The Aldi Irish Craft beer Festival: Winning Over New Craft Beer Consumers

The Aldi Irish Craft beer Festival kicks off on Sunday, 2nd October featuring 30 beers from across the island. This is the first time that beer has featured exclusively in promotional campaign run by the German discount supermarket chain in Ireland. Newspapers will be carrying the usual Aldi brochure but today’s features a two-page spread on beer.

The Aldi Irish Craft beer Festival line-up. Prices range from €2.49 to €2.99
The Aldi Irish Craft beer Festival line-up. Prices range from €2.49 to €2.99

The beers offer a good introduction to the quality and range of Irish beers being produced today. Prices start at €2.49 per bottle and for this low price you can enjoy the likes of Carrig’s always quaffable Pilsner or its chocolate-laden Coalface IPA. The majority of the beers are on sale for €2.69 per bottle including Mescan’s Westport Blond and Westporter Stout. A few also come in at €2.99 per bottle, including Dungarvan’s Mine Head, the award-winning Francis’ Big Bangin’ IPA and Brehon’s Stony Grey IPA. It’s not all glass by the way. Luminous cans of Rascal’s Wunderbar IPA will be standing out, alongside the brewery’s Big Hop Red.

Supermarkets have tended to include beer as a bolt-on to their wine offers but this is slowly changing. SuperValu, for example, have featured craft beer in both print and broadcast ads. Craft beer sales are up with Aldi alone experiencing double-digit growth in sales over the past year. Indeed, its Irish beer has grown over the years with an accompanying drop in imports stocked, with the exception of the likes of Hobgoblin and the odd German, Belgian or French offering. However, a Marston’s exclusive range for Aldi may start appearing on shelves from November. This will be similar to the tie-up that the brewery-chain does for Tesco.

A snapshot of the beers on offer during the promotion, including Golden Harvest Pale Ale produced by 12 Acres for Aldi
A snapshot of the beers on offer during the promotion, including Golden Harvest Pale Ale produced by 12 Acres for Aldi

It tends to be overlooked that Aldi has long-been a supporter of Irish craft beer. Its O’Shea’s range produced by Carlow Brewing has won a loyal following with customers. These beers happily sit alongside the O’Hara’s range on the shelves and given people a solid introduction into the world of craft beer. Aldi has followed this up with commissioning Laois’ 12 Acres to produce the fruity-finishing Golden Harvest Pale Ale. It remains to be seen if this will be a once off or will it be an ongoing collaboration.

Some orthodox craft beer snobs might turn their noses up at the thought of the large multiples, believing instead that independent beer should only be sold in independent retailers. This ignores the choice and freedom for the brewers to decide where their beer should be sold, whether on-trade or off-, independent or chain etc. Of course, it’s important that prices remain sustainable and they don’t seriously undercut other retailers.

Supermarkets remain an important sales channel for brewers wanting to reach new customers
Supermarkets remain an important sales channel for brewers wanting to reach new customers

Yes, these beers (with the exception of those brewed exclusively for Aldi) can be bought elsewhere. Thinking like that misses the point. The opportunity to access the widest customer-base for their products is nothing to be sneered at. The Aldi promotion will run across all its 126 in Ireland until stocks last. The beers will also feature in its media-buy. For the craft beer sector, a large client such as supermarket chain can buy a certain-degree of confidence with the banks or others in attracting finance, capital and investment. Brewing is hugely capital intensive, with pressures on working capital and the need to expand to satisfy a growing customer base.

Regardless, it’s great to see more attention on the sector.

Promoting the “Irishness” of craft beer

Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, has seriously stepped up its support for Irish craft beer. In the not so distant past, the agency was perceived to be more interested in promoting food rather than drink, save for a few token appearances of the likes of Jameson or Baileys. Of course this ignores the support for the occasional brewer like Carlow Brewing or Galway Hooker accessing export market data, making contacts or attending international events over the years. There has also been research reports and seminars conducted in the past. However, the inclusion of brewers in the Origin Green initiative and the focus in the Food Wise 2025 strategy underpin the renewed emphasis on Ireland’s drinks industry. Let’s not forget that newer breweries are now looking to really develop their export markets as part of their overall business strategy.

I have written on Bord Bia and the strategy of the government on various occasions on the blog. It is interesting to watch how craft beer is being promoted alongside our other food and drink offerings. There’s a trend to officially connect craft beer to other products. We have been doing so locally and independently for years but it’s great to see government channels exploiting the “Irishness” of craft beer. They’ve realises that these beers are interesting, new and have stories of their own.

Just a week ago Carlow Brewing, Boyne Brewing, Clever Man, Galway Hooker, The White Hag Brewery and Wicklow Wolf joined other drinks producers at the inaugural “Spirit of Sharing” event in London. The event was hosted in the Irish Embassy, which is a stones-throw from Buckingham Palace. It’s an impressive venue and no doubt would’ve helped attract potential customers the event. It was a somewhat regal trade event. The setting has been used effectively in the past to build export links for other industries so it’s positive that our alcoholic beverage producers can tap the same support. Let’s hope it can be replicated in other countries.

With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, initiatives ranging from greening monuments around the world to the traditional presentation of the bowl of Shamrock to the President of the USA show that we have unprecedented access for a country of our size in a ‘one week only’ sort of way. Bord Bia will of course use official events this week to promote food and drink. However, it went one step further this year by securing agreement to present both President Obama and Vice President Biden hampers fully-loaded with Irish produce. Taking pride of place in each hamper, was a bottle of O’Hara’s barrel-aged Leann Folláin. I’m sure POTUS, as a homebrewer, will appreciate this excellent beer. I have no doubt the VEEP will do so likewise and hopefully he’ll sip whilst reading one of his many collections of Yeats’ work.

Let’s see this trend continue. Enterprise Ireland is also stepping up to the mark by supporting a few craft brewers and having a new team looking at promoting food and drink exports. Even established investment funds are look at beer and whiskey as growth markets. Things are certainly on the up and I’ll drink to that.


Turning us into a nation of beer sellers

The Government is stepping up its support for craft beer these days. On the back of the 50% increase in the excise rebate ceiling for brewers in Budget 2015, state agencies are looking to craft beer and cider to join the “usuals” food and whiskey to help sell Ireland. Earlier this year we had six breweries participating in Bord Bia’s Marketplace International 2015. Then in July, Tourism Ireland supported the participation of nine breweries and one cider maker in Toronto’s Festival of Beer. This week saw another high profile event where craft beer was showcased.

Blending beer, cider, music & food to sell Ireland
Blending beer, cider, music & food to sell Ireland

Sixteen Irish food producers were given the opportunity by Bord Bia to exhibit at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair in London. The event takes place in Olympia, well known in beer circles as the home of the Great British Beer Festival. In the weeks leading up to the fair, Ireland’s food marketing agency put in plenty of legwork drumming up interest amongst leading food and drink buyers from the speciality food industry.

Galway Hooker was the sole brewery representing Ireland and was given prominent space amongst the Irish exhibitors. From the looks of it there doesn’t seem to have been a lot beer at the fair – Crazy Mountain Brewery from Colorado; Delicias de Burgos and Pasion de Duero, S.L. from Spain; and a Scottish honey beer from Plan Bee. The lack of beer could be a sign that the work of winning over space on dining tables from wine is painstakingly slow. Regardless, the fair was a real opportunity for the Galway lads. Their beers are great for pairing with food. They’re not overpowering and are well-balanced. You only have to look at their eponymous pale ale and how versatile it can be thanks to its distinctive malt base. I can only hope that for Aidan and Ronan, the brewery’s first appearance at the fair proves to be a success in the long-term.

Can more be expected? We can only hope so. Food Wise 2025, the new national food strategy, has identified the need to develop a specific strategy to help craft breweries to go and views exports as key. Marketing support and attendance at international food events is a start but more can be done. We need to examine new ways of helping breweries to get products to foreign markets. Could brewers pool together to share space in containers? Are KeyKegs the best way of exporting draught or are there other ways that could be considered? Should canning be the choice for exporting packaged beers because they save on weight, more reliable for shipping and can more compact (i.e. more beer per pallet)? Given the desire of our enterprise agencies to prioritise exporting companies, they should examine areas like these and more in order to help Irish craft breweries grow.

What the European Central Bank has done to beer

In order to boost the Eurozone economy, the European Central Bank finally announced its plan for quantitative easing (QE), much to the chagrin of the Germans. Between now and September 2016, the ECB is to print some €1.14 trillion in new money to buy government bonds from banks and other investors. So what has all of this to got to do with beer?

Well quite a lot actually, the value of the Euro against other currencies has taken a significant dive over recent weeks and is expected to remain weak during the course of the QE initiative. This will make exports from Ireland cheaper. There’s a real advantage for Irish breweries (and indeed those from other Eurozone countries) to export to the likes of the UK and the US at seriously competitive prices. The likes of O’Hara’s, the Porterhouse and recent exporters to the US like White Hag and Rye River could really extend their reach in the US. But our near neighbours in Britain will also be a market that Irish breweries can be competitive in terms of price to match the flavour. We just have to ensure that craft breweries get the support they need through access to credit and support from enterprise agencies to take advantage of this.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel not happy with the ECB and taking the glass-half-full approach Photo: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
German Chancellor Angela Merkel not happy with the ECB and taking the glass-half-full approach Photo: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

It’s not all sunshine and roses though. Ignore that fact that Britain, the US and non-Eurozone countries will be now more expensive for beer trips. Imports from these countries will also become pricier. This is also potentially bad news for those that like beers from Northern Ireland. It’ll be hard for the brewers to absorb the exchange rate differences so they’re not passed on to customers. Will they forget exporting to the rest of the island in favour of focusing on Ulster and Britain?

Separate to the import and export of beer, are there any other things we should be aware of that could affect the price of beer and the craft brewing industry generally? Well the cost of imported raw materials will increase. Ireland is a small market and generally sources a lot of raw materials through the larger suppliers in the UK and elsewhere. However, this could be a further fillip to the indigenous grain industry. On the other hand, fans of West Coast or other US hops could be in for a shock as some are expecting the dollar to reach parity with the Euro in a few short months. Will brewers absorb these increases into existing prices or will we even see changes to offerings in the form of producing more European-style offerings using German hops for instance?

Only time will tell what the effects of Mario Draghi’s efforts will be. One thing for sure is that it will give a boost to Ireland and other Eurozone economies. This will boost consumer demand at home and no doubt help the further growth of the craft beer sector.

Drinking for a good cause: the role of charity beer events

Craft beer is getting in on the scene of charity events. Joining the ranks of pub quizzes and races nights are charity beer tastings. I’ve hosted a number of these over the past few years but it’s great seeing them increase in popularity. They’re definitely a break in the monotony of the usual charity events, although a good pub quiz is good fun as well (earlier this year we even had one in Probus Wines so it coincided with good beer too). Tasting nights are no longer the sole preserve of the wine drinker. In fact, to broaden the appeal a combination of both works fantastically well.


So what’s the inspiration of the post you might ask? Well, recently I attended a Pop-Up Craft Beer night in the Inchicore Sports and Social Club. It was the latest fundraising event they organised for the renovation of the club’s roof. I really like the CIE Works and the surrounds so it was a great excuse the head down there. I had no idea of what to expect. Entrance was €5 and included a plate for the buffet (lots of artisan Irish cheese, bread and meat available). Of course, it wouldn’t be a craft beer event without Keogh’s crisps putting in an appearance too.


Beers had to be purchased and it was less of a tasting and more of a bar, although there were tasting notes provided. O’Hara’s Pale Ale was the only beer on draught and the others from the Porterhouse, Carrig and 12th Abbey were available in bottle. All the proceeds went to the roof so one was drinking for a good cause. For those not willing to try them, there were two Irish ciders (Dan Kelly’s & Ballyhook Flyer), as well as 2 types of red wine but only one white wine could also be purchased. A lot of fun was to be had and the club’s atmosphere made it easy to get chatting to those attending and to get their thoughts on the beers being sold.


While a given charity benefits an event like this, the ability of such evenings to introduce craft beer to a new audience shouldn’t be ignored. Take for instance people who show up to support the charity regardless of the event who go away with a new appreciation of a craft brewer or discovering a particular beer style. Charity beer tastings hit a wider audience than typically achieved through the usual craft beer channels and can be a good tool to win over new customers.

About Inchicore Sports and Social Club: It’s a community based organisation providing services and facilities for the people of Inchicore and surrounding areas. The Club provides a resource in a variety of ways to old and young in the Community. There is a bar, a lounge, a games room and a hall with a stage. Every week there are sing-along nights in the lounge. There is Snooker, Pool and Darts and we provide facilities for Community Festivals, Sports Days and local fundraising concerts, meetings, functions and a range of activities. The Club is open every week on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 7.30pm and on Tuesdays from We also open on other days and nights to facilitate bookings, functions, meetings and other activities. Annual membership subscription is €20 and €15 for senior citizens. For Up to date news about activities in the Club, check out its Facebook page: