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Farmageddon Brewery

For ages now – many years in fact – I’ve wanted to feature Ales on Metalireland.

So when NI craft brewers Farmageddon teamed up with MI to sponsor our podcast, it was clear that the moment had come to do it properly.

I love my ale, and like anyone with proper taste buds, have done so since long before the hipsters got involved.

I remember talking about an ale reviews section for Metalireland with one of our fellow writers almost a decade ago. It just never quite happened.

But it’s never too late – and in an occasional series, i’d like to start. So this one’s the first (or should I say thirst?)- a way to introduce cool brewers doing great ales.

Welcome to Ale & Kill!

First Up – The Punks!

Farmageddon are old hand punks and metallers from around the Belfast scene, who’ve worked hard for the last few years building up their brewery. I went out to meet main man Owen Wilson to find out about the power of the hop.

What is it that you want to do with Farmageddon?

We want to make beers that we want to drink. When we started out home brewing, there wasn’t so much of the American stuff getting through, and we weren’t really that enamoured with English ale. I remember reading about all these mad America IPA’s and thinking ‘that sounds just the ticket’. We couldnt buy them, so we just had to brew them basically.

I moved down here about three years ago and got married the year after. We brewed flat out for the wedding, so it was a free bar, all home brew. It was that that give us the idea that we could actually go upwards from home brew.

That’s a big leap though. Even from enthusiastic amateurs to what youv’e got out the back now is no small thing.

Yeah, there’ve been four main changes. We started off with a 50 Litre test kit, which is now in pieces out there. Then we went up to 200 Litre. After that we had to get a 500 Litre milk tank – and now we have an 1,100 Litre milk tank.

Going from a basic stove top home kit to that has taken a lot of adaptation and improvisation. I mean we’re DIY punks, you know, if we build it they will come. There’s loads of Gucci toys we’d still love to have, like flow meters, inline digital probes and all the rest of it, but we’ll get there bit by bit.

Hop Beyond Hop

You’ve just shown me some hops, and I’d never seen a real one before. But when you smell them, you fairly recognise them.

Yep. Genetically, parentage wise, it’s the big brother of a well known smelly herb that many hippies would enjoy… and yes, that stench really comes through, and it sort of looks like that when it’s growing as well.

What do you look for, what makes a good hop?

I like a beer with a big piney, resinous, fruity, dank sort hit – and those flavours tend to come from the American north west, the Yakima Valley specifically. Now, the difference between hops from there and hops from England is the soil conditions.

In Europre we have traditionally sprayed everything with Bordeaux mixture, which stops potato blight taking root and wiping out… er… Ireland. It actually inhibits a chemical compound in the hop that creates the fruity flavours.

An English hop will have herbal notes whereas an American hop will have big grapefruity hits. So if you grow Cascade for example in England, it doesnt have that full-on, in your face hit that the likes of Sierra Navada’s pale ale is known for.

But grow it in Yakima, where it’s virgin territory and hasnt been sprayed with copper sulphate, the conditions, the time of the sunlight, the strength of the sunlight – all of those conditions go forth to bring this big fruity flavours.

But the Americans have been ahead of England by developing new hops continuously, like Citrus and Mozaic.

We were just smelling Mozaic there and it really was big mega pineapple.

Yeah, a touch of grapefruit as well. The Americans have been developing for years, and every year a new one comes along. It’s very difficult for us to get a hold of them, but we try our damndest.

The English are very traditional. ‘Fuggles is great, so we’re only going to grow Fuggles.’ But the times are changing. There’s a hop breeding programme in Hereford, for example, but it’s all down to the soil conditions.

Stainless Steel

You’ve been doing it for years, but now the craft ale craze has gone mad. How can you keep up?

Tomorrow I’m going to England to buy stainless steel tanks – hopefully we’re going to triple our output. At the moment we can only make our main Gold and IPA beers, because we cant make it fast enough. So we havent had much chance to play with flavours and do specials.

We’ve got four 500L Bushmills casks sitting that I havent even been able to put my Whopping Stout into yet… there’s loads we want to do and try. We’re going to do the Porter and put it into whiskey barrels for six months to pick up all those nuances.

You guys come from the metal and punk scene, right?

Me and John would’ve cut our teeth at Giros back in the day, so big fans of all the local punk acts. 1,000 Drunken Nights, Runnin’ Riot of course, all the crust, big time at the Warzone Fests, that’s our scene.

But recently I’ve been getting into the country punk stuff, Hank Williams III, 357 String Band, Bob Wayne, some of that stuff is mad. Especially with the surroundings down here [on the farm] – it’s part of the reason why the brewery was started actually, because I still harbour dreams of having a ’68 Dodge Charger with a 440 V8…

But I mean in terms of whether we come down on the Metallica or Slayer side of the metal spectrum, we’re very much Slayer men round here.

So what about the beers?

The Gold Pale ale is particularly fantastic. Four hops go into it all with big bitter profiles, but more importantly massive tropical fruit hits. It’s light, it’s crisp, it’s refreshing and bitter. Big hoppy nose, fantastic.

Our India Pale Ale, west coast style, 5.5%, but with a bit of a kick, big piney resin-y, fruity citrus-y hit. There’s a lot going on in that one.

The White IPA was designed for summer drinking, barbecues and that, not that we’ve had much of a summer. But it’s light bodied, 3.8% – but in order for it not to be too watery, we had to think outside the box. So we went with local oats, because they leave a nice creamy texture and liven the body up, but also to carry the hops. It’s loaded with Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, all the big C hops. So a big grapefruity hit, and indeed some people have said pink grapefruit.

And the porter has a real strong following. Some would say its a proper mans beer: seven malts, hopped like an IPA, so bitter, but it also mixes in with the burnt and well roasted grains. What that gives you is a slight hint of chocolate, a hit of coffee, slightly more orangey as well. Mmmmmmm!

Check out Farmageddon on Facebook.

Earl Grey ::: 25/09/15

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  1. Interesting interview! I know Owen, and work with him in his ‘day-job’; he’s a nice guy and I hope that the brewery really takes off.

  2. Great idea to start these reviews.F**k the hipsters…they’ll soon move on to something else before long and leave the ale and beards alone ! I just bough a bag of the various ales reviewed above (all priced £1:49- £1:99 sterling)

  3. Nice feature. I’ll be on the look out for these ales next time I’m home.

    I visited Brooklyn Brewery & Dogfish Head last time I was in the US, was a real eye opener to different tasting ales compared to the usual UK style.


  4. I’ll happily write an article on the Black Metal Brewery in Glasgow if MI wanna shout me a flight 😉

  5. I’ll ring Bruce and see if 666 is free.

  6. He’s in Edinburgh pentagrimes. The BM beers are good, fairly high abv all around 6% with nice full depth of flavour and body. Being home brewing myself a couple of years. Make what you want to drink like the lad in the interview says. I usually call them metal inspired names and print up Dore and Kittlesen labels to have my own personal fantasy metal beer haha. Great wee hobby. I think Matty the emo Slayer is also a homebrewer??

    Good article anyway. I’m crazy about beer. Currently finishing a Kenmare Porter which is one of the worst I’ve had in a long time.

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