EIGHT Elite Light Lager is a beer modeled for go-getters who want to enjoy a drink with friends but still get up early to start their day the next morning. Co-founded by Ruchi Desai and Doug Campbell along with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, EIGHT can be found in half of the grocery stores in Texas. We recently spoke with co-founders Desai and Campbell about what makes this new beer so unique.
Who is EIGHT marketed to?
Campbell: So this beer is built for people that we refer to as “early risers”, and I would say those of us who work for EIGHT are cut from that same cloth. It is for anybody who rolls out of bed with a strong sense of purpose and is trying to build something for themselves. You know, we all have our personal goals. But those who are really dedicated to pushing the ball down the field a little bit more every day, those are our people. We know that for those people, and ourselves included, they like to celebrate the wins of the day with a beer at the end. One of the wonderful things about beer as a beverage is it’s very social, very communal, bringing people together. But when you’re going to get back up the next morning early and get after it again, whether that means running a few miles to get your day going or just getting right into work or tucked into your family obligations, you can’t have a beer that will compromise that.
What does EIGHT taste like?
Campbell: EIGHT is a light lager, which means it is a crisp, easy drinking, refreshing beer that has a very subtle hint of citrus in it based on the hop that we use. But for the most part, it’s crisp, refreshing, delicious and with a fast finish that we hope will leave you wanting more.
Is it a healthy beer?
Campbell: Well, I don’t know that you can ever call beer a healthy beverage per se. It’s still an alcoholic beverage. But I would say compared to other options in the market, EIGHT is certainly a better beer for you. It’s 90 calories, 2.6 carbs. So it’s similar to some of the lightest beers on the marketplace now from bigger companies. But unlike those beers, we try to make it with only the good stuff. We use organic grains, and no ‘adjuncts’, which basically means cheap fillers. We use a special hop from a German hop field that is high in some good ingredients, called Hallertauer Taurus. This is a recipe for people who are very demanding about what they put inside their body. They’re very careful and mindful about what they consume.
What’s the meaning behind your name EIGHT?
Campbell: Our co-founder and business partner is NFL legend Troy Aikman from the Dallas Cowboys. EIGHT was his number in his playing days. The number also has a lot of interesting references in other cultures that speak to the ethos that I just outlined – having big ambitions and driving after them with purpose every day but yet wanting to maintain balance. So once we figured out that those meanings all happened to exist in a number that was already meaningful to Troy, the brand had to be called EIGHT.
How did you get started on this idea?
Campbell: We all have different backgrounds but fundamentally we sort of saw this space within the beer category as one that is large and growing, but hadn’t had anything really fundamentally new. When we talk about people who are cut from the cloth that I mentioned, people who are early risers themselves and want to go get after the day, we really didn’t see a brand that spoke to that ethos directly. That was the purpose for people who are like that, and I think those of us who worked for EIGHT are all that way. You can walk into a grocery store and shop the perimeter of the store and be mindful about what you’re buying to cook, or going out to restaurants … what you’re buying to consume there. When it comes to beer, it didn’t feel like there was an obvious choice. So that’s what we aimed to create with it.
When are you going to branch out from Texas?
Desai: We’re still thinking about exactly when that would happen. Texas is an amazing state. We’ve had such an amazing reception to date. And there’s so much opportunity that we still haven’t fully tapped into. So our focus right now and for the foreseeable future is in Texas. Beyond 2023, we’re considering our options but we could never leave Texas and be really happy because it’s a great place.
Can you explain your giveback program?
Campbell: This is something we’re very proud of as part of the company. Part of our core ethos at EIGHT is that success is a team endeavor. You always have to be mindful of the environment that you’re in and the support structure you have around you. We also know that not everyone has the greatest support structure. So we’ve pledged 1% of our revenues; I could say we would do profits, but we don’t make a lot of those just yet. So we took 1% right off the top to give to organizations that help provide infrastructure, counseling and other access to things that some of us take for granted. So when you’re exercising and religiously consuming wholesomely, that can be expensive. That requires access and not everybody has equal access. So we’ve partnered with a couple of different organizations around the state, most recently one called Back on My Feet. It helps people that are dealing with homelessness get the resources they need to get back in the game.
What else should we know about EIGHT?
Desai: I think one big thing that’s really important about EIGHT is that Troy Aikman is our co-founder but he’s more than that. You see a lot of celebrities who have launched different spirits or brands, but he’s more than just the face of the brand. It’s rooted very much in his lifestyle and how he lives his life and what he was looking for and missing when he was shopping for beers to have with his friends on the occasions that he was drinking. But even beyond that, today, he’s been in the market and has visited hundreds of accounts across the state. He is involved with our distributor, our retail partner, he has a weekly catchup with us as a team to figure out what’s going on and how he can truly lean in. He interviews every single person that we hire. So he really is a big part of the business – a big reason for our success to date, beyond our broader team, who have all been really amazing as well.
Campbell: We’ve been sort of taken aback by the reception we’ve gotten so far in Texas. We were made aware by one of our advisors, a fella by the name Bump Williams, that as of the time (early in the Fall), EIGHT was actually the fastest launch by any independent beer brand in our category ever, which is great. We’re still sort of flabbergasted by that. So we’re really quite humbled by the start. At the same time, this is a tremendously competitive business and it truly does take a village to build a beer brand in such a big diverse market like Texas. So we’re just getting going, but it’s been an amazing start.
Cover Photo JJ Miller Photography.
Maddie Rhodes is a graduate student at Syracuse University. She aspires to work for a travel magazine when she graduates.