The Crafty Brewing Company. O’Sheas. Grafters. Solas. These are the underdog beers fighting for Irish Craft Beer in the Supermarket multiples in Ireland. And believe it or not, they are what will win the war in Ireland to make the macros squirm. We’ve come a long way from Yellow-Pack Lager in Ireland, & long may it last.
It struck me today as I walked into my new shiny Super Valu in Kilcock to take a mooch at their craft beer section & discovered it was almost completely dominated by Irish Craft Beers save for some Founders All-Day IPA. While I’m not fond of many Irish Craft Beers as I find them very bland compared to the enormous selection of imported craft beers that from more advanced markets, there were plenty of my favorites such as Blacks of Kinsale, Rye River, Trouble Brewing, Black Donkey amongst some others, it made me think about how these beers are acting as stepping stones into the weird wild world of craft beer.
And in some cases, they’re not just that first step into it, they could be the second or subsequent set of steps. When you see some of the own-brand craft beers being produced in Ireland (many of which are being done by the one brewery – Rye River, such as ‘Grafters’ for Dunnes, ‘Craft Brewing’ for Lidl & ‘Solas’ for Tesco), they are jam packed with flavour. But it doesn’t detract from the fact people are trying craft beer more now as they adventure beyond the yellow fizzy stuff.
And while it’s in one way very easy to be snobby & say ‘oh you drink that’ because it’s not the latest citrus banger from Beavertown, or hop-bomb from BrewDog or experimental release from Yellow Belly in Wexford, many people still do not have a decent offie near them that carries these tongue tantalisers. Very often, they are limited to being available either at a Galway Bay Bar, Deveneys, DrinkStore ,Bradleys, Winehouse, McHugh’s or Martins. O’Briens Wines can’t be counted on as seen in their stores like CityWest in Dublin – which has so little craft beer it’s horrendous.
And so with availability as limited as the aforementioned & a handful others around the country, Musgraves’ supermarket chain in SuperValu & Centra become the ‘bottle shop’ of sorts. That’s a great thing to see, to be honest. Even locally for myself in Kilcock as the local offie only recently for example took in BrewDog, after they changed to CarryOut – they still only have Punk IPA as the only option despite me asking them to get some 5AM, Pony & even some Hardcore in – as I know these will sell locally as there’s a few hop heads in Kilcock.
The ‘nest steps’ after getting people down the rabbit hole where they’re curious is not to have these beers silo’d in a handful of speciality stores, but to get them wider- and the committment to Tesco, SuperValu & Dunnes carrying a wide range of craft beers, the target for distributors should be off licences local to these supermarkets to stock these ‘advanced step beers’ where the local multiple chain does carry a full range of craft beers.
With beers like Crafty Brewing Co’s IPA or Pale Ale, these are real next-and-intermediate flavour craft beers. They’re aggressively hopped & packed with an intense amount of flavour, so they really do fit their bill & purpose. Our craft beer scene is booming. Availability is the best it has ever been frankly. And micro breweries are reaping the benefits.
Seeing Richard Siberry’s Sheep Stealer or Sam Black’s KPA in Tesco really makes me smile ear to ear. Or even seeing my brand spanking new Super Valu in Kilcock with a giant wall of 99% Irish Craft Beers which even if many of the beers are not to my taste is still so god damned incredible when I think back to 2000 when I was first properly introduced to craft beer in the U.S., & came home to only have Porterhouse beers as a micro-brewed option.
Inside Facebook’s offices in the Valley, there’s a wall that carries the phrase “This journey 1% finished” which is also their motto. The Irish craft beer scene (native-brewed & imports) while at an incredible place, too is only 1% finished.