BY the end of the year, the people of West Linton could be supping beer produced in the village’s community-owned Freewheelin’ Brewery.
The micro-brewery project is the brainchild of Richard White, who moved to West Linton 25 years ago.
Having spent more than 30 years in the corporate business sector, travelling all over the world, Richard was laid off and began to look for something new in his life.
“I was looking at what I could sensibly do, and something local and beer-related sounded good!” Richard told TheSouthern.
“I’m really excited about adding a brewery to the list of things that makes this end of the Borders such a great place.
“Having spent most of my adult life working for big American corporations travelling far and wide, I’m looking forward to working where I live to create a business rooted in the community, celebrating village life.”
The idea really began to take root after a conversation at last year’s Whipman Festival in the village – the initial comment was about how great it would be to have a micro-brewery in the village.
The suggestions flowed from there, and ended up with Richard coming to the conclusion that the best way forward would be to sell shares in the brewery to make it a community-owned scheme.
Richard said that interest locally in the project had been high, but, so far, that interest had not been reflected in the number of £250 shares purchased.
“In practice, take up has been slightly slower than I would have liked, but a lot of people are interested in the idea,” he said.
“We’ve got enough now to get a viable brewery going – not to the scale I would have liked, but it is definitely going ahead.
“We are not going to rival Scottish & Newcastle, but there will be locally brewed beers before the end of the year.”
Richard has submitted a planning application to Scottish Borders Council to turn a small section of Mr MacDonald’s Saleroom Emporium into a micro-brewery, with a capacity of more than 100,000 bottles of beer a year.
However, Richard said: “I think that in the first year it will be closer to 30,000 to 50,000 bottles, and I might be being ambitious here, but it feels achievable with a fair wind.
“It is going to be hard work, but it should be fun. It would be nice to think that the shareholders could drop in and be part of it too.”
In addition to the support of Ryan MacDonald, owner of the antique and collectables business where brewing will take place, Richard said a number of locals had offered their help.
“A lot of people have said ‘yeah, I’ll give you a hand’ and people are certainly keen to be involved at a practical level, and there is no shortage of volunteers to be tasters!”
Richard has sounded out local pubs and off-licences to see if they would be interested in stocking the beer and has set his sights on producing special brews for various local events.
“We’re looking towards the local festivals to do speciality beers for the Whipman, Beltane and Penicuik festivals,” he said. “I do feel there is a good local market.”
Richard is not new to brewing, having created a number of home brews in the past, and a couple of friends have offered their expertise in producing the beer, including someone who used to work for Tetley’s Brewery in Leeds.
Anyone interested in becoming part of the Freewheelin’ Brewery, can get more information on www.freewheelinbrewery.co.uk.