An Irish/Kiwi craft beer connection surprised Karl Hayes on a recent visit home.
Visiting his hometown (Drinagh, West Cork, pop. 596), Te Aro Brewing’s Karl Hayes was drinking a Guinness in the local when he spotted brightly coloured cans in the chiller.
"These turned out to be from Irish craft brewer Rascals Brewing of Dublin", says Karl. "Both were delicious: Big Hop Red IPA (5%), and Yankee White IPA (5%)."
“These were the only craft beers in the pub, indeed they were the only ones in any of the half dozen pubs I visited during that trip. The weird thing was I'd heard of Rascals before. When I applied for the permits to start my own brewery, the Council receptionist said a colleague had recently left to start Rascals Brewery back in Dublin. I tracked down the Facebook page and kept an eye on their progress. I was particularly interested as Cathal and I grew up about four miles (and a few years) apart.
“Both principals, Cathal O’Donoghue and Emma Devlin, were regular craft beer drinkers in Wellington up to a few years ago, so their beers have a distinct Kiwi feel to them. Big bold flavours dominate. Flagship beers include the two hoppy IPAs plus Ginger Porter (4.8%). Yankee White IPA and Ginger Porter each scored Gold medals at the 2016 World Beer Awards.”
As Beertown.NZ’s official Irish correspondent (sorry Orla), Karl interviewed Emma on his return to Te Aro.
KH: Where and when did the craft beer bug first bite? What pub? What beer?
ED: Myself and Cathal met in Wellington, and our first couple of dates involved going to Wellington’s craft beer bars and getting to know all the local beers. The Malthouse and Hashigo Zake stand out in memory as having some crazy hoppy beers that I’d never tasted anything like before. Loved some of the Epic hoppy beers and Emerson’s Bookbinder. Visits to Regional Wines & Spirits were always interesting as there was often breweries doing tastings, we could sample the draught beers, and we went to a few of the beer nights upstairs as well.
KH: How do you go from liking a decent pint to going all-in with a commercial brewery?
ED: Boredom in the mundane 9-5s and having a few Euro tucked away in the bank account is the starting point! Cathal started home brewing in New Zealand. On moving home to Ireland, Cathal and myself both got serious about home brewing and won a few competitions. This gave us the confidence to “go all-in” with commercial brewing. We got lucky, a second-hand brew kit came up for sale at a price we could afford. It took about two years of planning but we got there two years after moving home from New Zealand and haven’t looked back since!
KH: Any advice for home brewers keen to start brewing commercially?
ED: You need as much savings/cash as possible. You need a really thorough business plan. Brewing good beer is one of the easiest part of this business. Getting accounts and distribution is the most difficult due to competition. You need a good team with you starting out. Hop contracts are also very important, good luck getting any nice aroma hops these days without the contract!
KH: What makes Rascals’ beers stand out?
ED: Bold flavours and branding. Experimenting with different ingredients such as chocolate, ginger, mint, trying different yeasts and going for not so obvious hops choices. For example, our Yankee White IPA is brewed with Belgian yeast, and Wunderbar IPA is brewed with 100% German hops. We’re also lucky to have a great designer who really understands the brand and creates bright and bold artwork which makes the beer stand out on the taps and on the shelves.
KH: Which beers do you have most fun making?
ED: We have the most fun when trying our new ingredients and brewing methods. We are currently doing a sour series called Project Sour – four kettle-sour beers, each one completely different in terms of hops, yeast, fruit and pH levels. Experimentation gives us the opportunity to learn as we go along when playing with the new ingredients. We have a 50L pilot kit to see what works…and doesn’t!
KH: For visitors to Ireland – what are the must-visit bars?
ED: Dublin is by far the craft capital in Ireland. There are many ‘Galway Bay’ bars in the city which offer a great selection. Other good bars are Blackbird, P Macs, Square Ball, The Bernard Shaw. You could walk from Richmond Street-Camden Street-Wexford Street and stumble across many good bars with decent craft beer selections.
Other cities have just a handful of craft beer bars: Galway – Salthouse, Beerhouse; Cork – Franciscan Well and Abbot’s Ale House; Belfast – Woodworkers and Brewbot.
KH: The craft brewing community in New Zealand is fairly collegiate and collaborative – is it similar in Ireland?
ED: Yes. There is a tight knit community in Ireland among brewers. We are always a phone call away from helping each other out with any queries or issues. In terms of collaborations, we are a little bit lacking, there haven’t really been many collabs between breweries but some of the newer breweries are starting to do it more. No doubt we will see a lot more happening in the coming months/years.
KH: Where do you see the craft beer industry in Ireland going?
ED: Craft beer is now 2.5% of total beer sales in Ireland, up from 1.5% last year, so it is steadily growing. The growth is in the cities – rural areas are way behind and not as interested in trying new beers. There are a lot of faux craft beers in this country being produced by the big boys and in fairness to them, seem to be selling very well. We are a market that traditionally has only ever been exposed to stout and lager, so it is difficult to get the wider consumer to stray from the styles. There are over 60 physical microbreweries in Ireland now, and growing. We would hope the current 2.5% market share will continue its steady rise and more and more people will be converted to tasty beers!
Check out Rascals Brewing here. Beertown.NZ’s official Irish correspondent (ret’d) can be found at Te Aro Brewing and Brewtopia brewing supplies.