This is about craft beer. A certain well-known beer brand might like to suggest it is – probably – the best in the world but brewer Michael Cowan can make such a claim with authority.
In fact, a raft of Irish craft beers scooped gongs at the event, including Rye River, Wicklow Brewery and Boyne Brewhouse.
For Cowan, who set up Manor Brewing in 2013, winning accolades at the World Beer Awards, and previously at the Alltech Beer Awards, has helped establish him on the local market. You’ll find his beer in five-star hotels around the country. But his real ambition has always been to export.
“From the beginning, our aim was to establish a craft beer with export quality lager,” says Cowan, whose background is in international drinks marketing (he previously worked for Red Bull).
“We’re already started exporting into the UK, craft beer albeit in a small way, and are actively looking for distributors there. We are also looking at four countries in Asia for which we reckon a high-end Irish product has appeal.”
In looking to develop overseas markets, Cowan is doing precisely what industry experts believe is the next stage for a sector that has fizzed up dramatically in just five years.
According to a report commissioned by the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland, there were some 90 microbreweries operating in the Republic of Ireland last year. In 2012, there were just 15.
Of that 90, 62 are production microbreweries producing craft beer their own brand of beer, and at least 28 are contracting companies, brewing beer to order for others.
In terms of value, overall sales by craft beer companies stood at €59 million last year, up eleven-fold since 2011.
The report’s authors estimate that, given current trends in craft beer production, market share hit 2.5 per cent by 2016, which, though a drop in the ocean in terms of overall beer consumption, isn’t small beer in a landscape dominated by deep-pocketed drinks giants such as Guinness, Heineken and Carlsberg.