Do you know your ‘bock’ from your ‘dubbel’? Ever enjoyed a cold glass of ‘faro’ or ‘zoigl’? The craft beer sector in Ireland is certainly booming as customers seek more choice. The industry, which has has almost tripled in size since 2011, is on course for sales of more than €15 million in 2014, an increase of 50 per cent this year alone. The craft beer industry now constitutes approximately 1.5 per cent of the entire beer market.
Over 1,000 pubs have closed since the beginning of the recession but the pubs now prospering include those who have embraced the craft beer revolution. Gastro pubs such as the Kings Head, Cottage Bar and Eat at Massimos pair local brews with menus featuring the best Irish specialty food products. We are looking at the rise of the brew-pub like the Oslo in Salthill as people think more about local jobs and local produce. With the ever expanding choice of bottles, barrels, flagons and cans, any restaurant worth its salt must offer at least a few craft brews and ciders along with the wine list. It would seem that that Carlsberg is probably not the best lager in the world when people are drawn to the more adventurous flavors of smaller brewers like local favorite Galway Hooker pale ale and Galway Bay Brewery’s ‘Full Sail’ or ‘Buried at Sea’.
Beer consumers are making more considered spending decisions, opting for high-quality beers with real taste and flavour, drinking less but drinking better. There is no doubt that it has been the success story of the downturn.
While Brian Cowen’s government will forever be remembered for all the wrong reasons, one thing that they did do right was pave the way for the renaissance of brewing we see today. In 2005, he implemented a policy whereby micro-breweries producing fewer than 20,000 hectolitres of beer per annum would be entitled to a 50% tax rebate. It took a while to see the results, but the last few years have seen an explosion in Irish craft brewing. This proliferation doesn’t show any signs of stopping, this year sees new local products Independent Brewing, N17 Brewery from Tuam, and Westport’s Mescan Brewery Belgian-style beer join the shelves. There are now 42 microbreweries with another 20 micro-brewing companies employing other brewers to produce their product, a number that is on the rise. Cider making too, which had all but died out is enjoying a resurgence albeit without the benefit of the same duty rebates as craft beer.
As craft brewing and cider making grows in Ireland, there is a large audience of brewers, publicans and restauranteurs as well as interested enthusiasts looking for information, advice and guidance that relates specifically to Ireland. Sláinte! is that timely guide, penned by two writers Kristin Jensen, a cookbook editor who writes the Edible Ireland blog and Caroline Hennessy a journalist, broadcaster and writer of the food blog Bibliocook.
This entertaining book covers everything from how beer and cider are made, to their history in Ireland to the stories behind the emerging microbreweries that are driving Ireland’s craft beer revolution. Sláinte! shows what beers are out there today, arranged by brewery in each county. It’s easy to find your favourite brew, and see what other beers that brewery is making. A wonderful up-to-date reference for beer drinkers looking to expand their repertoire. You’ll find tips on matching beer and cider with food and a dedicated Irish farmhouse cheese matching section from the Sheridan brothers. There are tasting notes, lists of festivals, brief histories of the individual brewers and cider-makers and recipes that incorporate craft brews. This is a definitive guide to Ireland’s craft beverage industry today well worth a space on your bookshelf.
Sláinte! is the ideal gift for the beer buff in your life, it’s easier to wrap than a case of ale, but probably won’t taste as good. If you want to buy a copy it is available in all good bookshops as well as good off-licences, but you probably won’t find a better deal than our very own Kenny’s at kennys.ie, which is offering it at €15.07 plus free shipping anywhere in the world. I’ll drink to that.
First published in The Galway Advertiser 18.09.2014