New innovator: Metalman Brewing

Gráinne Walsh of Metalman Brewing: “We need to stay focused for now on one main product.”

Gráinne Walsh of Metalman Brewing: “We need to stay focused for now on one main product.”

Mon, Sep 2, 2013, 01:00

In 2010 Gráinne Walsh was a front-line IT manager with Amazon. com. It was an exciting and fast-paced working environment and, while Walsh was happy there, a little voice kept telling her that after 15 years in the tech sector it was time for a change. She began kicking ideas around and the following year left Amazon to set up a craft brewery in her native Waterford.

To get things moving, Metalman Brewing (named after a navigational aid figure erected on the Waterford coast in 1823) subcontracted the production of its first product, Metalman Pale Ale. However, it was always Walsh’s intention to set up her own production facilities.

She spent a year building up a customer base and sourcing brewing equipment before approaching Waterford City Enterprise Board (WCEB) for a priming grant to open her microbrewery. A year on and the fledgling operation is already running out of space, as Walsh says demand for the products has exceeded expectations; and the company was shortlisted recently for the InterTrade seedcorn award.

‘The usual suspects’
“Myself and my partner, Tim, have always had an interest in beer and found it frustrating that in Ireland it was always a case of ‘line up the usual suspects’ when you went into a bar. In the UK and elsewhere you had all the big names but also loads of options from smaller producers,” she says.

Metalman Pale Ale is the company’s year-round product. It also produces seasonal products that sell under the Chameleon brand. These include Chameleon Ginger, launched in summer 2012, and Chameleon Equinox, launched in March 2013. Recently launched are Metalman’s latest seasonal tipple, Sahara, a dry amber lager made with Japanese hops; and Windjammer, made with New Zealand hops.

The company employs four people and Walsh estimates it has taken an investment of about €150,000, including the WCEB funding, to get the project to its current stage. Half the WCEB funding must be repaid after three years.

“We have begun to make a little money and have over 50 customers,” Walsh says. “We only supply draught at the moment but are looking at bottles and cans for the future. We are doing an interim expansion to get us through to next year but ideally we’d like to move into the city where we could open a visitors’ centre.

“In a small brewery, as soon as you commit to producing more than one product full-time the schedules get complicated, as it takes around three weeks for the beer to mature. We need to stay focused for now on one main product, with short runs of seasonal options, to ensure consistency of quality. We will review this strategy when we get more capacity.”