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Explosion in brewers is no small beer, folks

By Clare Weir

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has reported that 170 new breweries have started up in the UK in the last 12 months, taking the total to 1,285, the most since the 1930s.

The industry is growing at over 10% a year and Camra said the continued growth across the UK has been driven by small independent breweries.

The trend has certainly been reflected in Northern Ireland, which has seen an explosion of interest in home brew and a resulting boom in business for an industry which until recently was considered a dying art.

Roger Protz, editor of the Good Beer Guide, said that real ale was the only success story in a declining beer market, adding: "New breweries, making handcrafted beers, continue to come on stream while many long-standing regional and family breweries are expanding with new equipment and new brands. Real ale has almost doubled its market share over the past decade."

Last month, Northern Ireland beer and cider makers pitched up in Dublin for the Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival at the RDS in Dublin, a trade expo which has tripled in size since it began in 2011.

The festival attracts tens of thousands of visitors, meaning big sales for our firms.

While more established names include Hilden Brewery, which was started in 1981, there have been a raft of new entries to the market including Hercules Brewing Company, creator of Yardsman ale.

Niall McMullan, an international drinks industry veteran who has worked with companies like Diageo and Coca-Cola, is creator of Yardsman and said that in recent years there has been an international growing demand from consumers for craft beers.

One firm is even helping home-brewers to create their drinks with the aid of smartphones.

Through Brewbot, beer-lovers can make their own brew, all monitored and controlled by your smartphone.

Beer-making 'robot' Brewbot has been financed by crowdfunder Kickstarter and is now enjoying export business in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, South Africa and Taiwan.

The company has also received £82,000 in research, development support and marketing assistance from Invest Northern Ireland.

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