For years, drinking beer in Ireland was simple: You went to the pub and ordered what you had last time. “Irish people tend to be creatures of habit,” says White Gypsy brewer Cuilán Loughnane. Faced with brand loyalty and risk-averse retailers, the few existing microbreweries gained little traction. Then it all changed. Amendments to the tax code for brewers enabled recession-driven entrepreneurship, while serving good beer in restaurants and at home suddenly got cool. With American-inspired, hop-forward recipes and bold branding free of Celtic clichés, a series of breweries has opened in the past two years representing a new wave of craft beer in Ireland. –Richard Lubell
Mitchelstown, County Cork: EIGHT DEGREES BREWING
Kiwis Cam Wallace and Scott Baigent arrived to find no exciting craft beers like they enjoyed back home. “Ireland is 10 years behind Australia and New Zealand,” says Wallace. So they decided to brew their own. Howling Gale Ale is their flagship; it’s just shy of being a full-on American IPA with plenty of Chinook bitterness and Centennial citrus. Tireless distribution puts Eight Degrees in trendy cafés and burger bars nationwide, as well as six-packs—a rare sight in Ireland.
Templemore, County Tipperary: WHITE GYPSY BREWERY
Cuilán Loughnane is the mad scientist of Irish brewing. Not content to brew everything from Belgian bruin to peat-smoked stout, three years ago he planted his own First Gold hops to create Emerald Pale Ale. Crisp and lemony, it’s the first estate-grown beer in Ireland in more than a century. Availability of White Gypsy has been spotty as Loughnane spends much of his time contract brewing for hotels and pubs. This year, however, he’ll introduce a line of 275mL bottles made exclusively for restaurants.
Waterford City: METALMAN BREWING
A year ago, Gráinne Walsh traded IT management for brewing. “My mother has just started speaking to me again,” she jokes. Walsh turned heads last summer with Windjammer, a spicy amber crammed with New Zealand hops. Creative recipes and diesel-punk graphics have earned Metalman a following despite being draft-only. After starting as a gypsy brewery, it moved into a permanent space in February.
Allenwood, County Kildare: TROUBLE BREWING
If the name doesn’t make you smile, the logo will: a Wile E. Coyote-style bomb, fuse burning. This irreverence informed Trouble’s brewing philosophy when designing its first dark beer: “There’s this mindset in this country that every stout is Guinness,” says co-owner Paul O’Connor. The result was Dark Arts, a malty porter with a snappy finish but no roasted barley. Next up is the winner of the brewery’s annual Troublemaker contest, which chooses a homebrew recipe to produce commercially.
When Andy Horn established Breweyed in the rural Midlands, “A lot of people there hadn’t even contemplated a microbrewery,” he says. He won over locals with an easy-drinking lager, and soon created more adventurous flavors. Vanilla Amber is a smooth, hoppy English bitter made using organic Madagascan vanilla pods. With funds secured for a major expansion and plans to export, Horn will soon be relaunching the brand, concentrating on edgy beers with ingredients like lime and chili.