We recently put up a collection of ‘Lion Travel Posters’ in our brewpub and shared them with the world, and people love them. We do too, of course. But to us, each one also represents a key milestone in our story – and I’d like to share these stories with you today.
It would be inappropriate to begin without thanking the inimitable James Diaz, our head of branding, who created and designed this wonderful series. We were lucky enough to convince James (or Jimmy, as we know him) and his wonderful partners at BlackMoon Studio to join us on this journey before we’d even sold a single beer, and there’s not been a drop of regret at that decision.
We meet Jimmy in Singapore, which is of course where our part in Lion Brewery Co’s history begins. For those unaware, Lion Brewery Co is in fact a heritage brewery, with a fascinating past that dates back to 1836. You can read more about it here.
As for us, after years of homebrewing in our hot kitchens, making beers that we want to drink – flavourful, sessionable brews well-suited to the tropical climate we experience every day – we perfect a recipe that has many names over time, but comes to be known as Straits Pale Ale. Our first professional batch is brewed in October 2018, and by November we are officially selling in Singapore.
Fast-forward through six months; an exhausting, invigorating time, which we spend running around the island, hiring rent-a-bomb cars, chucking coolers in the boot of said cars and going door-to-door. We become fearless beer-slingers, resilient in the face of rejection, and we speak to hundreds of bars, restaurants and pubs every week. Things go rather well, and many of these doors open to us.
Just as we are about to unleash our Island Lager into the world, our Straits Pale Ale lands upon its second shore in Cambodia. We are doing some of our brewing there already, and we make friends with a few young guys who have just started a craft distribution company. From Phnom Penh to Siem Reap to Kampot, our beers start popping up around the Khmer Kingdom, and though it remains a small market for independent and craft beers, it’s one we cherish, as our first overseas venture.
Then Covid hits. The world shuts down, and reality becomes a sludge of trivia and quizzes on Zoom, random masked encounters, and a deluge of boredom and anxiety… but one other thing it does do, is provide the impetus for one of our founders, Harry, to move to the UK. With his own personal homecoming, we are able to bring life to the heritage story, back where Lion Brewery Co originated. Harry and Jack set up Lion UK in London together, and thus begins our adventure into a third country.
Out of darkness cometh light…
The world recovers, slowly.
2021 folds into 2022, and at the beginning of this year we take our first steps into Indonesia. I grew up in Indonesia, so it’s always been a part of our quest to bring the beer here, too. We find a great partner who has spare brewing capacity, and decide to produce the beer locally in Bali, guaranteeing that we put the freshest product into the market possible. We make Bali our home, and bit by bit, we venture across the islands, heading for Jakarta first, and then spreading our beery goodness to Lombok, and Gili, and other Javanese cities.
The archipelago is vast, but we have time, and we leave no stone unturned, curious as ever about just how far we can take this thing. We work with a few different distributors as we come to grips with the market, until we find the ideal distribution partner and teammate in 2023. We also package our beers with a twist, using aluminium bottles, which people instantly take to.
These aluminium bottles lead us to Hong Kong, when VP, the founder of Brews Over Borders, reaches out to me. Brews Over Borders are the newly-formed arm of a large import-export business, and they are besotted with our aluminium bottle branding. Funnily enough, we aren’t able to work out a way to get aluminium bottles to them, but once they try our beers they are besotted with those too, and we begin shipping Lion to the Fragrant Harbour at the beginning of 2023.
We launched Lion Brewery Co in Dubai a few months ago, and almost five years in, are selling in six countries across two continents with more markets on the way.
What can we learn from our journey thus far? That growth is a combination of good planning and good fortune. That it pays to be discernibly different, both in product and in your storytelling. That relationships matter, more than almost anything else. And that part of why we love what we do is because we get to bring Lion Brewery Co to amazing places around the globe, and call it work.
Now time for a cold one.