Tap tales: John Robertson, Drinkly

John Robertson launched Edinburgh-based start-up Drinkly in November 2016. Acting as an online shop front, it serves as an on-demand drinks delivery service with over 650 products available across the beer, wine, spirits, soft drinks and snacks sectors. Allowing users to order and have drinks delivered, chilled, in one hour, the company now operates both in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Robertson completed his beer sommelier exam in 2015 and has worked for both Kingfisher Beer and Scotland’s Innis & Gunn Brewing as its international sales manager.

When did you first get into beer? 

When I was a student, I worked in Aulay’s bar in Oban. Aulay’s is a great pub and at the heart of the local community. Beer quality was a key focus of the business and, hand on heart, my first pint of lager at Aulay’s was the best I’d ever tasted up till that point.

Which brew sparked your love of beer? 

I was living in London and a new beer appeared in my local Sainsbury’s; a beer that came in a box, that had a weird name and was aged in oak barrels. The beer was Innis & Gunn Original and it changed the way I viewed beer. Until then I had only ever seen mainstream lager brands and traditional ales in supermarkets and Innis & Gunn was the first beer that had a real depth of flavour unlike most beers I’d tried.

What would you be as a beer?

If I were a beer, I’d be a Scotch Ale. Accessible, full of flavour, and full-bodied – especially after the Christmas I’ve just had!

Who is your inspiration in the beer world? 

James Watt and the team at BrewDog have been a huge inspiration, crafting a space in the UK for a modern IPA whilst carving a whole new segment in the market and taking beer marketing to incredible new levels.

I’ve also really enjoyed reading the story of Steve Hindy who was the pioneer behind Brooklyn Brewery. It was really inspiring to learn how they managed to create a successful business in the US, which is a huge market but dominated by only a handful of brands.

Where are you happiest?

With friends having a nice crisp pilsner after climbing a hill – by hill I mean a Munro (mountain in Scotland over 3,000 ft) and I’m back down the hill warming up in a nice pub while having said pilsner.

What is your greatest vice?

Taking part in crazy obstacle course and endurance events such as Tough Mudder and the like. I find a good way to unwind is to run and cycle.

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

There is often in-fighting between craft and cask breweries. I’m all for great beer no matter where it is brewed by folks with sandals or beards or both! The best thing about the industry is the people that work in it, our industry is blessed by great folk many with a huge passion for their profession.

What is your proudest achievement in beer?

Completing my beer sommelier exam in 2015 was a big achievement for me. The final exam involved spending two hours with a master brewer, drinking and describing a great number of different styles of beer, with a few curve balls thrown in too. I was really proud to pass the exam and join a list of extremely talented beer sommeliers.

What is your ultimate beer and food pairing?

Oysters and Porter. I love the mix of the rich malt flavours in the beer complemented by the salty oysters, creating a salty chocolate, creamy taste sensation!

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

There are very few styles of beer that I don’t like. My least favourite would be sour beer. I don’t get along with beers that promise a beer style and do not deliver on taste; there are many IPA’s on the market that sadly fall short on flavour.

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