Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
THURLES, IRELAND — Cuilan Loughnane hadn’t heard of craft beer until he travelled to Vancouver. The discovery changed his life — and it has impacted the understanding of beer in his homeland.
It was 1993 and Loughnane had moved to Canada from Ireland, where his exposure to beer was limited to Guinness and not much else. During one lunch break during his time working at a car wash on the west coast he decided to drop in on an establishment he’d walked past numerous times.
“I went to Granville Island Brewing and bought a six-pack. When I tasted it I thought to myself, ‘This is amazing stuff. Why haven’t I heard of craft beer before?’” says Loughnane, a man with a personality so exuberant you might wonder if he’s carbonated.
Loughnane began studying the craft-beer industry in Canada, paying specific attention to what was happening in Vancouver. When he and his wife, Sally, returned to Ireland at the turn of the 21st century, Loughnane was determined to produce high-quality, locally brewed beer in his homeland.
He sought out the one microbrewer in the country and after working for him for six years bought out the business and renamed it White Gypsy. Loughnane is now making some of the best beer you will find anywhere. White Gypsy’s Ruby Irish Red Ale has won gold at international competitions and its Russian Imperial Stout has been heralded by the Irish Food Writers Guild. Each of the four White Gypsy beers I tasted would stand up to any brew produced in Vancouver, the place of Loughnane’s inspiration. His beers are made with local hops and malt, using recipes he has developed through trial and error, and years of research. These days, it’s difficult for him to keep up with the demand for his beer.
In appreciation for what Canada has meant to him, Loughnane is giving away free beer to anyone carrying a valid Canadian passport on Canada Day 2018.
“The last day of our craft-beer week in Tipperary is July 1, so we thought it would be good fun to celebrate Canada,” says Loughnane, whose brewery is in Templemore, a small town in the county of Tipperary, about 150 kilometres (93 miles) southwest of Dublin.
The county’s craft-beer week is being organized by brewers such as Loughnane and local-food advocates, including Vacay.ca Europe Editor Janine Kennedy, a Cape Bretoner who runs the Siucra Shack, which specializes in Canadian treats made with Irish ingredients. She also teaches culinary arts and works with international tour operator Traveling Spoon, which connects tourists with authentic local food experiences. For the July 1 party, dubbed La Fête du Canada, she will be making donuts and poutine with cheese curds sourced from the milk of cows on her farm.
Canada Inspires Irish Beer Movement
Tipperary’s Indie Beer Week (June 22-July 1) is an effort to draw attention to Ireland’s evolving agriculture and culinary artisan scene, which is centered primarily in the counties of Tipperary and Cork.
Along with the brewers, there are cheese purveyors making incredible products that are renowned throughout the British Isles as well as farmers delivering outstanding meat and vegetable fare. Dexter beef, known for its flavour and tenderness, originates in Tipperary and comes from the smallest cattle breed in Europe.
I discovered White Gypsy’s beers at a dinner at The Green Sheep, a small cafe in Thurles that serves the best coffee I had in Ireland and features menu items made with ingredients from neighbouring farms. My introduction to White Gypsy also came with an opportunity to get to know its owner and his passion for his vocation.
Loughnane says Ireland’s craft-beer industry is where Canada’s was three decades ago. “Only 2 per cent of beer sales in Ireland are from craft beer. We’re only just beginning, but I know where it will go, because I’ve seen it with my own eyes in Canada,” he says. “We need to educate people about the quality of what we’re doing. We can see things changing. Once they taste it, they have the same reaction I did, but we have a long way to go yet.”
One problem that craft brewers in Ireland face that their North American counterparts don’t is the stiffness in competition from the major producers. Budweiser, Coors Light, and Molson have excellent marketing teams but inferior beer. On the other hand, Guinness is a standout product with a recipe that was created with a similar sense of craftsmanship that microbrewers use today. The Guinness family is also recognized for its philanthropy. Even though the family no longer owns the famous brewery, the Guinness brand is entwined with the nation in a way that’s greater and more meaningful than how Molson has connected with Canadians. Still, as Loughnane points out, there’s room for more than just a heady porter in the Irish marketplace.
In fact, he’s creating a White Gypsy sour stout influenced by a beer Guinness stopped making in the 1920s. Loughnane has even sought out a former Guinness brewer to help him with the recipe.
“Craft beer is exciting. That’s what I love about it. I want everyone in Ireland to know there’s all kinds of beer out there,” he says. “When I found that out for myself, it literally changed my life.”
Entrepreneurs like Loughnane are shifting perceptions, too. In a nation known for epic scenery, fascinating history, and a deep musical heritage, the new food and drink offerings in Ireland have so far been largely overlooked. But the culinary movement in Tipperary is demanding attention, making the county well worth a visit — especially if you can make it on Canada Day for complimentary drinks meant to welcome you to the heart of the Emerald Isle.
MORE ABOUT CANADA DAY IN IRELAND
La Fête du Canada: July 1, 2018, 1-5 pm (free entry)
Location: White Gypsy Brewery, Railway Road, Templemore, County Tipperary (see map below)
Details: Celebrating Canada Day with Canadian-inspired beers, food and music. All Canadian passport holders get a free drink and pizza. Book your spot via Twitter (@whitegypsy) or Facebook (White Gypsy Brewery).
MORE ABOUT VISITING TIPPERARY
Getting There: Tipperary is easily reached from Dublin via the M7 highway (90 minutes) or on the national railway (approximately two hours on an express train to Thurles) or bus service.
Where to Stay: The Lakeside Hotel in Ballina is an outstanding spot to base your stay in the Irish midlands. It sits on picturesque Lough Derg overlooking the neighbouring town of Killaloe. An easy-to-traverse bridge connects car passengers and pedestrians between Ballina and Killaloe. Hayes’ Hotel in Thurles has updated rooms with comfortable beds. It is above a bar that is known for its late-night party scene on weekends.
MORE IRELAND FOOD COVERAGE
Art and Agriculture Spark Dublin’s Restaurant Scene — Check VacayNetwork.com for an article featuring Michelin-starred Chapter One, where executive chef Ross Lewis has been championing Irish cuisine for more than a quarter century. Read More.