After dreaming about starting a brewery, Brendan Moore does just that. He learnt the art of the master brewer, and some hard lessons, along the way as he recalls…
“The Iceni Brewery [in Norfolk] started as a 64 cask brewery producing beer to go into pubs, which is what we did for 15 years. We’d got very bad business advice at the start – just to make more, to make as much as possible, and to sell it as widely as possible. That’s probably the worst advice we ever had.
When you’re brewing for stock [without being sure of demand] you have all sorts of problems. And when you employ people they want to work 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year so you tend to make beer because you have the staff to do so. That’s the wrong motivation and, as times goes on, you’re always trying to sell your worst beer. You have to shift the old stuff, or the beer that’s not selling very well, first. Your best beer – the beer people want – is sitting there waiting to get old!”
Scaling up was also taking Brendan away from the thing he loved – supplying beer that was brewed with love to people who loved the beer he brewed. And it wasn’t just the pressure to expand that was to take the business in a different direction, as Brendan recalls…
“Prices kept falling back until they were the same as the day we started, and all the time costs had gone up, so now we don’t go into pubs. We moved into bottled beers and concentrated on supplying equipment to other breweries wanting to start up. “
I wondered what Brendan had learnt from that period in the Iceni Brewery’s history?
“What attracts people to start small businesses is that it’s an opportunity for them to be themselves. What you sell in a small business is yourself, and you hope people around you will want to support you. In our case, we didn’t have products people could buy from us; they couldn’t help the business directly. Our salvation was opening up to sell direct to the public; we then discovered how much people did want to support us.”
To find out where Brendan has now got to on his brewing journey, follow this ‘Enterprise Essentials’ blog.