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Beer in Ireland

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Beer in Ireland

Brewing in Ireland has a long history. Production currently stands at over 8 million hectolitres, and approximately half the alcohol consumed is beer.


Lager accounts for 60% of the beer sold, stout 34% and ale 6%.


By the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were over two hundred breweries in the country, fifty-five of them in Dublin. In the nineteenth century, the number of breweries fell to about fifty, and by 2007 only about twelve remained.

Historically, Ireland produced ale, without the use of hops, as the plant is not native to Ireland. Large quantities of hops were imported from England in the 18th century. In 1752, more than 500 tons of English hops were imported through Dublin alone. In the second half of the 18th century, beer, mostly porter, was imported from England in increasing quantities: 15,000 barrels in 1750, 65,000 in 1785, and over 100,000 in 1792. In the 1760s about 600,000 barrels of beer were brewed annually in Ireland.

In the 18th century, the Irish Parliament used taxation to encourage brewing at the expense of distilling, reasoning that beer was less harmful than whiskey. In the 1760s, the Royal Dublin Society offered prizes to brewers who used the most Irish hops and those that produced the most porter.

Brewing prospered in the early decades of the 19th century and by 1814 Ireland was exporting more beer to England than it imported. Irish exports to England accelerated as the century progressed and from a modest 11,328 barrels in 1828, exported 689,796 barrels by 1901.

Beer market

in 1998, Ireland produced approximately 8.5m hectolitres of beer per annum; this rose to 8.7m in 2002. Exports were 3.5m hectolitres in 1998 and fell to 2.4m in 2002. Whilst Ireland lies 6th in the world for beer consumption per capita, it ranks 4th in the consumption of alcohol, with 11.7 litres per head in 2011.

Lager brewing

The first lager brewery in Ireland was set up in Dartry, Dublin, in 1891, but did not survive very long. Lager was later brewed for a short period at the Regal Brewery, Kells. Harp Lager has been brewed in Dundalk since 1968.

Heineken Ireland, based at the Murphy Brewery in Cork, have the largest share of the lager market. In addition to Heineken, they brew Amstel and Coors Light, as well as the brands they acquired from Beamish & Crawford including Fosters and Carling.

Irish red ale

The ales produced in Ireland are now largely in the Irish red ale style, with a slight red colour, generally in the 3.8–4.4% ABV range (although export versions are often stronger). The largest national brand is Smithwick's, produced by the Diageo multinational. Others include Diageo's Macardle's, Franciscan Well's Rebel Red, Carlow Brewing Company's O'Hara's Irish Red and Messrs Maguire Rusty. Ireland's second-largest brewer, Heineken, no longer makes a red ale in Ireland, having discontinued local production of Murphy's Red and Beamish Red. Dungarvan Brewing Company's Copper Coast red ale was released in 2010, along with Clanconnel Brewery's McGrath's Irish Red. Eight Degrees brewery launched their Sunburnt Irish Red Ale in 2011.


In 1756, Arthur Guinness set up a small brewery, moving to Dublin in 1759. Having initially brewed ale, he switched to producing porter, which was a style from London. In the early twentieth century, Guinness became the largest brewer in the world, exporting the Irish style to many countries. Although no longer the largest brewer in the world, it remains the largest brewer of stout. In 2014, Guinness sales amounted to 19% of all beer sales in Ireland.

Stout brewed by Guinness (and the smaller brewers Murphy's and Beamish) once dominated domestic beer consumption in Ireland, with lager and ale having much smaller shares. Lager has subsequently grown in popularity with Carlsberg taking 8% of the market and Budweiser 7% in 2014.

Draught Irish stout is normally served nitrogenated, to create a creamy texture with a long-lasting head.

Craft stouts available in Ireland include Shandon Stout by the Franciscan Well in Cork, O'Hara's Irish stout by Carlow Brewing Company, Black Rock Irish Stout by Dungarvan Brewing Company and Irish stout by Galway Hooker Brewery.

Irish craft beer and real ale

Beginning in the 1990s, brewpubs and microbreweries began to emerge. While some, such as the Biddy Early Brewery, Dublin Brewing Company and Dwan's, have since ceased production, the Franciscan Well Brewpub in Cork and Dublin's Porterhouse have both celebrated ten years in business, while the Hilden Brewery in Lisburn is Ireland's oldest independent brewer, having been established in 1981. The Carlow Brewing Company, established in 1996 and makers of the O'Hara's range, is another survivor of the "first wave" of Irish craft brewing.

The "second wave" began in the mid-2000s and has included the Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne brewery in County Kerry, Galway Hooker brewery in County Galway, Dungarvan Brewing Company, Clanconnel Brewery, Trouble Brewing, Metalman Brewing, The Dingle Brewing Company in County Kerry, Bo Bristle (formerly Breweyed), Eight Degrees Brewing, and the Galway Bay Brewery, which, like the Porterhouse Brewing Company, also runs its own chain of pubs.

The "third wave" of Irish craft brewing began in 2013. The surge of new breweries is largely a result of changes in excise requirements, access to EU funding, and an increase in government-funded brewing education courses. Many second- and third-wave brewers are also involved in a professional brewers' association, Beer Ireland, which has provided members with networking opportunities and information on setting up a brewery.

In 2014, there were approximately fifty Irish craft brewing businesses either in production or in planning. Despite this growth, in 2014 craft beers represented only 1.5% of beer sales by volume in Ireland.

The British-based pub chain J D Wetherspoon has about nine outlets in Northern Ireland selling real ale and opened pubs in Cork and Dublin in early 2014, with three more planned for 2016.

Professional, Trade and Consumer Associations

There are three brewing associations operating in Ireland.

  • The Irish Brewers Association was founded in 1904 and is now a division of IBEC. While it claims to be "the representative voice for the brewing industry in Ireland" it has only five members, which include Diageo, Heineken, and Molson Coors, all macro breweries.
  • Beer Ireland was founded in 2012 by a group of third wave brewers hoping to set up their own microbreweries. By the end of 2013, the group had 100 members, including brewers at approximately 20 Irish craft breweries. The group has embraced the spirit of comaradery and collaboration typical of the craft brewing industry. The organisation's goal is to improve the quality and proliferation of Irish craft beer.
  • The Independent Craft Brewers & Distillers of Ireland was founded in 2013 by Carlow brewing director Seamus O'Hara. The group was initially established to support craft brewers and distillers in Ireland, but has since re-focused its efforts solely on brewing to become the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland. Membership of the group is open to anyone operating a microbrewery in Ireland, within the definition of same by the Irish Revenue Commissioners.
  • Beoir (Irish for "beer"), founded in July 2010, is an independent group of consumers which seeks greater choice, quality, and value-for-money for beer and cider drinkers on the island of Ireland. Their primary goal is to support and raise awareness of Ireland's native independent microbreweries and craft cider-makers.

    Pseudo-Irish beer

    A number of beers claim an Irish provenance or are commissioned by Irish companies, but are produced outside Ireland. In the past these have included Árainn Mhór beers and Time Lager. Today, the Strangford Lough Brewing Company produces a concentrated wort which they export to the UK and US where contract breweries turn it into finished beer.

    Many breweries outside Ireland produce Irish-themed beers which are not commonly available in Ireland, such as Killian's Irish Red and Wexford Cream Ale.

    Spirit grocery

    In 19th and early to mid-20th century Ireland, a spirit grocery combined a public house and an ancillary retail business, usually a grocery or hardware shop. Several spirit groceries can still be found in rural towns and villages.


    Beer in Ireland Wikipedia

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