Making a session IPA with a difference

Otterbank’s Declan Nixon uses wine yeast as well as beer to give his IPA a refreshing acidity

Otterbank’s Declan Nixon: ‘The lockdown allowed me to be more gentle and thoughtful.’

Otterbank’s Declan Nixon: ‘The lockdown allowed me to be more gentle and thoughtful.’

 

When I first talked to Declan Nixon of Otterbank he had just made his first export delivery – to Belfast. Based in his hometown of Muff, Co Donegal, his back door is metres from Northern Ireland.

Otterbank describe themselves as “Hop spiking, lacto loving, barrel ageing, brett inducing, cheeky brewers”. Otterbank are all about once-off small batch beers, with names like So, It Begins, What Time Do You Call This, and Stick The Kettle On, which they release once a month. They have only one core beer, an IPA called Mates Rates, although even that is tweaked every month.

“A craft brewer needs a session IPA with a difference, so we use wine yeast as well as beer; that gives it a refreshing acidity. It’s a summer beer, to be sipped and savoured. We have it in a few local pubs and people love it,” Nixon says. 

He is also head brewer at YellowBelly Beer. As they are based down in Wexford, he does a fair amount of driving. “I love working in YellowBelly and will stay there as long as my back will take all that driving.

I have every kind of barrel – red wine, white wine, brandy, port. It looks more like a distillery at times with over 100 barrels

“I was working in WJ Kavanaghs in Dublin, when I brewed my first Otterbank beer. Then I moved to Whitefield in Tipperary and then on to YellowBelly. I’ve been head brewer there for the past six years, all the while brewing and aging small batches of Otterbank around the country in different mates’ breweries.” 

He bought the old Boghopper brewery in Muff, receiving his licence the day the pubs went into lockdown. “I have every kind of barrel – red wine, white wine, brandy, port. It looks more like a distillery at times with over 100 barrels.”

Lockdown meant he had time to age his beers. “A year later I am starting to taste the fruits of my labour – it’s fantastic. The lockdown allowed me to be more gentle and thoughtful. It hasn’t been the easiest few years but I have learned so much and I absolutely love it.”

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