|The Emerald Isle is brewing up a storm through an explosion of craft breweries producing unique, quality beers to tempt the most temperate of tasters.
In the last year alone, 13 new breweries have opened bringing the total number on the island to 35, each with a different brew to sell and a different tale to tell.
One of the best ways of sampling these artisan beers and hearing about what inspired them is on a Brewery Hops of Ireland three or five-day holiday tour. Starting and finishing in Dublin, these small group tours visit established and emerging micro-breweries as they travel south towards Waterford and Cork and, on the longer tour, west to Galway.
The tour stops at up to 10 breweries for a visit and look behind the label to the see the skill, love and enthusiasm that make every beer distinct. And of course there’s a chance to sample the golden, red and dark brews.
Along the way are visits to O’ Hara’s Brewery, Ireland’s largest craft brewer situated in the heart of the country’s hop and malt-growing ‘Barrow Valley’ region in Carlow. In this brewery each beer is crafted using classic brewing methods to create the traditional Irish beers styles.
You can meet the brewing team and walk through the brewing process with them. The famous Kilbeggan distillery, home of the oldest working still in the country, is also on the tour agenda, as is the White Gypsy Brewery, Templemore, considered to be one of Ireland’s most progressive independent breweries.
Newer breweries on the tour include Metalman Brewing, whose pale ale was voted best beer in Ireland at the 2013 Beoir Beer Awards, the multi-award-winning Galway Hooker, and Blacks of Kinsale which opened last year. But it’s not all about the beer.
Led by Mia Tobin of Brewery Hops, her tours offer a multi-dimensional experience embracing Irish history, culture, music and food while travelling through some of Ireland’s most scenic areas.
There is time between brewery stops to visit the historic city of Cork with its famous English market and for those on the five-day tour, a chance to visit the magnificent Cliffs of Moher in County Clare and the cultural glories of Galway.
Overnights are in small, boutique type accommodation and evenings are generally spent in local pubs or eateries enjoying traditional Irish music and the local craic.
Private group tours combining other activities, such as golf, can also be arranged.