How I Got Here: James Kindred

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags alcohol free dry January

The co-founder of alcohol-free craft beer brand Big Drop on building his business, proving people wrong, and the joy of sitting in a small, quiet pub.

Why alcohol-free beer?
Necessity! When Rob [Fink] and I started Big Drop, alcohol-free craft beer wasn’t a thing. We started Big Drop because we wanted to cut down our drinking, but still enjoy great craft beer.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career
Qualifications are useful, but in most arenas (law and medicine excluded) hard work, lateral thinking and good problem solving skills will do you just as well.

What’s your favourite brewer (besides your own)?
I’ve knocked full-strength beer on the head completely, but I’m a big fan of Vocation (Hebden Bridge) and Burnt Mill here in Suffolk.

What motivates you?
Proving people wrong. I left school with a few GCSEs and then got booted out of sixth form. I think a fair few people wrote me off. I’m more than happy to keep surprising them.

What keeps you up at night?
I get terrible insomnia at times. I’ll spend that time trying to solve problems that need the peace and quiet to crack.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the alcohol-free beer business?
When Rob and I first approached our head brewer Johnny about making alcohol-free beer, we said “we want to make great alcohol-free craft beer”, his immediate response was “no, you want to make great beer that happens to be alcohol free”. That’s driven everything we’ve done since we started back in 2016.

What time do you wake up?
Usually just before 6am … or earlier if one of the dogs jumps on my head.

Coffee or tea?
I’ll hover between the two. I drink tea at home, but prefer a coffee when I’m on the move.

How often do you check your email?
Too often.

How do you let off steam?
Playing guitar, loud; drawing; or going for a long forest walk with the dogs, Buddy and Moose.

Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
I’ll avoid noisy pubs, but give me a good small pub or bar with some close friends and I’m happy.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
I’m a big fan of barbecuing. I’ll do a mean pork or beef joint low and slow on the smoker. Given half the chance, I’ll do Christmas dinner on it.

Typical Sunday?
Slow, food-led and spent in pyjamas for as long as possible. I’ll cook a big roast in the afternoon that’ll set the family up for the week ahead.

Favourite holiday destination?
I want to get back to the Canadian Rockies soon. That’s been a highlight of my travels. More locally, the back of beyond in the Scottish Highlands or Italy would be very nice. I like to get out explore, you’ll never find me lounging by the pool or on the beach.

What are you currently reading?
I struggle endlessly to sit still long enough to read a book, but I power through a lot of audiobooks while I’m working or travelling. I’ve currently got Seth Rogen’s Yearbook​ and Stephen Fry’s Mythos​ downloaded.

What boxset are you currently watching?
I’m jumping between re-watching both The Sopranos​ and the Watchmen​ series, which is an incredible piece of work.

Best business decision?
Always recruit people better than you.

Worst business decision?
None at Big Drop (touch wood), but at a previous business I regret not stepping up and standing my ground when I noticed some serious issues in the business.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
The ‘hustle’ and working 16 hours days is bullshit. Get good sleep, be organised, meet new people and learn from them.

If you could change one thing about the brewing industry today, what would it be?
I’m a relative newcomer to the beer industry, but there are similar problems to what you see with creative agencies, namely sexism and workplace harassment or bullying. As a business owner, I’d be mortified if that sort of thing went on at my business.


Born in Ipswich, Kindred finished his education after completing his GCSEs. In 2000 he co-founded N8tiveMedia, a design and marketing agency; and later went on to be a freelance graphic designer. In 2010 he founded another agency, called Condiment. Kindred moved into the hospitality sector in 2013 when he co-founded Inn Style, a software as a service (SaaS) platform for hotels and B&Bs. He launched Big Drop in partnership with Rob Fink in 2016. Big Drop calls itself 'Britain’s most decorated brewer' (alcohol-free or otherwise) having earned seven ‘World’s Best’ titles from the World Beer Awards since it first entered in 2017. The brand now sells to 20 countries, supplying four million cans of beer annually. 

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