Inside Track Q&A: Tom Dalton, co-founder, Dungarvan Brewing Company
Tapping into growing demand for craft beer
Tom Dalton of Dungarvan Brewing Company. The SME produces guaranteed Irish bottle-conditioned beer, which is 100 per cent natural
Founded in 2009, this Waterford-based craft brewery now employs six people.
What is special about your business?
It was started from a passion – specifically my brother-in-law’s passion for beer, which he passed on to me! We could see the potential of going back to the old tradition of a brewery in every town and the four of us who started the business had the right mix of skills and experience to get it off the ground.
We work really well together, have a common vision and a great team where everyone is passionate about the brewery and the beers we brew. We make three beers: Helvick Gold, a blonde ale with citrus notes; Copper Coast, a red ale with caramel/fruity tones; and Black Rock Irish stout, which has a slight coffee flavour.
What sets your products apart in your sector?
We are the only brewery producing a guaranteed Irish bottle-conditioned beer. We don’t strip anything out, so we don’t have to add anything in. Our products are 100 per cent natural.
People thought we were mad launching a range of bottle-conditioned and cask-conditioned beers in the Irish market where there wasn’t a tradition of real ale.
It was a bit unheard of here at the time as the craft sector was only starting to creep into the market. We stuck to our original philosophy though, and all the beers we produce are naturally fermented and unfiltered, whether in bottle, cask or keg form.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Trying to keep up with demand. The craft beer scene has exploded in Ireland over the last three years and there is a huge demand for our beers. Trying to put the structures in place to expand to meet this demand without overstretching ourselves has been a key challenge as we want to grow organically.
What has been your biggest success?
Still being married four years later! We are a family unit and I work with my wife and my brother-in-law on a daily basis. The fact that we are all still friends this far down the line is a great achievement.
What key piece of advice would you give to someone starting a business?
Start by doing something that you really enjoy in an industry that you are interested in. This is what will get you through the hard times. Also, when planning your business, double the amount of time you think everything is going to take.
Who do you admire most in business and why?
Looking to my own locality, I really admire what the Queally family have achieved with Dawn meats and their other businesses. What started out as a small family company has grown into a large employer and investor in the area.
What two things could the Government do to help SMEs in the current environment?
I would like to see reduced PAYE rates for smaller companies, particularly in the start-up and growth years. Also, it would be nice to see artisan Irish food and drink companies given the same level of promotion and publicity as the big name brands.
The big names are always pushed out there and overshadow the smaller companies. It’s time we celebrated the diversity of Irish food and drink products.
In your experience are the banks lending to SMEs currently?
They are, but slowly. In our experience the decision process can be a very long drawn out affair that can hold a business back considerably.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
Time management is my biggest problem and the biggest mistake I’ve made is investing too much time in micro-managing and losing sight of the bigger picture.
What is the most frustrating part of running a small business?
For me it’s been waiting on financial decisions and not being able to expand at the same rate as the business is growing.
What’s your business worth and would you sell it?
That depends who you ask but it’s too dynamic and exciting at the moment to consider selling. It’s a good place to be.
I n conversation with Olive