For centuries, right up until the mid-20th century, The Liberties was best-known as the centre for brewing and distilling in Dublin. In fact by the 19th century, the ‘Golden Triangle’ – as the area was known in the industry – had a global reputation, particularly given the predominance of Irish whiskey across the then British Empire in the 1800s. The area’s once great distilleries and breweries slowly fell away and closed between the 1920s and 70s, with only the behemoth of Guinness remaining. But recent years have seen a revival, with a new generation of craft brewers and distillers populating the area and rebuilding the Golden Triangle‘s reputation.
2017 saw the opening of the Pearse Lyons Distillery in the former St James’s Church on James Street. Developed by the late Alltech founder and his wife Deirdre, the distillery is primarily a visitor centre and a showcase for Alltech’s wares, with only a small output of whiskey. However the Alltech brands are steadily building up market share and more importantly drawing international interest in The Liberties’ fine tradition. The Pearse Lyons Distillery follows hot on the heels of Teeling Distillery, whose 2015 opening at Newmarket, sparked the current revival. This year, Teeling Whiskey celebrates its first Liberties-distilled batch.
However a number of new plans are afoot. Diageo has begun work to convert the former Guinness Powerstation on James Street into a new visitor centre. The development will be home to brand called Roe & Co – a name harking back to one of The Liberties most prolific whiskey producing families. The former George Roe & Sons distillery occupied the site that is now Digital Depot, a part of The Digital Hub. The new venture will open in 2019.
Meanwhile this summer, UK-based Quintessential Brands will open the Dublin Liberties Distillery on Mill Street in the fast-changing Newmarket area. The distillery, visitor centre and bar will be housed in a former 18thC mill. Mill Street itself is under intense redevelopment with new student housing, shops and offices and an Aloft hotel set to open in November.
Smaller producers are also making their mark in the area. DOT Brew is a micro-brewery operating from a premises in Dolphin’s Barn, offering ingenious and experimental brews for the burgeoning craft brew market. Well-known Five Lamps Brewery operates close by off SCR. Meanwhile Diageo’s Open Gate Brewery on James Street offers the brewing giant a chance to trial less conventional brews and old recipes to keep pace with the growing independent craft sector.
Its not just seasoned producers having the fun: a number of ventures in the area are encouraging people to learn to brew and distill for themselves. Artisan Brew Academy at 118 Thomas Street offers Master Brewer-led classes across all aspects of the brewing process. More TYO (Take Your Own) than BYO, you can even add personalise labels to your concoctions. And it was recently reported that the owners of Bonac 24, a premium gin distilled in Co Wicklow, plan to open a “gin school” and emporium on Francis Street.
The Liberties was once dominated by names such as Roe, Power, Jameson and Guinness. The huge breweries and distilleries also supported a network of maltings, mills, cooperages, horseyards, a harbour and much more. Thousands were employed in the trade and, in this sector at least, The Liberties was at the centre of a huge global network. While so much of that was lost by the 1980s, the new producers now ‘building the brand’ abroad, are once again raising the area’s reputation for craft and innovation.
Read More about Dublin’s Golden Triangle.