NI Craft Beer Scene

At Geterbrewed we like to think that we have our ‘finger on the pulse’ so to speak within the industry

We have not only supplied the equipment for a number of breweries throughout Ireland but we now service the large majority of them with their brewing ingredients and we own our own small brewery Hillstown.

So why is the craft beer scene in NI so far behind the rest of Ireland and even further behind the rest of the UK?

There is a number of reasons, the main reason I believe is the strong hold that large macro brands like diageo and tennents have on the draft taps.

Many bars are given financial incentives to stock macro brands and have exclusivity deals that stops them from offering a draft tap from their local brewery

This is anti competitive but the local breweries can’t seem to do anything to fix it, it’s not for the want of trying i might add…

Another issue in NI is our out of date licensing laws that stops craft breweries from selling direct to the public, recently in the South of Ireland the legislation was changed to allow them to sell direct but with NI not even having a sitting assembly it’s difficult to see this changing anytime soon.

There is a few exceptions that are free houses and offer draft options away from the grip of the macro brands but there is even difficulty there, depending on what distributor they use usually affects who gets on tap too. Our local breweries need to see this sort of support to allow them to grow

Let’s be honest craftbeer hasn’t really taken off yet locally, we need alot more knowledge of what a great beer is. Less volume and more quality!! Some of the macro beers are awful tasting bland fizzy rubbish, why not try a beer with actual real flavour brewed by your local brewery

Owning a brewery always takes investment to grow and brewers either have the capital or they need to use their sales revenue to grow this. Without volume keg sales this affects revenue and in turn growth

Another issue is we don’t have a cask beer scene worth talking about here either. Pop over the Irish Sea and you will walk into bars with 10 cask beers on offer, this leaves breweries fighting it out for bottle sales and now cans.

Now cans are on trend in the Craft Beer scene but if a brewery wants to can locally they have to use a mobile canning service. At the stage of writing this no local brewery has their own canning line. We know that is soon to change but what you don’t realise is the expense is huge for this type of contract packaging.

So again the local breweries are struggling to achieve a solid profit margin to allow them to grow their brewery. Economies come with scale and while lots of local brewers are willing to work hard their efforts may not be visible If they can’t grow their output. You have no idea just how hard our local brewers work to earn a living, I don’t want to sound like a broken record but they do need your support to survive.

Some people say the local beers aren’t good enough. I can assure you that some of our local brewers are consistently producing impressive beers but yes we have some that are producing beer that simply isn’t good enough. If someone was to try an infected craft beer for the first time are they likely to try another craft beer ? Personally I don’t think they will, so we need education on what great beer tastes like

It’s also super competitive on price as the larger breweries are able to produce product for a much lower production price and when tenders come available for export channels or supermarkets, some brewers aren’t able to compete on price.

The demand from the specialist off sales and bars that do stock a range of Craft are also looking for something new, experimental pilot brews and small scale batches of specials are expensive and time consuming so again brewers aren’t generating a high revenue to allow them to grow.

Some of the local independents stock an offering of local craft but why isn’t there more local?

Some specialist off sales refuse to stock local beers if they feature in the supermarkets, I do get that if there was promotions in a supermarket they wouldn’t want to compete but that has to be balanced with why do they stock the macro brands that are also in the supermarket, it’s double standards and our local brewers need all the support they can get. Some need the supermarket sales to survive.

Our local breweries don’t have large marketing budgets and can’t compete with the bill boards, marketing material and adverts for macro beer.

We have local breweries so disheartened with the local craft beer scene that they only focus on export.We have a few new additions to the market in recent times and have a few breweries in planning but it’s inevitable we are going to have a few casualties. One local brewer recently converted his brewery into a distillery as he felt he couldn’t make a living from his brewery and needed to diversify.

With so many breweries competing for such a small market share of Craft Beer consumption we need to see change to see the local beer scene grow.

There is some local breweries producing awesome quality beers , we need more people to recognise what great beer is, there is a massive giant out there that is makro beer and it feels threatened by the global growth of Craft Beer. It wants to protect its market share in Northern Ireland and is willing to ‘fight dirty ‘ you know the tap ties I mentioned earlier that’s only some of it.

We know the millions Diageo ploughed into Hophouse 13 well now they have turned on Coors and they have launched Rockshore as they want to take away from their grip. It’s getting messy they are selling a huge volume of it but look at the quality of the liquid.

The makro beer brands also have sudo craft options that they have created to con the consumer into thinking it’s a craft beer.

I love this industry it’s my livelyhood and as a small family business we all are driven to see it succeed but sometimes it feels like in up hill battle for us and the amazing passionate local brewers that we work with.

Can I ask you to try and grow this movement, support your local brewery, go to their events, ask for their beers in your local off sales and bars. Give them honest feedback to help they improve and grow and continue to put quality before volume.

Share a few local beers with your friends, talk about them, the ingredients they used, the styles and ingredients that you enjoy. Pair a local brew with a beautiful meal, what I’m saying is create a moment that you enjoy the beer for its flavours and if this supports a local brewery they be happy in the knowledge you made their day and mine !!

Rant over! Its not all bad by the way we have some brewers locally that are holding their own and growing well but a little knowledge about whats going on sometimes can help. We need some more independent bars, what would be awesome is some more Brewpubs, the potential for a brewery that sells direct here is huge!