Challenging craft

Craft beer continues to exert an increasing presence on the Irish beer market, growing from 0.6% of consumption in 2012 to over 3% last year. However as the consumer is being constantly bombarded with new launches and unusual flavours, leading data and analytics company GlobalData believes that they’re being overloaded with choice while experts like Matt Curtis of Good Beer Hunting fame believe that nothing will replace IPA within the next five years. Where goes craft beer? We review the craft beer market in Ireland.

As more and more craft breweries experiment with more and more taste and flavor profiles such as coffee beers and fruit beers, experts like Matt Curtis of Good Beer Hunting fame believe that nothing will replace IPA within the next five years.

However others believe that today’s craft beer consumer is being overloaded with choice.

In its December 2017 report Snapshot of Beer and Cider Innovation Trends market analyst GlobalData states that the popularity of craft beers – as well as the technological developments that made such beverages easily available – have led to consumers feeling overloaded with choice.

“Bombarding consumers with beers produced by small independent breweries, as well as craft breweries being bought by big companies, has led to devaluation of the ‘craft’ concept” claims the report, “which means manufacturers need to find a new way to cut through the noise and add value to the beverages.”

Consumers want “authenticity”, states GlobalData, but “constant bombardment with craft launches and unusual flavours means manufacturers need to find new ways to stand out”.

Tom Vierhile, Director of Innovation Insights at GlobalData, believes that craft beer may have become too mainstream for its own good and overuse of the word ‘craft’ could lead to a consumer backlash.

“To boost sales in a struggling global market, beer- and cider-makers may have to explore a wider range of innovation opportunities ranging from non-alcoholic products to beer or cider products that offer better portion control and a more unique experience,” he points out.



Here at home, the craft beer revolution continues to take hold. Of the 100 microbreweries operating around the country, 72 are full production breweries while 69% of them export to the UK, the US, Italy and other markets, according to the Irish Beer Market Report 2017, the Irish Brewers Association’s annual publication.

Despite the foregoing global view, to date here in Ireland, there’s little sign of the craft beer movement slowing pace. Since 2013 there has been an increase of more than 500% in the number of craft breweries considering that back in 2012 one could find just 15 microbreweries here.

In its latest report the Irish Brewers Association estimates that Ireland’s craft breweries pumped out 238,000 Hectolitres of beer last year compared with just 86,000 Hecolitres in 2014. This 177% growth has given them a 3% share of the beer market where they’d enjoyed just 1.2% of it back in 2014 and just 0.6% two years before that.

The report highlights the growth in craft beer production as a proportion of total beer production here, pointing out that this has grown each year: 1.2% in 2014, 1.7% in 2015, 2.3% in 2016 to an estimated 2.9% last year.

Craft beer’s growth in production can be set against an overall fall in beer consumption generally between 2016 and 2017.


The re-labelling issue

The advent of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill seems the only fly in the craft beer market and it could have serious repercussions for many SME’s operating in this field should the cancer labelling requirement be made law.

Apart from the global image of Ireland’s beers, the sheer cost of domestic compliance with the Bill could see many craft brewers faced with a considerable cost burden just as they need thrust  the most to see their product break free of the gravitational pull of the local market.

It’s anticipated that it will cost approximately €50,000 to redesign an entire suite of labels for a single product line and additional stock control costs will also arise, warns Jonathan McDade, Head of the Irish Brewers Association, “Smaller producers will be impacted significantly as they will be less able to absorb costs”.


19 World Beer awards for Rye River

The Rye River Brewing Company won 19 awards at the World Beer Awards 2018, making it the most-awarded brewery in Europe.

Among the awards were best double IPA for McGargles Dan’s Double IPA, best Kölsch style for Grafters Kölsch and best classic style Pilsner for Crafty Brewing Company Irish Lager.

Considered the greatest accolades in the beer industry, the internationally-recognised World Beer Awards celebrate the best of beer across the globe.

The Celbridge, County Kildare-based brewery, now considered one of Ireland’s largest independent craft breweries, even held its own when judged alongside international heavyweight the Boston Beer Company, producer of the renowned Samuel Adams.

It was founded five years ago and today produces an eclectic range of over 20 beers under the McGargles, Rye River, Crafty Brewing Company, Solas and Grafters brands. It brews in 2500-litre batches and creates its crafts through hand-turned malts and using farm-fresh hops.

The World Beer Awards are the latest wins in what has already been an extremely successful year for the brewery. In April it picked up three medals at the Frankfurt International Trophy, a further 12 medals at the Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair in March and eight Great Taste Awards.

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Q&As with Rye River Brewery’s Tom Cronin


"All our beers are brewed by hand in 2,500 litre batches." - Tom Cronin.

“All our beers are brewed by hand in 2,500 litre batches.” – Tom Cronin.


Can you outline the scope of activity now undertaken by the Rye River Brewery?

Rye River produces a range of multi-award-winning beers including 10 McGargles beers.

We also supply exclusive-label contracts to Lidl, Dunnes Stores and Tesco in Ireland.

We currently export to 22 countries and further expansion is planned in 2019.

All our beers are brewed by hand in 2,500 litre batches.

We only use the finest quality ingredients and industry-leading processes to brew our beers.

We source the freshest hops direct from farm and use the finest traditionally hand-turned malt to brew great-tasting, awarding-winning beers.

We propagate our own liquid yeast in-house and we put our water through a reverse osmosis process to guarantee purity, consistency and quality.

None of our beers are filtered or pasteurised which enables us to maintain its integrity, flavour and positioning




Who’s behind the brewery today?

Rye River Brewing Company is one of Ireland’s largest independent craft breweries which started its journey in late 2013.

Like all start-ups there were some challenging times in what was and remains a tough marketplace.

The majority shareholder stake remains in the hands of myself, the management team and long-serving employees.

Our other major shareholder is Dunport Capital Management.

Enterprise Ireland also have a stake.

We’re delighted to confirm, through the continued support of DCM that Rye River is well-capitalised to deliver our growth ambitions for the foreseeable future and to meet the growing demand for our award-winning beers.


What investment has been put into the brewery over the past few years?

We’ve invested almost €10 million to develop one of the fastest-growing craft breweries in Europe.

Our reputation is noted by our tally of World Beer awards over the past three years.

Our growth plans require further capital investment of €2-3 million in the coming 12 months.


What future plans have you for the brewery?

Our ambition is to continue to grow our share of craft beer in Ireland and to further develop our export business.

We’re currently in the process of expanding our tank farm and in keeping with tradition we’re working with Blackwater Engineering Cork to ensure our tank farm and brewhouse remain 100% Irish-manufactured.


Do you export?

Yes, over the past three years we’ve developed distribution of our brands in a number of viable markets and we’re currently identifying others as part of our growth strategy.


What do you think will be the next trend in craft brewing?

People are drinking less and paying more.

Craft beer drinkers and new entrants are promiscuous which makes it difficult for the craft beer industry to stay relevant.

Craft beer has become sophisticated – we have gone from four different styles ie Pale Ale, IPA etc to  a broader array of styles including sours, smoked beers, exotic fruits and lower ABV styles.

Rye River has commissioned a one HectoLitre test brewery which will allow us to experiment with new styles and stay relevant.




McGargles denotes a range of multi-award-winning beers produced by the Rye River Brewery. Most notably, McGargles Dan’s Double IPA won Best in Style in the Imperial/Double IPA category to be crowned Best Double IPA in the World at the 2017 World Beer Awards. Dan’s Double IPA also picked up a Country Winner award as did Francis’ Big Bangin’ IPA in the Double IPA and American-style IPA categories respectively.

Darragh’s Session IPA held onto the Country Winner award for Session IPA for a second consecutive year having been voted Best Session IPA in the World at the 2017 Awards. Our Frank’s Lager bagged a Gold medal while Sean’s Export Stout picked up a Silver medal.

Style Winner

World’s Best Double IPA:  McGargles Dan’s Double IPA


Country Winners

Best American-Style IPA:McGargles Francis’ Big Bangin IPA

Best Double IPA: McGargles Dan’s Double IPA

Best Session IPA: McGargles Darragh’s Session IPA


Medal Winners

Gold Medal: McGargles Frank’s Lager

Silver Medal: McGargles Sean’s Export Stout



Rye River Seasonals – Limited Edition Brews

The Rye River Seasonal range is a new and exciting selection of limited-edition brews developed by the Rye River brewers as a means to explore their passion for the craft. Brewed in small volume, using only the purest ingredients and the minds of their creative brew team, they have expertly created a diverse series of beers that challenges and excites.

The first Seasonal beer, an 8.2% Belgian Imperial Stout brewed with Trappist yeast, was released at the beginning of March to coincide with the Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair. It held its own against stiff competition, to pick up a medal at the event.

June saw the second beer of the series, Miami J IPA, a 6.5% juicy New England-style IPA brewed with five different hop varieties – Citra, Galaxy, Mosaic, Lemon Drop & Amarillo. Miami J IPA was awarded a Gold Medal at this year’s World Beer Awards.

The latest beer in the series, a 4.4% Orange Lager, was released in August. Ól Orange Lager is a crisp and refreshing lager packed full of flavour, brewed and fermented with fresh orange zest.

Two more releases are due in October and November, the first of which is a Spruce Tip Saison, brewed using hand-foraged spruce tips from a sustainable harvesting project with the Irish Timber Growers Association. The final release will be a big, bold, full-bodied beer. Watch this space!!


51st State Session IPA

51st State Session IPA is the newest member of the O’Hara’s range of beers. This session IPA was designed to be light and easy-drinking while still full of the punchy flavours of a traditional IPA, brewed with 100% Irish malt to deliver a pale, clean and very crisp body. This, matched with the late addition of hops including Cascade, Simcoe and Chinook, make this a full-flavoured, incredibly drinkable IPA.

The tropical fruit aroma is immediately present with notes of Orange and Grapefruit followed by subtle hints of Lemongrass; this leads into flavours of Cherry, Melon, Lemon & Lime with a slight herbal finish and a clean, crisp mouthfeel. Great beer is best enjoyed with good food and this IPA is perfectly suited to Caesar Salad, Smoked Salmon, Crispy Lamb and a blue cheese such as Stilton.

51st State Session IPA is initially available in keg only and will be pouring in pubs nationwide over the coming months. For more information on availability contact Carlow Brewing Company on 059 9720509 or e-mail


Punk IPA – where the BrewDog revolution began

This scene-stealing flagship is an India Pale Ale that has become a byword for craft beer rebellion; synonymous with the insurgency against mass-produced, lowest common denominator beer, Punk IPA charges the barricades to fly its colours from the ramparts – full-on, full-flavour, at full-throttle.

Layered with New World hops to create an explosion of tropical fruit and an all-out riot of grapefruit, pineapple and lychee before a spiky bitter finish, this is transatlantic fusion running at the fences of lost empires.

This 5.6% trans-Atlantic fusion IPA is light golden in colour with tropical fruits and light caramel on the nose. The palate soon becomes assertive and resinous with the New Zealand hops balanced by the biscuit malt. The finish is aggressive and dry with the hops emerging over the warming alcohol.

This fresh, full flavour natural beer is our tribute to the classic IPAs of yesteryear. The post-modern twist is the addition of amazing fruity hops giving an explosion of tropical fruit flavours and a sharp bitter finish.


Distributed by Barry & Fitzwilliam, sales are at an all-time high and we don’t see the rebellious Punk IPA slowing down anytime soon.

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