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Molson Coors snaps up Irish craft brewery

Added: Monday, January 14th 2013

14 January 2013: Molson Coors UK & Ireland has bought the Franciscan Well craft beer brand and micro-brewery in Cork City, Republic of Ireland, and, this year, will be developing a new 75,000HL (150,000 keg) craft brewery, also in Cork. This is the first development from its new Emerging Markets & Craft Beer unit, set up to oversee its interests in craft beer in both countries. 

 These investments are central to Molson Coors Ireland’s plans to build a strong share in the burgeoning craft beer market as well as a significant Irish craft-beer export business to international markets. Craft beer is expected to grow from €24 million to approximately €235 million in retail sales value (c.10%) of the Irish beer market by 2017.

Molson Coors UK & Ireland’s Emerging Markets & Craft Beer division, headed by Niall Phelan, brings together its Scottish and Irish businesses alongside its growing portfolio of domestically produced and leading international craft beers. This includes Sharp’s Brewery in Cornwall, which brews Doom Bar, the fastest growing top 50 beer brand in the UK on premise, and William Worthington’s Micro Brewery in Burton upon Trent that brews the multi-award winning White Shield.

 Molson Coors’ Irish craft brewery operations will be chaired by one of Franciscan Well Brewery’s founders, Shane Long. Mr Long, who is also the Chairman of the Irish Craft Brewers Association, will continue to run the existing and planned new brewery in Cork. The Franciscan Well Brewery was established in 1998 on a site in Cork City dating back 800 years to 1219. As well as developing a strong customer base, the brewery’s beers have received international critical acclaim including the recent accolade of Europe’s Best Dry Stout at the 2012 World Beer Awards for its Shandon Export Stout. Other beers brewed in North Mall, Cork, include Friar Weisse, Blarney Blonde, Rebel Red and Rebel Lager. The brewery also recently partnered with Jameson Whiskey to produce a limited edition Whiskey Aged Stout for the 2012 Christmas market.

 Molson Coors Ireland will expand Franciscan Well’s existing range of brands and its overall annual brewing capacity in Cork from 2,000HL (4,000 kegs) up to 75,000HL (150,000 kegs) per annum. While the existing brewery will remain, the additional capacity will be on a new site in Cork which is expected to be operational later this year. The objective will be to export more than half of the expanded Franciscan Well Brewery’s output to markets such as the U.K., Canada and the U.S., where there is strong interest in Irish craft beers and whiskeys.

Franciscan Well’s five existing employees will join Molson Coors while the expanded brewing operations will create at least 10 additional new jobs in Cork. This will increase Molson Coors Ireland’s headcount by 15 people, bringing it to 70 since it was established in 2009. Speaking at the announcement of the acquisition, Niall Phelan, Director of the new Emerging Markets & Craft Beer Division for Molson Coors UK & Ireland said: “In 2012 alone, the craft beer market grew 13% in the UK and 100% in Ireland. For Molson Coors, our investment in Franciscan Well and Cork is our latest strategic acquisition and complements our commitment to Sharp’s and William Worthington’s.

 “For us, craft beer is about amazing beers from creative, inspired brewers that capture the imagination of the growing number of craft beer drinkers in Ireland and the UK. Whether it’s through our heritage in great craft beers such as White Shield and Blue Moon - the number one craft beer in the U.S., or Sharp’s Doom Bar, the Granville Island or Creemore Springs beers, I believe Molson Coors is uniquely placed to play a major part in developing the craft beer sector for our markets.”

Shane Long, the Franciscan Well Brewery founder, who is also the head of the Irish Craft Brewers Association, said: “I am delighted for everyone associated with Franciscan Well since 1998. This marks a new beginning for what we started together 15 years ago. The Franciscan Well brand, heritage and brewery is all being maintained and developed, including our famous and much loved brewpub in North Mall, Cork. 

He added: “Now, as part of a global brewer that understands and respects the craft beer movement, we have a big opportunity to build an international brand and business that we just could not have achieved on our own. In the short term, our loyal and new customers can look forward to some seasonal versions of our existing beers brands and some new limited edition beers to enjoy.”

Comment by Sean Billings, chairman of Beoir, the Irish beer consumers' group: "While it's always a concern when a brewery loses its independence, I think Franciscan Well will be in safe hands. Molson Coors has a good track record in the UK and seems to recognise the value of individuality among its acquisitions. We therefore expect that the quality of Franciscan Well products will remain as high as ever under its new owners. Furthermore, the international opportunities now open bode well for the profile of Irish beer abroad, as well as providing a clear indication that the domestic craft beer market is in good health and has plenty of room for expansion."