January 15, 2024

In a tribute to iconic Scottish drink, Irn-Bru, Edinburgh brewer Vault City has launched a trio of sour beers under the Iron Brew banner. The branding – and a new recipe for the original product – has been brought back due to popular demand along with new flavours Iron Brew Float and Fiery Ginger Iron Brew.

The company has sealed a deal for the distribution of its bold orange alcoholic beverage – similar to the original soft drink made by AG Barr – into 100 bars across the UK starting in early January as well as online sales on Retail prices for a 440ml can range from £3.50 (€4.10) for the original to £5.80 (€6.80) for the ginger variety.

Vault City co-founder Steven Smith-Hay said he was confident that the new releases will go down well – last year’s novelties sold out in less than 24 hours. Smith-Hay – who began taking simple ingredients and transforming them into sour beers in 2018 – said: “We know products like this – beloved, filled with nostalgia and a bit of novelty – can help bars during those difficult months after Dry January where people aren’t buying lots of beer.

Dry January has become a widespread alcohol-free phenomenon as a post-Christmas detox. However, in 2024 it is compounded by a cost-of-living crisis which has impacted sales of alcoholic drinks with rising pub failures seen last year in England and Wales. Real estate intelligence firm Altus Group’s analysis of government data shows that over 50 pubs were lost each month in the first quarter of 2023.

Iron Brew Vault City range
The flavour range is exciting and original.

Scotland’s ‘favourite soft drink’

Iron Brew may not reverse the trend but Vault City is confident that its new products will be in demand. Smith-Hay, a former IT professional, said: “Our take on the ‘nation’s favourite soft drink’ is packed with pride and iron-y goodness in every sip; it’s the perfect drink with Burns Night just around the corner (25 January). Every Scot loves a can of the orange stuff; the bold colour and unique flavour evoke a sense of national pride.”

It is hoped that the novelty Iron Brew beers – launching in more bars than ever – will help pull beer connoisseurs into bars in larger numbers during Dry January. Vault City also anticipates that the two new flavours will follow in Iron Brew’s footsteps, becoming firm favourites for beer drinkers.

Of the two newcomers, the Float is a boozy twist on the Scottish drink/dessert, which traditionally features a large portion of soft vanilla ice cream dropped into a fresh glass of fizzy Irn-Bru. The Ginger variety is a fiery take on ginger beer, boasting subtle spice and less subtle Scottish flavour.

Vintage tongue-in-cheek designs

Each can features a limited edition vintage design drawing inspiration from stereotypical Scottish tropes: red-headed characters ironing their kilts and facing off against Highland cows. Vault City – the first brewery in the UK to switch to a four-day work week – is known for its nostalgia-infused creations, including beers inspired by Toxic Waste sweets, Wagon Wheel biscuits, Neapolitan-scoop ice cream, and grape soda.

The brewery’s beers are designed to make sour beer more accessible, with flavours like Triple Fruited Mango Sour Beer among those stocked in more than 700 supermarkets across the UK. Many of them, for example, Aldi, Asda, and Lidl, also sell their own-version Iron Brews.

Vault City currently brews around 1.4 million litres of sour beer per year from its 465 square metre production facility in Portobello, Edinburgh in Scotland. The brewery is known for its unusual flavours which include Strawberry Banana Coconut Cream; Chocolate Dipped Strawberries; Danish Berry Pudding; Blackcurrant Kir Royale; Mulled Dark Cherry Session Sour; and Pear Vanilla Cinnamon Swirl.

In 2023 the brewery brewed more beers than ever, releasing 84 beers, compared to 65 in the previous year, and maintaining a schedule of six new releases minimum each month. Last year, Vault City also produced its most sour release, the Vault Dweller, inspired by toxic waste sweets. It added eight new fermenters last year to cope with demand.

Iron Brew Vault Dweller
Vault Dweller is the sourest beer produced by Vault City Brewery.

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