The background picture on Walled City Brewery’s Facebook page comes with the title ‘squeaky bum time’.
The phrase sums up not just Walled City Brewery’s hopes and dreams for the future but it also captures the sense of excitement and ambition a few miles down the road at Northbound Brewery.
Northbound Brewery is tucked away safely in the shell of an old shirt factory in the vast Campsie Industrial Estate and is owned and run by Master Brewer, Dave Rogers and his wife, Martina.
The soon to be open Walled City Brewery is housed in the old military pay-office in Ebrington Square. The building dates back as far as 1890 and when it opens it will be the only brewery/restaurant in the North of Ireland. The Walled City Brewery is owned and managed by James Huey and wife Louise.
Simply being in the same room as David from Northbound Brewery and James from Walled City Brewery makes you want to crack open a bottle of either Northbound’s 08 Kölsch style beer or Walled City’s Derry Pale Ale titled, BOOM - their love of beer is almost tangible.
David is from the town of Hamilton, just 15 miles outside of Glasgow and James was born in Muff Co. Donegal and schooled in Derry. David is 40 and James is 37. Listing the differences between David and James is easy but the most interesting thing about both men is something that they have in common - a passion for making good beer.
David developed his love of beer while working in breweries in Australia and as an engineer he finds a lot of his work these days tends to be in the food and drink industry throughout Ireland.
James left university and went to work for Guinness where he played an integral part in product development and would have been extremely hands on when it came to the way beers tasted and looked.
David’s and James’ passion for beer is infectious but the love affair with the grain and the hops is certainly not fleeting. The two men come with a plethora of knowledge and experience and when it comes to the process of making a great tasting beer they can more than practise what they preach.
David took over a unit in Campsie Industrial Estate last summer and along with wife Martina they have been busy sourcing the equipment needed to complete their 7,500 litre capacity brewery.
At present, Northbound make two different kinds of beer; 08 - Kölsch style and 26 - Indian Pale Ale (IPA). Northbound name their beers according to the colour; 08 is quite clear whilst 26 is a little darker.
David works as an engineer all over Ireland while wife Martina looks after their three children under the age of four.
“This has been my dream for sometime now,” said David standing inside the Northbound Brewery earlier this week.
“We sourced the equipment to make the beer from a brewery in England. I went over to the brewery to learn how to use it and to make sure it works and it’s a case of so far so good.”
The brewery at Northbound is impressive to say the least. From the mash tun to the kettle to the fermentation vats, skill, knowledge and experience is absolutely essential to anyone attempting to operate this kind of equipment. As a Master Brewer, David has it all.
The title of Master Brewer can only be bestowed upon those with a diploma from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD) and with at least five years technical management experience in a brewery. David achieved his Master Brewer qualification in 2013.
“I have to say, setting up the brewery in Derry has been one of the best decisions I could have made.
“The people here are amazing to work with and with the craft beer scene only really kicking off here I think exciting times are ahead,” said David.
“I would love to be able to retire from my job and do this full-time some day but there’s a lot of work to be done between now and then,” smiled David.
Northbound use Irish grain to make their beers, the water is sourced locally and the hops come from Europe and New Zealand but everything finished product is Derry born and bred.
“We have started selling our beers in some of the local bars and in the Chill off licenses - the feed back has been very positive. I am delighted to be making beer in a place like Derry and it’s a lovely place to raise a family too.”
Eight miles away in Ebrington Square is a similar sort of venture to the Northbound Brewery.
“We are honoured to be in Ebrington and all being well we should be open in May,” said brewer and owner of Walled City Brewery, James Huey.
James was born in Muff but went to school at Culmore P.S. and Foyle College. James left Derry over 18 years ago to go to university and for over almost 20 years he has worked for the likes of Guinness, Harp and Satzenbrau Pils. Beer is in James’ DNA.
“I am really excited about what we are doing here - obviously there is no telling how it will go but I hope Derry enjoys what we are doing.”
The view from both inside and outside the Walled City Brewery is breathtaking. The scene-scape of the Peace Bridge, Guildhall, Rosemount shirt factory, St. Eugene’s and St. Columb’s Cathedrals and the River Foyle is certain to be very popular amongst beer drinkers when Walled City Brewery opens next month.
“The premises will operate as a 64 seater restaurant and brewery - as far as I know we will be the only restaurant/brewery in the North,” smiled James.
The name of the Walled City Brewery beers are BOOM (Derry Pale Ale), STITCH (IPA) and KICKS (Pilsner). The names and their links to Derry reference the breaking of the boom during the siege, the stitches used to make shirts in the famous Derry shirt factories and the second word from the title of the song ‘Teenage Kicks’ by Derry band, ‘The Undertones’.
“I wanted to give the beer names that could be sold outside of Derry and that displayed a relationship to the place at the same time. I have been away from Derry for a while but I am absolutely over the moon to be back in Derry setting up a brewery - it’s a dream come true.”
James’ wife Louise is in charge of the human resources side of the business whilst his sister, Jill McKillop is the Executive Chef.
“Jill is an amazing chef and we want the food we are going to serve here to compliment the beers. We want to create an exciting menu with smoked meats and really good quality pulled pork. We will also use all local produce where available. We want the Walled City Brewery to become a celebration of all things local.”
Along with all of the beers made by Walled City Brewery there will be other craft beers available for drinkers to try.
“We will be selling beer from Northbound, Kinnegar in Rathmullan, Fulcrum in Dungannaon as well as many, many more. The big challenge will be convincing people who traditionally drink beers like Guinness and Harp to try our beer. It will be a challenge but it’s one we are all up for - we want this place to be a centre of innovation,” he said.