Thousands of tipplers are attending the fourth edition of Ireland’s leading Craft Beer and Cider Festival in Dublin this weekend, with more than 200 products from over 40 Irish microbreweries on offer, testament to the rising popularity of artisan drinks in the country.
The festival, which takes place in the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) venue, ends this Sunday.
Armagh, the most famous county in Ireland for apples (around 35,000 tons annually), feature prominently in the cider offer, with many of the companies at the Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival using its well-known Bramley fruit. Among them is ‘Tempted?’ established by Davy and Janet Uprichard who built a cidery at their home outside the town of Lisburn in northern Ireland in 2009. Two years later, their strawberry cider won the Gold Award at the National Irish Food Awards. For their ‘Summer Sweet Cider’ they combined bittersweet cider apples from Tipperary with medium sweet cider from Armagh’s crop and last year promptly won gold in the National Irish Food Awards (Blas na hEirean).
Meanwhile, Philip and Helen Troughton of Ballinteggart House continue a family apple-growing tradition dating back more than a century (since 1898) through their ‘Armagh Cider Company’ established eight years ago. Their first cider was introduced in January 2006 as ‘Carsons Cider’, but the company’s product range has substantially increased and now includes ‘Carsons Crisp’ and ‘Maddens Mellow,’ both medal winners in the International Cider Challenge for Taste and Packaging.
Other cider products to be sampled at the RDS include LeFevre, a cider from northwest France, distributed in Ireland under the guidance of director of operations there, Ger Callanan; and ‘Craigies Irish Cider’ established by Angus Craigie in Ballyhook, Grangecon, County Wicklow.
Among the craft beers on display are Stag Bán (Irish for ‘white deer’) from 9 White Deer brewery launched two months ago in Ballyvourney, Cork established by Gordon Lucey and Don O’Leary. It has a capacity of over 8,000 pints a day. Stag Bán, their first beer, has a healthy dose of modern and classic hops expected of the style, First Gold and Amarillo and Cascade lending an orangey citrus aroma with recognizable floral character and EKG, with it’s spicy dry finish, in the background. Don also runs the ‘The Mills Inn,’ a popular pub between Cork and Kerry.
Donegal, the most northerly of Irish counties and one of the smallest in population size, has also made its mark in the craft beer industry with a range of farmhouse products from the Kinnegar brewery near the town of Rathmullan. Rustbucket, its trademark Rye Ale, now has a big brother, Black Bucket, a Black Rye IPA that balances rye and roasted malts with fresh hop aromas and flavors. Other drinks include ‘Limeburner,’ billed as a light, crisp pale ale; ‘Devil’s Backbone,’ a full-bodied amber ale; and ‘Scraggy Bay,’ a balanced golden ale.
US-based Founders Brewery from Grand Rapids Michigan, was also represented at the festival, with Mark Cadden from GrandCru Beers distributing its product range such as IPA Centennial and All Day IPA.
One of the hoppiest beers was ‘Of Foam and Fury’ labeled a double IPA and produced by Galway Bay Brewery.
Interesting additions to beer-making innovation were ‘Irish Heather Ale’ and ‘Irish Bog Ale’ produced by Sligo-based ‘The White Hag’ brewing company, the former made from heather tops instead of hops to balance the sweet, rich malts used and the latter displaying an intriguing peaty taste.
If the continued growth of the annual Dublin craft beer and cider festival is any indication, Ireland’s drinks industry is undergoing change, with tipplers becoming more selective and demanding about the quality of products on offer and less satisfied by mere mass-produced ones.