Liam Tutty is the founder of Dead Centre Brewing in Athlone which opened in February 2019. Liam participated in the IBYE (Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneurs) programme which we facilitate for the Local Enterprise Office.
Hi, my name is Liam Tuttyy. I own and operate Dead Centre Brewing here in Athlone in County Westmeath. We started a craft brewery here about a year ago, but we’re far more than that. We have a full seven -day publicans license. If I wander back this way, you can see the bar through the glass there and we have a pizza kitchen and then we have a five hectolitre brewery with a 10 hectolitre fermentation capacity here in Athlone. Craft breweries are a dime a dozen in this country, at the moment. The thing that we’re doing different, is the bar and the kitchen and as well as that, the brewery itself is kinda standout. It’s a very pretty piece of equipment and the fact that we’re already working with Tourism Ireland, Failte Ireland and getting as many people into the brewery and experiencing the beers as possible. Last night we actually won, I’m really thrilled about this, we won best Gastropub in County Westmeath. We’ve been trading for 11 months. It’s a big achievement. So, we do things differently. We’re not just making beer, we’re really taking things up a notch, we are trying to anyway.
How many years have you been in business now?
How long have we been in business? This is a tough one, because I started Dead Centre Brewing as a contract brand. We had been brewing technically since the summer of 2017 when we rented space from Saint Mel’s Brewing Company in Longford and released our first beer, Marooned IPA and we’ve
been open here as I said, we celebrate our first birthday this month. So February, so we have been open a year at this point.
What course did you participate in with us?
I was lucky enough to actually win best business idea at IBYE or whatever you want to call it, Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur a couple of years ago and in my preparation for that, I did the IBYE course with the Entrepreneurs Academy and that really helped myself prepare for that
competition, which really paid off for us.
At what point in your business development did you do this course?
At the time, the business was an idea and we had actually, just literally, taken it out of the phase of being just a simple brewery idea. We were lucky enough to work with the Local Enterprise Office really close in Westmeath, they were brilliant. I cannot recommend them highly enough and what became
clear from our feasibility study, the market was crowded, and shelf space was tight. It was really difficult to carve out a little bit of room for yourself in the craft beer market. So, we decided to do things differently. As I said full bar, seven -day license, kitchen, tours here at the brewery and I’m taking a different direction to a lot of the other breweries in the country.
Did you already have your current business idea when you started the programme with us or did we help you to form or strengthen it?
When I started the course with the Entrepreneurs Academy, I did already have the idea, but it’s been in flux ever since, it’s been an odd one and we’ve been at the point when I did it. I’d probably been 18 months in planning and a lot of that seemed to not just be thrown out, but certainly adjusted, amended, fine-tuned, is probably the right word for it. So I had the idea, but it wasn’t exactly where I needed to be in my opinion.
Can you remember how you felt before the course?
Probably the same way I feel most of the time just kinda daunted and it’s a really, really big undertaking to do. What we’re doing here in Athlone or to do it anywhere for that matter. But we have built a brew pub, a gastropub outside of an major urban area. Technically Athlone qualifies as a rural area, so it was daunting before I did the course and a little bit less so afterwards but still a bit daunting.
How did you feel after the course?
After the course, I felt like we really tied things down a bit. I think that we had time to be a little bit more fine-tuned on how we were doing things and not just how we’re doing things, but the things that we were doing because we’ve decided to take things in a complete different direction to a majority of other breweries, not every other brewery, but certainly a majority of other breweries in the country. I think that’s what makes us unique. What makes us different and why people keep coming back. And people that do visit once, love to visit.
We aim to help you build the skills, confidence and network to be successful. Was that your experience?
The network I built out of it absolutely, you can see that it’s been strong since. People that I met on it, I still deal with fairly regularly. Confidence? Absolutely, I wasn’t confident in the idea that I had probably because craft brewing for me is a passion. But you can’t let your heart rule your head when it comes to business and I really feel like I was possibly trying to shoe horn the business into existence, when technically the business as it stood, wasn’t going to work. I think that really came to light after the course with the Entrepreneurs Academy, to see okay, so A doesn’t work, does A plus B work? Does A plus B, plus C work or does A not work? We just focus on B and it was really good. It was a good lateral thinking exercise and actually making yourself see what is viable here.
How many people are on the team now?
At the time when I did the course, it was just me and even though I wasn’t pulling a wage from it, it was the best idea application. We won best idea, but what I do love is that we came out of that course and entered best business idea in Westmeath and won it and the following year the final, the County final for Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur in Westmeath was held in the premises here. So, it just goes to show that an idea that’s been well researched and well thought out and attacked with a lot of passion will come to fruition and will actually turn into something bricks and mortar. That was a change from running a side hustle basically with zero employees to taking on … we’re currently at about 10 employees here in Athlone, which still kind of frightens the hell of me to say, to be perfectly honest with you.
What are you most proud of in your business, so far?
To be honest with you, there’s a lot of things and it’s a graft. It is not easy work at all. These are just constantly 80 -hour weeks, again and again and again and it just keeps on going. What I’m proudest about? I have to say recognition is good. I’m not normally one for awards because I don’t understand how people can hang their hat on something that somebody else judges them on, but it was nice to win at IBYE. It was really nice to win at the Irish Pub Awards this year, it was great to win at the restaurant awards this year and I I think I’m just proud of the team. The team here are strong. They’re really good. They love what they do and that shows in everything that they do. The team is what I’m proudest of. It’s been difficult and they’ve come through really really well. I’m very proud of them.
What’s the greatest challenge you have faced?
That’s such a weird question to come right after the last one, it’s probably the team as well. Managing people is not easy and it’s a time sponge. It takes up a lot of the time that you really wish you could put into something else in the brewery. But at the same time, I’m not trying to build a staff here. I’m trying to build a family and I really do want people to be tight knit and close and when staff are unhappy, which is going to happen, that’s the nature of the game, it makes it difficult. People management has been tricky.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
This is a strange one, because I say it and I genuinely mean it a lot of the time. People will say, would I do it all again? Honestly, they’re are days when it really gets on top of you. I have a 16 month-old baby at home who I see far too little and I’m pulled between all the different departments. I think that will be the thing I need to stop doing. I’ve employed really, really good people who really know what they’re doing and all I tend to do, is put my nose in, so I would say, absolutely drive, drive, drive and you have to know every area of your business – 100% be involved. But when there’s no need for you anymore, graciously bow out, allow the staff to do what they do best and leave them to it. That will be my advice.
For more information:http://deadcentrebrewing.com/