Running a brewery with your best friend is a dream job for many, but for two beer-loving graduates this became their reality.
Paul Delamere and George Grant, both 27, first tried home-brewing as a fun hobby in their student kitchen using a plastic stick and a bucket.
Four years later they are Britain’s youngest professional brewers running ShinDigger Brewing Co. and selling 50,000 pints a month.
UNILAD met the young entrepreneurs:
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First meeting in 2009 as they started their degrees at Manchester University, Paul and George became good friends during freshers week and lived together for the following years.
But it wasn’t until their third year that they decided to try out home-brewing as a cheaper way to drink beer.
We had the idea for a bit of fun investing our extra money in a home-brew kit. We were skint and beer is expensive.
We brewed beer in our student kitchen for 60p, fermenting it in the basement and testing out new recipes.
We started giving it to our friends, taking it to house parties. They enjoyed it and so we started selling pints for two pounds each.
Back then we sold 50 pints a week; now its over 10,000!
Seeing their home-brew was popular, the duo decided to ‘do it properly’ and looked at beers from around the world thinking ‘how could we make them in our kitchen?’.
They quickly fell in love with American style beer due to its juicy flavours and low bitterness.
Even today they are inspired by this, something you can taste in their beers which include a mango and pineapple lager called ‘Mango Unchained’ and another – Summer – flavoured with watermelon.
In their student days Paul and George had no idea they would be running a brewery and selling beers across the country, and even in Hong Kong!
They told us:
When we sold at parties we had no idea it could be our job but we enjoyed doing it and people enjoyed our beer.
When we graduated we both knew we wanted to do something we were passionate about and we were willing to take risks.
We had no commitments and we enjoyed home-brewing so we gave it a go.
It was a punt but it worked! It is quite a good way to spend your twenties really, trying to grow a beer empire with your mate.
After graduating the two took out a government start-up loan of £10,000 to start their business choosing the name ‘ShinDigger’ to reflect their ethos of ‘enjoying your time with your friends’.
We didn’t have to buy our own brewery as we used a ghost-brewing model where we brewed our beers in other breweries’ spare space. It was basic, we were selling beer out of my car!
We didn’t pay ourselves in the first year so it was literally counting the cans of beans. It was a long slug.
But we got traction and it just snowballed. Now we sell in 150 bars and we are growing nationwide.
Of course starting a business is never easy and the two admit their journey was full of ‘ups and downs’.
George told us about what it’s like being a young entrepreneur in Britain:
When you are a young entrepreneur everything is against you, you have no money or experience.
Everything is on the edge and you are more prone to making the mistakes.
However, it’s getting better for young entrepreneurs as there are all sorts of start-up schemes and there is a good community of people trying to help you.
There’s no better time to be one than right now with the access to capital and technology that we have.
Earlier this year Paul and George even received an award from the Duke of York for Young Entrepreneurs of the Year for their ‘novel’ approach to branding.
However, this wasn’t the duo’s favourite moment from their journey so far.
George told us:
My favourite was buying my own pint in a bar.
If I drank it now I would think it’s rubbish as we have come a long way, but it was crazy when we had been planning it for so long.
I had been waiting for that moment for a year and it was so rewarding.
It’s good to hear people talking about your product and enjoying it without knowing that we are from ShinDigger.
The boys have come a long way since their student days and have some advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs.
When you are young with less commitments it’s the perfect time to do it. You don’t need to throw loads of money at it, test if the idea works first.
Losing a small amount of money is much less of a problem than throwing loads of money and realising it doesn’t work down the line.
A lot of people think about starting a business but don’t take the step and do it. People want to be perfect.
You start with something that isn’t very good, but you iterate and develop as you go along. Waiting to be perfect is paralysing. You need to go out there and do it.
That is what Paul and George did and now they’re planning an even bigger future for the company.
We want to bring out more fruit beer and expand the events arms of our business, ShinDigger Sessions.
The goal of this is to collaborate with local musicians and artists and go from a beer to an experience.
The duo are clearly still as ambitious as they were on day one, and we can’t wait to see where the business will go next!
Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.