Peter Mulryan, of the Blackwater Distillery
It’s not only in craft breweries where you can’t buy a drink.
Peter Mulryan, of the Blackwater Distillery, Co Waterford (makers of gin) writes:
The other day here on Broadsheet, Joe Kearns from The White Hag Brewery in Sligo wrote about something close to his heart. How you can visit his brewery, but you can’t buy a drink, which is a bit like being allowed to visit a library as long as you don’t take out any books.
The same holds true for Ireland’s burgeoning craft distilleries. We can make the stuff, but we can’t sell it. With our licence to distill, comes a wholesales licence, not a retail licence.
So what counts as wholesale? I’m glad you asked, because I did and this was the response I got: “not less than two gallons or one dozen reputed quart bottles.” A quart by the way is two pints. Not that we even sell spirits by the pint.
By now you will I hope, realise that most of law governing alcohol in Ireland pre-dates the State. So it’s pretty much the same legislation than helped drive the Irish whiskey industry off a cliff 100 years ago.
Back then distillers didn’t sell direct to the public, they did what we are still forced to do today. Sell to that stalwart of Irish drama “The Middle Man”. Distilleries distilled. Brewers brewed. They didn’t sell. It was the bars and the bonders that bottled Jameson whiskey and Guinness beer and in doing so took the lion’s share of the profit. By the time distilleries and brewers woke up to this fact, it was too late. Most had been driven out of business.
Nowadays multi-national brewers and distillers have the best of both worlds, they can sell to middle men or directly to the public. How? They have deep enough pockets to buy pub licences. And that is the core of problem, the system that governs the sale of alcohol in this country is as out of date as the a-fore mentioned quart bottle.
So why not (as a commenter to the original article asked) charge for a tour and give a free drink? Many breweries do just that. But what if you don’t want a ‘free’ drink, what if you’re driving? What if you want to take a bottle with you? What if you’re sick of yet another Irish solution to an Irish problem?
So here’s an idea. Why not let brewers, cider makers and distillers sell what they make (and nothing more) on the premises where they make it?
We’d be taking trade from pubs? Good point. Forget about JD Wetherspoon, the real threat to the traditional Irish pub is actually a small industrial unit just outside Cappoquin.
Having lived in Scotland I know what whisky tourism there does for rural areas. If we’re serious about our native brewers, cider makers and distillers – let’s support them. Let them add a tourism offering but if you think the current model is working you’re a fool. Probably the kind of fool who visits the vineyards in the Rhone Valley and buys all their wine at a Carrefour on the Périphérique.
Previously: An Absurd Brewhaha