lots available.
Further details on the campaign and the opportunity to submit your email so we can contact you as soon as we go live can be found at www.northernrising.com
Still hungry for more information have another 20 minutes to spare? Waiting for your Yorkshire's to rise? and want to know more about how £5,000 gifted from a Grandparent became a company set to turnover £4,000,000 in a few years... Read on.
Our journey began in 2008. Inspired by trips to the United States and Belgium and tired of a UK beer scene that felt lacklustre in comparison. We entered a young entrepreneurs competition with an idea to start a new brewery that embraced the best of the Global Beer scene. A progressive approach to ingredients, techniques and branding from the U.S. The magic of Belgian beer, the history heritage and tradition of beer in Britain and an identity that reflected our Northern roots and environment: Northern Monk. The idea did well but we decided to focus on our day jobs.
In 2013 we received £5,000 from a Grandparent who had sold her home and split the equity between the grandchildren. Northern Monk truly began. We started life in a parents cellar, using other breweries facilities to brew the beer, selling it at farmers markets across the North.
In 2014 we took on investment. Not satisfied with the level of control we had when using other breweries facilities we set out to find our own premises. We wanted somewhere that reflected our Northern roots, that was also accessible to use as a tap room. We found a Grade II listed mill building just outside the centre of Leeds.
In October 2014 we launched our own brewery and tap room at The Old Flax Store. We started on a 10BBL Marlex kit with three fermentation vessels quickly adding a further two. When the nearest industrial unit to the Old Flax Store became available we decided it was too good an opportunity to miss, so late 2015 we moved our offices and cold storage to a second site, we also added a further 7 vessels to The Old Flax Store. In March 2016 we became the first English brewery to win a medal in an IPA category at the World Beer Cup. An award that held particular importance to us given the fact that we were so inspired by the history and heritage of brewing in England.
In 2016 we made a trip to the East Coast of the U.S. With many of our IPA’s already being more "East Coast" in style this trip was incredibly inspiring and helped further set a course for lower bitterness juice forward IPA’s. It was also our first encounter with one of our hero’s, John Kimmich (founder of The Alchemist and brewing mind behind Focal Banger and Heady Topper). John was really into Heathen, it was a great confidence boost for us and another sign that we were on the right track. We were assured he wasn’t just being polite when on a trip to Ireland he asked if we could ship a case of IPA’s so he could make sure he had a good supply whilst away from home.
Working at capacity throughout all of the expansions we started to think about what a next step might be in the summer of 2016. To a certain extent our fate has always been determined by the industrial property available close to our original Old Flax Store Home.
When a 10,000 sq ft unit with additional office space and good head height became available to rent. Again, the nearest suitable property of it's kind it slowly became clear it was time for our next big move.
In April 2017 we started brewing at our new Sydenham Rd site. We'd installed a 30BBL Gravity brew kit, two 60BBL fermentation vessels and four 30BBL fermentation vessels. For the first time we had room to breathe. Or so we thought, we christened our new kit with collaborations with Other Half, Deya X Verdant and Alefarm. Within two months we were brewing at capacity again. We felt broadly speaking, our beers were tasting better than ever before. Now we'll be the first to admit we're not perfect but as long as we can say there is constant improvement, we're happy... Some standouts from last year for us were City of Industry (with accompanying street art piece), DDH Saison with Alefarm, Trilogy Hops with Deya, Double Mango with Drew Millward, we're also really happy with where Faith and Heathen are...
Last month we were rated as one of the top 100 brewers in the world according to Ratebeer, an accolade that took us by surprise but also took us years ahead of where we expected to be. It was again another sign that we were on the right track.
Our original canning line isn't fast enough to keep up, we had a choice of going to a split shift system with the line operating around the clock or looking at new lines. We still couldn't make enough beer. It made more sense to buy 8 fermentation vessels at a reduced rate per unit and get the infrastructure in place to support them in one go than to do a few at a time.
We've had friends, family and businesses that have grown with the brand keen to invest from the outset. We felt were were in a strong place to put a valuation on the business that allowed people to invest, giving us capital to really accelerate our growth and let them see a return on their investment. We have always tried to do things our own way and as far as possible. The right way. This felt like an opportunity for a win win situation and an opportunity to do just that.