Inside Destination Athlone: Liam Tutty, Dead Centre Brewing
The second in a series – a glimpse of the people and personalities behind Destination Athlone businesses. Liam Tutty tells us about developing his business at the heart of Ireland – Dead Centre Brewing.
The Man from Hollywood
Brewing beer has always held a fascination for Liam Tutty but for many years it was his hobby and relaxation rather than the way he earned his daily bread. Today, although it is most definitely his business, it still retains every bit of its original mystery and appeal for him. Originally from Hollywood in Co. Wicklow, Liam has taken the scenic route to both Athlone and to setting up craft brewery and pizzeria, Dead Centre Brewing.
His initial career path, following a degree in media and marketing, was in the fast-paced world of radio broadcasting. He worked as a presenter with several local radio stations in the midlands and Waterford, gaining valuable experience in web and social media management too. Along the way he took a career break in the form of a detour to Australia, before winding up in a management role with iRadio, based in Athlone where he stayed for four years.
The brewery bug had bitten however. “I always had this inkling in the back of my mind about starting my own brewery”, recalls Liam, “I loved radio, but I knew I wouldn’t work there forever”. How right he was. The catalyst proved to be an interview he heard (on radio of course) with Rye River brewing who were expanding and taking on new staff. Liam saw an opportunity to learn about the brewing business from the inside and grabbed it with both hands, taking a position as digital manager. It was a great move; a steep learning curve but laying the best possible groundwork for his own future. As it happened, redundancy from that job accelerated the timeline and just two months after leaving, Liam registered Dead Centre in December 2016. He doubled jobbed for a while, working fulltime while starting to brew on a contract basis with another brewery.
The next step was to find his own premises, and it took some time to find and secure the perfect spot. Originally, he was looking at an industrial unit, but a well-timed and fortunate meeting with a publican in Athlone led to the town centre Custume Pier location Dead Centre now occupies. Fortunately, it came with a 7-day licence which has been very important in both development and in tiding them over the Covid-19 lockdown. Liam believes that without this licence, they would have struggled to survive.
Dead Centre Brewing opened its doors to customers on 28th February 2019 and hit the ground running. In their first year they won Gastropub of the Year (Westmeath) in the Irish Restaurant Awards and looked set to build on their initial success, when 12 months later lockdown hit them hard. Liam kept the pizzeria open for takeaway, but on one quiet Friday evening his busy brain got to thinking about beer again. He came up with a brand-new concept – Beer Cloud, an online store selling Irish craft beer from Dead Centre and other breweries direct to the public. The 7-day publicans licence meant that Dead Centre could sell small volumes to the public – most breweries can only sell in bulk. It was an instant success, starting with just six breweries but expanding rapidly. Beer Cloud is still going strong.
The market for craft beer is still growing. Many of the people coming into Dead Centre for the first time are committed stout or lager drinkers. Liam enjoys giving them a free sample while their first pint is being pulled – and smiles when they order a craft beer as their second drink. Change is good it seems.
This interview series was funded by Westmeath & Roscommon LEADER programme.