Brewing beer on the edge of Co. Kerry
I took a drive out to Tig Bhric & West Kerry Brewery – Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne in Reask near Ballyferriter, on the Slea Head Drive back in West Kerry. I was really looking forward to visiting Adrienne and getting a tour of her brewery here on the Dingle Peninsula. She started brewing back in 2008 being the first microbrewery in Co. Kerry, right in the middle of the Gaeltacht.
I have been drinking their beers for a good while as you can easily get them in many pubs on the Peninsula or buy a few bottles in several shops here in Kerry and beyond. The golden ale is their most popular beer, but they have a nice range going from dark ale, porter and other seasonal beers which are flavoured with local ingredients from their garden – elderflowers, rosehips, blackberries… A red ale for spring, a golden ale for summer and a porter for autumn/winter. They also have been developing new recipes during the lockdown and made some small-batch beers. There is a red ale aged in madeira cask and a festive IPA aged in Dingle Whiskey bourbon barrels.
Ireland has long been associated with brewing and drinking of beer starting back at the earliest recording of brewing over 5000 years ago. The mild climate made it possible to grow barley since ancient times. Early Irish monasteries dominated the manufacture and supply of ale for centuries.
During the seventeenth century ales were enjoyed in alehouses – which often were just a room set aside in a private house for drinking ale. They would have been produced by women, known as ‘’alewives’’. In many cultures, the deities, goddesses and protectors of brewers were female entities who were associated with fertility.
Adreinne tells me that brewing is like cooking – there she had my full attention! She used to cook meals for the visitors of Tig Bhric and came up with the idea of ‘’cooking’’ some beer. She turned out to be one of the first women in Ireland to brew craft beer.
Tig Bhric would be buzzing with tourists during normal times but the current government pandemic regulations still make her keep the doors of the pub shut. however, the off license and B&B are open and tours of the brewery can be arranged by emailing Adrienne.
She brought me into the brewery to meet Daniel, who is now in charge of the brewing. The mashing process had just finished: the crashed barley had been soaking in warm water to extract the sugars. They use predominantly Irish barley, grown in Hook Head in Co. Wexford and water from their own well. Then, it was time to add the hops – which add aroma and flavour but also help keep the beer fresher – to the wort. The sugars from the barley have been extracted through the mashing process and the fresh yeast will eat these sugars throughout the fermentation and turn the wort into beer. Magic was happening!
The smell in the room was fantastic, sweet and sour dare I say, and when Adrienne opened one of the fermenters for me to smell, it reminded me of my sourdough starter for making bread at home. Both Adrienne and Daniel work together on a brew day. Their system is very manual and low tech – they really have the feel for every process and work together to create new recipes. Another helping hand comes from Pat, who is in charge of bottling and labelling is happening in a room next door and Adrienne tells me her mom is helping with it. A great team all together!
Craft beer in Ireland began back in the 1990’s, when people started to appreciate smaller independent breweries and enjoy the local products. Today, if you drink craft beer you support a small independent business and you enjoy high quality beer. Craft brewers do what they love as their job, they are cooks, artists and passionate about what they do!
So, if you are out on a drive on the scenic route of Slea Head, you’ll be passing by Tigh Bhric and the brewery. Not only fantastic food to be enjoyed on the Dingle Peninsula, but craft beer at its best too! If you are interested and want to learn more by discovering the simple process of beer making, you’ll have to plan a stop here and visit the West Kerry Brewery.