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?
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
After 5 years and 40 beers 8degrees are again getting ready to be one of the brewery’s leading the vanguard in Irish independent brewing.
The origin story of Eight degrees is well known at this stage.Two expats a Kiwi and Aussi end up living in the Cork country side they long for the beers they have left behind and with alot of sweat, blood and brewing 8degrees is born.
The beers have come thick and fast 40 and counting with a strong leaning on IPAs. And it’s been a busy last few years with demand growing year on year it’s now time to expand their operation and like there beers Eight degrees are going big with an upgrade that will see them going from 15hl to 60hl.
The purchase of the brewery itself was a stressful affair with the deal coming together at the same weekend of the biggest beer festival in ireland the pressure was on to get the deal done by flying out to Mauritius so they could inspect the German built Kasbah Schulz System for themselves. They where delighted with what they saw and moved fast too secure the deal even convincing there bank to work over the weekend to get the purchase done in time.
As Scott shows me around the maze of stainless steel tubing you sense he his keen to get started on assembling this giant puzzle his past life as an engineer will be called into action once again.
This is a huge undertaking and Eight degrees are doing it all off there own back. There drive to make quality beers is matched by there desire to maintain there status as an independent brewery and the new upgrade will insure this happens as the business grows and the new brewery itself will be a new proud landmark for Mitchelstown.
This new chapter for Eight degrees is a big undertaken and the fruits of the venture won’t be seen for some time yet. The new facility is a stones throw from the current brewery which has one major positive the water. Scott explains what a bonus this is as the unusually Soft water of Mitchelstown lends Itself well to the hop forward beers of Eight degrees this combined with the new brewing system will kick start a new chapter. The system allows for far more control options like decoction mashes and pinpoint temperature control are features that will increase the creative scope for theses already prolific brewers.
The new facility is going to take some time to get up and running but in the mean time we have an impressive back catalogue to dive into and plenty of new brews to look forward too.