The Rebellion Beer Company: Tight-fisted round avoiders, coming soon to a pub near you

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The Independent Online

Unless you live within a 40-mile radius of the town of Marlow in Buckinghamshire, you are unlikely to enjoy a pint of Rebellion beer on a regular basis, and even less likely to know about the brewery that produces it.

But this could be about to change. After eight years of producing and supplying a small volume of beer to pubs mainly in London and the Home Counties, the Rebellion Beer Company is on the march.

"We aim to treble the amount of beer we brew within the next five years," says Tim Coombes, the founder and joint chief executive of the company, which has already stepped up barrel production from 50 to 200 a week.

Rebellion hopes to widen its area of distribution in the UK and wants to develop a strong presence abroad. Last year it made its first export, to a hotel in the exclusive ski resort of Verbier in Switzerland.

Rebellion Blonde, a blend of lager malt and bitter malt, and Rebellion IPA, a cask-conditioned ale, are the company's best sellers. But it also likes to be innovative. It sells a seasonal beer – currently red-coloured Autumn Ale – and introduces other new beers every month.

The names of these novelty beers poke fun at drinkers who do not buy their rounds. Past offerings include Free Loader, Tight Fisted and Round Avoider. "The aim is to supply different beer styles to the different types of pubs and to increase sales," says Mr Coombes. "It gives us an opportunity to experiment."

Rebellion was set up in 1993 by Mr Coombes and his friend Mark Gloyen. The two met at school, where they first decided to run their own business.

The pair both studied for engineering degrees but initially went their separate ways – Mr Gloyens into brewing and wine-making abroad, and Mr Coombes into marketing with Esso. They started their mini micro-brewery with £60,000, and in the early days Mr Coombes continued to work at Esso while Mr Gloyens got the business going. They lived on Mr Coombes' salary.

Meanwhile, the fledgling company brewed 10 barrels of IPA ale a week and supplied the beer to 20 local pubs. Turnover for the first year was around £70,000 and the Rebellion Beer Company made a loss of £20,000. Mr Coombes, now in charge of sales and marketing, joined full-time later that year.

The next step for the company, which started out in a small yard, was a move two years ago to new premises. Equipment was bought from a Courage brewery, after the takeover of Courage by Scottish & Newcastle, and moved to a barn in Marlow.

The new site has allowed a five-fold increase in production. It has also enabled Mr Coombes and Mr Gloyens to brew any type of beer or lager from around the world, in large or small batches – something that distinguishes Rebellion from its rivals, says Mr Coombes.

Rebellion now brews 30,000 pints and delivers to at least 100 pubs each week. Its beers are also starting to reach drinkers beyond its former 40-mile radius, being distributed through wholesalers to pub chains such as Weatherspoons and Hog's Head. The company currently has nine employees and has seen its turnover rise to £750,000. It has also passed the break-even point, although profits are still tiny. "We reinvest everything so that we can grow as quickly as possible," explains Mr Coombes.

Next month's new beer, soon to reach local pubs, has been christened Cash Free. Could this be an ill omen? Not if Mr Coombes has his way. There looks likely to be plenty of cash available in future for Rebellion's continued expansion.

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