The genius in the bottle at Clever Man

By david looby

Published 23/01/2016 | 00:00

Andrea Molloy displaying their selection of beers.
Andrea Molloy displaying their selection of beers.
Drew Fox Brewing's joint proprietors, Andrea and Malcolm Molloy with brewer Lee Farling and David Savage, brewing assistant.
Malcolm Molloy at the control panels

Look closely at the company name behind Clever Man brewery.

Drew Fox is the name and once you jumble the letters around, you'll find it is one of the first names that pops into your mind every day.

This novel, fox clever spirit is what the makers of Clever Man beer are all about. They want people to look at drinking in a fresh, new way.

With turf smoked stout and a beer named after a tractor designer, Drew Fox Brewing has created a novel approach to beer drinking, one which is making them the talk of the industry.

Based at West Point Business Park in Clonard, Wexford, in a warehouse, the craft beer range named after the creations of Irish geniuses, is the brainchild of Malcolm Molloy and his wife Andrea.

Mr Molloy started brewing in April and his beer, ale and stout are already in 60 shops, bars and supermarkets. When they first acquired the premises there was nothing apart from a toilet in the corner. After several weeks hard work, they created a brewery which produces several tonnes of beer per week. Three fermenters stand side-by-side, along with other hot and cold brewing equipment.

Recipes by head brewer Lee Farling are piloted and can be produced and bottled for the market within one week. Farling previously worked developing beers in England with Wincle Beer Company.

'Lee came over to us and he was a perfect fit,' Molloy said.

Inspired by his time living in Chicago, where the craft beer scene is developed, Molloy opened a bar, The Grafton, which serves 80 different craft beers. He returned to Ireland, settling in Crossabeg with Andrea and his three children in 2010 and by 2013 he was itching to develop a craft beer brewery in the county, using Wexford malt from the landmark Minch Norton company in Enniscorthy.

'Five years ago there wasn't any real choice in craft beer and now we are filling the gap with choice, keeping it interesting and fresh. I have been working on this project for some time and we began trading in April as Drew Fox Brewing, Drew Fox being an anagram for Wexford.'

The product range includes Little Willie Tank APA, named after Major Walter Gordon Wilson CMG (1874-1957) from Dublin who was a mechanical engineer and inventor. He was credited by the 1919 Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors as the co-inventor of the tank, along with Sir William Tritton.

Attractor beer is named after Henry George 'Harry' Ferguson (4 November 1884 - 25 October 1960) from County Down, who was an Irish engineer and inventor who is noted for his role in the development of the modern agricultural tractor, for becoming the first Irishman to build and fly his own airplane, and for developing the first four-wheel drive Formula One car, the Ferguson P99. Today his name lives on in the name of the Massey Ferguson company.

The 12ft Under Amber Ale is named after John Philip (24 February 1841 - 12 August 1914) who was an Irish engineer from County Clare who developed the first submarine to be formally commissioned by the U.S. Navy, and the first Royal Navy submarine, the Holland 1. The bottle bears the phrase Liquid Genius.

The Turf Smoked Stout is named after Sir James Martin CBE DSc CEng FIMechE FRAeS (11 September 1893 - 5 January 1981) who was a Northern Irish engineer whom together with Captain Valentine Baker founded the Martin-Baker aircraft company which is now a leading producer of aircraft ejection seats.

Using catchy phrases and excellent labels which tell the story, the beer range eschews a bon vivant spirit of enjoy your drink, or maybe two, with or without food.

He said the company has received great support locally from Pettitt's and Wexford Food Family. The company received a €5,000 grant from the local enterprise board for hiring a full time employee. A fourth employee, David Savage was also taken on.

'The local restaurants have been terrific in taking on the beer and we are now selling beer to Dublin, Cork, Waterford and in the North. We are mostly in off licences, restaurants, supermarkets and pubs. Business was growing nicely but we really exploded in November when we signed up with a distributor. The cupboard was nearly bare in December.'

Molloy has plans to develop a seasonal beer range and a one off beer tailored specifically to the tastes of individuals for birthday parties, weddings and special occasions.

Drawing on his knowledge of craft beers from his 15 plus years in America, he believes Irish people enjoy sweeter beers, so you can expect some interesting and surprising releases from Drew Fox Brewery over the coming years. They also plan to expand into the UK market.

'In America the market is very mature. It has been in existence there for about 30 years and it represents about 10 per cent of the overall beer market and 14 per cent in value. In Ireland there are about 100 craft beers and the market share is 2 per cent.'

Flexibility and a willingness to experiment means the Clever Men team are always searching for beer bliss. 'We have great flexibility in our flavours and aromas. People are pretty open and they're moving away from Heineken and Budweiser. They want something different. Chefs like Warren Gillen have starting cooking with our beer and craft beers can be paired with different foods.'

Molloy puts the burgeoning success of the brewery down to 'shoe leather', travelling across the country doing tastings.

'It's about getting the beer into people's hands. They enjoy it and don't mind buying it. Craft beer is all about quality, not quantity. It's about savouring the experience, not getting smashed.'

The beers have a 4.5 per cent alcohol content, on the lower end of the scale. Molloy believes the habits of Irish drinkers are beginning to change and hopes Dres Fox Brewing can capitalise on this.

'Giving the big beer companies sleepless nights is the idea. What is the future drinker goes into the bar and asks "what can you recommend today", so there is no brand loyalty. Our motto is "Always be curious".'

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