WE export 10 times more beer than we buy from abroad, new figures show.
The country's 26 breweries now account for as many as 40,800 jobs here, according to new research from EY, formerly Ernst & Young, which looked at the sector here and across Europe.
Around two million people work in jobs created directly or indirectly by the brewery sector across Europe including jobs in agriculture, packaging, logistics and marketing as well as in breweries, pubs and hotels, the report says. That is equal to one in every 100 jobs across the European Union
In Ireland, the industry employed approximately 1,500 people directly in 2012 but supported an additional 6,000 jobs in the supply sector including in agriculture, packaging, logistics and marketing.
As many as 32,000 hospitality jobs in pubs and the wider hospitality sector rely on brewing, according to the report.
While that number is high, it has been shrinking rapidly since the financial crisis began.
The total jobs figure slid by over a fifth between 2012 and 2008, when the sector supported 52,400 here. Government revenues from the sector have also declined, falling to €1.23bn from €1.44bn in 2008.
Consumption and spending are both falling rapidly. Total consumption is down 9.9pc in the five-year period to 4.68 million hectolitres, while consumer spending plunged 14.9pc to €3.09bn as people switch from pubs to off-licences. This means that the average adult drank 85.6 litres of beer in 2012 compared to 98.6 litres in 2008.
The report came on the same day that the Licensed Vintners Association held a conference in Dublin where publicans were told that food is the future for pubs.
Food consultant Hugo Arnold told more than 125 publicans that food will play a central role in setting pubs apart and added that publicans are well placed to exploit the new trend for informal and affordable dining.
"If publicans are serious about food they need to create a vision for their pub, research it and then persevere with it," Mr Arnold said. "This requires a shift in mindset. Pubs which serve watery coffee and lukewarm, over-cooked carvery lunches will struggle to survive in the future."
Mr Arnold said pubs had competitive advantages and they need to remain as pubs which serve quality food, not become restaurants. "Pubs are flexible and very accessible. Customers want casual, quality dining at a fair price. It's complicated and requires hard work, but pubs that get it right will prosper," he said.
Gerry Hussey, a performance psychologist, told the meeting that it was vital to build a high performing staff team to provide exceptional customer service.
"Dublin publicans are well known for their hospitality but must continuously invest in their staff to ensure they are trained and motivated to the highest standards. Both the consumer and the competition are evolving and publicans must keep pace with them. Staff have a central role to play in the future success of pubs," he said.