Tanks for the beers...

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Tanks for the beers...

 Alan Lafferty Photography Insta @alanlaffertyphotography www.alanlafferty.com

Alan Lafferty Photography Insta @alanlaffertyphotography www.alanlafferty.com

Big day today in Heaney Brewery country. We started the search for a brewery about 14 months ago. Choosing which kit to buy is a decision that doesn’t come easy. Should we buy new, used, cheap and cheerful, high tech, basic, what size, how many tanks, steam, gas, electric, what FVs, unitanks, bright tanks etc etc? So much choice and so many mistakes to be made! We talked to other brewers, spent countless hours researching, had many sleepless nights and in the end we settled on a Chinese company called Tiantai.

It’s also quite a tedious process and I’m sure reading about it would be equally tedious so we’ll not get into much detail, but I have to say that dealing with Helen at Tiantai Brewery Equipment was an absolute pleasure. Helen and I exchanged 80 emails (I just counted them) so to say she was patient is an understatement. Lets just say I like things to be just right and thankfully so do Tiantai. Thanks Helen! (If anyone wants a reference or any other info then shoot me an email).

I’ll talk more about kit when we’re installing it. Now for delivery. After being on the ocean for nearly 6 weeks you never know what you‘re going to find when a container is opened. It was a nervous moment for me and I must admit I was relieved to see how well it was packed. In fact it was so well packed that we needed an angle grinder, crowbar, and a lot of brute force to free the contents.

 Alan Lafferty Photography Insta @alanlaffertyphotography www.alanlafferty.com

Alan Lafferty Photography Insta @alanlaffertyphotography www.alanlafferty.com

 Alan Lafferty Photography Insta @alanlaffertyphotography www.alanlafferty.com

Alan Lafferty Photography Insta @alanlaffertyphotography www.alanlafferty.com

 Alan Lafferty Photography Insta @alanlaffertyphotography www.alanlafferty.com

Alan Lafferty Photography Insta @alanlaffertyphotography www.alanlafferty.com

This is always an anxious moment for any brewery. It can be tricky moving big tanks and they can be easily damaged but I needn’t have worried. Step in Hugh Griffin & Sons Contractors with their can-do attitude and their two canary yellow forklifts. Hugh, Conor and Joe got stuck in and we had everything unloaded from the two containers in a few hours. They even postponed their 10 o’clock tea break until 12.30. Heroes all! Seriously, they are the best.

 Alan Lafferty Photography Insta @alanlaffertyphotography www.alanlafferty.com

Alan Lafferty Photography Insta @alanlaffertyphotography www.alanlafferty.com

A bit of balancing, fiddling, tweaking and gentle persuasion ensured that we actually had quite an enjoyable and stress free time unloading the brewery, not the angst I was expecting. Job done, containers gone and the farm is quiet again.

 Alan Lafferty Photography Insta @alanlaffertyphotography www.alanlafferty.com

Alan Lafferty Photography Insta @alanlaffertyphotography www.alanlafferty.com

 Alan Lafferty Photography Insta @alanlaffertyphotography www.alanlafferty.com

Alan Lafferty Photography Insta @alanlaffertyphotography www.alanlafferty.com

A little word on The Farmer. The Wood has been home for the Heaneys since the 1950s and has seen many comings and goings. They’ve farmed dairy and beef herds here and kept a few poultry. There’s been a few film crews and tourists looking to soak up a bit of the spirit of the place that Seamus talked about in his poetry. But I bet Hugh Heaney never expected this on the farm. I think he approves.

Our last beer release was called Flit The Nest. The idea for Heaney brewery was born here on the farm, a little chick that ended up in someone else’s nest. We’ve been in that nest for too long. Time to feather our own…

Cheers. Mal.

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Digging...for beer.

Digging...for beer.

It's been exactly a month since the photo below was taken. Slicing into the earth was a truly satisfying moment but also one that brought home to me the reality of what we are taking on. When people talk about starting a brewery it's usually in an industrial unit somewhere, sort the floor, stick your kit in and away you go.  But we're actually building a brewery. From scratch. It's an epic task taking a bare green field and putting a brewery on it. For starters there was no access to mains sewers, no three phase electricity and no mains water so the basic infrastructure didn't exist. The access to our site was a single track lane, impossible to get even the smallest truck into safely. If you had any sense you'd put the brewery somewhere else.

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But that was never an option, the whole reason we are building the brewery on this site is to diversify and sustain the Heaney farm for the future. The infrastructure problems could be solved, in fact, the water is going to come from a natural aquifer directly beneath the brewery and it's going to make excellent brewing water. That's one box ticked.  

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The last two photos were taken exactly four weeks after I dug the first sod. Impressive progress by Hugh Griffin & Sons I'm sure you'll agree. They have done an amazing job so far - access widened, site stripped back, levelled and hardcore laid, foundations in, drainage sorted, septic and wastewater tanks installed and steelwork fabricated and installed. Real progress.

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Over the last few years I've meticulously analysed, studied and stressed over every detail required to bring this whole project together. It's been a rollercoaster of highs and lows so to finally see hustle and bustle on this normally quiet farm and the steel skeleton of our future home, in what was a green field with cattle in it just a few weeks ago, is a fantastic feeling.  

If our brilliant builders keep up the momentum then we are on track to be in for Christmas, working on test batches and planning for the new year. Christmas beers in Bellaghy anyone?

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One step forward...

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Some successes for us in the last month with the beginning of the big brewery build, (more on that in another post) but also a few knock-backs.

Small scale brewing doesn't always work out the way you planned. Sometimes you encounter quality issues which means it's unacceptable to release a beer, even if it is a very special one. A few weeks ago, what was going to be our best beer yet went down the drain. Back in mid June we went foraging for fresh Elderflowers as a floral addition to our first foraged beer, something that we plan to do more of in the future. It was to be a Saison style beer, crisp, dry and refreshing and enhanced by the scent of summer round our way - Elderflowers. 

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Fermentation went well and the beer was tasting great so off it went to the conditioning tank before packaging. A few days later the beer was transferred to the packaging tank which was when the slight colour change was noted.  Fortunately our friends Boundary Brewing had recently acquired a device to measure dissolved oxygen in beer (oxygen in beer is a BAD thing), so we measured it and the reading we got was unacceptable. 

It's hard to see your work go down the drain but it's important, especially given the recent discussion about the quality of Northern Irish craft beer, to hold yourself to high standards. Dumping beer is not all bad news. We learn from the process, try to figure out what went wrong and then continue to make our beer the best it can be.

'The Boortree', an Ulster Scots word for Elder, was supposed to be a one off special beer and a nod to where we are going with Heaney Brewery. It was also our ABV Fest beer which I was probably most gutted about and now we'll just have to wait to next year for a Heaney Brewery presence there. Ah well. The next few months will see us release a range of Specials brewed at Boundary while we manage the transition to our shiny new brewery in Bellaghy so it's not all bad news.

For now though we'll have to wait until next year for the sweet scent of elderflowers so we can recreate The Boortree. It'll be worth waiting for.

Cheers, Mal.

 

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Finding our feet.

Finding our feet...

It's a difficult thing starting a brewery, especially when you don't actually have a brewery. I'm lucky enough to be able to use the facilities at Boundary Brewing in Belfast in return for quite a bit of hard work. So effectively I'm working for, and making beers for two breweries. Busy, busy. Ask my wife.
We've had our four beers in the market now for just over three months and they've been well received, thanks to the support we've had from our off sales, bars and restaurants (see stockist list below). But we're only finding our feet. I've tweaked the recipes of a few of the beers and you will see them improve through the first half of the year and I'm ready to add a new beer into the mix which will be released next week (if the labels ever arrive).
Anyway, the list of stockists is growing all the time and it'll be updated regularly. I'm pretty sure I've missed at least 10!
If your local has no Heaney beer in stock then give 'em a nudge and point them to our website.
Remember, every beer you buy brings us a wee bit closer to our Brewery in Bellaghy.
More about that next time.
Mal.

Stockists


Ox Cave Belfast
Coco Belfast
Town Square, Belfast
The Vineyard, Belfast
Brewbot Belfast
Bottles, Belfast
Black Box, Belfast
Voodoo, Belfast
Boat House
Grange Holywood
Neill Wine, Groomsport
Neill Wine, Helens Bay
Neill Wine, Carrick
The Salty dog, Bangor
Lighthouse Wines, Whiteabbey
The Wine Trader, Dungannon
The Wine Rack, Stewartstown
The Wine Store, Armagh
J.D Tipler, Portadown
Village Cellars, Donacloney
Fairly, Coleraine
Bin 34, Castlewellan
Bin 66, Bainbridge
KWM, Kilkeel
Fiveways, Newry
Lowry Wines, Hilltown
Magees, Crossgar
McSwiggans, Magherafelt
The Coachman, Magherafelt
Oscars, Castledawson
Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy



 

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The beer is out there.

The beer is out there.

Firstly, thanks for signing up for updates about Heaney Brewery. Hopefully you'll stick with us and follow our story as our brewery project develops and we eventually build our brewery in Bellaghy. It's been an insane few months at the end of a very testing year but I've finally got the beer out of the brewery and into shops, restaurants and bars. 

Here's a list of stockists with excellent taste in beer.

The Vineyard, Ormeau Road
OX Restaurant, Belfast
Coco, Belfast
Townsquare, Belfast
Church Street Restaurant, Magherafelt
Oscar's Restaurant, Magherafelt
The Coachman Inn, Magherafelt
McSwiggans Off Sales, Magherafelt

Spread the word and ask your local to get in touch about stocking our beers.

Anyway, that's all for now. I am going to have a well earned rest with the family and spend Christmas drinking some fine beers in Bellaghy.

Cheers, and have a great Christmas!
Mal.

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