Ireland has a long history and evolution of craft brewing that began centuries ago. In the early years, there were usually one brewery in each major town, and by the 1800s there were over two-hundred breweries gracing the rolling hills of Ireland with fifty in Dublin alone! However, with the advent of the larger internationally run companies, local craft breweries virtually disappeared over the last two centuries. It may be a Dublin institution with a great history (and even a personal favorite of mine), but there is much more to the Irish beer scene than its dominant representative, Guinness. Of course, the Guinness factory is a must-see while touring the rolling hills, but don’t forget about the smaller, local breweries.
It’s evident with the presence of campaigns and organizations like Slow Food Ireland, Bord Bia, and Love Irish Food that Ireland truly cares about and makes a real effort to support sourcing locally grown and produced goods. And the “Love Irish Food” movement isn’t just about farmers and artisanal chefs anymore. Craft and micro brewers are popping up all over the country producing delicious, unique, and accessible products – about two dozen currently, with that number growing every year. So whether you are visiting Ireland for a weekend away or studying there for the semester, do have a Guinness, but get to know some of the other Irish brews! You won’t be disappointed.
Also commonly referred to as O’Hara’s Brewery, Carlow Brewery was at the forefront of the craft brew revolution in the 90s. They run tours every Thursday, by appointment, at their brewery in Bagenalstown in County Carlow. Their most notable beers include Irish Stout, Celtic Wheat, Irish Pale Ale, and “Leann Folláin” (Irish for “wholesome stout”). Beginning in April 2013, you can now enjoy a nice O’Hara’s in downtown Kilkenny if you can’t make it to the brewery. Filled with live traditional music or a killer DJ, that beer will taste that much greater in the company of newfound Irish friends in a traditional setting.
Eight Degrees Brewing
Even though their brews’ names are a bit cheeky, the folks at Eight Degrees take their craft seriously. Their site details the entire brewing process for anyone who is interested. This brewery is all about matching their beers with some great, complimentary food. They suggest pairing their Barefoot Bohemian Pilsner with pizza, Vietnamese, or Thai dishes. Their Sunburnt Irish Red is a terrific accompaniment to a cheese and charcuterie plate. If you want a more typical cuisine while in Ireland,enjoy a hearty stew with a glass of Knockmealdown Porter. Did I mention that their brews are vegan friendly as well? These guys have thought of everything to tame your tastebuds or fire them up. No tours to be had of this micro brew as of yet, but this is a perfect time to introduce the never-be-without-a-decent-pint app (yes, we said there’s an app for beer) that’ll point you in the direction of this brew, as well as many more on the list!
Porterhouse Brewery & Bars
Since its establishment in the mid-90s, Porterhouse has really made a name for itself in Ireland and beyond, boasting several bar locations across the country (use the app!), with three in Dublin, and one in Cork and Bray, as well as London and New York. They have about a dozen or so of their beers at any given time, including An Brain Blásta, Oyster Stout, and Temple Brau. Need some amusement in your life? Head to the blog on the Porterhouse website and read up on their local events written in the melodic tone for which the Irish are known!
Franciscan Well Brewery
Cork’s Franciscan Well Brewery is known for its combination of a historic location (an actual Franciscan Well dating back to the 13th century – plus it even doubled as a Guinness bottling plant!) and modern brewing techniques to create their unique lager, ales, stout, and wheat beers. Franciscan Well boasts that their beers are entirely free of preservatives and chemical additives. Which makes it a step up in our book – healthy beer? Can’t beat that. You can sip this tasty brew while visiting their pub and beer garden, which is covered and heated, ideal for the unpredictable Irish weather! This cozy spot is complete with a wood-burning pizza oven to accompany all that beer and they boast their spot as more of a hangout for tourists, beer buffs and students alike — plus there’s good wifi!
Galway Bay Brewery
This recently expanded brewery — and collection of nine pubs across the country– is fast on its way to becoming a destination in itself. The brewery does their best to cater for tours, often in a combined brewery tour, beer tasting and food pairing option. Just contact Oslo Bar (the pub to which the brewery is attached) to arrange options! The bar is set up modern in the front, and beer-garden in the back. Head back to the benches if the local rugby game is on and you’re sure to make fast friends – just remember to root for the right team! Their beers include Beoir Beer of 2014 winner, Of Foam and Fury (a double IPA), Stormy Port, Buried At Sea, Full Sail, and Bay Ale.
Trouble Brewing, founded and operated by a few friends in County Kildare, bring their humor to their beers. Every bit of their branding is sure to produce a little chuckle. Their staple brews include Deception Golden Ale, Sabotage IPA, and Dark Arts Porter. Though their beer is available in many pubs around Dublin and the eastern part of Ireland, grab these brews bottled if you want the full-effect of Trouble’s humorous branding. These boys also love to promote at beer fests so keep your eye on their News and Events page to make sure you don’t miss a fun time!
For any IPA aficionados, Galway Hooker is a must-try! This Irish Pale Ale is was the first permanently produced pale ale one in Ireland. Named after a fishing vessel, Galway Hooker is considered to be one of the best examples of the craft. As it is the brewery’s flagship beer, they have really spent careful time honing in and perfecting this brew. This brewery likes to keep it all in the family as cousins started the hooker, and they have earned some hefty awards and titles – like the Bridgestone from 2007-2012 though it seems that there has been some competition popping up in the past couple years – but we aren’t complaining!
Taste these brews and more on the FREE weekly Irish Craft Beer Tour. If you can’t make it to a tour, there are plenty of pubs and restaurants in Dublin that serve these brands; including The Black Sheep, L. Mulligan Grocer, Porterhouse, Against The Grain, and others. If you are elsewhere in the country, check out Brewery Corner in Kilkenny (voted number one craft beer bar of 2013), The Locke Bar in Limerick, Abbott Ale House, Bierhaus, or Bru Bar in Cork, or The Oslo Bar in Galway. With local craft breweries growing in their reach into Irish mainstream culture, there are so many pubs and restaurants that serve these unique brews.
Anything we missed? Leave a comment about your favorite Irish microbrewery or brewpub. Sláinte!