Tillage growers need to get crafty for brewers
The €40m craft beer industry can offer premium prices and security of demand for Irish barley and hops growers if they grow the much sought- after flavoursome varieties, according to one of the country's leading craft brewers.
Sales of craft beers have surged with many of the labels now stocked in leading off- licences and bars.
"Ireland needs to develop an Irish variety of malt and barley that the craft beer industry is willing to pay handsomely for, while guaranteeing security of demand through long-term contracts," said Templemore's White Gypsy Brewery founder Cuilan Loughnane.
"If we can do this professionally it puts Ireland's malt and barley on a world stage, which it's not on at the moment."
Craft beer production may only account for about 2pc of the volume of beer produced in Ireland but its output has more than trebled since 2011.
The output of the country's 63 microbreweries is expected to rise over 70pc this year to 145,000 hectolitres - with a projected turnover of €39.6m.
However, Mr Loughnane said the opportunities are strong with a further 64pc increase forecast for 2016. He said White Gypsy Brewery grows a small volume of hops in Co Tipperary. "We only grow a quarter of an acre beside our brewery, but we did that to show farmers that hops can be grown in Ireland," he said.
By way of comparison, he said that New Zealand's hop industry didn't exist 25 years ago but now produces some of the most expensive and most sought-after hops in the world.