IT’S the kind of life many people dream about – touring the country in a classic VW camper full of craft beer.
But for Paul Gibson, going festival-to-festival in his Campervan Brewery is a serious business.
The IT worker ploughed his redundancy money into a mobile brewery to turn his hobby into a money-making enterprise.
The venture launched earlier this summer and now, eight weeks in, the Edinburgh beer baron is already eyeing expansion as demand outstrips supply.
Sold at festivals and in selected pubs, his ales are proving so popular that he cannot produce enough in his city garage or on the road and has now turned to “gypsy brewing”, using the facilities of larger operations to increase his capacity.
The father-of-two is also working on moving into larger premises as he seeks to push more pints and take his products across the border following requests.
He has also turned down offers of investment as others seek to capitalise on his success, saying: “I’ve had offers already from people wanting to invest. It’s an idea that’s been brewing in my head for a couple of years, it’s my baby and I have no interest in selling it at this stage.”
Gibson’s route to craft brewing began when he took a six-month career break three years ago to care for his geriatrician wife Cathy Quinn, who had a tumour of the oesophagus, and one-year-old daughter Maisie, who had bilateral hip dysplasia.
Both are now in much better health and, together with five-year-old Noah, accompany Gibson as he sets up his stall at food festivals. However, his time as a carer led to the idea of the Campervan Brewery fermenting in Gibson’s mind. He said: “As respite between bottle feeds and nappy changes I was reading about brewing and the idea started trickling away. I really took a look at my life, what made me happy and what didn’t.
“I was working for a telecoms and IT business to sell solutions into businesses. I went back to work and a year later I took redundancy and formalised qualifications in brewing at Sunderland University’s Brewlab.”
The result is two signature products, coconut-tinged milk stout Mutiny on the Bounty and citrus and lemongrass-flavoured Blonde Voyage.
Creating a batch takes about five hours, with production taking place at home and on the road using Gibson’s mobile kit, which can make about 70 pints in a cask wherever he pitches his 1973 camper. The vehicle has three beds and space for his surfboard.
The Northern Irishman, 38, said: “It has everything we need. I tend to set the kit up and brew outside and the van is quite comfortable. You have to be organised, but it’s very liveable.”
Juggling the project with his work for an IT firm, the Dundee University graduate uses evenings and weekends for brewing.
Last week he borrowed facilities at Drygate Brewery in Glasgow to make 250 litres to “help out with demand”. He said: “My stuff has been selling out as soon as it goes in, which is great. But I just can’t meet the requirements I’m getting, with requests to do festivals and give casks to pubs, even down in England.
“It’s like, ‘hold on a minute, I’m a one-man band and I’m moving as fast as I can’. I have a two-year business plan and hopefully by the end of that I’ll be able to go to the banks for help with moving to a bigger premises for storage and production