We have deep loves for travel and craft beer, so when we travel, our research is very focused on finding the best beer at our destination. We were planning a trip to Ireland, we’d planned a day trip from Galway along with all sorts of other activities to make the most of our time there, but of course the first thing that came to our minds was Guinness. When our friends heard of our excursion they told of trips with never ending pints of Guinness. Our friends explained how Guinness would taste better in Ireland and how they had been certified by Guinness to pour a pint.
While we love Guinness, we thought: there must be something more. We couldn’t believe our eyes when our research revealed that there is a craft beer explosion happening in Ireland right now. From what we could find, there is a subculture of craft brewers working in the shadow of the macro breweries, and the rest of the world seems to be sleeping on it. This subculture of homebrewers-turned-pro are fighting to show their country that there is something more to the pint. If you imagine turning the clock back 10-15 years on the craft beer industry in the US, you get the craft beer industry in Ireland.
So, Shirley and I traveled to Ireland to immerse ourselves in this craft beer explosion. And what better time is there to explore the emergence of another country’s craft beer than during American Craft Beer Week?
Our first night in Ireland we spent in Dublin….drinking Guinness–being a craft beer drinker in Ireland isn’t a cake walk. We quickly learned we were spoiled American beer nerds, owing our craft brewers a debt of gratitude, as they have pushed through many barriers to make sure we can find craft beer in almost every bar. In Ireland, it’s not that easy. If you want craft beer, you have to go looking. Hopefully, the lessons we learned on our trip will help those who come after us.
What we discovered is that Ireland’s pints from larger breweries are starting to come with much more variety. In the US, we’ve become accustomed to the majority of macro brewers turning out bland, tasteless crap. In Ireland, beers are being produced in mass quantity that could open the eyes of just about any beer fan to an entirely different world of macro beer products. That, I think, is playing a big part in why the Irish craft beer movement seems to be lagging behind the ones happening in the US and other parts of the world. Irish craft brewers, playing second fiddle to Ireland’s staple beers, have gained just under 2% of the market share.
The next day, we headed to Waterford: our research showed that the Metalman Brewery was brewing great beers there. We headed straight to the brewery; only one problem… okay two problems: 1. Metalman Brewery is insanely hard to find; 2. They don’t have a tasting room, if you do find them.
We hadn’t thought about this and soon realized that in all of the breweries you needed to setup a tour in advance. We drove around an Industrial park for 20 minutes and never actually found the brewery. These breweries are still in their infant stages and aren’t set up for fanboys (and girls) to show up announced expecting a tour. A lot of breweries there will give you a tour if you schedule it in advance, which is cool, because it will be just you and your tour guide–usually one of the brewers. I suggest contacting the brewery beforehand. One thing to keep in mind is that, due to their newness, you won’t find impressive brewing systems in many Irish breweries. You will, however, find impressive brewers.
During our research of Irish Craft Beer, one name kept coming up: Caroline Hennessy. Not only did Caroline write a book on the subject of craft beer, but she also works at one of the breweries. We contacted her to talk beer, and she was gracious enough to grant us an interview. Our next stop was her place of employment, Eight Degrees Brewery, our first actual brewery stop.
Caroline is one of the authors of Slainte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider. She is also the marketing director of Eight Degrees and an award winning food blogger. Caroline gave us a fantastic interview and an exclusive tour of the brewery (they don’t give tours of the brewery). During the interview, Caroline talked to us about the recent explosion of craft beer in Ireland, how it got to where it is and where it is going. During the tour we got to meet Scott, one of the founders and brewers of Eight Degrees. We also got to taste a new beer right out of fermentation that contained Mandarina Barvaria, a hop variety that we had never tasted before. At the end of the tour we viewed a new building, the future expansion facility for Eight Degrees Brewing.
In the end, Ireland gave us so much more than we expected: new friends, new knowledge about Irish Craft Beer, and of course the discovery of some of the best beer destinations on the Emerald Isle. We have so much content to show that we had to split the videos up into segments. We wanted to get the interview with Caroline out first to serve as an introduction to Irish Craft Beer. We hope you enjoy and keep a lookout for the rest of the videos! Slainte!! Sorry I had to do it.