Here is our Head Brewer, Declan Nixon, speaking to The Boast App Podcast about his career, homebrewing and brewing for YellowBelly Beer and side-project, Otterbank Brewing.
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.
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!
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.