There are many like it, but this beer is ours

Five years ago Galway bay brewery gave us Irelands first commercially brewed double ipa , OF FOAM AND FURY
Inspired by the legendary double IPAs of the west coast of America a young brewer, Chris Treanor took the helm of Galway Bay Brewery and created for many what was five years ago and still is consider the best IPA brewed in Ireland.
We have become so accustomed now to having what seems like a never ending conveyor belt of new and brilliant beers it’s easy to forget how far the Irish beer industry has come in the Last five years.
Back then it felt as if new brewery’s where opening up weekly all over the country, but it was a tentative start for many. We were swimming in pale ale, stouts and red ale. The more adventurous trying their hand at IPAs.
OF FOAM AND FURY crashed into the Irish beer scene like a hurricane.
The combination of Simcoe, mosaic and chinhook hops combine to give a heady mix of tropical fruit and piny resin, woven into a canvas of sweet pale malt.
Brewer’s and drinkers alike had to recalibrate their tastes buds. A new standard had been set.
We now had a beer that we could proudly showcase to the rest of craft beer world and say “look we can do it too! ”
For the five year anniversary the much loved original label made a return, but this time adorning the modern craft vessels of choice the 440ml aluminium Can. And I for one hope its here to stay.
After the last few years of the mixed results of the New England IPA haze crazy, the reboot of Foam and Fury last August was a timely reminder of what a truly fantastic beer it is.

Way out west in Doolin 

For beer lover’s in Ireland your calendar is now well and truly full. Over the summer season rarely a weekend goes by without some kind of beer event taking place. In the last few months we have seen meet the brewer nights with the mighty Stone brewing. Whitehag throw an epic birthday bash the Hagstravaganza which involved a very unique train journey and the always innovative Whiplash took over an off licence for a beer launch #BAGOFCANS. A full and deadly case of FOMO is never too far away. 

Unfortunately you can’t attend every event your health and bank account just can’t take that kind of punishment, so how do you whittle it down to events you just can’t miss. For the last few year’s I’ve been using a home and away format. One local beer festival and one I travel too. Luckily for me the closest beer festival to me is also located in one of favourite places in the world west Clare the Doolin Beer and Roots festival . Of course I am totally biased when it comes to my home county. I have been living in Galway for quite some time now but I never need much of an excuse to visit the Burren or west Clare. On a fine day the coast road from Galway to Doolin is worth the effort alone. 
For the last five years the festival a blend of Craft beer and Music has been run by hotel Doolin. Set in the garden and marquee of the Doolin hotel the atmosphere is a heady mix of a boutique music festival with one of the best stocked bars in the west of Ireland. Long German beer hall style tables stretch from one end of the marquee to next where they meet a stage that hosts 3 days of eclectic music,everything from Gypsy jazz to hardcore Irish trad.                                           The majority of the beer on offer is available from the bar with some of the best breweries in Ireland on offer 8degrees, Rascal and Metalman to name a few. The rest of the beer is served by the breweries themselves last year Independent brewing, JJs from County limerick, locals Western Herd and the party animals from the sunny south east Yellowbelly where all pouring and chatting with the punters. 

From a beer perspective Yellowbelly stole the show last summer. For the hardcore beer fan they had all bases covered everything from cheek picking sours too 9% cask IPAs. Having the brewers pouring the more challenging styles is a real bonus, pouring samples and talking about the beer gets the punters more involved. The majority of which are not necessarily the hardcore beer fans you’ll find at your more typical beer festival.                                        If you are thinking of attending this year keep an eye out for Western Herd. The local Clare brewery has been growing in confidence over the last year. Two new IPAs Coast road and Cliff road are sure to keep any hop heads more than happy. 

The barrel age                 (200 Fathoms) 

In the world of drinks Ireland is most famous for two products, Stout and Whiskey. While the origins of each can be disputed there is no denying when people from around the globe think of Ireland in trems of drinks, Stout and Whiskey are what spring to mind. And what better way to celebrate this than for two of Ireland’s leading new wave producers, Dublins Teelings Whiskey and Galway Bay Brewery to join forces for a very special drink, 200 Fathoms, imperial barrel aged stout. 

The rise of Independent brewing and distilling have both followed a similar trajectory in the last few years. New producers are coming to the market in numbers that seemed unimaginable even 10 years ago. While the vast majority of breweries in Ireland have their sights set on the domestic market the new wave whiskey producers also have goals of reclaiming the status Ireland once held as the primary whiskey producing country in the world. 

For the last few years two of the leaders in the Irish beer and Whiskey scene have come together to produce one the most anticipated beers in Ireland. 200 Fathoms barrel aged imperial stout. Now that is a long title for a beer, but then again this is a beer that takes a long time to make. And being lucky enough to live not too far from the brewery I took the opportunity to follow the 6 month process from start to finish. The stout itself is made up from around 8 different types of malts each adding their own layer to this robust beer. The majority of the malt bill is Irish grown and malted, something GBB are proud to promote. The Irish climate may not lend itself to the fancy new world hops that are required for hippest of IPAs, but it’s almost perfect for barley. And an imperial stout like 200 Fathoms is a great way to showcase Irish malts.           

Brewing a beer this big, a hearty 10% ABV can be a challenge. The massive grain bill can bring headaches for the brewday and was sure to test out the newly installed brewing system at GBB. The biggest beer to be brewed up to that date on the newly installed kit. Apart from the brewing itself, the fermentation of beers with high ABV can be tricky. They will usually take off like a rocket, the yeast a field day with the abundance of sugars around, but insuring a good fermentation can be tricky for big beer.Temperature control and the health of the yeast all have to be spot on. Bigger ABV beers can sometimes take their time to fully ferment, as the alcohol levels rise during fermentation it can have the negative effect of slowing down the yeast. Any sugars not fermented will leave the beer tasting sweeter than intended.

After fermentation it’s time for the Teelings part of this collaboration, the Barrels.Having previously hosted the Teelings spirit for the last number of years. A minimum of 3 years and 1 day is required to be considered a genuine Irish Whiskey, most quality Whiskey will age for 8 years. After such a long time it will of course have extracted more than its fare share of flavour from the wood, but there is still plenty left over for the 200 Fathoms stout to soak up plus the extra hit from any Whiskey left behind. This maturation process is all about patience and this is stout that truly uses time as an ingredient. As the wood expands and contracts it draws the stout in and out of its pourous staves that make up the barrel. This slowly imparts the flavours and character of the Teelings Whiskey infusing over time with the GBB stout.

Having been lucky enough to taste the beer periodically throughout the aging process the influence of the Teeling barrels becomes evermore present over time. The finished beer has layers of flavours. Inky black and viscous in appearance, the beer clings to the side of the glass. My first impression was of Rich dark cherries almost like a Black forest cake backed up with the smoothest hit of Whiskey you’ll ever taste. There is so much going on it is hard not to keep sipping, trying to figure out what your tasting each time. As the beer in the glass grows warmer the flavours become bolder and all the better for it. 

This marriage of the Teelings barrels and the GBB stout has now become something of an event for beer fans in Ireland with the release date hotly anticipated each year.                                                                 On last year’s release I was a bit a taken aback with the numbers waiting in the Salthouse bar for the chance to taste the latest version. The bar man informing each wide-eyed customer that approached the bar “it goes on sale at 8”. #200Fathoms was trending on Twitter with fans in Dublins Gasworks bar and Galway waiting to get their hands on a glass. The extra bonus for fans that made the effort was the chance to taste last year’s vintage along side the latest version. GBB had cleverly held back a few kegs. It’s not everyday you see a packed bar with people sipping on 2 glasses of imperial stout comparing tasting notes, a sign of the times indeed. 

While this interest in a single beer is a massive turnaround from the dark days of mass produced generic beer only, this hype is notting compared to the legendary queues to be found in Chicago each year for the release of Goose Islands bourbon county stout, where hundreds of people suffer the bitter Chicago winter for up to 24 hours too secure their bounty BCS. The demand for this beer has become so great Goose Island now run one of the biggest barrel ageing programmes in the beer world. While I don’t think we will ever see that kind of hype in Ireland the attention that 200 Fathoms is receiving is a small indication of how far beer as grown in Ireland, people taking time out of their day to go and wait for a beer! Something that was unthinkable probably less than 5 years ago. And in a way the waiting and anticipation is what this beer is all about.

INDEPENDENT 

​In these heady days of Irish craft beer it’s sometimes too easy to overlook what’s familiar. In my hunt for the newest and often over hyped beers I too am guilty of losing touch with the breweries on my own door step.
And while recently studying the craft beer section of my local off licence I noticed something interesting a 330ml bottle clad with a rustic print of 3 men lifting a currach.
The beautiful but understated label had done it’s job and encouraged me to investigate further. This beer turned out to be a collaboration between the Italian based Johnny’s off licences, brewery Microbirrificio Opperbacco and Galways own Independent brewing. The beer Currac Dubh a Harty 7.5%  Oatmeal stout, a perfect beer for a winters night. And I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint the subtle bitterness of the roasted malts smoothed out with creamy oats leaving a moreish caramel toffee like after taste, altogether a really lovely beer. With my interest piqued I arranged a visit to Independent HQ to learn more. 

The brewery is located in Carraroe on the southern shores of Connemara. I’m no stranger to this part of Galway one of my favourite areas to visit on a summer’s day, but the day of my visit it was 3 degrees with black and ominous clouds drifting across Galway bay. The rain was thick and heavy and bouncing back up off the road. Between the showers the low hanging winter sun breaks through the gloomy clouds. Throwing a spotlight on the views of this stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way. The white rocks of the Burren Hills seemed impossibly close from across the bay. 

The entrance to the brewery is unassuming and little hidden beside it’s neighbour the local fire station. Just inside the brewery door the cosy office offered a nice change from the elements and a welcome setting for Kevin to give me the low down on Independent brewing. 
The brewery was set up in 2014 by owner and head brewer Kevin O’Hara. His path to brewing is not an unfamiliar story in the industry. like many beer fans in Galway his introduction to more flavour forward beers was in the Bierhaus Galway the original home for beer geeks in the west. 

Over time his interest and curiosity in beer lead to the inevitable homebrewing, so often the gateway into pro brewing.  Long Before brewing, Kevin’s first passion led him to a completely different career in the Galway aquarium. Growing up beside Galway bay sparked an interest in everything aquatic and led to his studies in Marine Science. While his career in the aquarium is behind him the draw of the ocean is still strong. The location of the brewery was no coincidence, just a stones throw from Trá na Dóilín one of Irelands most coveted diving locations. 

While alot of the skills of brewing are not necessarily present in an aquarium the particular skills of operating and maintaining the aquarium equipment gave Kevin the confidence he could scale up from home brewing and run a professional brewery.

It’s been over 2 years since the first beers were released and like many of his contemporaries the styles selected were at the right tempo to challenge new craft beer drinkers without rocking the boat too much. A pale and golden ale both full of flavour that could lead any Macro lager drinking down the rabbit hole of craft beer and a red ale to keep things traditional, this brewery is based in Connemara after all. These beers have served Kevin well allowing him time and space to let the brewery find its feet and establish itself as a regular fixture in the bars and bottle shops of Galway and further afield. So what better time to get creative and show off some recipes that have no doubt been on the back burner. 

Last summer will go down as the summer of sour, and Kevin showed up to the party with his Cherry kettle sour. Unlike so many others he resisted the temptation to drop the PH to the floor, keeping the beer on the tart side to complement the sweet cherry and avoiding the teeth watering sourness that plagued the sour craze last summer. And for balance a trip to the dark side was needed, a Black IPA often the marmite of beer styles amongst beer geeks. Personally it’s one of my favourite beer styles and Independent’s version didn’t disappoint. Up next was the Extra stout, full bodied and robust, a perfect fire side beer. For me it’s in this darker spectrum where Independent brewing has really hit it’s stride and the recent collaboration with Italian based Johnnys off licence and the Mirobirrificio Opperbacco brewery continued the trend. 
One batch was brewed in Ireland and one batch in Italy. Something tells me Kevin might have got the better end of the deal having to travel to Italy for the brew day and allowing some respite from the Connemara winter weather. 
Like Ireland, Italy too has recently joined in on the craft beer revolution. This has proven to be an added bonus for a handful of other Irish brewers who have become quite popular with Italian beer drinkers, in particular Eight Degrees and Whitehag. This collaboration will no doubt help to raise the profile of Independent at home and abroad. Collaborations are not only a chance to brew more creative beers it can also open up a new market. Beer tourism is a hot topic right now with the Tap Room Bill up for vote soon. And having your brand familiar with our Italian visitors is no bad thing at all.

While Connemara is an amazing location for a brewery it of course offers its own challenges. The limitations of a rural market could be easily relieved with a tap room and the potential to capture the tourist trade in the summer months is massive, Carraroe is almost bang in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way. Hopefully 2017 will bring this positive and essential change to our outdated licensing laws and give brewers like Kevin the best environment to develop Independent brewing into an essential part of the local economy, and help grow a throughly independent brewing industry in Ireland. 

Blacks of kinsale (tapping into tourism)

​The Wild Atlantic way is currently doing more for tourism in Ireland than U2, W.B Yeats and Riverdance all rolled into one. Having lived on the Atlantic side of Ireland all my life I have never seen as many camper vans, caravans or tour buses as I have witnessed the last two summers. While dramatic scenery, historic landmarks and the famed Irish hospitality are pretty much guaranteed the weather unfortunately never is. So what better way to spend a wet afternoon in Kinsale than to visit one of the most popular breweries in the country Blacks of Kinsale .

The husband and wife team Sam and Maudeline’s journey into the world of independent brewing started with a thoughtful gift of a homebrew kit. The new hobby of homebrewing soon became an obsession for Sam and the beers kept getting better and better with every brew. Ultimately the demand for the brews from family and friends gave the Blacks the encouragement to go Pro. A crowd funding plan was put into action and with a lot of hard work and the backing of the beer enthusiasts of Ireland Blacks of Kinsale was born. 
The first two beers both which had started their life as homebrew favourites were the Pale Ale (KPA) and a Black IPA. Both were well received by the Irish beer fans who back in 2013 were hungry for more quality Irish craft beers. The Pale Ale still makes up the bulk of Blacks brew days and can now be found throughout the country in its new canned format. However the beer that really stood out for me was the Black IPA. As a beer geek who was living in a small village at the time I was amazed and delighted to see such a challenging style of beer available in my local shop! 

To help Blacks spread the good word of beer and independent brewing Sam, Maudeline and the crew at Blacks have been busy. They have built themselves a taproom. Converted from a shipping container the new taproom well help showcase their beers to visitor’s . Kinsale is a beautiful town and has long been on the tourist trail but now Kinsale is the official beginning or end (depending on which direction you travel north or south) of the Wild Atlantic Way bringing even more visitors and tourists to the area. With their new taproom and tours, Blacks are providing tourists with an interest in beer a way to sample local beers at the source. 
The rapid growth of the independent beer industry in Ireland is in overdrive there are now independent breweries dotted all along the Wild Atlantic Way but sadly the opportunity to interact and engage with the many tourist passing through is pretty much lost under current alcohol licencing laws and legislation. 

Many of these tourist coming from the UK, Europe and U.S might scratch their heads and wondered why they can’t buy a beer straight from the breweries? In many U.S states taprooms and on site sales are an everyday occurrence. In the UK tap rooms are usually opened over the weekend when brewing has stopped for the week. The public can visit and sample the different and new beers being brewed, meet the people who produce the beers and learn more about the production and brewing process. For a small business this is an invaluable opportunity to sell their goods directly, and also a brilliant way to build a tangible relationship with their customers. On a summer’s day London based Bevertown brewery can have up to 300 visitors . This might be an extreme example but it shows the potential that is there for breweries if they were given the opportunity to run a tap room. Closer to home Belfast based Boundary brewery have run taproom events throughout the summer. What better way to show the public your wares than to have them enjoy the beer in the very place it was made. These events in Belfast have been a great success and highlight just how disadvantaged breweries across the boarder are at. 

Right now the minimum you can purchase directly from the brewery is about 20 litres, unless the brewery has a bar licence (which can cost somewhere around €75,000), paying for a glass, bottle or can of beer is illegal. By providing tours, breweries can of course offer samples and having a nice taproom like Blacks of Kinsale have built is a great place to sample their beers after your tour, but is this enough? 
Starting and running your own business is a hard task in this country but not being able to sell your products direct makes it all the more difficult to maximise your potential profits. Sure there will be opposition from the usual naysayers, allegations of irresponsible drinking and antisocial behaviour will be used to oppose the very notion of a tap room. The drinking culture of Ireland has been a contentious subject for generations but the now nanny like state policies are out of touch with the consumer and breweries alike. Surely it’s time to join the rest of Europe in its more adult approach to alcohol. 
These naysayers have their own interests at heart not the interest of the breweries and the people they employ. There are now around a 100 breweries in the country each employing nearly 450 people. And this is done with a tiny percent of the beer market share around 3%. Compare that to Molson Coors who command around 7.5% of the Irish market and employ around 66 people. Adjustment of the licensing laws would surely give small breweries the opportunity to maximise profits while providing a local amenity and becoming a tourist attraction at the same time. The breweries understand legislation is slow to change but this really is a massive opportunity missed for the breweries, tourist board and the local economy alike. In every other sector of the food and drink industry in Ireland it is possible to sell your goods on site and direct to customers. Is it fair that a brewery is denied this privilege but the petrol station, supermarket and off licence down the road is free to sell their beers 7 days a week. If a brewery near you does offer tours like Blacks do go visit and learn more about your locally produced beer. 

Soulwater (keeping it Real) 

​The Irish beer scene is moving at a rapid pace with Irish beer lover’s spoiled for variety and choice of styles.  Everything from double IPAs, barrel aged barley wine to kettle sours can now be easily found in your favourite bars and bottle shops.  With so much competition how does a brewery get noticed? 

To showcase their beers and skills as brewers SOULWATER from Galway are taken some inspiration from a bygone age and bringing it bang up to date.  With every new beer released they give a preview of their latest brew by releasing a small quantity of the beer in casks, a rare treat to try some Real Ale in the west.  I met up Shane O’Beirne of Soulwater to learn more about cask ale and to get a sneaky preview of their latest offering, Bullet Proof IPA.

Soulwater is a gypsy, or contract brewery that is headed up by two Galway natives Shane O’Beirne and Declan Owens.  So far they have brought a varied and interesting selection of beers to the west.  Styles ranging from Renegade (a 5.3%  American amber ale), to Cosmic Cow (a 4.8% Nitro milk stout) and their latest release, Bullet Proof; a juicy, hop loaded IPA, all of which were first released on Cask.  Regulars of Bierhaus and Salthouse bars in Galway will quickly dispose of any Soulwater cask that is tapped and Bullet Proof was no different.  The night it was tapped almost every second customer was nursing an old school pint glass while debating the merits of Soulwater’s latest offering and, judging by the pace the barman was pumping the cask tap, it was a big hit. 

Cask or real ale are now sadly a rare thing in Irish bars, at one time most beer was served this way before the age of forced carbonation and kegs.  Back then bar keeping required extra skills as cask beer is a fickle thing indeed.  Unlike today’s kegged beers the casking of the beer is the last step in the process where the conditioning of the beer takes place.  It was the barman’s job to care for the cask beer, controlling temperature and having the knowledge when to tap each cask at the correct time.  Soulwater’s use of cask is a great tool to showcase their work.  The beer takes on a different dimension when conditioned in a cask.  It’s served at higher temperature than standard kegged beer and is less carbonated.  This allows more subtle flavours to shine through that might be lost in the keg version.  With conditioning done in the cask it brings more body to the unfiltered real ale.  The more natural and lower carbonation gives a softer and rounder mouthful, which brought Soulwater’s Nitro Milk stout Comic Cow to a different level of smoothness. 

 

The appreciation for real ale came from the UK where Shane studied to be a brewer in Edinburgh.  After his studies he took up a position as with Bath ales.  In Bath and the surrounding areas real ale is still a king.  The popularity of real ale in the UK is in impart down to the work CAMRA, the campaign for real ale.  In some ways the craft beer movement owes some of its origins to real ale and CAMRA. 

 In the early 70s four friends from the north west of England, Michael Hardman, Graham Lees, Jim Makin and Bill Mellor would meet every weekend in their local to enjoy a locally brewed ale.  Around this same time the giant corporate breweries were starting to put a squeeze on the local independent breweries who were still continuing the old art of cask real ale.  While on a trip to County Kerry, while having a pint in Kruger’s bar in Dunquin (reputed to be Europe’s most westerly located bar), the four friends decided to do something before real ale vanished, and CAMRA was founded there and then.  On his return to Galway Shane brought his love of cask beer with him and now uses this format to highlight Soulwater’s latest beers, and at the same time giving beer lovers of Galway to chance to enjoy Real ale.

Sour power 

​Irish Summers are notoriously fickle, so when the sun does show itself you want to have the right beer for the occasion . Right now Irish beer lovers are spoiled for choice.  With the rapid growth of Irish craft beer there has never been more beers available to help you cool off, but there is one issue,a lot of these beers are Ales, stouts or IPAs which don’t always have the best thirst quenching qualities needed on a hot Summer’s day.  However, there is a beer style that works a treat at this time if year.  SOUR! 
  

With the race to explore beer styles and flavours it was only a matter of time before Irish brewers followed the trend of sour beers which have been flowing out of U.S. and U.K. breweries for some time now, and they are chasing hard. On a recent visit to Galway Bay’s Oslo bar I counted five sour beers on tap and almost as many available in bottles.  Of course every modern craft beer brewery is only playing Catch-up compared to Belgium where the art of brewing and blending sours has stood the test of time, with many brewing sour styles using techniques and equipment that have been in use for generations.  
In some ways sour beer is the original style of beer.  
Somewhere way back in the mist of time somebody made a porridge like brew, forgot about it, and when they returned the sugars in their brew had been converted to alcohol.  The mystical power that made this possible is the wild yeast that are all around us, floating in air, waiting for somewhere nice to land and get to work on any sugars they can find. This spontaneous fermentation method has been perfected in Pajottenland near Brussels where the famous sour Lambic style is produced.  After brewing, the beer is left to air cool in long shallow pools know as Koelschip.  This gives the wild yeasts the opportunity to land and get to work . The beer is then transferred to wooden barrels where it can be left to mature for up to three years.  Young and older beers can then be blended to produce the required flavour and tartness required. 
Blending is a massively important skill in its own right. Some producers don’t actually brew beer themselves but acquire different beers from various breweries and blend them into their own range of beers.  Along with the Lambic breweries sour beers are made throughout Belgium, to the north it’s Flanders Red, a malty ale left to mature in oak barrels, and again blended to achieve balance.  The styles probably most familiar to Irish beer drinkers are the fruit sours Kriek, flavoured with cherries and Framboise, with raspberries.  The fruit ramps up the flavour and helps smooth out some of the tartness.  

Belgium doesn’t hold all the cards on traditional sour beer, Germany too has a fondness for the tartness. The most popular styles been Gose and Berliner Weisse, both styles were massively popular across North Germany but fell out favour during the 20th century, resulting in the disappearance of almost all traditional producers.  Visitors to Berlin might be familiar with the bright green or red beers being sipped outside cafés and bars on sunny days.  This sour beer is Berliner Kindl, is still quite popular but is no longer brewed by spontaneous fermentation but has sour yeast cultures added.  

Irish breweries are now catching up fast with the sour trends.  Everything from barrel aged wild beers to kettle sours are now to be found around the country, and many could easily hold their own against their European cousins.  

I’ve picked 3 of my favourite Irish sours, each one takes their own take on this brilliant style of beer.
   

Whitehag right now can do no wrong.  It’s been rolling out great beers in it’s short two year existence.  The Púca, a dry hopped lemon sour.  It takes it’s name from the Irish for a spirit, or ghost.  In this case the wild yeasts are the spirits that are possessing this brew, and performing the magic.  It’s sharp and tart, with a fruity back note that leaves you wanting more. 

 Yellowbelly have taken the fruity hit to another level with Castaway, a passionfruit sour.  It’s a very well balanced sour that is almost too easy to drink.  The passionfruit adds a brilliant twist to the sour beer style. 

 Kinnagar have taken a different route to their sour range by using the kettle sour method.  The grains, themselves acidulated malt, have high levels of lactic acid present.  This gives the beer it’s sour character.  Sour Grapes is a great summer beer with hints of apple and citrus fruit combined with a fresh hit of tartness, a great alternative to cider.

Galway Bay brewery (change of the guard)

Last March GBB(Galway Bay Brewery) took to social media to announced the release of a one off special beer, a TRIPLE RED IPA ! three of my favourite words in the beer world i had to check it out.
As I walked up to the Salthouse bar that evening there was already an impressive crowd outside everyone glass in hand sipping on the mammoth 11.5% Red IPA. Inside the bar was packed out with the barman flat out pouring glass after glass . The beer was called “Change of the guard”  a collaboration between the old head brewer of GBB Chris Treanor and the newly appointed head brewer Will Avery.
Having been to release nights of GBB beers before I expected a busy bar but this was different. I couldn’t help but think to myself is craft beer in Ireland starting in some way reaching the levels of attention and interest it gets in the U.S and U.K?

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Probably wishful thinking on my part but craft beer interest is on the up in Ireland and GBB has played a big part in the movement. If your drinking a craft beer in Dublin chances are it’s in a GBB bar with 9 bars dotted around the capital city. The formula to their success as been well run bars to showcase there own range of beers along side a great selection of other beers from Ireland and abroad.
From humble beginnings a brew pub the Oslo in Salthill Galway to a now expanding brewery and 11 soon to be 12 bars. Business is going well but every good business needs to be built on steady ground and in this case it’s the beer that makes up the solid foundations of GBB

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Will Avery

The man now charged with the job of keeping the foundations in place is the new head brewer Will Avery.
Will a native of Atlanta Georgia began his brewing at the age of 18 as a means of negating US alcohol laws, if you can’t buy it well you just have to make it.
Home brewing remained a hobby throughout his collage days and after several career changes he found himself working in the Burnt Hickory brewery.Over time he climbed the ranks and eventually found himself in the position of head brewer.
In his time there he brought Burnt Hickory from a local nano brewery to one the most respected in the state

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While on a family vacation in Ireland last year Will of course took an interest in Irish beer. Inevitable he came into contact with GBB and head brewer Chris. Will must have made a good impression as some months later he was contacted by GBB about a potentially move to Galway too become the head brewer as Chris Treanor was making a movie to White frontier brewery in Switzerland.

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The opportunity for a new adventure in Ireland for the Avery family was grabbed with both hands. Will made the move to Galway last February and it has been a busy time keeping all the GBB bars supplied while overseeing the new expansion.
The collaboration beer between Will and Chris was indeed a fitting way to celebrate the handover but it wasn’t all smooth sailing the “brew day from hell”  as Will put it tested the GBB equipment to the max!

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The old system
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The new system

The now well used mash tun struggled to handle the massive grain bill required for the giant beer. The 12 hour plus brew day highlighted the need for the upgrade that was already planned.
The new system will doubled their output capabilities, too accommodate the new gear GBB have literally busted a hole in their wall to the unit next door. As well as housing the new equipment it leaves room for further expansion down the road.
Will also has his eye on some of the space for a potential barrel ageing project. Something that has proved very successful before with the 200 Fathoms stout Teelings whisky collaboration. This limited edition cask aged beer has fans all over Ireland scrambling for bottles of the latest version.

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The brand new brewing system comes from Italy from the Eco brew tech company. Installation took one hectic long week with the new equipment been put to the test asap. The new more efficient brewery will open the door to more exciting brews while the old system as served them well it had its limitations. On my visit to the brewery Will and crew where busy getting the hang of the new system but very excited about what lies ahead creatively for GBB exciting times indeed for Irish beer lover’s.

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DIY Brewdog (Home brew dog)

Back in February brewdog gave the beer geeks of the world a late Christmas present by sharing their recipes for all 200 plus Brewdog beers with the world for free . Home brewers rejoiced while others look on and wondered why give away your trade secrets . Other craft breweries Have given away recipes before but not on this scale so why do it?
James Watt and Martin dickie started homebrewing to try and replicate the hoppy American ales they longed for. While there was a few twists and turns on the road to creating brewdog homebrewing played a bit part in the creation of brewdog. From its humble beginnings in a drafty unit on a Scottish industrial estate brewdog it is now the biggest independent brewer in Europe and it has done this not only with its amazing beers but with the help of the beer lovers who have helped crowd fund brewdog every step of the way. Releasing recipes is in a way a big thank you to those supporter’s who are also homebrewers it’s also a brilliant way to help spread the word of Brewdog to homebrewers around the world.

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For decades we have been told that only the giant corporate breweries could provide us with quality beer. We had forgotten at one time (granted this is a long time ago) beer was brewed in every village town and city. Brewed locally by local everyday people.
   There was no big mystery to how are beer was made somewhere along the line we forgot this skill and lost touch with the process. In the last few decades home brewing your own beer not out of necessity but as a hobby has gained massive momentum and that desire to brew has also help fule the resurgence in independent and local breweries and has in part help lay the foundations for the craft beer movement.
The U.S lead the way for the craft beer movement some 30 odd year’s ago small independent breweries like Anchor and Sierra Nevada struck out and offered people an alternative to the mass produced Lagers that had dominated the American market since prohibition ended . These pioneering breweries inspired a wave of homebrewers across America and Europe and are the origins of some of the biggest and best independent breweries we have today.
Sam Calagione the founder of Dogfish head one of biggest independent breweries in the U.S started off brewing in his tiny New York apartment. Dogfish head are responsible for creating some of the most unique beers of the last two decades. Constantly pushing the boundaries with strange and rare ingredients, even recreating some ancient brews.
Mikkel Borg Bjergsø founder of Mikkeller was asked to supply some beer for his Brothers bottle shop. From his 50 litre home brewing system  “Beer geek breakfast” was born. The coffee oatmeal stout was declared best stout in the world on ratebeer.com in 2006  this catapulted the Mikkeller brand and they still continue to push the limits of brewing today.
Likewise Brewdog can trace some of its DNA in homebrewing and with this in mind Brewdog are reaching back to there roots and releasing all there recipes to date. The home brew geeks of the world where basically overjoyed, every single brewdog beer at there fingertips but with 200 plus beers where to start?
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For me it had to be Punk IPA their signature beer. The recipe has been altered from the original and in ture brewdog style they have added more hops.
For my attempt at this now iconic beer I went for my trusted friend the BIAB(brew in a bag) method. While you are sacrificing efficiency it really is the simplest way to make an all grain brew.
The main reason going BIAB is because of the weather, it was cold and wet weather and spending 5 hours or more standing over my full 3 kettle system was just not appealing. The simplified one pot wonder that is BIAB allows you more freedom to get out of weather.
I’ve picked up a few tricks to counter act the lack of efficiency,  crush your grains slightly finer and a longer mash time 90 minutes instead of the usual 60.
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The grain bill for this beer is pure simple,  Pale Malt and that’s it!  could not be easier. On the other hand there is alot of hops, with that in mind I’ve opted to ues pellet hops I usually prefer the more natural leaf hops but the pellets will help save on space in the boil kettle.
The Brew went well I hit my numbers with little trouble the original gravity came in at 1.058 I little over what was called for.
With primary fermentation done it was time to dry hop. Again I used pellet hops having not used them before i did some homework and added more to help compensate for the lack of oils left after production.
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The biggest annoyance for me with home brewing is bottle conditioning. Something I hope to fix in the near future by kegging my beer. For IPAs bottle conditioning is not ideal you want it fresh, tasting Punk IPA fresh on draft is a different animal to its bottled or even caned version.
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So how did my DIY version turn out! Well if brewdogs punk ipa is a 10 my first attempt is a 3 at best. Before bottling I knew the dry hopping was not where it should be but after a few weeks conditioning it as totally dropped off the charts in truth I’ve ended up with a Pale ale.
In my attempt to clone this beer I’ve learnt quite a bit and I’ll definitely be trying it again. As for the brewdog recipes themselves they are not 100% complete but its hard to complain when you are getting such a great insight into one of the best breweries in the world. A more skilled brewer than myself well get better value out of the recipes but in the mean time I’ll definitely be trying Punk IPA along with a few more of my brewdog favourites.
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Western Herd

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After a wee adjustment of the GPS I finally find it, the Western Herd Brewing HQ. Standing proud at the top of a small hill nestled in the green ungelating landscape of kilmaley a few miles from Ennis. The Brewhouse once a hay shed now stands a proud white in its green surroundings. Outside I’m greeted by Adam the head brewer and we are shortly joined by Maeve one of the co founders of Western Herd. The other founder is her brother Michael .
Western Herd was born out of the couples growing interest in craft beer and the rapid growth of the industry in ireland. The Brewhouse itself was converted from an old hay shed that has been on family land for generations with old family cottages dotted around the nearby landscape. 
It’s a fine spring day as we stand and talk beer and the new shiny stainless steel is catching the sun nicely through the sizeable barn doors. While the brewery is a modest size it looks great in its rustic setting. A lot of work has been done, fresh paint applied, concrete poured, a new grain store built. I’m sure the ruarl setting brought it’s fair share of challenges but while it’s a bit isolated it’s a beautiful setting to work in . And it hasn’t deterred the visitors, just the day before my visit a small tour bus full of American beer fans came for the first official tour of Western Herd.
The company was born out of opportunity and timing. The building the brewery now sits in was lying empty while the craft beer industry in Ireland is on a massive rise. Maeve and Michael had the location and the interest so they decided to strike while the iron was hot and bring county Clare into the craft beer revolution

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After much research and a brewing course it was decided the best plan of action was to get a pro brewer in to over see production . Adam was at a cross roads in his own brewing career in the U.S when he came across the opportunity to head up operations at Western Herd and so he packed his bags and headed to the other side of the Atlantic to join in on the craft beer movement in Ireland.

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The decision to bring in Adam is paying off with the quality of the beer. With alot of new brewery’s in Ireland the first few beers just seem a bit rushed but Western Herd hit the ground running with their first releases. The core range is made up of a very decent IPA, a Belgian style Wit beer, a Pale Ale and my personal favourite the Red Ale. 
There is a trend building of America brewers working in Ireland. Kinnagar, White hag and more recently Galway Bay have just appointed an American head brewer. Like those 3 Western Herd will be hoping to utilise Adams skill and knowledge he is bringing from the U.S and so far so good.

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From talking to the team at W.H you realise a lot of work and preparation has been done before the beers were released from the logo to label design everything has been carefully though about. Even the website is being delayed until they’re 100% happy. 
Along with the hard work of building Western Herd the smart move was made to lease a bar “Mchughs” in Ennis where they could showcase their beers and also spread the word of craft beer to the people of Ennis and Clare. What better way to showcase your wares to new customers. So far the interest and reception has been great and not just in their core range. One of brews, such as a 6%Black IPA, have gone down a storm with Western herds new followers. Who would have thought beer drinkers of Ennis would be polishing off a keg of Black IPA in 1 weekend!

The ground work for new brews are well underway, head brewer Adam has no shortage of ideas. Interesting times lie ahead for the beer lovers of Clare and North Munster.

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