Hope Beer share their Story

What is Hope Beer?

Hope Beer is a range of premium craft beers brewed at Howth Junction, Dublin 5. We are the only microbrewery in Fingal and one of only a handful in Dublin.

The Hope story started out at the end of 2015 with a core range of three beers brewed under contract, a plan to build a brewery and a dream to develop a first-class company.

Hope is owned by a group of old school-friends with a passion for beer and business.

What started out as a series of late-night kitchen table discussions is now an award-winning brewery with a rapidly expanding range of beers. Although Hope is our main brand, each beer has its own distinct name, story and taste experience

How did your ‘start-up’ journey begin?

Hope is owned by a group of old school-friends, some of us married! We had spent several years living abroad, and had witnessed first-hand the micro-brewing phenomenon in Holland, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. On returning to Ireland, the idea for a microbrewery on Dublin’s Northside had been tossed around for several years, usually over a few beers late at night!

One of the gang had taken the step to build a new brewery in Amsterdam which turned a lot of the thinking into reality. We then decided to do a detailed feasibility study with the help of Fingal LEO for the Irish market and were convinced we could build a strong craft beer business

What skill sets do you both bring to the company?

Thanks to our youthful head brewer and assistant brewer, the average age of our team of 5 is 42! The average age of the management team is considerably higher so we bring a huge amount of life skills to the table in the first instance.

Wim de Jongh has extensive business management experience and has run businesses in Holland, Germany and Switzerland. He looks after General Management, Accounts and Planning.

Des McSwiggan is our top sales asset, with a skillset honed over many years in the bar business, financial services and property investment.

Jeanne Mahony has extensive European marketing experience and looks after Key Account Sales and Marketing.

The most important members of the team – Mark Nixon and Martyn Dunne – are responsible for producing our beer. Mark is recognised by his peers as one of the leading brewers in Ireland.

Tell us about your unique brand name – where did ‘Hopebeer come from?

During the many discussions about whether we would invest in this business and subsequently in the planning stage, there was a great deal of “Hope” built in to the equation! It was also at a time (2015) when Ireland was finally back on track and people were hoping to but the dark days of the recession behind them. But most importantly it is a sentiment that resonates with all of us very strongly.

What makes Hope Beer different to what’s already on the market?

We have selected beer variants for our core range that are not very common on the Irish market. These beers are linked very strongly to food pairings and each of the beer labels has food pairing suggestions as well as a story about the beer name. We have really focussed on the restaurant segment as a key route to market.

Our core range beers have very layered branding, using unusual names (e.g. Grunt, Passifyoucan) linked to stories embedded in the local culture.

Hope Beer is a Dublin beer, one of very few and the only one in Fingal. We hope to tap into the marked trend to “source local” for food and drink produce.

Tell us about the Food Academy Start Programme with SuperValu, Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Office?

Food Academy helped us with many aspects of our business: pricing, selling to retail, labelling, packaging, HACCP, etc. It prepared us for selling in to Supervalu and really into any retail environment. Each of the modules on the programme was presented by an expert in their area so we got excellent information. It is also an excellent networking opportunity as you go through the programme with other start-ups with the same issues – sharing of knowledge with per businesses was extremely useful.

What are your own ‘Top Tips’ for new start-ups?

  • Talk to everyone! Get advice from as many people as possible!

  • If you are in Food/Drink, join Dublin Food Chain.

  • Do proper market research.

  • Engage with your local LEO – we have had fantastic support from Fingal LEO, not just in terms of grant aid but also through attending excellent courses and getting great advice. They have seen it all before!

  • Make a detailed business plan but don’t be afraid to deviate from it.

  • Set detailed goals (short-, medium- and long-term)

  • Don’t be afraid to stick to your guns, e.g. if a customer is not paying you don’t be afraid to withhold supply even if it is an important account.

  • Allow your personality to permeate the business. Especially in the craft food and drink space, customers will love the unique identity of your team. Rather than following formulas, allow this unique voice in your social media.

Do you have any plans to expand Hope Beer (at home or abroad)?

We have plans to export but this will be a slow process as we still have a great deal of development in our home market. We have targeted some key European markets that we would like to export and will be doing this in conjunction with Bord Bia.

We have plans to expand the brewery from its current capacity and this is likely to happen in 2018.

What can your customers expect in the year ahead?

We are very excited about our new beers: We will be adding a new lager to our core range (the Underdog) in June and we have just launched our new Summer Session IPA. The Summer Session is our first seasonal beer and we will be bringing it out every summer with a different recipe every year. We also plan to have two new Limited Edition Beers in July.

We are also involved in some very exciting events: Bloom in the Park, Flavours of Fingal, the Big Grill and we have recently started a collaboration with the Kemp Gallery in Dublin that will be running a series of exhibitions sponsored by Hope.

What has your experience been of the National Enterprise Awards?

Our involvement in the Fingal Enterprise Award was fantastic. The application process is quite onerous but we have found it extremely useful for refining our strategy and forcing us to think through our goals. Having won the award, we have got great (social) media coverage and something to tell our customers!