With the boom in Irish microbrewers over the last few years, it’s great to see generally the strengths in depth of the brewing pool. So when the opportunity presented itself to travel up to Ballymote, Sligo to visit White Hag Brewery, and to help them celebrate their second birthday it was an instant yes.
Thinking back to their arrival on the Irish Craft Beer scene and debut at the Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival in 2014, they were definitely someone to make you sit up and notice. The brewery is led by Brewmaster Joe Kearns, who has come from Ohio in the US, specifically to be a part of this growing industry. So, learning that it comes as no surprise, as a brewery they eschewed the “Holy Trinity” approach that so many brewer’s follow. Coming to the RDS packing a 10% Imperial Stout, a 7.2% IPA and Heather Ale. It was also interesting to learn that the reason they chose Ballymote as the location for their brewery. It all came down to the water: Ballymote has much softer water than most of Ireland, and that helps with the types of beers Joe likes to brew.
So this past weekend, they invited the public to help them celebrate their birthday, and boy did they do it with style. Bringing together their own beers, and beers from Yellowbelly, Otterbank, Beavertown, Kinnegar, Redchurch, Metalman, and Black Donkey. There was literally something for everyone in the audience. Not satisfied with that alone, they guys ran tours of the brewery to explain to fascinated guests the brewing process, and how it all works. There were also locally produced foods that used the beers in there as ingredients.
There was a lovely boozy pulled pork using the stout, a Burger that had smoked Gubbeen bacon and cheese, topped off with a delicious black boar BBQ sauce. For those with a sweet tooth there was White Sow Ice Cream, and a delicious Púca Sorbet. All very reasonably priced, but more importantly, delicious.
For entertainment, there was a DJ spinning tunes and then there was an excellent percussion band that entertained us with a samba beat snaking through the brewery with an infectious beat. Lastly there was traditional music to finish off the night. Fellow beer writer Simon Broderick hosted a Q&A with a panel of brewers that was informative and entertaining.
White Hag beers, are mainly available in the countries best off licences, you generally won’t find their beers in the supermarkets. This is a conscious decision taken by them. Approximately 50% of what they produce is exported around the world, and a growing amount to the UK. Not surprisingly, they recently decided to can Little Fawn, their Session IPA, which makes up approximately 60% of their sales. You can expect them to continue both with modern recipes, but with a nod to the long history of brewing in this country. Expect to see some old recipes revived and re-brewed for modern consumers.
The hospitality shown by White Hag was tremendous, but it was a real example of what takes place in the UK every weekend, where local breweries throw open their doors to the locals, to get to know each other and support local businesses. The tourism angle alone should be enough justification for a special brewer’s licence that would allow them to run events like this without having to apply for specific events licences. Local businesses helping each other engage with their local market. Sounds like common sense to me. Sadly not often seen in political circles.
The White Hag are a brewery to watch as they regularly produce interesting beers and specials. Variety is the spice of life they say.
You can connect with White Hag on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram under The White Hag Brewery, and their website thewhitehag.com
From IPAs, to Stouts, to everything in between. Wayne is a passionate advocate for Craft Beer and Cider in Ireland. He regularly features in online publications and podcasts, as well as writing with his wife on www.irishbeersnob.com. Wayne’s aim is to kick down the doors of convention surrounding Craft Beer and Cider by writing in a no nonsense style. Drawing on his experiences of many different beers he is going to bring you on a journey that you’ll be asking yourself, why didn’t I join this revolution sooner?