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Small is beautiful for Rathmullan brewery

Libby Carton and Rick Le Vert with a selection of their Kinnegar bottled beers.

BY SEÁN P. FEENY
THERE is something brewing in the picturesque seaside village of Rathmullan as a ‘home craft’ is about to be turned into a business venture.

In the 1980s and 1990s the art of home brewing exploded across the United States and soon craft beers were a hot commodity.

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Home brewing has become increasingly popular in Ireland, with craft beers surfacing at markets, selected off-licenses and pubs around the country.

Over the past year a range of top quality natural beers and ales brewed right here in County Donegal has made a name for itself in selected local outlets and as far as Dublin.

Kinnegar Brewing, probably Ireland’s newest and smallest brewery, is already being highly recommended by McKenna’s Bridgestone Guides Best for 2013 thanks to products such as the Limeburner Northern Pale Ale or the Devil’s Backbone Northern Amber Ale.

Rick LeVert took a hobby, slowly and carefully developed a brand and its products, and is now taking a major step in the brewery’s short, yet very successful history.

Just last Friday Kinnegar Brewing Ltd was granted planning permission to build a new 10 hectolitre brewery at its Rathmullan headquarters.

Rick said: “We started introducing our beers locally a year ago, supplying places like Rathmullan House, the Red Door Restaurant in Fahan, Kelly’s in Greencastle, while also working with a distributor in Dublin supplying off-licences and selected pubs.”

This gave them a chance to get a sense of the market out there for craft beers and also testing the products, which they did with great success.

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“We are taking a pretty big leap now going from what we have been doing so far, brewing up to 200 litres a week, to a brand new facility where we will be able to brew 5,000 litres a week. Having received planning permission we are over the first hurdle.

“We are also currently in the process of finalising private investments and funding from local bodies and all going to plan we will go into production with the new facility in May.”

The new facility will include a two-vessel brewhouse, fermentation tanks, a steam generator, semi-automatic bottling and labelling machines, hot and cold-water tanks, a cooling unit, and other accessories necessary for the growing business.

Besides their mainstay products, Rick said Kinnegar Brewing are trying to regularly change the palette of products, offering different ranges, such as an American Rye Ale which is currently in development for An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny.

“Our products are farmhouse ales, influenced the German, Belgian and American natural brewing traditions, seeing beer as an agricultural, rather than an industrial product.”

Rick said Ireland is seen as having a beer culture internationally, but this is based on the history of Guinness, and so he feels there is a market for a new beer culture.

“If you go to a pub in Belgium, for example, you will get up to 25 different styles of beer and we will produce our own versions of some of these types of beers and ales.”

Rick added: “I’m not a big fan of flat English ales and a lot of people are afraid of the word, but with our process we don’t make these undercarbonated types of ale.”

Right now, when the word gets out that Kinnegar Beers are in stock in places like The Black Sheep on Dublin’s Capel Street, or Logue’s of Cranford or the Mill Restaurant in Dunfanaghy, the products fly off the shelves. Rick uses social media to keep people in the loop.

“We haven’t banged the drum too much and we already have a great following, despite still only making a couple of hundred bottles a week.

“To avoid disappointment we send out messages on Twitter (@kinnegarbrewing) to let people know when and where products are available in the next day or two, whether it’s locally in the White Harte pub, Rathmullan House or The Black Sheep.”

Belgian and American natural brewing traditions, seeing beer as an agricultural, rather than an industrial product.”

Rick said Ireland is seen as having a beer culture internationally, but this is based on the history of Guinness, and so he feels there is a market for a new beer culture.

“If you go to a pub in Belgium, for example, you will get up to 25 different styles of beer and we will produce our own versions of some of these types of beers and ales.”

Rick added: “I’m not a big fan of flat English ales and a lot of people are afraid of the word, but with our process we don’t make these undercarbonated types of ale.”

Right now, when the word gets out that Kinnegar Beers are in stock in places like The Black Sheep on Dublin’s Capel Street, or Logue’s of Cranford or the Mill Restaurant in Dunfanaghy, the products fly off the shelves. Rick uses social media to keep people in the loop.

“We haven’t banged the drum too much and we already have a great following, despite still only making a couple of hundred bottles a week.
“To avoid disappointment we send out messages on Twitter (@kinnegarbrewing) to let people know when and where products are available in the next day or two, whether it’s locally in the White Harte pub, Rathmullan House or The Black Sheep.”

www.kinnegarbrewing.com

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