"Give me one year" asks Shane Long, co-founder of The Franciscan Well. As the news officially broke last week regarding the Molson Coors buyout of the Well, speculation and opinion has been rife regarding what this means not only for the Well but also for Irish Craft Brewing.
Shane has been in the business longer than most. "It"s been 14 years" he says "I still remember the early days, sleeping in the back of my van before doing the deliveries up in Dublin or on floors of friends apartments." And Shane is deeply passionate about beer as anyone who knows him would agree. So why the sale to Molson Coors? "I needed to expand and I couldn't do it alone. I had demand for our beers that I couldn't fulfill."
Shane's need to expand came earlier in the year when he was given a very viable opportunity to increase his sales by exporting to America. "They [the new customer] came here last March because of the awards we had won and once they tasted the beer they brought me to New York to arrange an import agreement."
So the Well had an opportunity but no possible investors. However at this time Molson Coors were actively talking to a few of the other brewers. They still had not secured a deal with anyone. "A publican suggested they talk to us," says Shane. "At first I was very wary about any deal." What changed his mind however was when Molson Coors flew him out to meet Sharps in the UK. "Seeing the operation at Sharps and talking to the people there convinced me that there was a way of doing a deal and keeping our independence. Did things change with them YES; route to market was easier, investment was made in equipment; and health and safety. Did the quality change, definitely not. Stuart Howe was and still is the head brewer. Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting him would know he would keep it craft."
As for the future of the Well's brewpub, Shane explained "the pub is totally independent. The brewery there will continue to brew seasonal and special beers; and the festivals will continue." He also added "the beer will be the same quality as always and I will make sure of that."
Shane finished by saying "Just give me one year is all I ask. It will take a year to be up and running at the new plant. All I'm asking is judge my beer then and not on what might be."