Heineken: 'Craft beer' is just a marketing term

Bobby Kerr's been chatting with its brew master about its response to the 'craft beer revolution'

Heineken: 'Craft beer' is just a marketing term

Sander van der Wel / Flickr

In 2016, Heineken was named Ireland's most popular beer for the third year in a row - but how is the Dutch company responding to shifts in consumer demand which have seen craft brews (and breweries) spread like wildfire?

Willem van Waesberghe, global craft and brew master for Heineken spoke to Bobby Kerr on Down to Business - and he said he welcomes this change:

"We think - and I think - this is a great development. Consumers want to get more and more variety. They are getting interested in beer, they are getting interested in what they drink. For us it is the same, we want to create beers. We have delivered [the] beers they always wanted, now they want more so we're going to do that," he told Newstalk.

Benicio del Toro and Willem van Waesberghe

He revealed that he takes some exception to the phrase 'craft beer':

"Craft for me is an economic, marketing definition, blocking out big guys. For me it is about craftsmanship, a brewer in a big brewery or a brewer in a small brewery needs to do the same craftsmanship.

"He or she needs to look at the ingredients, look at the recipe, and the equipment and create that beer. Those decisions are the same if you are making one hector litre, or maybe one million hector litres," he added.

One of the company's responses has been the launch of H41 'Wild Lager,' - a variation on the traditional Dutch recipe with a rare 'mother' yeast discovered in the Patagonia region of South America.

Mr van Waesberghe told Newstalk that "more variants are coming" as the company responds to a growing demand for experimental beers.

It has also recently launched Heineken Light and Orchard Thieves cider.

The Cute Hoor range, Murphy's and Beamish complete its Irish range. It also imports Tiger, Desperados, Corrs Light, Paulaner, and a number of other brands.

Elsewhere, in the wide-ranging interview, the Dutchman discussed his own journey from the world of geology to brewing and the challenge of making sure that Heineken brewed in over 160 facilities around the world (including its Cork brewery) taste the same as the beer from the original site in Amsterdam.

He also told Bobby all about being on set with Benicio del Toro (Snatch, The Usual Suspects, and soon Star Wars: The Last Jedi) to film a TV spot.