Diageo, the world’s largest spirits producer and maker of popular import beers like Guinness and Red Stripe, is finally making its foray into craft with the launch of Thump Keg Brewing Co.
The spirits-minded beer brand is intended to offer consumers a range of styles brewed using the same base ingredients as its distillery counterparts.
“Although the Thump Keg line of beers does not contain distilled spirits, it is the use of the same ‘mash’ bill or grain recipes from the spirits products that inspires each of the beers in the Thump Keg line,” a press release stated.
For Diageo, it’s an entry into a craft beer market already littered with thousands of offerings. But the company is banking on the reputation of its popular liquor brands — which include the likes of Johnnie Walker and Bulleit — as a point of differentiation.
“We were looking to create something that would celebrate the best flavors of beer and spirits,” Elizabeth Rhoades, a fermentation scientist with Diageo said in a press statement. “So much personality went into the brewing process and our selection of the spirits that formed the inspiration for Thump Keg Brewing Co. beers, and I think that will resonate with those adventurous enough to taste such a unique collaboration.”
The decision to launch a craft beer line comes at a time when sales of Diageo’s beer brands are slipping. Company-wide off-premise volume sales declined more than 3 percent last year, while sales in the import segment as a whole actually increased 6.4 percent, according to market research firm IRI. Sales of Guinness, the company’s largest beer brand, were down 3.1 percent in 2014.
Meanwhile, total craft volumes were up 17 percent in 2014, according to IRI.
The company will initially launch with two core products: Thump Keg Rye IPA, which was built using the same ingredients included in the George Dickel Whiskey mash, and Thump Keg Agave Amber Ale, which is brewed with the same blue agave featured in Peligroso Tequila.
Both products carry a suggested retail price of $9.49 and will debut in select markets, including Nashville, Tenn., Austin, Texas., and New York City.