Craft beer makers raise a glass as production levels soar

Number of microbreweries in Ireland has also jumped, new report shows

Pictured are some of the brewers appearing at the forthcoming Irish Craft Beer Festival at the RDS are (Front) Barry Hegarty, Galway Hooker, Jonathon Spielberg, Craftworks, Jonathon Scott, Scotts Irish Cider, Brendan Crowley, McGargles Brewery, Paddy Doyle, O’Hara’s Brewery, (Back row) Caitriona Kelly, JW Sweetman, Quincy Fennelly, Wicklow Wolf, Cameron Wallace, 8 Degrees, Richard Hamilton, Craftworks and Micheal Cowan, Manor Brewery & Co. Photograph: Orla Murray/ Ark Photography

Pictured are some of the brewers appearing at the forthcoming Irish Craft Beer Festival at the RDS are (Front) Barry Hegarty, Galway Hooker, Jonathon Spielberg, Craftworks, Jonathon Scott, Scotts Irish Cider, Brendan Crowley, McGargles Brewery, Paddy Doyle, O’Hara’s Brewery, (Back row) Caitriona Kelly, JW Sweetman, Quincy Fennelly, Wicklow Wolf, Cameron Wallace, 8 Degrees, Richard Hamilton, Craftworks and Micheal Cowan, Manor Brewery & Co. Photograph: Orla Murray/ Ark Photography

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The number of microbreweries operating in the Republic has more than trebled since 2012 to 63, underscoring the public’s newfound love for craft beer, according to a new survey.

The report, which was commissioned by Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland (ICBI), shows production output rose threefold between 2011 and 2014 and is expected to have increased by more than 70 per cent this year alone due to the growth in new breweries in operation.

Of the 63 microbreweries currently in operation, 48 are producing beer on their own premises, with the remainder marketing and selling products produced on their behalf by other breweries. As many as 22 new production microbreweries commenced production in 2014 and it is forecast that this figure will have risen to 58 by the end of this year.

The output of craft beer by Irish microbreweries amounted to 86,000 hectolitres (hl) last year, up 71 per cent on the preceding 12 months, when output reached 49,000hl. Output is expected to rise 70 per cent this year to 145,000 hl and by a further 64 per cent to 241,000hl in 2016. The rise in production is paying off, with the turnover of craft beer producers estimated at €23 million for 2014, a figure that is expected to rise to €39.6 million this year. Five Irish microbreweries had a turnover of more than €1 million in 2014, although a quarter of all companies in the sector had a turnover of less than €50,000.

While microbreweries benefit from a tax rebate of 50 per cent, it is estimated they will have still paid the Revenue Commissioners some €3.4 million in excise duty for 2014 production, a figure forecast to rise to €5.4 million for 2015.

Some two-thirds of craft beer brewers are exporting, albeit usually on a small scale. Last year, about 25 per cent, or 21,400hl, of the total production of microbreweries was exported, almost double that of 2013. However, many are now targeting an export share of almost 50 per cent of total production in the years ahead.

ICBI spokesman and Carlow Brewing Company chief executive Seamus O’Hara said while he expected exports to continue to rise, many microbreweries are content to stay local.

“I think there are lots of opportunities in terms of exports but there is also a learning curve in terms of logistics and other issues that you don’t usually have to deal with in the domestic market, which is very buoyant at the moment. So I can see plenty of microbreweries deciding to continue to focus on the home market while others who are more ambitious and want to build a business out of this will look overseas instead,” he said.

According to the latest report, which was released to coincide with a craft beer festival at the RDS in Dublin, microbreweries in Ireland employ an estimated 312 people after creating 159 jobs in the past year. Of those employed in the sector, 212 are full-time. The study indicates the sector supports a further 260 employees indirectly.

Low market share The share of craft beer in total Irish beer production is still relatively low at 1.2 per cent. However, this is expected to reach 2 per cent and 3.3 per cent in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Microbreweries surveyed said the most common issue facing them related to restrictions on sale of beer to brewery visitors. Below-cost selling by bigger producers was also cited as a problem for many.

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