SOMEONE’S GOT TO DO IT Cillian Ó Moráin (right) and Bart Adons tasting a batch of their Mescan Red Tripel at the Mescan Brewery, Westport. They also produce white, stout, blond, extra and saison beers. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
Aine Ryan chats to Cillian Ó Móráin, one half of Mescan Brewery, which is run by a pair of vets turned brewers
LOVE of the land and wild west coastline lured Celbridge, Co Kildare, native Cillian Ó Móráin to Westport 17 years ago. Well, that and the fact he and Tom Fabby, both veterinarians, became firm friends while studying in UCD.
Married in 1997 to Brazilian-born Naomi Clarkin, also a vet, the couple had already worked in their chosen profession in Australia and decided to come home to have their first child, Tomás, in 1999. Saidhbh (13), Oscar (11) and Maya (7) have since joined the family, who live on the rustic edges of Westport.
“I was looking for somewhere to settle and always had this notion about the west, and Tom was good enough to invite me to work with his family practice in Westport. All of my siblings have a thing about the west – the mountains and the seas – and two of my sisters, Róisín and Máirín, who died in 2006, subsequently moved here with their families,” Cillian tells The Mayo News.
We meet on a busy day, in between appointments and a rushed return to the surgery.
Scheduled to chat about the upcoming Oktoberfest West, which he and his beer-making partner Bart Adons (also a vet) is co-organising with Jack and Eddies (Westport-based pork producers), I throw out a quick question about the future of farming.
“Small farming is on the way out. The simple fact is small farmers cannot live from the income they make; either they have to consolidate and enlarge or get another income and farm as a hobby. But seeing the different mind-set of the younger generation of farmers, they don’t feel as bound to the idea of the farm,” he says.
However, there is ‘scope for getting more from farming by marketing their produce and capitalising on a growing feeling that people like to buy local’, Cillian observes.
In a way, that is what Cillian and his Flemish friend, Bart Adons, did. Both vets have diversified into beer-making and thus espousing the ‘drink local brew’ principle!
The genesis of Mescan Beer came from the desire ‘for a new challenge after 20 years of working as vets’. Cillian had met the Belgian while working as a locum in the UK many years ago, and he too moved to the wild west and worked, until his early retirement, with Pete Hogan’s veterinary practice on Mill Street.
“Both Bart and I had always brewed beer at home, and when we decided to develop the concept for the brewery we spent three years brewing at home writing and tweaking our recipes. Both of us love the Belgian styles of beer – most Irish brewers copy the English style, which is more bitter, has less body, and is less flavoursome and carbonated than its Belgian counterpart,” he explains.
Mescan beer started in 2014 in a converted sheep shed way down a boreen in the foothills of Croagh Patrick – and appropriately so, since Mescan was the patron saint’s confessor and beer maker.
“We have obviously developed our brewery since then – with all the conventional equipment for fermentation – but we still use the milk tanks we bought from farmer clients for the brewing.”
One secret of their success is that the Mescan Tripel and Extra beers are left to mature for at least six months – way longer than most beers. A little like their sales success which, in Cillian’s words, has been ‘organic’.
“Literally, all of our growth since we started has been by word-of-mouth. We have never approached anyone, and while we still sell most of our beer around Westport (McGing’s was the first to stock it), we have a distributor in Connemara and Dublin,” he continues.
WHAT is the point of brewing all that flavour-filled beer, if you don’t brew up some celebrations?
After the success of last year’s inaugural ‘Oktoberfest West’, at Gracy’s Bar in the grounds of Westport House, Mescan Brewery is planning to do it all over again next month. They will provide the beer and their Carrowkennedy neighbours, Jack and Eddie’s, the bratwurst (German-style sausages), while dressed in traditional lederhosen, all to the upbeat rhythms of Bavarian music. Add to the cocktail, Westport Town Band’s repertoire of German marching music, Schlager music and the Irish folk tunes of Tap & Stitch, and the upcoming shenanigans on Saturday, October 7, are bound to be fantastisch.
Prost! Zum Wohl!