The burgeoning craft beer industry in Ireland is showing plenty of foam. With so many brewers, and only so much liver: it’s simply impossible to taste every beer. But to distinguish themselves with creative ability, breweries are digging deep into their wardrobes for flavours.
Many couples meet for their first date over some type of intoxicant and what safer way to start a date than propping up a bar stool; exploring and trying out different types of craft beer in many craft beer pubs. I said ” Safe” but what you drink after that statement is your own choice.Finally sobering up two fans of craft beers, paired with innovative minds, “Bold Irish beer” was given birth. Emma Devlin and Cathal O’Donoghue are the couple behind Rascals Brewing Company. It was in Wellington, the craft beer capital of New Zealand, where they first met: It was here they developed their strong cultural love of craft beer.
Beer maker, Emma Devlin recalled over 10 years ago, when she was living in San Franciso, “I discovered some classic American craft beers (Not even called craft back then). I loved Sierra Nevada and Fat Tire beers. I was always interested in seeing what European beers were on the shelves in Aldi, nice crisp German pilsners and wheat beers. Tasting the beers in New Zealand probably tipped the scales for me.” It was during this time, that they were exposed to the diversity and flavours of craft beers. Cathal and a few friends started experimenting in home brewing, and it was then when Emma developed an interest in it too.
In 2012, they returned to Ireland and they joined the home brewing society of Dublin. They continued to brew at home, trying different recipes and doing courses to become certified brewers. The return home suited their brewing, in 2013, they won their first ever home brew competition for their speciality ginger porter, which recognised them as respectable brewers in the home market. It gave them the much-wanted opportunity to brew outside their comfort zone. “One of the prizes was having a batch of our beer brewed commercially by another brewery,” says Cathal. “Then a microbrewery in Galway came up for sale, and we bought their equipment in February 2014.” Their dream of owning a brewery came to fruition. They established April 2014, in Rathcoole, Co Dublin, producing “Bold Irish beer.” Inside the Rascals brewhouse, they have a purpose-built mezzanine upstairs, which is ideal storage for the bags of grain. On the lower ground, the kegs are stacked high, the aromas of the amazing hops fill the brewery and this is their adventure playground where they concoct their crafty brew. “It’s a lot of manual work and brew day is physically tough,” affirms Emma. But the brewery’s small size and young age haven’t stopped it from bringing home medals, to date: “We have won medals for the last three years at the Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair, Ireland’s largest International craft beer and food fair festival. We entered our first World Beer awards this year and took home two golds and a bronze,” says Emma.
She says the key to building a business is, “Don’t do it, only joking,” she quickly adds. She says: “You need to go into it with your eyes open. Go and visit and talk to as many brewers as you can. Whatever budget you have, triple it. It doesn’t pay to scrimp, you will end up working a lot harder than you need to. Save a bit longer to get the finance. A solid business plan is a must. It will keep you focused. It will change as the business grows, so it needs to be revisited regularly. Make sure you have fun.” Cathal decided to resign from his job as a pharmaceutical engineer to go full time to devote himself to the business. Emma made the decision to move full-time into brewing last year. They employ another full-time brewer Shane Butterly, who has a passion for brewing beer. His background is engineering and has a post graduate in food science. He was acknowledged recently for his winning recipe: 8:01 – a mint chocolate stout. They brought home another gold decoration for that beer at the Belfast beer festival in November 2016. Their design team is a mix of family and close friends. The two combining their creative talents to expose the Rascals at their finest.
Rascals know that the millennial generation will decide the future of beer in Ireland, “People who start drinking craft beers usually do so as they love the taste of hops and drink pale ales and Indian Pale Ales. At the moment, there is big interest developing in sour beers. I believe next year will be a big year for sours in Ireland,” says Cathal. According to Emma, “We are always on the lookout for new flavours that might work with beer. We get inspiration from foods, cocktails and of course other beers. We then sit down and talk through the recipe, what malt, what hops, what yeast and other ingredients will work for the beer we are trying to create. We then put together a recipe. Sometimes we go straight for a full-sized batch, but if it is something new or experimental we have a 50 Litre pilot system we have some fun with. Then it’s down to the taste of the beer. There might be a few versions before we upscale it to full scale.” Temperature controlled fermentation is absolutely key – is the solid advice they offer to upcoming enthusiasts. “Not controlling fermentation temperature. You can get all sorts of harsh and unpleasant flavours if a beer is fermented at too high a temperature,” says Emma.
Brewing can throw up many challenges, affirms the Rascals, “I don’t think we ever considered giving up. Like any job, there are the odd bad days when you ask yourself why the hell are we doing this? But the good days outweigh the bad, even after the longest toughest day, we go home knowing we’ve done a good job. And there are loads of great days, the beer, food and music festivals we go to are great craic. It’s a great industry to be in. “
They’re constantly on a fast swing of supply and demand to the Irish pubs, with exporting kegs to Britain and distributing to Northern Ireland. Their range of cans is available in O’Briens off licenses and Molloy’s off-licences around Ireland. In a mature and thriving craft beer industry, the next stop for Rascals is a “Move into the supermarkets and a big push on the core brands, Yankee, Wunderbar and Big Hop Red. After next year, we’ll need to invest in a new, bigger brewery and hopefully in a new space in the city where we could open a tap room and do tours,” says Emma.
You can check out the Rascals Brewing CO. amongst many other budding brewers the Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair, Ireland’s largest craft beer festival in the Convention Centre, Dublin this weekend. The three-day festival kicks of from February 23 – 25, 2017.
Rascals Brewing Co. have teamed up with Idlewild Dublin to create their new Strawberry Vanilla Milkshake IPA. This milkshake will hope to bring all the boys and the girls to the yard – it is brewed with lots of wheat and oats for body, strawberries, vanilla and lactose for sweetness and lots of Citra and Mosaic hops to boost the fruity strawberry milkshake effect.
If you’re looking for craic, music and your taste buds are ready for lots of beer, cider and spirits and not to forget the delish culinary delights on offer. Get your hips and hands ready to bounce into a weekend of fun and frolics. Tickets are priced at €15 online or €20 on the door and are on sale from Alltech brews.ie.