This is blog post I’ve been waiting about 18 months to post as this week we have signed the lease on our new premises for our brewery Wide Street Brewing Company Limited which will be a very short walk from the centre of Ballymahon town in south Co. Longford. The brewery name comes from the fact that Ballymahon has a very wide street, not the widest, just wide and we want to make a connection between the brewery and our home town. Recently a lot of things have come together for us to start the ball rolling on internal construction and whilst a lot of paperwork has been filled out and there still is a lot more paperwork to fill out, we are finally in a position to start some physical construction next week so I’d like to tell you a little about what we plan on doing. We have a small but hard working team of three to begin with including my girlfriend Carla who was immense in driving us through the process of setting up the business with financial projections, business plan, accounts, Leader funding (for which we were successful), branding, creating timelines and making sure things got done along with being my expert in all things fruit and spice and developing her own recipes. On top of that I’m extremely fortunate to have another childhood friend Sean Diffley who happens to have extensive knowledge of the brewing industry worldwide from an engineering perspective and without his drawings, projections, plans, brewhouse lay-out, water knowledge, electrical knowledge and general construction knowledge I would not have had a clue where to start. The skills that these two people bring to the company enable me to focus on the things that I enjoy like brewhouse operations, brewing and packaging, raw materials sourcing, recipe development, yeast management, brewing and lots and lots of cleaning!
Followers of my blog have a fair idea of the styles of beer I usually brew but I’d also like to give you an idea of what we plan on releasing initially and what our plans for the future are.
Our ethos revolves around 100% Brettanomyces fermentation, wild fermentation and mixed fermentation. Mixing together a lot of different Brett strains produces enormously juicy pale ales and IPA’s so we’re keen to release a lot of 100% Brett beers all the while mixing up the hop combinations for constant rotation of the style via experimentation, invention and creativity. Brettanomyces can make for a softer and drier beer when used by itself but also has the ability to prolong those hop flavours compared to saccharomyces yeast. The beauty of a Brett IPA is watching the flavor profile evolve from early on in the first 6 months to enhancing hop flavor and aroma to the Brettanomyces itself taking over the profile of the beer to create something truly unique. These will be beers designed to be both drank fresh for full hop enjoyment or aged for Brett enjoyment. There’s a distinct lack of 100% Brettanomyces fermentation in Ireland so we will be enthusiastically providing that service.
My next passion is mixed fermentation saison and this involves using a saccharomyces strain in conjunction with Brettanomyces and/or lactobacillus. There’s no hard and fast definition of what these beers should taste like so we will be starting with a Belgian saison saccharomyces yeast strain 50/50 with Brettanomyces for primary fermentation. Once again we will be looking at a bone dry beer style and trying to coax out vinous elements produced by certain hop profiles. This style we hope to produce in 750ml bottles with a slightly higher carbonation level. Also expect some table-beer and grisette emerging from this same stable.
Thirdly, I like to brew sour beer but the thing about well-made sour beer is that it needs a mixture of microbes including pediococcus and lactobacillus plus Brettanomyces in conjunction with saccharomyces and these take time so the sour program will be taking place in the background initially and may not see any results until 2019. I have however developed a style for a quicker sour fermenting at higher temperatures combining Brett and a saison strain which may go into full production.
Next up is brewing wild and there are numerous ways to do this, one of which includes using a coolship to inoculate the wort with microbes from the night air. This is a process best carried out in the colder months so will not take place until the winter of 2018 and may not see results until late 2019.
Another way of brewing wild which I have also documented in a blog post is harvesting your own microbes from the local flora and fauna and this is something I’ve been doing for a few years now so have built up a large bank of wild yeast. I went all out and splurged on a top of the range microscope so I can look at these microbes and isolate the individual cells I need. I’m currently working on different combinations of isolated individual wild saccharomyces and Brettanomyces for our own in-house strain. The microscope will also be an important feature in the brewhouse for cell counting to enable accurate pitch rates of healthy yeast and to check for cross contamination in all areas of the brewing process. I have mixed microbe strains originating from grapes in the Loire Valley to my local Newcastle forest to a ringfort in the north of Longford. This way I can separate out my own individual strain/strains of saccharomyces/lactobacillus/Brettanomyces to make beer which will be truly unique and have a sense of place (see previous blog post on beer with a true sense of place). Clean wild saccharomyces beers anyone?
Ageing mixed fermentation beers in white and red wine barrels to create beer/wine hybrids is also something that we will be working on and I’m currently studying the history of wine making and wine making techniques to try and break down boundaries and combine wine and beer making techniques.
We will also have some small batch hazy IPA which we will release locally but will be no normal NEIPA as these beers are fermented out with a yeast strain originating in Lithuania to keep in line with our ethos of alternative fermentation comprising of 5 different saccharomyces strains that produce a zesty lemon and lime flavor even before the hops are added! Really looking forward to pushing these through the pilot kit for double batch 90 litre quantities. Super limited Lithuanian hazy juice bombs anyone?
Since we decided that the ethos of our brewery would be yeast focused with alternative fermentation techniques some 18 months ago we really have seen a lot of progression and experimentation within the Irish brewing scene but still as of now we do not have a consistent and year-round supply of alternative fermented beers and we will focus solely on this. I firmly believe that the Irish craft beer market is still at a very early stage and we have a lot of room for specialist markets. What we’ve seen in the US (and let’s face it these days all trends start in the US) is breweries finding a specific style of beer and focusing solely on that. There are lager only breweries, hazy IPA only breweries, breweries focusing on sweet milkshake style beers, German styles breweries but there are also breweries that focus on the wilder side of brewing and barrel ageing, blenderies that don’t even produce their own wort, sour beer only breweries, 100% mixed fermentation breweriesand breweries that make beer from foraged ingredients. Without being a jack of all trades we hope to dial in on the wilder and lesser explored styles of beer on these shores and to embrace our local environment in the process.
The size of our brewhouse will be 1000 litres making it one of Irelands smallest and running along-side this will be a constant supply of small batch beers from the 50 litre pilot kit which we will use for propping up yeasts, trialing new hop combinations and testing herbs and spices. All beers will be hand bottled and bottle conditioned in 330ml bottles and for specials we’ll have 750ml bottles.
Craft beer in Ireland is still growing and there is room for Brett, sour, wild and mixed fermentation, and lots of experimentation from a yeast perspective and we can’t wait to be a part of it.
Yeast dictates the end result of your beer after all.
Thanks for reading and we’ll have some beer for you when the internal construction is finished and all the legal is in order. This blog will eventually blend into the main website when I have it up and running soon but for now feel free to like us on the usual social media platforms if you’d like to stay on top of the progress of the build:
Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/widestreetbrewing/
Twitter @ twitter.com/WideStreetBrew
There will be Brett in everything.
Sean Colohan – Co-Owner and brewer.
Wide Street Brewing Company – Ballymahon, Brettanomyces capital of Ireland.