Anyone who starts a commercial brewery is to be applauded but to do so in 2020 is deserving of a medal. Or maybe a brain examination. It’s normally tough enough and these days it’s even tougher. Add to the mix if you live in the Portglenone area and you see the challenges that lie ahead.
“Challenge accepted!” say father and son John and Dale Kirkwood who have started up Bloodline Brewing from the County Antrim village. It’s a simple set up at the family home but didn’t many others start like that? Both men exude confidence when I paid a visit last week and despite the small 50 litre mash tun sitting pride of place in the garage, there’s an air of excitement that their venture will work.
“We want to start off with small batches” says Dale, “and create a reputation for good quality beer that we can repeat and get right time after time.” Wise words and he’s been learning from some of the best – paying visits to and getting advice from Mal at Heaney Farmhouse Brewery, 10 miles away.
Bloodline Brewing is starting off with a 500ml lager and stout but first thing I note is the branding. The labels are impressively simple, crisp and authoritative, something that is usually lacking from homebrewers when they move to commercial production. These labels are bold and will stand out on any shop shelf.
Kinsmen lager is named after the family members who appreciate good quality beer and it surprises me. There’s a usual dab of lemon I normally associate with good small batch lager but what you’ll taste more in this 4% ABV lager are elements of pear and watermelon. Pear? Yup. There’s a lot happening in this beer, but despite being a little bit undercarbonated it’s certainly one of the better lager offerings Northern Ireland has produced.
An enjoyable start then to my Bloodline experience and we’ll continue researching the family tree with its sibling, William Hugh’s Traditional Stout. Named after Dale’s grandfather, who loved his stout, this 4.2% ABV tribute has similar low carbonation issues like the lager but aside from that, it’s another enjoyable beer. A little bit of dark, bitter chocolate intertwined with a touch of juicy blackcurrant pleasingly detract from its lack of full body. It’s a bit thinner than I’d prefer and if grandad liked his pint of G he would probably say the same.
The carbonation issue can be easily resolved but it’s a positive start for Bloodline and good luck to the family in their new venture.