Interview: Brewgooder – 'We loved drinking beer and thought it would be a great idea to put this compulsion to the benefit of the world'
Social enterprise, started by Alan Mahon and Social Bite co-founder Josh Littlejohn, donates 100% of all profits to clean water charities
Founded in 2015 by Alan Mahon and co-founder of Social Bite, Josh Littlejohn, Brewgooder has one aim – to provide clean water for 1,000,000 people. By donating all of their profits from their beer to clean water charities, they're changing lives and communities the world over. The List caught up with Alan to find out about the inspiration behind the unique idea, how their humble home brew has found its way into pubs, clubs and supermarkets, and their plans for the future...
Please introduce yourself, where are you from and what's your background?
I am Alan Mahon, an Irish lad who has settled in Scotland after spending my uni years at the University of Glasgow. Since then I've fallen in love with the culture and people of Scotland and now firmly consider Edinburgh my home.
I started working for a social enterprise called Social Bite in 2013 which sparked my curiosity for doing business for purpose and then I added this curiosity to my love of beer which resulted in Brewgooder launching just over a year ago.
For the reader who doesn't know about Brewgooder, tell us about your unique enterprise?
Brewgooder is a little different from most other craft beers. My colleague Josh and I started it because we loved drinking beer and we (naively) thought it would be a great idea to put this compulsion to the benefit of the world.
We wanted to use the profits for something meaningful to us and for me clean drinking water was the answer. I was lucky enough to travel to Nepal when I was a student but while there I contracted a parasite from a community water source. I had access to the medicine that was needed to get me back to health in no time but 650 million people in the world do not have that luxury and 900 children die every day from preventable water-related diseases. I wondered if it was possible to make even a small dent in those numbers by harnessing the incredible social power and context of beer as a tool to fund safe water projects. The idea was to brew a great tasting session beer that made enough of a profit to dig wells with.
We tested the idea with a rather terrible version of Clean Water Lager at the Edinburgh Festival in 2015. We brewed around 1000 bottles (300 of which exploded in my bedroom the night before we went 'live' due to a bit of a recipe mix up!) and surprisingly we sold out in about a week at our tent, entirely on the strength of the idea as opposed to the beer. At that point we knew we needed help or the rather daydreaming ambition of helping 1,000,000 people access clean drinking water would remain just that – day dreaming.
To release the potential of Brewgooder as an idea we needed the backing of a great brewing partner prepared to make beer which they themselves didn't profit off, so that the projects did. We asked the guys at BrewDog to help out and they said yes. That was a game changer for us. We could brew at scale at one of the best craft breweries on the planet. Suddenly the day dream could be a mission and a call to arms for drinkers.
For those who haven't tasted your Clean Water Lager, what's it like?
All bias aside Clean Water Lager is a great session beer. It's brewed with a blend of hops that allows it to retain the crispness you'd expect from a great pilsner and provide a citrus, coconut and floral flavour which sets it apart from others. Its malt bill is pillowy (which I am sure isn't really a thing but when you drink it you'll know what I mean) and sweet which gives it a moreish dimension, like eating popcorn in the cinema.
You've just got back from Malawi, tell us about the trip?
We wanted to make sure we saw first-hand what we had funded; how can people really believe in what you're doing if you don't go and see it for yourself and then communicate that back in a way they can understand? Lots of people put faith in us to deliver what we promised and I am glad to say that the two projects benefit real people who have the same concerns as you and I and want what is best for their communities.
We've installed a solar powered 3000l tank at a school and antenatal clinic in one village and a borehole well in another extremely remote part of Malawi. We got the 'figures' back saying 5000 people benefit from it – and you're like 'cool!' – but it's not until you go there and listen to the stories that you start to see what that means to people.
The main thing I learned is that this is just the start. There's a hell of a lot more beer to sell and message spreading to be done before we can pat ourselves on the back.
What exciting plans do you have lined up for the future?
We've lots of plans to grow the message and the brand and to try and little by little change how people perceive drinking beer and what the power of it can be when used for good ends, whether that be better beer, supporting local businesses or better ways of doing business.
Right now growing the stockists of Clean Water Lager is the immediate goal, then showing drinkers the impact they can have by doing something they do every week anyway. After that who knows? By hook or by crook we're just concerned with getting as close to that 1,000,000 mark as possible.