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O'Hara's beer owner acquires brands from Boyne Brewhouse

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Capacity: Carlow Brewing Company chief Seamus O’Hara is to add the Boyne Brewhouse drinks to his firm’s menu. PHOTO: PATRICK BROWNE

Capacity: Carlow Brewing Company chief Seamus O’Hara is to add the Boyne Brewhouse drinks to his firm’s menu. PHOTO: PATRICK BROWNE

Capacity: Carlow Brewing Company chief Seamus O’Hara is to add the Boyne Brewhouse drinks to his firm’s menu. PHOTO: PATRICK BROWNE

The owner of the O'Hara's craft beer, the Carlow Brewing Company, has bought a number of brands from the Boyne Brewhouse in Co Louth.

Carlow Brewing Company chief executive Seamus O'Hara told the Irish Independent that production of the beers will now move from Drogheda to Co Carlow.

The eight acquired products include beers and pre-mixed canned spirits sold under the Glassbox brand.

Mr O'Hara said talks to buy the brands from Boyne Brewhouse had been underway prior to the Covid crisis, but that Carlow Brewing was subsequently still keen to proceed with the acquisition.

Boyne Brewhouse was founded by the Cooney family, who also own the Boann Distillery at the same location. The business was founded by Pat Cooney in 2015, with an investment of about €20m. Mr Cooney sold his Gleeson Group drinks distribution business to Bulmers owner C&C in 2012 for an enterprise value of €58m, which included €45.6m of debt.

Accounts for Harvest Gathering Holdings, a firm behind the Cooneys' distilling and brewing business, show the company generated turnover of almost €13m in its 2019 financial year, and a pre-tax profit of €355,000.

It's thought the deal to sell its beer and pre-mixed brands to O'Hara's is part of a plan to enable the family to focus on its distilling business. Its spirits, including whiskeys and a cream liqueur, are sold under The Whistler brand.

Mr O'Hara said the Carlow Brewing Company has "plenty of capacity" to brew the brands it's acquiring, which will join a slate of well-known craft beers already produced by the firm. The acquisition was funded from the company's own resources. It employs about 50 people, with some of those still working part-time as a result of the impact from the pandemic.

"It's been challenging enough times for the sector," he said of the Covid crisis, adding that about half the Carlow Brewing Company's volume is typically sold in Ireland and half destined for abroad, primarily to markets such as France, Germany and Italy.

Domestically, its volumes are usually split evenly between the on-trade and off-trade.

He said that volumes had held up reasonably well and recent weeks had seen sales improve further.

"We're reasonably well diversified and have a reasonable range of products," he added. "That strategy has benefited us."

Apart from acquiring the Boyne Brewhouse brands, he said the O'Hara's maker is also focusing on new product development.

He said that people drinking at home had tended to experiment with alternative beers, which has probably helped craft brewers. Mr O'Hara also predicted that the longer-term consequences of the pandemic will be that consumers will pay more attention to local products, which could buoy the sector.

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Broader beer sales in Ireland fell 17.4pc in the second quarter of this year, according to recent data from the Revenue Commissioners. The majority - almost 63pc - of beer sales here are generated in the on-trade, at pubs, bars and restaurants.

Guinness owner Diageo said last week that sales of the stout slumped 22pc in the 12 months to the end of June as they were hit by the pandemic. Some 80pc of stout sales in Ireland are made through the on-trade, according to the Ibec-affiliated Drinks Ireland industry group.


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