University students raise a glass as their beer hits supermarket shelves

09 May 2019

A group of university students are celebrating after a beer they came up with as a business project has been selected for sale by Waitrose & Partners.

Muddy Wellies ale, created by students at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU), is now on the shelves in three branches of the supermarket’s shops in Gloucestershire.

The store said it was attracted by both the taste and the fact that the drink is a Social Enterprise – meaning 10p from every bottle sold is returned to help launch RAU students’ new business ideas.

Muddy Wellies’ story began in 2006 after students in the Entrepreneurs Society created a craft ale with a local brewer which was sold in the university’s campus bar in Cirencester.

Now brewed by Friday Beer Company, it has been available in a range of small outlets across the region in a deal with the local distributor Craft Drinks Co, before catching the eye of discerning buyers at Waitrose.

Muddy Wellies Original Ale now appears on the shelves of Waitrose in Cheltenham, Cirencester and Stroud beside established brands like Peroni and Punk IPA.  Marketed as a ‘drink with sole’, it is a traditional bitter ‘with a hint of Rye’.

Katy Duke, Head of Enterprise at the RAU said: “It’s been a big journey for Muddy Wellies, with each group of new students taking it a little further along. Seeing the beer taking pride of place in Waitrose a decade after students came up with the idea makes us all proud and excited about where this might go now.

“We try to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in our students as part of the teaching across all RAU courses, not just our business degrees.”

The enterprising group overseeing Muddy Wellies at this stage of its journey are students Amelia Bailey, Charles de Fierlant Dormer, Ben Middlewood, Konrad Thungen, Maria Perry and Gijs Smits Van Oyen.

David Goddard, Assistant Buyer – Local and Regional – for Waitrose & Partners said: “Muddy Wellies is a stand-out, great tasting beer that also supports young entrepreneurs starting their own businesses, so we’re excited about launching Original Ale into three of our shops in Gloucestershire.

“This particular social enterprise is an ideal way for students to develop their skills and experience. The partnership with Friday Beer, with whom we have already been working with for the last year, has produced a product they can be proud of.”

Beer is not the only successful beverage to come from the University. Cotswold Hills Dry White Wine, grown at its Down Ampney vineyard – is also produced, marketed and sold commercially by students. Cotswold Hills has recently been shortlisted for a number of awards including Best Drinks Producer in the Western Daily Press Food and Farming Awards, as well as receiving a Silver medal for its 2017 vintage from Taste of the West. 

This year the RAU became just the sixth – and the only small, specialist – university to be made a Centre of Excellence by the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs (IOEE).

Its extra-curricular Enterprise Programme has created over 50 successful businesses at the Cirencester campus.

Each year the RAU’s Dragons’ Den-style competition – Grand Idea – sees students pitch their business plans to an expert judging panel which has included Levi Roots, of Reggae Reggae Sauce, and Julian Dunkerton, co-founder of Superdry.

Last year’s Grand Idea winner Alex Dunn created a farm safety app which helped her to win the Farmers Weekly Agricultural Student of the Year title.

The RAU offers a range of business degrees at foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate level, including a BSc in Business Management, where student satisfaction outscores the national average (National Student Survey 2018).

The University also offers an MSc in Business Management and an MBA in Innovation in Sustainable Food and Agriculture.