NOTHING against a pint of the iconic ‘black stuff’, but Ireland’s drink game goes way beyond stout.
Across the Emerald Isle, the craft beer and small batch spirit distillery business is booming.
Not just selling locally (and selling out) but lots of which are becoming increasingly popular and available overseas.
Here's our suggestions to wet your whistle…
RubyBlue Vodka (rubybluespirits.com)
Spuds should be celebrated and doing exactly that is RubyBlue Spirits with Ireland’s first potato distilled vodka.
Produced by the Hughes family in Co. Antrim, this vodka is smooth and sweet in taste with hints of apple and vanilla – great as a base for cocktails.
RubyBlue also produce a number of fruit-flavoured liqueurs and a whiskey cask-finished special edition of the potato vodka.
Bertha’s Revenge (ballyvolanespirits.ie)
The idea of a ‘milk gin’ might sound a bit peculiar – especially as it’s named after the world’s oldest cow – but Bertha’s Revenge gin is something else.
Made in West Cork by Ballyvolane House using alcohol whey (a cheesemaking by-product, as apposed to barley or wheat grain) and filled with local botanicals – some foraged right from nearby trees and meadows – this gin’s delicate flavour is both soothing and surprising.
You’ll taste intense notes of cardamon, cumin and sweet citrus with each sip.
Jack Codys (jackcodys.com)
Based in the heart of ‘Ireland’s Ancient East’ in Drogheda, Co. Louth, Jack Codys is one of the many small, independent breweries booming in this area equidistant between Dublin and the border with Northern Ireland.
With a slowly-growing range of craft beers and limited-edition specials, they’ve even gone and dedicated an extra strong, seasonal stout to St. Patrick himself, made in a limited run every March.
Blackwater Distillery (blackwaterdistillery.ie)
Chilling in casks made of juniper tree wood for a month or so, this Juniper Cask Gin is next level flavour, with a woody, smoky and fragrant taste balancing sweet, spice, citrus and smoke.
Blackwater Distillery, based in west Waterford, also produces copper pot still-made vodka and its small batch traditional No. 5 Irish Gin, plus seasonal specials like a Strawberry Gin and Hedgerow Gin, too.
It’s also the producer behind award-winning Boyle’s Gin, now exclusive to Aldi stores across Ireland.
Galway Hooker (galwayhooker.ie)
Representing Connaught and the City of Tribes is Galway Hooker, whose name was decided by public competition before your mind goes wandering.
Brewed in Oranmore, the large town outside Galway City, there’s a distinct caramel undertone to its pale ale, which you’ll find also in Ireland’s red beers.
Having expanded their range over the past decade, you’ll find lots of choice from stouts to amber lagers and specials.
Teeling Whiskey (teelingwhiskey.com)
Teeling is the only operating distillery in Dublin city and their range of whiskeys are becoming the staple of the best bars in the Irish capital and their ilk abroad, too.
Whether you're into a single malt, single grain or small batch, each of their bottles offers its own unique personality and flavour profile.
Not technically Dublin-produced yet, as their multi-million euro brand new brewery and visitor centre in Dublin 8’s Newmarket is only open a couple of years, their current bottled stock on shelves comes from their distillery in Co. Louth’s Cooley Peninsula.
Wicklow Wolf Brewing Co. (wicklowwolf.com)
Based in the bustling seaside town of Bray, Wicklow Wolf Brewing Company has to be credited for the monikers they give to their brews.
For example, A Beer Called Rwanda, infuses a typical English-style brown ale with the rich nuttiness of Rwandan lightly roasted coffee and last year they went all patriotic with a limited edition “Children of the Revolution” bottle commemorating the centenary of The 1916 Rising.
Black Castle Drinks (blackcastledrinks.com)
Launched in 2015, Black Castle Drinks produce a range of three Irish craft sodas, (red lemonade, bramble sting, ginger beer) with lots more flavours and products in the pipeline.
Hand-produced in Wicklow by husband-and-wife duo John and Riva, their range of modern soft drinks come lightly carbonated, lower in sugar than big name competitors and made using natural ingredients.
A great option for non-drinkers, kids or as mixers with other spirits.
Bán Poitín (ban-poitin.com)
Traditionally a rural farmhouse alcohol made in very small batches, poitín ranges in strength from 40 - 90 per cent ABV, making it one of the strongest drinks on the planet.
Outlawed for 300 years as an illegal moonshine, for the past 20 years it’s been growing in trend again and is now the reputable rogue of the Irish drinks trolley.
Co. Down-produced Bán Poitín is becoming a regular fixture in top bars in Dublin, Belfast and London.
Barry’s Tea (barrystea.ie)
Sure, where would you be without it? Ireland is the biggest tea drinking community in the world (per capita) and sure wouldn’t Mrs. Doyle be proud?
Tea is the solution to all of life's problems, which every Irish mammy will vehemently attest to.
Barry’s Tea hails from the rebel county of Cork (though obviously not grown there) and is internationally sold as THE Irish tea you need.
The green box is elementary, the red box is superb, the black box is next level.
Night Cap Beer Co. (nightcapbeer.co)
There’s something brewing up in Norn Iron, and it’s being done by none other than TV presenter Eamonn Holmes’ son, Declan.
Night Cap Beer Company is relatively new on the market and its first brew, Gallopers Golden Ale, is already a hit in Belfast and beyond.
One of the most difficult beverages to source in Ireland is Cork’s own tangerine soda, Tanora.
The Rebels have produced this ruby red soft drink for generations and is near-on impossible to get it outside of the “real capital”.
If you get your hands on a bottle you’ll be doing well!
The Carlow Brewing Company, also known as O’Hara’s, celebrated two decades of brewing in Leinster last year and is one of the most popular and widely available craft beers in Ireland, but now popping up across the board in Britain and the United States.
Their rich red Ale, traditional Irish Stout and golden Wheat ‘Curim’ Beer are particularly fantastic.
Kerrygold Irish Cream (kerrygoldirishcream.com)
Far from feckin’ Espresso Martinis the Irish were raised, but this one is giving Baileys a run for its money.
From the dairy producer we all know and love, Kerrygold Irish Cream is now being marketed and sold around the globe and especially in the States.
What’s different? Where others might use an angelic combination of fresh cream and white chocolate, this one bucks the trend with buttery creaminess and milk chocolate – giving it a darker chocolate colour but hugging your tastebuds in velvety silkiness.
White Hag (thewhitehag.com)
A Sligo-based brewery named after the old slang for a witch, The White Hag brewery doesn’t rest on its Irishness though.
Their range of craft brews includes the Samhain Oktoberfest Larger, perfect for chillier nights around Halloween, or their Irish wit beer, an Irish take on a Belgian blond beer.
Keep an eye out too for their Oatmeal Chocolate Milk Stout too.
Eight Degrees Brewing (eightdegrees.ie)
Firmly established over the past decade, 8 Degrees from Mitchelstown in Cork prides itself on being naturally adventurous and their names are spot on: ‘Grand Stretch IPA’, ‘Oxy Moron Kiwi Wit’ and ‘Barefoot Bohemian’…
Their Sunburnt Irish Red Ale mixes flavours of toffee with orange hops while their Howling Gale Pale Ale is light and sprightly with grapefruit and citrus aromas – perfect for a sunny day BBQ.
Feeney’s Irish Cream (feeneysirishcream.com)
This incredibly fresh Feeney’s Irish Cream liqueur is made by moving milk to distillery within 24 hours so it stays rich, creamy and impeccably fresh-tasting, unlike some other creamy liqueurs which sit for too long and get a tainted, sharp alcohol taste.
Feeney’s drinks like melted vanilla ice-cream, spiked with a whiskey edge.
Club is a long-established Irish soft drinks producer, with orange, lemon and apple flavours found in a can or bottle to quench thirst and spike sugar levels at a moment’s notice, but Club Rock Shandy is a particularly peculiar blend of the orange and lemon flavours that’s specific to Ireland and is mightily delicious.
Rock Shandy float anyone?
Dan Kelly’s Cider (dankellycider.com)
A recent addition to Ireland’s cider sphere, Dan Kelly's is made from hand-picked apples from a family orchard in Drogheda, which is spread over 80 acres with 16 different varieties of apple tree.
This one might be a little harder to find, but the pure taste in every sip is so worth seeking it out.
There’s also a second cider now available, a whiskey cask-aged variety.
Shortcross Gin (shortcrossgin.com)
Inspired by the centuries-old distilling tradition in Ireland, Fiona and David Boyd-Armstrong began a quest to create the perfect gin and they take production of Shortcross Gin seriously, hand-bottling, wax-dipping and signing each bottle to create a truly hand-crafted spirit.
Flavoured by its wild meadow surroundings at Rademon Estate in Co. Down – clover, apples elderflower and elderberries – it’s also mixed with a secret blend of spices including coriander orange and cassia.
You’ll find this gin favourably on drinks lists of some of the best restaurants and bars in Ireland, including quite a few Michelin-starred restaurants and award-winning pubs.
Wicklow Way Wines (wicklowwaywines.ie)
Both novel and new is Wicklow Way Wines, a fruit winery from the 'Garden of Ireland' (Co. Wicklow), set up by an environmentally-conscious couple, Pamela Walsh and Brett Stephenson.
Named after the Gaelic word for 'meadows', Móinéir (pronunciation moy-nair) produces a strawberry wine, blackberry and wild elderberry wine, and elderflower wine using the fruits grown in one of the most sun-kissed spots of Ireland.
Many more flavours are currently in the works.
Highbank Orchard (highbankorchards.com)
Famed for their nationally-heralded orchard syrup, the enterprising Calder-Potts family in Kilkenny have created a range of Highbank Orchards ciders; an orchard liqueur; an orchard spirit; an apple vodka; a sensational crystal clear apple-flavoured gin; and even a new pink 'flamingo' gin.
What more could you want from the humble apple?
Liberties Oak Devil Whiskey (dublinlibertieswhiskey.com)
The Liberties is an iconic patch of Dublin city, once home to brothels and back-end boozers, it’s where you'll still find some of the most pure and traditional Dubliners there are.
Obviously, the iconic St. James' Gate and Guinness Storehouse both lie within spitting distance, and the brewing and distillery tradition of the area remains alive in the name of this Dublin-inspired Irish whiskey, Liberties, which sings in notes of caramel, Christmas cake and pepper.