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The Craft Beer, Cider and Spirits of Northern Ireland

Posted by Jenna Stevenson, Founder of BITETOSAVOUR on

Over the past few year’s craft beers, cider and spirits have started to pop up all over Northern Ireland to the point that we now have a fantastic fast emerging craft brewing and distilling industry that people are starting to take note of. The best thing about craft brewers and distillers is that they’re in it for the love of it, which means that they work hard to indulge in their passion, which is simply to create something that tastes great. They use local ingredients where possible, employ locally when they grow and usually take on the local identity into their brands. It doesn’t get more ‘local’, and that’s great! And as for the names of the product, there are no corporate rules to follow, so they go with what seems right or take on brand and product names that are an extension of their own character and personality. And that’s why we love them, because they are unique.

But do you know who they are? Have you tasted them all yet? 

Our A to Z of the producers and the Google Map below show you who they are and where they are from. If you live in N.Ireland it’s important to get to know your local producers. Or if you’re a lover of craft beers, ciders and spirits, then take a craft tour of NI! And if you’re reading this from outside of NI then you’re very welcome – please take this opportunity to try some of the best of what we have to offer and please spread the word… we like to think that our sector, whilst small, is world class and punches above its weight.

Feedback and spread the craft love on #artisanNI

Whether you live in NI or outside, this article has been written as part of the ‘Support #artisanNI producers’ campaign. We would like to encourage you to taste the beers, ciders and spirits of NI and then feedback live in the social space, rate the drinks and tag your content with #artisanNI i.e. ‘Drinking xxxx craft beer from [place] Northern Ireland. Love the story behind it and the depth of flavour. 8/10. #artisanNI’

Your support of our ~40 craft drinks producers is appreciated – thanks!


The A to Z of craft beer, cider and spirits of Northern Ireland

A to Z: Northern Irish Craft Beers

Ards Brewing Company, Ards
Established in 2011, the Ards Brewing Company is bringing brewing back to the Ards Peninsula. Mainly found in bottle-conditioned form their beers have stand-out names such as Ballyblack stout, Rockin Goose, Pig Island pale ale and Cardy Man stout. https://www.facebook.com/ArdsBrewing/

Barrahooley Brewery, Glens of Antrim
The Barrahooley Brewery is a craft brewery located in the heart of the Glens of Antrim, producing high quality craft beers packed full of flavour. Brewing on a small scale and bottle conditioning ensures each and every bottle gets the maximum flavour from the quality Irish malts and fresh hops. http://www.barrahooleybrewery.com/

Black Mountain Brewery, Lisburn
"God invented beer so we knew he existed" is all they want to say about themselves. Fair enough. https://www.facebook.com/Black-Mountain-Brewery-27...

Boundary Brewing Cooperative, Belfast
A Cooperative Brewery in Belfast owned and run by members. Opened in 2014 as the first brewery in NI to bring together modern US styles with the more traditional Belgian/French style beers. "We believe that life is best when shared and enjoyed with others. We think the same about beer. So grab a beer, and a friend. And enjoy". https://boundarybrewing.coop

Brewbot, Belfast
It started with a tech geek with a passion for beer who invented a robot that made beer. Yup, doesn't get any better than that. The beer tastes good and the story continues online... http://www.brewbotbelfast.com

Bullhouse Brewing Company, Newtownards
Bullhouse Brewing Company was conceived and set up by Willy after a passion for homebrewing grew into a desire to brew great beer to share with more than just himself and his dog (El Capitan). After 12 months of hard graft, sleepless nights and regular 70+ hour weeks, Bullhouse Brewing Company was launched in March 2016. http://bullhousebeer.co.uk/

Clearsky Brewing, Dungannon
"It takes much more than copper pipes & steel tanks to brew our beer. Three decades of brewing knowledge, little tweaks to time, temperature, ingredients and a deeply held passion to only brew the best sets Clearsky Brewing Co. beer apart" http://www.clearskybrewing.com/

Cloughmore, Mournes
Cloughmore craft beers are brewed within a stones throw of the Cloughmore (Big Stone) in Kilbroney Forest in the Kingdom of Mourne. #crafttothelastdrop is the hashtag they love which sums them up best. https://www.facebook.com/Cloughmore

Farmageddon Brewing Co-Operative, Comber
Farmageddon Brewery is an award-winning craft beer business based in rural Comber. It all began with a passion for great tasting beer and a home brewing kit. 3 years on, Farmageddon boasts a growing brewery and an impressive core range with limited edition cameos to keep it interesting. Locally made, hand crafted beers, right on your doorstep. https://www.facebook.com/FarmageddonBrewery

Gallopers, Belfast
Gallopers is a new Craft Beer brand built around the infamous Belfast Legend of Galloper Thompson. Legend has it that local man Gordon Thompson told his friends if he did not find a place in heaven he would come back and haunt the streets of Belfast. http://nightcapbeer.co

Glens of Antrim Craft Ale & Beers
Glens of Antrim Craft Ale & Beers is a small family run brewery situated at the very corner of Ireland, across from Rathlin Island and the Mull of Kintyre. They use only natural products and spring water to produce handcrafted ale and beers. Their secret ingredients are passion for what they do, spring water and time! "We take care of everything on site on the farm: brewing, fermenting, bottling labeling and bottle conditioning". www.glensofantrimcraftaleandbeers.com

Hilden brewing company
35 years in the making. That’s how long they've been making full flavoured beers, improving and perfecting them year after year. It makes them the oldest independent brewery in Ireland and those who drink their beer agree it’s been time well spent. http://www.hildenbrewery.com

Hillstown Brewery, Randalstown
A passionate pair of eejits got together to feed cows beer with the intention of creating an affordable delicacy to the lovely people of Northern Ireland (Wagyu Beef). Their cows were fussy about their beer and only the best would do. There was such huge demand for the beer-fed beef that they were producing 500 litres per week. Hillstown Brewery was formed along with a cattle house full of happy cows. http://www.hillstownbrewery.com

Irish Macsaint, Derrygonnelly
The name is taken from an island that nestles in the beautiful waters of Lough Erne near the village of Derrygonnelly. Their range of craft beers reflect the history and character of our local area - carrying on a tradition established by the ancient monks who began brewing beer on Inishmacsaint over 900 years ago. Using locally grown hops and herbs they get a genuine flavour of the Fermanagh countryside. The most famous ingredient is the famed waters of Fermanagh’s lakes and streams. "If it wasn’t for the fine rain that falls on our county, none of our beers would be possible".
http://www.inishmacsaint.beer

Knockout Brewing, Belfast
Drawing on both the rich boxing heritage in Belfast and the final step in the brewing process, Knockout Brewing prides itself on it's simple straightforward approach. The beer is kept in its purest form by bottle-conditioning it. It isn’t filtered or pasteurised and is naturally carbonated leaving a natural and flavoursome product. Knockout Brewing was founded in 2014 by Joseph McMullan and crafts small batches of quality beer (900 Litre batches). www.knockoutbrewing.co.uk

Lacada Brewery Co-operative, Portrush
Lacada is a community owned Co-Operative brewery based on the world famous North Coast of Ireland. It has its origins in a love of beer and brewing, a love of place, and a love of people. It began with a father and son brewing together and grew to become a group of co-operative minded, good beer loving aficionados. www.lacadabrewery.com

McGrath's Beer, Co Armagh
Full of character and brimming with flavour; passionately brewed with a crafty finish. www.mcgrathsbeer.com

Mourne Mountains Brewery
Rich in history, the Mourne Mountains are said to have been an important source of prehistoric gold. Skilled craftsmen would take the precious mineral and turn it into beautiful and highly sought-after creations. The landscape, the materials and the local skills craft the beer you see today. www.mournemountainsbrewery.com

Northbound Brewery, Derry
In 2010 David and Martina Rogers returned to Derry-Londonderry after 10 years in Australia where David spent time with Australian and Japanese breweries. He has recently been awarded the prestigious Master Brewer qualification and has developed Northbound Brewery into a leading craft brewer, championing the local ingredients they use from the North West. https://www.facebook.com/Northboundbrewery

O’Connor Craft Beer, Faughanvale, Co Derry
Tucked away on a hilltop between Ballykelly and Greysteel, local brewer Michael O’Connor hasn’t looked back since switching from growing mushrooms to crafting Brassy Blonde beer at his family home in County Derry. https://www.facebook.com/O-Connor-Craft-Beer-7814...

Pokertree, Tyrone
Opened in January 2014 Pokertree Brewing Company is the first brewery in County Tyrone in over three generations. Their aim is to brew superb quality, small batch, handmade beers that use all natural and where possible local ingredients at all times. Founder Darren Nugent: “I want to enjoy real beer with taste; with aroma, depth and complexity. I want to drink what I like, not what I am told I should by huge multinational companies with bottomless marketing budgets"
www.pokertreebrewing.co.uk

Red hand Brewing Company, Donaghmore
After a lot of hard study, research, practice and over 100 years on Red Hand Brewing has resurrecte d the art of brewing in Donaghmore and Mid Ulster! https://www.facebook.com/Red-Hand-Brewing-Company...

Sailortown, Belfast
Every great port has had its Sailortown, a place shaped by ships and shipbuilding. Life was tough there and people were plain-spoken – but they were loyal and welcoming too. Which is why every Sailortown is more than a maze of dockyards and hangars and streets. It’s a community with an enduring spirit, forever marked by the sea and indelible as an anchor inked on an arm. Every Sailortown is a place of character, still thronged with song and yarns about the old days. So pull up a chair, fill your glass and lend an ear. http://www.whenwearegiants.com/sailortown-beer

Sheelin, Bellanaleck
The Sheelin Brewery, situated in the Irish village of Bellanaleck, was established by Brewer and Chemist, Doctor George Cathcart. The brewery employs age-old brewing methods to craft artisan Irish beer of the highest quality. www.sheelin.com

Station Works Brewery, Newry
The brewing team in Newry have been under the watchful eye of Station Works Master Brewer John O’Brien since 2013. The site was the old Station Works, where trains were serviced and maintained, and the old train arches can still be seen in the brewery to this day. They even dug up old railway lines while laying new floors of the brewery! http://stationworksbrewery.com

Walled City Brewery, Derry
James Huey is a qualified diploma brewer having spent 12 years brewing with the largest beer company on the island.
After leaving the company, James realised he had two passions in life – craft beer and the city of Derry-Londonderry so he set off on an extraordinary journey to build the first craft brewery in the city centre for over 100 years. 496 days after writing down his vision, James and his wife Louise opened the Walled City Brewery on 15th May 2015. http://www.walledcitybrewery.com

Whitewater Brewery, Mournes
Established in 1996 on the third generation family farm amidst the spectacular Mourne Mountain range in the north of Ireland, Whitewater Brewery still retains the passion and desire to brew beers with fantastic flavours. http://www.whitewaterbrewery.com/

Yardsman Craft Beers, Belfast
Yardsman pays homage to the great men who worked in the mills, the yards and factories. The men who were proud to serve apprenticeships and perfect their craft. The good men who valued people above possessions. They take time to perfect their craft and every small batch brew in Belfast’s first craft brewery since 1855. http://www.yardsmanlager.com



A to Z: Northern Irish Craft Ciders

Armagh Cider Company, Portadown
The Troughton family have been growing apples since 1898 and formed the Armagh Cider Company in 2005 on the family farm just outside Portadown. By using their own apples they can guarantee quality and no artificial additives. with the entire ‘blossom to bottle’ process carried out on their farm. http://armaghcider.com

Kilmegan Cider, Dundrum
"Under a wall of brambles, some twenty feet high, in 1967 my father discovered the old orchard that had been planted some seventy years previously beside the old farmhouse he and my mother had purchased. With the back drop of the majestic Mourne mountains, in the beautiful scenic part of Co. Down near the village of Dundrum, growing up here with a garden full of apples was as good as it gets" http://kilmegancider.com

Long Meadow Cider Company, Co Armagh
Located in the heart of apple country, Co Armagh, Long Meadow Cider has been growing and harvesting apples for over three generations, resulting in natural, refreshing ciders with no additives and a Plant to Pour guarantee. http://www.longmeadowcider.com

MacIvors Cider, Co Armagh
"In 1855 our family planted its first apple orchard in County Armagh. Today, we craft crisp, refreshing cider from those freshly pressed apples" http://macivors.com

P.McCann & Sons Apple Cider, Co Armagh
Pure Traditional Irish Cider produced and pressed in Co Armagh, The Apple County of Ireland. Hand picked Irish apples are pressed, blended and freshly bottled to produce a refreshing, natural drink. http://www.mccannapples.co.uk/Products/cider.html...

Tempted Irish Craft Cider, Lisburn
"Once there was a man named Davy who made the best cider you will ever taste". Tempted was established by Davy Uprichard and his family back in 2009. His purpose-built Cidery is located at his home just outside Lisburn and it was here where he started pressing apples. Davy produced his first cider in 2010, using skills he learned while making wine with his father, Jim, many years before. http://www.temptedcider.com

Tobys Handcrafted Cider, Armagh
Husband and wife team Craig and Karen made hand crafted cider as a hobby for friends and family for years from local appales, often selling it to raise funds for charity. The usual story of people saying "You really should do this for a living" lead to them launching a business in 2008 and they haven't looked back. Some profits still gop to charity which is a nice touch. http://www.tobyscider.co.uk


A to Z: Northern Irish Craft Spirits

Boatyard Gin, Vodka and Whiskey, Lough Erne
"Producing farm to bottle organic spirits in the most beautiful setting in the world". In January 2016 the distillery opened to produce seasonal potato vodka from scratch, distilled in a 40 foot column. The whiskey will be matured using the perfect combination of organic farm barley and slow maturation. Their signature gin experience is a modern lens on a quaint world of distilling with a nod to traditional Irish symbolism - a new take on the brave new world of gin. http://boatyarddistillery.com

Bushmills Distillery (not craft, but felt we needed Bushmills in the list!)
On April 20th 1608, King James I granted Sir Thomas Phillips, a landowner and Governor of Co. Antrim, a license to distil. The world's first licensed distillery. The rest, as they say, is history. 400 years of it! www.bushmills.com

Copeland Gin, Saintfield
A crowd-fund success story. Founded in the Summer of 2015, Copeland Spirits has created a unique range of handcrafted, infused gins using the freshest produce from the fields of County Down. Lovingly produced using bespoke, handcrafted process in the rural town of Saintfield. They infuse their own premium gin with fresh, locally grown produce from the fields of County Down, hand turning and mixing the fruit every few days. https://www.facebook.com/CopelandGin/

Dunville Whiskey, Belfast
Until recently the only place you could find a bottle of Three Crowns was at auction. They have now revined this great whiskey to bring its flavour to a new generation. http://echlinville.com/dunvillesthreecrowns

Eight Leaf Gin
Our most elusive of all the artisan drinks producers (try to find them online - anywhere!), they describe themselves as a "small artisan micro distillery, based on a country estate, in the middle of Co Down. Premium small batch Irish dry gin, bold complexity with a tantalising finish!!" That works for us... website coming soon here: http://www.eightleafgin.com

Jawbox Gin, Belfast
There was a time when the front door was left unlocked. When the kitchen was the scullery. And in the tiny scullery was the Belfast Sink. Clothes, dishes and weans got washed there. A lot of craic was held around the Belfast Sink, the jawbox. A citrus finish with lingering juniper and pine. http://www.jawboxgin.com

Niche Drinks, Derry
Niche Drinks is a small independent drinks manufacturer based in Derry that makes Irish Cream Liqueurs, Irish Coffee and Ready To Drink Cocktails which are sold worldwide. Set on a hill on the banks of Lough Foyle they have been producing high quality Cream Liqueurs for almost a quarter of a century. http://www.nichedrinks.com/

Poitin (coming soon)
http://www.ban-poitin.com

Ruby Blue Spirits, Lisburn
Stuart & Barbara Hughes manage everything first hand in their small-batch Spirits business, producing their growing range of Award Winning RubyBlue Spirits in the most delicious flavours. RubyBlue Liqueurs taste like real fruit, because they’re made with real fruit! RubyBlue Premium Vodka is Ireland’s First Potato Distilled Vodka. Cask-Aged RubyBlue Premium Vodka is beautifully mellowed, delicately flavoured and coloured by resting in Irish Whiskey Casks before being blended with Antrim Hills artisanal water. http://www.rubybluespirits.com

Shortcross Gin, Crossgar
Northern Ireland's first premium crafted gin. Made in small batches, everything is crafted and produced by hand, to achieve a highly armotica unique gin with a long smooth finish. www.shortcrossgin.com


Love this! Where do I buy and how can I taste Northern Irish craft beers, ciders and spirits?

We have partnered with KWM Wines in Kilkeel who have been a keen supporter of this sector and stock NI’s largest selection of N.Irish craft drinks:

Hand-picked 12 bottle N.Irish Beer Taster Pack:

Hand picked 12 bottle Northern Irish Beer taster pack

Hand-picked 24 bottle N.Irish Beer Taster Pack:

Hand picked 24 bottle Northern Irish Beer taster pack


- Northern Irish BEER: http://www.kwmwine.com/en/Northern-Irish-Beer/c-8...
- Northern Irish CIDER: http://www.kwmwine.com/en/Cider/c-36.aspx?Attribu...
- Northern Irish SPIRITS: http://www.kwmwine.com/en/Spirits/c-128.aspx?AttributeValueIDs=52

Why not run a tasting evening with your friends, family or at a local event....?

Get in touch!

I hope you have found this article useful. If you are a new drinks producer and would like to be featured in this article email me to jenna [at sign] bitetosavour [dot] com (have to use code to avoid the spambot machines!). Or if you are media and would like to do a piece drop me a line and we'll help you put it together. Jenna x