Brewing Beer with Sam Kellie
The First and Last Brewery is an independent micro brewery in North Cumberland. So, in the middle of nowhere really! Sam and his wife set up the brewery in 2006. They mainly do cask beer for trade as well as bottle and can beer. The business mainly concentrates in the north-east but do bits across the UK as well.
What Made You Start Brewing?
Sam spent 10 years as a secondary school teacher and then spent 7 years working for a national youth charity. With them both being Newcastle based, Sam was spending too many hours in a day commuting. Working for such a big charity made him very weary of that world anyways. The politics (as there is with any large organisation), bureaucracy. By this point, Sam had a family and start thinking about what else he could be doing. He’d always been a keen home brewer and had some really good feedback from friends about his home brew. This desire gripped him to be his own boss. To escape the bureaucracy, to escape the politics. As the confidence slowly grew, he decided to make the leap and do it. They started by dipping their toes in the water, and then their ankles, and then their knees, and then their waist. A couple years later Steve was neck deep and hasn’t looked back since.
Going From Idea to Business
With having a young family, it was a big risk going self employed and even more with his wife joining too. It took a lot of thinking through things carefully. They started doing internet research and passing round some beer for people to try ad get feedback from. Sam was fortunate enough to go part time so that he wasn’t cutting off any income.
Working at Newcastle university at the time, a sustainability project came about and he was asked to set up a brewery as part of the university which was fantastic. It was a great test bed. So Sam set up Europes first student run brewery which is still running and has been incredibly successful. The idea behind the project was to set up a brewery focused on sustainability issues and that’s an ongoing process. The brewery carries to different research projects that partners such as Brew Dog and Heineken use.
Sam was approached by a man setting up his own brewery in Northumberland who heard he’d had some experience and wanted to recruit him. He was really keen to have Sam help him for the first couple of years of the brewery being set up. This was ideal because it was another test bed for Sam. This opportunity enabled him to do a fair bit of research and planning. Ultimately, it was useful when it came to Sam setting up his own brewery.
It took around 2-3 years to get his own brewery up and running. The usual Finance and finding a suitable site. Eventually bit by bit it all came together and before he knew it, he had his very own brewery and selling his beer to pubs
Business through Lockdown
Sam explains it’s been a dynamic change certainly for the hospitality sector since covid. He’s not allowed to sell out of the brewery at the moment due to COVID restrictions., Their responses to the situation was to open up free delivery across the North East which was a gamble at the time but proved to pay off really well. That’s been very much Sams business model throughout the year. 12 months ago First & Last would brew 3 times a week which is around 2700 litres in a week with 90%. going into casks for pubs. This year with pubs being closed, they’ve changed their focus to bottled beers and cans. Once brewed, its taken to a professional bottler who bottles them all up, which takes around 3-4 weeks.