Stouts & Ales – an increasingly competitive market

Always under pressure from their big brother lager, the market for stouts and ales has taken to broadening its appeal by innovating and even food pairing. As a result of innovations from both international and small craft brewers, today a variety of ales and stouts are available to the on-trade. We take a look at some of the stouts and ales in this increasingly competitive market.


Some 9.8% of all alcohol consumed in Ireland is stout according to Drinks Ireland|Beer, the ibec representative body for Irish beer producers. But this figure had been 13% before the pandemic when beer sales slumped and stout’s market share fell in 2020.

Traditionally, stout would have represented about 33% of all on-trade beer sales. This dropped to 25% in 2020 stemming from the fact that most stout is consumed in pubs and bars. This is emphasised by the fact that 2020’s on-trade share of the stout market was 43.3% while that of the off-trade was 56.7% according to Drinks Ireland|Beer.

So that would give Stout’s on-trade sales a market share (by volume) of 4.3% of the total alcohol market in 2020, believes Drinks Ireland|Beer’s Jonathan McDaid.

Traditionally too, Stout has been an Autumn/Winter seller – especially in the on-trade. But brewers have been working towards creating demand for stout as an all-year-round product.


During the pandemic IWSR believes that stout and ale sales fell by over 40% here.

Off-trade sales of stout are worth over €100 million while Ale sales top more than €50.5 million according to NielsenIQ’s Scantrack which covers specialist off-licences as well as the multiples (including Dunnes Stores) and discounters, symbol groups and forecourt traders.

Stout makes up 10.2% of the off-trade’s Long Alcoholic Drinks sales whilst ale accounts for 5.2% according to NielsenIQ which points out that total LAD sales (Beer and Ready-To-Drink) declined by 2.6% in the latest 52 weeks to the 2nd of January 2022. However both stout and ale are performing ahead of LAD sales with year-on-year value growth up 4.3% and 10.7% respectively.

Looking at a shorter time-frame, in the latest four weeks ending on the 2nd of January, at 1.9%, stout has maintained growth but ale has fallen behind the average growth for the year, declining by 11.6%.

Stout maintained its share gain in the LAD category throughout the year.

Jonathan McDade also points out that as the brewing sector moved towards recovery in the latter half of 2021 more stout products came onstream – even some non-alcoholic variants.

“With hospitality venues now open, Irish stout-makers are looking positively to the future,” he said on International Stout Day last November.

“Irish stout continues to be hugely popular both at home and abroad and while the sector was hit hard by Covid-19, 2020 saw 466 million litres of stout being brewed in Ireland.”

In 2020, stout was responsible for 66.5% of total beer production here, up by 2.1 percentage points from 2019, but stout also makes up a significant part of Ireland’s beer exports which were responsible for €246 million last year.

Between January and September consumption fell by almost 15% compared to 2019. And looking specifically at Q3, which covers July to September, it was down by 17.2%.


Innovation in the stout market has been a key driver of growth in 2021; Heineken launched Islands Edge and Guinness launched Nitrosurge.

New product development has therefore been successful for this category.

And restrictions in the hospitality industry may have benefitted the stout market.  Because stout was such a large proportion of on-trade sales there are many pub drinkers who hadn’t drunk stout at home but have since converted to drinking cans of stout, NielsenIQ points out, adding, “Clever innovations and strong marketing strategies have helped to embed stout consumption in the off-trade”.

The annual growth in ale sales has been driven by increased volumes and increases in average price per litre (up 3.4%); this is reflective of the change in legislation which came into effect in January 2021 prohibiting multibuy offers on single units and driving sales into multi-pack offerings.

Multi-pack formats have been a key driver for traditional big brand Irish ales, states NielsenIQ.

Island’s Edge proving refreshing for consumers

PJ Tierney Master brewer, Heineken Ireland.

PJ Tierney Master brewer, Heineken Ireland.

Heineken Ireland’s newest stout is proving itself to be refreshing for Irish consumers since its launch last year as Island’s Edge continues its roll-out across Ireland. The innovative addition to the stout category aimed at 28  to 35 year-olds is giving choice within stout and is proving popular with consumers who appreciate its distinctive taste.

Island’s Edge was almost two years in development in Heineken Ireland’s Leitrim Street brewery in Cork, with the team testing more than 100 brews before settling on a product which involves adding a new hero ingredient, brand new to stout – tea – to the process to reduce bitterness and deliver a smooth, refreshing taste.

“We’re delighted to see Island’s Edge so strongly welcomed by publicans and pub-goers across Ireland,” said Aisling O’Brien, On-trade Channel Manager at Heineken Ireland, of the launch, “Consumers love its uniquely refreshing taste and are excited to have new choice in the stout category.”

Island’s Edge is now available in 700 outlets nationwide, with a further roll-out and an extensive marketing campaign planned for 2022.

O’Hara’s Irish Stout /Red Nitro

O’Hara’s Brewery successfully launched the first in its Nitro range in can with the release of its Irish Stout Nitro in 2021. It allowed the team at the Carlow-based brewery to fulfil a longstanding ambition, with Chief Executive Seamus O’Hara commenting, “This is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time and we’re delighted with the result”.

The widget technology used in the Irish Stout Nitro allows consumers to experience the same brilliant cascading effect and smooth creamy head as a draught pour. They’ll recognise the same great flavours of O’Hara’s Irish Stout with a robust roast flavour complemented by a full-bodied and smooth mouthfeel.

With the overwhelming success of the Irish Stout Nitro, the brewers at O’Hara’s worked hard on the follow-up with the release of the Irish Red Nitro in can later in 2021. The Red Ale is an experience from start to finish, beginning with the mesmerising cascade effect that leads to a beautiful creamy white head. Upon tasting, consumers can savour all the trademark flavours of the O’Hara’s Irish Red, with hints of sweet caramel and mild nutty biscuit, all amplified with a smooth creamy mouthfeel and a nice warming finish.

For more information call 059-970509 or email

Porterhouse Brew Co unveils exciting new collaboration with Minaw collective 

Porterhouse Brew Co has unveiled its new collaboration with Minaw, the all-female street art collective. The brewery has teamed up with Minaw to launch a new beer, Double New England IPA, featuring bespoke limited-edition artwork from four street artists based in Dublin: Claire Prouvost, Kathrina Rupit, Jess Tobin and Vanessa Power.

Beer lovers can check-out the new artwork on the limited release 6,000 cans of Porterhouse X Minaw DNE IPA, with the four artists’ designs featuring on 1,500 cans each.

Porterhouse X Minaw DNE IPA has an ABV of 8% and is sold in 440ml cans.

The beer can labels have been specially printed to render them easy to peel off in one piece so that the artwork can be framed and appreciated long after the beer’s been enjoyed. Each of the artists who worked with Porterhouse on this unique collaboration is renowned for her vibrant, eye-catching work, which has become synonymous with Dublin’s streets, celebrating equality, diversity and tolerance through the medium of street art.

Tasting Notes for Porterhouse X Minaw Collective DNE IPA:

Aroma/Flavours - Citrus, Tangerine, Apricot, Orange & Coconut Cream

Mouthfeel - soft with low bitterness & medium carbonation.


Brú Brewery was established in 2013 in County Meath from a passion to brew high-quality accessible beers for everyday drinkers. The brewery is proudly Irish, independent and committed to using only the best ingredients in brewing.

At the end of 2021 Galway Bay Brewery and Brú Hospitality (incorporating Brú Brewery) joined forces to become one of Ireland’s largest independent and Irish-owned craft beer groups, forming Galway Bay Beer Co with 15 bars and restaurants.

Brú Stout is a dry Irish Nitro stout with notes of roasted barley, rich dark chocolate and chewy toffee; oats are used in the recipe to give it a smooth and silky mouthfeel. Brú Stout is an approachable take on the classic style that’s suitable for all occasions. Eight malts give this stout an unctuous and creamy body, making it an easy-drinking choice.

At Galway Bay Beer Co, customer choice is key – the customer is offered a range of Galway Bay Brewery and Brú Brewery stouts as well as Guinness in some venues.

The customers have responded to that choice and as a result Brú Stout is one of Galway Bay Beer Co’s best-selling beers.

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