Thursday, 24 November 2016

History: Carlow's Lost Breweries - The Story so Far...


My Tuesday mornings have become predictable...

At 9am I grab a coffee at the optimistically - but in truth accurately - named Tea & Coffee World on Castle Street in Carlow town. It helps focus my mind for the task in hand as this is one of the sites of the town's lost breweries, and it's ironic that I still get to enjoy a brew here ... albeit with more caffeine and less alcohol. They stock a wonderful range of coffees that I've started to work my way through and tag on Twitter with #coffeeticking - and they stock a huge range of teas too of course. (Ironically my other haunt is across the river at The Lazy River Cafe in Graigue at the site of another local brewery ... and they do great poached eggs and bacon!)

With my coffee fix swirling through various parts of my body I walk 3 minutes up the street to the local library and get ushered politely up the stairs to the local study room where I start up the microfilm viewer and load up a newspaper reel. I get my eyes in focus - my newly acquired glasses don't seem to work on a pixelated screen - and trawl through the columns looking for keywords such as 'Beer', 'Brewery','Distillery' or any other brain-imbedded keywords that cause me to pause my scroll and click on the zoom button.

I've become an organic search engine...

I started this research last March after a seeing a video on old Dublin breweries by The Beer Nut on The Irish Craft Beer Show and some correspondence on old Irish breweries with Barry Masterson ... and something that I thought would take a few weeks to compile has become a drawn out affair, and perhaps a labour of love/hate. There are days when I find nothing, and these can be a bit defeatist and deflating, but generally I find some nugget of information or at worst get sidetracked by other unrelated information that catches my eye.

But I havent given up and nor do I intend to, as I currently have 3 folders of information from various sources such as the aforementioned papers but also from commercial directories, various books and a few other online resources. Some of these are questionable - and require further research - but at least they are providing me with a world of information about the breweries in Carlow that existed in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. And so from having just a vague knowledge about two I now have names of breweries and brewers, what they brewed and their approximate locations.

From talking to local historians and contact with the local museum it seems that this kind of research has never been attempted before for the town and the information I am recovering has never seen the light of day, and possibly never would ...  and this keeps me motivated every time I spend fruitless hours on research that turns up very little concrete evidence.

But here are a few snippets of the information I have recovered so far...

  • I knew that there was a brewery where the town hall now stands but in 1849 during the famine it was closed, used by The Guardians of the Poor as a workhouse for 661 girls and had just 2 school mistresses.


  • The Bridewell Lane brewery changed hands on a number of occasions, and at one time had a 'Mr. Arthur Darcy late of Anchor Brewery in Dublin' employed as head brewer, when it was called the Shamrock Brewery. I doubt any Carlow people knew a brewery of this name existed in the town...
  • What about the aforementioned brewery on Castle Street which was sold after the illfated 1798 rebellion in the town when the owner was forced to sell up and leave the country in haste, having been implicated in the uprising? It was news to me anyway...
  • In Graigue, just across the river from Carlow town, there was an impressive distillery that was producing almost 40,000 gallons of spirits in 1828 and had capacity for over twice that when it was sold 1840.
  • There was a brewery on - probably - the same site as the above distillery that was producing 'Brown Stout Porter, Stout Ale, Pale Ale (Bitter) [&] Table Beer in 1862.


  • There was an attempt to set up 'The Carlow Brewery Company Ltd.' in 1863 on the Graigue site. (This failed to materialise, and I have a listing of the equipment in the older brewery it was to redevelop when it finally went bankrupt in 1865, but that's not the end of its story...
  • I have breweries and brewers listed on Tullow Street, Burn-Street[sic], Chapel Lane and Dublin Street that need research and corroboration.
  • Plus information on the Irish barley and malting trade, the effect of the Total Abstinence Society on brewing, trade on the Barrow river, imported beers for sale in the town from Dublin, Waterford, Enniscorthy, Mountmellick, Drogheda and beyond.

Plus I still have a lot of information to dig through, disseminate and record before I can produce anything of real note or interest.

What will I do with this information? I'm not sure at this point, as I still haven't found the exact endpoint of some of the breweries, not to mention the beginnings...

I guess you will all have to wait and see.

As will I...

Liam

[With thanks to the Local Study Room at Carlow Library]


3 comments:

Reuben Gray said...

I have some info on Enniscorthy here if it helps: http://www.taleofale.com/2014/05/local-brewery-history-thesession-87.html

Liam said...

Thanks Ruben,

I had spotted that last week while searching for 'Mill Park Brewery' when I discovered their advert in The Carlow Sentinel from 1840. They were one of the breweries filling the gap in supply it seems!

Liam

Bianka McDonagh said...

Wow, that's impressive and very interesting. Thanks for sharing it.