Brewing up something special in 2023
Over the last few years, a great many of us in business and in the wider community have needed a bit of a dig out to cope with the economic ravages of the pandemic, the energy crisis and the cost-of-living crisis. While business supports were much appreciated, the biggest assistance Lough Gill Brewery received came in the form of the ‘shop local’ campaign.
“When Covid hit, we were just starting to expand our export sales in Europe and America. It had just started to grow, but we lost our export market pretty much immediately. The challenge was to replace our export sales with domestic sales, and we were quite fortunate because everyone in Ireland decided to support local, and in doing so, they looked at their beer consumption, and they bought local,” says James Ward, who founded Lough Gill Brewery in 2016.
“We ended up with a new range of customers, and they must have liked our beer because they have continued drinking it. So, despite the pandemic, we managed to grow our sales domestically.”
Since then, of course, there have been new challenges. “The cost of energy and price inflation for raw materials is affecting breweries big and small. Every raw material has gone up in price by quite a lot, but the business has grown despite this. We grew over 25 percent last year,” James says.
While domestic growth has been the highlight of the last couple of years, export sales have begun to rise again with Lough Gill beers now available in France, the Netherlands, and Italy and an increasing profile in the American market where Ohio and Iowa have been added to Lough Gill’s existing markets in New York, New Jersey, Maine, Texas and California.
When it comes to brewing a craft beer, James believes the diversity of staff at Lough Gill Brewery gives it an advantage. “We’re very diverse. Aside from our fellow Sligonians, we have an Italian head brewer, an Argentinian brewer and our head of sales is French. Everyone has a different hello in the morning,” he says.
“That diversity influences beer recipes. When we’re creating different beers, we usually have a meeting, and we come up with different ideas across the table. The styles are very different in each country. Argentina would be very well-made traditional beers, old school. France is following more after the US scene with modern styles and Italians have been influenced by Belgian styles and enjoy strong beers. It makes for a good mix.”
Lough Gill’s beer philosophy is to brew the best hand-crafted beers using the best ingredients and, where possible, to add some local indigenous ingredients to the brews.
“For the year ahead, our focus is very much on our core range of beers and getting those out to a wider audience. That involves export markets and beer festivals. We haven’t done festivals for a while because of the pandemic. They are a good way of getting your products out there and of seeing what the trends are in the industry. This year we will be attending festivals in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the USA.”
Lough Gill Brewery has five core beers available in cans: Cutback New England IPA, Lost Armada West Coast IPA, Sligo Bay American Pale Ale, Breakers Gluten Free Pale Ale and Shaka Session IPA. “We also have products that we do mainly in kegs. We do a Lough Gill Lager, a Black Wave Nitro Stout and an Anderson’s Irish Red Ale. That’s what we push domestically. Bars have learned that people are up for trying different products. The consumer has changed,” James says.
You can view the full range of available beers in our online shop: https://loughgillbrewery.com/
Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter too for more news, beer drops, and updates from Lough Gill HQ.