By Geoff Percival
Jameson owner Irish Distillers has acquired Cork-based craft beer producer Eight Degrees Brewing.
The purchase price has not been disclosed, but the transaction has been described as being “a multimillion euro deal”.
Eight Degrees — founded and run by Antipodean duo Cam Wallace and Scott Baigent — will continue to produce its Sunburnt Irish Red Ale, Howling Gale Irish Pale Ale, Knockmealdown Irish Stout, and Bohemian Pilsner Lager brands under its new ownership. However, the main reason behind the acquisition is to give Irish Distillers long-term security of craft beer supply for use in its rapidly-growing Caskmates product.
That product — Jameson whiskey aged in craft beer-seasoned barrels — was launched on a trial basis in 2014 but saw 100% sales growth last year, selling around 200,000 cases in 40 countries.
“With this success comes a need to plan for the future, and that’s what led to this exciting deal,” said Irish Distillers’ production director Tommy Keane.
Since its launch, Jameson Caskmates has used craft beer from another Cork brewer — Franciscan Well — as its flavouring. However, Franciscan Well’s parent Molson-Coors has been unable to confirm long-term security of supply.
Irish Distillers has not ruled out further Eight Degrees products, saying that while the purchase will support the global growth of Jameson Caskmates, it will also support Eight Degrees’ “continued innovation and experimentation in the craft beer sector”.
Eight Degrees’ 10 employees will remain with the company and it is understood its two founders have been incentivised to stay on for two years.
Mr Wallace and Mr Baigent said they established the company in Mitchelstown in 2010, to brew “naturally adventurous, great-tasting beers that were more exciting and innovative than anything else in the market”.
“Becoming part of the Irish Distillers family means that we have the long-term capabilities to continue on this mission, as well as being part of the very exciting Jameson Caskmates story,” they said.
Latest financial figures from Irish Distillers’ parent, Pernod Ricard, showed sales topping the €7bn mark for the first nine months of its financial year.
The 6.3% year-on-year growth was mainly driven by continued strong performance by Jameson Irish Whiskey along with other chief international brands Chivas and Martell.
“Jameson... continues to thrive and is now in double or triple digit growth in 80 markets across the world,” said Mr Keane.