Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Visit to Five Lamps Dublin Brewery

Heading to The Liberties

When we were tasting the beers and meeting the team of The Five Lamps Dublin Brewery, I was invited to pay a visit to their brewing and bottling facility in The Liberties, an industrial neighborhood of Dublin that used to be home to dozens of breweries.  A chance to see a microbrewery in operation?  Yes, please!

I mentioned before the informal mission statement of The 5 Lamps team, making accessible and affordable beer to be enjoyed locally- and how much I like it.  The lineup of The 5 Lamps doesn't push for more more more like so many other specialty microbrews, with ultra-hopped IPAs and triple-chocolate-coffee-with-cream-and-Splenda stouts (mmm... that sounds good, though.)  The brewers here use a short list of high-quality ingredients to make their fantastic beers, and I got to see the whole facility.

We so often hear the word "microbrewery" thrown around.  Just how "micro" is one of these brewhouses?  I was surprised when I visited the brewing floor with just how small the work room was.  This team makes a big volume of great beer in a small space, it was very efficient- but not cluttered or cramped.  

The main central hub of the operation was the row of gleaming stainless steel vessels, serving as grain mash tun, boiling kettles, fermenters, and the bottling machine.  The day I visited was a brew day, so I got to see some of the process in action.  We started with the mash tun, which was freshly cleaned from a mash conducted that morning.

The Brewing Process (Simply)

The term "mash" in brewing (and in grain alcohol distilling) describes the process of extracting fermentable sugars from malted grain.  Wait, malted?  What's that?  Malting is the process of allowing whole grains (like barley or wheat) to partially sprout before killing the process with heat.  When the grains sprout, they release enzymes that begin the process of converting starches in the seeds to sweet (and fermentable) sugars.  Killing the process with heat prevents the seeds from actually using all that sugar and energy- saving it for the yeast later in brewing.

Mashing is the process of steeping the malted and dried grains in warm water.  The temperature of the water activates the starch-to-sugar enzymes and the solvent properties of the water pull all the beautiful fermentable sugars out of the grains and into the water, which is now called wort (pronounced "wert" or "vert," if you vant to be all German about it...)

Mash Tun at 5 Lamps Dublin Brewery
Mash Tun
After mashing, the wort is boiled with hops, a relative of cannabis that produces little green pinecone-like flowers.  The extended boiling releases bitter flavor and acid compounds from the hops, balancing the sweet taste of beer with some bitterness.  Without hops, beer (even commercial  mass-produced lagers) would have a very sweet taste, and not pleasant to modern palates.  For fresh hop flavor and aroma, additional hops are added later in the boil and are thus are boiled for less time.  After boiling, the wort is filtered and cooled on its way to a fermenter.

In the photo below, the boiling kettle is on the right, with the steel steam pipe.  A batch of beer was being boiled at the time, but it wasn't a big steamy and boiling-over mess (like it always is when I boil on the stove.)

Boiling kettle (right) and fermenters at The 5 Lamps Dublin Brewery
Boiling kettle (right) and fermenters
After boiling (and cooling) the beer is fermented in one of several tall fermentation containers.  The brewer adds a specific variety of yeast depending on the style of beer being brewed.  Throughout fermentation and conditioning, the brewer pays close attention to the temperature and chemical makeup of the brew.  When the beer meets the standards of the brewer, it is ready to be kegged or bottled.

The team was botting a batch of beer from the fermenters, so I was able to watch the process from a non-disruptive distance.  The beer is force carbonated with a special machine as it is pumped into kegs for pubs and bottles for pubs and off licenses (liquor stores.)  I watched as each bottle was filled with freshly-carbonated beer, inspected, and capped by the brewing team.  After capping, the bottles are cleaned, dried, and labeled with a manual label machine.

Kegs Ready for Delivery at The 5 Lamps Dublin Brewery
Kegs Ready for Delivery

Starting and Growing a Microbrewery

After kegging and bottling, the beer is ready for the cool room and then for delivery.  Most of the beer brewed here is sold and enjoyed in or near Dublin's City Centre, making this a truly local brew.  The team has a commitment to selling and serving fresh beer, so the inventory is brewed and moved quickly- never sitting too long in the cold room waiting for an order. Right now, if you see 5 Lamps beer, you know it was carefully and freshly brewed within a few miles of your seat at the bar.  That's a good feeling.

I talked to the head of sales, public relations, and delivery about growing the brand of a new local microbrew.  He said it was a lot of hard work for a small team in a small, non-automated facility.  They rely on a high-quality product and an ever-expanding, loyal customer base.  He pounds the pavement, introducing the product to publicans and off licenses- slowly expanding the distribution and the exposure of the new brand.

As a great cap to my visit, I was shown the tasting room of the brewery.  Much of the furniture was recycled from a local pub that updated its own furniture.  The setup is comfortable and classic.  Reminds me of another classic man-cave of my own past... *sniff*

Tasting Room Bar at 5 Lamps Dublin Brewery
Tasting Room Bar

Tasting Room Table at The 5 Lamps Dublin Brewery
Tasting Room Table
If in Dublin, ask to try the Blackpitts Porter, Honor Bright Red Ale, Liberties Ale, and The 5 Lamps Dublin Lager.  Visit their website for more information about the beer, the team, and, most importantly, where to buy these fine local beers.

Keep up the good work, 5 Lamps.  I hope to enjoy your beers and see you again soon!

1 comment:

  1. Nice information. Thanks for sharing the article in the blog.

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