We just got started...
We started Whiplash around March of 2016, but it hasn’t felt like it’s properly kicked off until now. Leaving our day jobs has only happened for us both as of this week and I thought it a good opportunity to get the ball rolling at communicating better to our friends and customers given we can properly dedicate that time to it now. So the story up until now…
Whiplash up until now has been a side project. A really intense, anxiety ridden, hardcore labour side-project but never something we could do full time at the end of the day. We’d always worked proudly for operations that could pay us the rent, always brewing beer. Alan and I met at Rye River in 2015. Him with a stake in the place, running operations and me as a jumped-up shift brewer with fuck all commercial experience and reckoning my homebrews would get me through. We became good friends over beer holidays, me sharing a world of beer with him he never knew existed and him sharing his commercial knowledge with me – something I always sought, because I knew I had everything to learn about it and nobody to teach me until now. The plan was to learn everything I could from him while I was there and then split to start a brewery I’d been calling ‘White Label’ in my head up until now, but more on that shite later.
“I’ll be with you guys for one year. It’s all I can commit to. I’m sorry and I understand if you need someone more long term but that’s what I need to do, I’ve gotta start my own thing at some stage” I used to say. I signed a contract that had conflicts of interest taken out of there and we bust open some Westy 12’s in the office straight after.
We were getting on a year then when the head brewer at the place left. Alan asked me to help find someone else, I started making calls. 24 hours later he asked me if I’d take the gig. I didn’t want it. “Gotta start my own place”. “This is your baby”. “I’m not the brewer you’re looking for”.
- “You can pick all your materials and start from scratch. Beers stay in as long as you like, fuck it brew what you want. Fix the beers as you see fit, make new ones, have fun, sort the place out.”
- “Fuck it, go on so” I said.
That was it, I was 26 and Head Brewer of one of the best bits of kit in the country with a team and carte blanche to go out and make the best beer we could. We had fun.
A few years later we’d banged out a good 20 new beers but now had to completely focus on growth. We grew the place fast and hard and got the place mashing 6 times a day. It was gruelling. No space for a new beer though, never room for it with the tank plan, the growth into new markets, the bottling line being a constant hold-up. We’ve got to do some new beers though.
“I’ve gotta make some new stuff on the kit man” I said to Alan. “I agree, we’re not having enough fun here. You’re fucking wrecking everyone’s head as well. Let’s give you a dig out and you can fuck off doing that some day”
I’d already gone to trademark ‘White Label’ but when a solicitor representing the established trademark of another drinks company in a different category decided he’d fight it, I withdrew and focused on starting it new. I set up the company as it’s own independent operation in case I had a shot at starting my own thing, and that conflict of interest conflict clause we took out was now a wise investment. I asked Alan if he wanted in. He knew how to make it work and frankly I wanted to take the journey with him involved as much as possible. He tentitively said yes but he’s always have to focus on Rye first and if he can’t do enough he’ll step out. It was fair considering how many mouths the place fed, including mine.
“What will we call it?”
“Sounds deadly. Why Whiplash?”
“The pain in me neck with this kip man.”
“You’re such a wanker. Whiplash it is.”
You mightn’t think it if you’re just getting into our stuff now considering how many pale hoppy offerings we’ve got, but our first beer was a big oily porter. Scaldy Porter was one of those homebrews I’d brewed again and again for friends over the years. I’d near perfected the recipe in my opinion and was racking up top marks for it in homebrew comps. We put it in a bottle but couldn’t get change parts for the bottling line to be able to handle proper pint bottles of the stuff. Next was Surrender to the Void, a big but clean and soft DIPA with a few tricks I’d been hoping to employ in the hop department. We dropped the two at the same time. They were well received.
That was a year and a half ago. We put out another three beers that year to keep ourselves from madness but come April of 2017, the bug had bit and we were banging out three beers a month in places. Alan would be the first to take the step into Whiplash in June this year leaving Rye River permanently behind and focusing full time on our beers; building enough volume for me to step out into it. I’d be the second this week.
We’re shitting it. And we’re excited. But we’re shitting it.
I left this week. Having spent 3 years building the place up we went commissioning a kit to building it up to the biggest independent brewery in Ireland. We were hitting 8 mashes a day and doing 2.3 million litres a year on a 2500L kit. I remember when people had asked asked me -
"I want to set up a brewery, what should I do?"
"Get a job in a brewery and learn how to brew beer, then learn how to run a brewery. If you're still alive by then, set up a brewery."
I'm not sure if we're still fully alive. Deffo not the people we started off as nearly 4 years ago, but we've earned our stripes.
What we learned and decided on among all of this is don't build up to the quality you want, hit it from the start and improve. If you can't afford the brewery that's going to give you that, don't compromise. We don't have a spare million quid lying around for one. We're going to have to go the long route of using other kits we're happy will give us the beer we want, going in and brewing it ourselves and making sure the quality is at the standard we'd want in our own place in the future. We've enough to buy malt, hops and yeast. We're shitting it but it's liberating. Beer for the sake of beer. But yeah, we're shitting it.