Crafty devils brew up a storm in beer industry
THE pint of plain is being challenged these days by something a little more crafty.
Drinkers are getting more adventurous with their tipple of choice, as craft beer sales are set to soar by 35pc this year.
The number of Irish craft brewers has doubled over the past 10 years, with one microbrewery, Eight Degrees, having to increase its production capacity by 150pc just to cope with demand.
There are now almost 40 craft brewers in Ireland and, despite the recession, sales soared by 42pc in 2012 and are expected to rise by 35pc this year.
While craft brewers represent less than 1pc of Ireland's overall beer and cider sales, producers believe they can achieve a 5pc market share by 2016.
The products reflect Irish history and heritage – from Dingle Brewery's Tom Crean's Lager to the Gleeson Group's Devil's Bit Cider, and from Eight Degrees' Howling Gale Ale (right) to the Franciscan Well's Blarney Blonde.
In the US and UK, where beer sales have largely been under pressure because of the recession and falling consumer spending, craft brewers have enjoyed soaring sales and have reached 5pc market share.
Seamus O'Hara, of the Carlow Brewing Company, said the industry was defying all the economic data.
"Year-on-year growth is at an all-time high and the interest from the public in our craft and trade is making this sector a great one to be involved in," he added.
Eight Degrees has almost doubled its workforce and is now installing taps in two new pubs, on average, each week.
The firm, based in Mitchelstown, Cork, said Irish drinkers were now mirroring their UK and American counterparts with a taste for alternative beers and ales, and it now brewed 9,000 litres a week.
But despite the surge in interest, the brewing giants continue to dominate the market. Craft brewers still account for less than 1pc of the Irish beer and cider market.
Craft brewers sold almost 3.7 million litres of beer worth €7.5m last year. In contrast, the major brewers sold 8.5 million litres or over 99pc of all beer and cider sales. Almost 1,600 people are employed by the multinational brewers operating in Ireland.
However, craft brewers have doubled their market share in just three years and now employ more than 100 people.