Bernard’s new stout offers creamy flavours from time in whiskey barrels

Master brewer Bernard Sloan is set to launch a new stout that’s been aged in Irish whiskey casks.

By Sam Butler
Saturday, 19th February 2022, 6:00 am

The creamy stout has been created by Bernard, the founding managing director of Whitewater Brewery in Castlwellan, NI’s original craft brewery that’s become our biggest independent producer of multi-award winning ales and stouts.

The latest stout is the result of a collaboration with Ballynahinch-based Hinch whiskey and gin distillery. It follows a link-up between Hinch and Whitewater a year ago which led to the creation of a unique Cask and Crafts whiskey brand which attracted international acclaim and awards for originality and distinctive flavours.

“I’ve long been keen on such collaborative ventures and now have a really good relationship with the team at Hinch Distillery especially Aaron Flahery, the master distiller,” Bernard explains. “We’ve talked about a number of potential projects including a stout finished in whiskey barrels on the back of the international success of the Craft and Casks.”

Bernard Sloan of Whitewater Brewery in Castlewellan has collaborated with Hinch Distillery in Castlewellan on a creamy stout that’s different

Hinch’s Cask and Crafts was finished in barrels of Whitewater’s UK Great Taste winning Kreme de la Kremlin Imperial Stout, its strongest beverage. “What we’ve produced is a really creamy stout with distinctive flavours from the whiskey casks,” he continues.

Brendan, who launched his first craft beers in 1996. is also justifiably proud of the success of the Russian imperial stout with drinkers in Moscow and other centres there. The distinctive stout, in addition, was the first craft beer to win the UK Great Taste Award Regional Golden Fork for NI.

“Taste experts love the stout’s intense chocolatey nose that beckons the drinker and offers a balance of sweet, bitter and spice on the palate,” he adds.

The casks used in the latest stout will be returmed shortly to Hinch, which has just completed its 200,000th bottling of whiskey and Ninth Wave gin, to be filled with new spirit. Hinch whiskeys and gins are now on sale in over 30 international markets, among the most recent being Canada.

Aaron Flaherty, master distiller on Hinch Distillery in Ballynahinch

“Such collaborations are important to us because they support our longstanding focus on creating new products which help to set us apart in highly competitive global markets,” continues Bernard.

“We were delighted when Hinch delivered 40 whiskey casks to the brewery more than a year ago for what is proving to be another exciting collaboration for us. I decided not to use the imperial stout this time but instead to fill the casks with a slightly weaker but still a richly flavoured and creamy beer.”

Whitewater was launched by Bernard on the family farm at Attical, near Kilkeel, a small townland nestling in the foothills of the Mournes in 1996 with water from mountain streams. It’s since developed into NI’s most modern and hugely successful brewery, which is now located in an ultra-modern plant at Castlewellan, with exports to Britain, Ireland, Russia, Europe, China and Japan.

The company, which has also developed a range of hard seltzer flavours, has been recovering steadilly from the coronavirus lockdowns and is currently grappling with spiralling energy and other costs, according to Bernard.

“It’s been an immensely challenging couple of years for us and, of course, most other businesses in our industry,” he says. “We’ve been encouraged by some new contracts for our canning lines especially from other parts of Europe including from developers of non-alcoholic beverages.”

He’s continued to invest in the business, adding, for example, a nitrogen system to enhance further the taste of the ales and stouts.

The new stout joins an impressive portflio of successful beers from the brewery, which employs eight people, including Belfast Lager, one of his original brews which gained a prestigious International Beer Challenge Award in 2010.

“Whitewater was the smallest brewery ever to win International Beer Challenge recognition for quality and taste and the first in NI,” Bernard continues.

Other popular beers include Maggie’s Leap Indian Pale Ale, named after a mythical figure in the Mournes and reflecting his love for the mountains. “We enjoy the tranquility and pace of the countryside but are still close enough to the main route between Castlewellan and Belfast, which enables us to ship beer quickly and cost effectively throughout NI, to the Republic, Britain and beyond,” he adds.

The progressive company produces bottle-conditioned beers and ales and also supplies products in cans and kegs to customers throughout Ireland.

An dairy industry engineer by profession, Bernard designed the new brewery, project managed its construction and kitted it out with the latest brewing equipment. He’s also developed the building with a view to joining the Mourne tourism trail, creating an extensive and impressive visitors’ centre that charts the history of beer in the area and Whitewater Brewery in particular. This enables visitors to see the original brews being produced. It recently staged its first ‘tap room’ for participating individuals to enjoy its beers onsite.

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