Alcoholic Drinks Trade Mission from Germany hosted by German-Irish Chamber of Commerce from 9th to 12th June

Some of the best and highest quality beers, wines and spirits that Germany has to offer were on show at the German-Irish Chamber’s Tasting Event at the Westbury Hotel in Dublin on Tuesday 9th June. Four German breweries, a distillery, a cider producer, a winemaker and a wine curator, many of whom have national and international accolades, were in Ireland last week on a trade mission to present their drinks which are not yet for sale in Ireland. The trade mission was kicked off with this atmospheric tasting on Tuesday. Over 70 visitors – the majority from the trade, including importers, retailers, restaurants and sommeliers – were in attendance at the tasting with many very impressed with the high quality of the German produce.

There has been a great response from the Irish side to the trade mission and over 50 meetings for the German companies took place in Irish businesses nationwide over the course of the week. One such high potential partner is Kevin McParland from Irish Pubs Global, whose organisation represents more than 1000 pub members in Ireland and 300 Irish pubs in Germany: “The German drinks companies had some very high quality as well as interesting products. I strongly believe we can develop sales and connections for the excellent companies we met and the high quality products they produce.”

This is the third event for German drinks producers run by the German-Irish Chamber of Commerce in Dublin in as many years. “We focussed exclusively on wine in the last two years and successfully supported 16 German vineyards in their quest to find partners in Ireland,” according to Ralf Lissek CEO of the German-Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce. “We believe the time is right to open it up to beer and spirits as well, given the way the industry in Ireland is going at the moment, with a move towards craft drinks and away from big brands. We are very confident of the prospects for these eight German companies in the Irish market.”

At the tasting event on Tuesday, the two German wine tables were very busy all afternoon. Word on the “grapevine” is that German wine’s reputation is improving in Ireland, slowly but surely. Its reputation in Ireland suffered in the last decades due to its association with a number of big branded sweet wines that dominated the market since the eighties. The two German wine companies are very determined to prove that Germany offers wines that rival those of neighbouring France and Italy, and that perceptions just need to change:

  • Run by a wine-loving couple, Dagmar and Klaus-Dieter Gerlach, who have a holiday house in Dingle for the last 20 years, Wein und Genuss Gerlach have amassed a large portfolio of hand-selected high quality German wines and sparkling wines and have developed trusted long-standing relationships with premier vintners from a variety of winegrowing regions in Germany. Their wide selection of 32 wines got a resounding positive response from a very crowd that expressed both surprise and delight that German wines could have such depth of flavour and be so good.
  • Weinbau Lippold had the distinctive position of being the only German vineyard exhibiting at the tasting. An exuberant gentleman, Dr. Lippold wowed his audience with his small selection of masterfully created fine estate wines from the Mosel valley. The high quality of his wines was matched only by his passion, particularly for matching food to his wine in a way that greatly enhanced the flavour.

Many visitors to the tasting, including Premier International, Irish Pubs Global and Pro Addition, were there exclusively to taste the German beers. The appetite in Ireland for a wider selection of beers is clearly indicated by the craft beer revolution and the fast-growing size of beer sections in off-licences. The four German breweries exhibiting at the tasting varied from larger outlets with a wide selection of edgy beers to smaller family-owned set ups offering small but fine ranges of beers. All the beer companies attracted a steady crowd all afternoon:

  • Biermanufaktur Engel’s artisan craft German beers from its family-run brewery in its 5thgeneration hit a chord with many of the visitors. Its unfiltered lager, which has “huge flavour”, proved particularly popular among the Irish tasters and is also their top selling beer in Germany. It’s one of the few German breweries to boast a wide and diverse variety of speciality beers, regularly winning prizes on a German and European level.
  • Brauhaus Binkert’s philosophy to “keep it local” with all ingredients from the Franken area of Germany appealed to the Irish audience as it chimed with the values of the craft beer culture popular in Ireland.
  • Distelhäuser’s award-winning hand-crafted natural beer also proved very popular with the Irish visitors. Not a surprise really given the beer has won national and international accolades, including being the only German Brewery to win “Brewery of the Year” twice. CEO Achim Kalweit managed to schedule some additional meetings from potential importers such was the interest on the day.
  • Eder & Heylands’ Bavarian family-owned brewery also attracted a lot of interest given that they offered not just traditional Bavarian wheat beer, but also a wide selection of flavoured beers. Export manager, André Brüggemann, found that taste preferences varied, with some people interested in their Pils and Weißbeer and others such as Dean McGuinness from Premier International fascinated by their bottled shandies – beer with cola as well as ginger and lime.

Also exhibiting was a German cider producer, Bembel-with-Care, who has made waves in the German cider industry and captured almost 7% of the market in less than 8 years by marketing the traditionally old-fashioned drink to a younger target group under 50. Crafted from their local Odenwald apples, the light and dry Bembel-with-Care cider is very different to the sweet cider on the Irish market currently and it is sold in beautifully designed cans which really attracted the eye and a lot of attention on the day. The arrival of this company in Ireland corresponds with a growth in the popularity of craft cider in Ireland which bodes well for its prospects.

The CEO of the German fine liquor company, Edelobstbrennerei Thomas Helferich, Annette Stephan is another big Ireland fan and has been visiting the island annually for many years. She is also on a mission to introduce “proper German Schnapps” to the Irish population, as she thinks that liquors suffers from a misperception in Ireland as many people are really only aware of it as a cheap and caustic drink and one used primarily in cooking. Her wide selection of silky smooth liquors and brandies, from wild raspberry to mint-chocolate, didn’t take long to find favour in the room, and even Ireland’s premier sommelier Julie Dupuoy tasted every last one of them and declared them a taste to behold!

Earlier in the day the visiting delegation of German companies were given a round-table presentation on the Irish alcoholic drinks market by Leslie Williams of the Irish Examiner, at which he presented a vibrant overview of the Irish market preferences in relation to beer, wine and spirits. William’s presentation took them on an anecdote-filled journey through Ireland’s food and drink landscape, during which he explained how the Irish market’s tastes for food and drink have become vastly more sophisticated in the last decade which has led to a focus on higher quality food and drink. With labelling regulations coming down the line for wine bottles, he thinks there is also due to be a shake-up in this industry as well. The restaurant trade – in particular in the cities – is currently enjoying very exciting time, and even as people’s spending power has decreased in relative terms versus the boom years, the number and variety of restaurants in the cities has increased. Given that restaurants are all trying to differentiate themselves these days, not just by their food menus but also by the drinks they have on offer, Williams feels that they’re a prime target for the German drinks companies.

Following the tasting, the companies, assisted by the German-Irish Chamber of Commerce, set off on individual journeys throughout Ireland on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to meet potential clients and importers and to build a more rounded impression of the Irish market for alcoholic beverages. Over 50 meetings took place for the eight companies during the week. According to Annette Stephan from Edelobstbrennerei Thomas Helferich: “I had eight meetings all over the country and truly believe – given the feedback that my liquors received – that the tide has started turning for German Schnapps in Ireland. It was always only a case of having to start the education process. The wonderful liquors were always going to speak for themselves. We have already received orders, and look forward to many more in the future.” All eight companies met with potential importers and clients and have reported a very enthusiastic response to their respective drinks. They all feel confident following this wonderfully positive start that German-Irish partnerships are not far away. According to Joerg Binkert: “I never thought that my little Franconian brewery would get the chance to do international business, but after my experience over the last few days in Ireland, I’m delighted to say that we met all the right people to ensure this could very well happen!”

Photo credit: “The Photo Project”