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Home / Business / Startup Spotlight: Treaty City Brewing Co.

Startup Spotlight: Treaty City Brewing Co.

Since we spoke to Stephen Cunneen in our very first issue, Treaty City Brewing Co. has ceaselessly innovated and expanded. We take a look at his rise from bedroom brewing to becoming a vital and much loved feature of the modern Limerick food and drink scene.

Hop-ful beginnings
Stephen began like many craft beer makers as a hobbying home brewer. His beer always got a good response at parties hosted in Canada where Stephen and his wife lived at the time, so he knew then he was onto something.

“Work brought us back to Ireland and we moved to Tralee, but the Cunneen family heritage is very much rooted in Limerick City, so we always felt that any beer we would make and sell would reflect on Limerick culture and draw upon its rich history. Once we had our recipe for Harris Pale we went into contract brewing where we brewed the product at an existing brewery facility. Everything else was us, we sourced the ingredients and managed the process, it was the most cost effective safest way for us to start off.”

Now, they have their own premises and have developed a whole new range of beers – Thomond Red Ale, Shannon River IPA and Hells Gate Lager, which are all widely available in pubs, restaurants and alcohol stockists in and around the city. They also recently partnered with publicans in the Market Quarter in Limerick to produce the Market Quarter Beer, which is exclusively sold in bars in the Market Quarter.

A new age of brewing
Cork Kilkenny and Dublin are renowned in Ireland for a long tradition of brewing in their respective histories, but Limerick’s brewing past was until recently long forgotten. Treaty City was one of the first in the area to ride the wave of the modern resurgence of craft beer, but Stephen ensures they keep their connection with the past. “We follow in footsteps of brewers many years ago and ensure we keep a connection with the local recipes of old e.g. East Kent Golding hops in Harris Ale, which would have been widely available and used here historically. We are now the first brewery to exist within the city boundary for 130 years, which we are very proud to say.” Limerick heritage is also a major part of the branding – beers are named after key landmarks or features and cultural history of Limerick. There is also an unwitting Cunneen historical family connection in the making of the beer, Stephen’s father was a fitter who made steel tanks for dairies in Munster in the 1980s. Last year Stephen bought a large steel tank for the brewery and realised when checking the serial number it was actually one of his father’s!

The business of beer
How does Treaty City Brewing Co. continue to develop? “[When we started] we were lucky to arrive at such a good time in the craft scene, there was fantastic opportunity for food and drink producers to grow and thrive in the city.” Limerick is celebrating its food heritage and becoming more of a foodie destination, focusing on local ingredients and makers, a trend that Stephen welcomes.

“Now with the food strategy in place and so many different people coming together and collaborating through things like the Market Quarter beer, Limerick Fringe – our greatest resource is our people and the bigger organisations like Bank of Ireland, the council and Limerick Enterprise Office are starting to get on board with that, particularly for us Pat O’Carroll at BOI Workbench have been so supportive and are doing great things for the local community. More and more of these organisations are open to sitting down at the table together and looking at how we can make things work in Limerick, which ultimately benefits all of our businesses, so it’s fantastic. Limerick is doing major things – I don’t think the rest of Ireland sees us coming yet but they will!”

As for the future growth of Treaty City, Stephen stresses the importance of a core quality range. “There’s a lot of experimentation and wackiness in the industry which is great, it’s about pushing the envelope but there has to be something more beyond that to appeal outside of our core demographic. If you want everyone going to Thomond Park for the match to be drinking your ale you have to provide a drinkable ale, and that’s what we went for with Thomond Red. Same for all our products, we want to be breaking in to the areas where the mass producers dominate. The fact that Flannerys, a real traditional old Limerick pub dynasty is taking on our products shows that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Longevity is the aim for Treaty City now – a dizzying number of craft brewers sprung up around Ireland from 2014 onwards, but it takes something special to last beyond the initial fad.

Treaty Brewing put a lot of character into their products in design as well as taste, and Stephen is the kind of exuberant passionate founder who will talk to you for hours on the subject – which we can take as a sign that there are much bigger things to come from Treaty City! Stephen also has a big focus on the Limerick community, producing a special beer for the first Limerick Fringe Festival in 2016, and also playing a big role in the Pigtown Food Series. “These people are our people, the amount of talent in artisan food and the arts that is here; it would be detrimental to us all to not support one another. For Limerick Fringe we developed a special edition beer and we hope to do the same again on a bigger scale next year.” As well as that, Treaty City will be releasing some long awaited porters, plus some small batch special editions for the Christmas period. “We also have a couple of major projects we’re working on that we can’t say too much about at the moment, but I can say that the Treaty City we know today is going be having a big 2018 with lots of enhancements and new additions.”

Article by: Kayleigh Ziolo
Photography by: Tarmo Tulit

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