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2016 The Year of the Sour

 

A blog by YellowBelly Danny – Follow him @DannyTrappe on Twitter

2016 has been a very inventive year so far for Irish breweries, with many embracing the relatively recent phenomenon of sour beer. For many drinkers this is a step too far, and I would certainly describe it as a niche within a niche, But if you are lucky enough to develop a fondness for sour beer then a whole new world of craft beer has opened up to you. It has certainly become a passion for me! It can shock people upon their first tasting, but I always suggest to customers to have a second sip as your taste buds will begin to get used to the initial acidity and the other subtle flavours of the beer will begin to emerge.

Historically all beers would have been sour. Early beer makers would have been unaware of yeast and its fermenting prowess. Once these early settlers had made their sugary malt beverage they would have left it in pots, open to the elements. A spontaneous fermentation would occur due to the presence of wild yeast in the atmosphere and beer would be created. I bet they couldn’t believe their luck! This beer would have had a certain funky sourness and would have been highly acidic. In Belgium, the home of sour brewing today, this spontaneous fermentation practice is somewhat controlled by the hand skilled brewers.The beer is left cool beside open slatted windows and a system of fans encourage the passing yeast and bacteria to spoil the beer. This beer is then sent to oak barrels to begin its fermentation. Once ready the beer is either blended or further aged on fruit. While the Belgian method calls for a sour fermentation in wood, most Irish breweries practice a technique known as ‘Kettle Souring’, which involves adding a sour culture into the boil kettle rather than the fermentation vessel. The beer is then boiled in order to kill the bacteria while still maintaining its acidic quality, this keeps the fermentation area free from wild yeast and bacteria which allows breweries to brew non sour beers alongside a sour program. Kettle Sours are then fermented with an ale yeast under controlled conditions.

YellowBelly have released a host of sours this year, as they have become a bit of an obsession among all brewing staff and thankfully the Wexford drinking public! In my opinion Wexford town is becoming the ‘Irish Sour Capital’ of Ireland, feck your European Capital of Culture, this is the one that really matters. Currently on the beer rating app ‘Untapped’ Wexfords favourite beer style is listed as sour beer, which I assure you is not solely down to the YellowBelly brewers! Castaway our passion fruit sour and Great for the Town our strawberry sour broke all sales records in our local stockists which was unthinkable when we started brewing just over a year ago. It’s amazing how local people’s palates have changed.

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(Pic courtesy of Son0vagun www.instagram.com/son0vagun/)

Our latest sour offering, and the funnest beer name to say ever is our new Berliner-Weiss Jack Bauer’s Power Shower Sour. It is a little different from our previous offerings as this time there is no added fruit. Just a straight up sour. This allows our in house sour culture to be the star of the show. Beautifully tart and refreshing with a slightly sweet finish. Only 3.8% as well so a real summer quaffer. Stocks as usual are limited!

Jack Bauer's Power Shower Sour. A Berliner Weisse golden sour beer from YellowBelly Beer.

There are also some other great Irish sours on the market at the moment, most notably from the north west of the country. Joe Kearns the head brewer for White Hag in Sligo also shares our passion for creating beautiful sours. A personal favourite of mine is The Púca a dry hopped lemon sour. Born from an experiment by Joe where he added lactic acid to a wheat beer to see what it tasted like, a cracking beer was the result! Really refreshing and really sour, another quaffer, coming in at 3.7%. Kinnegar Brewing in Donegal are also knocking out some top quality sours, such as their latest ‘Walla Walla’ Rhubarb and Ginger Sour. Both well worth seeking out.

So there you have it, a brief insight into the fledgling sour scene in Ireland. If you are looking to dip your toe into the sour sea, get down to Simon’s and we will try and convert you or seek us out in your local independent off licence or beer festival!

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Galway Bay Brewery Tap Takeover at Simon Lambert & Sons

Thursday 4th August, a date for all the beer lovers in Wexford!

Simon Lambert and Sons in Wexford Town will be hosting a ‘Tap Takeover’ in the brewpub. Galway Bay Brewery are the guests and they will be bringing 6 beers with them, including ‘Of Foam and Fury’ their fabled Double IPA and ‘Buried at Sea’ a chocolate milk stout.

Founded in 2009, Galway Bay Brewery have been pioneers of the recent craft beer revolution and have quickly established themselves as one of the most exciting breweries in Ireland. Alongside a great core range of IPA’s and Stouts, they produce lots of interesting seasonal brews throughout the year. With 11 pubs under their name, it’s a tough job to keep them all stocked with beer, so it is a rare treat to get them to bring their wares down to the sunny south east for an occasion not to be missed.

Brand Ambassador Jenna McConville will be in attendance to answer all your beer related questions. Danny Trappe and Will Murphy, Simon Lambert and Sons’ Head Mixologists, will also be launching some new spirit infusions on the night as well as some beer cocktails! It promises to be a great night with music from 8pm and fantastic beer all night.

Galway Bay Brewery Beer Menu 

Acid Mother | Lime Gose | ABV 5.4%

Buried at Sea | Choclate Milk Stout | ABV 4.5%

Full Sail | IPA | ABV 5.8%

Dortmunder | Lager |  6%

Of Foam & Fury | Double IPA | ABV 8.5%

Aikau | Amber Ale | ABV 4.5%

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3, it’s the Magic Numbeer. (Sorry)

Bottles

It has been an exciting few months here at YellowBelly, as we have finally been able to get some bottled beer around the country thanks to lots of hard work and our new distribution partner, Fourcorners. It is standard practice  for a new brewery to release a core range first, but we have never really done things normally at YellowBelly. Each bottled beer we bring out is a one off, limited edition release and the likelihood is that it will never be seen again. This might seem strange to your average punter but in our experience the craft beer drinker is always looking for something new, and the fact that we brew in relatively small batches allows us to be more unique in what beers we produce. We do plan on launching a core range in the not so distant future, but for us as a small brewery entering the market we wanted to blow people away with styles and flavours that they may not have experienced before. And that will always be part of the plan.

In July we launched beers 7, 8 and 9 on to the Irish public, Where’s Wallonia a Farmhouse Saison, Gose to Leipzig a Gose style beer and Great for the Town a strawberry sour. While obviously what’s most important is the liquid in the bottle, we are also very proud of our artwork on this series all provided by our ‘Artist in Residence’ Paul Reck. Cheers Paul!

Let’s start with Where’s Wallonia a farmhouse saison, and probably the reason for our first copyright infringement! This style of beer originated in Wallonia in Belgium hence our play on words and our heavily influenced label! It is a blonde Belgian style beer with added orange rind and fermented out with a saison yeast giving it its funky, peppery character. The orange rind gives the beer a fresh citrus aroma and slight bitterness. It pours a hazy golden orange colour with a strong white head synonymous with Belgian beer styles. It maintains quite a light body despite its 5.6% alcohol content, so it’s a perfect accompaniment to those long summer evenings.

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And now for something completely different, Gose to Leipzig is one of our geographically inspired historical recipes, in this instance it is our play on the famous salt beer from Goslar, Germany. Its origins date back to the 16th century but by the 1800’s  it had become so popular in the city of Leipzig that they adopted it as their own. It is one of the only German beers that is brewed outside of the Reinheitsgebot Purity Law, it is permissible as it is considered a regional specialty.  Traditional ‘Gose’ beers achieve their saltiness from a water source that is high in salt content, we achieve ours through an addition of pink Himalayan rock salt, naturally. True to style we also add some coriander and our lactobacillus culture. The result is a slightly salty, tart, refreshing beer. It might sound a bit strange but I have recently done some public tastings of this beer and the reaction has been fantastic!

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And last but not least, something a bit closer to home! Great for the Town is the most Wexford beer ever! Brewed with strawberries, YellowBelly himself in a 96 jersey and a hape of ‘snakes and rats’ on the label. It’s the latest installment in our fruit based Berliner-Weiss style beers. It’s a good entry level sour beer as the fruit and tartness of the strawberries balance out the acidity of the souring culture. A really refreshing summer beer. It pours a cloudy pink and the aroma is all about the strawberry. Desh!

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All three beers are currently available locally in Simon Lambert and Sons, and many other good off-Licences throughout the county. For outlets further afield message us and we will direct you to your nearest stockist.

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YellowBelly Beer’s Kangaroo Jack [VIDEO]

Brewed in collaboration with the Woolshed Brewpub, Southern Australia. We decided to brew a style popular in Jackson Beavis’ local area of Renmark (although the Aussies drink their stouts with lemonade!) Ours is a tropical interpretation of the style with a slightly fruity, rum & molasses nose. On the tongue, we’ve kept the bitter roastiness to a minimum to allow the Southern Hemisphere hops to compliment the layered malt bill.

Enjoy #YellowBellyBeer

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Awards for YellowBelly Beer

OK, deep breath! What a weekend that was! The 27th,28th and 29th of May 2016 will live long in the memory with everyone connected with Team YellowBelly. Not only did we celebrate our 1st year in business as a brewery and 51st year as a pub with our South Main Ale Trail, we also took home 3 Gold medals from the National Beer Awards held by Beoir. It was the best birthday we could have hoped for! I was representin’ down in Killarney where the BeerFest and National Awards were being held so I missed out on the festivities at home, but I sure as hell made up for it out w(h)est!

25 breweries and a couple of distilleries made the trek down to Killarney where we were blessed with great weather and great beer. Killarney BeerFest was a priority for us on the festival circuit as it is where Beoir hold their annual awards ceremony. Attendance to the festival is not mandatory, but we were never gonna miss out on the party! 165 beers from all around Ireland were entered into the competition across eight different categories, ranging from lagers to sours, competition was fierce!

The competition tasting took place on Saturday. Tasting in all these competitions are done blindly, the tasters cant see any labels and don’t know where the beer has come from. This makes it about all about the liquid in the glass. No clever branding or advertising campaign is gonna help you here. Beers had to be entered in unbranded bottles or straight from your beer tap into a glass jug. During the tasting day on Saturday a few hardworking volunteers were dispatched to the festival tent to collect the jugs of draught beer, as we started to get repeat requests for jugs we realised some of our beers were getting through to the next rounds. That’s when the excitement creeped in! Frenzied calls were made home to YellowBelly HQ as we realised we could be in the running! As tasting ended, rumours were circulating the tent, but nothing would be revealed until Sunday.

We awoke to another glorious morning on Sunday. A glorious Sunday wrought with tension and expectancy! Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but it was a big day for YellowBelly all the same. 4pm was penciled in for the big announcement. All we could do was wait. 4 o’ clock came and went with a barrage of speeches, reminiscent of ‘Craggy Islands King of the Sheep’ competition, but as soon as everyone got their tu’pence in, it was straight onto the first announcement and our first award. Our Head Brewer Declan took home second place and a silver medal with his very popular ‘The Vikings are Coming’ in the sour beer category. Brewed under his Otterbank umbrella, this sour, tart lemony goodness was only narrowly beaten by the White Hags ‘Puca’. Great company to be in and good practice for me holding awards and smiling, something I feel I began nailing towards the end.

Next category for us was the Pale Ale category. This one was very important as ‘Pale Ale’ one of our core range beers, and one we hope to roll it out across the country, so to be recognised for this would be massive, and recognised we were with a beautiful gold medal acknowledging our ‘Pale Ale’ as the best in the country! Desh!

We would have been happy with that, but the awards kept coming! ‘Fierce Mild’ took gold in the dark ale category, and ‘The Passion’ our passion fruit infused lager completed the hat-trick in the speciality beer category.

What a brilliant weekendand we have so many people to thank for making it all possible. Thanks to the Gleneagle Hotel for hosting the event and looking after any issues we had throughout the weekend. Thanks to all the Beoir volunteers who made the competition process seamless and stress free for all the entrants. Thanks to all the other Irish breweries who attended and made it such a class BeerFest! Big shout outs to Maureen Cournane and Kellie Dawson as the whole event would not have been possible with out your hard work and dedication. Here’s to 2017 and the defence of our crown!

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YellowBelly Barrel Aged Series

A Blog by YellowBelly Danny – Follow him on Twitter @DannyTrappe

One of the first things we did when we finished building our brewery was to set up our barrel program. We sourced oak wine barrels from Burgundy in France and got about filling them up with beer. Barrel ageing beer has become very popular among the craft brewing world in recent years as breweries constantly strive to stand out from the crowd, this is especially important in an already quite saturated Irish market. Macro breweries are all about getting product out as quick as possible, Carlsberg for example get their lager from grain to gate in 3 days! Barrel ageing beer calls for patience only really seen in the craft brewing sector. Our barrel aged series is aged in oak for a minimum of 6 months. This process brings all the flavours together nicely and imparts a special character only found with this process. The oak the barrels are made from are usually scorched on the inside which provides vanilla and spice flavours to the beer. Flavour also comes from whatever was in the barrel before the beer, in our case with our wine barrels we would expect to get some fruit and tannins, we might also get a little bit more alcohol which is always a good thing!

One of the first YellowBelly beers we brewed was destined for our Pinot-Noir Oak barrel. We decided a high ABV English style Barley Wine was a good match, although called wine it is in reality just a strong english ale, the name stems from the strength of the beer. Ours is quite light on hop charachter which allows the sweetness of the grain to shine through, the red wine barrel adds a little frutiness which which helps mask the alcohol content nicely! It came out at a massive 9.9%, we also picked up 1% from the barrel itself. The 6 month wait was definitely worth it and will continue to get better with age in the bottle, that’s if you can resist the temptation!

Our next beer and number 2 in our series is our Barrel Age Brown Ale, again this is a traditional English style we sent to France on its holidays, this time for 6 months in a Chardonnay wine barrel, the result is a smooth, choclate-y ale with hints of vanilla and coffee, the barrel also adds a little bit of dryness obtained from the Chardonnay.