6 things you never knew about Irish beer

Some facts for you to impress your mates with…


That’s the word on everyone’s lips this month, as the Smithwick’s Homebrew Challenge kicked off around the country and amateur brewers are preparing their special recipes for a Christmas ale.

Last week, we gave you some tips for getting started with homebrewing. So that’s the science out of the way – now it’s time for some conversation-starters to break out over a glass of beer this weekend…

1. History in every drop

Beer is one of the oldest drinks around – possibly dating back to early Neolithic times or around 9500 BC.  Irish people have been brewing away on the Emerald Isle for about 5,000 years, dating back into the Bronze and early Iron Ages.

St. Francis Abbey psyberartist psyberartist

2. Break it down

Lager accounts for 60% of beer sold in Ireland, with stout the next popular at 34% and ale bringing up the rear at 6%. Historically, though, Ireland produced a lot of ale and porter. In the 1760s, the Royal Dublin Society offered prizes to brewers who used the most Irish hops and those that produced the most porter.

Grains Justin Dolske Justin Dolske

3. The science bit

The basic ingredients of beer are: water, something starchy to be made into sugar and fermented, some yeast to do this fermenting and then a flavour (like hops). Beer is mostly water, which means the type of water used can have an effect on the end result. Because Dublin’s water is quite hard, the capital city is perceived to excel at making stout.

Hops & Irish Moss theotherway theotherway

4. Keeping the cool

What temperature you drink a beer at will affect your overall experience – with warmer beer revealing more flavour, but colder beer being more refreshing. This also varies across the type of beer you’re drinking, with people generally preferring a colder temperature the paler the beer.

Temperature is Key cogdogblog cogdogblog

5. What a pair

Beer and food. Match made in heaven right? And we don’t mean just with pizza while watching the match. Tsk. Think of it more like people do with wine – some flavours enhancing others, some notes bringing out the best in others. Check out this graph below for some ideas. (Can you think of any ideal pairings with traditional Irish food? Let us know in the comments…)

foodpair craftbeer.com craftbeer.com

Click here if you can’t see the above image.

6. Now here’s where you come into it…

Homebrewing is a lot easier (and more rewarding) than you think. It’s becoming an increasingly popular hobby around Ireland, with 400 members signing up to the National Homebrew Club since its origins just four years ago. And you don’t have to be an expert to get started – you can buy beginner’s kits that work pretty much like a cake mix. Except at the end you have delicious beer instead of cake. Worth thinking about, eh?

Pint of 90 Shilling Amber Ale mfajardo mfajardo

To enter the Smithwick’s Homebrew Challenge, people must be over 18 and they can apply online at www.SmithwicksHomebrewChallenge.ie. Each applicant will be sent 100g of Admiral Hops to get them started, subject to availability. Magnum, Challenger, UK Goldings, Willamette or Saaz Hops can also be used for this competition. The judging panel will include Smithwick’s Brewers and members of the National Homebrew Club. If you would like further information about homebrewing and to pick up some tips visit www.nationalhomebrewclub.ie.

Don’t forget – today is the last day to register for your hops. (Don’t worry, though, you can still enter after this, just with your own hops.) Happy brewing.

7 handy tips to get you started with homebrewing>

Got what it takes to make great beer? Win your chance to have it professionally brewed with Smithwick’s in St James’s Gate>

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