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2017 – a New Year for Beer

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The annual Irish Craft Beer Festival at the RDS is the biggest in Ireland.

Last year was a pretty exciting year for Irish beer – for one, we saw an increase in the market share of independent Irish beer going above 2% between 2015 and 2016.

One of the last political moves in 2016 was the launch of The Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016 by Labour. If passed, this will essentially allow breweries, distilleries, cider producers and even vineyards to sell their own products to the public under a time restricted licence. Currently, producers can only sell in excess of approximately 19 litres of beer to the public – which is far too high a volume for most. This leads to the bizarre scenario where visitors to a brewery need to be directed to the nearest off-licence to purchase a brewery’s product, and the nearest stockist could conceivably be in another county.

Remember the Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) Bill? It was quietly pushed under the table last year and will be re-published in 2017 with some as-yet-to-be-seen alterations. Personally I believe it’s a fundamentally flawed measure because it’s based on the flawed Sheffield computer model.

Minimum pricing has been tried and has failed all over the world except for one province in Canada, British Columbia. This one region is used by MUP proponents as proof that MUP works. The problem here is that MUP hasn’t actually worked in British Columbia – all that happened was that when MUP was introduced, crime fell somewhat but alcohol related deaths actually rose.

All data shows that problem drinkers are the least sensitive to price change and only occasional and moderate drinkers reduce consumption as a result, but that this is a temporary phenomenon.

Eventually, consumption levels often go back to where they were once the initial price shock wears off. Minimum pricing does not work. It can’t work. Even the total banning of alcohol has been proven to be ineffective.

Education and social change is the only tool that can conceivably reduce consumption, however alcohol consumption in Ireland is already reducing and has been steadily doing so for years.

Moving away from politics, there are a number of upcoming events in the first few months of 2017.

The last weekend of January saw the Cask Ales and Extraordinary Brew festival take place in Cork at the Franciscan Well pub. This year, Beoir ran the cask beer competition again to pick the best cask beer of the festival.

On February 25th, the Alltech Brews & Food festival returns to the convention centre in Dublin. This large beer festival has become a firm favourite among beer lovers. The winners of the Dublin Beer Cup will also be announced. This is an international beer competition with beer entered from all around the world.

While there has been no confirmation yet, it’s safe to assume that the St Patrick’s weekend will see the Irish Beer & Whiskey Festival return to the RDS in Dublin and then Easterfest at the Franciscan Well in Cork over the Easter weekend.

The next big festival will be in May, when the Killarney Beer Festival returns from May 26th to 28th. The Beoir: Champion Beer of Ireland will also be announced, having been picked from a team of experienced Irish and international judges.

2017 will see a number of existing breweries expanding. Kinnegar Brewing will be moving from the farmhouse in Rathmullen, Donegal to the larger town of Letterkenny and a much larger premises.

Porterhouse Brewing is currently moving from Ballycoolin, Dublin to a larger facility near Glasnevin and then there’s Yellowbelly Brewing in Wexford, which only opened in 2015. It’s currently a small brewpub but will be expanding to a new facility in Wexford which will provide five times their current capacity and have room for further expansion.

The CHQ building in Dublin is getting a brewery installed. The new venture comes from the O’Hara’s family who own the Carlow Brewing Company.

Lock 13 in Sallins, Kildare is currently having a brewery installed. The popular pub, which is a local food destination, will be home to the Kildare Brewing Company, making it Kildare’s first brewpub in recent times.

There are more new openings and expansions planned of course but that’s just a taste of what’s  coming. 2017 is looking like it will be an interesting year in the Irish beer world.