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Spirit of craft beer isn’t exclusive to U.S.

By: Scooter Hendon  |  07/14/2013

Spirit of craft beer isn’t exclusive to U.S.

I’ve always enjoyed Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione’s somewhat famous quote about the craft-beer industry being “99 percent asshole free.” The craft beer industry is unlike most every other industry in the world. Instead of a cutthroat mentality where everyone is treated as your competitor, craft beer fosters friendship, cooperation and a sense that “we’re all in this together.”

I’ve witnessed Jester King give yeast straight out of their tanks to a local brewpub. I’ve seen Deep Ellum give part-time employment to Cody Martin before Martin House opened just so he could gain experience and bridge his employment gap. I’ve seen craft beer bars just up the road from one another lend draft equipment to each other in times of need. Stories of helping are abundant all over the country and every region has stories of inspirational cooperation to tell.

My experience with this brotherhood has been consistent across visiting and exploring many corners of the United States, but my recent travels to Ireland showed this to not be an exclusively American ideal. Irish craft beer is a relatively new concept. With Diageo (a giant conglomerate not unlike Anheuser-Busch InBev) owning Guinness, Smithwick’s, Harp and other long-time Irish brands, Ireland’s craft brewers are clawing at the behemoth as well as constantly fighting the fiercely traditional mindset that Irish beer drinkers have.

“For a nation of beer drinkers, we’re trying now. I think that’s the beauty of it. We’ve gone from solely being dominated by Guinness and Diageo to now seeing their market getting chipped down slowly,” said Brian Wynne, bartender at The Porterhouse Temple Bar in Dublin. “Irish people have started to realize there’s more to beer than Guinness and Carlsberg and Bud Light and Budweiser and all that rubbish.”

Even relative veterans of the Irish craft beer scene haven’t been around all that long. The Porterhouse and Carlow Brewing (O’Hara’s) started brewing in 1996 and Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork (south Ireland) was founded two years later. Other seeming mainstays like Eight Degrees Brewing and Metalman Brewing didn’t come around until two or three years ago and are now seen as modern pioneers despite being as young as they are. On the horizon are many more that are in development right now.

The big boys are taking notice though as Franciscan Well was recently acquired by Molson Coors. They’ll still maintain their own brewing operation and will actually be going through a large expansion, but the ownership is no longer independent. Still, they’re keeping their brewpub and trying to maintain as much independence as possible.

“Everybody was saying ‘Oh, that’s going to be bad,’ but there’s an awful lot of resources that we didn’t have access to, and now we’ve been getting in hops we couldn’t get our hands on,” said Franciscan Well head bartender and brewing assistant Tomas Collins.

And with each brewery having limited resources, it isn’t uncommon to see one brewery cleaning out the draft lines for another because they happen to be visiting an account that carries both their brewery’s beers. Just as in the U.S., they understand that scratching each other’s backs and transitioning drinkers over to craft beer is a mutually beneficial proposition. It’s inspiring to see another relatively fledgling beer scene growing in a similar way to my home state.

 


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