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Why award-winning brewery Wasted Degrees will never leave Perthshire

Brothers Conall and Jack started out making home brew for house parties, but now produce 20,000 litres of beer a month.

Three men walking outside a blue industrial unit housing Wasted Degrees Brewing.
Wasted Degrees team Andrew MacNeilage, Conall Low and Jack Low. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

In his parents’ garage in Pitlochry 13 years ago, Conall Low developed a passion for brewing beer.

The Breadalbane Academy graduate picked up the new hobby around the same time he headed off to university to study for a teaching degree.

In 2014, degree in hand – and kegs in the garage still – he headed for the classroom.

But after two years of teaching, Conall realised his true calling was actually brewing. He threw his career to the side and Wasted Degrees Brewing was born.

“Imagine what my parents thought when after following in their footsteps into a career in teaching, I quit my job to start a brewery in their garage,” the 30-year-old says.

His older brother Jack – now a co-owner of the brewery – reminisces: “At first it was just home brew.

“It was creating the odd keg of beer for house parties, but it was well received as he was always brewing something different.”

A man with a large beard taps beer out of a big tank.
The very first tanks – one is even 60-years-old – came from the garage to Blair Atholl. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

Slowly, but surely, Conall grew Wasted Degrees by buying bits of equipment here and there to increase production.

The brewery eventually outgrew the garage in 2019 and moved into an industrial unit in Blair Atholl.

Growing pains for Wasted Degrees

From brewing 50 litre batches in the garage, the Sawmill Yard unit allowed for further growth.

The team also grew, as in 2021, Jack left his career in whisky to become a co-owner and brewer Andrew MacNeilage came on board.

Wasted Degrees now produces 20,000 litres of beer a month, a long way from brewing for the occasional party.

A range of beer cans outside the Wasted Degrees Brewery.
Rarely will the Wasted Degrees team brew a beer more than once. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

“We were fortunate to find this sizable space in Blair Atholl, we’ve been here four years now, and we’ve been in perpetual growing pains ever since,” says Jack.

“Which I say with quite a sincere smile on my face, it’s a great situation to find ourselves in.

“Highland Perthshire is where we want to grow our business and there’s not a huge amount of industrial space to choose from.”

At the start of the year, the team leased two more units and added 40% more space onto their footprint.

But one of the extra buildings is already full and they’re back to playing Tetris with pallets.

Moving out of the area for more space however, is out of the question.

Home is where the ingredients are

As well as wanting to stay close to their roots, ingredients local to Highland Perthshire play a key part in Wasted Degrees brews.

The brewery uses malted barley from Scotland and works with local growers to get its hands on special ingredients.

A man putting cans of beer into a cardboard box inside a brewing room.
The team of three do all the jobs around the brewery. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

Jack says: “You can make the same beer anywhere in the world if you move the ingredients around, but we want our beer to be from here.

“We can’t escape the fact that hops isn’t growing in any meaningful volume in the UK, but we try to bring the supply chain closer and closer to the brewery.

“At the moment we have a beer with hops grown in Perthshire, which is seldom seen.”

The varying availability of ingredients means beer recipes change all the time. Apart from two core beers – Amber Rye and Helles Lager – the range is always changing.

In the seasonal Saturday taproom, there are up to 11 draught lines with different brews at a time.

While no two recipes are the same, the team makes sure to always have certain styles available, such as IPAs or stouts.

“We’re not in this to brew the same beer forever more, where’s the fun in that?,” asks the 33-year-old co-owner.

A man drinking a pint of beer outside in bright sunshine.
The Wasted Degrees taproom is open every Saturday over summer. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

“We’re about 250 batches into the existence of Wasted Degrees, from day zero until today. That’s probably 150 to 200 different recipes.

“We have a breadcrumb trail of what we’ve done before, but we don’t tend to look back too much.”

Wasted Degrees a force for good

Committing to a local supply chain isn’t the brewery’s only effort to be kind to the environment. The brewhouse is fully powered by renewable energy.

Wasted Degrees also moved away from glass bottles to aluminium cans, as transport emissions drop when cargo is lighter.

The brewery dropped its last piece of plastic packaging last year, when it swapped to labels made from wood-based raw materials.

The effort to take care of the planet is inspired by Conall and Jack’s grandparents, a solider and a Red Cross nurse who met in the Second World War.

“One of the things they taught us was to try and leave whatever you pick up in a better state further down the road,” says Jack.

A Made in Scotland Awards plaque on top of a box of beer cans.
Wasted Degrees picked up a win at the Made in Scotland awards last month. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

“That’s where some of it comes from, but also I don’t want the view from the brewery to look much different in years to come.

“There’s no reason not to be carbon conscious and there’s no excuse to not do things in a way that leaves people and the planet in a better state.”

Last month, Wasted Degrees won Food and Drink Company of the Year at the Made in Scotland Awards.

The team believe the win is down to showing how they use their business as a force for good in the local community.

Fivefold growth in five years

While keeping their values in mind, the brothers want to grow Wasted Degrees’ output fivefold in the next five years.

They plan to do so by increasing their offering in local pubs and exporting more to Europe. The brewery bagged its first export deal in November 2022.

Beer brewed in Perthshire is now available in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Italy.

A man dragging a tank of beer behind him outside Wasted Degrees Brewing.
Founder Conall and the team have fitted out pubs in the local area. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

To expand its local offering, the brewery has paid to fit out cellars for bars in the area to get its kegs in.

“I hope in five years’ time, we’ll have a strong presence in Perthshire and Scotland of our draught beer,” says Jack.

“We’re in the early stages of considering what is the forever home for Wasted Degrees and the next phase of the business.

“We want to grow to five times our current size, if we grow more than that it becomes something different.

“We don’t want to become the next big corporate behemoth, but stay true to our principles of being carbon focused.”