Northern Ireland's craft beer and cider makers flaunt their finest brews at food and drink event in Dublin
Northern Ireland beer and cider makers will be heading to Dublin next month for one of the biggest events for the food and drink industry in Ireland.
The Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival at the RDS in Dublin has tripled in size since it began in 2011.
Representing Northern Ireland will be Armagh Cider Company – which recently won business with Tesco; djs Juice and Ciders from Lisburn, trading as Tempted Cider; Hilden Brewery; Mac Ivors Cider from Portadown; Toby's Cider from Armagh, and Whitewater Brewery from Kilkeel, Co Down.
Lisa Maltman, sales and marketing manager with Hilden Brewery, said that interest in craft brewing had exploded in recent times.
And this weekend the company will be hosting its annual beer and music festival at its premises near Lisburn.
"Back in 1981, we were the first company trying to bring real ale back to popularity," she said.
"Now there are a number of great local craft breweries. The consumer is better educated and more well-travelled, there is more choice for the consumer and craft beer is all about flavour and style, which you can't get with the mass produced stuff."
Ms Maltman said that taking part in the Dublin festival was a big boost for business.
"It's a brilliant opportunity to network and meet other brewers from all over Ireland and it's an opportunity to show off new and established products to new customers.
"We'll most likely be exhibiting Headless Dog, Belfast Blonde and our award-winning Twisted Hop."
Looking ahead, she added: "We've just invested in equipment which will help triple our capacity, we're now being sold from Asda and by the end of 2014, we will be exporting to the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden, Norway and will have an improved distribution network in the UK."
The Dublin festival attracted over 11,000 visitors last year –and organisers are once again predicting a record turn-out of visitors, which could mean big sales and massive exposure for the Northern Ireland firms taking part.
This year's line-up consists of over 40 breweries and cider makers exhibiting over 200 Irish-produced beverages.
In comparison to last year's 25 producers, this year has seen an increase of over 60% in the number of breweries attending, a reflection of the massive growth of the market sector.
Seamus O'Hara, co-founder of the festival said that the sector was promoting co-operation between growers, entrepreneurs and small businesses, vintners, independent off-licences, retail outlets and marketing and distribution agencies.
Festival co-founder Bruce Mansour added that four years ago, the show had just over 10 exhibitors.
"When we discussed craft beer with patrons, we were met by confused faces and excited palates," he said.
"Now, four years later, we are being educated by our patrons on the diversity and constant growth and expansion of this unique and local industry."
Independent breweries have tripled in numbers in Northern Ireland over the last decade.
Leading the way is Kilkeel's Whitewater Brewery, which has an annual output of around 350,000 bottles.
It, along with other breweries from the province, will attend the Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival in Dublin's RDS from September 4 to 7.