A little over a year ago Finn Mac and two friends, Séamus and Aussie decided to take the plunge and go into business together, opening a small stand-alone brewery in the back garden of the famous Dick Mack’s pub in Dingle, Co.Kerry. Although it takes its name from the stalwart pub, it is a separate business, which the trio is constantly working hard to grow.
Dick Mack’s Pub was first opened in 1899 by Tom McDonnell, and the building the brewery sits in can be traced back to 1850. The pub itself recently won Best Irish Whiskey Bar at the Irish Whiskey Awards. During the warmer months, you’ll find food trucks serving delicious delicacies that you can pair with your brews and there is plenty of seating to soak up the sun (when it decides to shine of course).
Forty-nine years later the pub opened its doors and the brewhouse building took on another role. At a time when Kerry still had a railway system, Guinness would send their beer barrels down to the country. When the barrels arrived the landlord would take their allocated barrels back to their respective pubs.
In 1850 the brewhouse building was built mainly as a cowhouse. They were brought, twice a day, from a nearby field to be milked, and kept their overnight. In the loft above, sheep’s wool was kept; the heat from the cattle below would dry this and it was then exported to Bradford in England.
We arrived at Dick Mack’s on an unusually sunny day for our tour. Finn Mac Donnell, to me, is Irish hospitality personified. He is friendly and welcoming and more than able to handle a few of the louder beer fanatics on our tour. It’s clear he is passionate about his business, and while he himself doesn’t brew the beers (tours, pouring pints and cleaning kegs is his gig), he has a great admiration for his two business partners who brave the Wild Atlantic cold and work tirelessly to brew their craft beers.
Very much a microbrewery, spots like Dick Mack’s don’t make the vast quantities (or money) large-scale breweries do, but Finn tells me this was never their plan. While they have added tanks to their brewhouse, due to the increasing demand throughout the town for their beer – local pubs and restaurants are snapping up the chance to serve Dick Mack’s tipples in their bars.
After giving us a little bit of history about the brewhouse, we head over to where the magic happens – the brewery. Finn shows us the large tanks where they ferment and blend the beer and the mill where they grind the malt for their beer. To be honest the whole process seems tough to me. At times, the two brewers spend the entire day perfecting their beers, it’s an ongoing machine with cogs that keep on turning. It’s impressive and to be frank, admirable. It’s a labour of love for sure, and should be a reminder why it is important to support local – these producers are laying it all on the line and working hard to make their success happen.
After the tour, we head back to the taproom and we get to try the beer! First up for us to sample Dick Mack’s Amber Ale.
The second beer we tried was Dick Mack’s Brewhouse Coffee Stout. This brew took home a gold medal at the Blas na hÉireann Awards 2018 and once you taste it, you’ll understand why. This rich stout is perfectly flavoured with coffee, which the brewhouse source from Bean in Dingle coffee shop next door. If you like Guinness you’ll love this stout.
The last beer we tasted was Dick Mack’s Session IPA, which also won another gold for at the Blas na hÉireann Awards. This beer is crying out to be enjoyed al fresco on a sunny day, or as I did later in the comforts of Dick Mack’s pub.
If you’re a fan of craft beer and find yourself in Dingle, a visit to Dick Mack’s Brewhouse is essential. The tour costs just €12.00 with beer samples, and gives you a great insight into the world of beer making, as well as learning some fascinating history about this iconic pub. Sláinte to all our wonderful producers.
T: +353 (0) 915 1787
REVIEW BY SINÉAD SMYTH