The Business Lending Blog

Update: Vanguard Beer Collective

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As you may have noticed, over the past few weeks we have been bringing you updates from previous borrowers, finding out how their businesses have thrived since getting loans through Linked Finance. This week we’re giving you an insight into a borrower who is live on the Marketplace right now – Vanguard Beer Collective.

We have previously supported a number of great breweries including Trouble Brewing and 8 Degrees and now we’re supporting a business which has done a huge amount to help make craft beer accessible in pubs all around the country. Read on for James’ business profile and to find out more about his business. If this sounds like something you would like to support then head to the Marketplace and get involved!


Hi James, what is Vanguard Beer Collective all about?

Vanguard Beer Collective is a marketing and distribution agency to the burgeoning Irish craft beer industry. The company was set up in mid 2013 by myself, James Winans in order to address the many issues publicans were experiencing when sourcing beer from independent Irish craft breweries.

Vanguard Beer Collective (VBC) gives publicans and restaurateurs easy access to many different independent microbreweries across the country through a single contact, order, delivery and invoice. VBC also gives pubs and restaurants the opportunity to have rotation taps and access to many limited and seasonal beers.

Tell us a bit more about your background

Before founding VBC, I was the Executive Chef for Kirsten Bosch Ltd. In addition to running the food operations at the Purty Kitchen (Dun Laoghaire) and The Step Inn (Stepaside, Dublin 18), I also played a key role in the development of the craft beer selection at both locations. It soon became apparent that dealing with small independent brewers was significantly more difficult than ordering from the more established, mainstream breweries. For instance, with a single order to Diageo or Heineken, as many as a dozen products would be delivered to the pubs straight away. In comparison, each craft beer would have to be ordered from the individual brewery, and then take as long as two weeks before someone from the brewery had time to make a delivery.

These issues with supply, compounded with added time it took to accept multiple small deliveries and process multiple invoices made it very difficult to convince the pubs owners to take on more craft beer. What started as an exercise in streamlining purchasing from craft breweries ended up becoming the start of Vanguard Beer Collective. Today, VBC services over 200 accounts with craft beer and ciders from 11 different craft breweries. VBC handles all aspects of craft beer dispense from identifying and opening new accounts, logistics and distribution, dispense equipment installation, beer line maintenance, bespoke marketing and staff education.

What are the benefits of using Vanguard?

This new consolidated structure not only benefits pubs and restaurants, it is also becoming a cornerstone of many of the newly operating Irish craft breweries. Craft beer represents a market primed for huge growth over the next five years and beyond. While virtually nonexistent just five years ago, other than a few craft breweries producing mainly for export, Irish craft beer now accounts for nearly 2% of the total beer consumed in Ireland. According to the latest Bord Bia report, this market share will be over 5% by 2017.

By comparison, the American craft brewing industry accounts for 13%-15% of beer consumed in the US. The US craft beer model relies heavily on distributors for sales and marketing and it has long been recognised these alliances have played a huge part of the massive growth of industry there. By the end of the current year, there will be close to 100 independent brewing companies operating in the Republic and VBC is positioning itself to be the distribution channel of choice for many of these new breweries.

How do you plan to use your loan?

There are two main purposes of this funding, new draught account acquisition and kick starting a new marketing campaign. VBC distributes both draught and bottles beer, but the draught side offers the most potential for growth. Ireland has always been in love with the pint, and we don’t see this changing anytime soon.

Our craft breweries and cideries all have amazing stories that we need to tell to a wider audience. We are almost ready to launch our #MeetYourMaker campaign to help get these stories out there. This campaign will be across a range of platforms including social media, print media, POS material and live events. These live events will be run in conjunction with LovinDublin, Dublin Bar Academy and with many of our existing accounts. We also intend to use investment to help many of our breweries develop POS and marketing material that we can distribute out to accounts selling their beer.

Very exciting stuff! To support Vanguard Beer Collective, head over to their loan which is live in the Marketplace.