Saturday 16 December 2017

Meet Ireland's craft beer experts

Rick LeVert from the Kinnegar Brewing Company in Co Donegal
Rick LeVert from the Kinnegar Brewing Company in Co Donegal
O'Hara's Leann Follain
O'Hara's Foreign Affair Red IPA
Rust Bucket Rye, Kinnegar Brewing
Killarney Brewing Devil helles brew
McHugh's Road Trip Americana Style IPA, Kinnegar Brewing
Killarney Brewing Golden Spear

Liam Campbell

Have you been transformed into a craft beer drinker yet? In an Ireland that's increasingly eschewing the old big-name reliables in favour of a tipple more tailored to each person's personal tastes, craft beer is not just a big trend but a big industry too. To find out more, I spoke to three of the country's craft brewers about what drives their brands.

Seamus O'Hara, O'Hara's Brewery/Carlow Brewery

"Having lived in Northern England, I enjoyed the variety of cask-conditioned ales and guest beers available in most pubs. When I moved back to Ireland in the early 1990s, I was disappointed by the lack of choice," says Seamus O'Hara. "Having studied biotech, including brewing science, at DCU and having been an active home brewer, it seemed a logical next step to set up my own brewery and bring some positive disruption to the Irish beer market."

Since he began O'Hara's in 1996, Seamus says that the growing number of domestic craft brewers has brought diversity to the pub menu. "We're making products that are uniquely Irish, while taking inspiration from international styles and trends. Running craft beer events where consumers can meet the brewers and find out the back stories helps them to connect with us."

Signature brew: O'Hara's Leann Folláin Extra Irish Stout, 6pc €3.25 50cl widely available in off-licences nationwide

Adventurous choice: Foreign Affair Red IPA, O'Hara's & Starr Hill Irish American Collaboration Brew, 4.8pc €3.25 50cl widely available in O'Brien's and off-licences nationwide

Rick Le Vert, Kinnegar Brewing, Co Donegal

Founded in 2011, Rathmullan's Kinnegar Brewing has navigated the stormy economic climate by offering its customers "good beer at a fair price", says founder Rick LeVert. "Our audience isn't interested in volume drinking. They want to discover new and different flavours and they're very discerning about the quality of what they're drinking," he says.

Originally from Germany, Rick says that there are distinct trends in what Irish drinkers are looking for. "Hop-forward beers are, and will be, the dominant trend in beer for some time to come, but many beer drinkers are branching out and discovering other styles such as Belgian saisons and sours."

Signature brew: Kinnegar Brewing Rust Bucket Rye Ale, 5.1pc €3.49 - €3.79 500ml available in over 300 outlets nationwide, including O'Brien's and select SuperValu stores

Adventurous choice: Kinnegar Brewing & McHugh's Road Trip American Style IPA, 6.2pc

€3.99 500ml at McHugh's, Kilbarrack Road and Malahide Road, Dublin 5

Liam Healy, Killarney Brewing

"The craft beer industry in Ireland is growing in double digits annually. We take great personal satisfaction that we can help create local jobs in a difficult economic environment," says US-based brewer Liam Healy, who along with local men Paul Sheahan and Tim O'Donoghue founded Killarney Brewing this year.

"Ireland was an obvious choice to invest in given its history in beer-making and being the 4th largest consumer of beer in the word, per capita," says Liam. "All of our beers are named after evocative local myths and legends. Our American brewer, Andrew Rosette, has a 20-year history in working in micro-breweries, adding an 'American touch' to our Irish beer recipes."

Signature brew: Killarney Brewing's Devil's Helles Lager, 4.2pc

Adventurous choice: Killarney Brewing's Golden Spear Blonde Ale, 4.7pc

Killarney Brewing beers are currently available on draft in over 30 pubs around Killarney. Their 500ml bottles will be available nationwide later this autumn.

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