Showing posts with label Kenmare. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kenmare. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

To produce a pint that doesn’t cost the earth. The aim of the Tom Crean Brewery in Kenmare.

To produce a pint that doesn’t cost the earth. 

The aim of the Tom Crean Brewery in Kenmare.

Gold  and Bronze at Blas for Aileen and Bill (right); also in pic is Artie Clifford (Blas);
gold for 6 Magpies Stout, bronze for 
St. Brigid’s Lager

Tom Crean’s Brewery in Kenmare is well known for its direct family association with the legendary South Pole hero Tom Crean but is fast making a name for itself for the sustainability of its operation under owners and founders Bill Sheppard (current brewer) and Tom’s granddaughter Aileen Crean O’Brien.

Latest move in that direction is the acquisition of an electric quad bike instead of the diesel van. The quad will be used to deliver to businesses outside/around Kenmare. It is the most recent in a long line of sustainability friendly moves, going back to the start as Aileen explained:  We custom built the brewery with P.V. Solar Panels as we were anxious to include sustainability in our beer production from the outset. We worked with the Local Enterprise office with their origin green scheme and produced a video for them .”


The Crean family at the launch of the R.V. Tom Crean in Dingle last October.

“Later, we changed from bottles to cans as they are more environmentally friendly.   We learned how to convert the spent grain into silage and got a flock licence and had our own sheep in the front garden.  The grain contains twice the amount of protein as lamb nuts.  When the farmer (who sold them to us) saw them at the end of the season he was amazed at their condition and said they should be going to a show.”

“ We built a polytunnel in the back garden to house our biodigester.  This is run on the brewery, kitchen and animal waste.  Not only does it produce liquid natural fertiliser for the grass for the sheep and our polytunnel produce but it also gives us 2 hours free gas for cooking, daily.”

The original Bonane Babes arrive
in Kenmare in 2021

Aileen makes dog biscuits from the spent grain, “for our customers 4-legged friends that are always welcome in the brewery. We are currently working on two projects – wind power and gourmet mushrooms. Our aim is to produce a pint that doesn’t cost the earth”.

When did you start up?  

Aileen: We started contract brewing our Expedition Red Ale in 2015.  We then custom built and opened Tom Crean Brewery Kenmare in Nov. 2019. To date we have brewed 11 beers, the majority are session beers, we normally have 6 in stock.  They are all free from additives and chemicals and are vegan." 

Seasonal Beers? "We brewed 2 summer beers – Kerry Surf & Turf and the Corner Boys and 1 winter- Tom’s Winter Warmer and 1 special -an E.S.B. F28 Fire Quencher."

A selection of the beers!

The Beers:

Kerry Surf & Turf celebrates the Atlantic Ocean and the mountains.  We use turf and forage for seaweed in Kenmare bay.  

The Corner Boys is the only beer that has 5 ingredients i.e. watermelon – something for the Corner Boys to talk about i.e. watermelon in South Kerry.  It has a subtle aroma and flavour of watermelon.

Tom’s Winter Warmer- has hints of Christmas spice and is 5.5%

F28 Fire Quencher – was a special E.S.B., 5.5%, brewed by Bill and his ex-watch from Homerton fire station London.

6 Magpies Stout was awarded Gold in Blas na h-Eireann in 2022 & St. Brigid’s Lager awarded Bronze; Last Man Standing, a 1% ABV, was a finalist.  Unfortunately, Blas does not have a specific category for low alcohol beers."

Liam Griffin unveils a can of Tom Crean's
 Expedition Irish Red at the South Pole
The Expedition Irish Red ale was used by Aileen to commission the new marine science research vessel called R.V. Tom Crean, in Dingle in Oct. 2022.  A very proud moment for all the family. Here's a link to a short RTE video of the launch

The Expedition Irish Red  also made it to the South Pole in January this year.  The owner of Addison Lee, Liam Griffin, whose father came from Glenbeigh, was reared with stories of Tom, and he completed the last degree to the South Pole in horrendous conditions and brought a couple of cans with him.  Tom Crean or Aileen may not have made it to the South Pole but, thanks to Liam, Tom’s beer has.

Indeed, Aileen and family members headed off in 2016 to South Georgia to see at first hand what Tom had experienced in his third trip to the region. They certainly experienced the real thing and Aileen ended up with a broken leg. More on that story in a previous post here .

Aileen and Bill taking a break!

Aileen explained about the Names of their beers-

Expedition Red – named after Tom Crean’s 3 Antarctic expeditions and the family 2016 centenary expedition to South Georgia.

St. Brigid’s Lager – she was a master brewer and as she was an abbess she could read and write and wrote her “wish was to create a lake of beer for the Almighty and all the heavenly hosts for all eternity”. 

6 Magpies Stout – we had to start building the brewery to avail of an Enterprise Irl. Grant – none of the lending institutions would grant us a mortgage.  One day, after completion, Bill spotted 6 Magpies in the garden and considered it a good omen – the bank called us the next day and offered us a percentage of our loan.

Druid’s Smoke Wheat Beer- celebrates our local pre-historic heritage. 

Killowen Kolsch Style Lager – As the brewery is built on Killowen Rd. is a Kolsch style lager like based on the original beers brewed in Cologne.

The brewery itself is named, of course, in honour of Tom Crean (left) the famous Irish Antarctic Explorer, Aileen’s grandfather.  She said: “It seemed appropriate to name the brewery as Tom opened a pub in his home village Annascaul when he retired from the navy and I’m sure he’d be proud to see his granddaughter open a brewery in his honour and have a selection of beers named after him.”

The core beers at Tom Crean are St. Brigid’s Lager, Expedition Irish Red Ale, Scurvy Dog IPA, 6 Magpies Stout, Killowen Kolsch Style Lager & Last Man Standing 1%. They are always keen on developing new beers “but at the moment managing what we have keeps us busy”. And she confirmed that they “brew beers that we like to drink ourselves and hope that people like them as much as us”.

Look up! It's Tom Crean.

They sell mainly kegs in pubs, restaurants and hotels.  "We have taps in the two Five Star hotels in Kenmare.   The Park has 2 taps (of their 3) and 1 in the Sheen Falls and cans in the Stables Brasserie.  As we’re a very small family business, we distribute only in Kerry at the moment and Craft Beers Delivered in Dublin. We produce 440ml cans.  We sell our beers at the brewery, off-licences, Supervalu’s, local Whyte’s Centra & Spar and restaurants.”

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

If it’s a double brew day it’s a straight 12 hours. The other days vary from feeding & checking the animals and the polytunnel, keg cleaning, vessel cleaning, distribution, sales, accounts, brewery tours, chatting and selling pints, off sales and merchandise in the brewery Tap Room.

Way down south - the family expedition 2016

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

Aileen moved to Kenmare in the early ‘80’s and bought the restaurant and accommodation in 1992 with her late husband.  She ran it for 30 years until last year.  The brewery is built at the rear of the restaurant.  

“We are delighted to brew a beer that local businesses are proud to sell in their premises. (See link here to FB Park Hotel). We use local turf and forage for seaweed in Kenmare Bay for our Kerry Surf & Turf. Three of our beers refer to the local area in their names.” 

Both Bill and Aileen are well grounded here now and it looks as if the Tom Crean Brewery is here in Kenmare to stay. 

Aileen at work




The brewery is easily found, in the town itself (just a few yards from the Lansdowne Hotel), at Killowen Road, Kenmare, Co. Kerry,  Ireland V93 Y6KX

Links to my previous posts on Irish breweries

Mescan Westport



Wednesday, July 14, 2021

From Dingle to Kenmare in the Kingdom. Highlights galore on Kerry coastal drive.

From Dingle to Kenmare in the Kingdom.

Highlights galore on Kerry coastal drive.

The strand from high up on Clogher.

We got in of our favourite walks, Bray Head on Valentia Island. A brewery tour and terrific food at the Tom Crean Base Camp was another highlight. Lucky too in that we stayed at three lovely places, all helpful, especially Hannah at Muxnaw Lodge who drove us back into town for dinner when we asked for a taxi. The weather in Kenmare was wet but we had a magical night strolling around Dingle’s harbour after a massive feed at the Fish Box. And much more on a recent 3-night 4-day trip in Kerry.

Dingle boats

The drive down from Cork took us first to Tralee and a look at the impressive Tralee Bay Wetlands Eco & Activity Park. Lots of activity here for families, including pedal boats on the lake and a massive climbing wall for the adventurous. Had hoped to enjoy a lunch here but it wasn’t to be; all the café had to offer were over-sweetened waffles. Perhaps the menu will expand as the season goes on and as more visitors come. Our server did indicate that they hope to have sandwiches and salads (these already appear on the online menu).

Soon we were on the road to Dingle via the Conor Pass of course. Great views of Dingle from the parking area at the top and they get a little better if you climb up the hill alongside. A few minutes later we were in Dingle itself and heading for the coast. Both Ventry and Slea Head were packed so our first real stop was Clogher. Time for another walk to the top here and great 360 views that include the Blaskets and Sybil Head.

Fish Box on Green Street, Dingle

Craft Ale by Dick Mack
Enjoyed that interlude and we headed back to Dingle and to Bambury’s Guest-house, our base for the night. Enjoyed the welcome here and took it easy for a short spell before heading out looking for food. The Fish Box was our destination. It was first come first served. We didn't have to wait long for our table in one of their outside booths. Here they have some sixty covers. 

The owners, the Flannery family, have their own boat and the menu is mainly about fish. Quality is good but quantity is massive.  Ours,  The Fish Box and the Spice Box, came not on  plates but on trays. Quite a choice here but if you are going for one of the boxes you’d be advised to skip the starter. We didn’t! 

We saw pints coming in. The Fish Box is more or less next door to Dick Macks and you can enjoy the ale and the stout from the micro-brewery. And there’s also cider from Stonewell and a short wine list. After that, we strolled down to the water where the views and sounds of the sea and the many boats were enthralling. Great buzz there too with people hanging out, some going  canoeing and others returning from their boat trips.

Bray Head Walk

Glenbeigh mussels in the hotel
Next morning after a lovely breakfast from Bernie and her Bambury team, we were on the road again, this time heading for the Iveragh peninsula. First stop was the car park for Bray Head Walk at the southern end (Portmagee) of the island. There is a parking charge of two euro. We’ve had better days on this marvellous walk but even on a dull day it is enjoyable with views out towards the Skelligs, the cliffs and back towards Portmagee  and the bridge (on which my father worked) that links it to the island. I didn’t time it but I think the walk to the tower at the top and return takes something under 90 minutes, probably less if you’re under 70 and not taking so many photos!

Glenbeigh Hotel breakfast
Our base for the night was the old Glenbeigh Hotel with its own parking and large gardens. Though most of the meals are served in the old bar, a large one, they also have a beautifully decorated Garden Room where we enjoyed a really good breakfast. No surprise to us at that stage as the evening meal was quite splendid and featured some excellent fish dishes including their Seafood Mariniere for example, packed with fish (fresh salmon and white fish) and shellfish (mussels and prawns). There’s a very friendly and efficient team in place. The only downside was the hit and miss (mostly miss) WiFi.

We could see over the gardens to Rossbeigh beach from our window and we headed there after breakfast for a long walk. Back on the road then, heading for a stop at Waterville. Busy enough here with Micko Dwyer and Charlie Chaplin in their usual positions.

We had some early afternoon appointments in Kenmare so didn’t have as much time as usual to dally. The rain arrived in Kenmare at the same time as ourselves and kept getting worse until about seven in the evening by which time we had packed in a lot, including our visit to Tom Crean’s.

That started with a tour of the micro-brewery given by co-founder and brewer Bill Sheppard. Like his wife, Aileen Crean O’Brien (grand-daughter of the famous Antarctic explorer Tom), Bill is a get and go person. They now have a range of about eight beers and you can read all about them and the tour here. Bill's tour includes details on the beer and his method of brewing of course but he also details Tom Crean’s adventures there along with the tale of the trip that the family made to the region in 2016.

Breads in the morning at Muxnaw
 Aileen is the cook here, quite an accomplished one indeed. Watch out for her fish dishes. I reckon her Star Seafood Fish Pie is as good as you’ll get anywhere! And, of courses we had a few beers, including their lovely 6 Magpies Stout to go with the food.

After the tour, we had headed to nearby Muxnaw Lodge (WiFi didn’t function here either) in its lofty location overlooking the bridge. Here, we asked owner Hannah to phone a taxi for us to return for the meal. She wasn’t having any of it and drove us over herself! We really appreciated that very much indeed and the lovely breakfast the following morning.

Also on this trip: Tom Crean Base Camp Kenmare where you'll find a B&B, a micro-brewery and a restaurant. Eat, Drink and Sleep!

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Tom Crean Base Camp. Eat. Drink. Sleep

 Tom Crean Base Camp. Eat. Drink. Sleep.

Special delivery! That's the brewery van in the background.

The young sheep rush into their new ground and the words con brio come to mind as they dash hither and thither and investigate their new surroundings on a grassy slope near Kenmare.

And the same words could well be applied to the enterprise at the top of the town’s Main Street painted blue and known as the Tom Crean Base Camp. Aileen Crean O’Brien, grand-daughter of the legendary Antarctic explorer, leads a team than runs a B&B, a restaurant and a micro-brewery, all under the one roof.

Aileen on Carrauntoohil. Pic from Tom Crean Base Camp.

Aileen and her family seem to have inherited the determination, endurance and enterprise of her grandfather. Indeed, in 2016 a bunch of them set off for South Georgia to see at first hand what Tom had experienced in his third trip to the region (this with the explorer Shackleton). 

They certainly experienced the real thing and Aileen ended up with a broken leg and they had to wait to get to Chile to get that sorted. And, on her return, she didn’t sit back and take it easy but resumed her duties as head of the kitchen. Staff, we were told, gave her and her crutch a wide berth for a while!

Bill, in the brewery

Friends had told us that Aileen is an accomplished cook, having learned the ropes in the kitchen at the town’s famous Park Hotel under the guidance of Michelin head chef Matt d’Arcy. They later married and opened their own restaurant but Matt’s untimely death meant Aileen had to leave the business while she raised her young family. She came back in 2009 and refurbished and renamed the restaurant and accommodation in honour of her grandfather. And it keeps expanding.

The latest enterprise is their micro brewery and that was our first visit on what turned out to be quite a day in Kenmare. We had booked our tour for 3.00pm and met our guide Bill Sheppard who co-founded the brewery with Aileen in 2019. The couple had met during one of her trips to India and they married earlier this year.

Bill was born in Chester in the northwest of England. He worked as a fire fighter in the London Fire Brigade and later graduated from Chester University with a degree in Archaeology.  Now he has retrained as a brewer and is turning out quite a range of Tom Crean beers, everything from the 1% Last man Standing to the Six Magpies Stout with lots of ales (pale and red and IPA) in between.

Most of the sales are direct from their premises and he also delivers around the town pushing his trusty sack-truck. But they do have a van. After all they have customers in other Kerry towns including, appropriately, Tom Crean’s birthplace of Annascaul. 

As Bill told us the story behind the brewery, we sipped from a number of the beers, including the St Bridget’s Lager; the saint was a brewer herself. Druid’s, the wheat beer, “celebrates the landscape” and another new beer, Kerry Surf & Turf, is a tribute to land and the sea. He reckons his 6 Magpie Stout is as good as any around and Aileen uses it in one of her beef pies.

Fish Pie

The café here is a daytime venture, understandable as they also do B& B here and the day is long enough. So, from 9.00am to 4.00pm, you may have breakfast and lunch. After that, up to 6.00pm or so, there’s pizzas and a few specials as well. And all of this, at the time of writing, is in an improvised outdoor setting in the yard alongside the little brewery. Outdoor yes but well covered; it lashed when we dined after the tour and, while the place is airy enough, not a drop got through! Suppliers are all local and you can guess where the beer comes from! 

The highlight for me was “Star Seafoods Gratin” (Scallop shell, piped with mash, cod, salmon, mussels, vegges, seafood sauce, Cheddar Cheese, and Billy’s Mixed organic leaves, with fries), all in all a superb fish pie! CL meanwhile was quiet enough, concentrating on her very tasty Fish Cakes with Pineapple Salsa, Chips and Salad.  No shortage of fish in those cakes. By coincidence, Star Seafoods are a local Kenmare firm and we get quite a few deliveries from them here in Cork city, indeed, I saw them selling fish in Blarney yesterday, a very efficient outfit indeed. 

Fish Cakes

Both the starters were excellent as well: the Panko Coated Prawns (sweet chilli dip with Billy’s organic mixed leaves in a honey and mustard dressing) and the BBQ Chicken Wings (Indian Mint Dip - low fat Greek style yogurt with chilli and mixed organic leaves).

Newcomers, the Bonane Babes

Aileen, after her shift in the kitchen, then came out for a chat and that brings me back to the sheep. “Big day tomorrow getting our sheep for my front garden.  We finally got a herd number,” she told us.  “We produce our own electricity (P.V. panels provided by local firm Pro-Solar). and use the spent grain for dog biscuits (customers' dogs benefitted!) and muffins.  We will be able to feed the sheep the spent grain now and, later on, sell the lamb in the restaurant.  We are also awaiting our number for pigs and will do the same with them.  Really excited about it all.” The sheep, two boys and two girls, are settling in well and are already known as the Bonane Babes.

Quite an enterprise going on here. Quite a woman. Think her grandfather would be very proud of what Aileen and the family have accomplished here. And they’re are not finished yet!

Also on this trip: Three Days in Kerry, from Dingle to Kenmare. Check out the sights, the food, the hotels and B&Bs here.

Tour de Munster at the Base Camp last month. Pic from Tom Crean Base Camp.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections by Maura O'Connell Foley

My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections 
A Snapshot of Maura O’Connell Foley’s Life and Culinary Career

My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections is a compilation of Maura O’Connell Foley’s favourite recipes created throughout her career in Kenmare spanning over six decades. The dishes contained in the book follow Maura’s ethos of keeping food simple, cooking with care and using the best available local produce. 

Several years in the making, this book is a comprehensive collection capturing over 250 recipes of the food Maura has loved to cook throughout her life and successful career as a cook and restaurateur. My Wild Atlantic Kitchen features stand-out dishes from the first tea shop she and her mother Agnes opened in 1961, The Purple Heather Restaurant and Piano Bar, The Lime Tree Restaurant, Packie’s Food and Wine and also from Shelburne Lodge Guesthouse which she continues to run today with her husband Tom.

Maura said, “Over the years, I was approached on many occasions to write a book, but I just didn’t make the time. I finally put pen to paper, and I can tell you it has been a tremendous effort! The recipes are a diverse collection of the food I have loved to cook at various times in my life”.

Maura’s recipes are seasonal, classic and carefully organised into eight chapters in the book: Breakfast, Starters, Fish, Meat, Vegetables, Desserts & Baking, Sauces, Stocks & Staples, as well as a dedicated section on Dinner Parties. Examples include Drop Scone Pancakes with Dry Cured Bacon and Apple Syrup, Confit of Duck Leg with Pear and Ginger Salad, Twice Baked Hazelnut Goat’s Cheese Soufflé, Seafood Sausage with Beurre Blanc, Smoked Cod Cakes, Beef and Guinness Casserole, Dover Sole Stuffed with Atlantic Prawns and Brandy Cream Sauce, Chocolate Pots, Irish Barmbrack & Butter Pudding, and Spicy Apple and Rum Pudding  

Working in close collaboration with Kenmare based graphic designer Éamonn O’Sullivan of Anchor Studio, the project was very much a labour of love, with Maura and her family undertaking the task of lovingly creating a beautiful book that would be a testament to her years of hard work and dedication to her craft. Not only a cookbook, My Wild Atlantic Kitchen features Maura’s culinary recollections and stories woven throughout, accompanied by over 100 images of her recipes captured by Lynda Kenny and Maria Bell. In keeping with her love of art and the Irish landscape, the book includes photography by nationally renowned landscape photographer Norman McCloskey, illustrations by artist Christine Bowen and paintings from internationally acclaimed Irish artist Pauline Bewick. 

The foreword is written by Irish Michelin starred chef Derry Clarke of L'Ecrivain Restaurant in Dublin. He says “This book is the culmination of 60 years of passion, hard work and imagination and is a summary of Maura’s life working in busy kitchens. These recipes are timeless, classic and detailed. This is a book I feel every cook should have in their kitchen as there are so many brilliant and varied recipes. This is a book recording Maura’s legacy through the many years she has been at the forefront of Irish cooking. As a fellow chef, I am proud to know her and respect her for all her achievements.”

My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections (RRP €35) is available from the 26th of March on Amazon or directly from and selected  independent bookstores, hotels and stores nationwide.

Keep up to date with the latest news by following My Wild Atlantic Kitchen on Instagram @MyWildAtlanticKitchen.

Maura is a formidable woman with a strong family history of women in the food business. Her grandmother was a cook in Boston in the late 1800’s. She returned to Kenmare in the 1930’s and built and owned her own grocery store.  

Since the early 1960’s Maura has been a chef owner of several successful businesses in Kenmare. Born in London during the war in 1942, she returned to Kenmare and opened a cake shop at the age of 19 with her mother, Agnes, who had worked as a professional baker in Fraser’s Tea Shop in Haverstock Hill, London. 

In 1963 Maura and Agnes expanded the business and opened  a restaurant, with Maura following her true passion of cooking in the kitchen mainly with fresh local fish including sole, cod, Atlantic prawns and lobster. She is largely self-taught, having completed a short course at Le Cordon Bleu in London in the 1960’s and undertaking stages with great chefs including Sonia Stevenson, the first woman to earn a Michelin star in the UK. 

As well as her culinary skills, she has great artistic flair, a keen eye for interiors and is a strong supporter of Irish art and crafts.  In the early 1980’s she renovated an old school house in Kenmare, where she had once been a student herself, and opened The Limetree restaurant with her husband Tom. During her tenure at The Limetree, she received great acclaim both nationally and internationally and earned a Michelin Red M. Later, in the early 90’s, she converted her uncle Packie’s grocery store to a more informal restaurant, simply called Packie’s Food and Wine. In 1990 she purchased a large run-down Georgian house and after five years of meticulous renovations Shelburne Lodge opened to guests in 1996. Maura and her husband Tom, continue to run Shelburne Lodge today.