The Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016 would allow these businesses to sell their own produce to tourists and other visitors on site which is not the case under current licensing laws.
“The craft beer industry in Ireland is going from strength-to-strength with an 11-fold increase in annual turnover since 2011 and a 29% jump in the number of production microbreweries operating across the country this year, compared to last,” stated Alan Kelly, “Ireland’s microbreweries employ 439 full-time workers, with an estimated 392 people also indirectly employed in the industry. Microbreweries are in operation in 23 of the 26 counties, with a projected turnover of €59 million this year.
“Many of these distilleries, breweries and microbreweries are also major tourist attractions that welcome visitors and offer guided tours and owners say there’s a substantial demand for craft beer-tasting on site.
“However, the ability to fully capitalise on this potential for ‘craft-beer tourism’ is being hampered by current licensing regulations which require producers to have a pub licence or an off-licence to sell their produce, made on site, to tourists and visitors.
“For example, can you imagine a situation existing in Italy, France or Spain, where tourists visiting vineyards are prevented from purchasing wine at the end of their tour?
“This was actually the most common issue highlighted by microbreweries as a barrier to development in a recent report for the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland and Bord Bia.
He continued, “The legislation that I am proposing would rectify that and be of enormous benefit to the smaller scale and local producers in particular as well as small batch distilleries and cider-makers”.
The Bill includes safeguards such as time restrictions of between 10am and 6pm for sales and fines to ensure owners don’t sell alcohol that is not brewed on site. And there’s a clause preventing the licence holders from applying for the types of exemptions and/or extensions to opening hours that pubs and clubs, for example, can apply for.
“The objective here is simple – to remove a regulatory barrier to growth and support an expanding industry in Ireland,” he concluded.
Reaction to the proposal has understandably been positive from the microbrewing community.
”We welcome it,” said Carlow Brewing Company’s Seamus O’Hara, Chairman of the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland.
He told Drinks Industry Ireland, “It’s something that we‘ve been working on for a while now to identify it as a problem area.
“In fairness, Alan Kelly took it on board and has sponsored this Bill. We want to try and get support for it over the next few weeks until the New Year and get it passed in time for the next tourist season.
“It’s an untapped opportunity for breweries all around the country in terms of the tourism potential and to be able to give them what they want after a tour.
“The experience abroad is of living wineries and distilleries where one can buy product at the gates, but here in Ireland they go away with a negative impression when being told that they can’t buy what they want after a brewery tour.
“It’s a bit of a game-changer for beer- and cider-makers,” he concluded.