Brew pubs are amazing places that can be appreciated not just by craft beer enthusiasts. Brewpubs with food menus are usually more conscious of pairing beer with food and in some cases, they even brew special beers just to serve with particular dishes or vice versa.
Often, brewpubs are also better tuned into the preferred taste of their local regulars because the patrons give feedback directly to the brewer over the counter. This is mutually good for the brewer, big brand beers would never be able to tailor their product to the tastes of one locality, as even if they wanted to, they wouldn’t have the closeness in a community to gather data in the same organic manner. So in a sense, when you drink beer at brewpub, you might as well be tasting the flavour of the area.
While not extremely common in Ireland, there are several hidden gems of Irish brewpubs that are worth checking out across the country.
Mickey Finn’s in Redcross, Wicklow (aka The Wicklow Brewery) is one such fine establishment. This pub was opened 15 years ago by Leigh and Ashley Williams who in 2014 took a risk on a microbrewery from Bavaria being installed in their premises and have since gone on to create amazing beers there!
You can expect a warm and very friendly welcome here that is just as authentic as the beer that will be poured for you. A pint is only €4.50 (their own brew) which I should cite as another common plus about brewpubs: great value for money.
You can also get a sampler flight for €5 with three beers of your choice from the brewpubs offering, 200 mls of each. A delicious beer, now available, is the coconut imperial porter that took almost four months to mature and mellow out into perfection.
Mickey Finn’s have recently been awarded Best Food pub 2017 at the inaugural Pub awards by the Vintners Federation Ireland. Well deserved recognition as the menu is superb and of course every dish can be paired nicely with one of the beers in their repertoire.
In addition to Brewery tours, The Wicklow Brewery has invested in a shiny new Brewmagic system to be rolled out in the near future. This is a rudimentary small batch brewing system that will allow visitors the experience of brewing a beer from start to finish – an exciting option!
This year in Sallins, Kildare – Lock 13 Gastro Pub turned into a brewpub. and is now brewing with the name Kildare Brewing Company. The brewery used to be a Mizzonis Pizza beside the pub. They’ve knocked the wall in so customers can now see the fermentation tanks through a big window in the lounge.
There are four core beers at Lock 13, a lager, a pale ale, a red ale and a Weiss beer. The lager is bready, malty and crisp. The pale is classic citrus, the red is soft caramel and deliciously velvet mouthfeel. The Weiss is ripe banana, nutmeg and honey, there are also plans to add ginger to this recipe.
There is a loyalty card for Lock 13, similar to coffee shops, every 10th pint is free so long as the pints are their own brew. With a small pilot system you can also expect once-off small batches, even a barley wine style ale is coming soon!
Further West in the small town of Dunmore in Galway is a true gem that is more than meets the eye. Walsh’s Pub, is family run by Joe and Sinead Sheridan who are seventh generation publicans. Joe saw the need to stand out from the other local pubs and offer the patrons of Walsh’s something different, so he converted the conservatory on the side of the pub into a brewery.
Their clientele were given samples go leor until they had determined and achieved the type of beer that the regulars would enjoy most. This revealed that a majority enjoyed the crispness and medium but not quite full body of weiss beer. They also like a beer with good foam and head retention so as to see the ring on the glass, also compatible with Wheat style beer.
Thus, Sheridan’s Wise beer was born. A scrumptious, creamy, bready, Weiss beer with orange peel notes and a considerably foamy, white head that lasts till the final sip.
Joe chronicled every obstacle that had to be overcome in the set up of the brewpub in terms of government regulations and health and safety requirements. Now he collaborates with Homebrewwest.ie to deliver training for people interested in breaking into this growing industry. Participants see the 200 litre Speidel Braumeister equipment showcased as well as tasting the beer after presentations full of hindsight’s wisdom for start up.
I attended one of their day courses, which was particularly good because the Manufacturers of the Speidel brewery gear came from Germany to answer questions too. Joe says that this course is now happening on a bi-monthly basis, which is a sure sign of further rise in brewpubs for Ireland.
Lastly a recent brewpub that is worth including is Urban Brewing in the CHQ building in the city centre. While this is not so hidden geographically, there is a beautiful restaurant part in the catacombs down in the basement. A venture by O’Hara’s that is quickly becoming a hub for craft beer in Dublin. Urban Brewing have a sturdy mezzanine built over the bar which holds the weight of beer filled bright tanks and brew kettles.
The stylish design combined with central location alone makes Urban a great spot. There are beers for the extreme crafties such as New England IPA’s without neglecting to offer approachable options for the uninitiated like craft lagers. All that and a Stack A restaurant under the same roof, this may be a beacon in the new wave of Irish Brewpubs.
Jamie is a Dublin native with a love for craft beer and Irish whiskey. He is a guide for Dublin Whiskey Tours and his life goal is to start a microbrewery.
In the meantime he writes a blog jamiesbeertalk.ie as an outlet. His favourite topics are pairing beer with food, cigars, and whiskey. To learn Jamie’s findings on pairing beer with whiskey, read Beer with whiskey – the ultimate drinks convoy