Wednesday 12 December 2018

Entrepreneurs are brewing up a beer storm in the Rebel county

10 new breweries have opened in Cork since 2017 alone

Maria Herlihy

The Rebel County is leading the country with 10 microbreweries recorded last year.

DCU economist Tony Foley said high levels of innovation and  entrepreneurship in all sectors of the Irish drinks industry are supporting and creating jobs - generating balanced regional development.

From 2012 to 2016, microbrewery turnover increased from  €8 million to €52 million. The number of Irish whiskey distilleries increased from four in 2013 to 18 in 2017, with another 16 planned breweries.

Distillery visitor centre growth, as well as Irish pub and off-licence innovation, is creating new revenue streams for industry. The DIGI report 'Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Drinks Industry' marks the launch of the 2018 Support Your Local campaign.

According to the report, brewers, distillers, cider producers, pubs, restaurants, hotels and off-licences are supporting and growing economic activity in Ireland - spread widely across the country. In the report, it is stated that 14 percent of Ireland's breweries are located in Cork, followed by 10 percent in Dublin, and seven percent in each of the counties of Galway, Wicklow and Donegal. Every county in the Republic, bar Westmeath, has at least one brewery.

Secretary of DIGI and CEO of the Licenced Vintners Association Donall O'Keeffe said that the Irish drinks industry is innovating and diversifying in response to changing consumer tastes.

"Our drinks industry has proven itself extremely adaptable to ever-changing tastes in consumer behaviour. Manufacturers, large and small, have diversified their offerings, experimented with new ingredients and recipes, and developed lucrative commercial partnerships at home and abroad."

In response to changing consumer tastes, pubs and off-licences are fostering their own culture of modernity and experimentation. Nearly three-quarters of pubs have refurbished their premises in the last three years.

Many breweries and distilleries are developing visitor centre facilities, increasing product awareness among local and international consumers, and opening up additional revenue streams. In a survey of 50 microbreweries, eight already have their own visitor centre facility in place. A further 36 have plans to develop one.

The Irish whiskey industry, meanwhile, envisages Ireland becoming the global leader in whiskey tourism by 2030, overtaking Scotland.

"If the drinks industry is to flourish into the future, it needs as few barriers to trade as possible. Right now, our own excise tax is a barrier. Compared to other EU states, Ireland's is the second highest overall: we have the highest excise tax on wine, the second highest on beer and the third highest on spirits," Mr O'Keeffe said.

"In a challenging international economic environment, with Brexit and growing American protectionism, export development must be supported by a strong market at home.

"This starts with ensuring that policy measures support growth, and we must prioritise reducing the tax burden on Ireland's fastest-growing manufacturing industry by lowering excise on alcohol," he said.