A craft in the making

Pictured above: Dariusz Stepien of Beaky Dargus Brewery.

Pictured above: Dariusz Stepien of Beaky Dargus Brewery.

The recession put a lot of time in people’s hands with limited opportunities, but with a strong will to survive and an encouragement for entrepreneurship across the nation the Irish microbrewery industry was born.

Benefiting from a 50% reduction in excise duty, implemented by Brian Cowen in the 2005 budget, for microbreweries that produced fewer than 40,000 kegs a year, the public were introduced to a combination of flavours in beverages that established a common interest among many.

A craft that can be seen depicted in hieroglyphics in Egypt dating back as far as 4000 BC has been adapted domestically and given people skills in product development, microbiology, business acumen and creative freedom, all beginning from their very own kitchen, or parents’ kitchen which the majority of the cases do.

Between the 8th and 10th of September in the RDS, Ireland’s microbrewers, both old and new, had an opportunity to showcase their craft to the aspiring homebrewer and also to those wanting to sample the worth of passion’s pledge.

NewsFour had the opportunity to get some inside information about the craft and how some have been successful establishing themselves in what is becoming a thriving, competitive market that has seen a six-fold increase in its production and consumption since 2012.

A notable brewer present at the festival was Jason Carroll, head brewer at the Wicklow Brewery. His promising sound recording studio was hit hard by the recession and he turned his hand to making ales using unorthodox ingredients such as clementine, rosemary and had a pineapple and raspberry ‘gose’ beer for the public to sample. Since his move into the industry he has already won Gold at the world-renowned UK International Beer Challenge and has worked with Franciscan Well and Diageo.

Carroll spoke with NewsFour about his first brew: “I saw a chef on TV make nettle ale, went out and picked nettles, but the stuff was god awful, but since then I am constantly inventing new beers and I won gold at the very first National Homebrew Club Challenge.”

The Dublin market is a very competitive market to be successful in, with so many wanting to tap into the market with the highest population. NewsFour spoke with Rick Le Vert and Libby Carton, from the Kinnegar Brewery based in Donegal, on how it was they established themselves in Dublin: “It was the Donegal connection that worked for us.

Cathal McHugh in McHugh’s off-licence and Damien Breslin, manager of the Black Sheep, were both from Donegal and wanted a good Irish beer,” Carton said. Le Vert added: “We just want to make beer to accompany playing cards.”

Hoping to keep it real for the moment is the Reel Deel brewery, with their Jack the Lad selection, based in Crossmolina, Co. Mayo. Marcus Robinson, head brewer spoke with NewsFour about the local market: “It was a tough sell, we’ve been in operation for two years and have just 27 taps across Sligo and Mayo.”

The brewery must be doing something right, though, with a bronze medal at Blas Na hÉireann (Irish Food and Drink Awards) and Robinson added that “funding from the Mayo North-East Leader along with the Mayo County Council Small Enterprise projects helped a lot.”

Barley is the most popular grain that is malted for brewers to enable them to extract the wort (sugars) and then allow the yeast to turn it into beer. According to celebrity chef, Kevin Dundon, “The Hook Peninsula is renowned for its barley yield and quality.” Dundon is one of the directors of the Arthurstown Brewery, which is located on his Dunbrody House hotel site on the edge of the Hook Peninsula and on the first day was on hand to dish out his iberico beef pairing with their honey and seaweed ale.

Alongside Dundon to represent the brewery, were Tosh Crosbie, an award-winning barley grower on the Hook Peninsula and brewmaster, Kieran Bird. “We are currently growing cascade and prima donna hops on our brewery site and hops were grown before in Ireland but the brewers at the time said how much they would pay and the farmers couldn’t produce them for that and so the indigenous hops industry in Ireland closed,” said Bird.

“A growing concern for the domestic microbrewing industry is the importing of specialty beers by supermarkets,” said Bernard Feeney, who presented his report for the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland and Bord Bia. However, one of the domestic brewers, the Trouble Brewing Company, now has their selection for sale in Lidl supermarkets. Stephen Clinch and Damien Breslin (aforementioned in the Kinnegar story) were present on the day from the brewery and NewsFour asked Clinch about getting their product on their shelves.

“Our beers had to go through a strict tasting panel to end up on their shelves. We are now in our sixth year and have a staff of seven, with seven fermenters and eight conditioning tanks to meet demand,” replied Clinch.

Pictured above: Barry Fitzgerald and Cyril Walsh of St Patrick’s Distillery. Photos: Kevin O’Gorman.

Pictured above: Barry Fitzgerald and Cyril Walsh of St Patrick’s Distillery.
Photos: Kevin O’Gorman.

“Although beer is not for everybody and even gin and vodka have small amounts of gluten in them and for someone with zero intolerance they are restricted in what they can have,” said Tom Keightley and Cyril Walsh, founders of St. Patrick’s distillery based in St. Patrick’s Woollen Mills, Douglas, Co. Cork.

Their food intolerance research started whilst working in the retail pharmaceutical industry.

“We wanted to produce gins and vodkas that were 100 % gluten-free and we do that by using the pre-distilled spirits made from potatoes,” said Keightley. Samples for the public included their elderflower and sloe gins which are 100% gluten-free.

By Paul Carton