Some 1,064 people are currently employed in brewing beer here while the industry itself contributes €424 million to the exchequer in excise tax, according to the Irish Beer Market Report 2017, the Irish Brewers Association’s annual publication.
Despite a 2% per capita fall in beer consumption it remains Ireland’s favourite alcohol beverage, accounting for just under 45% of all alcohol consumed in 2017. Lager is the most popular beer variant, followed by stout and ale (which grew by 0.6% last year).
The report found that Ireland’s on-trade beer sales continue to outperform off-trade sales by 64.8% to 35.2%.
“No other country in the European Union has a higher percentage of on-trade versus off-trade beer sales,” notes the report, ”which highlights the continued strength of Ireland’s hospitality sector.”
The report found that beer export volumes rose marginally and were valued at €273 million last year (slightly down from 2016’s €280 million figure but well up on 2014’s €228 million figure) making Ireland the eighth-largest beer exporter in Europe.
The most popular destination for Ireland’s beer exports remains the UK followed by the US, France, Canada and Germany.
“Beer is a significant economic and cultural asset in Ireland,” said Jonathan McDade, Head of the Irish Brewers Association and author of the report, “Beer drinkers in Ireland must endure the second-highest rate of excise tax in the EU and so I call on the Government to reduce the rate of excise on beer in Budget 2019.”
Overall, total beer production rose to just over 8 million hectolitres last year, as against 7.68 million hectolitres a year earlier.
And Irish beer producers also warned that the labelling measures in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, specifically the requirement to add cancer warning labels to alcohol products, could impact future growth and they too have called on the Government to make reasonable amendments to the legislation.
“There are a number of challenges ahead for the beer industry including Brexit and the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill,” added Jonathan McDade, describing the proposals on cancer warning labels as “a disproportionate measure that represents a barrier to trade in the EU amidst Brexit uncertainty. Irish beer producers will be required to develop labels specifically for the Irish market and a second set of labels for elsewhere which will impact on their ability to export.
“It will cause huge reputational damage to Ireland’s beer industry,” he continued, “No other country in the world has mandatory cancer labels on alcohol products and such a measure applies a stigma to products made in Ireland.”