Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Pretty much everything about Mescan, the brewery on Ireland's holy mountain, is unique.

Pretty much everything about Mescan, the brewery on Ireland's holy mountain, is unique. 

There was a cousin (RIP) who went off every year, on the last Sunday in July, to do the reek, to climb Croagh Patrick. He got a lot of credit for it, even though he only ever got as far as the last pub. Then one year, the TV cameras turned up at that pub and the cousin was unmasked! He was happy with that pub but if he had known there would be a brewery on the holy slopes.... There is indeed one there now and it is called Mescan.

Pretty much everything about Mescan is unique

That's what co-founder and brewer Cillian Ó Móráin (above) told us when we asked what was unique about the brewery that stands on the lower slopes of Croagh Patrick, the country's Holy Mountain.

"Our outstanding USP, which is genuinely unique to Mescan, is the long maturation process with a minimum of 3 months (up to 9 months with the stronger beers), between brewing and packaging. This unhurried process allows time for the flavours to develop, much like maturing a wine. These long conditioning times make the beers more expensive to produce but add greatly to the quality. The resulting depth and range of flavour makes them particularly well suited to pairing with food."

"During our long conditioning process, the yeast settles out naturally, with no need to use finings for clarifying, and making the beers suitable for vegans. Simple, natural ingredients are used to create Mescan beers: spring water, barley, wheat, hops, yeast, spices and nothing else. Our beers are almost exclusively brewed in Belgian styles."

"Mescan Brewery was conceived and built by myself, Cillian Ó Móráin, and Bart Adons, while seeking a change from our frenetic lives as veterinary surgeons. We spent three years perfecting our original recipes, inspired by the beers of Belgium, Bart's homeland, before starting to brew commercially. I now manage the brewery myself, as Bart has stepped back to pursue other interests."
The Founders, Cillian (left) and Bart

Mescan was started in 2014. It was their first commercial year. We asked Cillian what are their core beers now and the list is:

Mescan Blond
Mescan Saison
Mescan Red Tripel 
Mescan Extra
Mescan Special Reserve 
Mescan Seven Virtues Lager.

An easy question. But the next proved more difficult! Which  is the favourite of the brewery team? 

"Well now, that’s not a straightforward question! When the weather is warm, there’s a thirst upon us and there’s a distinct possibility of more than one being imbibed, it’s definitely a thirst quenching Saison. However, if it’s been a long hard day at the brewery and the reward is one beer only, then we’ll opt for an Extra or Special Reserve for the flavour and the experience. It just depends on the mood – and that’s the great thing about Belgian beers, there’s one for every mood."

What’s your typical day like? No shortage of variety? 

A typical day for small craft brewer – what is that! I’m an early bird so I’m usually up at 6am and straight into a quick Qi Gong session. After that I spend a couple of hours doing admin and computer work with a cup of tea in hand. After breakfast I’ll head off to the brewery (a glorious drive along the coast by Croagh Patrick) to clean tanks, fill kegs or do the hundred other things a brewer needs to do. Of course brewing and bottling days are different, on those it’s straight into a long hard day at the brewery. Tough work but very satisfying."
Any new beers in the pipeline? 

We are always full of ideas and planning new beers. We hope to scale up one of our trial brews in the near future. 

Are you selling mainly in pubs or in off licences. Restaurants maybe? 

In our stronghold of Connaught, Mescan is widely available in all three, around the rest of the country it’s mainly through off licences. 

Tell me about one time when things went wrong. How did you learn from that failure?  

Things certainly do go wrong, that’s the nature of brewing. Particularly early in my careers as both veterinary surgeon and a brewer, I’m sure I’ve made every mistake it’s possible to make. The biggest learning for me has been that almost everything can be solved with an objective attitude and a calm approach. Experience is a hard master but a great teacher. The trick is to learn from those mistakes and move on.

How do you choose which styles of beer to brew? 

We take a very simple approach - we brew beer styles that we like drinking. We’re not interested in following trends, we like beers with complexity and balance and we brew in the style of other beers we admire. 

How is your beer/brewery connected to the local area? 

Mescan is literally steeped in the local area. Named after Mescan the monk, who was St. Patrick's friend and personal brewer, the brewery is located in the foothills of Croagh Patrick in County Mayo. 

Water. Hard or soft? Is there much adjusting involved? 

One of the advantages of our location is that our water comes from deep underneath Croagh Patrick via a spring well on the farm. The water is soft which suits the beer styles we brew. We filter it manually to remove some manganese from the raw water. It’s a physical process – we don’t use any chemicals. 

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