The big idea for a perfect small brewery
Saturday 12 March 2022
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When we arrive, the scene is like any other; the large open door to the warehouse fails to separate it from any other warehouse on the industrial estate, piles of kegs sit out front, pallets of this and that are stacked high and waiting on a forklift. But as soon as we crack the door of the car, booming music reaches us, and we catch sight of Leah Kilcullen, Whiplash’s marketing coordinator, who’s making tea on a battered old hob haphazardly plugged into the wall. She greets us like old friends, and herds us to an adjacent table surrounded by extension leads, and a mishmash of benches and old couches. She brings tea, coffee and a bag of assorted pastries to “the meeting room” while asking about our trip so far.
“Any yum-yums?” asks Alan Wolfe as he approaches. “You ate them all” replies Alex Lawes, taking a seat. Side-by-side, Whiplash’s co-founders and Alex are like chalk and cheese, but in spite of the difference in age and attire, the two almost finish each other’s sentences. They worked together for years before joining forces to bring Whiplash into existence, and joke about how they shared a canteen while working for Diageo and never said a word to each other; it was only when they started rubbing shoulders at beer festivals, and eventually ended up brewing together at Rye River, that Alan and Alex got to know each other.
We often spend so long trying to figure out if something can be done, that we rarely ask ourselves, should we do this?
With a wealth of experience and technical expertise between them, they tell us that when they set out on the Whiplash journey, their mutual vision was born of the fact that, over time, “you learn what you don't want to do more than what you do”. This is not to suggest that any aspect of what happens at Whiplash is unintentional; quite the opposite, they brew the beers they want to drink, and it’s as simple and complicated as that.
Of course commerciality comes into it, but only as far as volume is concerned; challenging and niche flavours don’t stop beers from being brewed, they’re just produced in a quantity that can be sold, be it to local bars they can get honest feedback from, or independently run supermarkets with decent bottle shops. There are many more pilot tanks under the Whiplash roof than there are large scale fermenters, making experimentation and discovery a central part of the brewery’s ethos. “We often spend so long trying to figure out if something can be done, that we rarely ask ourselves, should we do this?” says Alex.
But like any established brewery, the resources to support passion projects haven’t always been available. Alan and Alex reminisce on a time when Whiplash consisted of them driving around the city centre with a couple of kegs in the back of a van and nowhere particular to go. “We did talk about getting this place open, and going heavy on lagers, dark beers, Belgians and sours. The best thing about the past year or so has been getting away from just being known for big ABVs and double IPAs, and to get people thinking ‘you know, these guys can actually do a little bit more’,” says Alan.
“More” is quite the understatement. Alan assures us they have no interest in expanding, and that the warehouse in Ballyfermot, where we sit, is going to be Whiplash’s forever home. “As we make more investments here, we'll just reduce workload, keep the same amount of staff, and just ensure everyone has a better time. We want this to be a career rather than a job, and the litmus test for whether we’re doing our jobs right, is whether people want to stick around, and right now they do.”
For anyone planning a trip to Dublin this summer, Fidelity Beer Festival will be co-hosted by Whiplash and The Big Romance in Dublin’s Mansion House on 15th/16th of July. Tickets are available through www.fidelity.beer
What’s in the box?
Alex says: “Quiet Crowd employs the use of both British and Belgian brown malts to complement one another – the British being more toasty and viscous and the Belgian being more aromatic and bright. They work together flawlessly.
“Surrounding them both is caramelised aromatic malt. It’s much darker in colour while remaining sweet and just the right amount can keep the beer being round and full without being acidic due to their roasting process.
“In terms of the recipe, we create a very hard and alkaline water and do everything we can to keep the hops as a balance, but always in a supporting role. Our yeast is specially made by our supplier for this beer and was originally from a traditionally fermenting Yorkshire brewery who continued their ferments in open squares. We felt this yeast produced the best esters to work with the luscious coffee and chocolate the malt wanted to put forth and we feel it’s a pretty harmonious finished article”.
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