Craft Beers & Ciders on the reopening map

With such an array of craft beer & cider brands out there, the closing down of the on-trade during Covid meant that online & off-trade proved a lifeline for many craft breweries. In some cases they even thrived. As a result, with the on-trade's reopening, there's new demand for craft. We review the present market for craft beers.

Consumers, deprived of their ‘locals’ during Lockdowns, took to their off-licence and ordered beer online during the ’emergency’.

It was here, reckons Bord Bia, that they discovered a range of craft beers and ciders that they’d never considered before.

When the pubs returned, they continued to seek out these craft brands in their local.

“We believe the amount of new customers  who entered the category will continue to look for and request craft beer/cider when the on-trade reopens” it stated back in June 2021.

In preparation for the report Bord Bia commissioned consumer and trade research on this market, conducting interviews with multiple large retailers, off-licence chains and bar owners.

±±±±Consumer feedback left it with the opinion that “‘craft’ is on the precipice of truly large growth” where historical issues like consistency, poor quality and perceived snobbery are all dissipating.

“What was once perceived as ‘hipster’ and exclusive is now seen as easy-going and inclusive,” it stated, “‘Entrepreneurial’, ‘current’ and ‘sophisticated’ are words regularly associated with craft beer and cider.”

Furthermore Bord Bia’s research showed that the consumer and trade value the Irish craft beer and cider industry.

Local breweries are part of the fabric of their communities, providing positive impacts from an economic, social and environmental perspective to the surrounding regions.

The Irish Beer Map, supported by Bord Bia, was created in conjunction with the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland and shows the extent of craft beer production around the country.

This interactive database of Irish craft breweries encourages people to seek out local brews and learn more about the provenance of their favourite beer.

The 73 participating microbreweries in the #IrishBeerMap promotion are profiled on @IrishBeerMap on Instagram and on

The map is open to all breweries and not limited to members of the ICBI.

The promotion demonstrates the breadth and expertise of craft brewing within Ireland which has grown considerably in the last 15 years.

±Craft beer is presently responsible for 11.9% of all beer production and 2.6% of consumption according to the last recorded figures and the ICBI, anecdotally, would imagine that there’s small percentage increase in these figures.

That wouldn’t surprise. Consumers have been captured by innovative flavours and new ingredients in craft beers and ciders and the ICBI intends capitalising on this.

“We’re just getting started on planning for a seminar and may get some support from Bord Bia on same in tandem with an upcoming podcast-based media campaign,” says Elisabeth Ryan of the ICBI.

She adds that the Craft Beer of the Year will happen again but not until late December or early in 2023. But the problem of getting genuine craft beer taps into pubs remains high on her list of concerns.

Craft beer trends

Overall, there has been a very positive trend towards supporting local, says Elizabeth.

“Unfortunately, in the past the local trend didn’t necessarily extend to our industry and the hope is that a real shift has taken place across the board which will mean a real support for local independent craft breweries and we do see customers more and more understanding the difference between the ‘faux craft beer brands’ and the genuine small businesses.”

She adds, “There does appear to be an appetite for more balanced beers, less hop forward/juicy/hazy etc. This trend appears to be the same in the US. Again this is anecdotal”.

Here in Ireland production output from microbreweries continues to grow but still only represents less than 3% of total beer consumption. That’s for growing as a share if the on-trade takes more note of the craft beer sector.

NoLo craft

Breweries with Low Alcohol offerings have certainly experienced an increase in sales, she agrees.

“The off-trade would lean towards the multinational brands and as such, until a more concerted opening in the on-trade is in place, it will be difficult to ascertain the impact in the craft sector.”


Nearly half of all craft beer drinkers drink out-of-home

Before the great pandemic, research company DSM published The Revolution in Craft Brewing from its Global Insight series. This found that nearly half of all beer drinkers drink craft beer out-of-home at least once a week and two in three consumers are attracted to craft as they regard it as a Premium high-quality product. Should publicans be reconsidering their options in the craft beer sector?

After all, the potential is huge.

Wicklow Wolf leads way in sustainability by investing in major solar panel installation at brewery

In what may be the greatest step of its continuous sustainability journey to date, Irish craft brewer Wicklow Wolf has undergone a major solar panel installation that will greatly reduce the carbon footprint of its Wicklow-based brewery.

Covering the entire 17,000 sq ft brewery roof with over 120Kw of solar panels Wicklow Wolf aims to save approximately 30 tonnes of carbon emissions annually. These panels produce 107,000kWh per annum and will result in a 30% reduction in electricity usage.

Other steps taken by the brand include planting 2,500 native Irish trees, home-growing the hops, keeping bees, installing heat energy recovery systems, using a state-of-the-art water system and becoming members of Repak – all of which help Wicklow Wolf continue to create exceptional beer as sustainably as possible.

Founders Quincey Fennelly and Simon Lynch have held sustainability as a core value at Wicklow Wolf since its founding in 2014. With the opening of the new custom-built Newtownmountkennedy premises in 2018, the producers became further committed to reducing their overall environmental impact while striving to positively impact the surrounding land and communities.

Wicklow Wolf produces a huge range of craft beers, all of which champion Wicklow’s terroir, including the Alpha Pack, Endangered Species and Crossbreed series.

For more information, see

Rye River

Rye River Brewing Company based in Celbridge, County Kildare, one of Ireland’s leading independent craft breweries, was named the World’s Most Decorated Brewery at the World Beer Awards for the third consecutive year in a row. Established in 2013 it has become Ireland’s top retail craft brewery.

Brewing 24/7 on a small 2,500 litre brewhouse, Rye River Brewing Company mashes up to 40 brews each week which contribute to its 30 unique recipes across its five brands, utilising a unique brewing process with an on-site reverse osmosis purification system.

Today, the popular McGargles range can be found under the brewery-led Rye River Brewing Company brand which features an origami Kingfisher as its logo.

Fans of the McGargles range will be glad to hear that while the name has changed, the beer recipes themselves are staying exactly as they are.

Rye River Brewing Company’s Bidin’ Time Irish Lager was recently crowned the World’s Best Helles/Münchner Lager at the World Beer Awards 2022. The full range of award-winning Irish craft beers can be found at

Galway Hooker

Pioneer of the modern craft beer movement Galway Hooker has developed a reputation as one of Ireland’s leading breweries. Our ethos is to brew natural, full-flavoured, high quality and preservative-free beers. The results have received numerous awards including Gold Medals at the Irish Food Awards in 2014, 2015 and 2016 – the only Irish brewery to have achieved this distinction. Our Irish Pale Ale and Amber Lager won Gold at the 2018 World Beer Awards.

Ireland’s third-oldest independent brewery and the oldest existing brewery in Connacht expanded into a new state-of-the-art facility in Oranmore in 2014, making it one of Ireland’s largest and best-equipped craft breweries.

Aidan Murphy, Co-Founder, holds a Masters degree in Brewing and Distilling and is a qualified member of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. Distributed by Noreast.


YellowBelly, one of Ireland’s leading breweries, dishes out a huge range of craft beers, always offering something new to beer-drinkers. Our mantra is to get the freshest beer possible into the hands of our customers. Every YellowBelly beer has been given individual artistic treatment by Creative Director Paul Reck, creating individual stories, illustrations and artwork for every beer release and expanding the YellowBelly Universe through a comic book series and animations. Since opening in 2015 this brewery has released over 300 beers including four flagship beers – Citra Pale Ale, Kellerbier Unfiltered Lager, Pirate Bay Session IPA and Red Noir Dark Red Ale. Distributed by Noreast.

Heaney Farmhouse Brewery

With a spring of Irish water, The Wood at Bellaghy is an uncommon place.

It’s where Paddy Heaney handled a spade in the farm’s rich soil. It’s where his son, Seamus, crafted with words. It’s where a new generation of our family draw water from the spring to create Heaney Farmhouse beer. Distributed by Noreast.




Mac Ivors Cider

Cider-maker Greg MacNeice set out to make an Irish cider that truly captures the flavour and aroma of the juicy Apples he grows – “a delicious cider made using only natural ingredients and traditional methods; a lively cider that keeps people coming back for more,” according to Greg, “Using only the best Apples from our orchards, we set to work and after many trial blends we created two distinct and perfectly-balanced ciders – Mac Ivors Traditional Dry and Mac Ivors Medium”. Distributed by Noreast.


Irish and independent Brú brewery is driven by a passion to brew high quality and accessible beers for all tastes, whether you’re a seasoned craft beer drinker or just looking for a familiar quality pint. Distributed by Noreast.

Gold for Kinnegar’s Scraggy Bay

The enduring popularity of the Donegal brewery’s flagship IPA was mirrored by critical acclaim in leading international competition recently.

A total of 2,168 beers from 40 countries competed for one of the awards at this year’s edition of the European Beer Star beer competition, organised by the Association of Private Breweries since 2004 and which has long become one of the most important beer competitions in the world..

Kinnegar Brewing was awarded Gold in the New Style IPA for its Scraggy Bay at the awards ceremony in Munich this month.

“Winning a medal at the European Beer Star not only ensures prestige in the international brewing industry,” says Rick LeVert, Managing Director and Head Brewer at Kinnegar, “It’s also important confirmation for all our Irish customers that they’re enjoying world class beer.”

Anto Malone, proprietor of Walshes of Stoneybatter maintains, “All Kinnegar’s beers are consistently excellent and Scraggy on draught makes simple business sense. To be honest, as long as I have Guinness, Heineken and Scraggy Bay, I could just get rid of everything else.”

Kieran Brennan, Beer & Spirits Buyer at O’Briens, offered, “Scraggy is what I call a ‘stalwart’ beer — it’s one that O’Briens customers buy four or five of at a time, week-in week-out.

“It’s beers like this that allow O’Briens to do real volume and that’s absolutely critical in running a profitable off-licence.”

The European Beer Star is the second major international award claimed by Kinnegar in 2022 following its success with Black Bucket in the World Beer Cup in May.

“There aren’t many breweries in the world that achieve this level of recognition in a single year”, Wally Kearon of distributors Grand Cru Beers points out, “For a small independent brewery in Donegal to do it is quite remarkable testament to the quality of the Kinnegar product.”


Stonewell Cider was born in 2010 in the village of Nohoval, close to Kinsale, a food & beverage mecca. It has since expanded its operations and distributes nationwide covering all counties and further afield into continental Europe. Stonewell was the first craft cider and has remained true to its values, adding nothing to its products by way of sugars, water or artificial additives. The company buys its Apples in the counties of Laois, Waterford & Tipperary through farmers it has worked with since its creation.

Whether, Medium, Dry or flavoured, Stonewell’s ciders have won numerous awards and are no stranger at the Blas na hEireann National Irish Food Awards, winning Gold medals and becoming the only cider to win Supreme Champion.

Stonewell is also famous for its Nohoval Apple Wines and Tawny.

Distributed by Classic Drinks through the Sysco distribution network, other wholesalers are now carrying more of the Stonewell range to satisfy growing demand.



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