A few questions for Conor and Ian of Brewtonic, the lads behind Bodytonics range of exclusive beers, cocktails, infusions and just about anything else drink related that they can play around with. The lads are now offering what few other pubs in Dublin can. They produce unique brews, exclusives and seasonals and are now using their own locally grown ingredients, including working on a local fresh hop ale with rascals. The beer launches this Saturday in Square Ball with the rest of the brews available in MVP, Wigwam, The Bernard Shaw and The Backpage
What was the initial drive to start brewtonic?
Initially we wanted to brew beer unique to our own bars, not do relabeled fosters as others were doing, but create something completely different. The journey started there and has since evolved into tinkering with everything that goes into the glass. We not only brew beer but use Brewtonic as a platform for conjuring up everything from new cocktails, bitters, lemonades and marinades. We have even started our own rooftop gardens to grow ingredients for our experiments, we grew hops for the first time this year. We have a team of 10-15 staff from across our bars that all contribute in some way to the project, with the overriding factor being our collective passion for good drinks.
You brew your beers with Rascals brewing? how did you first get involved with them?
Rascals won our Home Brew Cup back in 2014, right before they opened their own brewery. We hit it off from there really, love at first sight you might say. They’re much like ourselves easy going, enjoy the mischief but on the flipside have that drive to see a vision through. It’s always been a great relationship with the guys.
Has it been difficult to set up and start brewtonic?
There’s been plenty of hard moments, getting up at 6:30am for brewdays after doing bar shifts to 2am is emotional. Trying to find a brewery to work with was hard also. But I feel we’re on a bit of roll now and as our team build each challenge gets easier to tackle.
Did any members of bodytonic have experience in brewing or homebrewing or was this something you attempted to do from scratch?
We had limited knowledge and just dived in there. When Rossa came on aboard as our brewer that’s when we upped our game. He has been homebrewing for nine years and was involved with the national home brew club. He’d also won a few of our home brew competitions as well as plenty of others.
Do you think it’s a big draw for bodytonic pubs to have their own exclusive beers or would you be interested in eventually selling brewtonic beers in other pubs as well?
Yeah it’s definitely another factor that gives us an identity, I’ve always believed that every bar should be brewing their own beer or if not feasible at least promoting good locally brewed beer. We will eventually look to expand into other bars and certainly the off-trade when the time is right.
Do you think brewtonic beers being produced in limited quantities is part of the appeal and by not reproducing all of your beers are you given a bit more room to experiment?
Yeah that’s the whole point really, constantly evolving what we do and changing with the seasons was always our plan. You’ll not see us produce the reliable entry level lager, stout, red ale and pale ale anytime soon.
Any plans to look into bottling or canning or will brewtonic remain exclusive to the bodytonic pubs?
Yeah we hope to be in cans or bottles sometime in 2017. Draught is just the best option for us at the moment as we have that channel of our bars to sell it. It’s something we plan to have a lot of fun with regarding aesthetics which there’s a lot more room to mess around with on a can or bottle.
What’s been your most well received beer?
Our IPA’s fly out, The Long One IPA or Relax the Cacks are easy sells. Most of the recently converted craft beer drinkers gravitate towards IPA’s.
In terms of coverage I’d say 13 Seconds Porter. It seemed to blow up online with the whole McGregor connection, all from just one picture taken in MVP. I think it was early January and some slow news days! The beer went down well too, porters aren’t always the biggest sellers but the first batch of it flew out.
How discerning is the average drinker these days? Do you think more people are interested in Irish craft beer or is it seen as a bit of a novelty?
People are definitely opening up to trying new beers and experimenting with their choice. Surprising the amount of customers coming in asking “what’s new in this week?”. Still only the tip of the iceberg though, still plenty of average drinkers to be converted.
Do you have a favorite beer you’ve brewed?
Everyone in the Brewtonic team has their favourites and they’re generally well spread out over all our beers. Myself being a Wickow hippie at heart have a soft spot for our Hemp Ale. Conor prefers 13 Seconds Porter. Rossa our brewer just loves the hops more than the beer.
Any new beers coming from brewtonic soon?
We a black rye ale in the tank and we’re always tweaking our staple hemp ale. Coming up we’ll have a belgian red ale, low ABV hoppy pale ale and another porter all this side of Christmas.
Who handles the artwork for brewtonic and how important do you think branding is for a market as saturated as craft beer currently is?
We recently took on a new designer for Bodytonic as a whole, Kie Carew. He designed the Long One, Solitary Flight and Relax The Cacks badges and posters. He also publishes a great football magazine http://pogmogoal.com/ that you should check out. You always want to complement a quality beer with artwork that jumps out at you. When we saw the Solitary Flight badge lit up in The Square Ball, we were impressed as it drew the eye over all other badges. You only have to look at Beavertown and Mikkeller to see how a consistent, quality aesthetic can draw people in. Think of how many people tried Gamma Ray after the can caught their attention.
Have you seen a change in the Irish craft beer scene since you’ve started brewtonic?
Yeah it’s exploded in last three years, 2015 was insane the amount of Breweries that opened. I doubt that that level of growth will keep on for long but the quality will continue to get better and better just as it has in previous years. One thing to note is that it’s now not just “craft beer” pubs that are stocking quality micro brews. Places like The Bleeding Horse that would be considered a quite traditional sports pub have Elvis Juice and some McGargles stuff, which is cool to see and it’s down to a demand for choice.
There seems to be a lot of collaboration in the Irish beer scene. Do you think that’s part of the reason it has grown as much as it has?
There is great sense of community in the scene, breweries sharing hops, knowledge and equipment.
I love it, a rising tide floats all ships after all.
What sort of output is brewtonic producing? Have you ever had issues fulfilling demand?
We’ve done mostly 1000L batches with a couple of doubles every fortnight or so. We had a shortage recently in the summer, especially with The Long One IPA when the first batch sold out after a week across all the venues. It’s great to see such a great reaction and uptake without a huge amount of promoting. At the same time, ideally we’d like an even, steady supply for people to try before it’s gone
What amount of the beer sold in the pubs is brewtonic?
It makes up about 10-15% of our draught sales. It would also vary a bit in some bars with the amount of taps available. The Bernard Shaw would be the biggest seller, as it does the best volume with a smaller draught selection than other bars.
Any other Irish breweries you’re excited about at the moment?
There’s such a wealth of quality in Ireland right now. We were lucky enough to have who we’d consider some of the best Irish breweries in our bars and at our festivals in Rascals, Kinnegar and White Hag. Each of them are so consistent with their output. We’ve also been very impressed with Yellow Belly down in Wexford and Whiplash are making really high quality beer that we’re loving. Trouble and Wicklow Wolf have some great seasonals that we’ve enjoyed recently too.
Do you find that there’s limitations on what you can brew based on customer tastes or are you willing to take risks with what you produce?
Fuck it, if we like it let’s go with it, seems to have worked so far.
What are the plans for brewtonic in the future?
2017 is all about getting serious with Brewtonic. We’ll be turning key on our willy wonka style brewing and distillation operation.
Thanks for answering a few questions, anything else you’d like to add?
We’re launching a beer this weekend in The Square Ball that we’re pretty excited about. It’s a wet hop beer that Rascals just made in conjunction with The Social Hops Project which we were involved with. Locally grown hops from around Ireland picked, brewed and pouring in under 3 weeks. Beer is best enjoyed fresh and it doesn’t come much fresher than that. The beer will be pouring from this Saturday 8th October. You can read the story on our site: http://www.brew-tonic.com
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