Staggeringly good beer
9 White Deer Brewery is the creator of the highest quality Irish beers and gluten free beers, all made with local Irish ingredients
Based in the Gaeltacht area of Baile Bhuirne in South West Cork, 9 White Deer Brewery was founded in 2014 by former marine engineering Gordon Lucey and respected publican Don O’ Leary. The two named the craft brewery after the sixth century legend of Saint Gobnait, who was told by an angel that when she came across a place with nine white deer she would find a mystical well and was to set up an abbey and church. The site associated with Saint Gobnait’s revelation is a mere kilometre away from the 9 White Deer Brewery and thus the name was chosen.
The brewery currently has brewing capabilities of 500,000 litres per year and a bottling capacity of 6000 litres per day; capable of multi-step mashing and decoction mashing, the brewery uses steam fired wort boilers, which have proven to produce high quality beers. “We add hop additions at all stages of the brew from the initial brewing stage in the mash tun to the final packaged products,” says Gordon Lucey, Founder and Brewery Operations Director.
“Looking at our product range, 9 White Deer initially offered a core range of four beers; three years on we offer a range of nine beers, including the Stag Saor range, which is comprised of five different gluten free craft beers, a pale ale, a red ale, a kolsch style beer, an IPA and a double chocolate and Madagascan vanilla infused stout,” adds Gordon. Bringing all beer from concept to finished product, the company develops its beers differently to most breweries; focused on extensive market research, the company first defines the market to which the beer will predominantly sell to. Once identified, 9 White Deer Brewery chooses the most suitable beer for said chosen market and then adds its own variation to this style. “Only then does a recipe begin to be formulated,” says Gordon. “Through discussions on where we want the finished product to stand with regards to taste, smell, appearance, mouth feel and carbonation, the head-brewer then develops a recipe to give these characteristics to the finished product. This is done while staying within the parameters laid down by us and BJCP to remain within the ‘definition of style’.”
Following this, the company runs a pilot batch of 100 litres of beer to test the basic recipe, with adjustments made to recipe in accordance with the findings of the end result of the pilot brew; the beer is then ready to be put to the test in the main brew plant, by which time 9 White Deer Brewery feels it is very close to the original idea that was perceived.
Today the company has an everincreasing list of customers, with its products stocked in almost 70 supermarkets and several off-license chains nationwide. Moreover, draft products are also available in pubs and restaurants, mainly in the Cork/Kerry region; with the demand in gluten free beer growing 9 White Deer Brewery expects that distribution of its products throughout the island of Ireland will continue to grow in the future.
Discussing the reason’s behind the company launching Ireland’s first gluten free stout and Europe’s first full collection of gluten free craft beers, the Stag Saor range, in February 2017, Gordon comments: “Within 9 White Deer Brewery’s first year, Don was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, which essentially determined the direction for the business.” Elaborating further on this, Don continues: “At first the timing seemed terrible, we had just opened a craft brewery and it was identified that I had a gluten intolerance! However, the development of Stag Saor has changed everything for the business; it prompted us to research the market and see how limited the beer offering is for those with gluten intolerance.”
Indeed, there have been a limited number of gluten free lagers and pale ales developed in Ireland over the last two years, but with minimal options available, the company identified an opportunity to create a full range of gluten free beers. By using cereals traditionally used in brewing, then breaking down and removing the gluten, 9 White Deer Brewery has developed gluten free beers that taste as beer should.
In the short time frame that this range of beers have been available to the market, a high level of interest has been generated, with 9 White Deer Brewery recently winning a bronze medal at the Blas Na HEireann awards. “This is one of the major food and drinks awards in Ireland; it is a blind tasting event undertaken by Irish and international judges, which gives everyone a level platform. For the beer categories there is no gluten free options, so we entered our kolsch style beer, then called Saor, in with the rest of the beers in this category; nobody knew it was gluten free and nobody could tell it was from taste, it was just a great beer. So good, in fact, that it picked up a bronze medal on the night,” highlights Gordon. “This proved to us that we were onto something, as far too often gluten free stands for not quite the same as normal. We changed the perception to the extent that our beer is award winning and just happens to be gluten free.”
Having launched five gluten free beers at the same time, 9 White Deer Brewery will be focused on promoting and growing its product range in an underdeveloped market, which included exhibiting at events such as The International Food & Drink event in London in March 2017. “We feel we now have a reasonable foothold in Ireland so will be focusing on our export strategy, which will inevitably lead to us hiring people on the ground in these countries. We also plan to launch more one-offs, which is something we have not done before,” concludes Gordon.