Tap tales: Murray Campbell, Campbell’s Brewery

Former law student and mountaineer Murray Campbell founded his eponymous brewery in 2017 in Peebles in the Scottish Borders. In his younger days, Campbell became the youngest Brit to attempt Everest, completed the six-day, 251km-long Marathon des Sables for Mencap and cycled from Perth to Sydney in 20 days, raising AU$50,000 for charity. Returning to the UK he worked for a flat letting business in Edinburgh before setting up a marquee hire company in 2004. Campbell is married with two children and today prefers “more urbane country sports like shooting and fishing”.

When did you first get into beer? 

When I was almost 13 and my brother was 14 we used to cycle with my father for three miles to the local pub. We would be allowed to have a half pint of ale and a bag of pork scratchings. Earlier than most probably but, perhaps paradoxically, this was an initiation that sparked a lifelong love of beer for me and I never fell off my bike on the way home!

Which brew sparked your love of beer? 

Banks Bitter was the beer I used to drink in the earliest days (yep, when I was 13 after having cycled three miles to get there). Although I haven’t had a pint of it for 20 or so years it was definitely the one that got me on the hook – not that I have in any way tried to wriggle off the hook!

What would you be as a beer?

Probably Timothy Taylor Landlord. Well known, tasty, reliable and likes the expensive things. Oh, did you want to know about the beer…

Who is your inspiration in the beer world? 

That would have to be the famous Australian cricketer David Boon who played for Australia 20 or so years ago. The Australian players would have a competition on the flight from Sydney to UK to see who could drink the most ‘stubbies’ of beer. David Boon managed 52 and had to be helped off the plane on arrival. A real hero of mine!

Where are you happiest?

Back in my twenties the answer to this question would have been on the top of a mountain in the Himalayas as climbing was my big passion, but these days probably propping up the bar of a cracking good pub, pint of ale in one hand, bag of pork scratchings in the other and having a good chat with a lovely barmaid.

What is your greatest vice?

When I am propping up the bar at the pub, pint of ale in one hand, bag of pork scratchings in the other and having a good chat with a lovely barmaid!

What are the best and worst things about the beer industry?

The beer duty break has helped small breweries enormously. One of the worst things is having to do all the sampling that goes with it. You end up having to pay for a chauffeur and with a clear memory of only the first 4 hours of each day!

What is your proudest achievement in beer?

This would have to be Craig Chalmers and Gary Armstrong contacting me having both had pints of Gunner Blonde Ale and offering to lend their names and support to us. Having two of Scotland’s finest ever rugby players saying that they thought Gunner Blonde Ale was the finest beer they had ever had was a real highlight for me. Also taking pre-orders of over 2,000 bottles on our first week of sales was a pretty big achievement.

What is your ultimate beer and food pairing?

I think you might know this one…Gunner Blonde and pork scratchings – simple but brilliant.

Which beer style do you find it impossible to get along with?

Imperial high ABV stouts. Completely overpowering for me. I feel that the best beers are in the 3.5% ABV to 5% ABV ranges. When one pint of beer is enough to get you drunk it’s a bit ridiculous. The whole enjoyment of beer is that you drink quite a few of them. If you can only manage one the concept is wasted.

If you weren’t a brewer, what would you be doing?

Probably making gin in my bath tub, but then my bath tub gets used every night by my two boys – soaking them in gin would be going a little bit too far! Before I set up Campbell’s I was running a marquee hire company and my partners could see that I was itching for a new challenge. I’m not one to stand still and they would certainly rather I follow a ‘safe’ passion of mine rather than the adrenalin-junkie stuff I used to get up to…I’m older, they’re wiser! But I honestly couldn’t be in a better place. I get such a buzz from people’s reaction to the beer and converting a sale that that’s all the adrenalin rush I need these days.

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