Cam Wallace is the co-founder of Eight Degrees Brewery which he set up with Scott Baigent in 2010. The Aussie/Kiwi combo has proven a success from their base in Mitchelstown at the foot of the Galtee mountains in Cork.
You originally trained as a chartered accountant. How did the transition to becoming a brewmaster come about and what prompted it?
Strangely, I always thought brewing was a bit cooler than accountancy, some might disagree. I started brewing as a hobby and then when we were about to launch Eight Degrees, Scott and myself took a course in Berlin with the VLB institute, a microbiology college to consolidate our learnings. But to be honest, I’m still the finance guy in Eight Degrees so haven’t been able to move accountancy aside completely.
Eight Degrees Brewing is eight years in existence now. Have you achieved what you set out to accomplish in the first place or are there still challenges to be conquered?
Last week we sold our three millionth bottle of beer. We now do around 50% into bottles / 50% into draught with exports being around 30% of our business. Since 2011 we have developed over 60 beers, all of which we are hugely proud of. We are definitely known for producing kick arse IPA’s, many winning world beer awards, but we are also really proud of our new sours, our malt driven beers and our recently expanded barrel aging programme. Watch out for our Barrel aged Brett beers in the larger 750ml bottle this Christmas. But we are just getting started, we are about to go live on our new 60 hectolitre Kasper Schultz brewhouse so plenty of excitement and challenges ahead.
How closely do you monitor the ‘competition’? What is the battle for shelf space in off licences like and the attention of customers?
Battle for shelf space is really hotting up, Irish craft beer is more than pulling its weight in this regard, a lot of competition from imports in US, Europe and UK. I don’t think we monitor it too closely, we do tend to have a good number of beers available at any given moment so it’s not uncommon to have 12 of our beers on an off-licence shelf and maybe even a separate stand. Tap real estate in pubs is even more difficult to obtain now days.
The Snow Eater IPA is your winter seasonal. Can you tell us about it? How important is the balance between new brews and staples such as your Howling Gale and Knockmealdown IPAs?
Yes the Snow Eater returns for the winter season. Its a full on red ale with punchy hops to boot, the intense caramel malt flavours are balanced nicely by a spiced orange from the hops. At 6.2% abv it’s a real winter warmer.
We see the new brews and seasonal brews as complimenting our core range like Howling Gale and Sunburnt Red. With the pace of change within the industry we feel it is important to be leading the charge int terms of new styles to experiment with. It freshens up the Eight Degrees brand, so all the beers benefit. Constant innovation and new product development keeps us and our brewers really interested and engaged. It’s also a lot of fun.
Your favourite Irish and international craft beer (outside your own range)?
I love Rye beers, I think Kinnegar’s Rustbucket is one of the best I’ve tasted. We recently did a collaboration beer with Jamil Zainacheff from Heretic Brewing, some of Heretic beers are wonderful, truly world class. Watch our for our collaboration beer a Blackberry Bretted Barrel aged stout, due out 2018.