So what countries do you think of when you think of good beer scenes? The US? Sure. Belgium? Germany? Of course. Ireland? No way! What does Ireland have? Guinness and a few Guinness clones? Actually, Irish craft beer has been growing quite rapidly over the past few years.
This past weekend, I attended the 2014 European Beer Bloggers Conference in Dublin, Ireland, and experienced a full immersion in this up and coming craft beer scene.
From Thursday, June 26 through Sunday, June 29, I left caution to the wind, and threw my taste buds upon the mercy of Zephyr Adventures, the organizers of the conference, and my fellow beer bloggers, trusting them to help educate me on the Irish craft beer scene. And I was pleasantly surprised!
Along from the most famous breweries in Ireland, such as St. James Gate (Guinness, Harp, Kilkenny, Smithwicks, etc.) and Heineken (Beamish and Murphy’s), Ireland is presently home to 50 breweries, with 45 of those falling in the category of Client Brewer, Brewpub or Microbrewery. Only 10 of these 50 breweries were established before 2010, while 13 are established in 2014!
These are exciting times for being a craft brewer in Ireland. Dean McGuinness (@BeerMessiah) likened the Irish craft beer industry today to the American craft beer industry of the 1990’s. Not a bad time to be in! New beers and breweries abound, but don’t write off the big boys either! Guinness continues to innovate, including in-house brewing competitions and a new experimental brewery to come up with new beer ideas, such as the Night Porter we got to sample at the Guinness Storehouse.
Some of the breweries I had the opportunity to sample included 5 Lamps, Black Donkey, Blacks of Kinsale, Bo Bristle, Brown Paper Bag Project, Carlow Brewing, Carrig, Dingle, Dungarvan, Eight Degrees, Four Provinces, Franciscan Well, Galway Bay, Galway Hooker, Independent, J.W. Sweetman, Mescan, Metalman, Mountain Man, N17, Rascals, St. James Gate and Trouble. The best part is that 12 of these (in bold) were sponsors of the conference; that’s 25% of the total beer industry of Ireland sponsoring this event, and two others supported us during the pre-conference pub crawl as well, with a third being one of the speakers!
Irish Craft Beers
Ok, so there’s 50 breweries in Ireland, but are the beers any good?
The Irish craft beer industry is putting out some very good beers, representing a nice cross-sector of beer styles. And one can only look forward to the opportunities they have to experiment with even more, local flavors in the future to find a true, local niche in the market.
Some of my favorite beers that I’ve tried from Ireland include:
- Lublin to Dublin (Oatmeal Stout) by Carlow Brewing Company (O’Hara’s)
- Kinsale Pale Ale (American Pale Ale) by Black’s of Kinsale
- Hairy Goat (English IPA) by Mountain Man Brewing
- Five Lamps Pilsner (Pilsner) by Five Lamps Brewery
- Stormy Port (Porter…on Cask) by Galway Bay Brewery
- Horn8’s Nest Pale Ale (American Pale Ale) by Eight Degrees Brewing
- Of Foam and Fury (Double IPA) by Galway Bay Brewery
- N17 Oatmeal Stout by N17
- Night Porter by Guinness
- Beoir #1 (Double IPA) by Black’s of Kinsale
- The Hurler (Copper Ale) by Four Provinces
- Jameson Stout by Franciscan Well
- Ginger Porter by Rascals Brewing
- Sheep Stealer (Saison) by Black Donkey Brewing
Irish Craft Beer Bars
The first night in Dublin, before the conference, Reuben Gray of The Tale of the Ale put together a pub crawl for those of us already in town. Since I happened to arrive in time, I decided to join. The crawl started from The Church, which was the venue for the conference, and then continued across the city of Dublin, taking in five other Irish craft beer establishments. Steve Lamond of Beer’s I’ve Known did a nice advance write-up of the pubs on the crawl, including a couple we never made it to due to the inclement weather and overcrowding of some of the establishments. For me, that was the best part of the crawl; seeing the huge turnout in these establishments, enjoying the local Irish craft beer, rather than just the major international imports found in most of the other pubs.
If you’re in Ireland and looking for the best information on where to find Irish craft beer, download the BeoirFinder app for Android or iPhone. This will definitely help you find the right pub for some nice craft beer instead of just a normal German, Dutch or Danish import.
All in in, I would have to say that Ireland has quite a lot to be proud of in their accomplishments thus far in their entry into the world of craft beer. And I think we all have a lot to look forward to from further developments in the industry over the coming years.
Special thanks to some of the venues and companies who helped make the #EBBC14 such a special time for me and the other bloggers:
The Church cafe for hosting the conference.
Molson Coors for helping defray the costs of attendance.
Guinness for the tour and tasting event.
Pilsner Urquell for the special keg tappings, lunch and pub crawl.
Franciscan Well Brewery for the beer-food pairing dinner.
Carlow Brewing Company for the O’Haras After-party.
And if you’re in Dublin, check out this great apartment that I stayed in. The location was perfect!