How to Become a Beer Maker in Ireland?
Beer is probably the most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world. From major worldwide brands to micro and nanobreweries, the art of making the golden liquid is constantly developing. And if there is a country that has a special connection to beer and its variations, that is Ireland.
The making of beer in Ireland is mainly connected to the country’s largest and most famous factory – Guinness. Established 258 years ago by Arthur Guinness, the dark ale is now produced in over 50 countries, with over 850 million litters being sold worldwide. But there is space for everyone under the scarce sun of Ireland. The country is popular with is microbreweries and very often even pubs themselves manufacture their own brands.
So, if you’re considering opening a new chapter in life and most importantly – you like your beer – Ireland is a good place to turn your hobby into a profession. Here are the most important steps to open a brewery.
Finding the right buddies
Every beginning is hard, so it’s always helpful to use some good advice from others who have already walked in your shoes. The Irish brewpubs and microbreweries are a serious business supported by Beoir, an independent consumers’ group to help independent microbreweries. The organisation has members all across the country and quite often organises fundraising campaigns to support small and medium businesses. Join them as member and use the privileges.
There are two other organisations that can help you start by providing you with advice, free courses and useful connections. The Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland is a voluntary organisation of brewers making less than 30,000HL per annum, that helps its members get licenses for selling their product to tourists and other visitors.
The Irish Brewers Association (IBA) is the oldest branch organisation including both major and small manufacturers. Currently 85% of the beer sold in Ireland comes from a member of the IBA and the association can help you enter international markets if you wish, one day.
And last, but not least, it is also a good idea to maintain one-to-one contact by visiting some of the most successful craft breweries in the country and meet with their owners or simply get inspired by their achievements. A list of some of them can be found on the IBA website.
Opening a brewery isn’t cheap and if you want to succeed, serious investments and business skills are required.
For a start, you need to buy your brewing equipment. Currently in Ireland you can get a starting kit that will include everything for opening your place. A set for 200 litre models (there is also 500l, if you are thinking big) costs around €20,000 and you can add smaller models of 20 and 50 litres if you’d like to work more on your taste development. They go for about €1,000 -1,500.
You can get a cheaper deal ordering a full starting equipment from England - €13,000 for 400 litres settlement. Before you do, check with the supplier to see how much the transportation will cost and then decide.
Then of course, you need to think about the place. Finding a good location is essential for the success of the business. Ireland property’s market is on the high end, and you need to prepare between €15,000 and €20,000 a year for the rent. Don’t forget that there will be additional expenses with utilities such as electricity, water etc.
As with any new business, before you get the trust of your customers, you first need to gain the trust of the state. To get a manufacturer’s licence in Ireland (valid for brewers, cider manufacturers, distillers, rectifiers or compounders) you need to file an application form with the National Excise Licence Office and apply to the Revenue office. Additionally, you have to present to the tax authorities a legal registration of the name of your company, rent contract (or document for property ownership) for the place you’re planning to open as your business. The licence from the revenue office costs €500 per year and its due to be renewed every September. It is illegal to work without it.
The Grain and the Yeast
It’s all about the taste, and if you’re going to conquer the beer market, at least on a local level, you need to provide not only good taste, but also an experience. According to Evin O’Riordain, an Irish American who came to his parents’ home country to open a brewery, the best route is to keep the taste clean, strong and hop-forward. " American hops have a certain intensity. You use a very clean yeast and it becomes a platform for the hops”, O’Riordain advices.
There are several companies from which you can order your grains and other necessary ingredients. You can choose according to the colour, the required taste qualities, the country of origin and, of course, the price.
Finally – bottling and marketing. A bottling machine is rather expensive (around €70,000) and you can leave it to a later stage of development. According to O’Riordain, at the beginning all bottling can be done manually – labelling, cleaning, filling and capping. It takes time but saves money. He recommends investment in promotion campaigns to put the product on the market but argues that the advertising shouldn’t be too aggressive. Humour, good online presentation, involvement in the local community – these are the keys to put your brewery on the map.