Northern Ireland

‘Return of the Saint’ Fermanagh Style

“Anyone who does this all by themselves can’t be making that much money.”

A stark comment made by Gordy Fallis of the County Fermanagh brewery formerly known as Inishmacsaint.   I say formerly as it’s been all change for the Derrygonnelly man in the past twelve months.  I have no doubt it’s a massive struggle for one person to be the brewer, bottler, marketer, salesman, delivery driver etc and strains such as these started to take hold for the laid back, likeable farmer in 2016.  According to my notes, when Inishmacsaint began in 2010 and came to my attention while watching the BBC programme The Farm Fixer, you could count all the Northern Ireland breweries on one hand.  Nowadays it’s vastly different of course and some local breweries are feeling the pinch.

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When I caught up with him on a blustery November afternoon, there was a very welcoming open fire roaring away at one end of the pub and it had the kind of chilled out vibe that seems to resonate around the entire county, making it a draw for tourists like me to visit and reduce life’s speedometer a few mphs.

Gordy told me he was on the verge of packing it all in until an offer materialised from his local pub, Old Pal’s Bar, in the centre of Derrygonnelly.  Bar manager Norman Donaldson felt the brand was so strong in representing the county, he offered to assist with the post-brewing elements, so changes were made.  The 2,000 litre brewing kit moved the couple of miles to the pub with the business changing name to Fermanagh Beer Company.

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Both men were upbeat about the future – sales of the core range of original Inishmacsaint Blonde and Inishmacsaint Lough Erne Brown porter have been steady with Inishmacsaint Pure Foundered surprising everyone.  Gordy admitted he didn’t know if the locals were ready for a 6% ABV Belgian-inspired beer but sales figures said they definitely were.

Full batch brews happen once a month from Old Pal’s Bar with the output ending up in pint bottles – unfortunately no draught and there’s the usual macro taps on the bar itself.  The most recent brew was a brand new sessionable 4.5% ABV Little Dog IPA.

Apparently it’s been bottled conditioned in a way unlike any other beer in Ireland at the moment to Gordy’s knowledge.  I’m not a brewer so I don’t know what process that involves but he feels it gives the beer that bit more oomph about it.  What I do know is that a good lot of sediment came out when poured.  Straw yellow in colour and with a light floral aroma, Little Dog is thinner than I’d have expected from this IPA – sessionable or not.  I’m a self-confessed hophead and love a shed load of hops thrown into my beer.  This could maybe have done with that shed load as it’s a pale ale to me, cue the pale ale vs session IPA debate!  Little Dog is deliberately sweet and appealing to the Fermanagh market, the aforementioned Pure Foundered is also sweet and selling well so there must be something of a sweet tooth epidemic in that part of the world.

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I could see the pride on his face when he was talking about the new beer and it’s clear to anyone that this is a man who loves being given the opportunity to continue brewing.  Norman is equally as informative and proud of his involvement with the Fermanagh Beer Company and with good guidance and a bit of luck, Inishmacsaint beer will be around for a fair wee while yet.

Sláinte, boys.

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