herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Brewing up a storm

Since establishing the Rye River Company in 2013, Niall Phelan, Alan Wolfe and Tom Cronin have been on quite a journey

Fittingly, it all started over a pint. One evening, Niall, Alan and Tom were in their local enjoying a pint and a chat. By the end of the evening they had their business plan drawn up on the back of a beer mat. And the Rye River Brewing Company was born.

Two years later, the company employs approximately 50 people and exports their own brand of small brew beers, McGargles, to 14 countries.

"We are trying to do things a little bit differently," enthuses Niall.

He's not joking. The Kildare brewing company won the contract to distribute Dutch premium lager Bavaria last September by pure persistence.

"My business partner, Alan, can be described as nothing short of stubborn," laughs Niall. "He rang the Holland-located export manager for Bavaria two or three times a week for about four months until he eventually agreed to meet him.

"When he met us, his opening words were 'I'm only here to stop that guy from calling me'."

Strong words, but the small brewing company secured the deal. According to Niall that partnership has opened up so many doors for the two-year old company.

"The Bavaria contract has been massive for us in the sense that it has enabled our company to develop into a brand that is recognisable both at home and abroad."

Quickly into my conversation with Niall, I realise that he is not a man to rest on his laurels. After securing the Bavaria contract, the three co-founders went after another partnership - this time with the GAA.

"A lot of alcohol companies talk about responsible drinking but we wanted to put our money where our mouth is," says the entrepreneur. "So we approached the GAA about an idea we had for a partnership between them and Bavaria 0.0%. The GAA liked the idea which was brilliant."

But is non-alcoholic beer something Irish people are interested in? Niall says yes.

"Bavaria 0.0% is probably one of the best tasting non-alcoholic beers on the market and the consumers are in agreement. We are selling two and a half times more Bavaria 0.0% than we originally intended."

Awarding success

Having garnered such success quickly it's no surprise the Rye River Brewing Company are scooping up award after award. While Niall admits it's nice, he's quick to point out that that's not what motivates him and his team.

"I think the great thing about our company is that the atmosphere is completely different to anywhere else I've worked. It's very relaxed and we try and encourage everyone to be themselves.

"Don't get me wrong, we expect everyone to work hard but to enjoy themselves at the same time. Work is about creating an environment to live in rather than working just to earn some cash."

Putting their money where their mouth is once again, the three entrepreneurs share 10 per cent of their profits with their team.

"We feel that as the business grows everyone should benefit," enthuses Niall.

"That is something we implemented when we set up the business. Back then we shared five per cent with our employees but as our cash position improved we increased it to 10. Our intent is that as our company continues to grow, we can continue to increase this share. There's a very strong team of people working in our brewery and that's something we are very aware of."

So what's next for the Rye River Brewing Company? Niall says that only time will tell but I feel we will be hearing a lot more about this brewing company in the not too distant future.

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