Posted on Monday 21 January 2019 by Ulster Business
What does your company do and what role do you play?
Bullhouse Brewing Company is a modern microbrewery, specialising in hop forward, full-flavoured beers. I’m the owner and head brewer.
How did the business start and how has it grown?
It really began on a trip to the US with my brother in 2011, and a visit to Green Flash Brewing Co in particular. After that I began making beer at home.
What is your background?
I have a degree in sports biomedicine and nutrition. I then came home from Cardiff and got a job with HMC Global, on a contract for Invest NI doing FDI sales. I helped bring TP ICAP to Belfast, creating 300 jobs. My appetite for the brewing business got the better of me, so I moved to Canyon Europe in Mallusk where I had more flexible hours. There, I managed £5m of accounts across six continents, from SMEs to multi-nationals. I left my ‘day job’ in September 2017.
What do you do differently from your competition and what are your strengths?
For many years, the multi-nationals tried to homogenise and commoditise beer. We are free to create very flavourful beers. We also collaborate with our direct competitors to combine knowledge. I like to think our strength is in the quality of our beer. We’re ranked in the top 100 breweries in the UK (out of 2,000+) on the top beer review site.
Who are your main customers?
Our target demographic are people who really love beer. In terms of our customers, in NI we self-distribute to independent bars, restaurants and off-licences and we also distribute to Scotland and supply festivals elsewhere in GB and across Europe.
Do you have a target in mind in terms of where you want the business to grow?
When you look at what’s happening in the US and the UK and Ireland, you get a glimpse at the future. I see growth in the own-premise model as the way forward. It gives the brewery control and unprecedented insight, as well as the financial freedom to deliberately not cater to everyone.
What challenges have you faced?
The licensing legislation and access to market are the headline challenges. Because pub licenses have a monetary value, multi-national brewers are able to tie up the market. It’s bad for the consumer and it’s bad for local brewers as our local market is the hardest to access. We also can’t sell directly to our customers, which makes the on-premise model all but unattainable without legislative change.
Who most inspires you?
In the beer business it has to be Ken Grossman and Sam Calagione. Their respective books are great business books. I’d like to say I’m inspired by the ethos of the brewing community, the spirit of which I’ve not seen in any other industry.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
Ideally with an on-premise model where we can sell 95% of our beer at the brewery.