Brother duo John Kidd and Neil Leiper are aiding Aberdeen’s overstretched mental health services one beer at a time with their not-for-profit Fitlikey Brewery.
Fit like? Two simple but important words, familiar to those in the north east of Scotland. When John Kidd moved from Montrose to Aberdeen six years ago with his brother Neil Leiper, he was struck by the power of such a straightforward question.
‘We’ve both had our own experiences with mental health issues,’ explains John. ‘And when we first came to Aberdeen, people were asking, “Fit like?” and I realised that that’s sometimes all people need – for someone to ask how they are.’
Inspired to raise funds for Aberdeen’s increasingly stretched mental health services, the brothers launched a charitable initiative and crowd-funder, Fitlikey Brewery.
With the help and expertise of the team at Aberdeen-based brewery, Fierce Beer – who gifted them a unique pilsner recipe – John and Neil were manufactured their very own 4.2% ABV pilsner beer, Fitlikey, in March 2019.
‘Fierce have been nothing but supportive – Dave, Grant and Louise – they’ve just been wonderful. And Do Bongers as well, who’s the master of the pilsner recipe. Without them, it wouldn’t be possible,’ explains John. ‘It’s a really crisp, refreshing, tasty beer. By using the beer from Fierce, we can provide a really good quality product for a really good quality cause.’
Donating one hundred per cent of their profits to the likes of Mental Health Aberdeen, the Fitlikey Brewery project has certainly been a labour of love for John and Neil. Both holding down full-time roles in the oil and motor industries, the additional commitment occupies their precious spare time, forcing them to work unsociable hours. That said, their passion for the cause far outweighs any negatives, and their sunny disposition holds strong.
Now stocked in shops and bars across Aberdeen like BrewDog, Brewtoon, JK Fine Foods, The Hop Shop and the Aberdeen Whisky Shop, Fitlikey has already seen considerable local success.
The first to stock the pilsner was Chris McLean from Noble Hops Aberdeen, who agreed to donate all his profits from any beer he sold to Fitlikey Brewery’s crowd-funder.
With mental health services at maximum capacity in Aberdeen, the brothers initially had their reservations about launching such an extensive project. Despite being certain that people would support a worthy cause, they were concerned that with heightened awareness would come greater demand.
‘If there aren’t the services available for them, then it’s a problem. So, it was really important that we were paying for the awareness that we were raising.
‘We don’t want to create a big beer empire. It’s about trying to fix a fundamental problem in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.’
There was, of course, also the question of selling alcohol to raise awareness for mental health, and this is an important detail that both John and Neil are acutely aware of.
‘The interesting thing about it is that it’s creating conversations. Whatever the feedback we’re getting – and it has been overwhelmingly positive – it’s bringing mental health to the forefront, which is what it’s all about. We’re being very careful with the influence we have though.’
Just months into their project, Fitlikey Brewery’s donations have already had a marked impact on mental health services. For every £40 they raise for Mental Health Aberdeen, that’s enough to pay for a counselling session; and for every £500 raised, that’s enough to train a counsellor.
Their personal experiences with services in the north east are undoubtedly a motivating factor, but it is their steadfast determination to help those in need that truly drives them.
‘We’re the closest brothers you’ll ever meet. I could count the number of times we’ve fallen out on one hand in the past five years,’ says John. ‘He puts up with me at least!’
While future plans for Fitlikey are not yet set in stone, one thing’s certain – this mighty brother duo will be making a real difference for years to come, one pint at a time.
So, if you spot someone in need of a helping hand, never forget the power of those two little words. With a little bit of Aberdonian spirit, you’ll be surprised what a difference you can make.