The most reliable rule if you want to drink like an Irishman is to stick to stout. While that’s still a pretty reliable rule, the Irish inclination to try new beers and new beer categories is growing. While stouts and lagers still rule the sales of beer in Ireland, craft breweries and a variety of ales and other exotic brews are beginning to pop up all over the Emerald Isles. According to Ireland’s Food Serve Platform (a solid resource for those involved with Ireland’s food service sector):
According to the latest Bord Bia report, the Irish craft beer market continues to grow domestically and internationally with 62 microbreweries now operating in Ireland, and craft beer representing 2.5% of total beer consumption in Ireland, projected to rise to 3.4% in 2016. That amounted to sales of €40m in 2015 and projected sales of €59 in 2016.
You can compare the Irish market to the 12-percent market share for craft beer in America. Unsurprisingly, the Irish have a lot of the same hurdles as American beer entrepreneurs — namely distribution in a market that’s been monopolized by Big Beer for some time. Here’s a fun example: Heineken Ireland was recently accused of selling “low-volume high-quality draft products” at a number of Irish outlets under local craft beer names. Criminal, right? Unfortunately, we could see that same sort of stuff happening here in America or anywhere else for that matter. So what sets an Irish craft beer apart from these corporate ne’er-do-wells? Back to the article:
Reuben Gray, Chair of Beoir, the Irish Craft Beer Consumers Association, says: “We use the same definition as Revenue: an independently owned microbrewery, not owned by any larger brewery, producing less than 30,000 hectolitres per annum.”
Responding to the statements from Heineken and C&C Gleeson, Gray said: “We as the beer consumers organisation in Ireland would definitely welcome these clarifications because it clears up certain misgivings and misinformation that have been in the public domain. We welcome transparency from all brewers. It’s only from false provenance and when we don’t know where a beer is coming from that it becomes an issue. When the consumer sees a Bheanntraí Brú, they are not making an informed choice. Who knows where it comes from? It could come from Heineken in Cork or any part of the world. The independents are not competing on a level playing field, especially when it comes to sales and marketing budgets, they don’t even come close. This type of thing creates further imbalance and confusion. It skews the line.”
Meanwhile, according to the Brewers Association’s latest numbers (released in March), Sweden, Ireland and the United Kingdom each took a market share of approximately 10 percent when it came to buying U.S.-brewed craft beer exports. The numbers suggest there’s an opportunity for both Irish and American craft brands to satisfy customers in the U.K. market — if locals can level that playing field Gray mentions above.