Making a splash at Jack Doyle's brewery
NECESSITY is the mother of all invention, they say, and after the owner of Jack Doyle's Brewery, Liam Doyle became unemployed, he, along with his neighbour Doug Taylor, transformed his home and swimming pool into a brewery.
Staking a claim to having the only swimming pool brewery in Ireland, Liam said he built the brewery over a period of time into what, today, is a facility which can make enough beer to export abroad.
The name came easily to Liam, who is a former boxer, as his grandfather's name was Jack Doyle and his namesake Cork boxer Jack Doyle was a childhood hero of his.
His grandfather worked as a ploughman on the Ballymore estate which provided malt in the county.
The traditional beer labels feature a plough in his grandfather's honour. They've even drafted in kegs bearing the purple and gold Wexford.
Jack Doyle's produces a 4.2 per cent ale, a 4.2 per cent stout and a 6 per cent special ale.
In February they will showcase their lager, which is called after Mount Leinster.
Liam said: 'I'm not a lager drinker. I don't think there are any good Irish lagers out there. My son Jack and I went for a walk up the lane one day while the beer was brewing. It was a bright, winter's day and at the top of the lane we could see Mount Leinster and it was covered in snow. It was a real crisp morning and as there was no beer out there that was crisp and refreshing, we had a Eureka moment and decided to call the lager Leinster Lager. We are all proud of Wexford and Leinster and if we can get the brand out there internationally that would be a very proud thing for us.'
He said half of Ireland's population lives in Leinster so there is a huge initial market for the beer in the province. Liam said there are many lagers in the market which purport to be Irish but which are brewed abroad, but Leinster Lager will be 100 per cent Irish.
'It's 100 per cent Irish and it's brewed here in Wexford. We're bringing it to the Alltech Festival and we'll see what kind of a reaction it gets. It might not be 100 per cent ready, but we can always change the flavour and colour, if that's the feedback that we get.'
The Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair returns for a fourth time to the Convention Centre Dublin, from February 5 to February 7. The fair will feature a host of local and international craft beverages as well as local culinary delights. Musical entertainment will be provided by a range of home-grown acts and food producers will be on hand with unique food pairings to excite beer lovers' taste buds.
Having grown up in London, Liam moved to Ireland in his youth. He worked in construction for many years until the crash came.
'We wanted to do it ourselvces and to not have someone contracted to brew our beer. Both Doug and I were in construction and after the bottom fell out of that I was looking for something to do. I travelled to Hilden Brewery in Antrim and got it into it my head that a brewery was something I could do. In 2005 Brian Cowen brought in a 50 per cent rebate for micro breweries. You could still brew significant quantities and I knew duty was a major cost on a pint so it made good sense. Doug got a PAYE rebate and he provided the seed capital for the venture.'
Liam studied brewing in the UK and his son Jack completed a course through Waterford Institute of Technology.
They got the first brewing licence in Wexford for 50 years.
Along with Doug and Jack, Liam created a brewing laboratory in a house previously occupied by his wife's creche in 2013. They decided to go 'the bottle route' from the get go as the most they could brew in the micro brewery was 450 litres in their fermenter and conditioning tanks.
Liam did a food course with Bord Bia and Jack Doyle's received great support from Wexford Enterprise Board, Wexford Local Development and Pettitts supermarkets, while The Yard also stocked their ale and stout. He said tastings are the best way to grow business, while his son Jack is working on developing their website.
They took the bold decision to transform the 15-metre swimming pool to the rear of their house, where his son Tom, a promising athlete, used to train, into a brewery.
'It was a heated outdoor pool. I started building the roof for it and we put the tanks in on the swimming pool floor.'
Through tastings and hard work they developed their market into Wicklow and got into their first Dublin store before Christmas.
Liam said he is hopeful that the Leinster Lager brand will take off at the Alltech beer festival.
'We are the only brewery in County Wexford which has won an award. It was for our stout and we won it in Brussels in 2014.'
Liam said they modelled their pale ale on a Scottish ale.
Doug and Jack can brew enough beer for 12,000 bottles or 120 kegs per week.
Liam said they plan to sell the lager on tap.
'We are hoping the lager will be a big seller.'
Using Irish malts and hops from a UK hop merchant, they have created some fine brews, which they hope to export into the Scottish, Italian and American markets in the latter half of this year.
'The UK market is saturated as it has more than 1,200 breweries, but we think our beers will go down well in Scotland, Italy and America. In Doug and Jack we have two excellent brewers.'
Liam has taken on a sales and promotion staff member in Dublin to expand the brand's reach, but the main focus is on exporting the beer.
'O'Hara's is the biggest craft beer company in the country. They are exporting almost all their beer to the US. There was only about ten breweries in the country when I started and now there are more than 60. There is a good chance the market here will become saturated. It will be hard going to sell all the beer we can produce here in Ireland so we will be taking our brand to America. We want to get it across that we're an Irish brand. It's not going to be easy but I'm involved with someone who works in America and there is always a way.'
This will mean redesigning the labels to make the beer appear more modern, without being too flashy.
Liam thanked Wexford Food Family for their support and Pettitt's for giving Jack Doyle's their start.