The sudden passing of Oliver Hughes on Saturday night has left the Irish beer world in shock. A sort of melancholy has been plaguing many of us who knew him ever since.
Oliver set up the Porterhouse with his cousin Liam in 1989 in the seaside town of Bray. In 1996, they opened the infamous Porterhouse in Temple Bar which became Dublin’s first brewpub and only second in country after Biddy Early the year before.. This was followed by bars in London, Glasnevin and Nassau Street which became Porterhouse Central and Lillie’s Bordello and finally New York.
Oliver also opened up the Dingle Distillery in 2012 to add gin and whiskey to his drinks portfolio. However, it is Oliver’s contribution to our blossoming craft beer sector that he is best remembered.
Apart from being an early pioneer of the latter 20th century of bringing independent brewing back to Ireland, Oliver also financed and led a campaign of lobbying the government to give small, independent breweries a special duty status to help new breweries open, expand and create jobs. This finally came into effect in 2005 when the Minister for Finance announced the scheme. It saw breweries defined as a microbrewery given a 50% rebate on duty. This has since been changed so they now only pay the 50% rather than claim it back allowing greater cash flow for growing breweries.
While many bloggers, journalists and advocacy groups like Beoir have had a major impact in helping to provide greater information, it’s safe to say that without Oliver’s stoic resolve in lobbying for a fighting chance for small breweries, we wouldn’t have the richly diverse beer scene we enjoy in Ireland in 2016.
Oliver, you will be remembered always for your contribution to an entire industry and a nation that enjoys choice and variety. Cheers!