As we are now in April, the Brewing and Distilling month of the Northern Ireland Year of Food & Drink I visited Hercules Brewing & Co. in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter and spoke with the MD, Niall McMullan.
Back in the Day
Brewing and distilling is embedded into the fabric of Belfast’s history and along with the linen, rope and ship building industries formed the backbone of the City’s heritage throughout the 19th century.
Back then Belfast had 13 breweries all located around Hercules Street at the heart of the City in what is now Royal Avenue. Following the Industrial revolution however, these breweries ceased to exist and Dublin, thanks to the Guinness Family became the brewing hub of Ireland.
In 2014 Niall McMullan with more than 20 years experience in the industry including time at Diageo, C&C and Coca-Cola, opened Belfast’s first working brewery for over one and a half centuries. Hercules Brewing & Co., named after the historic brewing centre of Belfast.
They produce small batch craft beer, ale and stout, their principal creation being Yardsman. On the 11th April the same year, the very first pint of Yardsman was pulled, in the John Hewitt Bar.
In recognition of the workers in the mills, yards and factories of the industrial past, the production methods used by Hercules are both truly traditional and unique. With an original mill dating back to the early 1900s, the use of Irish linen cloth and the most basic of recipes.
“What makes our beer unique is we use our own yeast which we have been growing since day 1 when the brewery opened”
“We filter the beer through Irish Linen as it was done traditionally and we are the only brewery in the world who do this”.
Niall explained the slow, deliberate, and very intricate brewing process. What struck me was his passion and pride for the work they do here, for the methods used at each stage that gives the beer its individual characteristics. These include the purity of the water, the filtration, the ‘lagering’ and the fact that it is made with only 4 ingredients.
“Our beer is water, barley, hops, yeast and that’s it.”
Now And Then
With being a small batch brew, Yardsman isn’t as widely available as some other beers but it has made itself at home in some of Belfast’s best known bars and both of its Michelin Star restaurants, Ox and Deane’s Eipic. And, while their vision for the future does look beyond Northern Ireland, conquering closer to home is as much a priority for Hercules.
“We want to be strong in our home market”
People have commented to me about the longevity of the craft beer ‘revolution’, that eventually it will die out while the ‘big guns’ remain. There is definitely a very personal and thoughtful approach to craft brewing. The challenge of creating something outstanding and unique, and with only a small slice of the Beer Industry in Northern Ireland craft brewing remains very niche and the challenge is a significant one.
Being the first Belfast brewery in 160 years, Hercules sets a fine example for all others with what they do, how they do it and of course, the end product.
Many thanks to Niall for his time. I’ll be on the lookout for a Yardsman pump next time I’m out.
Read more about Hercules Brewing & Co. on their Website at www.yardsmanlager.com
With Brewing covered its now time for the Distilling. This week I’ll be meeting with Gerry White, founder of Jawbox Gin. Keep an eye out for my next post to see how I got on.