I started my practical research for the Belfast Craft Beer Tours a few months ago with a very enjoyable visit with Nigel and Kevin down on the farm @hillstownbeer .
Proper farming happening alongside the brewing with Llamas in the front field along with a very lively goat and Nigel showed me the most laid-back cows ever - their diet includes several litres of stout per day. Happy cows = great beef!
So what did I learn?
Hillstown is a small brewery working hard to make around 5000 bottles of great beers each week while looking after the sales and promotion and running a farm as well, phew.
The brewing process takes around 3 weeks, a bit longer than required but the extra time makes the product even better.
Recipes are perfected following intensive small brew trials – and when Nigel and Kevin are happy then the ingredients come in bulk from neighbours Geterbrewed and production begins at full throttle.
So where do the brews names originate – well it doesn’t take a genius to realise the names generally have a farm theme mixed with inspiration generated following a few bottles of the creation itself.
I certainly know where the Spitting Llama comes from – just check the front field, but don’t go too close to the wildlife. Nigel says if the name feels right then it sticks and then its over to Ally Simpson (in Ballymena) to design the label.
So 5 years into the brewing journey its onwards and upwards for the Hillstown team. Check their website for all their beers and outlets where you can buy the stuff.
In the meantime, look out for the Belfast Craft Beer Tour launching this summer, it’ll reach parts other tours miss.