By Cormac Wall & Brody Rossiter
For a country famed for the prowess of its artisan cheesemakers and patient dedication to whiskey making, it’s surprising that Irish brewing hasn’t yet adopted the traditional and timely methods of farmhouse style brewing on a larger scale. In the case of mixed fermentation brewing, it can take up to three years to achieve the desired flavours. Not only is that a big commitment in terms of time, but it also requires that brewers be afforded a considerable amount of freedom and maintain a great deal of dedication if they are to reach what many beer lovers consider to be the pinnacle of the art of brewing.
Tom Delaney is one such individual whose vision and passion for brewing have led to the creation of one of the most accomplished wood ageing programs we’ve seen. We recently had the pleasure of spending some time with Tom in his Galway Bay home after several meetings at European festivals over the years. Those passing snippets of his brewing philosophies have now come to life in the form of several unique and exciting projects.
Tom is an extremely accomplished brewer with years of home brewing experience prior to his ascent through the ranks of Ireland’s acclaimed Galway Bay Brewing – where he currently occupies the esteemed role of head brewer. The Land & Labour project is his own investment in something slow and unpredictable; an undertaking made possible by Galway Bay’s willingness to allow Tom the freedom to experiment. His findings will also be put in to practice for Galway Bay’s upcoming ‘wood project’.
The unpredictable nature of wild yeast means it’s more a case of nudging the beers in the right direction with a home grown mixed culture of Brettanomyces, Saccharomyces, Pediococcus and Lactobacillus. The focus for Tom is creating a clean and delicate mixed fermentation that does not impart too much harsh acidity on the final beer. Whilst some beers exhibit all the features of complex farmhouse saisons, a selection which rest in the barrel for a year or two take inspiration from the lambics and blended ales of Belgium. The search for excellent quality barrels and foeders has seen Tom embark on long drives to Italy and France to source the vessels that make up the wood ageing area of his brewery – he even managed to squeeze in a brew in Switzerland along the way. Everything but the wort is separated from brewing activities of Galway Bay and Tom is strict about keeping both breweries as separate entities that exhibit different sides of his brewing ambitions.
The attention to detail in the beers is seen in every part of the brew. After a fleeting appearance last year at the excellent AB fest in Belfast, Tom is now ready to bring his carefully crafted creations to a few lucky drinkers in North London. For those not able to attend Beavertown’s birthday festival this year, where Tom will be pouring his wine yeast fermented, white wine barrel aged IPA with Nelson & Hallertau Blanc hops collaboration with Beavertown, we hope that the first drops of Land & Labours very limited stock should be appearing very soon on the website.