Brewing good! Alan Mahon set about helping people get access to clean drinking water through his craft beer charity
Entrepreneur Alan Mahon says there are too many people around the world who have their ambitions, dreams and potential limited by no access to safe drinking water.
He quickly learned this after picking up a parasite from contaminated water whilst travelling and volunteering in Nepal aged 21.
As a result of this experience, he founded Brewgooder – a brewery that gives away its profits to help those without access to clean water.
This includes its flagship Clean Water Lager, which is now stocked in supermarkets and pubs across the land.
Now 29, reflecting back on that adventure he realises now how lucky he was to obtain treatment so easily in Britain.
While a few tablets cured him of his illness he’s aware now that people in developing areas are not as privileged.
His charitable brewery, based in Glasgow, gives supporters the opportunity to help out by simply enjoying one of Britain’s favourite pastimes – being sociable over a beer.
Brewgooder commits 100 per cent of its profits to help the poor access clean drinking water and currently, Alan is attempting to raise £250,000 for his clean water projects in Malawi.
Talking about how the idea was initiated he recalls his trip to Nepal. ‘I was travelling when I was younger when I was just leaving university.
‘We were told not to drink local water and I thought I was indestructible and drank water whenever it was given to me.
‘But I was proved massively wrong and started feeling sick around the third month in Nepal and didn’t stop when I was back home.
‘I got a test done by NHS and got medicine that killed it within a week, but that experience and how that prevented me from doing things made me think about other people’s lives.
‘I felt lucky to be born in the UK and have never had to worry about water – such an essential thing.
‘I couldn’t imagine that there would be physical barriers for people and I started getting interested in water issues and how it takes women out of society, the impact on education and the problems developing countries have in sourcing of water.’
Brewgooder says its foundation has already supported over 132 clean water projects and positively impacted 64,478 lives and counting
Alan’s path to creating a charity linking drinking beer and water was not a straightforward one.
After graduating from university he was rejected for the UK’s Department of International Development graduate scheme and went to work in a sandwich shop called Social Bite.
It’s through learning about this business model, which employs and feeds the homeless, that he realised he could combine running a business with helping people.
We do want to work in other parts but we also want to make sure we’ve learnt from what we did in Malawi to make sure we are just as effective elsewhere.
Alan Mahon – Brewgooder founder
He thought about starting a charitable cause that would draw on his other passion – craft beer.
The initial crowdfunding round of £60,000 enabled Alan to launch Brewgooder’s Clean Water Lager – its flagship drink.
He’s subsequently added other flavours to the range including the Mango Pale Ale and the Brewgooder X Fourpure Session IPA.
‘We trade on the fact that by just having something as simple as a pint of beer you could in a small way radically transform people’s lives.
‘The way I look at philanthropy is that you don’t have to be rich necessarily to help out – you can afford a pint.
‘You don’t need to make serious donations to charity to impact people’s lives.
‘We have a mission of helping a million people and if you buy a four pack, or 24 cans you are helping us.’
Brewgooder has a flagship drink called Clean Water Lager. But founder Alan Mahon has subsequently added other flavours to the range
Alan says the business now works on a three to five year strategy of giving back.
‘We’ve given close to a £100,000 in the past two and a half years and that number is set to grow year on year as we’re releasing new beers and doing collaborations.
‘Our first year traded £200,000 and in the second year we got to £600,000 in turnover and now we’re aiming to £1million in turnover.’
He’s also acutely aware of the challenges of ensuring that the brewing industry maintains a sustainable model when it comes to water usage themselves.
He explains: ‘We like to make sure that our brewing partners use responsible practices especially with waste water.
‘We make sure we’ve got high environmental standards. We brew in Scotland and it has an abundance of water but even so, we treat it well as a resource here.’
Malawi is not the only country set to benefit from Brewgooder’s foundation. There’s plans to also help countries like South Africa and Nepal
In spite of Alan’s initial brush with death through contaminated water, it’s the poor Malawian communities that The Brewgooder Foundation has ended up supporting.
The foundation has already supported over 132 clean water projects and positively impacted 64,478 lives and counting.
How can you support Brewgooder’s cause?
World Water Day is a call to action with the ultimate target of helping one million people access fresh water.
On 22 March 2020, Alan is calling on hundreds of craft breweries from around to world to join his Global Gathering project.
There’s a target of providing clean water for 100,000 people living in developing countries.
Breweries participating in Brewgooder’s Global Gathering project will release their beers simultaneously at participating venues between 20-22 March 2020, which coincides with World Water Day.
Prices for the Global Gathering project beers have not been set yet.
However, you can buy Brewgooder beer online and support their cause.
For £20 (12 x 330ml cans) Brewgooder offers three flavours, its flagship Clean Water Lager, Mango Pale Ale and Session IPA, which can also be bought from retailers like Asda, Tesco and Farehouse Trading Co.
Corporates can also get in on the act by creating an office beer club which can get Brewgooder beer delivered to the workplace on a regular basis.
Alan says that the foundation does have ambitions to help other countries in Africa and Asia struggling with clean water shortages but that support was initiated for Malawi as the country opened up about their water problems by giving him a first-hand experience.
He explains: ‘I tried every route I could to go out with an non-profit government organisation to explore [the issues] but all NGOs said no to me for many different reasons.
‘Much of it was to do with wanting to maintain the privacy of communities.
‘But one contact funded a school in Malawi and asked if I wanted to go on a trip and see it.
‘It was a fact finding mission but I fell in love with the culture and community.
‘I made a promise to them that I would get the business set up to build a borehole that would allow running water create different amenities such as schools, vegetable patches that would lead to development.
‘We do want to work in other parts but we also want to make sure we’ve learnt from what we did in Malawi to make sure we are just as effective elsewhere.
‘I would like to work in Nepal as that’s where it all started and South Africa where I know there’s also a problem with water.’
‘Malawi is our spiritual home. It’s very underdeveloped and there’s huge crisis in terms of food and clean water shortages as a result of damage caused by cyclones.
‘I thought it would be a great way to make a deep but narrow impact and that’s why I started working with NGOs there.’
Brewgooder’s numerous projects in Malawi, which include well rehabilitation, new borehole constructions, sanitation systems and water mapping
Alan says he has learned much along the way – but there’s still plenty of challenges that he faces, including staff retention.
Brewgooder is a small team of seven and Alan admits to having lost some employees to some ‘really good jobs’ – a possible hint that some major global competitors may be too much of a drawing card compared to what the charity sector can offer.
But he’s not saddened or dissuaded by the loss of talent. ‘We’ll be replacing them over the while.
‘We’re constantly growing and will do so in early 2020 as well.
‘As I said to the guys its proof that selling beer can lead to a massive career.’
He believes that others keen to get into the charity sector should give it a go because he maintains that there is no greater risk reward ratio than starting a social enterprise.
He adds: ‘If you get it off the ground and make an impact you are developing yourself and if you achieve your goal you have made a good contrition to the world.
‘But even if it doesn’t work out you’ll be in a better place than what you started. It’s a good business to have.’
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