Steve Farrell from Benwiskin Brewery

benwiskin barley flip

Who what where inspires you?

I’m very weather dependent so I find a good sunny day is the most inspiring thing for me

How did you get into brewing?

While studying and working in New Zealand. I studied oenology there and worked at the wonderful boutique winery Moana Park before gaining further experience as chief winemaker for Sanchez Muliterno and Hermanos del villar in Spain. With a young child about to begin school, coming home to Ireland felt like the most logical thing to do, I decided to change tack and become a brewer and started trying out different ideas using my winemaking background to inform the process.  There Is a lot of satisfaction creating new brews it is also exceptionally relaxing and zen like, very few things get me going like creating a brew. You are actually creating a living entity.

How has the locality of the North West of Ireland influenced your approach to product creativity?

This neck of the woods has soul, the quality of produce from organic foods to the best beef and lamb in Ireland is all grown here. Glencar water has been rated the fifth purest in the world.  Everything about here should and does influence you, it’s a beautiful place a place full of nooks and crannies, a wild place full of myth and mystery.

How does New World wine making differ to Old World, do you have a preference?

They are getting closer to each other, countries like New Zealand and Australia were instrumental in bringing scientific techniques to the making of wine while the Old world wineries were very dependent on Terroir. Quantity was the mantra for wine making for a long while during the 1980’s, but since the mid ‘90s old world methods were combined with the New World approach of sophisticated lab work in winemaking to ensure that the ripened fruit is showcased and prepared in the best way possible resulting in better and better quality at all ends of the price spectrum.

Rossinver Blonde5How long did it take to come up with the recipes for Clooneen Red and Rossinver Blonde?

It seemed to take for ever but through trial and error I think we came up with the right balance. Trialling it out on the good folk of Manorhamilton was key and I think we have a very Manorhamiltonian style of beer now what with the quality of water we have here and key advice from the locals (although slurred after many trials).  The Clooneen is what I would consider a decent blend of both Irish Red and English Pale Ale styles while not being as bitter as American Pale Ale styles.  Rossinver is a Blonde Ale which is milder in style and ideal for summer drinking with its fresh citrusy notes.

Any new products in the pipeline?

There are always new ideas in the pipeline and I have a book full of brews that need to be trialled.  The prime aim is to get the brewery going here in Manorhamilton and when that is up and running we can experiment with small batches

Which breweries do you admire and enjoy tasting?

I like them all, I think a lot of the beers in Ireland are very exciting and you can almost taste the enthusiasm.  The breweries closest to us such as Carrig, White Hag, Donegal Brewing and Black Donkey all have their own unique styles and are truly well worth trying out.

Did the giant of all breweries Guinness have any influence over your craft?

If you mean from the time I lived in Dublin, possibly, you cant ignore Guinness especially when you live in an apartment block called ‘The Maltings’ right next door and I used to walk past the old derelict storehouses with barley growing out of the cracks in the walls in still, however that would be that.  I am working on a stout at the moment called ‘Ballagh Black’ which will be a much more intense version of stout than the normal Guinness drinker would be used to.

How does brewing differ from winemaking?

Quite different, the only similarity is fermentation.  Winemaking is very dependent on timing when fruit is ripe, what the quality of fruit is like and patience is necessary whereas with Brewing you can start any time although again ingredients and patience are crucial.  Fruit for winemaking has got to be harvested early in the morning before the sun has risen in order to keep the temperature of the berries down as bringing down the temperature of your juice is quite an expenditure in wineries.  In Brewing it is quite the opposite as we need heat for both the mashing of the grains and the boiling steps and this can be the majority of expenditure in breweries.  Fermentation in red wine making and brewing take about the same amount of time but white wine fermentation can take up to 3 weeks.

Any advice for aspiring brewers?

Just do it.  Get an all grain kit and treat it as fun, it’s not as difficult as it may seem and the end result is a product you will enjoy if not only for yourself.  It’s a great thing to do and truly soul satisfying. Sláinte



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