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Who Is? Jason O'Connell, Proprietor, Galway Bay Brewery

By Donna Ahern
Who Is? Jason O'Connell, Proprietor, Galway Bay Brewery

Galway Bay Brewery is the largest craft beer bar chain in Ireland with 11 bars and a premium brewery. The brewery currently packages one million litres a year and exports to five countries. Donna Ahern talks to it's proprietor Jason O’Connell

Tell us about your company?

We have grown the brewery over the years by putting quality before quantity and have self-financed most of our business by reinvesting in growth where possible.

Our team are original in thought and it’s important to us to promote a feeling of belonging and creativity.

How would you describe your role?


On an average week, I spend two days in our HQ in Galway working with the head brewer, sales and production managers to look at what is coming down the line.

The other three days are spent working with the bars to ensure that we are on the right path and that we are delivering on service and products. I also travel, when needed, with Galway Bay Brewery.

Forward planning, managing cash flow and ensuring that we stay relevant in the marketplace are key aspects of my role.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

My first job was producing coleslaw from the Home Economics room in the Jes secondary school in Galway during the summer holidays. It was called Celtic Coleslaw.


My mum did the labels and I made it and delivered it to local restaurants and shops on my bike. I still have the old invoice books! It taught me a lot about business at a young age.

What do you enjoy most about your current job?

I love working for myself and the fact that every week is different.

I enjoy travelling with Galway Bay Brewery and seeing how the craft beer market is evolving and how the market varies in each country.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?


We would love Galway Bay Brewery to be more established in five years’ time, both in Ireland and abroad, and to have grown our export market share from 11% to 40%.

We also hope to have opened our visitor centre within the brewery in Galway, which we are currently working on.

An exciting development will take place early in the new year when we will have our beers available in cans across retail outlets in Ireland and internationally so I look forward to seeing how that will have evolved in the next five years.

And on a personal level, I hope to still be enjoying what I do everyday.

What is your advice to people starting out in the industry?


Listen to others, but do not be put off by what you hear. If you think you can do it then do it.

What was your worst job, and what was so bad about it?

Selling a product over the phone that I didn't believe in while I was working in Bristol in UK. I felt guilty about not believing in what I was selling, and I left after a month.

What could the government do to help business?

Insurance and rates are the main issues that we need help with at the moment, as well as new label legislation that may come into law.

Who do you most admire in business, and why?

Evin O’Riordain, owner of The Kernel Brewery, for sticking to his principles of quality beer and avoiding trends for the sake of trends, and chef JP McMahon for his passion for food over commercial success, and for what he and others are doing for food education in this country.

What advertising campaign have you most enjoyed in recent months?

I haven’t been taken by many advertising campaigns in recent months. I’m more of a 90s ad man - I loved the Tango Drinks adverts back in the day and I thought the Mad Men series was great.

I find advertising to be a bit dull of late. At times it feels as though aspirational living is being forced on people and it can all be a bit PC.

What was your favourite grocery brand when you were growing up, and why?

Um Bongo. I thought the song was great and a very clever way of building brand loyalty among kids.

Who would come to your ideal dinner party (living or dead)?

It would be my wife Adele and our three kids.

You can throw the Happy Mondays in for a laugh as well to see where the evening would end up!

How much time do you spend on social media in an average week?

I can spend too much time on social media and then get annoyed with myself for time that could have been spent doing something more useful.

Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?

Twitter (and Instagram).

© 2019 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Donna Ahern. Click sign-up to subscribe to Checkout.

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