O Brother: Wicklow brewery with big ambitions and a fraternal feel

Brewer Richard Barrett says the brotherly beer enterprise doesn’t feel like work

Like many brewers, Richard Barrett of O Brother Brewing in Kilcoole, Co Wicklow, first started making beer while he was a student. He studied biotechnology for four years in DCU, and enjoyed the course, but couldn’t get a job in pharma. So he and his partner applied for graduate J1 visas, which allow you to work in the US for 30 months, and headed off to the Bay Area of California.

“I tried to get a job in science but you really need to have a master’s. The Bay Area is chock-a-block with craft breweries, so I had a quick informal interview with the head brewer at Moylan’s in Marin County, who asked could I start Monday. A background in science helps; you know why you are doing something, Moylan’s added the what and the how; it was a steep learning curve.”

On his return, he joined O Brother brewery, run by brothers Brian, Barry and Paddy O’Neill. “It had been going a few months with an English brewer, who trained me up before leaving. It’s been good, really nice to work for a small family-run business. I really feel like part of the family now. It doesn’t really feel like work. I get as much creative freedom as I want, and I am always happy to come in on a Monday morning.”

O Brother, having switched to cans during lockdown, is growing strongly, says Barrett, having increased capacity by 150 per cent, with the purchase of some second-hand tanks, and have recently rebranded.