St Mel’s Brewery, the long return
Something is stirring in the centre of Ireland. A new and exciting brewery is opening, the first in the midlands region in about 150 years. St Mel’s Brewery, based in Longford Town, has decided to dip its toe into the ever increasing market in the country for craft brewing.
St Mels brewery is a new venture started by Liam Hanlon and Eoin Tynan. Two local lads who have decided to set up their own brewing enterprise, bringing it home. Liam, who has an MSc in Brewing and Distiling Science from the prestigious Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, is the Master Brewer and has over 10 years of experience in the brewing business, gaining invaluable knowledge as a former Head Brewer with Ireland’s craft beer kings, O’ Hara’s. Eoin is a relative novice to the industry, but he has a master’s in Business Management with a wealth of experience in the investment trade. They certainly knew what they are doing and have the skills and expertise to make Longford an unlikely place for a craft beer hit in the making. The main thing both guys are bringing to the industry is a deep love for craft beer and a willingness to get involved in Ireland’s Craft beer revolution.
(Photo: Courtesy of the Longford Leader. Read article here)
The beers they are introducing onto the market are a Helles Lager, a Brown Ale and a Pale Ale. They are all bottled, so they are not available on tap just yet, but there are plans to produce draught in the near future. At their launch their mission statement was to “brew the highest quality beers from the best possible ingredients, combining innovation, passion and tradition.”
Even though St Mel’s Brewery have only started production recently (less than two/three months), so far the feedback to their brews has been fantastic. Longford, and the surrounding towns as a whole, have embraced the beers. Beer Appreciation Clubs are appearing, something that isn’t very usual, in the sleepy towns of the midlands, and St Mels is able to compete against the big boys as their produce is now on the shelves in many of the local supermarket chains. Further afield, the beers are already stocked in about 50 pubs in Dublin, and have shown up in bars all over the country. Slowly St Mel’s is making waves. No doubt in part to the great reaction the beers are getting. They had a very successful pre Tasting launch in Dublin, and just recently were considered “Beer of the week” with the Irish Examiner, one of Ireland’s national newspapers. (See Irish Examiner review here)
St Mel’s are hoping to go fully nationwide by the end of the year and, if all goes well, try and export within the next three years.
One thing that’s impressive is that St Mel’s brewery have a very close connection to its surroundings. St Mel’s is named after the local saint, who helped St. Patrick his uncle, bring and spread Christianity to Ireland. He settled down in Longford and the town’s cathedral is dedicated to him. (Useless fact attack: Another famous Mel, Mel Gibson got his first name from his Longford mother!) The logo is of St Mel’s crozier, a very famous antiquity that dates back to the 11th century, and used to highlight the power of Bishops.
The spring in Longford has soft water, which is perfect when looking to produce good variety of tastes in beers, the bottles are sourced from Cavan, and the energy used in the brewery will involve Energia supplying over 10,000Kwh of renewable electricity to its production facilities in Longford Town. It is definitely a case of think local, drink local!
With many of the pubs in the town having the St Mel’s stock, I might just have to do a St Mel’s Beer crawl next time I am back in Ireland, with at least ten of the local bars in Longford town carrying the beers.
So lets do a beer review then!
Review: Bottle of St Mel’s Brown Ale, 5.2%ABV
St. Mel’s Brown Ale might be one of the country’s very few craft brown ales produced at the moment so unsurprisingly it might take a while for the public to adjust their taste-buds to this, but for the connoisseur and experienced craft beer drinker this chocolate and caramel tasting beer hits the spot.
The appearance on pour shows a good frothy head with a brown body, not a bad looking beer. Definitely enticing.
The aroma had a proper beer smell to it. Smelling of a good touch of cocoa, some toasty malts, and some light citrus smells.
The taste was very interesting. I picked up a good variety of tastes and flavours, and found that once you got more into the drink the flavours picked up. There was a chocolate and fruity caramel flavour giving it a nice taste, and on the aftertaste a citrus kick was noticed. A little bitter but very drinkable. Of the three beers from the St Mel’s range I have to say this was my favourite as it has a good body of flavours, had strength and a lovely taste. I really look forward to when St Mel’s develop this into a draught beer as a pint of this would be lovely as a thirst quencher.
Review: Bottle of St Mel’s Helles lager, 5.0%ABV
The Helles lager is the most popular of the three beers in the St Mel’s Collection, their best seller. It’s always a bit difficult when an Irish brewer tries to replicate a German Style beer but I think St Mel’s definitely have got the right balance of authenticity and respect to traditions here.
The aroma was not over bearing, and was of a good bready malty smell, decent on the nose.
On pour the head did dissipate rather quickly, leaving a golden brown colour with some carbonation.
The flavour was of sweet pale malts, wheaty, a little bread, with some sour notes and fizz. The aftertaste was strong and slightly bitter, but enjoyable. It was a quality beer to drink and a beer I can imagine would work well with a nice meal. If a punter is going to try a new experience and drink a craft beer then this beer would be a great introduction. A good local Irish lager.
Review: Bottle of St Mel’s Pale Ale 4.8%ABV
The last of the three beers, this Pale Ale was hopped three times during the boil and then dry hopped using cascade hops. This session ale has a fine balance of flavouring and taste.
It had a nice pleasant smell of pale malt, straw, and some decent fruity hoppiness
On pour a lovely white head appeared but dissipates to leave a golden amber look, with a somewhat cloudy appearance.
Full of flavours on taste which had a good feel in the mouth. The taste comprised of pale malt, citrus, straw, light bread dough. and very sweet fruity malts. A lot was going on, from start to finish, very sweet, very bitter, lots of tastes and overall it was a very balanced enjoyable drink. A craft beer that will awaken your taste buds.