Sale Sharks scrumhalf Will Cliff has made the most of his time in Lockdown, launching a low calorie beer just in time for the Christmas Period. Will shares with us his journey from a Sale barbeque to making his vision become a reality.
How did Bach 95 originate?
I had been thinking about creating a beer that was low calorie but with great taste, where you didn't feel as guilty about drinking. I started to do some research, emailing local breweries and gathering information with my friend and former-teammate Tom Holmes, who was captain of Nottingham at the time and due to COVID-19 had to retire. The green light moment came when we went to a barbeque with some of the Sale lads and one of the hooker’s Mark Jones was drinking champagne. I’d said “Mate what are you doing, do you not want a beer?” and he replied “No my body fat is a bit high at the minute, and champagne has less calories in it.” We realized If big rugby players were actively seeking a lower calorie alternative, then our idea could really take off. That was the light bulb moment really and we really pushed on from there.
What steps have you had to take to get to this point?
From initial idea to now we have been doing the process for two years. One of the brewers we decided on working with turned out to be a bloke I had coached at Knutsford RFC and we had a chat at training and put some plans in place. We then did a fair bit of beer tasting and beer profiling, which as you can imagine wasn't a hardship and really useful for us. We knew we wanted it be sub 100 calories but it was important it remained a full strength beer. The big thing I was keen to carry out during the whole process was creating something I would buy myself. Therefore I could promote it happily because it is something I would consume - A full sized beer, that tasted good and had reduced calories, which was also gluten free.
Where does the name Bach95 come from?
The Bach part is a play on a ‘batch of beers’. Tom and I also grew up together and played rugby in a town called Sandbach in Cheshire. People from the area normally refer to it is as the Bach, so we liked the double meaning. 95 was an amalgamation of my rugby number and our third partner Jesse Coulson, who was a scrum-half like me and Tom who played second-row. We said to Greg, who created the recipe for our beer, we’ve called it this now but if you can get it down to 95 calories as well, that would be the best case scenario! Of course he came through and we are really happy with what the name represents.
What has been the response so far?
We did a couple of trial brews and the response was brilliant. We launched officially on the 2nd of December and have created a social media presence and website for people to purchase. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, even with the first couple of posts we’ve done. People have asked us who are target market is but I think that is the beauty of this product, it appeals to a variety of demographics. We wanted our beer to be inclusive as possible. We didn’t want to create something just for rugby players that had the ‘Lad’ stereotype but make a drink that’s light, crisp and most importantly tastes good.
Did you speak to any former players about how to get started?
I spoke to Dave Seymour (former Sale Sharks player) who had started his business – Couch Grind Coffee – and he said just choose something you enjoy and have a bit of fun with it, what have you got to lose. I also spoke to my RPA Development Manager Mike McCarthy who always sent me useful articles through and was a good support throughout. I didn’t want to make too much noise about it until I had something to show people. Sale are also really keen to help. Diams (Steve Diamond Sale Head Coach) has always been great anyway, in terms of support or if he can help. They want to help the players, not just while they are playing but outside the rugby set up. The big thing that Sid (Sid Sutton Sale Sharks CEO) said to me that stood out was, when blokes are leaving the club, he wants them to leave in a better place than when they came. That’s big for me, I’m 32 now.
How has it helped to have something outside of rugby to focus on?
It’s a big deal for me actually because you are so dedicated and focused on rugby to a point where it can take over a little. This hasn’t taken anything away from my rugby, but it has broadened my horizons, I’ve met some really interesting people through this journey and began to a grow a network. We always said, worst case scenario we might end up with a garage full of beer we might have to work our way through. But the fun we’ve had, the people we’ve met and what we have learnt has been worth it. It keeps me busy with two kids and rugby but I like to be busy. I’ve really enjoyed the whole process. When rugby’s going well it’s brilliant but it’s nice to come home and be excited about doing something with Bach 95 in the afternoon.
What would you say to younger players who are considering doing something themselves?
You don’t realise how much free time you have as a rugby player until you get a bit older, you have kids and then you start to try and branch out and you think why wasn’t I doing this before. It doesn’t need to be something that you do for the rest of your life, but try things. Explore what motivates you. Through the RPA I did the business degree and that gives you a basis to build on and Rugby is a great platform to use to advance your business and network.