By very special arrangement, we bring you our third installment in our new BrewView series called “BREWERY SPOTLIGHT”! For June 2017, our spotlight is on SIPHON BREWING from Damme, Belgium.
Siphon is part of a collection of new brewers in Belgium who are taking time-honored Belgian brewing traditions, and using other outside brewing influences (English, German) and putting their own spin on classic styles.
Damme (where the brewery and the restaurant are located) is a must stop for any beer traveler to Belgium. It’s a beautiful medieval town in the green Flemish polders at a stone’s throw from historic Bruges and the Belgian coast.
In their brewing production, Siphon Brewing uses the very best raw materials. They work directly with a family hop farm in Poperinge (Joris Cambie’s De Plukker) to source their European hop varieties. They also source American hops from Yakima Chief Hopunion in the Yakima Valley, Washington. They get their specialty grains from Belgium, their roasted barley from England, their dark wheat from Germany and their pilsner malts from the Netherlands.
For such a young brewery (and young millennials brewing the beers) the products are well beyond their years. We had the great opportunity to BrewView two of Siphon’s core products: BLINKER SAISON and CASSANDRA OYSTER STOUT. Both are very well crafted, and will soon be (in our estimation) multi-award winners as the years pass by. We can’t wait to try the others…
OUR INTERVIEW WITH BREANDÁN KEARNEY
As one of the principal founders of Siphon Brewing, Breandán has taken his heritage, knowledge, and expertise to directly influence the beer styles being brewed, and (of course) the quality of the finished product.
In just 4 years, Breandán has made a well recognized name for himself in the ever-competitive Belgian Beer industry.
Belgian Beer Journal was fortunate enough to have a quick interview with him. We discuss his history, the history of the brewery, and of course, it’s future.
Thanks for your time Breandán! We really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy business day to speak with us. For starters, please tell our audience where in Ireland you are from, your background, and anything else you wish to share about your personal history before entering the beer industry?
I am from Warrenpoint in Co. Down. It’s a beautiful town on Carlingford Lough which looks out on one side to the Cooley mountains and on the other to the Mourne mountains.
In Ireland, I practiced as a lawyer, first in Dublin and then in Belfast, before moving to Belgium to be with my Belgian girlfriend in 2013. Elisa and I met volunteering on an earthquake reconstruction project in Pisco, Peru in 2010.
What motivated you to study brewing and enter the crazy world of the Belgian beer industry?
When I first moved to Belgium in 2013, I was struck by how different the beer culture was to that of Ireland. I began tasting beers that I had never tried before and became interested in finding out more. I enrolled in a beer tasting class and later on a brewing course in Ghent. I became a Certified Cicerone through the US Cicerone programme and a beer sommelier through the UK Institute of Brewing and Distilling’s Beer Academy. I began writing for beer publications in Belgium, the UK, Ireland and the US. I also started my own blog, Belgian Smaak.
How did the formation of Siphon Brewing develop?
The brewery is located on the grounds of a four-generation-old family restaurant in Damme. The family had hoped to start a brewery for many years and got in touch with me through a mutual contact. My brewing colleague, Franklin Verdonck studied with me and we had been home-brewing together for some time. After the team was in place we shopped for brewing installations and worked on recipe development before pouring our first beers in July 2016.
Regarding the beer, what factors helped decide the brewing stated philosophies and processes?
Our beer has been described as ‘new world meets old world’. Because of our own personal taste and perhaps given that we are brewing for a restaurant, our house style has tended to veer towards beers that are dry, bitter and drinkable.
Our values include the following:
We take Pride in what we do and where we’re from: brewing with respect for tradition; respect for ingredients; and respect for the people who drink our beer.
We’re Unafraid to be ourselves; to be alternative to what’s considered the norm; to take classic beer styles and to add our own twist; to go all the way to the edge.
We’re Inclusive: we brew beer for everyone, whether you’re an occasional beer drinker or a self-proclaimed beer geek. Everyone – absolutely everyone – is welcome at Siphon Brewing.
What role does Siphon Brewing see itself in the whole of the Belgian beer industry?
We would be happy to make some positive contribution, no matter how small, to the rich culture Belgium has in brewing.
Are there any new beers in development?
In addition to our core beers (Saison, IPA, Oyster Stout), we brew seasonals (a Vanilla Orange Quadrupel for winter) and one-offs (collaborations with other breweries or fun experiments).We are in the process of launching our summer beer, ZWALUW, a Rye Session Ale of 3.3% ABV which uses 15% rye in the grist bill and showcases an Amarillo dry-hop. We’re also launching STINKER, a Dams Rauchbier of 5.5% ABV, which is a collaboration with the other two breweries of Damme (Viven and Bryggja) and presents with a subtle beechwood smoked aroma and flavour.
Given the demand for its beers, is Siphon Brewing seeking to expand its current output- perhaps to a larger facility?
We are very small and only one-year old so our focus is to maintain quality and constantly improve on the technical execution of our current core beers. We are however currently exploring the possibility of adding tanks in the coming months as well as upgrading some of our packaging equipment on the grounds of efficiency (everything is done by hand at the moment).
Where does Siphon Brewing see itself in the next 5-10 years? Are there ANY plans for exporting to the United States?
We would be keen to export to the United States, which is a mature market with a highly educated beer public. However, as a small Belgian brewery, our first focus is on the local market and this remains our priority for the coming years.
Is there anything else you would like our audience to know about Siphon Brewing?
We sometimes run events, so if any visitors are in Belgium during those times, they are most welcome to come along and share a beer with us.
Breandán… thanks again for taking the time to discuss your past, present, and future with Belgian Beer Journal! Given the super high quality of the beers from Siphon Brewing, we foresee a very bright and financially profitable road ahead for you and your colleagues…
OUR BREWERY SPOTLIGHT BREWVIEWS ON SIPHON BREWING ALES
MANY THANKS GO OUT TO:
Stu Stuart of Belgian Beer Me! Beer tours of Belgium for responding to our humble request to send us a few of the Siphon Brewing ales!
If it weren’t for his kindness, Belgian Beer Journal would not have had this special opportunity to bring this BREWERY SPOTLIGHT segment and its BrewViews to you. Thank you, Stu!
BrewView author GORDON A. PONCE is the main driving force behind Belgian Beer Journal.com. Since 1983, Gordon recognized that beers from Belgium were special, set apart from the typical craft beer.
He views beers from Belgium (plus Belgian-style and Belgian Inspired beers from other countries) great examples of the brewer’s art. Gordon and his wife live in beautiful Northern California- a great place to enjoy Belgian beer! Ecclesiastes 8:15