JOE’s Start Up Diary, Week 8 – 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.
"Hope the experimental turbo beer doesn't kill anyone!"
So there it was, a last minute text from Richard, our consulting brewer. I was about to tap our new Mont Wit Bier 'Lightening Wit' inside Dicey's, packed full of people, when this message came through. We had handcrafted it specifically for the Wild Atlantic Craft Beer Festival inside 5-days from start to finish (hence 'lightening') to have something on tap to support our bottles of Mont Bitter Blonde.
Richard was of course referring to the volatile nature of the beer, after it has been 'force carbonated' in a 20-litre Corny keg, to speed up the conditioning process to meet the deadline. It had also just endured a three-hour journey in my rickety old Jeep, bouncing and rolling across Ireland. So I balked. I decided that at this stage of our startup brewery I couldn't take the risk of a brew 'fail'.
So I put the keg back in the Jeep and escorted it home to the Wicklow Mountains. The last time a vehicle had a payload this volatile heading to the Manor Kilbride, John Gormley (remember him?!) instructed the Irish Army to blow it up in army artillery range up the road.
When I got there, my wife had invited her mother, her uncle Billy, and a couple of aunts around. Billy was keen to try some of our beer. So without hesitation I set up the keg, and poured him our first Lightening Wit to see the light of day. He loved it. So did everyone else. I was relieved, but not for the reasons great uncle Billy thought! Mont Lightening Wit will be in our regular line up now.
After the buzz of last week up in Co. Donegal, this week was always going to be a bit 'softer'. In fact, as we await our brewery conversion planning permission in order to get into full production, we are focusing on getting all our other 'ducks in a row'.
Our new batch of Pils Lager is still conditioning (lager styles generally take about 8-12 weeks to craft), so Richard & I are hoping the tweaks made with the hop profile, fresh Czech yeast, and reducing the IBU to better suit our mountain water will do the trick. It should be ready to carbonate and bottle next week; fingers crossed!
I also spent last week refining our Mont branding with our design agency, Huguenot. On the drive back from Ballyshannon, I kept playing over and over in my head what I saw when I looked at our beer in the fridge behind the bar, and in the hands of Dicey's customers.
Something wasn't quite right; too dark? Too rigid? Too flat? All angles were questioned, and between Rory (our designer) and myself, we have taken on board everyone's feedback and made a few adjustments.
I predict the Mont you see now during test phase will look very different by the time we launch officially. So watch this space…
Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter, @ManorBrewingCo, for behind-the-scenes updates.
Yours in craft,