Heineken-owned brewer Beamish & Crawford is to lose the brewing and distribution licence for Miller Genuine Draft in Ireland, brand owner SABMiller has said.

Beamish & Crawford will cease to handle Miller Genuine Draft (MGD) from 30 April, when sales and distribution will pass to Richmond Marketing, SABMiller announced today (26 January).

Richmond already handles sales and distribution of SABMiller's Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Pilsner Urquell lagers in Ireland.

An SABMiller spokesperson told just-drinks that the move follows a strategic review of MGD in Ireland, sparked by Heineken's acquisition of Beamish last year. Heineken gained Beamish as part of its share of the Scottish & Newcastle takeover, but announced in December that it would close the Cork-based group's brewery.

MGD has annual volumes of around 200,000 hectolitres in the Republic of Ireland, roughly equal to volumes for the UK market, which includes Northern Ireland.

Brewing of MGD for the Irish market is set to move to the Grolsch brewery in the Netherlands, just-drinks understands, giving SAB greater flexibility on production levels. SABMiller bought Grolsch for EUR816m in February 2008.

On-trade beer sales are shrinking Ireland, which became the first EU member state to report a recession late last year, but an SAB spokesperson said MGD volumes were "holding up pretty well". 

Nick Miller, managing director of Miller Brands, expressed confidence in continued growth today: "Richmond has an outstanding record of developing premium drinks brands," he said.