The Alltech Craft Beer Expo

By Eoin Meegan

Rascals Brewing company, Photos by Eoin Meegan.

Oblivious to the damp, dreary night outside, everybody was full of good, crafty cheer when the Convention Centre hosted the Sixth Alltech Craft Beer Fair from 8th-10th March. In excess of 5,000 visitors were expected over the three-day event, with 60 exhibitors in total present, and over 400 of the finest beers and ciders on offer.

It is estimated there are 90 micro breweries operating in the Republic of Ireland. The industry has grown phenomenally in the past few years. In terms of revenue the micro brewing industry in 2016 was worth in excess of €10 million.

Among many of the names present at the fair were Ballykilcavan Brewery, Carrig Brew from Leitrim, Dundalk Brewmaster, and Galway Hooker. Northern Ireland was represented by, among others, Master McGraw, named after the famous greyhound, the MacIvor Cider Company from Armagh, and Tempted Cider, started by Davy Uprichard.

Among the Irish Gold medal winners were Boyne Brewhouse for Craft Imperial Stout, Wicklow Wolf, Blacks of Kinsale, and Longueville Mór Cider from Cork. The prizes were announced on the opening night of the fair, the overall winner being the Hungarian-based M63 Bulldog.

The Alltech Animal Nutrition Company was founded in 1980 by Dundalk native Pearse Lyons. While based in Kentucky, its European headquarters is located in Dunboyne, Co. Meath. In 2013, Pearse acquired St James’s Church in the heart of Dublin’s Liberties, situated opposite the Guinness Hop Store.

In the nineteenth century the area was known as the Golden Circle of distillery, with big names like Powers and Jameson, as well as smaller distilleries making their home there (distilling had been a part of this area since before the time of Charles II). The old church, which dates back to the twelfth century, was refurbished replete with glass spire. It opened to the public in August 2017 and has enjoyed an estimated 8,500 visitors to date.

After the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Pearse established the Alltech Sustainable Haiti Project and launched Alltech Cafe Citadelle coffee. The proceeds go towards building schools, paying teachers, equipping classrooms and generally supporting the infrastructure in Haiti. They also produce a very nice Bourbon-infused coffee drink known as Bluegrass Sundown.

Sadly, Dr. Lyons himself passed away on March 8th, the day the fair opened.

Four Corners import and distribute specialized craft beers and cider in Ireland, including Stone Berliner Weisse from Berlin, Ballest Point from San Diego, and Beavertown in Hackney London, named after the old Cockney name for that district. Their product, Brickfield Brown, a full-bodied English brown, ale took a silver, while Hook Island Red, an aromatic Red Rye ale picked up a bronze.

The company was founded by Logan Plant, the son of one Robert Plant, former lead singer with Led Zeppelin. I talked to their representative Amy Donnelly and she said as well as being in the business of importing, the company also promotes Wicklow Wolf, based in Bray, and the Dungarvan Brewing Company, launched in 2010 by brothers-in-law Cormac O’Dwyer and Tom Dalton.

Rascals Brewing Company from Rathcoole has been around for four years, and plan to open a new brewery in Inchicore in September. As well as making traditional craft beers, Rascals like to experiment. Among their unusual creations is a Strawberry Vanilla Shake (not the kind you get in McDonalds!), which was a little too bland for this writer’s taste.

But difference and variety is the spice of life. Included in their range is Margarita ‘soured not shaken’, very 007. As Triona, the company’s graphic designer told me, “it’s tradition with a twist.”

The music on Friday night was kicked off by Hurricane Highway, a West of Ireland band fronted by Ed Holland and guitarist Kevin Collins, who do a nice mixture of American rock and country.

Everyone was in good spirits  enjoying the sounds, drink and food and looked set to party into the wee small hours. From small beginnings, the Irish Craft brewing industry looks like it might have a very big future indeed.