“I want to pay tribute to the support we had from people in Dundee – it was immense.”
They are known for their sour beers – but they will look back on their time in Dundee with nothing but sweetness.
In their 16 months in the city, Vault City Brewing became one of the most sought after names on the growing UK craft beer scene.
It moved its operation from brewing in an Edinburgh house to set up a professional operation within 71 Brewing’s premises.
It gave the producer the space to ramp up production by 20 times its previous capacity.
Last year the company produced more than 50 of the most daring and unique beers ever produced in Scotland.
Their creations included drinks that tasted like Irn-Bru, cherry Bakewell tarts and a pina colada.
But despite the huge success the business has gained while in Dundee, the company has now relocated back to Edinburgh.
Co-founder Steven Smith-Hay explained: “We looked at Dundee as Vault City’s permanent home.
“But being an Edinburgh-established business we always have seen Edinburgh as our true home.”
Dundee took us to next level
“We’d been brewing from our house for a year when the chance came to set up in 71 Brewing’s warehouse,” said Mr Smith-Hay.
“Duncan Alexander, the owner at 71, is a family friend and had just expanded into the warehouse next door.
“It meant there was a 500sq ft spot there that allowed us to put in two 4,000-litre fermenters and grow beyond our then current 200-litre set-up.
“Dundee gave us an incredible opportunity to take Vault City to the next level – but I won’t miss the commutes.
“That’s not to say we’re done with Dundee all together, craft beer is a growing movement, sour beer even more so – who’s to say we won’t be back in one form or another?”
Growing market for sour beer
Vault City started after Mr Smith-Hay was introduced to Johnny Horn, another passionate home brewer.
They realised their combined knowledge of the craft would give them more chance in a competitive marketplace.
🍇 TAYBERRY SOUR 🍇
An obscure Scottish berry named after the (pictured) Tay River which flows past the brewery in Dundee! 👋
Crossed between a blackberry and raspberry, sweeter and more aromatic than both. 🤤
— Vault City Brewing (@vaultcitybrew) November 5, 2020
Sour beer is a growing market – Brewdog invested millions on their facility in Ellon.
Vault City uses a traditional method of mixed fermentation with a unique house culture.
700 orders broke website
Such was the company’s popularity last year that its initial website collapsed under the demand.
“During Covid we had a small part-time army of furloughed bar workers who eagerly left Tiger King behind on the couch to help us package and get our online shop up and running,” Mr Smith-Hay added.
“We managed to keep the shop open for three weeks.
“But then demand proved too much when we received over 700 orders over a weekend.
“Then we had the website redone and took on some extra staff and opened back up.
“We sit in a very strange position having grown the business during Covid.
“Now we are working hard to get our beer far and wide. We are now sending Scottish modern dour beer to over 30 countries – as far as Australia and China.”
Pay tribute to the city
The bittersweet move to Portobello was completed just before Christmas.
At 5,000sq ft, the premises are 10 times the size of the Dundee site.
The company has five full-time staff but this is likely to double once it opens a taproom.
“We’ve stretched the limit of what we can finance,” Mr Smith-Hay admitted.
“We went for a property that was a bit beyond our current budget and requirement.
“I want to pay tribute to the support we had from people in Dundee – especially Dynamo, Innis & Gunn, Business Gateway and of course 71. It was immense.
“I believe we still hold the record for fastest-drained keg with our Iron Brew Sour in Dynamo.
“This year we’re working towards a four day working week, which has some enormous challenges. But we’re committed to be an exceptional employer.”