The Craft Beer Scene in Northern Ireland – Support your local brewery!!

Suppressed…..

In a word, the craft beer movement seeing huge growth in other parts of the world is being suppressed in the North of Ireland by the Macro beer brands, the craft beer market is being prohibited from growing because of anti competitive tactics which leads to lack of support from the on trade market.

Combine the anti competitive tactics with the current out of date licensing laws our craft breweries really need support from the public to grow and survive and our politicians need to start lobbying for change of the licensing laws to help the small craft producers sell direct.

The main problem is anti competitive practices from the big drinks distribution guys, our own brewery was hit with such tactics recently. We brewed a beer specifically for a large hotel and they stopped buying from us so we sought clarification on what was happening, they advised us that they had been given 350k over a ten year period not to allow other breweries in that they didn’t represent. This is the first time we experienced this with a bottle contract, we had never seen that type of activity before, usually you can expect it to be just in relation to draft beer lines.

In simple terms Macro beer brands can buy the rights (not lawfully btw) to have just their beer pouring in bars, restaurants and hotels, some craft brewers simply wouldn’t have the ability to compete with such deals so their growth is suppressed.

Another major problem is licensing laws, now NI is isolated with out of date legislation, the South of Ireland recently changed their laws with a successful Craft Drinks Bill and the UK breweries can sell direct, they can open tap rooms they can generate a revenue from direct drinks sales but NI can’t without approaching a bar to get the use of their occasion licence and making an application to the court.

The lack of a sitting assembly at Stormont means any work that had previously been achieved with craft producers and MLA’s working on a change in law will have to start again IF they ever get back to actually legislating. What is shocking is that political parties in NI don’t currently even acknowledge correspondence in relation to this.

Another issue is that NI craft brewers need volume sales to survive, the margins in Craft Beer are small and with the suppressed local craft beer market the consumption rate is low so they need to look at supermarkets or exports, now we have the impeding circus show that is Brexit looming without any guidance to how the local craft brewing business community is being affected plus the catch with supermarket sales means most independent off sales will abandon them as they say they won’t stock breweries that are in supermarkets yet they still stock macro beer that is in the supermarket, that itself doesn’t seem fair really, again a different rule for macro beer.

Export is what is helping NI breweries grow , the consumption rate of craft beer in Northern Ireland isn’t large enough to support the amount of brewers. There is few breweries in NI that work fulltime brewing without some form of supplementary income for eg our main business is selling ingredients to brewers but we do co own a local brewery. Those that are working full time are really making the effort to push their brand as its the most difficult place to open and operate a brewery. We have some incredibly talented brewers in Ireland and Irish craft beer is respected on the world stage. Export markets are competitive , the margins are low but if you can achieve some decent volume then it can create revenue to allow the brewery to grow that growth leads to larger scale which in turn brings efficiencies and savings.

Direct sales from the brewery is what is really needed, taprooms across England for eg are selling their beer on draft direct for say £4 per pint, 95% of what they are brewing is being sold onsite, this is allowing them a consistent and sustainable revenue stream. I have visited some of these tap rooms and they have become the hub of the community in some small country villages.

So why don’t more NI brewers open tap rooms?

Some do and make use of occasion licences in their breweries and I love what they are doing here…. Checkout Boundary, Lacada and now Knockout doing this. Location is key too, if your brewery is based in the countryside for eg that might not be practical. So if we look at premises in major towns and cities they have prohibitive rent and rates and if you want to buy a licensed premises they are crazy expensive. We looked recently at a licence that became available in Randalstown and the asking price was 200k, with the current licensing laws no new licences can be issued so if you own a licence its worth money.

Some of our NI brewers are making incredible craft beer yet local support isn’t on their side. I recently went to a well known Belfast Bar with several other brewers, we were offered samples and asked if we would like to try something on their board (this part i thought was a good thing btw) but….. When we looked at the board I said I would like to try something local. This then kicked off a talk from the bartender about how he couldn’t get any kegs from local breweries. This really got my attention so i started asking some probing questions turns out he was talking out his arse. I started asking basic simple questions like which local breweries did you approach? I was shocked and equally pissed off at the response, the bartender ran down several respected local breweries one by one. Largely inaccurate info I may add, yes our brewery was mentioned and apparently I don’t need beer sales as my income comes from meat sales from our beer fed beef project – really wtf!! our business partner in the brewery Nigel was there with us and runs the farmshop with his brother and he will confirm that isn’t a main revenue stream, it takes it all to get a little return. Good brewers who I rate were slagged off one by one, I challenged this with some effort and said we were all brewers and what your saying is wrong and if thats the message you are portraying to customers then you are damaging the local beer scene. Guess what we chipped away at all the bullshit and it boiled down to distribution companies, who they can and can’t buy from, frustrating to be honest………

This is written to help create awareness of what challenges local brewers have here, yes we co-own a brewery ourselves but our main business is supplying brewing ingredients, we want all local breweries to be supported, we are passionate about this industry and as a small family business we have built relationships with the brewers we supply we know how hard they work, we know they can make awesome beer we just want you to see how much they need a little help. If we could get the licence laws changed and more taprooms opened these are the places i’d like to spend my sparetime, please challenge your local bars and off sales to make an effort to support your local brewery, or as many local breweries as possible, this will greatly help the craft beer movement.

Does your local MLA know we need these laws changed, the more constituents asking the more chance for change, just saying, we genuinely appreciate your help with supporting local brewers.

 

 

 

 

Hillstown Brewery attending Craft Beer Rising with Geterbrewed

We have teamed up with Crisp Malt to bring a flavour of the Irish Craft Beer Scene to London for the 2019 Craft Beer Rising, honestly get tickets this is an awesome festival

So we have 6 key customers attending and we will be pouring their beers all weekend including some special collaborations between the Irish brewers

Hillstown Brewery Logo

Our sister brewery Hillstown will be there. The Northern Ireland based brewery was created in partnership with our friend Nigel Logan from Hillstown Farmshop and the brewhouse is now proudly located on the farm. Launched in 2014 initially as a beer fed beef project for the on site butchery it now produces a core range of 6 beers, complimented with a range of seasonal specials.

The latest releases include:

Hillstown Brewery Special Releases

1. The Blueberry Badger Parade 3.5%
Hillstowns first sour beer, Geterbrewed managed to get us some commercial samples of a new helveticus strain of bacteria, we blended this with sour pitch planetarium strain and soured the wort in the brewhouse kettle for 24 hours prior to boiling off the wort and adding a little citra hops. Big thanks to Rob Percival from Lallemand for the technical help on this project

We fermented the beer at a high temperature with Belle Saison yeast and then used some juniper botanicals from Frankie & Eileens distillery to add to secondary. We have allowed this beer to condition for several weeks with the botanicals prior to bottling. The amount of Blueberries in this beer makes up 55% of the content, its complex yet super crushable as its only 3.5%

2. The Full Boar Crew 6.2%
The new trend for IPA’s, a Brut IPA much like its champagne name is a super dry beer, we have fermented out all the residual sugars with the addition of glucoamylase 400 paired with a beautiful Lallemand New England yeast which has imparted some nice stone fruit flavour and we have late hopped the beer with lots of the latest harvest of Simply Hops Aussie varieties. The hop flavour profile is super fresh and packed with delicious hop flavour

Jonathan is the creative recipe designer usually starting the pilot batches on his homebrew kit and then passing the recipe onto the brewers to turn it into the commercial format.

New brewer Kevin McLaughlin is producing some of the best beers to date, again a home brewer turned pro he is dedicated and passionate about the Irish Craft Beer Scene, he is even known to do a little blogging on beer in his spare time

Hillstown Brewery recently launched with new distribution partners in the UK, the juvenile NI beer scene has enjoyed their beers since 2014 but as with many Irish brewers the local consumption rate is low so focus is mainly on export opportunities.

Hillstown collaborated with Rye River Brewery & Hilden Brewery for special beers to be released at Craft Beer Rising.

Join us and meet some of the key players in the Irish Craft Beer Scene at the festival in London, you can buy tickets here: 

The Belfast Craft Beer Festival 2018

This year well…. to summarise the weather saved the day, the sun was shining, the queues got longer and the breweries well they sold out….yes I said sold out!!

Belfast beer festival Geterbrewed

I have to say i’m pleasantly surprised by this and feel had the sun not of been shining i’m not so sure the organisers would have been back for another year.

This is the third year the event has run at Custom House Square Belfast and we had a stand at the event with our own brewery Hillstown Brewery and one of our brewers has started to cuckoo brew with us, so he brought 11 new beers under his Barrahooley brand. I’m kinda proud of what Sam achieved as he worked his nuts off on the run up to the event brewing specials for the Belfast beer crowd and they flew out all weekend. He gave up a corporate job to follow his passion in brewing.

Highlights for me were the Juniper Gin Gose from Lough Gill Brewery, the NEIPA 5 from Rascals plus Boyne Brewery & Barrahooleys Imperial Stout Offerings. I’m not a massive cider fan but I was really impressed with Mckeevers Rhubarb & Honey Cider.

My guys did a blueberry sour for Hillstown Brewery and we showed off the NEIPA we brewed with the Porterhouse brewery called Hazy Border, this was brewed during our brewing seminar and I was super pleased with the feedback.

A mention to Samuels Brewery also as I spoke to Gary, he left a job working for Tennents to try his hand at launching a brewery In Northern Ireland, this is some undertaking to be fair to him, he is contract brewing at Knockout brewery and whilst he isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel he wants to try his hand at offering beers with actual flavour here so fair play, he’s driven and I hope to see more of this happening

I enjoyed the craic on the friday night and have to say the music was cracking the food was great & the crowd was really enjoying the atmosphere so I drank a little too much on the friday and decided to work the saturday night but still had a laugh and it was great to put some faces to the names we often interact with on social channels.

Next year is booked and with the lift in the marketing and promotion this year and the success of this years event i’m sure next years will be bigger and better.

We need more support for the local craft beer scene, sadly only about 2% of beer consumption is craft beer in Northern Ireland and we need to get away from the Macro strong hold on draft beer to help the local Micro breweries grow, so if you see a beer festival promoting local craft beers go along and show the guys some support.

I have an understanding of what it takes and believe me when I say it they need your support to survive.

 

From the Attic to the warehouse

From the Online Homebrew Shop based in our Attic at home to the Brewery Distribution Warehouse

geterbrewed logo

We are in business five years and wow it’s been a journey, thankyou all, genuinely thankyou its been amazing…….so…….

Why start a Homebrew shop?

We both loved brewing beer and wine at home and wanted to be able to buy great quality wine kits and a diverse range of beer ingredients from our local homebrew shop, we found the selection locally to be more based on simple kits and no all grain ingredients, we wanted to experiment with premium quality wine kits and try our hand at brewing beer from scratch not just extract kits. So we started writing a business plan for selling our own and researching if there was in fact a homebrew wholesaler. We started with an Irish Homebrew company but quickly realised they weren’t a real homebrew wholesaler so we opened accounts with a few of the UK wholesalers and started to sell brewing ingredients and equipment online.

It was really difficult to start with, how do you get the attention of the homebrew community, how do you know what to stock and how do you compete with what appeared to be a ‘homebrew cartel’ in Ireland, the key to our success in my opinion was to focus on the customer and the quality of the ingredients, so we put the home brewer first. Look I’ll be honest it was a steep learning curve and we didn’t always get it right but that helped us learn and are very proud of our business now. We supply a lot of the local homebrewing community and we also supply a large number of breweries

The Home brew website?

It has evolved from a basic online home brew store to a Microbrewery Equipment & Brewery Ingredient supplier. There is so many funny stories about the website in the last 5 years but we have always tried to make the Geterbrewed website the most user friendly in the industry. Our friend is our web developer and even though it has grown beyond all of our expectations he stills oversees its running but has other professionals that now help out. When he took a stroke at 34 and we went to the hospital with the Ipad to get a few issues fixed it shows you how dedicated he was and how utterly obsessed we were with our homebrew business… thats a true story… we eat sleep and breath this business

 

What sets Geterbrewed apart?

  • The Service
  • The Education of home brewers
  • We cater from Hedgerow brewer to Pro Brewer
  • The custom recipe builder – we wanted to do this right from the start and we now have successful set it as the best-selling service in the UK & Ireland

Geterbrewed set out to start a homebrew revolution on the 1st of April 2013, five years later we have evolved somewhat and have been blessed with success, we want to personally thank you all for your support, without homebrewers and microbreweries supporting us we wouldn’t exist.

It all started in our attic at home, we bought a range of beer kits, cider kits and wine kits and some really basic brewing equipment. When we got fed up walking up and down into the attic we moved to the garage and then moved to Hillstown Farmshop and partnered with the Logan’s, we launched our own brewery and set up a warehouse at the rear of the shop, we are very grateful to Nigel and his family for our time at the shop, we created local employment and started to move into supplying breweries, now we have an 8000 square foot warehouse very close to the shop, we couldn’t expand any further at the back of the shop and with us now selling 1000’s of tonnes of malt we had to move…we still have a small shop presence at Hillstown also

What’s next for Geterbrewed?

We will continue to offer the freshest brewing ingredients we can, we have recently started to sell Microbrewery equipment and now install fully operational breweries, we installed a brewpub In County Offaly last week and we have a new Brewery just ordered this week for Worchester in the UK, we really love what we do and can’t really thank you all enough for allowing us to work with you.

Geterbrewed will grow & build on our exclusive relationships with key suppliers, we have built strong relationships with Crisp Malt, Lallemand Yeast, Hop Farmers and UK & Global Homebrew wholesalers. We have exciting projects ongoing with Brewiks Microbrewery Equipment and we are driven to grow our business further.

Gin and Distilleries…yes as if we haven’t enough on….

Without giving too much away we have some really exciting plans and we will continue to keep our focus on you the customer, we put your first, we thankyou for the support, our staff thankyou for your support and we promise to keep investing in the business and to keep generating local employment.

Finally, I have experienced some amazing things with this business and met and made some incredible friends. We have travelled to source the finest ingredients across the globe and we are very grateful for the team we have, we have an awesome set of staff and they love what they do, thanks for joining the revolution and please stay with us on this journey!

WE REALLY APPRECIATE YOUR SUPPORT!!

The GEB Crew

Belfast to Beirut…..Our beautiful Experience in Lebanon

You need to visit this region, It impressed us…..

Backroom Beirut

Genuinely a heart warming experience, we collectively as a group of Irish Brewers & Distillers travelled to Beirut for a St Patricks celebration, hosted with the finest hospitality from the Fattal Group who now distribute our range of Craftbeer and Spirits.

A diverse range of brewers and distillers from across the Island brought together by Liam and Shane from ‘Ireland Craft Beers’. I have to say I’m super proud of what they have acheived, I also want to make a special mention of thanks to them and especially Paul Choueiry also who co ordinated the whole visit perfectly.

We met distributors, buyers, customers, the media and the British Ambassador Hugo Shorter even popped by to try our beers and spirits. We bonded as a group throughout the weekend and we’re happy to say we made many new friends and the “Craic was mighty!”

Don’t be afraid to visit this beautiful location, many told us we were mad to be travelling to Beirut. We did have a little nervous energy but it really wasn’t necessary

There is simply too many enjoyable moments to describe in a blog entry but i’ll happily say we all had a ball!

So who attended from Ireland? Check them out at their trade event stands below

  • Blackwater Distillery
  • Bertha’s Revenue Gin
  • Echlinville Distillery
  • Whiskeygate
  • Blacks of Kinsale
  • Eight Degrees Brewery
  • Hillstown Brewery

Blackwater distillery

Berthas Revenge Gin

Echlinville distillery

Whiskeygate

Blacks of kinsale

Eight degrees brewery

Hillstown Brewery

The Agenda?

To sell Irish Craft Beer & Spirits in Lebanon….well it’s already established and we enjoyed seeing its growth in a very short period of months.

Thursday night at the “Backroom Beirut”….. A beautiful bar that has been set up to showcase the finest wines, beers and spirits on offer. Every tap on the bar was pouring Irish Craft Beer and the selection of fine wines & spirits was amazing. The quality of the build is flawless.

The staff make the difference in the Backroom Beirut , they were passionate about quality, they know how to suggest recommendations and they know how to present the beverages plus they know the Brands story. All the beers are cold stored, every bottle of beer or key keg is maintained at optimum temperature. The Gins were served with knowledge and style also

On the Thursday night we were treated to some beautiful food and amazing beers, spirits and champagne. It’s fair to say we received the ‘Red Carpet Treatment’ It was very evident that the staff were pleased we had visited and I found it rewarding to hear them say how many of the locals now love Irish Beer & Spirits.

Fattal warehouse

Friday was an experience, we went to the warehouse at Fattal that has been storing our beers and spirits, securely into the lift we descent into the basement to be greeted with, well lets face it ‘Warehouse Envy’ Clean tidy and very well laid out, again climate controlled storage for the beers which shows these guys really care about the quality.

Irish Brewers & Distillers Export

We then received a special invite to the “Heritage Room” at Fattal Headquarters, Mr Hubert Fattal the Chairman of the company casually greeted us with a smile and a gentle nature, he explained the history of his family business, in it’s fourth generation now he described it as a mix between Art & Business. He took us on a story of Resilience and how the company has overcome many obstacles including wars.

Fattal are the gateway for eight lines of distribution across the Middle East & North Africa and we are very privileged to have been selected by them as their choice of Irish Craft Beers & Spirits.

Fattal supply no matter the circumstances and the brand appears to have a unique blend of “Western Sophistication, Oriental Charm & Middle Eastern Chaos” They successfully operate in volatile, uncertain and complicated areas, always improvising and adapting.

Fattal are a company that are genuinely invested in their suppliers, they build lasting relationships and uphold the best business ethics and we are very proud to have been selected to work with them on their range of Irish Craft Beer. Initial trials in the market place have now secured us a space on their catalogue.

On the Friday evening we were personally proud to hear that our beers had been really well received and we were excited that the first shipment had nearly all sold out and we had customers awaiting the latest shipment arriving in a few weeks. We did some interviews with the media and then partied with the public, and I mean we partied, some more than  others but i’ll let them tell you about that…..

The Traditional Irish Band headed up by Noel had been flown in from Longford and they played some beautiful songs and Liam even sang a few songs, and yes the lad can sing

Backroom Beirut St Patricks Day

A BBQ out the front and beer flowing inside and out the building led for a very enjoyable evening many locals were keen to chat about beer and learn about Irish Craft Beer and Spirits.

Backroom Beirut

To end the night we sung and stubbled our way home through the streets of Beirut, we felt safe and well received and it helped break down our misheld perceptions of Beirut prior to the visit.

On Saturday morning we met with a friend of Pauls’ – Sami, he is a keen home brewer who wants to open his own Brewpub. This excited me as he was very passionate and simply wanted some constructive feedback to help him improve. He currently works in the legal profession but wants to jump into the brewing industry, the tasting showed me that he had great potential, he was somewhat restricted to a small variety of ingredients and has to work with a limited selection.

A few tweaks on his water treatment and I think he’s there, I’d be super excited to see a Brewiks Microbrewery Brewpub in Beirut, I’ve already made contact with Brewiks to do a special deal for them.

Craft Beer in my opinion creates a community, not just with the beer drinkers but with the brewers, we are always willing to help build that community because if the smaller guys work together then then there is strength in numbers.

Beer tasting for breakfast was followed by a visit to the “Golden Star” a real premium feeling shopping centre which we’d love to be in regularly if we lived in the area. Downstairs was a mix of food and groceries and upstairs had a selection of the finest beer, wine and spirits available. I even spotted a 1.5 litre bottle of Louis XIII, one of the rarest cognacs in the world. The owner of the shop Sami is a huge supporter of our Craft Beer & Spirits.

A short journey followed to Byblos and we visited Eddesands , again the owners have been huge supports of our Craft Beers and Spirits and the band joined us again for an evening of great laughs. This area is very beautiful and I really soaked up the atmosphere, on the coast of the Mediterrean enjoying the beautiful cobbled streets , talking over coffee, enjoying some amazing lebanese food, it was bliss.

Byblos Irish Craft beer

Now for a few special mentions for the entertainment in the later part of the evening, Anthony from Berthas Revenge Gin is a real treat to party with, such an entertainer when he hit the stage, again more beautiful music from Noel and his band and a delicate solo performance from Louise!

Berthas Revenge Gin

Whiskeygate louise

We felt blessed to have been part of this experience and are thankful especially to Paul Choueiry for falling in love with our products and our wee country!