A good drink is as much a part of Irish culture as the music and dance that so often follow it. Wherever in Ireland you go, a pint of stout or a glass of whiskey are seen as integral to the Irish sense of good fun, the 'craic'. And it is through this sense of good fun, as well as events like St Patrick's Day, that global brands like Guinness and Jameson's have made themselves so famous. But there's more to Irish breweries and distilleries than just the big household names. As well as having countless pubs and bars, most Irish communities are served by a local or regional brewery and/or distillery, many of which will be happy to show you around. This page details the big-brand brewers you'll recognise, as well as the less well-known hidden gems you'll be glad you heard about.
Shaped like a giant pint of the black stuff, this most popular of Dublin attractions towers over the surrounding neighbourhoods. The top-floor Gravity Bar offering a delightful panorama across the Dublin cityscape which can only be enhanced by a well-earned pint. The Guinness Storehouse is a favourite memory for a lot of people on their tour of Ireland.
The site of the brewery itself is massive, at a staggering 26 hectares, but it will be the old grain storehouse which you visit.
Bring some binoculars to take in the full detail of the cityscape as you enjoy a pint in the panoramic Gravity Bar.
Even since production moved to a modern facility nearby, the world-famous Old Midleton Distillery continues to draw huge numbers of visitors who are as curious about The Jameson Experience as ever before. Over 130,000 tourists visit Midleton every year to learn more about the home of Irish whiskey.
The charm and elegance of the original distillery buildings reflect the pride in the product that was made here. Expect an engaging insight into the culture and history of Ireland, told through one of the nation's most famous exports.
Jameson Irish Whiskey was founded by John Jameson in 1780. The company was originally set up in the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin City. The operation remained in Dublin until 1975 when it relocated to Midleton, County Cork.
At the beginning of the tour, there is a very informative audio-visual presentation detailing the whiskey-making process used by Jameson throughout the ages. You are then taken to the old distillery dotted along the trail there are antique vehicles, water mills, barrels and casks which really add to the sense of heritage.
The final leg of the tour is the pay-off... a glass of Jameson! There is the option to have this straight up or with Ginger & Lime. If you are quick enough to volunteer there is a comparative tasting of an Irish whiskey, a Scottish whiskey and an American bourbon with an explanation on the differences and making of each.
Road signs to the Distillery are not as obvious or as plentiful as you might expect. Drivers should plan their directions before they set off.
Since 1829 Tullamore D.E.W, taking its name from the town it was founded in and the man who founded it (Daniel E. Williams), has been one of the cornerstones of the Irish Whiskey business. Daniel E. Williams' grandson Desmond, is the man credited with creating Ireland's first blended whiskey. In 1954 production was moved out of Tullamore but returned in 2014. Tullamore D.E.W is now produced from a state of the art distillery in its original home.
To find out more you can join Tullamore D.E.W on their daily tours.
The Franciscan Well Brewery was founded in 1998 by Shane Long. It was built on the site of an old Franciscan Monastery. It is said that the well within this monastery had was given to curing the ailments of those who drank from it. People would come from across Ireland to make use of its miraculous powers.
Brewers, operating from the well today, still harness their unique output while adding modern technology and techniques learned from across Europe. It is currently Ireland Number 1 Craft Brewery. The Franciscan Well has collaborated with fellow Cork drink makers Jameson Whiskey to create a truly Corkonian beverage a Jameson-Aged Stout.
The brewery is where new drink ideas are formed and if they pass the brewers standards they are then served up at the Brew Pub in Cork City. If they are successful here then they will be exported further afield.
The Brew Pub, located within the original brewery on Cork City's North Mall, is currently one of the city's hot spots. It's a modern pub with a historical twist. The original brewing vat sits in the middle of the beer garden, alongside a huge pizza oven. The latest creations from the brewery are tested by the clientele and, if the weather holds out, entire evenings can be spent arguing about the best pizza and beer combination.
The inside of the pub, built on the burial ground of the old monastery, is also a fantastic spot to sample some of Cork's finest delights ...as long as you don't mind the occasional ghost.
Arrive hungry and try the freshly baked pizza which is available in the beer garden out back. Delicious, salty dough that makes you want to linger for just one more trip to the bar!
We couldn't resist visiting this amazing brewery ourselves to sample the legendary beers and pizza. Click here to find out how our visit went.
Bushmills distillery was first permitted to distil whiskey in 1608 by King James I. As such, visitors here are invited to enjoy a whiskey tasting in what is thought to be the oldest licensed distillery in the world. Although its grant to distil was given in 1608, it is believed that spirit was probably made here 200 years before that!
Bernard and Rosemary Walsh ventured into the Irish whiskey business after Rosemary spent time running a ski chalet in France. During her time in the Alps, in 1999, Rosemary came up with the idea of an Irish Coffee that didn't take so long to make. This was to be the creation of their first product, a blended and bottled Irish Coffee called Hot Irishman. Having also tried their hand at Irish Cream liqueur it wasn't until 2006, when they were granted a long-term supply agreement, that they become one of the frontrunners of the Irish whiskey revival.
Tours of the distillery can be arranged via appointment.
In 1996 friends Oliver, Liam and Peter founded the Porterhouse Brewing Company, long before craft beer was a thing in Ireland. Having mistimed the craft beer craze, the timing of their craft spirit operation couldn't have been better. Releasing their first whiskey in December 2015, they were the first independent distillery in Ireland to go up against the 3 'big brand labels'. They have since developed and released their own vodka and gin. They have seen competitors come and go as the demand for craft spirits continue to rise in Ireland.
Visitors are welcome to tour the distillery. Learn the history of Irish whiskey and of Dingle Distillery itself.
The brewmasters at Eight Degrees Brewing are an Australian and a New Zealander. Surprisingly, they have come together in harmony to produce one of Ireland's best selling craft beers. Since 2010, they have been at the forefront of the Irish craft beer revolution.
You can enjoy a tour of the Eight Degrees brewery by appointment only.
Wicklow Brewery came to life in response to customers at Mickey Finn's Pub asking if they served local beers? The owners of the pub, in September 2014, looked to take advantage of this interest. They set up plans for the Wicklow Brewery. Built using state of the art German equipment and using only the best local produce, it has grown into a hit with visitors of the pub and craft beer drinkers around Ireland in general.
During tours of the brewery visitors can not only taste the finished product but can taste the beer at every step of the way straight from the fermentation tanks.
O'Haras brewery was established in 1996, well before the Irish boom in craft beer. It is a family owned business based in the "Barrow Region" of County Carlow, an area with a strong heritage of beer brewing. Today, O'Hara's can be ordered in pubs across Ireland and their bottled beer is available in the majority of off-licenses.
You can tour O'Haras brewery by appointment only.
The Cotton Ball pub was founded by Humphrey J. Lynch after his return to Mayfield, County Cork, from America. During his time in the States he worked in the U.S Army and a Newburyport cotton mill, this would later inspire the name of the pub. Lynch was also the reason the village is now called Mayfield (formally Baile na Mbocht), he adopted the name from a town he frequented in the U.S.
The pub still operates today, having been founded by Lynch in 1874. The Cotton Ball Brewing Company was established in 2013 and now provides craft beer & stout to many pubs in Cork and surrounding counties. Tours of the brewery are available via appointment.