Harry Neale and Jesse Wilson

The winning product

Enterprise success stories

Harry Neale and Jesse Wilson

First year students Harry Neale and Jesse Wilson have carried off the top prize in the AB InBev Best Beer Competition. As the name suggests, the student teams were tasked with creating a concept for a new beer that reflected the community and culture of their university as well as incorporating sustainability issues. The duo had to prepare an eight-minute presentation and a four-minute DVD showcasing their product. After being selected as one of the top eight UK teams out of around 130, they went on to  win the UK final, netting a €2000 prize.

Jesse explains

"I received an email in October of last year introducing the Best Beer Competition to me and it immediately struck me as an interesting project to embark on. The challenge of creating a beer concept that reflects the character of your University was intellectually stimulating throughout the duration of the competition.

Harry and I committed many hours to research around our concept to ensure the information we included in our Project Plan was accurate and paid attention to detail. We submitted our Project Plan on February 9th 2012, and we were unsure about what to expect as the outcome of our submission yet we were pleasantly surprised on receiving a congratulatory email two days later inviting us to the UK heat at the AB InBev UK Headquarters in Luton. This gave us approximately three weeks to prepare an eight-minute presentation and a four-minute DVD showcasing our product.

We took a ‘hands on approach’ to the task and filmed the DVD ourselves using a digital camera and manually edited the clips that constituted our DVD. Many hours practicing the presentation proved worthwhile as we presented clearly, and entirely from memory at the UK heat. The judges were impressed with our product proposal and we were announced the UK winners that evening, which made the journey back to Exeter feel considerably shorter!

With the Grand Final looming on April 3rd, we had ample time to enhance our presentation and film a new DVD, alongside making a mock-up of the bottle, some advertising posters and a draft pint glass.

The Grand Final was a significant step up, and we were slightly overwhelmed upon entering the presentation room to be met by 11 judges and several cameramen busy setting up equipment. We were the third team out of four to present, and I spent the duration of the first two presentations going through my script in my head. I think its fair to say we were both slightly nervous! However, these nerves subsided as we stepped up to present, and we confidently delivered our presentation and answered 15 minutes of judges’ questions effectively.

Following the presentations, the judges met to discuss the winner whilst us contestants sat enjoying lunch together, talking in a friendly manner, yet underneath all hoping to better each other in the results. We returned to the room and sat eagerly awaiting the announcement. We were overjoyed to be pronounced overall winners of the competition! Alongside more than £4000 we collected in prize money, we were able to donate an additional £1250 to charity, and both Harry and I subsequently secured a paid 10-week Summer Internship with AB InBev in the UK.

The entire competition helped me to develop disciplines that will be extremely useful to me in the coming years such as undertaking thorough research, putting a concise presentation together and delivering it confidently. We are thankful to the University of Exeter for helping fund some of the materials we needed for the Grand Final, and were pleased to come away winners as the only First Year students at either final".

Following this experience Jesse entered another competition hosted by Heineken entitled reinventing the draught beer experience. 

"The competition involved an online idea submission to the Ideas Brewery website. Six finalists were selected to attend a two-day workshop at their European headquarters in Amsterdam. 

The objective of the workshop was to improve your ideas as a result of talking with Heineken's experts on commercial, consumer, executional and technical aspects. We conducted some consumer research in some Amsterdam bars, talking with consumers about our concepts and incorporating some of their views on our ideas into our presentation preparation.

I pitched my idea to a jury of 6, including their CEO of global innovation and had about ten minutes of question answering. I was runner up overall, competing against finalists who were between 25-34yrs old and either on a Masters course or in full-time work so I was very proud of my achievement as a 19yr old undergraduate. "

Harry Neale added

"The Best Beer Competition will definitely go down a one of the main highlights of my first year at Exeter. Our initial entry was a bit of a stab in the dark, but we were fortunate enough to be selected as one of the top 8 UK teams, out of around 130.

There is no denying there was a lot of hard work involved, several late nights near to deadlines also meant missing socials and nights out however it all paid off for us. After winning the UK final (and €2000) it was far easier to stay motivated, as we knew we had a clear shot of winning the Grand Final in Belgium.

It was such a fantastic experience, one that rewarded more than just prize money as we have both managed to secure a 3-month summer internship with AB InBev as well. Even without the obvious benefits of winning, I would highly recommend this competition to anyone and everyone".