If you want to drink independent, locally brewed draught beer in Northern Ireland, you'll know that it's pretty hard to find - even when the pubs are open. A handful of specialist beer bars aside, you will invariably encounter the exact same "choice" of draught beer in almost every pub you go into. It's like "Groundhog Day", only without Bill Murray.
The control that global brewing behemoths like Diageo (Guinness), Heineken and C&C (Tennents) have over the draught beer market here, whilst not physically owning any pubs, is quite incredible. Over the years we've lost taps to these companies in bars and restaurants whose volumes represent a mere thimble-full in the vast oceans of beer that they produce.
Presumably, like most brewers, they are as excited and passionate as we are about the diverse world of beer, so it always seems strange to me that they would want to restrict consumer choice, particularly in relatively low volume outlets. One keg a week, you'd think, would mean very little to a global corporation. To us, it means an awful lot more.
Thankfully there are a growing number of bar and restaurant owners in NI who recognise the great quality of beer coming out of our local breweries, and stock it. They really value the fact that it's brewed locally, because that's at the core of what they do. They're passionate about local food and drink, and if your menu includes beef from Downpatrick, scampi from Portavogie and spuds from Comber, why on earth would you stock beer brands from America, Denmark or Holland?
Over the last couple of weeks it has been a pleasure to see some of our restaurant customers again as they reopen after a period of closure. We've been cleaning beer lines and delivering fresh kegs and bottles in preparation. You can find a great pint of draught Mourne Mist Pilsner in Great Jones Craft & Kitchen, Newcastle, and in Wine and Brine, Moira. Freshly tapped at the Rostrevor Inn, Rostrevor, is our new light Irish beer, McCool's - clean, crisp and beautifully crafted. You can also find the perfect bottled beer to accompany your food in Fish City, Belfast; No. 14 at the Georgian House, Comber; and in Linen Hill, Banbridge - where you can relax and enjoy your meal whilst admiring the tenacity of those in the endless queue for the drive-thru under the Golden Arches.
If you love local food and supporting independent businesses, now more than ever, it really is time to vote with your feet. Choosing a local independent business keeps more money in the local economy and protects local jobs.
We are extremely grateful to all of our stockists for choosing our beers. I highly recommend a visit to any of these fine establishments where you can be assured of a warm welcome, some incredible food, and great local beer. Times are still strange, of course, and every one of these outlets is putting your safety first with increased distancing and hygiene measures.
And if you'd prefer to enjoy your beer at home, you can still order online for home delivery, or free collection from the brewery on Thursday afternoons. Later this week we'll tell you a bit more about two fresh new hazy, hoppy ales and a rather lovely German-style Pils lager that will be available in cans (and, all being well, in 5 litre minikegs) from Friday.