One More Thing: Raise a glass to competition in the craft beer market
James Winan: taking on the Diageo/Heineken duopoly with his Vanguard Beer Collective.
While we are on the subject of start-ups, the craft beer market has been growing at about 40 per cent in recent years, according to Bord Bia. Now, a certain JR from Dallas reckons his new company can help the industry consolidate distribution to better compete in the pub industry when it comes to getting tap space alongside the big brewers.
James Richard Winan (pictured right), a Texan with a perfect Irish accent, recently launched the Vanguard Beer Collective and was on the national airwaves during the week outlining his grand plan. He also met me for a coffee in, you’ve guessed it, a Dublin pub.
Vanguard Beer Collective sounds like an alcoholic anarchists’ group, but it is an interesting business. Winan’s aim is to sign up the majority of the 30 or so micro-breweries in the country, many of whom have a notorious reputation for patchy distribution within the pub trade.
Vanguard buys their beer with a guaranteed supply. It then sells it on to its pub clients in standardised kegs, as well as installing the taps and cleaning the lines. Much like Diageo does for big brands such as Budweiser and Carlsberg.
It’s early days – Vanguard has signed up just five breweries so far, including 8 Degrees, Trouble Brewing and some of the range sold by Oliver Hughes’ Porterhouse. But it also signed up 23 pubs in just the last six weeks.
The draught beer distribution duopoly of Diageo and Heineken won’t be shivering in their boots just yet. But let’s raise a glass to some competition, no matter how small.