|BallyBlack Stout as tweeted by @mrmelish|
I've just chatted with brewer, joint owner and general dogsbody Charles Ballantyne about how the brewery came about and his plans for the future.
"I'm an architect by trade and business has obviously been fairly quiet for the last few years; so i was looking for another source of income. I was considering starting a bakery and shared this thought with a friend from Loughry college at a picnic after kayaking the Blackwater River."
The friend managed to persuade him that baking was far too much work, with antisocial hours to boot and suggested he try brewing.
"It was not something I had previously considered. My friend showed me the ropes for brewing full mash and I've been experimenting for the past year. I'm happy with Ballyblack now and will be looking to get it out to stockists very soon. I have another beer 'Pig Island Pale' which is almost there but just needs some tweaking."
Charles obtained the licence on the first of September and now brews once a week. All of the beers will is bottle or cask conditioned. The brewery is jointly owned by Charles, his partner and their children but he does the majority of the work. He plans to keep the business fairly small, supplying local off-licences and pubs. If all goes well he may expand to a 3-4 BBL plant in the future but he stresses that is a long way off.
"Up until now only family and friends have tried the beer, its only when people are having to pay a couple of pounds a bottle that I'll be able to workout how popular it is."
Charles has been afforded a great opportunity to gauge public reaction to his beer as Ballyblack will be available in cask at the Belfast Beer festival
"CAMRA has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works really. I was intending on keeping the brewery a secret and now its running away with me a bit. Its my first attempt at brewing for cask, I hope it turns out well! I'll be at the festival but will probably avoid the bar my beer is on as I'll be too nervous to see everyone's reactions"
If initial feedback from local CAMRA members (who have had a chance to try the beer, lucky sods!) is anything to go by the beer will go down well indeed.
The brewery does not currently have a web presence but there is one in the pipeline, so watch this space for further details. In the mean time if you would like to get in touch with Charles you can email him at ardsbrewing AT blackwood34 DOT plus DOT com.