IRELAND'S craft breweries have the potential to create hundreds of new jobs but are being held back by restrictive licensing laws, owners say.
More than 20 new micro-breweries have popped up across the country in the past few years.
The newly formed Association of Craft Breweries of Ireland has expressed concern about the number of mass-produced beers being imported into Ireland and being 'passed off' as Irish craft beers.
"Unfortunately I can't sell you a beer on the premises," says Rick Levert, a Boston-born entrepreneur behind the Kinnegar Brewery in Rathmullan, Co Donegal.
"It's just one of the things craft brewers are hoping to do in the future. If we had a small tap house here, we could serve real Irish beer to visitors and tourists.
"But as the law stands we'd have to buy a drinks license and the cost of that is just too great."
Mr Levert (50) and his Donegal-born wife Libby produce 3,000 litres of craft beers every week, with the help of their three brewers.
The beers are named after local townlands in north Donegal -- like Scraggy Bay, Long Tongue and Yannaroddy.
It retails on tap at the same price as major brews.
Grainne Walsh, who runs the Metalman Brewing Co in Tycor, Waterford, produces beers called Windjammer, Chameleon and Moonbeam.
She is increasing staff numbers from four to six -- and hopes to add more in 2014.
"People love what we offer and we are growing," she says.
She adds: "There's a massive potential for this industry. It has the potential for hundreds of new jobs across Ireland. Beer drinking is going the same way in Ireland as wine drinking; people try what we do and they come back for more."