Here at Kelly’s Mountain Brew it’s hard to believe we are producing our Irish craft beer for just over a year now. Well technically it’s a lot longer if you take in to account the planning and building of our brewery but realistically it’s just over a year since we sold our very first bottle of Justice Pale Ale.
We have had a lot of positive support since we sold that very first beer and looking back one thing I can safely say is never underestimate the support of your local community, local businesses, enterprise board and fellow brewers because without it we wouldn’t have got this far or met so many great people willing to give us so much helpful advice.
That first year has flown by and even in the space of a year we have seen a lot of changes in the Irish craft beer market. The interest in craft beer and the number of micro breweries coming on stream has exploded. This time last year approaching a pub or restaurant to convince someone of the merits of a craft beer tap was a tough sell at times. One year on I find when your trying to get your craft beer into an establishment those initial conversations are certainly a lot easier because of the interest being generated in the sector. The fact that so many business owners are starting to get their head around the fact that many of their customers are seeking an alternative to the mainstream beers certainly helps. In addition with Ireland being such a tourist focused economy it’s hard to go anywhere without bumping into visitors from abroad many of whom have mentioned to me that have no interest in beer they can find in their home country as they want to try local products as much as possible.
So what exactly did we achieve in our first year?
Well it officially all started for Kelly’s Mountain Brew on July 25th 2014 when we sold 5 cases of our Justice Pale Ale to our very first customer which was our local Supervalu in Clane.
After a lot of hard work focusing on our local market we soon obtained an export licence and started exporting our Irish Craft Beer to Russia which was soon followed by Luxembourg and you can now find our beer in parts of Belgium and Germany.
We started with one beer our Justice Pale Ale and expanded our product range to include our Revolution Red Ale and our Revenge Ruby Porter. In February we attended our very first competition which was the Alltech International Craft Beer Cup 2015 and incredibly we were one of only a handful of Irish breweries to scoop a medal. After only 6 months in production our Revenge Ruby Porter is now an award winning Irish craft beer something we are very proud of.
We also competed against 31 other businesses as the Kildare representative at the National Enterprise Awards 2015 and although we didn’t win for a small start up just to be nominated and compete against some of the more established businesses was no small achievement.
In June we were invited to attend Expo Milano 2015 in conjuction with Bord Bia and Origin Green Ireland which was a great experience for us.
We were also selected to put our craft beers through the Supervalu Food Academy a really great initiative from Supervalu that offers marketing and retail advice to small local producers so keep an eye out for us at a Supervalu near you.
What does the next year hold for Kelly’s Mountain Brew…..
Having only one fermentation tank has been holding us back as we actually can’t make enough craft beer to satisfy demand at the moment and we can’t even expand our product range. Luckily we have taken the plunge and just bought a second fermentation tank which we hope to have installed later this month. Although when I say tank that’s not entirely true, we have actually bought the stainless steel and Ronan and Joe will be building the tank on site in the brewery. One advantage of having a highly qualified engineer and master brewer in the company is the ability to custom design and build the equipment to your own specifications rather than just buying something off the shelf and hoping it will do the job.
We have also just bought a more automated labeling machine. Much as we enjoyed spending hours and hours hand labeling and writing the date on every bottle it has just become too time consuming as the business has grown so we decided to invest in a little automated help. You never know we might still hand label a few from to time to time for old times sake.
We will be attending the ploughing championship for the first time which we are looking forward to but we may have a job on our hands keeping Ronan behind the bar having grown up on a farm he fancies his chances in the 3 Furrow Conventional Match Plough Class. (I will put my hand up I’m a city boy and that’s lost on me but Ronan assures me it’s real!!)
The plans are in place to expand our product range and grow our domestic and export markets once we have our second fermentation tank up and running. We have the plans and the customers the only thing we lacked was the brewing capacity but thankfully that is about to change.
To have that first year under our belt is no small achievement but the hard work never stops. The hours are long and even when your not in work….your in work, switching off can be hard to do. For those of you in the craft beer business you know what I mean and for those of you thinking about it getting into it you better love what you are doing, be passionate about what you are doing and be prepared to work hard to get where you want to be. Personally we love making great craft beer here at Kelly’s Mountain Brew which certainly makes all the hard work seem a little less like hard work.
As I have said before if you keep drinking it we will keep making it.