Lough Gill Brewery: ‘Now almost every pub offers at least one craft beer’

James Ward is at the centre of Sligo’s beer scene, founding White Hag before moving on

Lough Gill beers

Lough Gill beers

 

James Ward founded Lough Gill Brewery in Sligo in 2016. “I come from a pub background, and I was managing a pub by the age of 19. I moved to America, where I worked for a craft beer distributor in New York. I made the move from Bud to IPA back then.”

On his return to Ireland, he rented a pub, but wanted to get back into craft beer. Back then in 2004 there were only six breweries in the country. He looked at his hometown of Sligo before eventually opening White Hag in 2010. He sold on to his fellow investors before opening Lough Gill.

“As everyone knows, it is a whirlwind industry, with lots of great people and constant challenges and changes. I love it; it’s great to have a business here in Sligo. We are family-owned and independent with no bags of cash or big money investors. Our head brewer, Jordan Donnelly, is 25 years old, one of the youngest in the country. He has been brewing since he was 20.”

Lough Gill Brewery’s James Ward testing a new craft beer with head brewer Jordan Donnelly (25)
Lough Gill Brewery’s James Ward testing a new craft beer with head brewer Jordan Donnelly (25)

When I ask how many core beers they have, he laughs, “We were trying to tie that down at a planning meeting this morning. We just keep releasing new beers. We do a single batch every month; this month it is a West Coast IPA. One of our most popular beers in the US is Chuckee Laarmz Imperial Marshmallow Lucky Charm milk stout – and we do put lucky charms into the beer.”

Lough Gill beers are sold in both Aldi and SuperValu and exported to Europe, Russia, the US and Japan, but Ward is proudest of his local presence in Sligo, where the beers are available in most pubs and off-licences.

“It’s great to see how well craft beer has grown in Ireland. Every pub used to be like a McDonald’s – the same four or five beers wherever you went. Now almost everyone offers at least one craft beer. The most rewarding things is to walk into a bar, and they are sitting there enjoying your beer, or the person ahead of you in a queue has your beer in their shopping basket.”

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