Kinnegar are named after a beautiful beach situated on the western brink of the continent in their home of Co. Donegal, Ireland. Brewing with such life-affirming surroundings at their doorstep, it’s no wonder that they maintain a down-to-earth, yet playful approach to brewing. Never content to follow the crowd, Kinnegar instead focus on following the hops, forging their own path with beers that have something for everyone, from the most seasoned of beer lovers to the craft beer newcomer.
A close connection to the natural splendour that surrounds the brewery informs and inspires each of their beers. Although many of these are now brewed at a second, state-of-the-art facility (known as K2) in Letterkenny, the original farmhouse ethos and attitude remains apparent in the clean and refreshing brews that we’ve become so fond of. Yet, Kinnegar are not afraid of embracing changes and trends, provided the quality is ensured, so we at HonestBrew are delighted to be involved in the latest editions of their ‘Brewers At Play’ series of beers, collaborating with Yakima Chief Hops for a pair of Juicy Session IPAs that show off the latest in hop-based innovation.
“We want to make an accessible range of consistently top-quality beers that appeal to ‘normal’ beer drinkers as well as craft beer geeks.”
Ahead of the release of the HonestBrew x Kinnegar x Yakima Chief collaboration beers, we caught up with founder Libby Carton, to chat about all things Kinnegar.
What would you say is Kinnegar’s mission as a brewery?
“Our mission is very simple. We want to make an accessible range of consistently top-quality beers that appeal to ‘normal’ beer drinkers as well as craft beer geeks. Kinnegar feels equally at home both on the shelves of corner stores and in the fridges of eclectic bottle shops.”
How do your roots as a farmhouse brewer come through in your approach to more modern craft beers like New England & Double IPA?
“Our basic approach is the same no matter what the style: we carbonate naturally using the spünding technique and we neither filter nor pasteurise. Carbonating naturally presents its fair share of problems with dry-hopping but we’ve successfully overcome them. There’s been a few mishaps — Rachel took a proper drenching on top of a big tank in our early days in K2 after one of our less successful attempts at the manoeuvre. We’ve fine-tuned things since then!”
White Rabbit is a beer that sits nicely within Kinnegar’s range, but offers something a little bit different for many drinkers. How would you describe it to someone who’s never tried it?
“White Rabbit isn’t a beer that we can pigeonhole very easily, at Kinnegar! “White” is strongly linked to Belgian beer, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, whereas White Rabbit is an American Wheat Beer with no connection to the Belgian Witbier tradition. Really, it’s a straight-up session IPA with a great bang for its ABV buck. Wheat forms a sizable proportion of the grist bill, but it certainly doesn’t dominate the flavour profile. Expect a creamy mouthfeel and a wallop of hops!”
Tell us about ‘Brewers At Play’ – what kind of beers have you made before in this series?
‘Brewers At Play’ is Kinnegar’s once-off series of experimental brews. We’ve brewed everything from an Apricot and Rosemary Sour, a Rye Lager, all the way through to a Vanilla Hazelnut Imperial Stout. The series is a chance for our brewers to pioneer new recipes on our smaller 10hl system (our original brew kit) and helps us keep our customers on tenterhooks. They are all once-off brews so once they’re gone — they’re gone.
At HonestBrew, we’re delighted to get involved in this series, and our collabs feature a new product from the hop growers, Yakima Chief. What can we expect from it?
“We’re big fans of the hops grown in the northwest of the US and use these in a lot of our IPAs, so were intrigued when Yakima Chief announced Cryo Pop™ Hops. This new blend brings maximum hop aroma impact while reducing some negative effects experienced (like hop burn, an astringent taste that can come from over-hopping) with the high hopping rates in beers like IPAs (like hop burn, an astringent taste that can come from over-hopping). If you think of all the best qualities of hops that you love to see, like what they add to the taste and smell of a beer, you can look forward to tasting how this new blend amplifies those characteristics.”
An extra, exciting element to this collaboration is that there are two beers! What will be different about each one?
“As with most juicy Pale Ales, 18.1 has had a traditional whirlpool addition of hops (adding extra hops after boiling the wort to extract the aromatic oils without the bitterness), whilst 18.2 has undergone a relatively new hopping technique known as “dip hopping”. Developed in Japan, this approach involves adding wort into the fermenter alongside the hops and is designed to maximise the pleasant hop aromas. As you’d imagine, we recommend trying both to see for yourself which you prefer!”
What’s next for Kinnegar over the next few months/year?
“It’s all go here in Kinnegarland! We’re busy filling kegs for pubs and restaurants reopening while keeping off-licences and, of course, our good friends HonestBrew stocked as people enjoy beers together again! Once we have some slightly cooler temperatures in Ireland, we’re hoping to start using our new coolship in our original Rathmullan facility. We’re also very much looking forward to hopefully getting to some beer festivals and events again in the near future, too!”