A combination of factors led to the creation of Ballykilcavan Brewing Company: the need to diversify a 380 year old family farm that was not making any money; the desire to support a young family and a passion for brewing and for growing the best possible ingredients for our range of beers.
David has been homebrewing since 2007 and had long dreamed about using our farm's award-winning malting barley to start up a commercial brewery. As the incomes from tillage farming kept falling away over the last few years, he realised that now was the time to do it to preserve the farm for future generations of the family.
It was also an excellent way to use a beautiful 18th century stone farmyard that was too small for modern agricultural machinery. The brewery is situated in a 230 year old grain store, keeping alive the centuries-old tradition of processing our own crops on the farm. We started brewing on-farm in December 2018, and the next stage is to convert the adjoining mill house as the first stage of our visitor centre.
Ballykilcavan Farm is situated in a prime malting barley growing area, just outside Stradbally, Co. Laois. It has been farmed by the Walsh family since 1639 and the current owners, David and Lisa are the 13th generation of Walshs to live and work here. David is also an IBD certified brewer and IBD certified maltster (both with distinction).
We have been growing malting barley here for at least three and probably five generations. Our barley is malted by Minch Malt, 11km down the road in Athy. We won a Boortmalt grower award in 2014, and won the Best Barley Cup for Waterford Distillery growers in 2016. With the opening of a brewery at Ballykilcavan, we are now able to use our award-winning barley to produce our own beers.
We also have a small but expanding hop garden, and we grow both bittering and aroma varieties. They are mainly traditional British varieties, along with a few early maturing American varieties. The hops are harvested in September or October each year and we use them to brew our unique Fresh Hopped pale ale, where all the barley and all the hops are sourced from one farm.
Our Brewing Philosophy
At Ballykilcavan Brewing, we believe in using the best quality ingredients we can get our hands on, and we believe that the best way to control that quality is to grow our own. 100% of the barley we use to make our beer is sourced from our farm. Our pale ale malt is malted by Minch Malt in Athy on their Robert Boby Malting plant, which produces an ale malt specifically designed for craft brewers. Our crystal malt is micro-malted by Maltbox, and our amber and chocolate malts are roasted in small batches in a custom designed micro-roaster for maximum freshness.
Almost all speciality malts used commercially in Ireland are imported from outside the country. Many of them are excellent, but we believe that Irish beer should use excellent Irish ingredients wherever possible. With our maritime climate, we grow some of the best malting barley in the world in this country, with a longer growing season to allow the barley to develop flavour, mouthfeel and texture. Why not use it to make our beer?
We are not the most efficient brewery in the world. Deliberately so. All our beers mature for longer, are unfiltered, unpasteurised and naturally bottle conditioned. We believe that this processing, or more accurately, lack of processing, adds flavour and complexity to our beers and allows the flavour of the ingredients to shine through.