The Death of Irish Independance

This last Friday, Beam Inc, purchased the Cooley Distillery, the last remaining Irish owned distillery, for about $95 million. Cooley owns and produces the Kilbeggan, Connemar, Tyrconnell and Greenore brands, and operates two distilleries, Kilbeggan in County Westmeath and Cooley in County Louth.

Beam said Cooley’s status as one of only three sources for Irish whiskey, and the only independent company, makes the acquisition a compelling chance to get into one of the industry’s highest growth categories. Beam shares rose 35 cents to $50 in morning trading Friday. Its shares are up from a 52-week low of $42.30 in early October.

In the last year, Irish whiskey sales have grown 11.5%. Beam’s acquisition of Cooley will allow them to bring those products to a much wider audience, as well as hopefully to inject some cash in to an Irish economy that has been struggling for the past couple of years. This purchase, coupled with Pernod-Ricard’s €100 Million expansion of the Middleton distillery will hopefully boost Irish Whiskey back into the prominence it deserves.

While it’s sad to think that there are no remaining Irish distillers out there, it takes cash to produce a product, and global spirits companies are able to bring products to a wide variety of people who otherwise would know nothing about them. And hey, you never know, but just maybe we will see a resurgence of smaller craft distillers popping up in Ireland.

Beer of the Week: Mort Subite Blanche Lambic

Mort Subite Blanche Lambic is a an amazing beer produced in Asse-Kobegem, Belgium, by the Alken-Maes Breweries group.

Brewed according to the centuries-old recipe of spontaneously fermented Lambic from malt, wheat and hops, this is a fairly dry, fruit-packed, 5% ABV ale that is incredibly smooth. It pours a light hazy yellow/orange, and reminds me a lot of an extremely yeasty witbier. The aromas are of lemon, loads of peaches, all highlighted by that rich yeasty smell characteristic of Belgian ales. On the tongue, the tastes are of sweet malt, wheat and spices, all complemented by that rich apricot taste. No hop aromas are present due to the aged hops used in Lambic production, although the finish has a slight pleasing bitterness to it.

If you have never quaffed a lambic before, then this is an excellent example to seek out for your first one. Be sure to grab a pint wherever you see it, because this is not a beer that sticks around. Cheers!

Rating: ★★★★★

It’s Coming: Bellingham Beer Lab

Hey Bellingham,
You are getting a new brewery!

You heard me correctly. Plans are in full swing to open one of the first three cooperative breweries in the US, right here in Bellingham, WA. There are currently two other coop breweries in the US, Black Star Brewery of Austin, Texas, and Flying Bike of Seattle, WA. What will make the Bellingham Beer Lab different, is the idea of a brewery incubator, a shared production facility and taproom where brewers will be able to start up and develop a beer brand without having to bear the initial costs of equipment. When a brewers brand is sufficiently developed, he (or she) will move out on their own and a new resident brewer will take their place. There will be 5 initial resident brewer slots at the Bellingham Beer Lab.

In addition, the Bellingham Beer Lab will be community owned. What this means is that funding for this brewery will come from the community. In exchange for the funding, members will receive some great benefits such as the ability to vote on the beers BBL brewers will create, the opportunity to serve on the BBL Board of Directors, all the time Happy Hour pricing, participation in the Community Supported Brewing program, and the ability to say that you own a brewery. I mean really, the one time $150 membership fee is worth the last point alone, right.

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to attend a “Meet the Brewers of the BBL Night”, where a group of us were able to meet the brewers (obviously), and to sample 13 different beers brewed by the BBL resident brewers.

Chris McClanahan (Grant Street Brewing)
- Belgian Golden Ale
- American Stout

Zach Brown (Black Fire Brewing)
- Fresh Hop IPA
- Arrow IPA

Josh Smith (Atwood Ales)
- Atwood Brown
- Comrade Fresh Hop Red

Alex Cleanthous and Jesse Nickerson (Arbella’s Ales)
- Saison de Vino
- Northwest Table Ale

Jim and Beth Parker (Happy Valley Brewery)
- Que Sera Saison
- Jittery Pig coffee porter

Caleb Atkins (Finback Brewing)
- Old Town Brown
Scoundrel Wheat Pale Ale

Dave Morales (BBL’s steering committee)
- Belgian Pale Ale.

“This will be your brewery,” Jim Parker, self-described Chief Enthusiasm Officer of the BBL told the prospective member-owners. “We, the brewers, will work for you while launching our own brands.”

With a brewery model that is community supported and owned, with brewers who want to give back to the community, this endeavor looks to be a positive one, both for the City of Bellingham, and for the beer loving community. I am looking forward to the day when the BBL opens its doors. To keep up on their progress, check out their Facebook page, or their Website. Cheers!