One of the great things about being a beer enthusiast is how easy it is to visit independent micro breweries at your leisure on your own country. It’s a heck of alot easier than wine aficionados, who unless they live in a wine-producing country, they’ve a fair amount of travel. There are many reasons I like visiting breweries, & believe it or not, tasting beers for me is actually not anywhere near the top of the reasons on my list. Meeting/catching up with the people at breweries is the single best part of those reasons to visit for me. On a miserable day in the usually sunny south east, I took a trip to Wexico City to visit Yellowbelly.
It’s been twenty years or so since I was in Wexford. The trip from Cabo del Guaire (my nickname for Gorey) was full of memories from my childhood; walking around Enniscorthy, passing by the National Heritage Center in Ferrycarrig & into Wexford reminded me of all the good times I had growing up every summer as a child thanks to my parents.
As a child, we’d drive down to Wexford in a loaded little car. We weren’t well off, but it was a trip my parents could afford for us, & they’d bring their crates of homebrew with them. Beer I’d helped my mother brew as a child. Wexford has always held a special place for me, & is a place I’ve taken to calling ‘home’ very easily.
Yellowbelly is a brewery I’ve alot of love for. They produce some of my favorite regular beers at the minute; their lager, Citra (their pale ale), & Castaway (their Berliner Weisse). Heading up the brewery is a man, who I’m very proud to call a friend, Declan ‘fookin’ Nixon. Jokes aside, Declan from the first moment I met him a few years ago in the Norseman, who had tapped up ‘Farami’ he’d brewed with Alex Lawes (who now heads up brewing at Rye River & Whiplash), is someone who I instantly had a great rapport with.
Declan talking about beer is something I could listen to for hours, just like his former brewing partner Alex (who I am also proud to call a friend). Getting to see what has been built under his steed with Nicky Lambert from Simon Lambert & Sons pub in their new purposed facility since they’ve moved from under the aforementioned pub is something I am super excited to see. And, more importantly, I get to catch up with Declan, & finally meet the Yellowbelly team.
As I park up in front of the brewery, there’s some new in-store promo stands being painted up in that unmistakable yellow. I don’t know why, but it brings a huge smile to my face seeing that. I’m greeted in the brewery by assistant brewer, Darragh, who is massively welcoming. Wexford welcomes; yet another reason I love this part of the world.
Entering the brewery, you cannot help but have your eyes drawn to their canning line, which is a piece of pure engineering porn. It’s a Wild Goose system. God dammit., I’m in engineering drool mode. I completely love equipment like this & how they’re designed still massively interests me. It’s the same reason why I love watching ‘How it’s Made’ when reruns of it are on. It also helps Wild Goose’s own story is one I appreciate.
Darragh explains how with this in house, they have full control over the quality of the beer before it hits distribution. Passion is something that runs rife in craft beer. At Yellowbelly, it’s their core, as we talk the importance of a cold chain to a brewery’s path to success with distribution choices on the back of an article we both read last week from Australian Brew News about how the distribution chain can actually shorten a beer’s ‘best before’ date substantially. And the importance of a cold chain to them is highlighted by their choice of distributor, Four Corners, who have one of the best in the country to service suppliers such as BrewDog & Stone (both of whom are emphatic about this).
THIS kind of banter is why I appreciate those who work in microbreweries. Science reasoned passion & care. And then, there’s Yellowbelly’s brew house. Now there’s a familar sight. The former brewhouse of BrewDog is what helps turn out the beer from the minds of Nixon & Co. And it’s backed up by a malt mill that frankly looks like you could stick Alderaan in it, & give two fingers to the Empire’s over-engineered giant space bauble.
While all this is going on, I’ve a super fresh can of their Citra pale ale, which is going down a treat. Ruairi, who I’m introduced to is knocking out one of two special beers for White Hag’s #Hagstravaganza which is a [redacted] (yes I’m a dick for doing this, but it’s not my place to tell people about yet-to-be-completed beers for a special event). I think people are going to be breaking out the ‘What?’ chants for this one. It’s so friggin’ crazy, yet simple. The other beer which is a [redacted] is also being brewed this week.
Taking a break from the brewery to go visit Simon Lambert & Sons pub with Ruari to catch up Declan, I was also happy to meet Seamus (he of Sham fame), & also see the old brewery space below the pub. It is incredible looking at that physical space, & realising how little head room they had for things like even mashing in. The food in the pub too is also amazing (I had their Farmhouse Burger), which was washed down with a flight of beers (which was on the house), that included a recently re-released & updated ‘Great for the Town‘, ‘Castaway‘ & ‘Slam Dunkel‘.
After lunch, hitching a lift with Declan & Nicky Lambert (the big boss of YB) a plethora of other beers in progress are tried, including an IPA. All I can tell you about this one is, this isn’t your fluffy tellytubby milkshake IPA. And it sure as shit isn’t an IPA for the meek. This is a proper ultra-mega-hardcore resinous IPA that on the nose alone would shave your nuts clean off your body so well, you’d think you were born a Ken doll.
Funnier still, it’s not even finished yet. There’s even more dry hopping to be done on it. This thing will need a big warning label on it or need to be named ‘Kiss your IPA goodbye‘ because it is possibly one of the most complex IPA’s at that stage of its brewing process I’ve ever tried. And it scared the bejesus out of me. Properly.
I am in always in awe of brewers who want to do it their way & who care about their beers. The brewing team at Yellowbelly, like so many others I’ve met patently give several trillion shits about their product so that you, the consumer get great beer. Team that with a really good facility, brilliant branding, & a watchful eye like Nicky Lambert’s, you know this is a fantastic recipe of people & product for seizing opportunity & executing on it hardcore stylee.
Amidst the geekery & great bants, time ticked on to me needing to trek back to Cabo. I love seeing stories like that of Yellowbelly in progress from beneath the floors of a pub in Wexico City to this facility, & seeing the passion, laughter, dedication & sheer willingness to ‘just try things’. It’s one part entrepreneurial spirit, one part Irish brassneckery, & one part ‘fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me’. And I love it.
Many thanks to Yellowbelly for having me down, showing me around., sharing their stories, meeting their team, trying beers & being able to see where some of my favorite beers at the moment are coming from & meet who’s behind them in person.
DISCLAIMER: While this was not a sponsored piece, nor was I solicited by them to write it, or visit, some token beers were received from Yellowbelly.