Craft breweries may be small but they have huge potential to grow in the beer market, according to Seamus O’Hara, Chairperson of the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland Association (ICBI).

O’Hara of the Carlow Brewing Company addressed the Teagasc National Malting Barley Seminar in Co. Kilkenny recently, where he outlined a more positive story for the craft beer industry in Ireland.

He also put in context the craft beer outputs in Ireland each year.

“Craft breweries are a growing business, but are still relatively small at between 1.5-2% of the overall beer market in Ireland”

“With the right momentum there is a potential to grow this to 10% of the market,” he said.

In September 2015, the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland and Bord Bia launched a report on the impact of Irish craft beer on the economy.

Bord Bia’s Karen Tyner said there are opportunities for growth in the industry at home and abroad.

Since 2011, Irish microbreweries’ output has risen more than threefold and given the influx of new firms in 2014 and the industry’s expansion plans, output is expected to rise substantially again this year.

“The craft beer market accounts for just 1.2% of total Irish beer production and based on current trends and growth forecasts, it is likely to increase to reach 3.3% over the next two years, providing a really positive outlook for the industry,” she said.

The report showed that there are over 63 microbreweries operating in Ireland, of which 48 are production microbreweries and 15 are contracting companies.

The output of craft beer by production microbreweries amounted to some 86,000hl (hectolitres) in 2014, with production expected to reach 241,000hl in 2016.

It says that approximately 25% of all craft beer produced in Ireland is exported, with some two-thirds of microbreweries already exporting.

The turnover of craft beer producers in 2014 is estimated at €23m and at a projected €39.6m for 2015.

Beverage growth

The global beverages market in 2014 showed further growth as the market benefits from increased demand for premium alcoholic beverages, Bord Bia reported.

Key growth regions include Asia, the Middle East, South America and Africa.

Irish beverage exports put in a robust performance in 2014 driven by ongoing growth in whiskey combined with further growth in ‘craft’ exports.

This helped to offset slower beer, cream liqueur and cider sales Overall, exports are estimated to have increased marginally in 2014 to stand at €1.21 billion.