Walled City Brewery

Walled City Brewery is a true actual genuine brewpub in Northern Ireland

Yes you read that statement right, they are one of a kind!

walled city brewery blog

Great beers brewed on site and a cracking restaurant all under one roof. What amazes me is the people and staff behind it, they are passionate and love what they do, invested in making it a success.

The brewpub opened in 2015 with a 200 litre microbrewery supplied by Geterbrewed. The Ebrington army barracks repurposed, the brewpub faces out onto the old ebrington parade square and on the other side is the peace bridge which links you to the city and its a great walk, we took a wander over for a pint in the Guildhall Tap Room.

I recently visited Walled City Brewery for a food pairing evening and I was really impressed with the buzz in the area.

James and his team could have done what everyone does and took a tap tie from one of the Macro brands but he remained fiercly  independent and earned his place as a successful established business the hard way.

The Walled City Team produce a range of their own beers on site and they have a kitchen  using local produce and knocking out some beautifully tasty meals. The chef Mike popped out to walk around the tables and check how we found our meal.

Stephanie did a little talk on a cocktail she created and just casually described a cocktail she created with a local Gin “Frankie & Eileens Distillery” and a New England IPA brewed on site. She drops into the conversation that the garnish was gorseflower she picked while walking her dog earlier. Describing the beer how it was brewed and how she felt the ingredients complimented each other all topped off with a gorse flower garnish to add a little coconut note.

The cocktail was beautifully refreshing. The beers on tap had a wide variety of styles and I can easily say they have something for everyone. The food was equally impressive so the combination of craftbeer, craft spirits, locally sourced food and passionate and knowledgeable staff makes it a winner for me. You can see the brewery as it’s positioned at the bottom of the restaurant this adds to the altogether genuine feel and experience. They also run a homebrew academy which we love as they are actively promoting the hobby.

I’m hoping to see the Ebrington square developed further and highly recommend you check this brewpub out. There is a vibrant buzz about Derry City and it was great to walk around the local bars and see local breweries starting to get some tap space.

Thanks to the Walled City Team for a great experience

Jonathan

 

 

The Craft Beer Scene in Northern Ireland – Support your local brewery!!

Suppressed…..

In a word, the craft beer movement seeing huge growth in other parts of the world is being suppressed in the North of Ireland by the Macro beer brands, the craft beer market is being prohibited from growing because of anti competitive tactics which leads to lack of support from the on trade market.

Combine the anti competitive tactics with the current out of date licensing laws our craft breweries really need support from the public to grow and survive and our politicians need to start lobbying for change of the licensing laws to help the small craft producers sell direct.

The main problem is anti competitive practices from the big drinks distribution guys, our own brewery was hit with such tactics recently. We brewed a beer specifically for a large hotel and they stopped buying from us so we sought clarification on what was happening, they advised us that they had been given 350k over a ten year period not to allow other breweries in that they didn’t represent. This is the first time we experienced this with a bottle contract, we had never seen that type of activity before, usually you can expect it to be just in relation to draft beer lines.

In simple terms Macro beer brands can buy the rights (not lawfully btw) to have just their beer pouring in bars, restaurants and hotels, some craft brewers simply wouldn’t have the ability to compete with such deals so their growth is suppressed.

Another major problem is licensing laws, now NI is isolated with out of date legislation, the South of Ireland recently changed their laws with a successful Craft Drinks Bill and the UK breweries can sell direct, they can open tap rooms they can generate a revenue from direct drinks sales but NI can’t without approaching a bar to get the use of their occasion licence and making an application to the court.

The lack of a sitting assembly at Stormont means any work that had previously been achieved with craft producers and MLA’s working on a change in law will have to start again IF they ever get back to actually legislating. What is shocking is that political parties in NI don’t currently even acknowledge correspondence in relation to this.

Another issue is that NI craft brewers need volume sales to survive, the margins in Craft Beer are small and with the suppressed local craft beer market the consumption rate is low so they need to look at supermarkets or exports, now we have the impeding circus show that is Brexit looming without any guidance to how the local craft brewing business community is being affected plus the catch with supermarket sales means most independent off sales will abandon them as they say they won’t stock breweries that are in supermarkets yet they still stock macro beer that is in the supermarket, that itself doesn’t seem fair really, again a different rule for macro beer.

Export is what is helping NI breweries grow , the consumption rate of craft beer in Northern Ireland isn’t large enough to support the amount of brewers. There is few breweries in NI that work fulltime brewing without some form of supplementary income for eg our main business is selling ingredients to brewers but we do co own a local brewery. Those that are working full time are really making the effort to push their brand as its the most difficult place to open and operate a brewery. We have some incredibly talented brewers in Ireland and Irish craft beer is respected on the world stage. Export markets are competitive , the margins are low but if you can achieve some decent volume then it can create revenue to allow the brewery to grow that growth leads to larger scale which in turn brings efficiencies and savings.

Direct sales from the brewery is what is really needed, taprooms across England for eg are selling their beer on draft direct for say £4 per pint, 95% of what they are brewing is being sold onsite, this is allowing them a consistent and sustainable revenue stream. I have visited some of these tap rooms and they have become the hub of the community in some small country villages.

So why don’t more NI brewers open tap rooms?

Some do and make use of occasion licences in their breweries and I love what they are doing here…. Checkout Boundary, Lacada and now Knockout doing this. Location is key too, if your brewery is based in the countryside for eg that might not be practical. So if we look at premises in major towns and cities they have prohibitive rent and rates and if you want to buy a licensed premises they are crazy expensive. We looked recently at a licence that became available in Randalstown and the asking price was 200k, with the current licensing laws no new licences can be issued so if you own a licence its worth money.

Some of our NI brewers are making incredible craft beer yet local support isn’t on their side. I recently went to a well known Belfast Bar with several other brewers, we were offered samples and asked if we would like to try something on their board (this part i thought was a good thing btw) but….. When we looked at the board I said I would like to try something local. This then kicked off a talk from the bartender about how he couldn’t get any kegs from local breweries. This really got my attention so i started asking some probing questions turns out he was talking out his arse. I started asking basic simple questions like which local breweries did you approach? I was shocked and equally pissed off at the response, the bartender ran down several respected local breweries one by one. Largely inaccurate info I may add, yes our brewery was mentioned and apparently I don’t need beer sales as my income comes from meat sales from our beer fed beef project – really wtf!! our business partner in the brewery Nigel was there with us and runs the farmshop with his brother and he will confirm that isn’t a main revenue stream, it takes it all to get a little return. Good brewers who I rate were slagged off one by one, I challenged this with some effort and said we were all brewers and what your saying is wrong and if thats the message you are portraying to customers then you are damaging the local beer scene. Guess what we chipped away at all the bullshit and it boiled down to distribution companies, who they can and can’t buy from, frustrating to be honest………

This is written to help create awareness of what challenges local brewers have here, yes we co-own a brewery ourselves but our main business is supplying brewing ingredients, we want all local breweries to be supported, we are passionate about this industry and as a small family business we have built relationships with the brewers we supply we know how hard they work, we know they can make awesome beer we just want you to see how much they need a little help. If we could get the licence laws changed and more taprooms opened these are the places i’d like to spend my sparetime, please challenge your local bars and off sales to make an effort to support your local brewery, or as many local breweries as possible, this will greatly help the craft beer movement.

Does your local MLA know we need these laws changed, the more constituents asking the more chance for change, just saying, we genuinely appreciate your help with supporting local brewers.

 

 

 

 

Hillstown Brewery attending Craft Beer Rising with Geterbrewed

We have teamed up with Crisp Malt to bring a flavour of the Irish Craft Beer Scene to London for the 2019 Craft Beer Rising, honestly get tickets this is an awesome festival

So we have 6 key customers attending and we will be pouring their beers all weekend including some special collaborations between the Irish brewers

Hillstown Brewery Logo

Our sister brewery Hillstown will be there. The Northern Ireland based brewery was created in partnership with our friend Nigel Logan from Hillstown Farmshop and the brewhouse is now proudly located on the farm. Launched in 2014 initially as a beer fed beef project for the on site butchery it now produces a core range of 6 beers, complimented with a range of seasonal specials.

The latest releases include:

Hillstown Brewery Special Releases

1. The Blueberry Badger Parade 3.5%
Hillstowns first sour beer, Geterbrewed managed to get us some commercial samples of a new helveticus strain of bacteria, we blended this with sour pitch planetarium strain and soured the wort in the brewhouse kettle for 24 hours prior to boiling off the wort and adding a little citra hops. Big thanks to Rob Percival from Lallemand for the technical help on this project

We fermented the beer at a high temperature with Belle Saison yeast and then used some juniper botanicals from Frankie & Eileens distillery to add to secondary. We have allowed this beer to condition for several weeks with the botanicals prior to bottling. The amount of Blueberries in this beer makes up 55% of the content, its complex yet super crushable as its only 3.5%

2. The Full Boar Crew 6.2%
The new trend for IPA’s, a Brut IPA much like its champagne name is a super dry beer, we have fermented out all the residual sugars with the addition of glucoamylase 400 paired with a beautiful Lallemand New England yeast which has imparted some nice stone fruit flavour and we have late hopped the beer with lots of the latest harvest of Simply Hops Aussie varieties. The hop flavour profile is super fresh and packed with delicious hop flavour

Jonathan is the creative recipe designer usually starting the pilot batches on his homebrew kit and then passing the recipe onto the brewers to turn it into the commercial format.

New brewer Kevin McLaughlin is producing some of the best beers to date, again a home brewer turned pro he is dedicated and passionate about the Irish Craft Beer Scene, he is even known to do a little blogging on beer in his spare time

Hillstown Brewery recently launched with new distribution partners in the UK, the juvenile NI beer scene has enjoyed their beers since 2014 but as with many Irish brewers the local consumption rate is low so focus is mainly on export opportunities.

Hillstown collaborated with Rye River Brewery & Hilden Brewery for special beers to be released at Craft Beer Rising.

Join us and meet some of the key players in the Irish Craft Beer Scene at the festival in London, you can buy tickets here: 

Creating New Beer Styles

New Beer Styles

New Beer Styles

Craft brewers are always pushing the limits of what a beer can achieve, it’s one of the very reasons I love it so much. I enjoyed a coffee sour beer from Crate brewery recently at a beer festival and myself and my friend are still talking about it. I had the pleasure recently of listening to a presentation from Alex Barlow on New Beer Styles and noted some of his thoughts which I found very interesting

So what’s new in beer?

Everything it seems…..

  • Innovative Ingredients
  • Additions
  • Packaging & Packaging Processes
  • Styles
  • Names

But also it could be argued nothing has changed…..

  • It’s the same big 4 ingredients and beer has always been innovated and developed, whereas there was limited beer styles in the 80’s nowadays its very different.

 What is a beer style?

  • Re Exploring Old Beers
  • Brewing with More
  • Brewing with less, e.g Gluten Free and low abv beers
  • Blurring Boundaries and creating new styles

So What is Beer?

A non distilled fermented extract broken down into three families’;

  1. Ales
  2. Lagers
  3. Mixed

This is turn is then sub divided into many beer styles, modern beer styles are influenced by their historical predecessors which are influenced by;

  • Different Countries
  • Wars & Taxation
  • Changing Tastes & Experiences
  • Foreign imports, marketing and advertising
  • The Craft Beer Scene has always been about innovative trends and styles evolving and will always be so

How do you define a beer style?

  • Ingredients
  • Techniques
  • ABV
  • Colour
  • Bitterness
  • Clarity

Re Exploring old beer styles…..

So How do we reinvent and evolve old styles, lets look at the styles…

IPA’S – Ever popular but there has been branching off of the style to include the following, British IPA, American IPA, Double IPA, Session IPA, New England IPA, Fruit IPA, Black IPA

Lagers – Traditionally adhered to Czech & German Styles but now we are starting to see dry hopped lager, Let’s not forget that to Lager means to store and that the maturation and carbonation are fundamental to the balance of the lager. Lagers generally have a more subtle flavor but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be adapted

Continental Ales – Geography but are generally traditional Belgian & German Styles, for example Hefeweizen, Wit, Blondes, Dubbels and Triples. Lots of variables including different yeats, malt and hops. New World Twists on Old World Beer Styles

Sour Beers – Lots of differnet sour types and experimenting is taking place with mixed fermentation. There is kettle sours like Berliner Weisse & Gose or Barrel aged sours like Oude Bruin or Flanders Red. Some brewers are even using spontaneous fermentation in coolships

Historical Styles – Some are totally dropped out of fashion like Gruit, Koyt, KK, Grutzer, Kottbasser

There is lots of new beer styles but the session IPA appears to be on trend.

Brewing with More…..

 There are lots of this going on, for example brewing with Fruit.

What Beer Styles to add fruit to? Belgians, Spontaneous, Saisions etc

When and How to add fruit? Mash, Kettle, During Fermentation or Post Fermentation

What format to add fruits? Whole, Raw, Chopped, cooked, puree, juice, essence, flavouring

Considerations when adding fruit? Be aware you will be adding fermentable fruits and becareful of the flavor intensity. Adding fruit to beer can also affect the colour, haze and stability and fruit oils can impact on head retention also.

Herbs & Spices are another option for brewing with more, they can in theory be added to any beer style and they are usually added in the Mash or the kettle.

Brewing with Less…..

Gluten Free Beer “Gluten is a mix of 2 main proteins (Glutenin & Glindin) found mostly in wheat but also in barley, rye , spelt etc”

There is two methods in producing a gluten free beer;

  1. Alternative Grains
  2. Altered proteins using terminal protease enzyme

Alcohol Free Beer is made using two key methods;

  1. Limited attenuation which is cheaper but it can be less reliable and have an unbalanced flavor
  2. Vacuum Distillation which is an expensive process to remove the alcohol

Blurring Boundaries & Creating New Styles…..

Ale/Lager hybrids

Souring & Barrel Ageing nontraditional styles

Confectionary beer, think chocolate bars, old fashioned sweets and puddings

Meat Beers, think Bacon etc

When blurring boundaries with beer styles there is a lot of considerations & implications…

Flavour Balance is key, just be aware of appropriate addition rates and consider the negative impacts some additions might have

Maybe as a brewer your going to create a new style and you’ll have pioneered the next trend setting beer, creative and passionate brewers continue to make the craft beer industry and exciting place to work within.