Heaney family farm seeks permission for microbrewery

Seamus Heaney’s niece says brewery would secure farm

A family farm in south Derry linked with the late poet Seamus Heaney could prove to be fertile ground for members of his family who are seeking planning permission to develop a new microbrewery.

The Heaney Farmhouse Brewery, which was set up by Mal McCay and his wife Suzanne, who is a niece of Mr Heaney, believe their plans could breathe new life into the farm where the Nobel-winning writer grew up.

They hope to develop a microbrewery and tap room building on the farm in Bellaghy and to use the spring water on the site to brew their ales, stout and beer.

Mr McCay started developing ale and beer recipes seven years ago, leaving a full-time job to work and train at the Boundary Brewery, which is a co-operative based in east Belfast.


Last year, using the facilities at Boundary Brewery, he tentatively launched the first four Heaney Farmhouse beers, which were well received, picking up an early award from the respected American online beer site, RateBeer.com.

Encouraged by the response Mr McCay expanded the range and secured “significant finance” from family members to develop the microbrewery.

He believes this diversification will guarantee a future for the Heaney family farm for generations to come, and hopes that the Mid-Ulster Council planning committee, which is due to meet on June 5th, will back the project.

"It is still a working farm, Hugh Heaney is still farming on the family farm as he has done all his life. Today it is mainly a beef farm but like many farms in the area it has faced challenges down through the years and nobody knows what the future, particularly with Brexit looming, may bring," Mr McCay said.

“What we want to do is build a new brewery in an inspirational place that will be a new chapter for the Heaney farm. We’re very respectful of the legacy of the place and we want to protect that for future generations and also it is in a really beautiful place that we want to share with visitors.”

He hopes to begin developing the microbrewery by next September.

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business