Head brewer Tom Ray was toasting the stunning success of three novel beers he’s brewing at the Mourne Mountains Brewery overlooking Carlingford Lough outside Warrenpoint during the week.
The craft brewery gained three major medals in the UKNorth West regional category at the first-ever Digital Beer Awards organised by the influential Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) in Britain, an organisation that represents around 850 craft breweries. Mourne Mountains gained two golds and a silver for the quality and innovation of its craft beers at the unique UKbrewing event.
The prestigious awards are further recognition of the quality beers now being brewed in Northern Ireland by craft breweries. There are currently more than 40 craft breweries operating in Northern Ireland.
The golds awarded to Mourne Mountains, a Food NI member, were for its Krammed, a New England Pale Ale, and its barrel aged stout, Hoops and Staves. The silver was awarded to the progressive brewery for itsMourne Mist, a refreshing pilsner lager.
The awards demonstrate the expertise and versatility of the craft brewery located in the foothills of the iconic mountain range just outside the seaside resort and busy freight port.
Mourne Mountains Brewery was founded in 2015 by local businessman Connaire McGreevy and Tom Ray, the brewer behind the winning beers and a host of othercommercially successful brews. All the small batchbeers are “inspired by the incredible landscape and the characters of the Mourne Mountains”, according to Tom.
“We are thrilled to receive this important recognition for the quality and outstanding taste of our beers,” he says. “It’s great to see Northern Ireland brewers being recognised for quality products at a such a significant national event,” he adds.
“It’s especially rewarding as we’ve only recently joined SIBA as part of our support for the campaign to change Northern Ireland’s outdated licensing legislation. SIBA made an important contribution to the success of the campaign involving hospitality organisations and breweries here to persuade the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly to make the essential changes that are contributing significantly to the industry’s development,” he continues.
SIBA competition chair Guy Sheppard describes the quality of entries in the awards as being “incredibly high and testament to the passion and talent of British brewers especially in these trying times.”
He adds: “The UK is quite simply brewing some of the best beer anywhere in the world and in these awards showcased the full breadth of beer styles now available from independent craft breweries.”
Connaire McGreevy created the craft brewery on the back of his outstanding success with CTS Projects, which he had established in 2006, and has since developed into a diverse facilities management business operating throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It started refurbishing rundown properties, such as old social housing stock, and has since diversified successfully into renewable heating, such as biomass boilers and solar panels – focusing on energy efficiency.
He turned a passion for good beer into the formation of the brewery, the first in the region for over a century, which has developed into one of the most successful craft breweries in Ireland. He recruited Tom and tapped into his vast range of expertise gained working with small craft beer producers in Britain and in management with Diageo, the leading international producer of a wide range of beverages, and top milk processor Lakeland Dairies in Newtownards.
Tom says the small company takes great pride in using “only the best malted barley and speciality grains we can get our hands on”. “We use the finest whole leaf hops from around the world. But the ingredient we treasure the most is our water supply sources from the high Mournes. ”The water is beautifully soft and perfect for brewing a wide variety of beer styles – from crisp, hoppy pilsners to big, bold Imperial stouts.”
The company is busy recovering the business with hotels and restaurants stalled during the coronavirus pandemic.
The beers are hand brewed by Tom and brewer Gareth McGivern in small batches from their extensive knowledge of brewing techniques. Waste grain from the brewing process is used by a local farmer as a supplement feed for cattle. The spent hops are also removed from the kettle, by hand, and sent to an anaerobic digestion plant where they help to generate electricity.
The extent of the brewery’s commitment to the environment is also seen in the practice of recycling of as much of used cardboard and plastic as practicable.