Back in Belfast, where things are hotting up
Saturday 12 March 2022
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The fact that Boundary is one of Belfast’s only craft breweries should not detract from the fact that it is also the best. Based in the city’s East End, it’s at the heart of a cluster of exciting, crafty businesses that are gradually building a true destination for food, drink, coffee and arts. It has a loyal following of crowdfunding ‘members’ who have seen it thrive through lockdown, and is tantalisingly close to opening its own dedicated taproom; a huge achievement, given Northern Ireland’s punishing licensing rules, and a first for the city.
“We have one more day in court, and fingers crossed that should be it,” says founder Matthew Dick. “We’ve had a unit on the street in front of the brewery for years while we’ve gone through this process. It’ll mean so much to us to be able to open to the public – it’s so hard to build a brand when so many people don’t even realise you’re here.”
We’re waiting on pizzas from a new shop that’s just opened across from the as-yet-unopened taproom, which will eventually supply Boundary’s customers with tasty slices. Like the coffee roastery next door, Boundary has very close ties with all its neighbours, which seems to extend to swapping beer for pizza and coffee on a very laissez-faire basis. The team back at the brewery – who have been hard at work all morning packaging the beers for this month’s box – are very pleased to see us, and the stacks of piping hot pizza we’ve brought.
The atmosphere between the team as we tuck in is fantastic; they’re clearly very close-knit, and the general chit-chat is punctuated with ideas for new beers and projects that seem to bubble up quite organically. Within 20 minutes, there’s a rough plan to brew a series in honour of the various delivery drivers who serve the brewery; most notably Trevor the postie, who duly shows up just as we’re finishing, and leaves with a case for his fridge.
The brewery itself has grown since I was last here. There are more people on the floor and more tanks packed into the tiny space; it’s a good job the brewers are all pretty svelte, otherwise access could be a problem. There is also a decent barrel collection occupying a corner of the room that used to be pallets of cans. We get to sample a couple of the first beers from this project – an imperial stout with tonka beans and a barrel-aged barleywine – both of which stick to the inside of your throat in a very pleasing way.
I ask Matthew what it’s been like to see his project develop. “When you’re in the day-to-day of a project like this, you tend to just see the minutiae. It can be repetitive, stressful and you can easily lose sight of the bigger picture. I’ve found I occasionally need to intentionally step back and just be like, ‘this is class’ or ‘wow look how far we’ve come’. And we really have come a long way.
“I’m looking forward to one day in the not too distant future, when I can sit everyone down and be like, ‘right, we’re doing really well, let’s sort out some proper pensions, share the success and give you all the toys that would make your lives easier around here. The kit you’ve probably not even thought to ask for, because you knew the answer would be no. That’s where I want us to be, and I don’t think we’re that far off.”
What’s in the box?
Trees we didn’t plant
Matthew says: “The name came from a sermon at church on Sunday. He was talking about the value of doing things selflessly, and confessing that some things are bigger than yourself and your immediate person, and how we can all avail of that in our lives. Like, we all have people in our lives that have invested in us, that planted trees for us without any expectation.”
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