I am a huge fan of Guinness. Although it took me some time to get used to it, prior to my first trip to Ireland, I am now, kind of, addicted. A term I use lightly. But, each successive trip we take to Ireland ends with me stating I’ve drunk way too much Guinness. I know it is mass produced and mass marketed, but I don’t care. After all, I’ve never been a fan of craft beer, let alone Irish craft beer. In fact, I really didn’t know that Irish craft beer was even a thing before this trip to Ireland.
Irish Craft Beer Along The Wild Atlantic Way
In fact, there is a brochure that tells people about the craft breweries that exist all along the Wild Atlantic Way. The Wild Atlantic Way is a lengthy drive that exists along the west coast of Ireland, from the north to the south. It’s marked by blue square signs, and zig zags, pointing travelers in the direction, either north or south, as it winds its way along seaside towns and tall cliffs facing the Atlantic Ocean. Some parts stick out so far west that one person joked “next stop west is Brooklyn.”
I’ve heard of the Wild Atlantic Way, but had no idea that you could taste a dozen Irish craft beers along the way. It’s possible to drive, or hop (pun intended) from brewery to brewery, learning how beer is made. It’s possible to meet the people who make the Irish craft beer, and who take pride in creating quality local products. People who want to spread the word that there’s more to Ireland than a pint of Guinness.
There are at least 13 Irish craft beer breweries along the Wild Atlantic Way, from Kinsale in the south of Ireland, all the way up to Donegal in the north, along the border of Northern Ireland. The breweries have unique and interesting names, like The White Hag and the Galway Hooker (insert 13 year old chuckle here). It could make for an interesting Hag and Hooker story for our next trip to Ireland.
Tom Crean’s Lager – The Dingle Irish Craft Beer
But, we were most excited abut the Crean’s Lager. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t all that thrilled to stop at the Dingle Brewing Company on our Wild Atlantic Way itinerary, other than making the assumption it would involve a free beer. I have never been a fan of so-called craft beer. I know people are passionate about it. I know blogs are dedicated to it. I know hipsters can’t go a day without saying the phrase craft beer. But, I just don’t get it.
But, when we saw we would taste Crean’s Lager, the Dingle Irish craft beer, well, that was a different story. Eric’s Uncle Jack is Jack Crean. Years ago, at the pubs, he was Jackie Crean. His daughters have their married name, but are still Creans at heart. Eric’s cousin, who passed away a year ago, was Eddie Crean.
Suddenly, it became important to make the pilgrimage to taste Crean’s Lager in Dingle. I remembered seeing a few Crean’s pint glasses at the family’s house in Limerick. I am pretty sure Ed brought those home from Irish pubs in Boston, where he lived for over 20 years.
So, there we were, crossing the often times treacherous Connor’s Pass, which cuts across the most mountainous portion of the Dingle peninsula. At the end, we found ourselves down the hill, past the sheep, and at the Dingle Brewing Company.
As much as I tend to shy away from craft beer, mostly because of the hoppy, bitter craft brews that are famous in the American hipster community, the Crean’s Lager was nice and smooth, aided by the icy cold temperature at which it is served. I found myself pleasantly surprised.
The best part: we were invited to tour the brewery, to see the displays of how the lager is made, to learn the history of Tom Crean, with our ice cold pint in hand. I am used to winery tours and other tours where the taste is provided at the end, a reward perhaps for making it all the way through the museum. Being served a pint at the start just made everything so much more interesting, to tour the museum-style exhibits with an ice cold Irish craft beer in hand.
We learned the history of Tom Crean, who we knew was no relation to our Crean relations. He was an Irishman from the area, who was part of the Royal Navy, and who traveled with Shackleton to Antartica. Tom Crean opened a pub in the area years later, and the Dingle Brewing Company named its soon-to-be famous Irish craft beer for the famed Irish explorer.
It was a pleasantly surprising stop in Dingle, with a pleasantly surprising pint of Irish craft beer. Suddenly, we found ourselves studying the map of the breweries all along the coast, wanting to create an Irish craft beer tour…perhaps next time.
The Dingle Brewing Company
The Dingle Brewing Company is located on Spa Road, beyond Connor’s Pass, just before heading into the town of Dingle. The Dingle Brewing Company is open most days from 11 am-6pm. Pints are 4 Euros, and the tour is free.
We were hosted by Failte Ireland during our food tour of the Wild Atlantic Way, but all opinions are my own.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.