From Aberdeen to Brewing Healthier Beer - Jason Clarke & Charlie CraigJason Clarke & Charlie Craig

From Aberdeen to Brewing Healthier Beer

Jason and Charlie met in their first term at the University of Aberdeen in 1987 and have been friends ever since. After graduating, their careers went separate ways before being reunited in 2018 when they launched Genius Brewing with a mission to make healthier drinking a pleasure, not a compromise. Their award-winning Gen!us Craft Lager combines craft quality with less alcohol and low calories. Brewed from the finest pilsner malts and three hop varieties, Gen!us is 3% ABV and only 79kcal per can – less than an apple.

Jason and Charlie appeared on the hit BBC One series, Dragons’ Den in April 2021, where they faced the formidable Dragons in search of £120,000 of equity funding to grow their craft beer business.

It was a nerve-wracking experience, recalls Jason Clarke:

“As a former soldier and TV director, I wasn’t fazed by the filming environment, but pitching to the Dragons is another matter. When the lift doors open and you’re suddenly faced by Peter, Deborah, Touker, Tej and Sara, the pressure is definitely on.”
 
Charlie Craig, co-founder and the company’s Operations Director, knew that preparation was critical:

“It’s well known the Dragons like to drill into your numbers, so we prepped thoroughly; turnover, margins - you name it. With the cameras rolling, and the Dragons firing questions left and right, there was certainly no place to hide!”

Jason Clarke

LLB Law, 1991

Your Time at Aberdeen

Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
Having grown up in Edinburgh, I wanted to study away from home at an ancient university with a strong reputation. I wanted to study Scots Law which meant studying in Scotland. Aberdeen’s Law Faculty had a strong reputation and so Aberdeen ticked all my boxes.

Why did you choose your particular course?
From the age of 16, I had an Army Scholarship and always had my heart set on being a career soldier and thus my choice of university course was not particularly career-minded. No single subject at school caught my imagination. I wanted to study something interesting and intellectually challenging - and as my friends always called me an “argumentative git”, Law seemed just the ticket!

What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
Without doubt, my years at Aberdeen were among the happiest days of my life. The friends I made are still my best friends thirty years later. Beautiful buildings, crisp mornings, long summer nights, and sitting a class exam still in a toga from a party the night before - all memories I’ll always treasure.  

If you were involved in any clubs and societies as a student, what did you enjoy most about them and what benefit do you think they have for students?
I was an enthusiastic member of the University's rugby club. Probably too enthusiastic (apologies to the Student Union staff 1987-91). In my first year we toured Bermuda and then after my Finals in fourth year, we toured Kenya. A great way to finish my time at Aberdeen.

Did you hold any student leadership roles, e.g. Class Rep, Club Treasurer, Social Convenor?
The rugby club was entirely self-run: from organising training, kit, and matches, to fundraising for our tours, it was all hands on deck.

If talking to a group of prospective students, what advice would you give them to help them make the most of their time at the University of Aberdeen?
Get involved. Be open-minded. Don’t take the easy option by staying in your social or intellectual comfort zones. Meet new people. Try to balance work and fun… ish. Don’t blow all your money but don’t worry too much about tomorrow either. 

If while at Aberdeen you took part in a foreign exchange, e.g. Erasmus or Study Abroad, where did you go and what did you do?
In fourth year, I joined members of my Law class on a week-long trip to visit the EU institutions in Strasbourg and Brussels. It was a fantastic trip, subsidised by the EU!

Your Time After Aberdeen

What was the title of your first job after graduating from Aberdeen?
I joined the Army, starting officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. 

What did your first role involve?
After being commissioned and doing a further 3-month specialist infantry course, I joined my regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant. 

Who was your first employer?
Her Majesty the Queen, strictly speaking! My regiments was the 1st Battalion, The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment), the oldest line regiment of the British Army. 

What is your current job title?    
Creative Director of Genius Brewing, a company I co-founded in 2018 with Charlie Craig. 

What is your current role?
As Creative Director, I oversee our brand, its marketing, as well as our corporate communications and CSR. 

Please briefly describe the journey from your first job after graduating to where you are now.
It’s been a long, winding, and totally unplanned road. I’d always imagined a career in the military, but after a couple of years I came to realise that something was missing. Make no mistake, I loved lots about army life, but also sensed that it wasn’t going to be my future. So, after a chance meeting with a Hollywood movie producer, I resigned my Commission and headed to film school in LA.

At the point in my life, I hadn’t done anything obviously creative: no drama, rubbish at art, can’t sing, can’t dance, but I fell in love with movie-making instantly and having got an ‘A’ in my first film project, I seemed to have a talent for it too. And so began a 20 year journey as a writer and filmmaker working across television, advertising, corporate communications, and feature films.

The first 14 years was spent as a freelance writer and director, starting at the bottom and clawing my way up. My first paid gig in 1998 was directing a video out in the North Sea for BP. Then in 1999, I got a big break co-producing ‘The Fantasy Club’ with Tern TV, a CH4 documentary about lapdancers in Aberdeen. In 2011, I set up SIGNAL2NOISE (now SIGNAL FILM), a digital media production company based in Aberdeen. Clients included Shell, Baxters, RBS, and Royal Caribbean. 

Having identified a trend for healthier drinking, I decided it was time for another big career change, and after selling out to my SIGNAL2NOISE partner, I set up Genius Brewing with Charlie.  

Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now? If so, in what way?
On a simple level, no. I didn’t need a Law degree, or any degree, to be an Army officer, and I certainly didn’t need a Law degree to become a filmmaker….or beermaker. But I’ve no doubt that the study of law made me a better writer and clearer communicator. The course was exactly the intellectual challenge I’d sought and definitely left me with a ‘bigger brain’.

One Top Tip

The world of work is changing and that change will likely accelerate. Those graduating today will experience a lifetime of career evolution as they develop and their interests and needs change. 

Young people are pigeon-holed far too early by their teachers, sometimes their parents, and often by themselves. You don’t need to know, aged 21, “what you’re going to be”. You’ll be many things. The more useful question is, “what will you be first?” And whatever you find yourself doing, do it with a passion and to the best of your ability. 

Charlie Craig

MA Politics, 1992

Your Time at Aberdeen

Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
I chose Aberdeen because of the course. The International Relations department back in 1987 was full of advisors to the government of the day.

What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
Aberdeen is a great city for students. It's very international and big enough to explore, whilst not being too big to get lost in. My life at University revolved around sports and the camaraderie that came with it.

If you were involved in any clubs and societies as a student, what did you enjoy most about them and what benefit do you think they have for students?
I loved the rugby club. I was social secretary, which came with its own dangers – talking our way out of tricky situations with hotel managers and occasionally with the local constabulary! But all in a great spirit. Taking an active part in the running of a club was the first time I really had to take the lead rather than just following. 

If talking to a group of prospective students, what advice would you give them to help them make the most of their time at the University of Aberdeen?
Work hard to meet as many students as possible in year one – you will have these friends for life. Have a hobby or a sport, or failing that, take a job – something in a bar or a shop. It gives you a life outwith the world of University.

Your Time After Aberdeen

What was the title of your first job after graduating from Aberdeen?
Executive Search Consultant at ASA International.

What did your first role involve?
The sourcing and interviewing of candidates for jobs.

What is your current job title?
Operations Director at Genius Brewing Limited.

What is your current role?
As operations director I look after the day to day running of the business – finance, production, logistics, account management and whatever else springs up.

Please briefly describe the journey from your first job after graduating to where you are now.
I worked in Executive Search and HR Consultancy for 10 years, split between Glasgow, London and Hong Kong. I moved into the brewing industry in 2003 where I have remained, except for a stint in technology sales and running my own Procurement company. 

Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now? If so, in what way?
It wasn't essential as far as the qualification was concerned, but the experience of learning how to work under your own steam, how to work to deadlines and how to get along with others from a multitude of different backgrounds was essential groundwork for where I am now.

One Top Tip

Get to know as many lecturers, tutors, professors and more importantly administrators in your academic department as you can. When all is well, they will join in on your success - and more importantly when things are not going your way they will have your back. I didn’t do this!

Genius Brewing offer a discount on their products to University of Aberdeen alumni! See our Benefits & Services section for more details.