Alumni engagement and philanthropy


14 May 2018

The world’s first locally produced ‘blockchain’ beer will be launched at the Belfast Summit of Global Food Integrity later this month (28-31 May), a major international conference which is being hosted by the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen's.

Downstream Beer is brewed in collaboration with Mourne Mountain Brewery and is the brainchild of two local entrepreneurs, Shane McCarthy and Liam Brogan.

It makes history by using blockchain technology, which enables the consumer to find out the provenance of the beer – ingredients, supply chain, methods of production – by scanning the graphic on the label (which looks like a bar code) with a smartphone.

With the traceability of food now a major global concern due to the rising incidence of food fraud, blockchain is being seen by many as the solution to complex supply chains. It was originally developed via the crypto-currency, bitcoin, but has since been adapted for many data-management settings including healthcare, public administration and food security.

Shane McCarthy, a 2009 BSc Finance graduate from Queen’s, said the idea first came when the beer, whiskey and gin-exporting company he founded, Ireland Craft Beers, hooked up with NI digital-solutions firm, arc-net.

Through arc-net, Shane and Liam (also a member of the Queen’s BSc Finance Class of 2009) came into contact with Professor Chris Elliott, Founder of the IGFS at Queen’s, who was also working on the development of traceability solutions for the food and farming industry.

Between the three of them – arc-net, IGFS and Ireland Craft Beers – the idea for a blockchain beer that would be grown, brewed and sold in NI (‘grain to glass’) took hold. 

“Liam and I were looking at solutions for traceability on beer for craft-beer consumers,” said Shane. “With a background in FinTech, I had some familiarity with the power of blockchain on tracing data.

“We saw some of the great work that people like Professor Elliott and arc-net were doing with applying technology to meat, and animal feed, and we came together with an idea to make a world’s first blockchain beer.”

Downstream is available online at Honest Brew and Borough Wines and has been listed for supply to Marks & Spencer this coming autumn.

However, delegates to the Belfast Summit on Global Food Integrity can have a sneak preview when the beer features at a special showcase of NI agri-food at St George’s Market, on the evening of Tuesday 29 May. While that showcase will be open to the public, space is limited and delegates to the Summit will receive priority.

Professor Chris Elliott said it was great to see a local company pioneering technology that could change how we farm and produce food, right across the world.

He added: “Once again, IGFS is leading the way by exploring the potential of blockchain to enhance the security and safety of our food systems. The fact that this beer has been developed by two Queen’s graduates just makes it all the sweeter.”

To find out more about the Belfast Food Summit or to register, click here.

All media inquiries to IGFS Communications Officer Una Bradley on +44 (0)28 9097 6571 or 07920 088450 (m).

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