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"Where's the local beer?": How tourist demand is driving the microbrewery boom

A new brewery in Wicklow gets its official launch today. Its owners say they were regularly asked by tourists to recommend local beers.

IRELAND HAS SEEN something of an explosion in the number of craft beers on offer in recent years. Experts in the area say there are now around 45 independent brewing facilities on the go in the country — with more to come in the next few weeks.

The most recent addition to sector gets its official launch today, in a pub complex in the Wicklow Hills.

The area’s not exactly Hipster Central, obviously.

However, Leigh Williams of the new Wicklow Brewery said the decision to launch the microbrewery was very much demand-driven.

You’d have tourists coming in all the time asking ‘where’s the local beer?’. They weren’t satisfied with the standard brands — so now we have an answer to that question.

The 15 hectolitre brewhouse was installed in Mickey Finn’s complex in the village of Red Cross in August of this year, and the brewery has been offering its beers to locals since the start of September.

Source: The Wicklow Brewery

Coinciding with its official launch this week, the team behind the brewery are also starting to ship their product to pubs in Dublin — a tap was installed in McSorleys of Ranelagh last week, with more on the way at other establishments before Christmas.

“At the moment, we’re offering four different types of beer,” Williams said.

“We started with a Helles, which is a Munich-style lager. The second one we did is St Kevin’s Red Ale, then we have a weissbier and and amber ale. The latest one we have is an Indian Pale Ale, and that’s brewing at the moment.

Our brewmaster, who’s from Munich, will also be experimenting with smaller batches — so the idea then is that we’ll have our beer of the month, alongside our main ones.

The venture is the second brewery to open in the county in recent months, following the launch of the Wicklow Wolf company in Bray at the end of the summer.

Source: Wicklow Wolf Brewing Company in Bray

Further down the road in Blackwater, Wexford, the backers of the Jack Doyles brand are also working on a larger brewing facility, having reached the limits of their smaller test operation.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan had some unexpected good news for the sector in last month’s Budget, when he announced that the excise relief ceiling for microbreweries is to be increased from 20,000 hectolitres to 30,000 hectolitres.

Quincy Fennelly of Wicklow Wolf said it was a shot in the arm for craft brewers: “It means that breweries can aggressively grow and not have to look over their shoulders about paying the full excise.”

Beer Club: How craft beer is becoming the new wine>

Read: (Micro)brewing up a storm: How Ireland’s craft beers are making their mark>

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