Beer exports to the US suffered a particularly significant fall.
The beer sector in Ireland saw a major drop in the areas of sales, exports and production last year as hospitality businesses closed due to Covid-19, according to a new report by Drinks Ireland.
The Irish Beer Market Report 2020 shows that beer production dropped by 13.8% last year, while the value of beer exports declined by 17%, from €305 million to €254 million.
According to Drinks Ireland, this drop in exports reflects lower international demand for Irish beer as most key markets suffered lockdowns.
The most significant fall was in beer exports to the United States, which dropped by 45%.
In Ireland, Drinks Ireland said the closure of the hospitality sector resulted in a 17.3% fall in total beer sales in 2020 when compared to 2019.
The report also outlines that while beer remains Ireland’s favourite drink, its market share fell from 44.6% in 2019 to 38.9% in 2020.
While typically over 60% of beer sales are in Ireland’s pubs, restaurants, and hotels, in 2020 just 29.7% of beer sales took place in the hospitality sector.
Drinks Ireland said the lockdown even impacted the type of beer consumers in Ireland chose last year.
Usually, the report outlined, stout sales make up around 30% of all beer sales, but this fell to 25.3% in 2020. Ale’s beer market share, meanwhile, dropped from 6.2% in 2019 to 4.1% in 2020, while lager increased its market share from 63.5% to 69.5%.
"This illustrates the type of beers consumers generally prefer to drink in the pub," the report summary read.
"The most dramatic movement was in ale and stout sales. Normally about 80% of those variants are sold in the on-trade, but just 43% of stout and ales were sold in the hospitality sector last year."
Peter Mosley, chair of Drinks Ireland, said that Ireland’s beer industry is "dynamic, innovative, and makes a valuable contribution to the economy," but that as a drink that’s most popular in pubs, "the sector has been profoundly impacted by Covid-19".
He added: "With hospitality businesses remaining closed, the challenges continue for our sector in 2021."
Jonathan McDade, head of Drinks Ireland, also said: “As the vaccine roll-out continues, the beer sector hopes to be able to see consumers back in pubs later this year.
"But it is vitally important that it receives additional supports from Government to allow it to endure the extended lockdown, which continues."