In her own words, Jaclyn Bateman describes herself as a person whose glass is “always half full” and someone who has a positive approach to life in general. And, having an upbeat attitude is a great attribute when you are a key player in a family-owned craft brewery, which is working hard to see off competition from bigger brewers and maintain a portfolio of more than 60 pubs.
Batemans brews five permanent cask beers, which are available in pubs across the UK. It also produces an innovative range of bottled beers, which are sold through supermarkets and online, served in restaurants and also available in its quirky “windmill-style” visitor centre.
Jaclyn, who is Marketing Director and her brother Stuart – who is Managing Director of Batemans’ Commercial Division – are fourth generation members of the Bateman family and committed to keeping alive the business started by their great-grandfather George Bateman. He began the brewing business in Wainfleet, near Skegness, in 1874.
Now at the helm – following the loss of their father George in 2007 and mother Patricia in 2005 – Jaclyn and Stuart are fiercely proud and protective of the independent brewery, whose beers are in growing demand at home and overseas.
“We have always been an independent business and we would resist any takeover approach. We know this would only occur because someone was after our famous name and reputation,” said Jaclyn.
“We are very diverse and the brewery itself is based on three sites. Wainfleet is not the ideal place for this type of business and, if we were taken over, whoever did so would probably close the premises down.
“About 90 people work for us – in the brewery, accounts, sales and transport sections and in our visitor centre and pubs within our managed estate. We are an important employer – rather than being a seasonal business – and we are based in an area where there aren’t a lot of opportunities.”
Batemans is one of about 1,500 craft brewers and Jaclyn and Stuart work long hours to grow a business which has a proud heritage and a workforce which has seen generations of local families honing their skills within the brewery.
“Stuart and I are always bouncing ideas off each other and we are keen to raise people’s awareness of craft beers and to get more people talking about them,” said Jaclyn.
So, it is no surprise to hear that they are constantly developing new ales, giving them innovative names and eye-catching labels and entering them into a variety of competitions.
Many Batemans’ fans may well be raising a glass of its famous Christmas brew Rosey Nosey over the festive season. In the process, they could be toasting its best season yet.
Last year sales of the brew grew by 13 percent, compared to those in 2012, while orders from supermarkets rose by a staggering 50 percent. For 2014, Batemans is aiming to have increased total orders of cask and bottle, with export sales expected to be a key contributor.
Although it is only available by cask for less than a week, Batemans is already reporting extremely high demand. This seasonal beer has worldwide appeal too –120 barrels have been shipped to US air forces bases around the globe, including those in Korea, Okinawa, Japan and Europe.
Last year, Batemans launched its Bohemian range of beers – including Mocha Amaretto, Hazelnut Brownie, Orange Barley and Mocha – to coincide with its 140th anniversary. In April (2014) Mocha Amaretto snatched the Beer of The Year Award at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival and proved so popular it sold out on the second day of the event.
More success soon followed. In October, Batemans revealed it had signed an exciting new distribution agreement for Dubai, meaning that, for the first time its beers can be enjoyed by people in the Middle East.
The business has now expanded its export portfolio to nine countries across four continents, including Australia, where its full bottled range has been performing well for two years now, as well as new market Chile.
Russia is another successful export destination. Craft beer is becoming increasingly popular, especially brands with a strong tradition and brewing heritage. So far, 40,000 pints of Bateman’s beer have been sent to the country.
Interestingly, the brewer’s staff also get to play a special role in helping Batemans to dream-up new, winning, ales. “This year my brother said to our staff,” come into the sample room and bring a flavour that you think could be added to our beer”. People came along with garlic, marmalade and other products and one gave us some black pepper, saying “I don’t know if it will work,” but it did,” said Jaclyn.
“A sachet of ground black pepper is attached to each bottle, and it is swirled into the beer and sprinkled on top. Black Pepper Ale proved to be a real winner at the International Beer Challenge 2012 and Beer Bottlers Institute competition.”
Even more impressive is the fact that the brewer now has a contract to supply the drink to the US Air Force and Morrison’s supermarket has ordered supplies for its shelves.
Batemans’ pubs are mostly based in Lincolnshire. There is also one in York, a couple in the Derbyshire Dales, one in Peterborough, four in Norfolk, one outside Cambridge and a couple in the St Neot’s area.
This feature interview was first published in issue 8 of the Lincolnshire Business weekly magazine.