Joe Kearns_TheWhiteHag copy

Joe Kearns, Master Brewer of The White Hag, Ballymote, Co Sligo,

Joe Kearns moved  from Ohio almost two years ago to take up the role as Master Brewer at The White Hag brewery in Sligo..

Yesterday, Joe hosted a group of visitors from the local Teagasc training centre.

As guests were leaving, they asked if they could buy some beers….

Joe writes:

Welcome to Ireland. We have one of the world’s fastest growing craft beer sectors in the world. We also have a massive tourist industry, and it just so happens that a lot of these tourists are coming from the States and they like local beer.

Beer tourism is on the rise. Unfortunately, after the brewers go thru an hour long dissertation on what makes their beer so significant, they have to then tell the party to go elsewhere to try their wares. Because, in Ireland it is illegal to serve, or sell, someone beer from the brewery.

And, if you want to, the license costs €70,000.

What about the local pubs? Wouldn’t they be affected? Not if the law was changed to reflect what they do in the States. Brewery tasting rooms typically close by 7pm. They also cannot sell wine and spirits. These aren’t pubs.

They are tasting rooms, and they’re overdue.

“During a conversation I was having with my long-time friend back in the States, I had came to an interesting conclusion: In Ireland, we’re fortunate enough to be able to still buy our bread at the local baker; buy our beef from the local butcher, yet we still can’t buy our beer from our local brewer.

In 2011, Ohio was one of the last states to implement the Brewery-on-premise-tasting-room laws. Up until that time, breweries were required to purchase an additional license to offer on-trade sales. The additional license cost $4,000. The motivating reason behind changing these laws was to promote tourism within the state; which it did.

White Hag Brewery

Pic via Belgian Smaak

Thanks Paul Mullin and Bob Coggins

73 thoughts on “An Absurd Brewhaha

    1. Parky Mark

      What tastes like muck? All beer or just White Hag?
      Maybe you are just more into bland, flavourless beer.

      1. Anomanomanom

        Oh your one of those people. So if i don’t like this muck, but you do, then every other drink i like must be bland and tasteless. Craft beer is a label people like YOU use. People who’ve been drinking non big brewery labels for years, like I have, we just call them beer.

        1. Parky Mark

          I just asked you to explain yourself a little further, that’s all.
          Some people seem happy to drink crap beer and scoff at people who like decent beer. From your post I wasn’t sure if you were one of those kind of people.

          1. Anomanomanom

            It’s around a while but try Inns&Gunn although they no longer make my favourite drink, their other stuff is nice.

          1. Anomanomanom

            never bob, complaining on here about ‘those types” is as close as I get to living on the edge these days.

    2. Brooks Hurd

      White Hag brews some delicious beer in Co. Sligo, as does Kinnegar (Co Donegal ), Black Donkey (Co Roscommon) and West Kerry (Co Kerry). These are the only crafts breweries that we had time to visit in Ireland in July.

    1. Bobby

      I don’t think you can even give them away. You have to pay duty on everything leaving the brewery and it all has to tally. The only way is to give them bottles and mark them down as spillage, them pocket the cash and hope no one ever asks about it. So not viable if you plan on having lots of visitors.

  1. phil

    The Government expends a lot of effort and resources trying to catch one group of bad drug dealers, while protecting a small group of ‘good’ drug dealers …

    1. Dong

      Ah yes, that little craft brewery on the quays? Maybe they took out a mortgage to pay the €70k licence? It’s a big investment for a small Brewer but should pay off in the long term.

          1. meadowlark

            I know right? I wish I knew where I left my condescending font. Maybe then he might have picked up on it.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            Wow, you really *aren’t* funny. Apres Match picked up on that ‘housewife from Clontarf’ thing 10 years ago.

          3. meadowlark

            I love it when a man stereotypes. It gives me the housewifey hot pants.
            And I wouldn’t say no to joe either, the sexy divil ;)

  2. Dong

    Never mind this, not being able to buy a few beers in the supermarket after 10pm is a joke. Nanny state rubbish

  3. Vote Rep #1

    I did a tour of a different smaller brewery recently but we were able to sample the beers there. Quite a few of them I might add. No idea if they have that 70 grand licence so I don’t want to name them just in case. It was all part of the price of the tour though so I guess thats probably how they get around it. They did say that they couldn’t sell any beers to take away from it which is a bit mad.

  4. ceo

    I paid a €5 to do a tour of the Crean’s brewery in Dingle a while back. After our tour were given some “free” samples… Is this not a well known creative way of bending the rules? I get the point that the law could change but until then.

      1. ceo

        Yeah I would. It’s self guided and there is a bit of Tom Crean paraphernalia on display, If you’ve never seen a micro-brewery before then yes worth a look, and it’s nice to see how the old creamery is being used again. You’ll get a pint (or 2 in our case as we were having the chat with the lad there) afterwards in the gift shop.

        But is some kind of bells and whistles brewery tour is your think then you might find this a bit stripped back.

        1. Dong

          No, that sounds good. I’ve toured a small brewery in Belgium and found it interesting. It’ll be either that or the whiskey/gin distillery. Thanks for your help

  5. nellyb

    How come people come to Ireland to do business without checking their business plan against local legislation first? I am for entrepreneurship and all, but this step is fundamental to business success. Bit unusual for an american.
    But I wish him good luck with the license, he should get local TDs to lobby for it. I think that’s how it is done… ?

    1. Tuireann bàn

      He was brought to ireland to add the brewing expertise to a group of local guys getting the brewery up and running, legislation was not his concern, great beer is!

    2. classter

      As Tuireann bàn points out, he is the master brewer rather than the entrepreneur.

      Anyway, he is not suggesting that their business doesn’t work in the absence of legislative change, he is merely pointing out an illogical rule & suggesting a reasonable compromise to change it.

    1. ahjayzis

      That’s unfair – they’ve helpfully put a punitive property tax on living in Dublin in order to pay for rooordles living in massive houses with nice views in the backhoop of nowhere.

    2. classter

      Feck, feck, feck off.

      Dublin receives a fraction of the infrastructure & operational spending it should receive. All in the name of subsidising modes of living in the much of the rest of the country which haven’t made practical or economic sense for centuries.

  6. Optimus Grime

    Aye I found the same I live closer to a brewery than I do a pub and I can’t buy a few bottles from the brewery which is utter maddness. I’m an adult, I will head home to drink the bottles but the Government won’t let me do that. God whatever happened to sticking it to the man?

    1. St. John Smythe

      The government have been sticking it to the man for decades. “The man” being you and your soused kinfolk.

  7. TheFerg

    We might need Legal Coffee Drinker on the case here, but I believe he can SUPPLY alcohol onsite, just not take payment for it onsite. So, by simply setting up an online payment gateway, and providing free wifi, he can take payment “elsewhere” and deliver the beers.

    And why the hell is every single person from Ohio in Ireland a brewer?? Huh?? Name one who isn’t.

  8. Bejayziz

    I’m all for them opening a bar on their premises but why should they be treated differently to everyone else. If they want a bar they should purchase a licence like other bars

      1. St. John Smythe


  9. Fionn

    When I visited the Czech Republic it was great to be able to sample brews on site. I didn’t know it was so awkward in Ireland. I think he has fair point.

  10. rob

    This story sounds like its just a way for this brewery to get a free Licence to sell beer on site instead of Buying a Licence for €70k, as the brewer says.Isent this brewery in a small town where there are a small group of Pubs im sure they wont like this idea even if they were to close at 7pm as the Ohio man says.Its great to Hear people say well in MY COUNTRY.Licence Laws in Ireland are different but that’s up to a government to legislate. Are breweries not to produce good beer and sell to the customers Local Shops and Pubs and export for them to sell.Now they want to Profit on Site as well.Do like Most distilleries and breweries charge for the tour and give free samples.Next they be advertising Christmas parties and it becomes a function room.Stick to the objective Producing Good Quality Beers

  11. Kieran NYC

    Hahahahahaha! Coming here, asking the system to change The Status Quo a little to reflect new realities using logical and reasonable arguments?!?

    What a newb.

    It’d be quicker getting Europe to make us do it.

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