Cutting edge of drinks innovation
Irish food and drink is enjoyed in 180 countries around the world. Irish food and drink exports are worth over €11 billion. Ireland is the fifth largest net exporter of beef in the world
Our 40 shades of green are more than just a tourism slogan — they are also a sign of just how strong agriculture is in this country.
Whiskey sales may be rocketing, but our craft beer scene i s also getting stronger, with a plethora of new brands coming on stream every month — to the point that many of the brewing giants are trying to cash in and creating ‘craft’ styled brands. When the titans of industry are getting rattled, you know a revolution is taking place.
It has been 21 years since the late Oliver Hughes and his cousin Liam LaHart opened the Porterhouse in Temple Bar, and while the concept seemed alien at the time in a country where you drank one of three lagers or one of three stouts, the modern boom shows just what a thirst there was for change.
A Bord Bia report last year highlighted this, pointing out that there is an estimated 90 microbreweries operating in the Republic of Ireland, of which 62 are production microbreweries and at least 28 are contracting companies. There was a 29% increase in the number of production microbreweries from 48 in 2015 to 62 in 2016. Microbreweries have more than quadrupled since 2012.
Ireland’s first organic beer
As the scene grows, so does innovation in the category. Munster Brewery in Youghal is one example. Last year brewing twins Padraig and Adrian Hyde, released 12 Towers, Ireland’s first certified organic beer.
They also signed up to a green earth initiative: “We’ve delighted to say we’ve just signed up to the Climate Neutral Now programme, where we promise to reduce emissions and offset any unavoidable ones by buying carbon credits. It’s an extra expense we don’t really need but one we’re happy to pay. We’ve gone and committed the entire brewery to the Climate Neutral Now programme so we’re busy as bees monitoring energy usage and fuel.”
Apart from making their beers more earth and body friendly, they also make the ancient health drink kombucha under their HOLO (holistic and organic) brand. While they also offer tours, they are frustrated by the licensing laws, which prohibit small brewers and dis- tillers from selling direct to customers. They can sell huge amount wholesale, but not a few bottles to a tourist — an issue for any potential drinks tourism.
Innovation is integral in the drinks sector. And one of the big success stories in innovation is Baileys, the first of the now ubiquitous Irish creams.
The success has prompted other entrants to the category, with Cremór, Kerrygold, Carolans, Molly’s, Brogans, Saint Brendan’s and Coole Swan all doing a booming trade.
Kerrygold Irish cream is produced by the Ornua group, which recently released booming stats. As Ireland’s largest exporter of primary Irish dairy products, they delivered a strong trading performance in 2016, with turnover up by 9% to €1.75bn — a figure all the more remarkable when you consider that this was achieved in a year of volatile milk prices and political uncertainty in some of their key markets. The global giant’s ambition is to move Kerrygold from being a world-class butter brand to an instantly recognisable €1 billion global dairy brand in the coming years. 2016 saw the successful launch of Kerrygold Yogurts in Germany, Kerrygold Spreadable in the UK and the continued roll-out of Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur across Europe and the US.
Dairy and beverages
Ireland’s strength in food and drink exports is also evident in Carbery Group, a global leader in food ingredients, flavours and cheese, based in Ballineen, Cork. Founded in 1965 as a joint venture of four creameries and Express Dairies UK, Carbery Group is owned by four Irish dairy co-operatives, employ over 600 people, and manufacture from eight facilities worldwide — Ireland, UK, USA, Brazil and Thailand. The group has moved far beyond the traditional bedrock of cheese to health and nutritional supplements and flavour creation.
One knock- on from the distilling is the boom in gins, used as a revenue generator by distilleries as their whiskey stocks mature, while the use of local botanical infusions in the gins give them a regional flavour that sets each apart.
One of Carbery Group’s success stories in drinks innovation brings together the normally quite disparate worlds of dairy farming and distilling. Originating from Ballyvolane House in Cork, Bertha’s Revenge gin is named after a cow, a tribute befitting an alcoholic beverage distilled from sweet whey, the piquid produced during cheese making.
Bertha’s Revenge is distilled with whey alcohol sourced from Carbery Group and derived from cow’s milk produced by Cork dairy farmers.
Using specially developed yeasts to ferment the milk sugars in the whey, Carbery brew and then double distil the whey in large column stills. Justin Green of Ballyvolane House and business partner Antony Jackson then distil the 96% proof whey alcohol a third time in their custom-made 125 litre copper stills with botanicals such as coriander, bitter orange, cardamom, cumin plus other ingredients. This gin has won local and global ac claim since its 2015 launch. Bertha’s Revenge is exported to the UK, mainland Europe and even South Korea — and, later this year, to the US, where it just won a Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2017.
Bertha’s Gin has shown innovation, experimentation and even the occasional odd idea can get the best out of Ireland’s tradition of farming excellence — proof that those 40 shades of green can always keep us in the black.
Padraig and Adrian Hyde of Munster Brewery in Youghal, Co Cork. Among the twin brothers’ innovative products is 12 Towers, Ireland’s first certified organic beer. A recent Bord Bia report highlights the explosion of new microbreweries producing quality craft beers.