Brewery Snapshot – Boundary Brewing in Belfast, Northern Ireland
I’m pretty stoked about this month’s Brewery Snapshot, which features Boundary Brewing in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Not only does the post paint a bright future for what’s in store for Northern Ireland’s craft beer scene, it also kick starts a new series on the blog focusing on beer and food in the once troubled country.
I couldn’t think of a better way to launch a series on Belfast than with Boundary Brewing. As the city opens its doors to tourists and a younger generation takes ownership of their country, it’s businesses like Boundary Brewing that are going to lead the way to a bright future. It doesn’t surprise me that one of those leaders is a craft brewery.
To quote the company’s motto, “We believe that life is best when shared and enjoyed with others. We think the same about beer. So grab a beer, and a friend. And enjoy…” It’s a message not only for Belfast to hear, but the world.
The Boundary Brewing Story
Everything about Boundary Brewing is unique, from founder Matthew Dick’s background in theology to the cooperative in which the brewery is owned and managed. Dick experienced his first taste of the modern beer movement while studying theology in the United States. Upon completion of his studies, he returned to Belfast to find a beer scene that was centuries behind the rest of the world. After spending a couple of years managing beer clubs and working as a brewer at BrewBot’s Belfast outpost, Dick decided to launch his own brewery.
Boundary Brewing is the second craft brewery to open in Belfast. The initial – Hercules Brewing – opened in February of 2014 and was the first craft brewery since 1855. Boundary Brewing officially opened in April of 2015. The brewery’s ownership structure is a statement in itself against the control that corporate brewery goliaths had and still have over Northern Ireland’s beer industry.
Boundary Brewing is a cooperative, which is much different than crowd-source funded breweries that have become commonplace in the United States. In a co-op, investors actually have an ownership stake in the company, and Boundary Brewing one day hopes to pay dividends. In a crowd-sourced brewery, you get a t-shirt. Investors also have a vote in who’s on the board with a co-op. That may sound a lot like a publicly traded company, but one of the many differences is all investors have an equal vote – no matter how much they invested. So far, the brewery has held two rounds of investment, raising around £250k from roughly a thousand investors.
Boundary Brewing’s Location
Boundary Brewing’s 400-litre brewhouse is located in a former linen mill in Belfast’s Holywood Arches neighborhood. No overhead sign welcomes visitors; you just have to know it’s there. To call the interior of their unit chaotic is an understatement. Even with a cadre of journalists I toured the space with, there were boxes teetering to the point of toppling, hoses to trip over, and puddles to carefully step through.
The neighborhood itself doesn’t really offer much. To quote a friend of mine, “It used to be home to several lovely paramilitary groups.” Those reminders are still present with peace murals carrying quotes like “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.” Those promising murals are countered with ones like the mural by the East Belfast Battalion that states “We seek nothing but the elementary right implanted in every man: the right if you are attacked to defend yourself.” That quote is accompanied by a painting of masked men holding assault rifles.
However, like most cities with a nascent brewery scene, those early movers are often located in the throes of town with other likeminded business following behind shortly. Already, the neighborhood is seeing a printmaker, a baker, and a cheese maker open shop in the same building. And, demand to visit the brewery has become so great that they moved from opening the tasting once a month to every weekend from 4-11:00pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Beers cost between £2-3. Mike’s Fancy Cheese and Belfast Wood Fired Pizza are normally on hand.
Boundary Brewing Beer
While most commercial beers sold in Northern Ireland fall on the low side ABV and flavor-wise, Boundary Brewing’s core offerings come in a touch steeper with the exception of the American Pale Ale. The Export Stout and the IPA both land at 7% with a flavor punch carrying an equal weight. I in particular enjoyed the stout after days of nothing but Guinness. It brought in strong notes of coffee, chocolate, and caramel that I could chew on all night long.
Beyond the core beers, Boundary Brewing specializes in both hop-forward American influenced beers (when they can get hops) and sour beers. Sometimes, in the case of the Brett Pale Ale, they combine both. Although, the later may have been an accident, the beer was bright and beautiful. Look for anything Saison or Berliner Weisse. This is where I thought Boundary Brewing really stood out and where Dick’s creativity came alive.
Boundary Brewing’s beers are sold in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Paris, and Copenhagen.
Make it a Belfast Beercation!
I can’t say enough about the food and beer scene in Belfast. It’s totally worth planning an entire weekend around. Forget everything you’ve heard about the city’s past. I felt safer walking the streets of Belfast than any other city I’ve visited in Europe.
There are plenty of great hotels in the Cathedral Quarter Belfast within walking distance to the city’s best restaurants and nightlife. I stayed at, and recommend, the Malmaison. The historic building was filled with sleek touches and spacious rooms. Plus, it was close enough to the action to be convenient, but far enough away to provide a peaceful rest.
Boundary Brewing is the first in a series on Belfast’s food and beer scene. To follow the rest of the journey, sign-up for my email list.
Brewery Snapshot is a monthly column where I review a brewery that I stopped into on my beer journeys but didn’t necessarily have the opportunity to interview the head brewer or owner.
Discover Northern Ireland sponsored my stay. As always, my opinions remain my own.