As you may have figured out already by reading my previous blog posts, I’m passionate about good beer. I’m even more passionate about good local beer. Good beer that’s produced in our wee country and sold in increasing numbers to a more discerning and knowledgeable public. It’s one thing to be passionate about local beer, but what exactly is out there? In this ever changing and expanding beer scene, it’s sometimes hard to keep up to speed with what’s being produced and available. So here goes with a (hopefully informative) round up of what local breweries we actually have in Northern Ireland and what they are brewing.
As of late-October 2014 I’m aware of FIFTEEN businesses currently producing beer for the bars and/or off-licences with another SEVEN on the horizon. The big boys like Hilden, Whitewater and Clanconnel need little introduction but we’ll then move on to the smaller and newer established breweries.
HILDEN brew an extensive range of beers from the very sessionable pale ales Twisted Hop, Belfast Blonde, Scullions and ‘Belfast Bap’ wheat beer Barney’s Brew on through to the amber ale Headless Dog, red ale Halt and Irish Stout. They also brew Cathedral Quarter and Titanic Quarter pale ales.
Hilden also contract-brew the tangy wheat beer Fulcrum by CLEARSKY.
Based in the heart of the Mourne mountains WHITEWATER also have a wide range, from the light Belfast Lager, Bees Endeavour or Copperhead to Belfast Ale, Belfast Black, dark and fruity porter Clotworthy Dobbin and – my favourite of theirs – the outstanding Hopplehammer.
CLANCONNEL produce 6 beers in the McGrath’s range, handily numbered 1-6. They include a red ale 1, pale 2, white 3, black 4, blonde 5 and amber 6.
INISHMACSAINT from Derrygonnelly in Co Fermanagh have two beers available, the signature Fermanagh Beer and Lough Erne porter. Gordy from Inishmacsaint recently co-brewed a beer with Donegal Brewing called North and South of the River. At the moment, the beer can only be bought in Co Donegal. He’s also working with Darren from Pokertree to produce a Christmas beer so keep your eyes peeled for that.
POKERTREE from Carrickmore in Tyrone have had their Ghrian Golden Ale, Red Earl Ruby and Seven Sisters Treacle Oat Stout on the market for 6-12 months and recently produced a fantastic espresso stout – Dark Nirvana. Smooth yet punching a coffee hit, get it while you still can
Back to Fermanagh and if you look hard enough you’ll find a Blonde Ale by SHEELIN. Stock is low at the moment but I’m told more should be available in the next while. A stout and IPA were also brewed not too long ago and maybe we might see them again in 2015?
The boys at FARMAGEDDON Brewing Co-op near Ballygowan have been hard at work recently. The core range of Golden Pale Ale, India Pale Ale and India Export Porter have been on sale since Feb 2014 but recently they’ve been concocting one-off brews. On the shelves at the moment is their cracking fruity Mosaic SMASH.
ARDS Brewing from Greyabbey continue to hover under many people’s radar but with head brewer Charles building a bigger brewhouse, production of his fine ale will increase in 2015. If you look hard in the immediate vicinity you can find Ballyblack Stout or Rockin’ Goose mild as well as an occasional one-off single hop beer.
Also only found in their locality is RED HAND pale ale. Primarily sold in Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, they’re only a few days away from releasing a new pumpkin ale. They hope to increase distribution by the end of the year.
Moving on to the very new breweries, GLENS OF ANTRIM ALE, based just outside Ballycastle provide the local area with a Rathlin Red ale and Fairhead Gold lager.
HERCULES is the first Belfast-based brewery to open for almost 160 years. At present they have Yardsman lager on keg and Belfast Pale Ale on cask.
CLOUGHMORE (owned by Noreast beers) are contract-brewed by Whitewater. They have a three-bottle range available: Heather IPA, Granite Lager and Dark Water Stout.
CUMBERLAND from Cumbria have a Newry depot from where their Finn McCool lager is brewed.
HILLSTOWN, from Ahoghill direction, launched their Wayne’s Wheat beer at Broughshane’s inaugural Raceview Festival in August. They also hope to be selling a Massey Red Ale and 12%(!) Horny Bull stout in the very near future.
The following are Northern Ireland breweries that are currently starting up and hope to have their beers on sale in 2015.
BELFAST BREWING hope to be selling by the early part of the year. An ambitious and intriguing line up of IPA, Smoked Porter and Witbier are on the agenda, along with others! Wow, watch this space with great interest.
WALLED CITY Brewery is based in Londonderry and their beer will most likely be ready by early spring.
NORTHBOUND – another Derry offering – hope to have their ’26’ Pale Ale available in the shops by January.
LACADA, a co-op from the Portrush area, hope to have an IPA and porter available to the public in the late spring.
MOURNE MOUNTAINS BREW from Warrenpoint hope to be selling a couple of styles of beer by next spring.
BOUNDARY Brewing Co-op from Belfast also hope to have new brews on sale next year.
Finally KNOCKOUT Brewing, also from Belfast, could be on the scene as early as January with a red ale and IPA.
Of course there are beers available in Northern Ireland that come from the border counties – Kinnegar from Rathmullan in Donegal is a prime example – but if we start focusing outside of NI, I could be here all day. So I’m drawing a line at the border (no pun intended).
So there you have it, you now know what I know. I’ve tried to be as comprehensive and informative as possible and if I’ve missed anything out let me know on twitter @roywillighan or comment below here.
The future looks bright for the brewing scene and remember if you’re out for a beer, support local #nibeer