IBD's 138th anniversary

Iain Brannigan, Distiller at Teeling Whiskey Co

Could you please introduce yourself briefly and share how you started working in the drinks industry?

My name is Iain Brannigan, and I started my career in the craft beer industry in New Brunswick, Canada in 2014. I worked my way up from the cellar to brewhouse, and studied briefly at VLB-Berlin, along with becoming a BJCP judge.  I worked at multiple breweries, and in that time my roles ranged from Cellarman, R&D Brewer/Small Batch Brewer, Production Brewer, Head Brewer and I even got to build a wood-aging program, before moving to Dublin, Ireland in late 2019. After a slight pivot thanks to COVID, I have been working as a Distiller for just over three years at Teeling Whiskey Co in Dublin.

When did you become a member of the IBD, and what attracted you to become a member?

I became a member of the IBD in 2021, and I wrote the exam for the IBD General Certificate in Distilling in March 2023. Since completing that, I have moved onto the Diploma in Brewing, and am currently studying to write the Module 1 exam this June!

Can you share a highlight or memorable experience from your time as a member of the IBD so far?

The biggest highlight of my time as a member of the IBD was the Czechia Study Trip 2023 last year. It was an incredible experience, especially since those breweries had been on my bucket list for years. It was fantastic to get the complete technical run down on the process and those facilities, among a group of very eager and knowledgeable peers!

How do you see the industry evolving in the coming years, and what opportunities or challenges do you anticipate?

From a craft beer standpoint, I think the craft beer boom has unfortunately plateaued in North America. We may be on the cusp of that here in Europe. There will definitely be a bit of a shake out over the next few years. From a distilling perspective, there has been incredible growth as far as Irish whiskey goes. There are many more players on the field now, and with the cost of living crisis and all those other external pressures, I hope there isn't the same sort of shake out that is happening in craft beer at the moment. In some ways, whiskey is a bit removed from the same fluctuations that craft beer faces, because of the aging process, the premiumisation of the product, along with export markets playing such a large role for sales.  I think there is quite the opportunity for growth in the low-alcohol/no alcohol sector, and it's been very exciting watching this growth, and the level of innovation that has come along with it in terms of technology, yeast development and overall process. 

How do you stay updated with industry trends and advancements?

I stay up to date with industry trends and advancements by reading publications such as those by the IBD, the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, and a variety of academic and industry journals. I jump at opportunities for any sort of educational content and training. And of course, I attend industry events to mingle with my peers and talk shop, just like the IBD Irish Section AGM two weekends ago!

We are also lucky in Irish whiskey to have less of the restrictions that our cousins over in Scotland have. It has been an exciting time to see all the recent innovation from a  wood maturation perspective, and also from an overall process perspective, with the use of new grains and malt types.

Are there any mentors or role models who have had a significant influence on your career journey?

Definitely! I have been super lucky to have more than a handful of great mentors and role models in multiple different cities and countries. I wouldn't be who I am today without their help, and I am very grateful for them.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to share about your experience in the industry? We welcome any additional thoughts, anecdotes, or reflections you'd like to contribute.

Never miss an opportunity to learn something new, and always ask questions.