Shane McCarthy and his talented and visionary team at Ireland Craft Beers (ICB) in Belfast are gearing up for the business opportunity presented by Ireland’s participation at the forthcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan this autumn.
The small business has already achieved 100 per cent year-on-year since it was established in 2015 to sell craft beers, ciders and spirits from the island of Ireland to international markets.
“The Rugby World Cup is an ideal opportunity to showcase the premium quality and innovation of our craft beers, ciders and spirits during a competition in which Ireland is among the favourites,” says Shane, ICB chief executive.
“Wouldn’t it be brilliant if Ireland supporters in Japan, the UK, the Republic and elsewhere could celebrate our team lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy with craft beers and spirits from across the island.”
It would certainly be a marvellous boost for the island to see Ulster warriors Rory Best, the captain, Ian Henderson, Jacob Stockdale and a few others on the podium in Tokyo in November.
ICB is focused on imaginative initiatives to ensure that local craft beers, ciders and spirits are readily available. It recently sealed deals which will see many of the beverages on sale in Japan and Singapore. And it’s planning a roll out of local beverages to more bars in Britain.
Local products in the ICB portfolio are Echlinville Distillery in Kircubbin, a producer of its own branded gin, along with Dunville Irish Whiskey and Ban Poitin; Long Meadow Cider in Loughgall; Hillstown Brewery in Randalstown; Mourne Mountains Brewery in Warrenpoint; Shortcross Gin, Crossgar; and Ruby Blue Potato Vodka in Moira.
Ahead of the World Cup, ICB will be rolling out its Downstream Beer – the world’s first brew using blockchain technology which enables the ingredients and production of the beverage to be traced by consumers by scanning a label on the product – to more bars in Britain.
Downstream has just won a listing with Bristol’s Diverse Fine Foods. This will see the unique beer being available in more bars throughout Britain ahead of this weekend’s kick-off in the Rugby Six Nations.
Shane, who founded the business with other directors including chairman Ken Adamson, Liam Brogan, Colin Brannigan, Lance Hayward and Donal McGlynn, continues: “We are delighted with the recent business in Japan and also with Diverse Fine Foods. Downstream is also now available in Singapore. The deal in Japan was clinched by Donal McLynn.
“We’ve enjoyed spectacular growth in the four years since the company was formed to market Irish beers, ciders and spirits in international markets”, he says. “And we anticipate continued high rates of revenue growth, particularly in international markets in the year ahead.”
Mr McCarthy adds: “We are 100 per cent committed and passionate about Irish craft beer, ciders and spirits. Our mission is to help Irish micro-breweries, cideries and distilleries export their premium, artisan products.
“While breweries focus on brewing, we concentrate on exporting in the most cost effective, streamlined way possible. ICB has vast experience in sales, marketing, finance, global logistics and distribution. Combine this with the extensive expertise of Irish craft breweries and we make a formidable team!”
The business for Downstream in Singapore followed an approach from a leading wine importer which had heard about the beer and was keen to diversify its portfolio to include craft beers. It’s one of a number of global leads ICB is currently following up. It has also supplied a range of beverages to the Lebanon.
Downstream is already listed in more than 250 Marks and Spencer stores across the UK as well as in France and the Channel Islands.
Mr McCarthy explains: “Blockchain technology allows us to reveal the authenticity behind the brew, so consumers know for certain that what they are drinking doesn’t just taste fantastic, but is real, honest to goodness craft beer.
“Downstream is a radical mix of artisanal brewing methods honed by generations and the powerful spirit of today’s digital technology.
“We are also talking to major importers in India and Australia and are confident of doing business in these markets soon,” he adds.
The successful marketing operation has also secured business for a beer brewed in Ireland for Icelandair. ICB has undertaken two contracts with the airline. The first was 737 Max IPA which has now been replaced by the new and distinctively Icelandic Snæbjört pale ale for national and international flights.
“We’ve opened a host of doors internationally for Ireland’s beers, ciders and spirits, especially gin,” he says. “More global markets are seeking artisan products. Craft beer is now seen as the new premium, the hand-crafted option offering new beer styles.”