Today marks ten years since Beoir was formally established, on 1st July 2010. It doesn’t seem like all that long ago but it’s safe to say that the world of Irish beer has changed immeasurably since then. Beoir’s objectives have similarly moved with the times.
Back then, “craft beer” was very much a minority interest, and Beoir sought to serve that minority with information on where independent beer could be found. A one-page national list of pubs that sold Irish craft beer became a Directory, and eventually the BeoirFinder app. An early stated aim of Beoir was to encourage independent beer and cider production by increasing consumer awareness and demand, to the point where every establishment could be relied on to have at least one craft option available. In urban Ireland, at least, this mission was largely accomplished by the beginning of 2020.
This is in no small part due to the explosion in the number of operating breweries that happened over the last decade. The independents’ share of the beer market has gone from being infinitesimally small and largely confined to specialist bars and shops, to a varied ecosystem from tiny one-man-band microbreweries up to significant international players that have retained their independence. During the 2010s we also saw a renewed interest by the multinationals in the Irish beer scene. Since Molson Coors acquired Franciscan Well in 2012, Beoir has taken this as a positive sign; that the still-small specialist beer scene in Ireland is worth investing in.
This in turn has led to a change in focus for Beoir. With so much happening on the market it can be difficult to keep track of who’s who and what’s what. Beoir remains an independent clearing house for all matters relating to the beer and cider industry in Ireland. We endeavour to keep track of all brewery openings, closures and changes in ownership. Contract brewing, while an important and legitimate part of the industry, has often led to confusion by customers on where their beer is brewed. The waters are muddied further by anonymous brands owned by the multinationals. Beoir’s job here is to cut through the marketing and present the facts.
Facts are also important in the information war around alcohol and health. The well-funded and highly active neo-prohibitionist movement is often selective in how it presents data. Beoir has sought to counter this narrative where possible, to tell the public the information that is inconvenient for the neo-prohibitionist argument. It is vital that this is done from the perspective of an independent non-partisan group like Beoir, rather than leaving it up to the drinks industry, which may be dismissed as another vested interest.
The Public Health (Alcohol) Act of 2018 is in the process of being enacted, piece-by-piece. Since the very beginning, Beoir has taken a stance against the denormalisation of alcohol consumption as set out in the Act through structural separation and minimum unit pricing, measures which the industry has been worryingly supportive of. We will continue to monitor how these laws are implemented from a consumer perspective, and strive to ensure they do their job, rather than acting as just the next phase of an ever-thickening anti-drink wedge.
Since 2012 Beoir has been an active participant in the European Beer Consumers Union and will continue to work through them to raise consumer issues on the European level. EBCU’s fundamental demands for ingredients listing and statements of provenance dovetail neatly with Beoir’s own aims; likewise its work on presenting beer-drinking in moderation as entirely compatible with a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle.
Of course, the continuum we were on was rudely interrupted by the arrival of Covid-19 earlier this year. It remains to be seen how this will change the drinks industry in Ireland. We’ve noticed and been encouraged by the new business models established by the breweries, and we hope that our favourite pubs and restaurants will be able to adapt and survive in whatever the “new normal” brings.
Finally, a big thank you to everyone who has supported Beoir through its first ten years: the pubs and brewers who gave us tours and meeting spaces; everyone who has served as an officer or organiser; and especially our members, past and present, who remain the sole reason Ireland has a consumer organisation representing its beer and cider drinkers.