Never has the country’s whistle been so comprehensively wetted! From 20th birthday Imperial Stouts and historic whiskies to small-batch gins and premium vodkas, we celebrate the very best that the Irish drinks industry has to offer. Plus, the insider’s guide to the Irish Craft Beer Festival in the RDS and Joe Elliott leads the tributes to Oliver Hughes.

We doubt that Santa or any of his elves will be in attendance, but nevertheless it will be Christmas Day on September 8 when the Irish Craft Beer Festival returns to the Dublin RDS with over 50 brewers, cidermakers and distillers showcasing their wares for three glorious days. They are – cue fanfare! - Arthurstown Brewing, Beavertown, Black Donkey, Black’s, Boyne Brewhouse, Bushmills, Carrig, Dew Drop, Dungarvan, Eight Degrees, Galway Hooker, Hope, Independent, Jack Cody’s, Killarney Brewing, Kinnegar, Long Meadow, Longueville House, MacIvors Cider, Metalman, MONT, Mountain Man, N17, O’Hara’s, O Brother, Odells, Porterhouse/Dingle, Rascals, Reel Deel, Scotts Cider, St Patrick’s Distillery, Station Works, Stonewell Cider, Sullivan’s Brewing Co, Toby’s Cider, Tom Crean’s, Trouble, West Kerry, Western Herd, White Hag, Wicklow Brewery and Wicklow Wolf. Needless to say, Team Hop Press will be in the thick of the RDS action with our man Stuart Clark hosting a number of the panel discussions and regular festival updates and photo galleries on

“Every year it gets broader in terms of who we have taking part,” enthuses the man who launched the festival in 2011, Seamus O’Hara, and whose Carlow Brewing Company is currently celebrating its 20th birthday. “We’ve our own cider now, Falling Apple, so that’s a side of the industry we want to highlight along with the growth in independent Irish distilling,” he resumes. “The ‘independent’ part is key; we don’t have any big corporate sponsor, which adds I think to the togetherness of the festival. There are quite a few new Irish breweries who I’m delighted to have on board, plus guests like Beavertown from London who’ve been making a real name for themselves and Odell’s who are American craft beer royalty. That comparing of experiences is really important. I’m also delighted that Kevin Dundon, who’s producing some excellent beers in his Arthurstown brewery, is doing a cookery demo on the opening night.” As Seamus rightly points out, it’s not just a craft beer golden age we’re living in with Ireland also producing a world-class range of ciders, whiskeys, gins, vodkas and mixers. Some like Dingle and St. Patrick’s Distillery are still in their babygrows while Bacardi, Guinness, Bushmills, Jameson and Hennessy are among the household names building on centuries of proud tradition. We’ve also been treated to such marriages made in heaven as Jameson swapping barrels with Franciscan Well for their Caskmates Irish Whiskey; the Foreign Affair Red IPA collaboration between O’Hara’s and Virginia’s Starr Hill Brewery and Radikale’s using Blackwater No. 5 gin botanicals instead of hops to give their aptly-titled Radical Ale its remarkable flavour.

“The getting together with like-minded people is hugely important to us,” Seamus resumes. “I think that transmits out to craft beer lovers; we’re having fun doing what we do. We’ve a Blackthorn Export Irish Stout that we also did with Starr Hill, and a third collaboration, From Lublin To Dublin, with a Polish brewery, Pinta.” Never ones to let the grass grow under their feet, O’Hara’s made their debut this year at Knockanstockan and have collaborated on a series of events with Whelan’s. “For me, craft beer and the independent music scene are a natural fit,” Seamus proffers. “We’re both creative industries looking to expand our audience.” Music and the arts are very much at the core of the Be Kreativ Foto Series, which turns the camera on such bright young Irish things as BARQ, the Dublin outfit fronted by soul siren Jess Kav, and buzz band VOXX who played a stormer at Forbidden Fruit. Curated by Hot Press on behalf of Beck’s, the latter will be gracing our pages shortly.

The business side of things is moving at a furious pace with, in the last week alone, the aforementioned Franciscan Well announcing a doubling of its brewing capacity in Cork; cult Milwaukee beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon, confirming its imminent arrival in Ireland; the unveiling of an €11 million redevelopment programme for the Old Jameson Distillery in Smithfield, and a Canadian firm pumping €5.5 million into the Glendalough Distillery. “It’s incredible how much is going on at the moment,” Seamus reflects. “We’re still only at 3% in terms of craft beer’s overall share of the Irish market, so the potential for growth is massive.” Asked what O’Hara’s have up their Irish Craft Beer Festival sleeves, Seamus smiles and says, “I don’t want to give too much away but we’ll be bringing a couple of barrel-aged beers for their first outing. We’ll be doing some fruit beers and pale ales, and will have our anniversary celebration Imperial Stout. We’re still playing around with a couple of things, so there’s also an element of, ‘I don’t know yet!’”

Irish Craft Beer Festival Talks

6pm: Kevin Dundon Cooking Demo (right)
7pm: The Beer Necessities
6pm: Bushmills Malt Masterclass
7pm: The Beer Necessities
4pm: The Beer Necessities
5pm: Brew Kids On The Block
6pm: The Craft Pioneers
See and for details

Oliver Hughes (above) and Joe Elliott on stage in Dublin with Def Leppard

Thank you, Oliver!

Joe Elliott & Seamus O’Hara lead the tributes to much-loved Porterhouse co-founder Oliver Hughes.

The Irish craft brewing industry was shocked by the death last fortnight of one of its founding fathers, Porterhouse supremo Oliver Hughes.In September 2015, Oliver joined Seamus O’Hara from the Carlow Brewing Company, Galway Hooker’s Aidan Murphy, Dungarvan Brewing’s Cormac O’Dwyer and our man Stuart Clark for a Hop Press panel discussion at the Irish Craft Beer Festival in the RDS. Although serious about his business, he was able to spin a wonderful yarn with the crowd in stitches as he recounted some of his wilder Porterhouse exploits.

From a single pub in Bray, him and his business partner Liam La Hart grew the group to comprise of seven bars, five restaurants, Lillie’s Bordello, the Dingle Distillery and the familiar range of Porterhouse beers, which have gone from single cask to supermarket shelves.As well as being a visionary, Oliver was great fun and full of enthusiasm for whatever his latest project happened to be. The beers that he’d regularly launch in the Temple Bar Porterhouse were always talked about with much love, and he harboured ambitions to break the States in a big way.“Before I ever thought about brewing myself I went as a DCU student to visit the brewery Liam and himself had in Bray,” recalls Seamus O’Hara. “Then, in the ‘90s when O’Hara’s started, we looked to Oliver as validation that a market existed. He was always very helpful and pivotal to the development of craft beer in Ireland. Everyone in the industry here will miss him terribly.”A huge rock ‘n’ roll fan, Oliver brewed a special beer for Joe Elliott’s Mott The Hoople-loving side-project, Down ‘N’ Outz, and then launched the Louder range of beers with the Def Leppard frontman.“In honour of Spinal Tap it goes all the way up to 11% proof,” said Joe a few years back of their flagship Louder Bangin’ Strong Ale. “It’s a take no prisoners American-style barley wine meant for sipping. It started, as so many brilliant ideas do, very late one night in Lillie’s Bordello. One of the hostesses there, Jean Crowley, had seen the cover for the first Down ‘N’ Outz album, which was a picture of the bar in Sheffield’s none-too-salubrious Rutland Hotel. We’d photo-shopped one of the taps to say ‘Down ‘N’ Outz Beer’ and Jean said, ‘You have to make it happen for real!’ She introduced me to Oliver who went, ‘Fuck, this is great!’ and dragged me off to their brewery.

“How it worked was that Oliver gave me all these little tasters and I went, ‘Like that, don’t like that...’ until we arrived at something we both absolutely loved. We did a Christmas, Ireland-only limited-edition of 11,000 bottles, which just flew out.”Talking this week to Hot Press from the States where Def Leppard are on tour with Reo Speedwagon and Tesla, Joe added: “Oliver was a visionary, my kind of guy. He was fun, loved his music and was very encouraging when it came to partnering up to do the Down ‘n’ Outz lager. It was always going to be a limited-edition but even so he took great pride in telling me it became the third best-seller in the Porterhouse! That’s what got us moving on to develop Louder IPA, which was twice as strong at 11% and in fairness he was the one who was pushing the envelope strength wise, just to see how it would turn out. We had some right old laughs testing out the initial batch, talk about an eye-waterer! He was so excited too about the distillery in Dingle, so much so that I became one of the first to invest; he was that enthusiastic! It’s so sad he won’t be around to see his baby mature, but he’s left behind a fantastic team to hopefully see it through to fruition, which in turn will solidify his well-deserved reputation as a maverick in the microbrewery world. I shall miss him.”

57 The Headline
Tel: 01-532027957

Opened in 2013, 57 The Headline – located on Leonard’s Corner – is a craft beer bar, with 24 taps dedicated to Irish craft beers and ciders. Twelve of the taps rotate, so there is plenty of room for seasonal and one off brews, as well as tap takeovers and brewery launches. The pub also has its own range of beers, including IPA, Coffee Porter and Wit beers and carries the full spectrum of Irish premium gins, as well as lots of independent Irish whiskeys. Set over two floors, 57 The Headline also serve really excellent food. They host regular whiskey evenings upstairs and are in the process of organising ‘gin education’ evenings. A slice of craft goodness in the heart of Dublin 8.

Galway Hooker
Tel: 087 - 7762823

Galway Hooker is an independent brewery dedicated to the production of high-quality full-flavoured beer. Set up in 2006 by two cousins, they moved to a state-of-the-art facility in 2014. They now produce a stout, an amber lager, an India pale ale as well as their iconic Irish pale ale, the first of its kind in Ireland. With their wares on sale everywhere from Ballyvolane to Bordeaux, Galway Hooker are one of the success stories of the country’s craft beer scene.

Killarney Brewing Company
Tel: 064- 6636505

One of the newest breweries on the scene, this Kerry-based outfit currently produces six beers, ranging from Irish Pale Ales and IPA to Blonde and Red Ale. As well as a fully functioning brewery, there is a visitor centre on site where people are taken on a guided tour of the facility, and can see the brewing process up close and personal. They also have their own range of merchandise, which can be bought on-site if you fancy a memento from your day.

Killarney Brewing Company, Kerry

one of the newest breweries on the scene

Tel: 059 - 9720509

One of the pioneers of Irish craft brewing, O’Hara’s was set up in Carlow in 1996. They also run an extremely popular pub, Brewery Corner, in the heart of Kilkenny, which is the perfect place to sample one of the 25 beers they now produce. It’s no surprise that Carlow is their home, for the area around the river Barrow has long been blessed with some of the country’s most arable land – ideal for growing malt.

Wicklow Brewery
Tel: 0404 - 41661

With an authentic beer hall, an adjacent bistro, a pub (Mickey Finn’s), as well as a brewhouse, Wicklow Brewery is a veritable craft hub in the tiny village of Red Cross. We love the Hooley in the Brewery nights, where beers, ballads and boogies go hand in hand. There are also daily tours of the brewery, which allow you to see the inner workings of the process. Their head brewer, Jason Carroll oversees six beers, all of which use onsite spring water. If you forced us to choose, we would go for the 4.7% ABV Wicklow Weiss, an awesomely aromatic wheat beer with a sweet honey aftertaste.

Wicklow Wolf
Tel: 087 - 6164172

Based in Bray, which apparently is the last place the wolf was spotted on these shores (also the Latin for hop is humulus lupus, or small wolf) Wicklow Wolf has grown quickly, and now stocks more than 400 pubs and off licences around the country. They produce 13 beers – the latest of which is Sorachi Red, a hoppy red ale. Sorachi Ace is a Japanese hop variety, which, they tell us, gives a beautiful herby taste. The team is based in a former bakery in the centre of Bray, and they also operate a 10acre hop farm. Two of those acres are under hops, which will be ready in midOctober for harvest. For those of you visiting the RDS, be sure to ask for their new session IPA, Easy Lover, which, along with several fruit beers, have been created for the festival.

Western Herd
Tel: 087-9160368

Located in a very picturesque part of Clare, Western Herd is based on a hilltop farm, which has been in the family for eight generations. Run by a brother and sister, they now brew four beers Seige, Back Beat, Fox Catcher and Blue Jumper all of which are produced with fresh farm spring water and the spent grains used to feed the farm’s cattle. This is sustainable brewing at its best, and the range is stocked in pubs, restaurants and convenience stores across the county. This is a real taste of Clare – bottled for your convenience.

Western Herd is based on a hilltop farm

Franciscan Well
Tel: 021 - 4393434

Cork's Franciscan Well Brewery has long been recognised as one of the pioneering names in Irish brewing – and it'll now be on the lips of more craft connoisseurs than ever before as they launch their canned range.Some of their premier tipples – including their moresome 5.5% ABV Chieftain IPA, the highly decorated maltdriven miracle that is 4.3% ABV Rebel Red and equally celebrated 4.7% Friar Weisse wheat beer – will be all canned up and ready to go with the range rolled out in August. Ticking all of the international best practice boxes, the freshness and taste will be assured as, for the first time, Ireland's favourite craft beer is available in the highly popular and growing 330ml can takehome format."The decision to move to the canned format reflects the growing trend within craft beer internationally, whereby more and more products are sold in can format," points out Franciscan Well founder Shane Long. "This is something that has been prevalent in the U.S. and has proven extremely popular. We are confident this will be the case in Ireland as we roll out craft in a can for consumers here."The range is also hitting the shelves with a snazzy newlook logo. Like anybody from the Rebel county, the Franciscan Well folk are eager to let everyone know just how Cork they are. The answer? Very! With the opening of their new brewery there less than a year ago – and, of course, the original brewpub base still doing a roaring trade on the North Mall – they've put a little bit of home on the new logo, with pride of place going to the familiar archway that's welcomed many a soul to their founding site.

Simon Lamont: The chef was at the Guinness & Oyster Festival in the Open Gate Brewery


Guinness' experimental brewery is now open to the public, and producing some amazing beers! There’s no bandying around of the C-word in Guinness’ Open Gate Brewery, but the quality of the beers, the experimenting with flavours and general sense of kids being let loose in a sweetshop has a real craft feel to it,Hand-whisks, big bags of Wexford strawberries and freshly picked bunches of basil have found a place next to the state-of-the-art production line in this new corner of Arthur J.’s gaff, which is open to all-comers who’ve pre-booked tickets on Thursday and Friday nights.The constantly rotating specials include a stunning 4.5% ABV Strawberry Porter, which is one of the reasons for the whisk, fruit and herbs being there!The 4.5% Guinness Golden Ale, 5.8% Guinness Nitro IPA, 6.4% OGB Milk Stout and muscular 8.4% OGB Imperial Dunkel Weisse have also well and truly tickled our fancy.The space itself is a stunning mix of new and old with a seriously big screen for those key Europa League games. Open on Thursday and Friday from 5.30pm-10pm, tickets priced €6 can be booked at, and include a tasting bat of current beers.

Simon Lamont: The chef was at the Guinness & Oyster Festival in the Open Gate Brewery

BECK’S Be Kreativ

A New Platform For Irish Creativity One of the most exciting developments of recent months in the wonderful world of beer is the commitment that Beck’s has made to Irish creativity, via the Be Kreativ campaign.It's an initiative that makes a whole lot of sense. After all, Beck’s is the beer responsible for Damien Hirst's legend-ary, iconic bottle designs. But then, Beck’s have been “turning beer into art since 1874.” An association with creativ-ity – or kreativity, as they would have it – is in the DNA of the brand.Here at Hot Press, we are collaborating with Beck’s on a series of Be Kreativ photoshoots, which feature some of Ireland’s brightest new music talents.In giving a band, DJ or artist superbly conceived and executed shots to use, and a platform to reach out to a national audience, Beck’s are supporting local talent in a really genuine, meaningful way.First to receive the Be Kreativ treat-ment in Hot Press were edgy urban soul-sters, BARQ, whose defining shoot has already appeared in these pages. Rising stars Voxx and The Orchid Collective are already lined up for future sessions. Meanwhile, Beck's are also supporting cool grass-roots events like Beatyard, Culture Night, Hit The North and the Out To Lunch Festival.In its different guises, Beck’s Be Kreativ platform (and website) will feature musicians, painters, writers, sculptors, fashion designers, publishers, coders – and lots more besides. It is a stomping ground for the creatives that are coming through with real intent. The Beck’s motto is: “All they have to do is #BeKreativ and we’ll showcase their work.” Because where beer and creativ-ity meet – that’s where you’ll discover Beck’s.To find out more, check out the Beck’s Be Kreativ campaign at

Kodaline at Old Jamesons Distillery


In recent years there has been an explosion of interest in craft distilling. In this brave new world, people are unwilling to accept second best. Which is why some of the finest producers in Ireland – and the world – will be represented at the RDS this year. It may be titled the Irish Craft Beer Festival, but the past few years have shown us that beer is no longer the only libation in town for people who place an emphasis on the craft and skill of creating great drinks. We have a proud reputation for the quality of our beer and brewing: that won’t change one iota. Now, however, awareness is growing that passion and skill of an extraordinary kind are also to be found in the world of spirits. Both as a manufacturer and an importer, Ireland is at the forefront of drinks innovation right now. The result is a bigger than ever treasure-trove, in off-licences and bars alike, of whiskeys, craft gins, cognacs and vodkas for us to enjoy.

It won’t surprise those in the know that whiskey – needless to say, we use the Irish spelling! – is set to be one of the stars of this year’s ICBF. The copper-coloured liquid is enjoying a renaissance, to the extent that it has become the fastest-growing category of spirit in the world. And Irish whiskey is at the heart of that revolution. Ireland currently boasts a fleet of 31 distilleries – and that number is growing all the time. Why? Because, increasingly, all over the world, people are recognising the special qualities of Irish whiskey. Ireland’s global expansion owes a lot to our flagship titans, Jameson. The brand has been experiencing double-digit growth in a number of key territories, hitting a high of 11% overall in the second half of 2015. Jameson does very well indeed in the US, Russia, Canada, Australia and Germany, among other key markets.

Meanwhile, Jameson’s parent company Irish Distillers also report that volumes of their other prestige whiskey brands, Green Spot, Redbreast and Midleton Very Rare, increased by 30% from July to December last year. They will be showcasing their Jameson Caskmates at the RDS – and for neophytes and experienced whiskey drinkers alike, it is an opportunity to savour (for more, see next page). Meanwhile, other brands – both established and new – will also be represented. The iconic Northern Irish whiskey, Bushmills, will be there, evoking the small village in Co. Antrim that has been home to the distillery for 400 years. From the triple distilled Original, through Black Bush – which is matured in sherry casks and will feature prominently at the Irish Craft Beer Festival – to the 21 Year Single Malt, there is great craft in the making of a drink that has a rich history.084Not that the south is being left behind. The Dingle Distillery of Kerry is part of the Porterhouse Group of companies. They created the first Irish brew-pub in a market dominated by the big suppliers – beginning a trend that has seen a huge increase in the number of independent breweries and distilleries operating in Ireland. Created in 2012, the Dingle Distillery was among the first of the new wave of artisan distilleries, that have been springing up around Ireland. There, they manufacture Dingle Original Gin, using, amongst other botanicals, rowan berry from the mountain ash trees, fuchsia, bog myrtle, hawthorn and heather for a taste of the Kerry landscape. The first issue of Dingle Distillery Vodka and Dingle Whiskey, which have been distilling since 2012, will be sold in 2016. Across the border in Cork, meanwhile, St. Patrick’s Distillery are producing superb vodka and gins, alongside a whiskey of marvellous character; and West Cork Distillery, in the Olympic silver medal winning town of Skibbereen, is also distilling an award-winning Irish whiskey, as well as a suite of spirit liquers and brands, including Two Trees Poitín. Of course, Hennessy has long enjoyed a special status here in Ireland. The name helps: the company was founded by an Irishman, Richard Hennessy, in 1765. At the festival, Hennessy will showcase its rich family of vintage cognacs. Belvedere will be one of the producers leading the charge with vodka, while Fever Tree tonic will cosy up to all the gins and vodkas. To whet your appetite, then, here are some of the tipples certain to jazz-up the spirit world at this year’s festival.


Fans of whiskey and stout – your prayers have been answered. Jameson Caskmates brings you the best of both worlds. This original concept began when the Master brewer of the Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork borrowed some Jameson casks in which to age his Irish stout beer. When the casks were sent back, Jameson re-filled them with Jameson Whiskey – et voila, Jameson Caskmates was born. Launched last year, the whiskey is now being distilled for both Irish and international markets. Matured in stout-seasoned barrels, this whiskey will woo your senses with notes of coffee, oak, cocoa and hints of hops, while retaining the velvety finish of triple distilled Jameson Original.


Originating in 1993 in the small Polish town of Zyrardow, Belvedere Vodka is aptly named after the Belweder Palace, which translates as ‘beautiful to see’. Belvedere is entirely natural, composed of just two ingredients: native Dan’kowskie rye and artesian water. Quadruple slow-distilled to an ABV of 40%, it is layered with soft and subtle hints of parma violets and a generous dollop of vanilla, before rounding off to a clean finish. The underlying cereal-like earthiness is designed to compliment food. And as if the original wasn’t special enough, Belvedere also offer an eclectic collection of vodka-based ‘macerations’ including Peach, Wild Berry and Mango. Na zdrowie!Here is an example of the fun you can have with this premium vodka.


35.5ml Belvedere
20ml dry vermouth (Recommendation: Martini Blanco)
2 grapefruit slices
1 sprig thyme
Spritz glass, filled with ice, topped with equal parts of sparkling water and tonic water.


Steeped in the finest French cognac craftsmanship, this rich liquid has long been an Irish favourite. Now Hennessy have something new to offer: Fine de Cognac and Hennessy V.S. Both show the buttery nuttiness of the original while adding subtle bursts of sweetness and spice. Hennessy Very Special... is very special indeed, with intense oaky notes slipping into swirls of grilled almonds and fresh grapes. Infused with floral notes and berries and vanilla, V.S. gives a fresh twist to a trusted favourite. A youthful blend, Fine de Cognac utilises slow maturation in French oak casks to deliver a silky smooth drink, with overtones of nougat and creamy coffee mocha. It is delicious by itself, but – to conclude today’s lesson! – here’s a recipe on which to test your mixology prowess:


20ml Hennessy Fine de Cognac
30ml St Germain Elderflower liqueur
20ml fresh lemon juice
10ml honey syrupAdd all ingredients to a shaker,
fill with ice, shake and strain into a martini glass.
Garnish with orange peel.

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