|styles - history - beers|
| This page lists all the breweries currently
active in Ireland and all the beers they brew.
I have created a single page for the whole of Ireland, both the Republic and the North, for no other reason than the small number of breweries. And, of course, the common brewing tradition.
Irish brewing industry
Irish beer statistics
Irish beer styles
Irish brewing industry
Unless you've spent the last 50 years in a sealed concrete bunker, you'll be aware of Guinness's dominance of the Irish brewing scene. Their last Dublin rival (Findlaters) closed in 1949 and by the mid-1960's they had rounded up the last few stray ale breweries.
The only challenge to total control was in Cork, where the tied house system of Murphy's and Beamish & Crawford kept Guinness at bay, at least for a while.
Under pressure from their own landlords (who wanted to sell Guinness), the Cork brewers gave up their tied houses in the 1970's. They soon ran into trouble and were snapped up by foreign globalists, eager to own an "Irish stout" brand. Their stouts are now often easier to find abroad than in their native country.
The micro revolution
Ireland is one of the last of the traditional brewing nations of Europe to undergo a microbrewery boom. The stranglehold of Guinness on the licensed trade has surely played a role in suppressing new brewery startups. In 2005 progressive beer duty was due to be introduced. It should proivide a boost to the fledgling micro industry.
There was a brief flirtation with Dublin-brewed real ale in the early 1980's (Dempsey's and Harty's), but neither lasted very long. It wasn't until the 1990's with the Biddy Early brewpub that anyone dared try again. A steady trickle of new brewpubs and micros has continued since, though they are still of minor significance in terms of volume (45,000 hl to Guinness's 5.2 million hl). The lack of a sliding scale of duty is seen as a major obstacle to new breweries entering the market.
The story in Northern Ireland has been much the same, where Bass and Guinness have long enjoyed a duopoly. Hilden, Ireland's oldest microbrewery (founded 1981) has survived rather than prospered. The long absence of cask-conditioned beer and the lack of proper cellars in many bars has not helped their cause. Whitewater joined them in 1996. A couple of other micros and a brewpub came and quickly disappeared again in the 1980's. All the new brewereies have produced cask-conditioned beer on a regular basis.
Ireland now has more breweries than at any time since the early 1920's. This is how the 20 active breweries (16 in the Irish Republic, 4 in Northern Ireland) can be classified:
Ireland is famous for one style of beer: stout. Originating in 18th century London, porter became immensely popular in Ireland around 1800. Eventually Dublin ousted London as porter capital and by 1900 Irish brewers were exporting huge quantities to England. The extent of this trade can be deduced from the statistics for UK beer imports: with the independence of the Irish Republic these increased from around 50,000 barrels (82,000 hl) a year to 1,500,000 barrels (2,455,000 hl).
Guinness pioneered mixed-gas dispense (carbon dioxide and nitrogen) in the early 1960's. Today it's widely used for serving both draught stout and ale. The older system of serving draught stout involved two barrels behind the bar. Each glass was first filled about two-thirds with old, relatively flat beer from the lower cask ("low stout"). It was topped up with lively, young beer from a smaller cask on a high shelf ("high stout").
Modern stout is a mere shadow of its pre-WW I self. The classic porter strength - from the early 18th century up until 1900 - was around 1056º. Stout was a minimum of 1060º.
If you want to get an idea of old-fashioned Irish stout, try Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. It's the closest approximation you'll find today. You'll notice that in 1840 Guinness Extra Stout was stronger than the current FES.
In the years 1900 - 1916 a high proportion of beer brewed in Ireland must have been the stronger stouts. The average Original Gravity hovered around 1065º. As a comparison, in England and Wales it was 1051 - 1052º and in Scotland only 1047 - 1049º. You can find the full details here.
Irish beer styles today
Stout has steadily lost popularity with drinkers over the last 40 years, but is still the most popular style. Ireland is the last country in the world where the majority of beer is still top-fermented.
The first lager brewery (Darty Brewing Co.) was established in Dublin in 1892, but only lasted a five years. A second attempt was made with the wonderfully named Regal Lager Brewery Ltd. (in Kelis, county Meath) in 1937. It lasted slightly longer, closing in 1954. Serious lager brewing began when Guinness converted the Great Northern Brewery in Dundalk to produce Harp in the 1950's.
Murphy and Beamish followed Guinness into the lager market, brewing a variety of foreign brands under licence. The names have come and gone with the changes of ownership, but the product has remained largely the same. They have been surprisingly successful in this section of the market, the only one where Guinness has punched below its weight. Their market share of only around 50% - in what is an expanding sector - must be a worry.
This is the only area where a British brewery (the former Bass subsidiary Tennents) has made any lasting impact on the Irish market.
For decades the three large breweries (Guinness, Murphy, Beamish) were happy to brew nothing but porter-style beers. There was a parallel world of quite small ale breweries which struggled along until the 1950's. The remaining half dozen or so merged to form the imaginatively-named Irish Ale Brewers, which Guinness bought in 1965.
Keg ales made big inroads in stout's market share during the 1960's and 1970's, before being overtaken by lager as the drink of the moment.
Their fortunes have been revived in the last 15 years by sales outside their native country. Keg Kilkenny is a "must have" beer for fake Irish pubs across Europe. Caffrey's started the fad for "smoothflow" ales in Britain. Both Murphy and Beamish now brew "Red Ales", but their impact inside Ireland has been minimal, where Guinness brands still dominate.
|Brewers' Trade Organisations
The Irish Brewers' Association
84/86 Lower Baggot Street
Tel. : (353) 1 660 10 11
Fax : (353) 1 660 17 17
Director : Paddy Jordan
The big boys' club.
|Brewers and Malsters Guild of Ireland
Founded (or refounded) in 1996.
An organisation representing the interests of micros and brewpubs.
|Beer production (barrels)|
1857-1922 Reports of Commissioners of Inland Revenue and of Customs and Excise, and Trade and Navigation. (via "The Brewers' Almanack 1928")
1936-1953 Brewers' Almanack 1955, p.107-110
1954-1959 Brewers' Almanack 1962, p.107-108
up to 1881, calculated according to the Quantities of Malt and Sugar used
1884 - 1895, 1913 Standard Barrels Charged with Beer Duty
1900 - 1922 the Number of bulk barrels upon which duty was paid during the year.
1 barrel = 163.656 litres.
|Number of breweries|
my own calculation
1954-1959 Brewers' Almanack 1955, p.107-108
@ Weekly Dispatch, April 13th 1851
up to 1922 all Ireland, 1923 onwards Irish Republic only
|Consumption (1,000 hl)||4,174#||4,072f||4,182f||4,412f||4,632f||4,632f||4,840f||4,700f||4,792f||4,932#||5,196#||5,406#||5,592#||5,699#||5,595#||5,625#|
|Consumption per head (litres)||58.1f||130f||126c||121.7#||108d||106.4f||112.7b||118||123.7@||150.5e||126||125a||125&|
|Production (1,000 hl)||6,000#||4,479g||4,360g||4,624g||5,094g||5,236g||6,680||6,910||7,186||7,402#||7,764#||8,152#||8,478#||8,648#||8,710#||8,712#||9,157h|
|Exports (1,000 hl)||3,300#||3,445#||3,519#||2,142#||2,442#|
|No. breweries (Irish Republic)||8*||7*||7*||7*||9*||8*||7*||7*||7*||7*||7*||7*||7*||7*||9*||11*||12*||16*||17*||17*||18*||20*||19*||17*||19*||16*|
|No. breweries (N. Ireland)||1*||1*||1*||1*||4*||4*||4*||4*||3*||2*||2*||2*||2*||2*||2*||3*||3*||3*||3*||3*||3*||3*||3*||4*||3*||4*|
# The Brewers of Europe (2003)
& Bryggeriforeningen (Norway)
a Brauwelt 31-32/2002
b Economics Department, German Brewers' Association.
c World Guide to Beer, Michael Jackson
d Bier in Belgie, Geert van Lierde, 1986
@ Brauwelt Brevier 2000
e Brauwelt Brevier 2001
f Competition Authority Decision of 17 June 1998, relating to a proceeding under Section 4 of the Competition Act. Notification No. CA/17/97 - Guinness Ireland Group Limited/United Beverages Holdings Limited. Decision No. 512
g United Nations Statistics Department
h Brauwelt Brevier
i Centraal Brouwerij Kantoor
* my own calculation
|Beer sales by type|
a "The Murphy's Story" Diarmuid Ó Drisceoil & Donal Ó Drisceoil, p.132
b Competition Authority Decision of 17 June 1998, relating to a proceeding under Section 4 of the Competition Act. Notification No. CA/17/97 - Guinness Ireland Group Limited/United Beverages Holdings Limited. Decision No. 512
* calculated from the other figures
|Market share by brewery (1996)|
|Percentage Share||Guinness||Murphy||Beamish & Crawford||Others|
Competition Authority Decision of 17 June 1998, relating to a proceeding under Section 4 of the Competition Act. Notification No. CA/17/97 - Guinness Ireland Group Limited/United Beverages Holdings Limited. Decision No. 512
|What do my scores mean?|
|< 20||cut out the middleman and pour straight down the sink|
|21 - 30||pretty nasty, gulp down quickly or hold your nose|
|31 - 40||chill heavily and pray|
|41 - 50||can be drunk unchilled without evoking nausea|
|51 - 60||safe to drink|
|61 - 70||you might actually enjoy this|
|71 - 80||can survive a serious examination|
|81 - 90||don't swallow too quickly|
|91 - 100||treat like 50 year-old Islay|
Country Pub and Microbrewery
The Brooklodge Hotel,
Tel: 0402 - 36444
Fax: 0402 - 36580
Microbrewery in a leisure complex.
|Árainn Mhór Brewing Company
Árainn Mhór Island,
Tel: 087 630 6856
Microbrewery on an island in county Donegal.
|The Balbriggan Brewing Co.
Founded: ***** CLOSED 2005 *****
Microbrewery. ***** CLOSED 2005 *****
& Crawford Brewery
South Main Street,
Tel: 021 - 4911100
Fax: 021 - 4911111
Annual production: 574,000 hl (2002)
Owned by Scottish & Newcastle. Beamish stout is far harder to find than its main Irish rivals, despite being under globalist control.
Alfred Barnard, wrote in his 1889 book 'Noted Breweries of Great Britain & Ireland':
"The business of Beamish & Crawford in Cork is a very old one dating as far back as the seventeenth century and it is said to be the most ancient porter brewery in Ireland.The brewery has been traded between globalists (more accurately, would-be globalists) in the past four decades. Here are the details:
Tel: +353 65 683 6742
Fax: +353 65 683 6742
Annual production: 850 hl
"The Goods Store",
Tel: +353 (0)503 34356
Fax: +353 (0)503 40038
Microbrewery. Next to the railway station in Carlow town.
|The Celtic Brewing Co.
Enfield Industrial Estate,
Tel: (0405) 41558
Dublin Brewing Co.
141-146 North King Street,
Tel: 01 - 872 8622
Fax: 01 - 872 8653
Founded: 1996 *** CLOSED in 2005 ***
Annual production: 6,240 barrels (10,200 hl) (2003)
|Dwan - Tipperary Brewing Co.
Tel: (0504) 26007
Founded: 1998 CLOSED 2003
Tel: 0903 - 25737
Fax: 0903 - 25455
14 North Mall,
Tel: (021) 210130
Annual production: 2,500 hl
|Great Northern Brewery
Tel: 042 - 34793
Annual production: 1,000,000 hl
Owned by Diageo (Guinness). It was bought by Guinness in 1959 to brew their lager.
Guinness Son & Co.
Saint James's Gate,
Annual production: 4,000,000 hl (2003, capacity)
Owned by Diageo. Excuse me if I have omitted some of the many variations Guinness produce of their 3 basic products - bottled Guinness, draught Guinness and Foreign Extra Stout. The company seems perversely determined to destroy a product and a business developed over more than two centuries.
As their London brewery (capacity 2.6 million hl) is closing (Summer 2005), all the Guinness in Europe will soon come from Dublin. The capacity of St.James's Gate will be expanded to 6,000,000 hl to cope.
An interesting article about the boats Guinness used to own for exporting their beer.
Guinness brands over timeIn 1796 Guinness brewed two beers: ale and porter. In 1799 the ale was dropped. In 1801 they introduced Keeping Porter and in 1803 Country Porter.
Superior Porter was brewed from 1806 on an occasional basis, After 1840 it was known as Single Stout. In 1896 it was renamed Porter. It was last brewed in the early 1970's.
Extra Superior Porter was occasuionally brewed from 1806 onwards. After 1821 it was brewed regularly and became the mainstay of exports to England. Around 1840 the name was changed to Double Stout. In 1896 in was renamed Extra Stout. This is the forerunner of today's Guinness Extra Stout. In the early days a "Keeping" version was brewed, which was matured longer and blended with fresh beer in the Summer to maintain quality during warm weather.
West Indies Porter, was also brewed occasionally in the early 1800’s. By 1840 it was a regular product and was called Triple Stout. After 1896 it was called Foreign Export Double Stout This is the direct ancestor of today’s Foreign Extra Stout. In the 1800's, it was the same gravity as the domestic Double Stout/Extra Stout but hopped more heavily and matured longer, which meant it was stronger too. Around 1900, both had an OG of 1074 but the export stout was 7.8% ABV, the domestic stout only 7%.
"Guinness’s Brewery in the Irish Economy 1759-1876", Patrick Lynch and John Vaizey, pages 150-151.
"Guinness 1886-1939", by Dennison & McDonagh, p. 2, 153, 159
"American Handy Book of Brewing , Malting and Auxiliary Trades", by Wahl & Henius, Chicago 1902, page 825.
Co. Antrim BT27 4TY.
Tel: (028) 9266 3863
Fax: (028) 9260 3511
Microbrewery. The oldest independent brewery in Ireland.
|Irish Brewing Co.
Newbridge Industrial Estate,
Annual production: 17,000 hl (2003)
|Macardle, Moore & Co. Ltd
Tel: 042 - 35441
Founded: 1850 CLOSED 2003
Owned by Diageo (Guinness). Macardle's is now brewed elsewhere.
1 & 2 Burgh Quay,
Tel: (01) 670 5777
Brewpub. The beers are sold in both nitrokeg and cask-conditioned forms. The latter seem mostly intended for the UK's guest ale market.
1 College Green Mews,
Belfast BT7 1LW.
Tel: 028 9032 2600
Brewery Ireland Ltd.
Tel: 021 - 503371
Fax: 021 - 503926
Annual production: 1,010,000 hl (2001) 1,030,000 hl (2002) (Source: Heineken website)
Owned by Heineken.
Murphy's has led a difficult life in the last 40 years. After teetering on the edge of extinction, it appears now to have a fairly secure life as a Heineken niche market brewery. Then again, that's what I said about Ridder of Maastricht a year or two before Heineken closed them down.
In the dark days of the early 1970's, output dropped below 15,000 barrels (25,000 hl). Very sad, compared to the 140,000 barrels (230,000 hl) brewed in 1900. Here's an overview of the brewery' output from its founding until the 1970's:
Porterhouse Brewing Co.
Rosemount Park Road,
Tel 01 822 7415
16 Parliament Street,
Tel: (01) 679 8847
Annual production: 2,500 hl
Microbrewery. Though the brewing kit is still in place at the city centre pub, all the beer comes from a standalone brewery in the suburb of Blanchardstown.
According to their website "The Porterhouse uses a traditional true top fermentation Bi strain Yorkshire stone squar yeast or, alternatively, your eyes may start to glaze over at this point. It's highly flocculent and comes from the Old Romsey brewery in Kent by way of the East Riding Brewery."
|E. Smithwick and Sons Ltd.
St. Francis Abbey Brewery,
Tel: 056 - 21014
Fax: 056 - 62101
Annual production: 1,200,000 hl
Owned by Guinness (now Diageo) since 1965. Usually sold under the name Kilkenny outside Ireland. The brewery is in the grounds of St Francis's Abbey. Also brews Budweiser under licence.
|Strangford Lough Brewing Company Ltd
Braidleigh Lodge, 22 Shore Road,
phone: +44 (0)28 4482 1461
fax: +44 (0)28 4482 1273
Tel: 028 9030 1301
Fax: 028 9062 4884
Founded: 1897 **** CLOSED 2005 ****
Annual production: 1,227,000 hl
Owned by Interbrew.
Formerly Thomas Caffrey & Son. Acquired by Charringtons (later Bass Charrington) 1964 & by Interbrew 2000. Keg only.
Summer 2004 Interbrew announced that they wanted to sell the brewery. They had no takers and it closed in 2005.
Founded: 1792 CLOSED 2003
Owned by Diageo (Guinness).
Formerly Cherry's Breweries Limited. Ceased brewing Smithwicks in 2003. Now makes the special concentrate used in Guinness breweries across the world.
40 Tullyframe Road,
Co. Down BT34 4RZ.
Tel: (028) 41769449
Fax: (028) 41769449
Annual production: 4,500 hl (2003, capacity)
Microbrewery. Owns one pub.