Follow the leader: John Kearns, Priory Brewing

priorybrewingnew_main

In the latest of our series of interviews with business leaders about their journey so far and plans for future success, we speak to John Kearns, Chief Executive of Priory Brewing, based in Tallaght, Dublin.

Tallaght has been a strong home to food and drink manufacturing since the 1960s, with Urney Chocolates, Jacob’s Fruitfield, Cuisine de France, Gilbeys and C&C having bases in the town. There has been a move away from large-scale food and drink manufacturing industry in the sector locally and smaller producers are starting up and locating in Tallaght. The town is now home to several craft beer breweries, including Priory Brewing, brewed by Partas, which has a social enterprise ethos driving its organisation.

 

What is Priory Brewing’s elevator pitch?

“We’re producing a new, locally brewed, high-quality artisan beer, with a strong local identity and a real brewing tradition and heritage. Many people know The Priory in Tallaght village, which was once the archbishop’s palace. It’s an integral part of Ireland's rich monastic heritage. The monks were brewing there long before industry came to Tallaght in the 1960s.”

 

What was the key motivation and raison d’être behind your business?

“Partas was born in the 1980s as a response to high levels of national unemployment to train and support people to start their own businesses and grow self-employment across all sectors. We began with our premises in Tallaght village and now have a network of four enterprise centres in the greater Tallaght area, which have helped thousands of local people set up and grow their businesses. There’s a high volume of business ideas and entreprenurial spirit in Tallaght.

“Priory Brewing is part of our strategy to establish Tallaght as a craft food and drink hub in the region. It sits alongside The County Fare, our specialist coffee shop in Tallaght village, which is now in its second year and has a growing demand.

“When it came to beer, microbreweries were popping up everywhere – but in Tallaght, which is home to 110,000 citizens, there wasn’t one. The idea was to create a more positive image and provide a high-quality offering to the people of Tallaght and they’ve been responding incredibly positively.

“Both Priory Brewing and The County Fare are social enterprises, so all profits made are reinvested into Partas and in turn go to work to help other local businesses. So there is a real social as well as economic impact to our business.”

 

Looking back to the early stages of your business, would you do anything differently in terms of leadership?

“I hate to be the kind of person that says they didn’t do anything wrong, because it’s a sign that a leader is not reflective. But we have been quite careful and strategic in everything we’ve done.

“This is not one of those operations that had a huge capital budget attached to it and is in the process of rolling out a five-year plan – this is bootstrapped. We knew nothing about the brewing business so we had to get to know absolutely everything from scratch.

 

“Our businesses are changing the narrative from the often negative focus to what we know to be the reality: a strong entrepreneurial spirit, a strong history and a happy, productive place”

 

John Kearns, Chief Executive, Priory Brewing

 

“I’m surprised we didn’t make more mistakes. The only thing I would have changed – and which we have now changed – is that instead of calling it Tallaght’s craft beer, we called it Tallaght’s local beer from the outset.”

 

What motivates you and keeps you engaged to drive the business on?

“It’s about broadening Tallaght’s identity. Our mission statement focuses on making the area inclusive and helping it to thrive. Our businesses are changing the narrative from the often negative focus to what we know to be the reality: a strong entrepreneurial spirit, a strong history and a happy, productive place.”

 

What does achievement and success look like for your business?

“It’s about people in Tallaght and wider areas of County Dublin considering Priory as their favourite beer and feeling that it belongs to them – when people come to Dublin, we want them to say: “I must get a pint of Priory.’”

 

What has been your proudest achievement with Priory Brewing to date?

“At the beginning of March, we went along as a new brewery with three beers to the major craft beer festival in Dublin, the Alltech Craft Beer Festival. We came back with two gold medals after being in competition with 400 beers. Our Original Sin IPA won gold in the IPA category and our Venial Sin session IPA won gold in the specialist beer section.

“It was an incredibly emotional moment and intensely rewarding seeing the sense of achievement and pride in Tallaght. This is a huge indicator to us of what we are aiming for; that people have pride in their local beer.”

 

Your approach as a leader is best described by which three words?

“The first is vision: being able to see what that final thing looks like. The second thing is action: to take that first step, and to make sure there is action all the time. And the third is collegiality: working with other people in a team. You can’t do it all on your own.”

 

How are you preparing and planning for Brexit in your business?

“We’re not. At this point in time, our primary aim is to be a great local beer. We do source our hops from a provider in Northern Ireland, so we are watching carefully to see what happens to the Irish border.”

 

Parting shot: what’s next for your business?

“We’re going to have scale-up, but we’ll still be a microbrewery with hand-made beer: hand-bottled, hand-labelled, with no mechanisation whatsoever.

“We want to keep that artisanal quality, and yet be able to increase production levels to meet growing demand. That’s the next challenge for us, but I’m sure we can meet it.”

 

 

Comments 1

Tara De Buitlear on Wednesday, 02 May 2018 12:40

Well done to John & the team at Priory Brewing - industry awards within their first year of their beer going on the market and a second beer now to add to the product stable.

Well done to John & the team at Priory Brewing - industry awards within their first year of their beer going on the market and a second beer now to add to the product stable.
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Friday, 16 November 2018
If you'd like to register, please fill in the username, password and name fields.

Member Login

Business Insights & Tips

Leaderboard

1
Michael Lane
786 Points
2
Jill Holtz
784 Points
3
Ron Immink
732 Points
4
Fionan Murray
696 Points
5
ContentLive
276 Points
View Leaderboard