Has it been two years already? Well, it has been two years and three months. Three months since I intended to write this post.
Meetings took place on a Thursday. Or was it a Wednesday? The first one for me was in The Bridge House, Belfast. A Wetherspoons. The bartender directed me to a conference type room upstairs. I walked in, sat down and placed my bottle of homebrew on the table in front of me. I had become a member of the Belfast Homebrewers.
Sharing our brews, running competitions and the annual trip to Dublin, squeezed into Barry’s car, listening to Swedish darkwave on our way down to BrewCon in our matching club polo shirts. We saw all the big names in homebrewing back then like John Palmer and Chip Walton, taking notes and listening intently for that first hiss and crack of a beer can being opened somewhere in the audience. The beacon had been lit.
My homebrew kit grew from a stovetop pot to a self-built 30L electric kettle. I soon ditched bottling and started to keg my brews. I had not one, but two fridges in my small flat for controlling fermentation temperature and keeping my corny keg cold. It came as no surprise that many of my friends would one day tag me in a social media post for a job opportunity as an Assistant Brewer in a microbrewery right where I grew up.
I don’t think I had ever before rehearsed in front of a mirror for a job interview. I was ecstatic when I got a call with the job offer. This was my chance to uproot my life, move closer to my parents and leave my well-paid career so I could live the dream. Simple, right? I flipped a coin, didn’t get the outcome I wanted, flipped again and started my new job at Mourne Mountains Brewery two weeks later.
If there’s one thing I can say about Head Brewer Tom it’s that he is a patient man, or at least hides frustration very well. I had no previous brewery experience and I wasn’t afraid to show it. I really could not have had a better teacher, and the craft beer industry in Northern Ireland is undoubtedly better for having him in it. He continues to support others in the industry and is a strong advocate for independent brewers’ rights. Oh, and we are both fans of heavy metal, which we play loudly in the brewery to keep the yeast in suspension for those hazy IPAs. Pro tip.
The first commercial beer I brewed was our flagship lager, Mourne Mist Pilsner. Milling grain. Opening huge bags of beautiful German hops. Scalding my arms. Cleaning the 1600 litre brew kettle. It was the best day ever, and two years on I still love the sights, smells and sensations of the brewing process. That’s not even where the fun stops. Thanks to the brewery founder, Connaire, I have two years’ experience and an industry recognised brewing qualification. Today I am responsible for brewing all sorts of wonderful beer styles, creating new beer recipes, packaging, distribution, online orders, label artwork, web design, pouring beer at taprooms and festivals, the list goes on.
Much has changed since I joined the brewery back in June 2018 but one thing has remained the same, and that’s the sense of pride seeing people enjoying our beer. If you’re reading this then you are probably one of those people. You tag us in your photos on social media, you choose local when you visit your independent off sales, you buy beer on our online shop time and time again and we read all your names and thoughtful notes as we package up your beer by hand to be delivered to your homes. You rate us on Untappd, sometimes bad but mostly good (yes, we read all the comments) and you come to our taprooms, travelling from all parts of the country just to be there. I see you and I am personally very grateful to you.
I am excited for the future of my brewing journey and, with your help, I hope that in years to come I’m still doing what I love.