Ireland, a nation that enjoys its pint, excels in food production, surely it must also have a wide selection of Craft beers and microbreweries. Visitors to Ireland are often surprised by the homogenous nature of the Irish beer market. They assume that there will be a vast array of differing beers in each bar. A cornucopia of artisan ales and local brew larger’s. It doesn’t unfortunately quiet work like that. Guinness is probably one of the most well known drinks in the world and its dominance of the Irish beer market has limited the opportunities for small producers to step forward and many older ones have fallen by the wayside.
While I still enjoy Guinness myself, I am happy to report that Ireland has undergone a revolution in craft beer production. In the last 12 years, 19 small breweries have been established in Ireland. All are still thriving and in many cases producing internationally acclaimed beers.
I picked these beers on a mix of criteria, the main one being throughly subjective in that they represent my favourite artisan beers. I did however use popular acclaim and competition result to influence my rankings. I hope that you get some of these beers for your own enjoyment and maybe to carry some to your friends as a Unique Irish Gift.
1. O’Hara’s Irish Stout – Carlow Brewing Company.
This classic stout from the Carlow Brewing Company, harkens back to the time when Stout was a traditional drink, and very much made for the local market. It is full bodied, and much heavier than Guinness, giving it is unique richness. This is a complex stout, with hints of Liquorice and Coffee and a strong aftertaste of hops, which is quiet unusual for an Irish stout. Another unusual feature is the richness and tan colour of the pint’s head. It is now available in Britain, Europe and North America. A small brewery that has leveraged itself in to global distribution network all based on an obsession with quality and originality.
– Jan. 2009 – Silver Medal at the BTI World Beer Championships – Chicago.
– 2008: No.1 Beer at the Milan Beer Festival (cask-conditioned).
– 2008: Bronze Medal at the Stockholm Beer Festival.
– 2000: Winner of the overall Championship Trophy and two Gold medal winner at the Millennium International Brewing Industry Awards. O’Hara’s
2. Wrassler’s Irish Stout – Porterhouse Brewing Company.
The Porterhouse Brewing Company are viewed as the founders of the modern resurgence in Irish artisan beers and microbreweries. Their brewery in Temple Bar, Dublin, in the heart of the city, established itself for the quality of its own produce and the large selection of world beers for sale in the bar.
Wrasslers is brewed to an original recipe from “Deasy’s of West Cork” who made a local stout up to the 1930’s. It was very popular and was the favourite tipple of the great Irish patriot Micheal Collins. This is a uniquely strong stout, the first thing that strikes you is the spicy burned bitterness, that takes control of your tongue. The chocolate after taste, that soothes as it slides down your throat. Quiet a unique Irish stout and best summed up by its tagline “a stout like your gradfather used to drink”. This beer is available in stores in America, but I personally feel that its best performance is straight from the tap.
|Gold Medal, Belfast 1997.||Gold Medal, Huddersfield 1998.|
|Gold Medal, Stockholm 1999.||Bronze Award, All Ireland 2000.|
3. White Island Wheat Beer – Inishmacsaint Brewing Company, Co. Fermanagh.
This brewery stands out, in that it is farm based, in rural Fermanagh. It was set up to provide a diversification of revenue from their small holding. While providing certain business challenges, it also allows a unique approach to the manufacturing of the beer. It allows it to make special run beers, such as its “Martel” beer. It is named after the man who discovered Fermanagh’s marble arch caves. Uniquely amongs Irish beers, they store the casks in the caves for one year. Where upon release they are bottles, and sell out almost immediately.
The mountains are combed for wild herbs, to use in manufacturing new and ancient beer recipes. The brewery taking its name from a near by 5th C. Monastery. The Wheat beer is crisp, refreshing and delicious. It reflects the character, the desire to think outside the box of its manufacturer – Gordon Fallis. They have recently expanded to a larger manufacturing facility, renovating an old farm building in to a new, larger brewery. This is quiet a new beer, but I believe that it will do very well in time to come. It has what it takes and is from a unique Microbrewery.
4. Ór Golden Ale – Trouble Brewing Company. Co. Kildare
A smooth, refreshing golden ale that is full-bodied and has a distinctive hop flavour. It is brewed in a steamfired brewhouse and there is no pastuerization, additives or preservatives used. This is a beer that is made to a traditional recipe, and in a traditional manner. The batches and runs are small, allowing the Trouble Brewing brew master to pay extra care to each one. This really shows in the beer, it is an exceptionally high quality. Taste is sweet as well with more sweet malt, ripe berries, caramel, and soft grains. Light grassy hops as well. Body is light-medium with a strong, bubbly carbonation. Ends with more fruit notes, caramel and sweet malt
5. Sunburnt Irish Red – 8 Degrees, Ballyhoura’s, Co. Cork.
Australia and New Zealand are both countries that are passionate about beer. So when Cam and Scott both founds themselves living in Co. Cork, married to 2 Irish girls, they expected to find themselves in artisan beer heaven. Once they saw the reality, they set up “8 Degrees” Microbrewery. A reference to the latitude of their new home country.
Sunburnt Irish Red is described as like an Irish man on holidays in the Canaries ” Red but mellow and relaxed”. It has a subtle caramel flavour and distinct flavour from its Australian hops. It can be sample in Dublin in “Against the Grain” and most off licence’s have it in stock as well.