Listen to the Full Podcast

‘Rise of the Brew’, tells the story of some of the people behind craft beer in Ireland as they expand their micro-empires or as they take first steps in this re-emerging industry.

Beloved of the bearded, craft beer is considered by some as mere #ontrend hipster fascination but craft beer is having more than just a moment in city bars. We now have more small craft breweries, setting up in both towns and open countryside, than at any time since the 1900s {sixty at last count and that number keeps increasing}. Over half of those are only in existence since 2013.’Rise of the Brew’ captures a growing phenomenon, telling the story of some of the people behind these micro breweries as they try to establish new brands, convert traditional drinkers to distinctive flavours and take their craft businesses to the next level.

Beer has been brewed in Ireland since the first farmers settled here nearly 5000 years ago. At the turn of the 20th C, there were over two hundred breweries dotted around the country but consolidation resulted in less than a handful of breweries remaining by the 1980s. In 2005 the government introduced a fifty per cent excise tax rebate for small independently owned breweries selling less than 20,000 hectolitres of beer a year [since extended to 30,000hl] and a year later Galway Hooker opened the first brewery in Ireland in more than a decade. So who are the people behind the rise and rise of craft beer?

On a Laois farmyard we meet two brothers whose family have grown malted barley for the brewing industry since the 1900s; they’ve just brewed their first beer using both the barley and water from the farm. Motivated by the desire for choice, good beer and “the promise of freedom” we hear of small breweries with smaller budgets set up in recession and rookie mistakes made in the early days. We meet two brewers in Mitchelstown who discover their first batch of beer is undrinkable just weeks before their launch. With an eye firmly on export we hear of the expansion plans of a Waterford brewer who has already just quadrupled her output to meet demand. We meet three Wicklow brothers installing brewery equipment they’ve invested their life savings into, just days before they brew the first batch. At a beer festival we meet excited, exhausted new faces anxious for feedback on their flavours. In Donegal we delve into the complex chemistry of beer making and in a pub in Crumlin we hear the entertaining attempts to convert drinkers over to craft beer. “Craft beer? It’s like dried out smelly socks” just one response.

Craft beer in Ireland today accounts for less than 2% of total beer sales; the fledgling industry points to the US as the potential of this sector, where craft beer takes an 8% market share. But with more and more Irish beers crowding the shelves and macro brands entering the fray, the competition is about to get a whole lot fiercer.

Presented by Mary Brophy ‘Rise of the Brew’ will be broadcast on Newstalk 106-108fm this weekend, Saturday 28th February at 7am, and repeated at 10am on Sunday 1st March.

BROADCAST DETAILS: ‘Rise of the Brew’ is part of the Spring season of Documentary on Newstalk

‘Rise of the Brew’ can also be listened to online at A podcast will be available at after the broadcast.

CREDITS: ‘Rise of the Brew’ is presented by Mary Brophy.  Produced and edited by Neal Boyle. The documentary is a Hollybrook production for Newstalk funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the Television Licence fee