Beer in Northern Ireland

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Beer in Northern Ireland has been influenced by immigration, especially from Scotland and the drinking habits in Ireland until the partition of Ireland. Whiskey[1] drinking was always a tradition with Guinness from Dublin being a strong influence in the style of beer drunk in the 19th and 20th centuries. Brewing traditions almost ceased to exist as smaller breweries closed, or were taken over, and then the large breweries in turn closed down their facilities.[when?] The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was founded in 1971 however it was 10 years before the first new brewery, Hilden Brewing, opened its doors.

Most microbreweries in Northern Ireland find it difficult to sell beer in draught form due to the local tied-pubs issues, where most pubs are owned by Diageo (Guinness), C&C Group (Tennent's) or Molson Coors Brewing Company.


Whitewater - Clotworthy Dobbin

The Celtic tradition of brewing beer almost certainly existed in Ireland from before 1,000BC using barley. The Roman emperor Julian, in a 1,600-year-old poem, correctly described Celtic beer as smelling “like a billy goat.” [2] Historically Ireland produced ale without the use of hops, as the plant is not native to Ireland, which led in the 18th century to importing quantities of hops from England.

During the 18th century the Irish parliament used taxation to encourage brewing at the expense of distilling, reasoning that beer was less harmful than whiskey.[3] In the 1760s about 600,000 barrels of beer were brewed annually in Ireland.[3] In the 1760s the Royal Dublin Society offered prizes to brewers who used the most Irish hops and those that produced the most Porter.[4]

During the interwar period in Northern Ireland, "many drinkers preferred whiskey to beer."[5]

The Caffrey's Ulster Brewery, established in Belfast in 1897 and taken over by Bass in 1974, closed in 2004, so ending big company brewing in Northern Ireland.[6] Stout is the most preferred beer in Northern Ireland, with lager second and bitter beer as a distant third preference.[7] Guinness, brewed in Dublin is still a popular stout beer in Northern Ireland.[7]

Hilden Brewing Company claims to be Ireland's oldest microbrewery, founded in 1981.[8]

In 2007 an ale produced by Whitewater Brewing Company was judged one of the best 50 beers in the world.[9]

The number of microbreweries in Northern Ireland has significantly increased in recent years, from 5 in 2012 to 30 in 2017.[8]

List of Northern Ireland breweries[edit]

Brewers in Northern Ireland
Brewery Town County Since Contract Brewed?
Ards [8] [10] Greyabbey County Down 2011
Baronscourt [10] Newtownstewart County Tyrone 2018
Barrahooley [10] Randalstown County Antrim 2014 Co-located at Hillstown
Beer Hut [8] [10] [9] Kilkeel County Down 2017
Black Mountain [10] Lisburn County Antrim 2016
Boundary [8] [10] Belfast County Antrim 2015
Bullhouse [10] Newtownards County Down 2016
Clanconnel [8] [10] County Armagh 2008 Rye River, Co Kildare
Clearsky [10] County Tyrone 2013 Hilden
Cloughmore [10] County Down 2014 Whitewater
Dopey Dick Derry County Londonderry 2016
Farmageddon [8] [10] Comber County Down 2013
Glens of Antrim Ale [10] Ballycastle County Antrim 2014
Heaney Farmhouse Bellaghy County Londonderry 2016 Co-located at Boundary
Hercules [10] Belfast County Antrim 2014
Hilden [10][11] Lisburn County Antrim 1981
Hillstown [10] Randalstown County Antrim 2014
Fermanagh Brewing Company (formerly Inishmacsaint) [10] Derrygonnelly County Fermanagh 2009
Knockout [10] Belfast County Antrim 2015
Lacada [10] Portrush County Antrim 2015
Lecale [10] Ardglass County Down 2018
Loopland [10] Belfast County Antrim 2018 Knockout
MashDown [10] Banbridge County Down 2018
Mourne Mountains [10] [12] Warrenpoint County Down 2015
Night Cap Beer [10] Belfast County Antrim 2015 Sadlers, Stourbridge
Northbound [10] Derry County Londonderry 2015
O’Connor Craft Beer [10] Greysteel County Londonderry 2015
Samuels [10] Belfast County Antrim 2017 Knockout
Sheelin [10] Bellanaleck County Fermanagh 2013
Station Works [10] [13] Newry County Down 2013
Walled City Brewery [10] Derry County Londonderry 2015
When We Are Giants/Sailortown Belfast County Antrim 2015 Carrig, Co Leitrim and Knockout, Belfast
Whitewater Brewery [8] [10] [9] Castlewellan County Down 1996

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed.: "In modern trade usage, Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey are thus distinguished in spelling; whisky is the usual spelling in Britain and whiskey that in the U.S."
  2. ^ "2,500 year old Celtic recipe resurrected".
  3. ^ a b Ireland Industrial and Agricultural, 1902,. p. 455.
  4. ^ Ireland Industrial and Agricultural, 1902, p. 454
  5. ^ Blocker, Jack S.; Fahey, David M.; Tyrrell, Ian R. (October 5, 2015). "Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History". ABC-CLIO. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  6. ^ "Bass Ireland Limited — Ulster Brewery".
  7. ^ a b "Passport to the Pub Chapter 6". Social Issues Research Centre. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "Northern Ireland's craft beer revolution:".
  9. ^ a b c "Real ale in world's best 50 beers". BBCNews. 23 Aug 2007.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad "Local Breweries". CAMRA Northern Ireland. Retrieved 3 Nov 2015.
  11. ^ Todd, Iain (31 August 2011). "Hilden Beer Festival". Culture Northern Ireland. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  12. ^ "Business award for fledgling Mournes brewery".
  13. ^ "Newry craft brewery bought by US firm Alltech".

External links[edit]