long tradition of brewing in Dundalk is under threat from
that modern buzzword, rationalization. At one time over
three centuries past there were an estimated 35 brewing
establishments in the vicinity of the north Louth town.
Most of these were small cottage industries with the produce
sold on the premises. Competition culled the numbers in
the trade and by the late 18th century just 14 breweries
were still in operation.
Around this time William Gawley was selling cut price beer
at 23 shillings a barrel. Another contemporary James McAllister
established a brewery at the former cambric factory (cambric
is a lightweight, closely woven white linen or cotton fabric)
at Casengrove on the Ardee Road. The new establishment became
known as Cambricville
The larger operations were reliant on the new steam powered
method of brewing while the their smaller competitors relied
on the traditional horse powered method. Provincial brewers
tended to offer greater variety in their produce, with their
Dublin counterparts mostly producing porter. Guinness ceased
ale production in 1799.
By 1837 the number of breweries was down to eight and the
industry was about to suffer two hammer blows. First, the
Famine of the 1840s had a devastating effect on the industry
and then the Temperance Campaign spearheaded by Fr. Theobald
Mathew hastening its decline.
Just two Dundalk Breweries survived in 1846; McAllisters
of Cambricville and Wynnes of Dublin Street and neither
could be said to be rolling in it. Four years later a new
partnership emerged to give rise to one of the name synonymous
with brewing in Dundalk, Macardle Moore.
In 1850, brothers John Charles and Arthur Duffy, both nephews
of the owner of Wynnes, in tandem with E. H. Macardle took
over the running of the Dublin Street operation. It started
as a modest operation but within a decade Macardle was the
Arthur Duffy disposed of his interest in the brewery in
1859 and when his brother died in France shortly afterwards,
John Charles Duffy s widow sold his share leaving Macardle
in sole control.
He was a highly regarded and influential local figure, chairman
of the Town Commissioners and Chief Magistrate of the Borough.
Macardle was also a member of the Harbour Board and a director
of the Dundalk and Newry Steampacket Company.
A popular figure he was known to be good-natured and looked
after the poor of the town. Macardle died at his Cambricville
home on February 26, 1877 and most of the shops in Dundalk
closed to mark his passing while the bunting of ships on
the quays flew at half mast.
Macardle formed a partnership with Dubliner Andrew Thomas
Moore in 1863 and assumed the running of the idle Cambricville
premises that used to belong to MacAllisters with the result
that a new regime took off.
Moore had a good business pedigree and had connections with
Dundalk through his wifes family. He was owner of
one of the largest tannery s in the country as well as being
managing director of a Dublin distillery, George Roe and
The new company soon acquired an enviable reputation and
in 1882 won a gold medal at the Dublin Exhibition for its
ale. The first of many prizes earned by the company.
It was also noted for being at the cutting edge of production
techniques. Mr. John St. P Macardle patented the Anti-Bacterial
Cask Cleansing Apparatus. It worked by pumping hot air followed
by hot water into the barrels and then followed this with
a blast of cool air.
He also designed the Macardle Air Pump System, a process
for supplying air to refrigeration and fermenting departments
in order to eliminate bacteria.
His inventions didnt stop there and he overcame the
problems associated with transporting malt, which tended
to absorb moisture rapidly, by developing the Malt Wagon.
Transport to and from the Cambricville Brewery was boosted
considerably by the Great Northern Railways decision
to run a siding from the mainline to the production base.
By the end of the century their famous ale was being exported
far and wide and was so popular with the British military
that the head of the company was knighted.
In 1896 a new consortium emerged and with a capital base
of 30,000 built a new brewery in the town. Their purpose
built premises were located close to the Great Northern
Line. Its first head brewer, a Mr. Borham, was renowned
for his famed amber ale.
It produced three kinds of ale; a light dessert ale, an
amber ale and a strong ale. The latter was so potent that
a glass or two could, according to the Dundalk Democrat,
knock a man down, while half a dozen or so would fell an
The new enterprise had the latest steam powered boiler and
apart from local barley relied on hops from California and
A fire in attic at the Macardle Moore Brewery on April 26,
1913 was quickly extinguished, but a number of valuable
documents outlining the history of the company were lost.
In 1955, Smithwicks acquired the Great Northern Brewery
and four years later it passed on to the Guinness empire.
A move which heralded the advent of another name that has
become part of the local folklore, Harp Lager.
Sales of the blond beer became to take off in the 1950s
and the quality of the water supply from Ravensdale was
considered to be on a par with that used to brew the world
famous Pilsener lagers in what was then Czechoslovakia.
The new product with its Brian Boru harp emblem first appeared
in June 1960 in bottle form. By 1966 it was also available
in draught form. Its success was down to the appointment
of Dr. Herman Muendar, a distinguished German "Braumeister"
who had made his name in reviving the war damaged breweries
of the Ruhr district.
Meanwhile the Macardle Moore company forged links with Ind
Coope, brewers of the famous Double-Diamond which proved
to be very popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s and
was brewed in Dundalk until 1985.
Macardles joined the Guinness stable in the late 1960s bringing
the rival local breweries under the one umbrella. In the
wake of massive job losses at the turn of the Millennium
who knows what the future holds for brewing in Dundalk.
The difference in labour costs between it and Belfast were
cited as reasons behind 290 redundancies announced in the
year 2000. Whatever happens in the future, Dundalks
place in the annals of brewing should not be forgotten.
from Wee County 2003