From Guinness to Beamish, The Emerald Isle has a brewing heritage that goes back centuries. However, some of the most interesting beers being made today come from small independent breweries that are dedicated to preserving the craft philosophy. Championing beers with a distinct personality, character and flavour, these young upstart breweries are slowly beginning to take on the heavyweight brands, and are winning more and more fans along the way. If you’re staying with us at Ashford Castle or The Lodge at Ashford Castle, look out for some of these craft beers at local pubs and bars.
Burren Brewery, Co. Clare
Founded in 2011, Burren Brewery has grown from its humble beginnings in a room in the Roadside Tavern pub to being recognised in Lonely Planet’s Global Craft Beer Guide. Global recognition aside, the brewery retains its authentic sensibilities by still operating out of its pub premises. Burren’s increasingly popular portfolio of beers includes the sweet ale, Burren Red, a characterful lager called Burren Gold, and Burren Black, a creamy stout.
Galway Bay Brewery, Galway Bay
With eleven pubs across Ireland, Galway Bay Brewery are an artisan brewery with a burgeoning presence. Their five superior ales all have a nautical theme – try the IPA, Foam of Fury and the chocolatey Buried at Sea stout. For those interested in learning more, Galway Bay’s brewery in Ballybrit (an hour’s drive from Ashford Castle) hosts tours and talks about the art of brewing craft ales.
Trouble Brewing, Kildare
Kildare’s Trouble Brewing was founded in 2010 by three friends. Using water from the brewery’s well and only the finest hops, their quality brews are loaded with flavour and a sense of humour, courtesy of their quirky labelling. Trouble Brewing produce year-round beers like the smooth and refreshing Deception Golden Ale, as well as seasonal editions such as their Pumpkin Brew.
Rascals Brewing, Dublin
Much like the name, Rascals Brewery produce mischievous beers with a cheeky twist. Expect the unexpected from the young Dublin-based brewery; their Strawberry Vanilla Shake IPA is blended to make a fruity sweet brew. Alternatively, for something a touch tarter, opt for their Project Sour series, which are fermented and dosed with forest fruits.
Eight Degrees Brewing, Co. Cork
Putting Irish craft brewers on the international map, Eight Degrees Brewing’s Amber Ella is the upstart beer that took a medal at the 2014 World Beer Cup. A big, fruity, hoppy beer with a slightly bitter tangerine aftertaste, its main competition within the range comes from the mocha-flavoured Knockmealdown Irish stout that’s also award-winning.
Franciscan Well, Cork
Housed on the site of an old Franciscan monastery dating to 1219, Franciscan Well brewery blends traditional brewing techniques with modern technology to create their award-winning ales. Their secret? The water from the antiquated well onsite is said to have curative powers. Their portfolio of brews includes the malty, Rebel Red ale, the hop-heavy Chieftan IPA, German-style Friar Weisse white beer, and of course, an Irish stout, Shandon.
Stonewell Cider, Cork
Ireland’s not just getting hop-happy, apples are a big deal too with cider makers making waves. Cork’s tangy and fresh Stonewell Cider is fermented and blended by a small husband-and-wife team who first began making it on an antique French press in 2010. Today, their operation has been brought into the 21st century but their artisanal cider types (Medium, Dry, Tobairin – a low alcohol perry – and Tawny, a rich specialist cider) taste like traditional ciders of yore.
Metalman Brewery Co, Waterford
Located in Waterford, Grainne Walsh and Tim Barber decided to rectify the rather dismal beer selection at their local pubs by founding the Metalman Brewery Company in 2011. Named after a navigation aid on the Waterford coast, the two men have collaborated on some great beers, from the American-style Pale Ale to the bright, lemony summer beer, Equinox.
Image Credits: Main image © iStock/mediaphotos. Trouble Brewing © Trouble Brewing. Rascals Brewing © Rascals Brewing. Metalman Brewery Co © Metalman Brewery Co. Burren Brewery © Burren Brewery. Eight Degrees Brewing © Eight Degrees Brewing. Franciscan Well © Franciscan Well. Stonewell Cider © Stonewell Cider. Galway © Galway Bay.