Brewers get Hooked on heady hops
The unique soils of the Hook peninsula make for some intoxicatingly good malting barley, something which has not gone unnoticed by one of Ireland's most renowned malt companies, Minch Malt, who have unveiled their Hook Head series.
Sourced the Minch Malt the barley has proven very popular in Ireland.
A Minch Malt spokesperson said: 'We have had a very positive response nationwide. At least 50 per cent of the craft brewers in Ireland have used it, not to mention the homebrewers where it is distributed via the homebrew company in County Laois. In Wexford, the craft brewers using it are Drew Fox Brewing Co (Clever man) and Arthurstown Brewing Co (Dunbrody House).'
The barley growers are: James Colfer, Ballyvarogue, Saltmills and Hook peninsula; Joe Chapman, Carnivan, Fethard on Sea; Martin Foley, Ballyhack; Vivian Tubritt Saltmills/Tintern; Tom Harpur, The Island, Bannow; Kevin Creane Ballygarret Saltmills; Sean Colfer, Newtown, Bannow; Patrick Roche, Bannow Bay and Vincent Rowe, Connagh, Fethard on Sea.
The Hook Head Series is produced by a limited number of specialist growers, many of whom are third or fourth generation malting barley growers.
'Some of their farms saw the beginning of the Norman conquest of Ireland in 1169, while others now sit alongside the oldest operational lighthouse in the world. These growers epitomise the old secrets and new equipment that make the Hook Head Series the perfect blend of heritage and quality malt.'
The maritime climate in the region means mild winters and warm summers, allowing growth throughout the year. 'Throughout the growing season from March to September, the malting barley is subjected to sea mists and storms, which deposit salt onto the crops. A unique phenomenon also occurs whereby these malting barley crops will, from time to time, change colour from a rich green to completely white and back again throughout the season. This is a result of the sea salt deposited by storms and the subsequent "washing" of the plants by fog or mist. All of this makes for harvested malting barley with unique qualities only to be found within the peninsula.'
Another consequence of this unique environment is naturally well drained soils that, with their sandy texture and friable consistency, are easily tilled.
Soil fertility levels in the area have also been considerably built up by liberal applications of seaweed unique to the Bannow and Hook areas and fertilisers over the years. They are, as a result, noted for their capability to produce the best quality barley malt.
Minch Malt are Ireland's oldest and largest malt producer for the brewing and distilling industry. The Athy based company produces malt from 100 per cent Irish origin 2-row spring barley. It has a wide range includes Amber Malt, Chocolate Malt and Crystal Malt.