Dundalk, County Louth, in the North East of Ireland, is a town with a proud brewing heritage. The historic home of the Harp Brewery, and MacArdle Moore, two famous Irish Brands. Sadly, those breweries are now no longer operational, both acquired by Guinness, and closed by Diageo a number of years ago. However, in the waste not want not way of life, both sites are being reborn with a new purpose.
The old Harp brewery is now home to the Great Northern Distillery, ran by titan of Irish Whiskey, John Teeling, who’s children run the internationally renowned Teeling Distillery, in Newmarket Sq, Dublin. However, it’s the old MacArdle Moore site I was visiting this Friday morning.
Stationworks brewery as it was formerly known, used to be located in Newry, in Northern Ireland, with a satellite brewery in Cumbria. Stationworks was acquired by Alltech, a number of years ago.
They currently produce beer for Aldi, under The Brown Bear brand. They also produe under Stationworks Beer, Finns, and The Foxes Rock.
The late Dr Pearse Lyons, founder of Alltech, started out as a brewer, before moving into agri science. He was a proud Dundalk man, and wanted to get a brewery up and running in his homeland, after the successful establishment of Lexington Brewing & Distilling in Kentucky. Sadly, he didn’t get to see his dream realised of returning brewing to Dundalk, but Stationworks, was renamed the Pearse Lyons Brewery in his honour following his passing in 2018. Initially, something of a pet project for Dr Lyons, the business is part of Alltech Beverages, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the larger Alltech group. Despite belonging to a larger family this brewery has to stand on its own two feet.
Long time friend Dave Guilfoyle was the lucky chap showing me around after i’d gotten an invite from John O’Brien. I’m sure Dave was happy of the distraction from the end of quarterly paperwork that was due. In truth, it’s a massive space. The MacArdle Moore brewery was massive, infact, most of the old buildings have been repurposed into a business park, with a wide mix of businesses in attendance. There are nods to the site’s brewing history, with the brewhouse old control panel visible, and maltings. Along with the rows of terrace houses which would have housed workers, much like the liberties and Guinness back in the day. The old master brewer’s house was literally 200 years away, so back then, if anything went wrong, they’d to answer the call. I don’t think that’s a perk for Dave at the moment.
The 100Hl brewhouse, which is fully automated with the exception of additions of hops, and speciality grains, is a feat of engineering in itself. German engineering. All sampling points on ground level, and you can see deep into the brewhouse vessels from the raised brewing platforms. The brewhouse is located in what used to be the packaging area of MacArdle Moore, so there is plenty of space to grow.
A recent addition, is the pilot kit, which allows the brewers to take off the shackles of production brewing and have a little bit of fun under a new name, “Clocked Off”
Expect to see much more of that in the future. With Brewmaster brewing now operating in Dundalk also, it’s great to see some of Dundalk’s brewing heritage return, and hopefully it goes from strength to strength.
So, it’s been a long first quarter of the year, upheaval in the day job, have loads of days carried over from the year before. You decide to take a week off. What do you do?
Well, I had opted to play some golf, but the weather was horrendous, spring had most definitely not sprung the week commencing 26th of March. But there was a highlight there, after snagging the most ridiculously cheap Ryanair flights, I was going to fly over to London for the night. Now I’ll admit, the main reason was that I was finally able to accept the invitation from Bord Bia to their Annual Spirit of Sharing event that takes place in the Irish Embassy. It also afforded me the chance to catch up with my good friends, Steve and Martin from Hopinions Podcast
It all got off to an inauspicious start, the customary pint of Galway Hooker in the Marqette bar in T1 was quaffed with ruthless precision. However I fell into the sheep trap that is the Ryanair queueing system. The plane wasn’t even in yet. Yet, we queued. I himmed and hawed about getting a bacon butty from the café near the gate. A decision I would later regret. The plan was late in, and we were boarding after our scheduled departure time. My itinerary in London was going to have to be curtailed somewhat. What then transpired was a delay of 2 hours 55 minutes, under that crucial compensation threshold of 3 hours, before we left due to a minor technical problem. This meant I had to take an axe to my planned route, and concentrate on one area that gave the greatest bang for its buck.
I decided on Stratford, it’s an easy to reach part of London from Stansted Airport, just jump on the express train, and change at Tottenham Hale. My good friend Francesca (of Five Points) had helpfully suggested I visit Mason & Co for a pint and lunch. Which I readily did. Being midweek seemed an ideal time to visit without the crowds at the weekend the bar itself, is by the canal not far from the Olympic Stadium, now home to West Ham. It was easy to imagine this place during the summertime where people will sprawl all over the grassy banks enjoying one of the many fine beers on display. I opted with a Five Points Unfiltered Pils, needless to say after the walk, it barely touched the sides. It was lovely and crisp, with an earthy noble hop character that made me order one more.
Capish? Provide the food at Mason & Co, and I was not disappointed with the Chicken Parm (again thanks Chess) with a side of pizza fries. Fries with a tomato sauce, and melted provolone cheese and herbs. Here I got chatting to the friendly bar person, and fellow beer blogger and marketing & events manager Rebecca. Who it turns out is actually from Ireland via Canada, and now settled in London.
From here I wandered the short walk along the canal with a can of West Coast Dank the collab between Lervig & Boneyard, towards the new Beer Merchant’s Tap in Hackney Wick. It was a warm day and the beer was delicious as I wondered along, taking in the numerous barges and street art on the way.
The Beer Merchant’s tap is a lovely space, with huge room for outdoor seating and indoors a phalanx of fridges contains bottles of all varieties. It was great to see such a choice and of course a wide range of beers from the taps and cask. I will admit, I was a little underwhelmed, having expecting much more juice on the taps than there was. Death by Northern Monk was there, however, it was far too early for an impy stout, so I went with Sharpshooter by Lost & Grounded, a lovely light refreshing sour ale. Checking the time, I had one and left to meet with Steve over at the Irish Embassy. I would have liked to have some more time, but there is always next time.
Now the serious business; While Brexit is a huge challenge for the people of the UK, it also represents a huge challenge to the many food producers who count the UK as a target market. Despite the uncertainty regarding the future relationship with the UK, it makes sense as our nearest trading partner to continue to forge ahead with potential business. The Spirit of Sharing event brings together many of the new distillers of white spirits, whiskey, and of course craft beer and cider. It was a first taste of many of the whiskeys for me, but I was very familiar with the brewers who were in attendance. Yet again the Hope Flat White Stout was a knockout, as well as the Imperial Stout by Boyne Brewhouse.
Blacks Brewery from Kinsale, Co Cork, were there, and we absolutely love Sam & Maud, it’s great to see they were there not only with their range of beers, but also their own gin, and new to market rum.
The ambassador was ejected from his office for the proceedings, but it was an honour to be in the Irish Embassy in London and see all of these producers, some new to me, and some i’d come across. Everything from Mead to Gin, Rum and Whiskey. Ireland is truly embracing it’s growing reputation on the international stage as a drinks producer, long known as an exceptional dairy, meat and seafood producer, drinks now taking up the slack and growing in leaps and bounds. Irish Whiskey is one of the fastest growing categories for export and sales world wide. Easy to see why there are so many fantastic producers, and more to come on stream over the coming years.
The food on the night was all Irish in origin, and was very tasty. Especially those black pudding bruschetta. There was a lovely touch with the bespoke cocktail bars, that made you a cocktail based on your taste. Needless to say there was some great concoctions being made.
I’d like to thank Bord Bia, not only for the invite (hopefully we can both go next year) but the hard work they do around the world promoting Irish food and drink. There is a real passion among the people I met on the evening and have met during the course of writing this blog over the years. Keep up the good work folks. My only fear is eventually this event will outgrow the Ambassador’s office. Next stop Earls Court? Who knows. Sláinte.
The brewery Brewdog seems to emote a wide range of emotions whenever their name is uttered among beer fans, whether it’s shouts of derision, and rolling of eyes. Or, their more vocal evangelical supporters, who may or may not be equity punks, no one can deny, that they push people’s buttons. Full disclosure, i’m an Equity Punk.
Maybe, it’s the brash marketing, this “punk” ethos, the constant crowdfunding, they selling of a stake to a US equity fund, or maybe it’s much more simple. Is it envy of their success? No matter what revisionist history you subscribe to, to get from where they were in 2007, to where they are now, a company worth appx £1bn is impressive. No matter what way you shake it down. There has even been some calls for James Watt and Martin Dickie to walk
It’s also extremely impressive, how they are very successful at exporting, and Ireland is currently in their top ten export markets, but realistically it’s the tie up to Sweden that is the cash cow that keeps them going. They also have a growing pub estate in the UK and further afield. They also, have been extremely successful at getting their beer in the hands of consumers. Dealing with Multiple grocers, and pubco’s like Wetherspoons, and also self distribution into other independent retailers, has seen them be able to price Punk IPA at both the top end of the market (about £5 a pint in their bars, or 4 cans for £5 in Tesco) This is all very impressive. Brewdog it appears are Marmite, you either love them, or hate them. The middle ground seems hard to find. I think the point gets lost sometimes, but they are in the business of selling beer. They are quite good at it. However are they taking less risks than before? Perhaps. They are undoubtedly still capable of great beers, Paradox Rye, Barrel Aged Albino Squid Assassin, and Jackhammer are testament to this, plus many of the small batch beers that never make it here that are exclusive to their bars.
The term Craft, is a term that has in my view been hijacked by marketeers, to convey something, and has by and large been bastardised, i’m pretty sure I saw a “craft” barber recently. But let’s put this into scale, in terms of size, Brewdog, are much smaller than many of the US brewerys they (and many beer fans) admire, take Stone for example, they produce much more, and have 3 breweries, 2 in the US, and one in Germany. Yet, they don’t get anywhere near the heat that Brewdog do.
I started this post with the intention of reviewing this new beer, and i’ll get to that. This just brings a wider context how inclusive is “craft” beer? In Ireland independent brewers hold appx 3.5% of the overall market share. This means that the vast vast majority of drinkers drink macro beer. In my view, and i’ve always thought this, there needs to be those gateway beers, and perhaps breweries, to bring people in, put an arm around them and get them to try something new. Something that won’t terrify them. Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s akin to bringing someone to an Indian restaurant and recommending a vindaloo to someone who’s never eaten one before. You wouldn’t do that (ok if you didn’t like them you might) but the point remains the same. Without denigrating the work of some here, but breweries in Ireland like O’Haras, Porterhouse, and Bru, are churning out pretty safe beers which are in the middle, and wouldn’t be too much of a challenge to you stereotypical lager drinker. For every O’Hara’s we have DOT Brewing, for every Porterhouse we have Galway Bay, for every Bru we have Whiplash. There are many people making a living now from this industry, and there is a place for everyone as the market grows, but consistency will be key to their survival. Right now there are an increasing number of brewers here who are touching on world class category, and they’re beginning to tell their story outside these shores.
The beer itself, looks pleasing in the glass, I get hints of pears, and banana on the nose, almost like a Hefeweissen but not as strong. There is a biscuity and slight caramel taste, with moderate hop bitterness. All in all, not very offensive. It’s just a well made inoffensive beer. Not too much going on, but nothing wrong with it. Maybe they’ll tweak the recipe. To my taste, i’d reach for Dead Pony over it, or Whiplash Rollover. However, if you were out with a bunch of friends and their was a couple of non craft drinkers, this wouldn’t scare them away. It might just get them on the right path to more flavourful beer in the future. Is this the middle ground? Time will tell
It’s that time of year when we try to recall and relive our favourite beery moments through a rip roaring 2017. For the podcast this year it was a challenge to maintain our frequency due to my college course that I was doing until the summer time. It is our intention to return to more frequent recording from mid – late January 2018. I also want to be writing more.
We’d so many highlights over the year, and as always it’s so difficult to pick them all out but we will try our best to get through all our categories.
Best Irish Keg Beer:
W – we’ve been spoiled this year with so many brewers coming on in leaps and bounds in terms of quality and innovation, and I know i’ll always plump for it if I see it, and that’s YellowBelly Citra Pale ale, but the best beer I had by an Irish Brewer on keg this year was Ambush by Trouble Brewing. Now also in Cans, but this beer never disappoints. A truly juicy pale ale. Special mention to the lads in O’Brother who nailed it with Nightcrawler, a lovely Nitro Stout that came on the scene late in 2017. J – having tried the freshly kegged and maybe not fully carbonated Rainmaker by O’Brother Brewing at the RDS festival, I knew it was going to be special so when I got to taste it but when I got to taste it fully carbed up, it was a thing of beauty, and one i’ve revisited many times. Also special mention to Whiplash for Body Riddle, such a tasty beer.
Best Irish Cask Beer W – Not something we see a lot of her, as many brewers don’t do a huge amount of it, but kudos to those that do, and there has been some great cask ales produced, my favourite of the year though was Trouble Brewing’s Walk on the Mild Side, which was everything I wanted in a Mild. Special mentions to both O’Brother who have a steady supply of their casks in Porterhouse, and The Chancer is always kept well, and also the Yellowbelly lads too. J – Not had a huge amount of cask beer this year, but really enjoyed Yellow Belly – Snooze Button on cask recently.
Best Irish Bottled Beer W & J- Sometimes overlooked, this category, but there were some cracking bottles through out the year. One for me was Galway Bay – 200 Fathoms 2017 edition, given an extra six months in the bottle, this matured into a lovely sipper, a luxurious impy stout. Special mentions to St Mel’s – A New Dawn, a cracking black IPA from a brewery perhaps known more for their traditional styles.
Best Irish Canned Beer
W – Now, the cat among the pigeons, more and more breweries are packaging in to cans, it’s a larger canvas to show off their branding, but it’s the liquid inside that counts right? I really can’t look beyond Whiplash Beer – Saturate Mosaic DIPA, but every thing that followed, Let It Happen, Fantasm Planes, and Gravity’s Rainbow. All bangers in every right. Honourable mentions to Yellowbelly – Citra Pale Ale, and Hopped in Space, Trouble Brewing – Ambush. J – For me, Rascals Brewing – Foggy Juice. A great beer and hopefully we see more of it in the future. Honourable mention to Yellowbelly – Are you not entertained? , and also to Westmeath’s Dead Centre Brewing – Marooned Oatmeal IPA
Best Overseas Draught Beer W – This is a hugely difficult one, we’ve been over to the UK a fair bit, and had so many tasty beers, I really need to start using untappd more. 😂 I think i’d have to say the pintage we had down in the Magic Rock Tap room with Steve from Hopinions has probably some of the standouts, Cannonball was a thing of beauty, fresh from the source. Also Modernisme and Time Quake. As we don’t see it here much, Cannonball was my pick. Brewdog – had a couple of big ones too in Paradox Rye, and Born to Die 13.05.17 J – One from Darkcity for me, Cloudwater – Speyside Chocolate BA Imp Stout, was amazing, also loved Northern Monk – Sticky Toffee Strannik. On cask had the Walnut Brown by Old Chimneys and that was lovely.
Best Overseas Canned / Bottled Beer W – So many amazing can’s are making their way to us now in Ireland, but only one winner for me and that’s Chubbles by Cloudwater / The Veil – a Triple IPA that was so juicy, and didn’t drink it’s ABV, also we’ve been spoiled by the Northern Monk beers, especially some of their collabs, such as I like to moob it moob it. J – We’ve had some amazing beers coming in from Lervig and one of my favourites, was Tasty Juice, did exactly what it says on the tin. Also really like supersonic and the 3 Bean Stout by Lervig too
Best Overall Beer W – For me, it’s trying to pick one from the many amazing beers that i’ve enjoyed over the year, but the one I probably drunk most of was Whiplash – Saturate – absolutely love Mosaic, and this hides its ABV really well. J – All about the sessionability for me, Whiplash strike again with Body Riddle. Have it every time I see it.
Best Branding / Pump Clip
W & J- Yellowbelly have done an amazing job with their branding yet again, and we were even immortalised for our collaboration Juice Wayne. But with an increase in output and a range of amazing IPAs, it has to be Whiplash for me, the work by Sophie Devere, is gorgeous to look at and looks great on the cans.
W&J – To our friends Geoff and Maire, 57 The Headline again epitomises the best of pubs in Ireland, great range of beer, whiskey’s and gins, matched to a thoughtful food menu which is great any day of the week. Especially those Sunday Roasts. Keep up the good work guys. Honourable mentions to P.Macs and Bar Rua which offer something for everyone. PS the Halloumi fries in P.Macs are awesome.
Best New Pub / Bar W&J – When Paddy Delahunty and Barry Kavanagh announced they were opening a bar, beer geeks across the city rejoiced. A constantly rotating taplist, which is live online (here) that has enough to keep everyone interested. A cosy space on Dame St, with meat and cheese boards now too plus spirits etc there was never going to be anywhere else getting the nod from us. It has to be Underdog
Beer Festival of the Year W & J – Spoiled for choice this year, first up early in the year we had Alltech Brews and Food, tickets are on sale already for 2018 edition, then we’d the Killarney Beer Fest in May, which was a lot of fun. Also had the the Brewdog AGM. But the bar was set very high by White Hag’sHagstravanza which brought a whole new meaning to a piss up in a brewery, we’re really looking forward to next years. We also had a great time up in Belfast at the ABV Fest which is a truly unique festival which i’d like to see something similar in Dublin, and of course Dark City back in November. Winner is Hagstravaganza
Beer Twitterer W – Has to be the Beer Nut for me (again I hear you cry) John has a sharp wit, and is great to have a pint with. J – I really enjoy Crafty Beer Tweets twitter account, he’s a sound bloke too.
Best Irish Brewery W & J – not often we’d agree on something, but it’s a unanimous decision, our Brewery of the Year 2017 is Whiplash – not only are Alan and Alex two of the nicest folk you’ll meet, they’re also two of the biggest beer geeks ever. They’re literally bringing out beers they want to drink and have a ton of fun doing it. Moving into their own digs with Larkin’s brewery for 2018 we’re expecting more of the same awesomeness. Honourable mentions to Trouble Brewing, Rascals, Yellowbelly, who have been knocking out great beers all year, and have really been great.
We left off a couple of categories for brevity, thanks for reading, and Happy New Year. May 2018 be a prosperous and great beery year for you all.
Why not let me make gift giving that little bit easier for you. Below is a few gift for your beer fanatic loved one. I’ve chosen items I would love to receive myself this year.
Monthly Subscription to The Beer Club It’s the gift that keeps on giving. A box of beers to drink away while discussing the aromas and tastes during a twitter hour on Tuesday nights hosted by us! You can purchase a monthly box that will be delivered right to their door. Why not surprise them by signing them up for three, six or even twelve months? They also have put together some pretty nifty looking hampers.
Speaking of subscriptions, take a look at this incredible one the guys at Yellow Belly Beer have on offer. This includes some awesome exclusive beers and swag. Not to mention an invite to a brewday with them!!
No Christmas is complete without something sweet right? Well look no further than Kate O’Ds. She makes the most amazing truffles. I can assure you they go down a treat. We’re particularly fond of her stout truffles!
Why not treat the beer lady in your life to a fabulous piece of jewelry? Wayne purchased me a beautiful hop pendant from Feral Strumpet. It came packaged in a beautiful organza bag with dried lavender. This was a lovely early Christmas present.
Have they ever been on a brewery tour? Many of our wonderful Irish breweries offer such an experience. They get a guided tour around the brewery itself. Then afterwards an opportunity to sample the beers. We’ve been on many tours like Mc Gargles and Brehon Brewhouse. Both have impressive tasting areas.
One that has been on our list for quite sometime is a trip along the west coast. I’m not only talking about the States, but our very own Ireland. Plan a trip to include all the breweries with this handy guide Wild Atlantic Way Breweries
Beer festivals are always fun. They are a great way to meet fellow beer buddies, talk to the brewers and of course try new beers. Tickets are now available for next years Alltech Craft Brews & Food event. This is held in the convention centre in Dublin and its great craic.
You can also purchase a case of this stunning beer 57 The Headline from This is limited so be quick. Also why not visit them for some quality beers and grub!
The weekend that Storm Doris was lashing the UK & Ireland out of it seemed like as good as any to drive down to Wexford to brew a beer with that awesome bunch of lads at Yellowbelly.
We’d hatched a plan to brew a collaboration beer with Yellowbelly as part of Sheffield Beer Week. We were over there to attend Beer Now, and the stars were aligning. I’d met with Declan and Danny in Bar Rua one evening after work to discuss, the plan, the concept was simple, make a Pale Ale / IPA that paid homage to that most awesome of soft drinks, Rock Shandy. An awesome thirst quencher in a glass, mix of Orange and Lemon. The lads came up with the name!
In fairness, the lads were also in the middle of commissioning their new Wild Goose canning line, having worked through the night to package their Lager in cans, they were still working at the brewery as we were leaving the house at 530 that morning. We met the lads in the brewery and got a sneak peak of the machine, and their new bigger brewery.
So after a quick breakfast in Simon Lambert’s, which was delicious I must say, we began on the brew. The recipe was really simple. Pilsner Malt, Jumbo Oats, and some dextrose. We used Lemon Drop to bitter, and used Azacca with Mandarina Bavaria as late addition / Whirlpool hops, with some fresh Orange & Lemon zest. It finished up at 7.2%.
A few short weeks later we found ourselves in Sheffield, in the UK for Beer Now, and Sheffield Beer Week which was set up by our good friend Jules Grey. Ran every March it’s a veritable treat for all beer lovers with many events. We were going to be part of the YellowBelly TTO in The Sentinel Brewery & Tap House, which i’ve written about here. For the night they developed an Irish food menu to go with the beers. It was great to have the beers with friends who’d come from far and wide to share this moment with us.
The brewday was a long day but Declan and the lads, made it a good laugh, and it was great to have some grub and beers after with them. Next time I have to try a rizzole, after seeing Matt from Boundary enjoyed his so much.
Janice and I are extremely grateful to the team in Yellowbelly for firstly being such a sound bunch of lads, but also for the opportunity to brew with them. It was great sharing beers with them in Sheffield and hopefully we’ll be doing the same next year. It’s great to see where they’ve come from to where they are going and no doubt they’ll continue knocking it out of the park. Sláinte