Irish beers with Belgian accents: ‘They have a mind of their own’

Brewer Tom Delaney’s side project Land & Labour produces exciting Lambic-style beer

Land & Labour

Land & Labour

 

Tom Delaney gets excited talking about Lambic and Belgian-style beers. “They are complex and have this great structure and acidity, more like a wine than beer, with tannins, yeasts and acidity. The beers are delicate and nuanced with so much depth; they are amazingly thirst-quenching and bone-dry, and low alcohol as well.” 

Delaney is head brewer in Galway Bay Brewery, one of the first Irish craft brewers. He met the then head brewer Chris Treanor at a tasting. “That was a game changer. We became friends. I kept nagging him for a job. I had my own business printing T-shirts but as soon as my wife had gone to work, I started brewing. I became obsessed.” Delaney joined Galway Bay in 2013 and became head brewer in 2017. 

Delaney’s side project, Land & Labour, which produces spontaneous and mixed fermentation beer in the Galway Bay premises in Oranmore. “It is a labour of love with a different approach to brewing. It’s a bit like low-intervention wine – the only difference is we use grain instead of grapes.

“When I heard Galway Bay were getting a new brew kit, I offered to buy the old one to start my own business. They asked me to stay on and gave me a corner in the brewery. It was brilliant. I bought a custom-made 4,000-litre foudre and 32 used barriques.”

Delaney spent three years building up stock. “It wasn’t really planned. We had a daughter and that means weeks turn into years. Brewing this way is a cathartic process; you can only ever guide the beers as they have a mind of their own.”

The first beers were released last year, having gone through a secondary fermentation in the bottle. They are about to release their first 100 per cent spontaneous fermentation beer, called Spon, aged two years in barrel and 1½ years in the bottle. “It is exciting to finally release it. We are not tied to earning a living so we have the luxury of releasing only when it is perfect.”

These are available in specialist off-licences and are some of the best beers I’ve tasted this year.

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