Susan Boyle on Long Meadow IPA
Susan Boyle on Ballykilcavan Long Meadow IPA
When I submitted my piece for last year’s Flagship February there were rumblings of a virus, but it seemed so distant and unrelated to my everyday life that I thought little of it. A month later, it became shockingly clear; we live in a global village, what happens on one side of the world impacts the rest of the planet.
I knew this, I’ve seen it happen with beer. All it takes is a particular adjunct or beer style to capture just one brewer’s imagination and, before you know it, it’s popping up in glasses everywhere. (Barrel-aged, tonka, blueberry, yuzu, milkshake, sour IPA, anyone?) Ideas, like viruses, are contagious and this is also why an initiative like Flagship February has grown. Now an established calendar event, while keeping true to its core values of promoting the beers that paved the way for the unicorn beers we also lust after, Flagship February has grown and adapted to reflect our changed environment.
Now, more than ever, I take comfort in the familiar. There has been so much disruption and dizzy-pivoting in the past twelve months that I seek a safe harbour and find consistent, familiar, brilliant beers anchor me.
Many of us have not been able to enjoy the simple pleasure of a good pint with friends. It’s been a year since I drank beer in a pub, something I will never again take for granted.
So in lieu of company and a bar stool, I crack open beers to evoke the memories of the people and places I miss. Sometimes those places are far away, at other times, closer to home.
On my doorstep, well, about 15 miles away, is the Ballykilcavan Brewery. David Walsh-Kemmis founded the brewery on this 13-generation farm in 2016. Surviving through the centuries proves that diversification keeps a farm viable for future generations, and years of adapting and evolving on this Laois farm leads to beer. Having won many awards for his excellent barley, David hatched a plan to add value to an already premium agricultural product, and so work began on a brewery housed in the farmyard’s centuries-old stone buildings.
Provenance and attention to detail are at the heart of all their beers, and malt is the star ingredient in everything brewed at Ballykilcavan. The barley grown on the farm is malted on a dedicated micro-malting line at Minch Malt, a mere 10 miles from the farm gate. As an aside, some of this delicious barley takes a different path: 2020 saw the first release of the Waterford Distillery’s single malt Irish whiskey, a spirit distilled from barley grown on specially selected individual farms, one of which is Ballykilcavan.
Alongside home-grown grain, Ballykilcavan also has another essential beer ingredient on tap: water, with its own well ensuring a unique water source. Finally, rounding out a trio of crucial beer ingredients, Ballykilcavan produces a limited-edition beer using their farm-grown hops; an impressive achievement considering Ireland’s cool, wet climate means that hops grown here are prone to mildew and mould and need to be tended carefully.
Ballykilcavan beer and Waterford Distillery whiskey are each authentic expressions of Irish terroir. In the glass, we taste the place where the barley grows, the environment that nurtured and influenced the grain, and the people who brought these drinks to life.
My Flagship February 2021 beer is one of the brewery’s core beers, Long Meadow IPA. The beer is named after a field close to the brewery and evokes memories of summer days surrounded by good friends. It is available in bottle or can, and over the past year, cans have been critical to sustaining the Irish craft beer industry. With bars and restaurants shut, Irish breweries responded to a drop in sales by harnessing the home delivery market. Cans are lighter to transport and eliminate the potential for broken glass so, many breweries started to package more beer in cans rather than kegs or bottles.
Long Meadow IPA’s excellent biscuity malt profile supports fragrant hops, an aromas of hay, cut-grass and citrus burst from this beer. It is refreshing with balanced, with pleasant bitterness and excellent quaffability. Ballykilcavan Brewery is a pioneer in Irish farm to glass brewing, and Long Meadow IPA is a beer to return to again and again.
Flagship beers were chosen by the individual writers with no input from the #FlagshipFebruary partners or sponsor breweries.