The Blacks are living the dream and brewing up a storm in Kinsale

The pair started off with a home brewing kit in 2013, and, in just five years, have become a trendsetter on the Irish drinks scene.
The Blacks are living the dream and brewing up a storm in Kinsale

Sam and Maudeline Black with their new Blacks Spiced Irish Rum.

What are your backgrounds?

We are a husband and wife team and, prior to starting our business, Sam worked as an engineer and I worked as a theatre nurse.

Tell us the history of the business and how it started?

We started Blacks of Kinsale in 2013, and our slogan is 'Living the Dream Since 2013'. Sam initially started home brewing from a Valentines Kit that I gave him. Through Sams obsession and passion for brewing great craft beers a decision was made to turn his hobby into a business. 

When we started there was very little choice available in the Irish Craft scene, we were the 15th brewery to start in Ireland, and it was difficult to get access to any craft beers as they were not easily available. We decided to open in the business in Kinsale as it was our home. We have been extremely fortunate to have had great support from the local businesses in and around Kinsale.

How has it developed and grown in the last few years?

We have had several major rounds of expansion at the brewery starting out with just 2,000 litres of production space for the initial brewhouse. We can now hold nearly 100,000 litres of beer at various stages of the process at a time. We have grown from just one employee to six full time, and gone from one brew a week to two brews a day. 

The addition of the distillery in 2015 has added another dimension to the business and we hope to grow the output of this section of the business more this year.

Tell us about your staff.

We have a great team here in Kinsale and feel that it’s imperative to our success to have a good team spirit. As we’re a small team we depend on each other most people here are cross-trained on multiple jobs. We currently employ six people.

Tell us about your products, and where are they available?

We have a range of seven different styles of beer now but we started with our flagship pale ale - Kinsale Pale Ale (KPA) 5% abv. I’m delighted to say that KPA has just won a gold medal and was named the best pale ale in Ireland at the Dublin Beer Cup competition, hosted at the Alltech Brews and Food festival last weekend. 

We have a very popular chocolate vanilla imperial stout called The Worlds End. This won a Bronze Medal in the World Beer Idol competition in January. Our strongest beer, at 11% abv, is called The Irish Giant Barley Wine which also just won a Gold Medal at the Dublin beer cup last weekend as well. We also make a very low alcohol beer called The Session IPA at only 3.5% abv and we have a gluten free 1601 Lager.

On the spirit side, we have distilled a range of small-batch spirits including Blacks Poitin and Moonshine. 

Our first major releases was Blacks Gin which is available nationally in the supermarkets and major independent outlets, we have also recently launched Blacks Spiced Irish Rum which is the first ever rum distilled and matured in Ireland. 

Others are imported rums that are relabelled. Our products are available in most independent off-licences, national retail chains and many local pubs and in seven countries worldwide.

What is the brewery industry like in Ireland right now?

Really interesting and competitive, as the numbers have grown so much in the last two to three years. This provides greater choice for the consumer, with exciting new beers. This has increased interest from abroad for exporting of Irish beers 

Does the amount of breweries competing make it more or less difficult to do business?

It really is the larger established macro breweries who make it most difficult for the smaller breweries, as they still have well over 90% of the market. The craft beer market in Ireland is around 5% of the market it’s the other 95% we need to target and raise awareness. 

We don’t have the marketing budgets that the larger breweries have for advertising and promotion, we depend on social media.

What sets your products apart?

We have a variety of different style of beers, they’re available in bottles, can and draught. Variety and quality sets us apart. We were the first Co-located brewery and distillery in Ireland, and now one of only two, and we now produce the first and only Irish Rum.

What is it like to operate out of Kinsale?

It’s great, we’ve had fantastic support from the local business and residents in Kinsale. During the spring and summer, Kinsale is alive with tourists, we host tours at the brewery and distillery which get a lot of interest, especially from Americans who really appreciate the craft drinks scene. They want to drink locally made beers and spirits when they’re visiting a region, We’re incredibly lucky to be able to work where we live.

What's in the future for the business?

2018 is all about developing our export markets and planning a major expansion into a brand new site in Kinsale with a much bigger brewery and distillery operations and new visitors centre.

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