JOE’s Start Up Diary, Week 7 – 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.
“No strangers here; just friends we haven’t met yet”
I’m writing this week’s diary looking out to the wild Atlantic Ocean, past the surfers fighting the summer storm swell crashing onto Bundoran beach in Co. Donegal. The head is a little vague this morning, thanks to the lingering effects of the Wild Atlantic Craft Beer Festival; the inaugural craft beer event hosted by the Donegal Brewing Company and Dicey Reilly’s in Ballyshannon over the August bank holiday weekend.
I was there as an invited guest brewer, an avid supporter of the craft beer industry, and as the owner of a start-up business wanting to soak up as much information, insight, and experiences as possible to improve our product. I was also there to see people’s reactions to tasting our Mont™ beer for the very first time in public.
The weekend started like every other day in the life of a start-up business; a mish-mash of multitasking that you don’t find in the job descriptions working inside big corporations. On Saturday morning, I found myself loading software on our sales reps new laptop (IT Dept.), printing out invoices for some customer orders (Finance Dept.), and loading the Jeep with beer and equipment for the journey north (Operations + Logistics).
After driving the N3 in atrocious weather for three hours, I finally arrived in Ballyshannon, and entered Dicey Reilly’s. I was immediately charmed by the relaxed nature of the Saturday afternoon crowd, the endearing rhythm of live Trad music in the corner, and the warm welcome extended by the owners, Brendan & Sinead O’Reilly, and festival organisers. I had arrived in a happy place...
After I settled in, met the bar staff, including head barman Patrick, and put our Mont™ Bitter Blonde in their fridges behind the bar, I introduced myself to the other guest brewers present. After about ten minutes talking to Barry Nugent from Pokertree Brewing Co., Gordon Fallis from Inishmacsaint Brewing Company, and Sean Monaghan from Tall Story Media, it dawned on me in this industry there are no strangers here; just friends we haven’t met yet.
We spent the evening chatting, sharing, tasting, comparing, and most of all laughing as they shared their individual stories, brewing anecdotes and experiences. Around midnight, seated in the middle of Diceys, I looked up from our table of brewers and noticed how large the crowd had got in the last few hours since I last sat down (Gordon & I were now seated on beer kegs, such was the demand for seating).
The public were all enjoying different versions of forty or so craft beers on offer. The quality of beers at the festival was impressive. The star of the show for me was the 8 Degrees ‘Full Irish’ IPA served through a Randall. In the midst of it all though, I kept catching myself glancing back at the fridge behind the bar. There on the bottom shelf, was a beer I had never seen in a bar in Ireland before. And for the very first time, I said to myself, staring at the Mont™ beer, ‘Hey! That’s mine!’
— Manor Brewing Co. (@ManorBrewingCo) August 3, 2014
I hope to see you back here next week with my report from the Dame Lame street party in Dublin, as our journey to bring Mont™ beer to market continues with more product test tastings. Please continue to follow us on Twitter @ManorBrewingCo for behind-the-scenes updates.
Yours in craft,