Declan Holmes is a chip off the old block. Although he hasn’t followed in his father’s footsteps into the world of TV – he has that hard-working ethos, that entrepreneurial spirit and that down-to-earth charm which makes his instantly recognisable as Eamonn’s son.
Plus he looks a lot like him too.
With several career paths open to him, Declan has chosen to spearhead his own craft beer business. And the world is a better place for it.
Gallopers is the brand formed in February 2015 by Declan, the 26-year-old son of one of Northern Ireland most famous exports – Eamonn Holmes. Declan would be grateful for a tenth of his dad’s success when exporting his craft beer.
Five months on from launching his brand, Declan talked to belfastvibe about starting his own business, the craft beer scene in Northern Ireland and the pros and cons of having a famous father.
He said: “Since I was 17 I worked in the bar trade and hospitality industry. I associate going out and having a beer with having a good time.”
Bar owner Bruce Kirk, the man who gave Declan his first bar job in the beer tent at Ravenhill, passed away recently.
Declan said: “If it wasn’t for his kindness at giving me that opportunity despite never having pulled a pint in my life I may not have ended up on the journey in hospitality that has lead me to where I am today running my own business. So I’d just like to thank him for that and let his family know they are in our prayers at this time.”
He continued: “I was at Horatio Todds for two and a half years. They always had a local craft beer and world beers section. It was the General Manager Morgan Watson who selected the beers for that section. I would have been amongst the bar staff who maintained it.
“Certainly this piqued my interested in beer and developed my passion.”
Of his own brew Declan said: “Our first beer at Gallopers is a stepping stone into craft beer. I want to take people on a journey with a light sessionable beer. It has a bit more flavour and is less carbonated than your regular beers and is less hoppy than some of the other craft beers on the market.”
Gallopers are exploring a couple of options for new brews but are keeping them under wraps for now. They hope to have three core beers by the end of the year.
Declan added: “I don’t like the pretentiousness that comes with craft beer. I don’t want to put people off in the same way that people used to be put off wine because of all the talk of palate and bouquet and it being a good year.
“Beer is something that’s made for you to enjoy the taste of. You don’t need to know its life story, but in saying that, if you’d like to learn a little bit more about our beers we’re happy to share that information.”
Eamonn has been a strong backer of his son’s business.
Declan said: “My dad came up with the name. I wanted it to be something to do with Belfast and he told me about the legend of Galloper Thompson. He said to speak to my granny for more information. She told me the whole story about a headless horseman who roamed the streets of North Belfast. If you weren’t home by a certain time parents would have told their children, ‘Galloper will get you!’
“In terms of the beer itself I’m the brand owner and I have a brewing consultant who makes the beer. I remember the trial batch sampling, now that was a chore,” he joked.
Whitenoise created the distinctive Gallopers logo. “I wanted it to stand out, to be modern yet classic,” said Declan.
Declan went to school at Methody where he developed a love of rugby. After leaving school he did Film Studies at Queen’s. All the while he was supporting his studies with part time jobs in the hospitality industry.
“My dad wanted to support me in whatever I wanted to do,” he said.
“When he saw the research and knew how much I’d put into it. He said, ‘If this is what you want to do, go full throttle!’ My dad’s not a big drinker, but at least he’s tried Gallopers.”
Declan added: “He’s been able to get me to the table with the right people but that can be both a blessing and a curse because they treat you differently because of who your father is.
“I’d be naive to try and go it completely alone. I’m proud of my dad, just like any son is of their father, so why hide the fact my dad is Eamonn Holmes when promoting Gallopers? It’s a product I really believe in so you have to take advantage of whatever you can to get it noticed.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneureal spirit and I’m really proud of what we’ve done in the space of a year. But there’s still lots to do.”
Like his dad Declan is a Manchester United fan.
“But at least I can say I was born in Manchester,” added Declan, who has a sister Rebecca (24), a brother Niall (23) and a half-brother Jack (14).
“I’d go over to see dad in London a lot and we’d go to Manchester United games together whenever we can.
“My granny – his mum – is still alive so he’s over in Northern Ireland as much as he can, but he’s very busy with work and he’s recovering from the hip operation. It’s been a few weeks since he got it done. He’s up and moving about. He’s very happy that he’s done it.”
Declan said he was happy to be part of bustling NI craft beer scene: “There’s nearly 30 microbreweries in Northern Ireland. You can say the market is saturated, but the more there is the more chance there is of people giving craft beer a go.
“If we all work together there’s no reason why we all can’t prosper. Craft beer is something that doesn’t have a strong brand loyalty. People want to try different things and I think that’s a good thing.
“It’s great thing for a brewer to be able to trial beers in the likes of Woodworkers and Brewbot. And as well as selling bottles in places like the Vineyard, there’s also the option to go on the Growler there too.
“Export is something that all businesses look at and we’re no different. If you really want to build the business you have to export.”
You’ll find Gallopers in a number of nearby locations including the aforementioned Vineyard as well as Gap Wines, Grange Off Sales, Vintage Off Sales, The Pavilion, The Fly, The Garrick, The House, Ryans, The Morning Star, Horatio Todds, Stokers Halt and Muddler’s Club to name just a few. Gallopers has also been recently listed in Deanes and James Street South.
Gift packs with Gallopers glasses were released at Christmas time. Very few remain but the good news is Declan is planning to bring out another gift pack in time for Father’s Day.