Checking in with the Irish bag of cans specialists
Saturday 06 June 2020
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Summer of love
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When all this is over, you know who’ll be supplying the big huge bag of cans.
Whiplash co-founders Alan Wolfe and Alex Lawes have been making beer together since 2017, most of which has been spent cuckoo brewing with their friends and neighbours at Rye River. Then, in 2019, the popularity of their brews (and an understandable yearning for a place of their own) spurred them to open Whiplash in Dublin, a permanent space with permanent roots and permanent tanks.
Being able to specify their own setup has obviously been a huge part of the process for the pair, and there’s definitely an element of homebrew-gone-mad in the glee with which they talk about their kit. “The decoction vessel on our brewhouse is by far simultaneously the most grossly unnecessary and thus far most fun bits of the kit,” says Alex.
Looking ahead, even the most pessimistic pundits couldn’t have predicted what’s occurred over the past few months. But while the hospitality industry sleeps off a nasty virus and its champions fight to enable it to awaken as healthy and strong as possible, small, independent breweries like Whiplash are striding on. They have to: it’s their passion, and their livelihoods at stake.
Continuing to make great beer in “lovely cans” to bring a delicious bit of escapism to drinkers at home is something Alan and Alex have committed themselves to. The everyday idyll of grabbing a bag of cans and heading somewhere nice to drink them is what drives the flavours of Whiplash beers, but they’re not creating your everyday tinnies. Every recipe is preened and primped with Alex’s love for bringing out every single aspect of his specially chosen hops, the taste and texture of every grain, every softening tweak of the water chemistry. The attention to detail is mindboggling.
The idea at Whiplash is to create beers that are as crushable as they are technically impressive. Just look at Body Riddle, an American pale ale using Lemondrop, Galaxy, Simcoe and Ekuanot and minimal malt to make those lemon rind-fruity-resin flavours pop. Or cotton-cloud Swoon, their softest, fruitiest DIPA made with precisely loads of Vic’s Secret and Chinook. Or even Suckerpin, their first Berlinerweisse dry-hopped with Lemondrop.
“We’re known for making modern beer, and that often focuses on a light and clean base malt that works as a canvas for us to show off hops in their glory,” Alex explains. “But the fact is Alan and myself got into beer through interesting traditional beers from around the world that were proudly malt forward.”
“English Bitters, Imperial Stouts, Marzens, Doppelbocks and Quadrupels were my starting point for exploring beer. When I researched those old German methods of mashing big malty bangers - that’s when I found out about decoction. I applied it and it immediately ticked the box of what I was looking for: real natural melanoidin.”
To get a taste of that sweet, sweet melanoidin for yourself, try their dry hopped pilsner True Love Waits. Even Fantasm Planes has a touch of the decoction about it — it started off as a Kölsch.
Setting up a permanent brewery in Dublin has brought Whiplash closer to where a lot of their drinkers live, work and drink. It was only a matter of time, then, that this newfound proximity, and the stability of their own place, gave them the idea to start Fidelity with The Big Romance, a local hero of a craft beer, liquor and wine bar.
The festival brings some of the world’s biggest names in beer to Dublin, and last year Whiplash were joined by the likes of Collective Arts, Other Half, Garage, Deya, Burnt Mill, Lost & Grounded, Boundary, Duration, Gipsy Hill, White Frontier and tons more. Even though Fidelity 2020 might not happen, we can at least still drink and enjoy some of the best beer coming out of Ireland, and when all this is over, you know who’ll be supplying the big huge bag of cans.
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