JOE’s Start Up Diary, Week 4 - Michael Cowan of the Manor Brewing Company 9 years ago

JOE’s Start Up Diary, Week 4 - Michael Cowan of the Manor Brewing Company

Each week here on JOE we’ll be bringing you the personal thoughts and tips from Irish entrepreneur Michael Cowan, founder & CEO of the Manor Brewing Company.

So the World Cup is over. However, Brazil is not far from my mind this week...


After all, it was a Brazilian who inspired me twenty years ago so start my own business, after a career with blue-chip food & drink multinationals. His name was Ricardo Semler, he was a true 'Maverick', and he ran the most unique & innovative company in his era by being true to his people, and to his vision.

As Semler once remarked, it's amazing how many people start a sentence with “the problem with that is”… and a focus on what can’t be done, believing they are giving sage advice. Why aren’t they focusing on the positives the plan or product? Why can’t they be more optimistic? The reason: as human beings, we are all pre-conditioned to spot weaknesses and flaws, and to avoid disaster.

So as the owner of an Irish startup as we recover from the (second) Great Recession, this aspect of human nature is actually quite a helpful thing. Although some critiques and nay-sayers aren’t often right (because their view of someone else’s business or product is often narrower than the owner’s), I’ve learnt to listen to them, because they force me to constantly calibrate what is good about my plan and more importantly, rethink what I need to do to make it better.

As a new brewery it is crucial for us to listen to feedback and criticism of our beer, especially in pilot test mode. Taste is indeed a powerful thing. Our future business success relies on observing people’s natural reactions and listening to their feedback, interpreting them, and rethinking our ingredients and brewing process to deliver a beer that will be enjoyed, even loved, by as many people as possible.


With that in mind, we bottled our first pilot brew in the Bell Tower last week. Richard & I bottled 100 bottles of beer on the Saturday, and are now looking for willing testers! I even tweeted an invitation on Saturday night, and within minutes (actually, possibly seconds) I had volunteers from all over the country throwing their willing hats in the ring!

A big shout out to The Headline (@57theheadline) craft beer pub in Dublin for even including their address to ensure our beer got to them. Hopefully by the time this diary entry goes ‘live’, we have arranged a tasting event with them. I'm really starting to appreciate how close-knit the Irish craft beer industry is.

The other lesson Semler taught me was honesty and integrity. So I can admit to our JOE readers (and our future customers, and even some competitors), we aren't 100% happy with our current brew right now. So we will brew away, tweaking and refining, until we get it right.


For me, I'd rather wait to launch a world class product than to rush to market with something that doesn't meet my vision, or satisfy Irish beer drinkers expectations.

See you back here next week for our 5th episode of our Start-Up Diary. In meantime, follow us on Twitter (@ManorBrewingCo) for more status updates.

Yours in craft,

Michael Cowan