Friday 9 December 2016

My goodness ...how Ireland's craft beers are causing a global splash

Irish brewers mastering their craft and ready to take on the world ahead of festival weekend

Sam Griffin

Published 26/08/2015 | 02:30

Chrissy Kearns, from White Hag Brewery, samples some beer at the company's plant in Ballymote, Co Sligo
Chrissy Kearns, from White Hag Brewery, samples some beer at the company's plant in Ballymote, Co Sligo

Ireland is no longer just home to the black stuff - as an explosion in interest in craft beers has led to the creation of unique brews which are taking the world by storm.

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Beers made using heather, instead of hops, and chocolate-coffee flavoured batches are among some of the more unique blends that Irish craft breweries are about to unleash on the Irish market, having gone down a treat in the US.

The interest in craft beers has come after a leading travel magazine included Dublin among its top 10 best European cities for beer drinkers to wet their beaks.

Editors from 'Conde Nast Traveller', a hugely respected US publication and advice website, have heaped particular praise on the country's ever-growing microbrewery industry, in addition to the traditional tourism favourites.

"Inside the Guinness Storehouse at the iconic St James's Gate Brewery, you can stand at the bottom of the world's largest pint glass, learn about the brewing process step-by-step, see exhibits on storage and advertising and try your hand at pouring a pint."

"If microbrews are more your style, check out The Porterhouse, which brews and serves its beers in Dublin's Temple Bar district."

The ringing endorsement comes ahead of the fifth annual craft brewery festival at the RDS in Dublin, which starts tomorrow and runs until Saturday. It bodes well for the country's fledgling breweries, which are tapping into the changing tastes and thirsts of the Irish drinking public.

Since starting brewing in 2014, the White Hag Brewery, in Ballymote Co Sligo, has embarked on its ambitious mission to become "the best Irish craft beer in the world".

The company was the best-selling brewer at two craft festivals during its early days and has now expanded its range of products from seven beers to 12.

Among the range are some unique sour blends which "have been hugely popular" in the US market, and White Hag's managing director Paul Mullin says the stronger-tasting beers are starting to take off here as well.

"One thing we're doing now is we're serving a milk chocolate stout through a coffee rocket, which is like a big filter full of Cloud Picker coffee," Mr Mullin explained.

"It filters through the coffee and gives it a real strong taste and mixes really well with the milk chocolate and makes the stout really fresh. That has been really popular in the States."

The company is also about to use heather instead of hops in another unique ale as part of its range of 'gruit beers', where old-fashioned herbs and flowers are used to flavour beer.

The Ballymote beer will be on show at this weekend's Irish Craft Beer Festival which gets under way on Thursday.

Explosion

More than 50 breweries and cider-makers make up this year's line-up, a 400pc increase on participants on 2011. Industry experts say there are a number of factors behind the explosion in interest in craft beers, with post-recession consumers looking for better value from the products for which they are forking out.

Shoppers generally, and craft drinkers particularly, are also now believed to be more keen to support local business, which is being reflected in the success of small and medium-sized breweries countrywide.

An array of local Irish artisan food and music talent will also be on display at the festival, while the Irish Craft Beer Economic Impact report by leading economist Bernard Feeney will also be unveiled.

Irish Independent

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