We’ve been traveling to Ireland for 20 years and we’ve been drinking Guinness for that long. Only in the last several years that we’ve started to learn more about Irish craft beer. We started our exploration in our adopted hometown of Limerick, but since have explored more. One of the cities that has exploded in the craft beer world, though, is Cork. We researched and visited as many Cork craft beer breweries and pubs to put together this guide.
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Craft Beer In Cork
Many food and drink travelers are familiar with most of the big breweries in Ireland, which often specialize in Irish stout as well as other beer styles. Even Heineken and Budweiser technically brew on the island, which means that the “imported” commercial beer is actually domestic in a strange way. For travelers looking to avoid commercial and industrial beer, Cork is a great city to visit.
In this beer guide, we will share our tips on how to taste all the craft beer you can handle in Cork city, as well as County Cork. This includes breweries, pubs, and the Cork Ale Trail, which is relatively new to the scene. In the end, we will offer you all the tools you need to create your own Cork craft beer tour.
Traveling to Ireland? Check out Ultimate Ireland Packing Guide
Cork Travel Guide And Tips
Where To Stay In Cork: We stayed at the Maldron Hotel Cork City Center. We’ve stayed with Maldron a few times. They have hotels across Ireland. It is super centrally located, only a few minutes’ walk from the train station. The Maldron is a good value for a contemporary hotel in Cork. Get the best rates here. Or, check for other top hotels in Cork at Booking.com.
Rental Cars: In order to see the best of the island, though, you need to hit the open roads. If looking to rent a car, we recommend RentalCars.com. They compare prices at the top rental car companies to get you the best deal. Some travelers don’t like the idea of renting a car in Ireland, though, because they drive on the “wrong” side of the road. It can be a challenge, particularly on narrow and windy roads.
History of Brewing In Cork
Although we’ve always been big Guinness fans, down in Cork, people drink a lot more Murphys. James Jeremiah Murphy started brewing Irish stout in 1856 at the Lady Well’s Brewery in Cork. Heineken purchased the brewery in 1983 and changed the name to Murphy’s Brewery. To this day Heineken brews its own brand, Murphy’s, and other brands for distribution to the Irish market.
Even before that, Beamish, another Irish stout, started in 1792. Heineken also owns Beamish, which means that a lot of the local beer is still brewed by Heineken. Even beyond beer, there’s a Jameson Distillery just east of Cork in Middleton.
In more recent years, a slew of Irish breweries has crept up in and around Cork. Their beer can be found in Cork city and at Irish pubs around the island.
Breweries In Cork Ireland
There are a handful of Cork beer breweries located within the city limits. Two of these can be visited, either for tours or tastings.
Franciscan Well Brewery
Franciscan Well Brewery
The “craft beer” often debated in pubs around Ireland. Franciscan Well Brewery is one of Ireland’s longest-established and best-respected craft breweries. Since 1998, Franciscan Well has been brewing award-winning, high-quality Irish craft beer. The brewery is situated on the site of an old Franciscan monastery, which dates back to 1219. Franciscan Well gained fame across Ireland and on the international scene for its craft beers along with its successful collaboration with Jameson Whiskey. They are most known for their Irish red ale, an IPA, a Weisse beer, and an Irish stout.
Their Cork brewery operates a brewpub and bar within Cork city centre. There is an outdoor beer garden in the back, with a wood-fired pizza oven.
Franciscan Well Cork has two locations on Google Maps, be sure to walk to the correct one at Sunday’s Well. One is in the east of the city, across from the train station on Centre Park Road. That is a newer facility where they brew beer. This brewery opened when it became too big to brew all of its beer at its first location. That Franciscan Well facility is not open to the public.
Franciscan Well Brewery And Brewpub, 14 N Mall, Sunday’s Well Cork City. Cork Brewery Tours: Advanced booking required. Tours are held Sundays through Thursdays at 2 pm, 4 pm, and 6 pm.
Rising Sons Brewery
Rising Sons Brewery Cork
In the heart of Cork City, Rising Sons Brewery brews up some of Ireland’s best craft beers. They focus on using the highest quality and locally sourced ingredients, which are chemical and additive-free. Brewing in small batches, Rising Sons, produces only 50 kegs a week.
They operate an on-site taproom, with all of the brewery operations behind glass behind the bar. The tap room has more of a sports bar feel, with loads of TV screens. They serve food too, with a focus on pizza and Mexican. Their lager won the best craft beer in Ireland at some point, but we preferred their Irish stout. That’s not surprising considering the history of Irish stout in Cork.
Rising Sons, Cornmarket Street Cork. Cork Brewery Tours: A one-hour brewery costs €12 and finishes with a tasting. Tours are offered seven days a week but must be booked in advance.
Breweries In County Cork
In addition to the Irish craft breweries in Cork city, there are a few breweries within County Cork that are worth mentioning. Even if you can’t get out to visit one of these breweries, look for their beers at pubs in Cork.
West Cork Brewing Company
West Cork Brewing Company In Baltimore
In Co. Cork, West Cork Brewing is a boutique craft brewery from idyllic West Cork in the town of Baltimore. And, it doesn’t get much further west than this. The next stop farther west is the other Baltimore, in Maryland!
This is a region with a long history of using high-quality ingredients in both its food and drink, West Cork Brewing is perfectly situated to produce some of Ireland’s best craft beers. Using only the purest ingredients including natural spring water, West Cork strives to produce craft beers in the style preferred by the local Irish population.
They produce six main beers for distribution within Ireland. We tried their Ruby Red Irish red beer, but I was not a fan. I think I am realizing I am not a fan of Irish red ale in general. Look for their Coffee Oatmeal Chocolate Stout, which they call Breakfast in Baltimore, or try their Imperial Rum and Raisin Red Ale.
West Cork Brewing Company is in Baltimore, about 90 minutes southwest of the city center. They offer brewery tours on Fridays at 3 pm for €12, but it is best to confirm in advance.
Blacks Of Kinsale Brewery
Blacks Of Kinsale in Kinsale
The only Kinsale brewery, located just a half-hour south of Cork City. Kinsale is a popular summer seaside retreat. It’s an idyllic Irish coastal town, with brightly colored buildings, Irish seafood restaurants, and Irish pubs. Blacks is located just at the edge of town.
Blacks is actually a brewery and distillery, which started brewing Irish craft beer in 2013. In 2015, they started producing gin, rum, and whiskey, making it unique among the brewers in Cork. Notably, they produce a gluten-free lager and their Blacks KPA, or Kinsale Pale Ale.
Blacks Of Kinsale, Farm Lane in Kinsale. Currently, they do not have a tap room or offer tours, although both are in progress. Look for their beers and liquors in pubs all over Kinsale as well as in Cork City.
8 Degrees Brewing Cork
8 Degrees Brewing in Mitchelstown
Plagued by the question, “why are there not more local craft beers in Ireland?’” a Kiwi and an Aussie set out to change this. Since 2010, Eight Degrees Brewing has been brewing a wide range of quality Irish craft beer. Located in the Ballyhoura region of Cork, Eight Degrees uses only the best ingredients to brew their award-winning beers.
They offer a core range of beers and are constantly experimenting and creating new offerings for the Irish beer market. The name 8 Degrees refers to Ireland’s longitude, which also happens to be the perfect temperature to drink their beer.
Eight Degrees Brewing, Mitchelstown, about 45 minutes north of Cork City. They do not have a tap room nor do they offer craft brewery tours. A taproom is in the works. It’s easy to find their beers at pubs across Ireland, and they even export to Italy, France, and Belgium.
9 White Deer Brewing Cork
9 White Deer Brewery in Ballyvourney
Located in West Cork, 9 White Deer Brewery is an award-winning brewer of a wide range of Irish craft beer. 9 White Deer prides itself on using the highest quality Irish ingredients and an innovative brewing process. Offering beers for all drinkers, including a gluten-free IPA, 9 White Deer is an Irish craft beer to track down. In fact, they are the only gluten-free brewery in Ireland.
9 White Deer Brewery Cork, about an hour west of Cork City. They offer brewery tours for €15 for groups of 10 or more people with prior confirmation.
Cork Ale Trail in Cork Ireland
The Cork Ale Trail
A handful of brewers and Irish craft beer pubs have banded together to create the Cork Ale Trail. You can essentially walk down the River Lee, which runs through the center of Cork City, and hit several of them in one afternoon. There are a few other places in the city that stock Cork craft beer as well as Irish and international craft beers, but if you only have one day in Cork, this is where I would start.
In addition to the Cork craft beer pubs listed below, Franciscan Well is part of the Cork Ale Trail as is a craft beer bottle shop called Bradley’s.
Abbot Ale House offers over 120 Irish beers, and 500 international beers, and has 10 taps in rotation. It’s a small, basement pub, with a gregarious Russian owner. The pub has been around for 15 years. Look for Blacks of Kinsale here.
Abbot Ale House, 17 Devonshire Street
The Friary Bar
The Friary has an enviable corner location with views over the River Lee. It’s another small spot, with a handful of tables and a small bar. The owner is also a bit gregarious, treating the bar more as a community center than a bar. When we visited, they were about to host their first “airing of grievances,” essentially a time for the craft beer-drinking regulars to provide feedback. Never heard that before. They have a large selection of Irish and international craft beers, as well as seasonals and limited releases. Look for West Cork Brewing Company here.
The Friary Bar Cork, 62 Shandon Street, Sunday’s Well
The Bierhaus Cork Ireland
The Bierhaus Cork
A must-visit during any trip to Cork. The Bierhaus does its best to promote Cork and Irish craft beer. They offer 220 craft beers, including 22 taps. Of these 16 are rotating guest taps featuring mostly Irish beers. It’s a little confusing to understand which Irish beers are on tap versus bottle and which beers on tap are from Cork or Ireland. This might be due to the sheer variety of beers on offer, almost all of which are advertised somewhere on the big wall of beer. They do work with Blacks of Kinsale on collaborations, including co-branded craft beer.
They also occasionally host Cork Craft Beer Festivals, with special events, music, and food, all based in the bar. They’ve also hosted a Sourfest, dedicated to sour beers, much like the international and Italian craft beer festival in Reggio Emilia. It’s a must-visit for craft beer drinkers in Cork.
The Bierhaus Cork, 28 Popes Quay, Shandon
Check out our Ultimate Guide To Irish Craft Beer
Other Artisan Distillers, Brewers, And Producers
Although not directly craft beer related, there are a few other producers that are worth visiting or tasting while traveling in Cork. West Cork Distillers is producing artisan gin and Irish whiskey in Skibbereen. The Longueville House Hotel in Mallow is producing artisan cider and apple brandy. There are also two other craft beer breweries, which we did not try, including Munster Brewery and Clonakilty Brewing, also within County Cork. Keep an eye open for each of these when traveling through County Cork.
Most interesting is the Kinsale Mead Company, also located at the edge of the village of Kinsale. Mead is a honey-based liquor that is sort of produced the same way as wine. There is a long history of mead production in Ireland going back thousands of years. More recently, it’s sort of been forgotten. That is until the Kinsale Mead Company came along.
Kinsale Mead was founded in 2016 to rediscover the ancient art of mead making and to create a delicious, refreshing new Irish drink. Kinsale Mead lovingly hand-crafts each batch of mead sourcing the best natural local ingredients. Although it can be drunk on its own, look for it at specialty cocktail bars as an ingredient in unique drinks. They offer tours for €12 a person with advanced booking. Tours include a history of mead, how mead is made, and a sampling of various meads.
Check out our Irish Drinks Guide for more traditional Irish drinks.
Cork Craft Beer And Brewery Map
Understanding the geography of County Cork is helpful for food and drink travelers in search of great Irish beer. Use our Cork Craft Beer Map to help you explore the region. If you are only able to explore within Cork City, just zoom in to find all of the stops on the Cork Ale Trail. Cheers! Or, better, Slainte!
FAQs – CORK BREWERY AND CRAFT BEER BARS
County Cork is located in Southwest Ireland, with Cork City being the largest city in the county. It is approximately a 2 to 3 hours drive from Dublin. It can be reached by train, bus, and car. Cork’s airport has flights from the UK and Europe, but not the United States.
Cork City is about 3 hours by car southwest of Dublin and about 90 minutes directly south of Limerick. The city is also accessible by train from both cities. In order to explore some of the breweries outside of the city, a car is your best option. There are buses that travel from Cork to Kinsale, though.
There are a few restaurants in cork that also specialize in craft beer. Elbow Lane Smokehouse in Cork specializes in grilled meats, but they also brew their own beer. Market Lane Restaurant in Cork also has craft beer to pair with their more contemporary cuisine. The Crane Lane Theater also has a good selection of craft beers. Their selection is more in bottles than on tap.
Cork is Ireland’s second-largest city. In addition to being home to the Cork Craft Beer Trail, Cork is considered by many to be the foodie capital of Ireland. The city is bursting with traditional Irish as well as international restaurants.