Hillstown Brewery, Tea or Coffee?
Hillstown Brewery started life as a home and microbrew supply store in 2013 because Jonathan and Deborah Mitchell couldn’t find anywhere local to them in Northern Ireland where they could get their much-needed brewing supplies. Rather than accept this frustration they started their own business, Get ‘Er Brewed, at the Hillstown Farm Shop in Co Antrim. It’s proved to be a good move and a roaring success. So much so that they now employ ten people and ship all over the UK and beyond. Speaking to Johnny (below) you quickly get the impression that he’s pretty proud about this.
But if you are a home brewer and you have a home-brew supplies shop, you probably want to see if you can cut it on a commercial scale, right? Well, sort of. The brewery actually started as a collaboration with Nigel Logan (below) at the farm shop as a means to make beer for cattle so that they could sell beer-fed beef.
This is the first time that we’ve featured a brewer that started by making beer for cattle. Lucky cows.
The success of this project meant that they needed up upgrade from the plastic fermenters to some proper brewing kit and in doing so Hillstown Brewery started making beer for humans.
“We both wanted to do the same thing but we didn’t have the ability to do it ourselves.” Johnny explains.
Four years later and the brewery is really starting to come into its own with two full-time brewers so that Johnny and Nigel can concentrate on collaborations and product development. The hard work is starting to pay off and in Johnny’s own words, “Finally I feel like we’re getting it right.”
We’re featuring two Hillstown beers this week. Both are very different takes on the ubiquitous India Pale Ale. One has tea in it, the other has coffee.
The Pamoja Black IPA is their coffee offering in collaboration with Northern Ireland’s Aeropress coffee champion and owner of Middletown Coffee Co in nearby Ballymena, Johnny Hickinson. Brewed using a speciality coffee from Kenya, Pamoja is a complex black beer where the coffee comes through with notes of dark cherry and compliments the bitterness that comes from the hop forward IPA.
The oxymoron of the name Black IPA to one side, we asked Johnny (Mitchell) why a coffee IPA and not a more common stout or porter?
“I really like speciality coffee and everyone told me to do a stout. But I wanted something different where we could showcase the coffee with the hops.”
The label for the beer is by frequent BeerBod’er Ally Simpson (aka @supersimbo). Ally took the idea of a collaborative beer and the Swahili word for ‘collective’, Pamoja.
So impressed with the work that Ally had put into Pamoja Johnny and Nigel asked him to help them rebrand all of the beers. Including their speciality tea beer, Saturn and Saucer.
After trying a peach tea at Middletown Coffee the idea for a fruit tea IPA with real peaches (from the farm shop) added to the brew came up. Or, as Ally draws, this happened.
The result is a delicate fruit tea IPA. One that not only smells of, but actually tastes of, peaches. The name is thanks to Emma from Middletown Coffee who identified the varieties of peaches used as either being Saturn or Saucer. It’s provided quite popular and to date and it’s the only limited run beer that they’ve brewed a second time. They’d brew it again but will have to wait until next year when the peaches are back in season.
You can get a mixed case of six tea and six coffee beers here. We asked Johnny which one he preferred. Tea or coffee? He wouldn’t tell us.