Carlingford Brewing Company
After more than a decade working in accountancy and recruitment, Des Goldrick decided to set-up his own craft beer enterprise. Today, he’s brewing up a storm in his own business, as he takes us on a tour of the Carlingford Brewing Company in County Louth.
After starting Carlingford Brewing Company in 2015, Des Goldrick is already gaining a reputation for making high quality craft beers. His first beer, a Belgian blonde-style beer called ‘Tholsel Blonde’ was quickly followed by ‘Taaffe’s Red,’ ‘King John’s Stout’ and ‘Friary Pale Ale.’
With plans in place to recruit more distributors, target European and U.S. export markets and open-up a visitor centre, this start-up is aiming to put the North-East on the craft beer map.
Facts at A Glance
Local Enterprise Office Supports
Creating top quality craft beers to suit a wide range of palates
Feasibility grant and priming grant
Riverstown, Co. Louth
How did you get started in the brewing business?
It all started when I used to work in the bar trade while I was studying. I got to know the industry and I really liked it.
Over the years, I’ve been drawn to beers with more flavour, which led to me buying Irish craft beers as the breweries started to emerge. In the back of my head, I had the ambition to run my own brewery and produce my own beer. A beer that I could be proud of, that I would drink and I know other people would enjoy.
Carlingford Brewing Company started as an idea around three years ago; then I researched its viability and where I could get funding. To be honest, it wouldn’t have moved from being an idea if it wasn’t for the support from Local Enterprise Office Louth. They have been fantastic in giving me guidance, introducing me to people and of course the financial support.
What’s your role in the day-to-day running of the company?
I, more or less, look after everything - operations, sales, distribution and accounts (although we have just signed up with a few distributors who will help lighten my workload and help us get established outside of the local market).
The brewing is shared between myself and a retired headmaster who has a long background in home brewing. I also have casual support when I need it, particularly for bottling and packaging. I’m currently using a freelancer for marketing.
What did you do before you started your own brewery?
My background in business started when I was working in the pub trade; I was training to be an accountant, so I helped them with their books and got an understanding of the financial challenges of running a bar. After a stint in accountancy, I moved into recruitment with one of the biggest worldwide agencies.
I fell in love with Carlingford during a visit with my partner (who’s now my wife), back in 2006. Driving home we had the crazy idea of moving there, even though it wasn’t very practical, given we both worked in Dublin.
Fast forward three years and my wife gets a job in the secondary school on the Cooley Peninsula. Let’s just say I didn’t need too much convincing, so we moved there in 2010.
After a couple of years of commuting, I set up my own recruitment business. It flourished. The combination of financial acumen, fantastic sales success through recruitment and overcoming the challenges of setting up one business, gave me the confidence to set up a craft brewery.
Tell us about your plans for organising tours of the brewery for tourists?
The plans for the taproom and tours are in their infancy; we’ve just held our first few tours, for which we received fantastic reviews.
The response to this business development has been phenomenal. To be honest, I always planned to offer tours of the brewery. I feel there is a gap in the market for more visitor experiences around Carlingford and the Cooley Peninsula. Although there are over 60 breweries now in Ireland, only a handful are offering what we do.
The plan is to develop the tours along a number of strands, for example, international tourism as part of Ancient East and national tourism through active tourists. We’ll also target the wedding market through stags and hens brewing their own branded beer and the corporate market through team building exercises – staff will create a beer which will be delivered to their office when it is completed.
We are restricted by the current laws in that we can’t sell beer in the taproom. However, a bill has been proposed for the Dáil to change that. That would be a complete game changer for me in how I could develop the taproom.
What was your first ‘break-through’ moment?
Once the test beers were completed, I set up a focus group to gauge opinions on the beer, the brand and the marketing.
I had 12 people in the group from a wide age range (from 22 to 55), from novices to craft beer experts and a 50/50 split of men and women.
When I received very positive feedback from the group unanimously saying the beer was delicious and the brand and marketing were brilliant, I knew I was on to something.
Tell us how your Local Enterprise Office (LEO) has supported your business so far?
My Local Enterprise Office (LEO) in Louth was a huge support.
I initially received a feasibility grant which helped towards developing the recipe for our first beer along with getting it brewed and into the market.
This was crucial as it allowed us to feed back the results which gave LEO the confidence to invest in the business through a priming grant. Without either of these grants, I am certain the business would not have got off the ground.
The financial support aside it is hard to put into words the support Thomas McEvoy, Denise Belton and the rest of the team have given me and the project.
Anybody who has set up a business knows it can be a very vulnerable and lonely place at times. The support I received in this area from the Louth team has just been fantastic and it is something that has certainly helped me get through those difficult days.
As a new start-up, are you optimistic about the future?
Yes, I am very optimistic.
Internationally, we are in a time of political and social change and it’s difficult to measure how that may affect exports.
Equally, micro-breweries continue to open at a rapid rate in Ireland so that competition will increase.
As will the competition from macro breweries like Guinness and Heineken. But I do believe if you have a great product like we do and you manage the financial side well, you will be a success. Many businesses have set up and flourished in tougher times and I have no doubt we will be with them.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give someone starting up their own business?
My best piece of advice is: the sooner you accept it is not a “9 to 5” job, the easier it will be!
Des’ recipe for business success
…..Top Tips around attracting new customers
Quality, quality, quality.
When you are a small business trying to compete with the giants you need an advantage, being locally produced with a nice story will only get you so far.
If your product or service is below excellent, people will move on. There are plenty more offerings out there.
Our thanks to Des for taking part and if you’d like to find out more about Carlingford Brewing Company, please visit www.carlingfordbrewing.ie