"The same thing is happening with beer that happened with wine in the late eighties and early nineties,” according to independent brewer Gordon Fallis.

Craft beer is becoming more popular and “people are drinking beer for the taste and the diversity of styles; rather than the bland mass-produced beer”.

Local off licences on both sides of the border are becoming “stacked full of craft beers” and there is more demand for “connoisseur beers”. People want to “try something new,” states Gordon, who brews his Inishmacsaint beer from his Derrygonnelly home.

Keeping abreast of the latest trends among potential clients is important and Gordon has noticed that craft beer drinkers want to see “innovation and fresh thinking”.

In order to cater for that growing demand, Gordon and his Donegal counterpart Brendan O’Reilly have produced a one-off collaboration beer. They will launch their new brew at The Wild Atlantic Craft Beer Festival in Dicey Reilly’s, Ballyshannon on August 1-3.

Brendan runs The Donegal Brewing Company. He set up his business just after Gordon in 2008 and the pair have been in touch as their businesses grew. “We’ve always got on well since we started in the micro-brewery business. This new beer is a natural progression,” Gordon tells The Impartial Reporter.

Called North and South of the River, the new collaboration beer is a “one off”. But Gordon hopes to see more collaborations emanating from this Fermanagh-Donegal example. “With the Irish craft beer scene burgeoning both North and South we hope this might be the first of many collaborations across the island reflecting the spirit of mutual assistance and friendship within the craft beer community,” he says.

“Collaboration beers are very much in trend at the moment,” Gordon points out. “They are important because they help people innovate and learn about new things.” The imaginative pair got together two weeks ago in Brendan’s Donegal brewery and brewed 2,000 bottles. “They are being distributed down south and I am working on getting them up north too,” Gordon explains.

Because Inishmacsaint and the Donegal Brewing Company are two small craft breweries in neighbouring parishes, “separated by the ancient thoroughfare of the River Erne”, they decided on the name: North and South of the River.

Gordon’s Inishmacsaint brand is named after the ancient monks who used to brew beer on Inishmacsaint island over 900 years ago. “Those monks often made the short trip to Assaroe Abbey in Ballyshannon in millennia gone by, so we have collaborated to produce a very modern beer in this most ancient of landscapes!” Gordon says.

Describing the taste of North and South of the River, Gordon explains: “Inishmacsaint beers are quite easily drank. This one would be a connoisseur’s beer. Generous late additions of Cascade and Pallisade hops followed by an equally liberal dry hopping regime has produced a modern pale ale style beer with the emphasis on fresh hop aroma. It’s best drunk fresh!” The result is “a fruity, citrusy beer that’s quite refreshing”, comments Gordon.

Looking forward to The Wild Atlantic Craft Beer Festival this weekend, Gordon concludes: “Our new beer will be in good company at the craft beer festival.”