A story waiting to happen, is that of the continued development of the Heaney Farmhouse Brewery! Which today starts its next chapter as it has been granted permission to develop a new microbrewery & on-site taproom at the iconic Heaney Farm in Bellaghy.
Seamus Heaney country? Well yes!
Suzanne McCay (niece of the Nobel prize winning poet and playwright) & her husband Mal established the brewery with the vision of bringing something distinctive to the family farm. Sighting their plans to make use of the Bellaghy water from an aquifer right beneath the farm throughout the brewing process & as the project develops, introduce more farm utilisation within the process.
Over the last couple of years Mal McCay, has been earning his stripes as a brewer at East Belfast’s Boundary Brewing, leaving the comforts of a full time job to push his desire forward for the Heaney Farmhouse Brewery.
An agreement between Mal & Matthew Dick (Boundary Brewing) allowed both parties to benefit from each other through labour, brewing techniques, quality assurance & gain vital insight to the wider brewing industry.
This collaborative agreement allowed Mal to split his time from brewing the ever growing Boundary back catalogue & work on the Heaney beers, brand & those important brewery plans!
In late 2016, they initially launched 4 beers into the market: Blonde Session Ale, Irish Red Ale, Dry Irish Stout & IPA. These beers would become their core range & were well received by the market. Since the launch, they have seen an influx of interest by not just the local bars, off sales & restaurants but also from interested parties from across the border & Irish Sea.
Mal has continued to develop the recipes to achieve the highest possible quality whilst ensuring a sustainable and viable product. This has led to a series of product exploration through small batch releases which included: a DDH IPA, American Pale Ale, Gingerbread Imperial Milk Stout, A Modern Red & a Big Little IPA. Noting that the last two have proved so successful they have been incorporated within the core range, bringing their initial release of beers up to 9!
Photo courtesy of Heaney Farmhouse Brewery – http://www.heaneyfarmhousebrewing.com/
Parts of the range can be found in a variety of places across Northern Ireland*, ranging from your local pub, to being served at a Michelin Star restaurant showing their appeal to the wider consumer.
Speaking to Mal briefly after the planning committee meeting, he discussed his joy of the news & explained to us:
“This approval to build is the result of an incredibly stressful and expensive process but it’s the only way I would’ve had it. There are easier ways of starting a ‘brewery’ as you can see from the various contract brews about in NI at the minute but if we were to do this right and build something we can be proud of then this was the only route we had.
Hard work and dedication usually pays off and it gains you respect and that’s important to me and the family. From the start I’ve designed, brewed and packaged the beers myself, it’s far too important for me to hand my product over to someone else, I’d like to think we’ve gone about this the right way. We could’ve installed a tiny little kit and just stuck to the usual range of ales but I always saw this as being a much bigger project and something I have great ambitions for.
When the brewery is complete I hope people see how much hard work and thought went into it, we’re building something that should help us achieve our ambitions to make super high quality, interesting and exciting beers and eventually bring the farm right into the brewery from the use of ingredients grown on our land. It’s onwards and upwards now.
I need to give major thanks to Matt and all at Boundary, I’ve had a blast working there from the early days and gained invaluable experience that I know for a fact I wouldn’t have gained elsewhere. Maybe a collab or two down the line eh?”
I for one, look forward to following this next chapter closely!
*NI distribution being looked after by Nelson Sauvin – correct at the time of post (05/06/18)