Pushing boundaries

Its a heady time for beer up here in the North, 15 breweries and counting now. Some of the newer ones are even producing beers I'd happily drink regularly and the old guard are continually upping their game. I may even be able to recommend a few NI brews in my next top beers post!

Despite the quality and variation in beer styles improving we still lag a way behind the mainland, and indeed the rest of Ireland, with a lot of brewers sticking to the tried and true holy trinity of Red, Blonde and Stout. A new start-up on the scene is looking to change this launching with an IPA, session pale ale and export stout. But that's not the only thing they're doing differently...

I first met Matthew at Hilden Beer Festival in 2011 where he kindly smuggled me in a few bottles of home-brew in his Son's pram. I was pretty impressed with them, all influenced by Belgian style and could sense the passion in him to go on to bigger things. Fast forward a few years and a sizeable length of bear later and he's finally ready to take the plunge with a full size kit after working for Brewbot for the last few years as well as running the hugely successful Beer Clubs in Belfast's Hudson Bar. Watch this space for a probable contribution from yours truly next year.

Answering the phone pretty hoarsely and apologising about coming down with a cold (he's been working too hard I told him!) we chat for an hour or so about his motivations and future plans.  Matthew decided about 18 months ago that the time was right to break out from brewing for just himself and a few friends to supplying the whole of the North and likely down South too. The question was how to go about doing it? He'd liked what Brewdog did with Equity for Punks and wanted something similar but in a truly equitable way but wasn't quite sure of the best way forward. Meeting Matt through a mutual acquaintance and getting chatting about beer (as you do) the suggestion of a co-operative came up. After Googling it to find out what the hell a co-operative was Matthew knew this was the way forward and a plan was hatched by the two of them (Matthew as secretary and Matt as CEO).

A year or so later, they have a premises lined up with keys almost in hand, brew kit sourced from the Isle of Man's Hooded Ram brewery (via a tip off by Marble's Matt) and deposit paid. A 2600 square foot there's more than sufficient space for expansion and indeed their plans are ambitious. Most importantly that all important co-operative registration has been obtained. For those of you who don't know about them, co-operatives are mutual organisations, where every member has an equal vote regardless of the number of shares ). They aim to be a part of their local community (their site is in the middle of a new "East Belfast Partnership" which will eventually have craft Butchers, Bakers (not sure about candlestick makers), cheese makers and a bar and events space: ideal then for a new brewery.

So What's the story behind the name? "I was inspired by a quote from Gustave Flaubert [French author of Madame Bovary], 'Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work'.'" Matthew liked the idea of creating a definitive boundary between home life and the brewery, so he can concentrate all of his creative energies on innovations in beer. His wife is looking forward to gaining some space back in the house!

The logo designed by Ali Sisk

Matthew will start off going it alone, brewing 2 or three times a week with a hand from other board members for bottling but its likely they'll have at least one paid employee by the end of next year. Beer wise his plans are pretty big. They'll be hitting the market in 330ml bottles aiming for that shelf space in bar and off licences which is finally becoming available. Alongside the core range which Matthew reckons will be 2:1:1 Session:IPA:stout there will be regular seasonals and specials, member collaborations and of course collaborations with other brewers from across the UK, Ireland* and the world. Taking inspiration from Belgian and American brewing leaves Matthew plenty to play with and there has been talk of a barrel ageing program (a potential source of wine barrels in France...) and as a fellow sour head he also hopes to make sour and wild beers (especially after an epiphany moment via LoverBeer at IndyManBeerCon) but that's all stuff for the future...

*The first of these has been announced with Chris of Galway bay, brewing a southern sour and a northern Fruit infused IPA - can't wait!

For now then, what about those all important core beers? The malt is coming via Simpsons which Matthew is really chuffed about "we're  a pretty small account for them but they actually rang me and they're among the best in the business. I asked about the yeast: "its the one thing I haven't quite settled on yet, the simplest thing would be to use [Safale, dried yeast] US-05, but this can give an apricot flavour leading to all beers having a similar flavour". Ideally of course Boundary would have  house strain but all of the associated equipment for maintaining one doesn't come cheap, so that's something for further down the line.

Matthew loves American C-hops (especially Columbus and centennial) and they'll take centre stage in the session pale, coming in at a truly sessionable 3.5%. "Light, refreshing, sessionable and absolutely packed with hops"

The IPA is actually a scaled back double IPA which Matthew describes as "cakey but still hopped up the wazzoo". Think a Pliny malt bill minus the sugar and you're just about there. At 7% it will certainly be the strongest regularly produced beer in Northern Ireland. Matthew's hoping for Simcoe but its hard to get hold of due to a certain big Scottish brewery buying most of it!
The Export Stout is based on a historic Truman's recipe via Ron Pattinson's blog, with a bit of input via Kernel. 100% Fuggles hopped with pale, brown and black malt and a modern tweak of some crystal and pale chocolate the export stout should be a properly decadent cocoa and coffee affair, also weighing in at 7%, perfect for the depth of winter when Boundary are hoping to launch.

Labels designed by John Robinson
And that's where you guys come in. As a co-operative membership is open to everyone who agrees to abide by the constitution and are happy with the by-laws. Shares are sold at a nominal £1 with a minimum investment of £100. Those who have a bit more to invest and can afford more than £250 will achieve supporter status and be able to run for the board of directors at the first AGM (which has to be held before August!). Share value cannot go up in a co-operative (it can go down!) but after year 3 if the membership agrees dividends and interest could be paid. Check out the website (a professional and accomplished design from Jonny Campbell) for more details. As of writing they're well over halfway at £40,000 £50,000 to their goal of £70,000 taking in 10,000 a day in the first four days with over 150 members already on board, with the maximum they can raise pegged at £100,000 you need to act fast if you want to get involved!

So if you want to support a local business run and owned by local people for local people then invest. If you enjoy flavourful craft beer and want to be able to buy it where you are then get involved- I know I certainly am!*

If you have any questions then drop Matthew an email or Tweet @Boundarybrewing. Find more details on Facebook. Please do help to spread the word about this exciting new Brewery!
Thanks to Matthew for taking the time out of his hectic schedule to chat to me, I hope to come to visit in the New Year!

*I'm contributing this post towards this month's #TheSession about how you contribute to your local beer scene. This along with writing a blog and buying local beers are a few examples!

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