The Oxford English Dictionary simply refers to a brewpub as a public house that sells beer brewed on the premises.
Brewpubs are very few and far between in Northern Ireland. Until early 2021 there were three: the superb Walled City restaurant in Derry/Londonderry, the beautiful Speckled Hen restaurant near Lisburn brewing small batch Black Mountain beer and the cosy Old Pal’s bar in Derrygonnelly where you’ll see Inishmacsaint/Fermanagh Beer.
All three of these establishments are delightful places and a beer lover’s delight. If you haven’t yet been, take a trip to one or all three as soon as you possibly can. You won’t be disappointed.
You also won’t be disappointed if you pay a visit to Northern Ireland’s #4 and Belfast’s newest brewpub. Well, I say new but it’s actually the city’s current oldest brewery, if you get my drift. Bell’s Brewery was first established in 1778, went away for a while and made a comeback in 2021. It’s situated inside The Deer’s Head pub at the junction of North Street and Garfield Place, a two minute walk from The Sunflower, The John Hewitt and the greater Cathedral Quarter. The place has been on the go as a pub since 1885.
There’s a fair bit of history through those doors.
During the Covid closure The Deer’s Head had a refurb and re-opened at the end of July, complete with “new” brewery, but this beer writer didn’t manage to pay a visit until mid September. Humblest apologies. I have to say though, it was worth the wait. There’s a great selection of beers brewed onsite that – depending when you visit – could include, but not limited to: lager, stout, sour ale, saison, stout and a range of different IPA styles. Many are named after the area’s bars or characters of yesteryear. That’s in addition to a selection of beer from other NI breweries such as Lacada, Mourne Mountains, Norn Iron and McCrackens. The list grows every week.
One thing that isn’t old is the equipment. The new Brewiks brew tanks are engagingly visible from the saloon and the very helpful Sean (barman and Cans Across the World podcaster) offered to escort my party into the brew area for a few facts.
Add into the mix it shows sport on TV as well as hosting regular music sessions, The Deer’s Head is well on course to becoming one of my favourite pubs in Belfast. Fair play to everyone involved and best of luck for the future.