When Grant Graeber told his fellow soldiers that he wanted to leave the US military to start a brewery, he earned the nickname ‘The Mad Yank’. That nickname is now a brand. Together with his wife Larissa, Grant runs The Mad Yank Brewery, based in Pinner on the north-west edge of London. Mike and Larissa feature in the photo above.

“Originally Grant was the Mad Yank,” says Larissa. “He was the American who was leaving the military after nearly two decades, before getting his retirement package, to start a brewery. The idea now is that the whole experience and ambiance of the brewery and taproom is about trying new things and not playing it safe.”

Larissa says: “We aim to make everything approachable, especially for people who are hesitant to begin their craft beer journey. We use combinations of ingredients that people haven’t come across before. For example, our Disco Duck has vegan white chocolate and cherry.”

The Mad Yank Brewery also sells a raspberry, lemon and white chocolate pale ale inspired by the couple’s wedding cake. “With the various lockdowns and growing the business, we completely forgot about our wedding anniversary. But that ended up inspiring a beer. It has a pinkish hue like a blush wine and you can taste the different layers, like a cake.”

Larissa and Grant use Starling to manage their business finances. “I love everything about Starling, it’s so compact and gives you such an easy overview. When invoices are paid, I get the immediate notification. It makes life easier.”

Growing a business through lockdown

For The Mad Yank Brewery, founded in 2017, lockdown presented both challenges and opportunities. “The whole industry came to a screeching halt. But that gave us the chance to launch a web shop, work with couriers and do our own local deliveries,” says Larissa, 41.

Previously, the couple relied on local shops to sell their craft beers. The launch of their online shop has led to many more direct sales, which means they’ve got to know their customers better. They’ve also had more time to dedicate to the development of their new taproom (opening later this year) and a larger brewing area.

As part of this self-funded expansion, the couple will be hiring their first employees. “Our goal is for our business to be one big family. And to tear down the perceived exclusivity around craft beer through the approachable way we engage with customers.”

The Mad Yank Brewery banks with Starling

Tools to streamline your business

One of Larissa’s tips for running a business is to stay on top of admin from the start. This includes looking after your finances.

“The reason we chose Starling was threefold. Some of the people we do business with were raving about Starling. Then with the lockdown, we couldn’t go to a bank branch. We also didn’t want to pay monthly fees,” she says. In March 2020, the couple applied for a Starling business account, which has no monthly fees.

Another element of Starling she appreciates is its low carbon footprint. Starling has no branches and its debit cards are mostly made from recycled plastic.

Larissa says: “We want to keep our impact on the environment as small as we can. The labels we use are printed on paper and recyclable, not plastic, and we take our spent grain to the local farm for animal feed so it’s not wasted.”

Larissa and Grant use organic hops and malts when available, and plan to maintain their commitment to minimising their environmental impact as the brewery grows.

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