YellowBelly are one of the top craft breweries in Ireland. Based in Wexford, they brew up a wide range of styles – their core range features their award-winning Citra Pale Ale, Castaway (Passionfruit Sour), Kellerbier (Helles) and Hopped in Space IPA – but they also brew seasonals, one-off specials and regular collaborations with their beer world buddies.
We’re big fans of YellowBelly; not just because their beer is awesome but because they’ve got their own unique style. Their artwork stands out and their creativity resonates with us, so we were dead excited when YellowBelly’s Sales Manager, Danny Trappe, was kind enough to spare some time to have a chat with us!
In your own words, can you introduce Yellow Belly to those who might not know you yet?
Hello everyone! We are YellowBelly Beer; basically a bunch of mates that have been stealing a living for the last few years doing what we love best. We brew, design and sell the beer we want to drink.
Craft beer is a multi sensory product, and alongside our Creative Director and Head Brewer, we have hopefully created products that look class on a shelf or on a bar, and taste just as good.
How did you all get into brewing?
Nicky & Simon, YellowBelly Beer’s Directors, have had the Simon Lambert & Sons pub in the family for 54 years. They took over from their father in 2006 and started introducing craft beer. It really took hold and became popular with locals.
Eventually, they both decided to attain a Certificate in Brewing and began figuring out how to build a bespoke brewery in the basement of the pub by visiting countless other microbreweries across Ireland and the UK.
The plan originally was for Nicky and myself, then bar-man at the time, to do the brewing. Unfortunately due to a lack of ability, Londonderry native, Declan Nixon, came into our lives.
Declan is a classically trained brewer. He brought with him a wealth of experience in boring English hops and cask conditioned ales. Luckily we beat that out of him, and now he makes some of the best beer around. Just don’t tell him.
Where did the name, YellowBelly, come from?
YellowBelly is both a historical and an ironic name.
“YellowBelly” is a nickname for a person from Wexford. We’ll spare you the history lesson here, but you can look it up on Ask Jeeves.
Really, we wanted to take this nickname and transform it into something new and personal. From the beginning, we wanted to take risks to become the best brewery we possible can be. Therefore, we never shy away from new ideas and experimentation, quite the anthesis of the cowardly meaning normally associated with the term.
So, er, rumour has it, you ‘acquired’ your brewhouse from BrewDog? Tell us more…
So legally here is what we can tell you… our current brewkit is BrewDog’s 2nd Generation brewkit from when they were still at their initial Fraserburgh site in Scotland. This eventually became their pilot kit where they brewed the first ever batch of Tokyo, their Imperial Stout which caused a lot of controversy. Eventually, the kit was exclusively being used to brew Nanny State, their non-alcoholic beer.
We picked it up in 2016 having located it for sale in Madagascar. It was being purchased by someone else originally, but the deal fell through. It was caught in customs and we saved it to become our new brewkit and the all-important core to our new brewhouse.
We made a lot of modifications, and had to take all the BrewDog graffiti off, but we’ve been brewing on it since March 2017.
You brewed a beer in collaboration with BrewDog, so you have a good relationship with them?
Yeah, that was great. They were really interested in seeing their old kit back in action, and to find out how we got it. Bringing Scotland Yard down on the day we felt was a bit much.
We made a really unique beer together called Kottbusser, a Blackcurrant and Heather Honey Sour. We’re good pals with their former Head of Production, John Allen, who has recently moved to our friends up the road, Wicklow Wolf. The beer opened a few doors for us and we’ve been living off the back of it ever since.
What other breweries are you fans of in Ireland or in general?
Everybody in the brewing industry, micro and macro, except Whiplash & Boundary. Don’t drink their beer.
As far as we know, you were the first Irish brewers to have a sour as part of their core range! Was that not a risky choice?
It was too risky not to do it! But seriously, it has become such a cult classic that we would have people outside our brewery with pitchforks if we stopped making it.
Can you tell us a bit more about the artwork on your cans? You’ve created a comic book series, too?
From the beginning, everyone kept saying “TELL YOUR STORY”.
We thought this is boring, and what everyone else does. I mean, do you really want to hear the same story about how a brewery was started? We decided we wanted to create a character and create our very own universe surrounding the beers that we could evolve over time and use this as a means to keep creating new stories.
Our Creative Director, Paul Reck, creates all the artwork you see across our range of cans, tap badges, comic books, animated videos and merchandise. Every story has a beer behind the artwork which documents our character YellowBelly’s travels through time and space, travelling through different worlds and dimensions in search of new recipes or ingredients.
Think of him as the Dr. Who of the beer world. Of course there’s plenty of bad guys and his arch-nemesis, BlueBelly, who gets in his way. You can check it all out for free on our website or YouTube channel.
And you’ve also created a video-game! How did that happen?!
We wanted to give something back to all those great people who continue to purchase our beers and support the brewery.
At the end of 2017, we got together with Paul to create a new story in the YellowBelly Beer universe and tell that story through the medium of a video game. Hop Rocket is a simple arcade style game which people can play for free on the website and try and to get a high score by taking down some enemies and BlueBelly’s airship as they try and takeover the brewery here in Wexford.
It was a lot of fun to work on and we live streamed a launch where we pitted staff members against each other for a high score.
Comic books, video games… you guys are as nerdy as we are?!
Yes! Especially Paul, Dec and Seamus.
Paul has worked on graphic novels in the past, while I love reading them.
We love the likes of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V for Vendetta. We draw a lot of inspiration from these for storytelling. Dec is a big fan of comics, especially the Judge Dredd series.
A lot of us in the brewery are big video game nerds also, and we often spend a couple evenings per week gaming together online.
Citra was recently crowned Beoir’s beer of the year, how cool was that?
Ah, it was unbelievable. It’s rare that a 4.8% single hop pale ale would win such an award but we are really proud. We’ve always loved how drinkable it is and it’s great to see all the recognition it gets.
You recently opened Grady’s Yard – pairing beer with pizza (and other food!) Can you tell us about it?
Grady’s Yard is YellowBelly Beer’s new taproom in Waterford City.
The first thing people are going to notice is the really unique décor. The bar itself is made from a shipping container, as is our kitchen. Then, throughout the bar you’ll find really eclectic decorations, strange photos adorning the walls, graffiti style murals, reclaimed furniture and fixtures and even some of our old tanks from the brewery. Most importantly, there’s a warm inviting atmosphere and some really great staff who are knowledgeable about food and drink.
We have 22 taps featuring YellowBelly’s finest, alongside a great range of the very best beers we can get our hands on from Irish and International breweries. We also serve a great range of spirits and wine, plus spirit infusions that the staff make themselves in-house.
And the food! Our Container Kitchen is currently serving up the very best stone-baked pizzas of various styles and toppings. We have also recently expanded our menu to include some tasty burgers and other street food themed delights. The food menu, like the beer menu, changes weekly so we are constantly striving to bring something new and interesting to our customers.
We know you make great beer, how do your pizza making skills compare?
We are really proud of them; all our dough and sauce is made fresh every day in house. We also have new pizza specials every day to allow our chefs to be as creative as they can be. We also love coming up with the names – if you don’t like puns, stay well away.
Favourite beer and pizza pairing?
At the moment, it’s gotta be our Hawaii-Five Dough and a pint of our Castaway, passionfruit sour. This is perfect for the Summer weather or if you like sweet and sour combinations. This classic Hawaiian-style pizza’s pineapple is a perfectly sweet partner for Castaway’s sour passionfruit tartness.
What does the near future hold? Any exciting developments? Collabs? Specials?
Yeah, loads coming up – we’re refreshing our core range soon so keep an eye out for that.
We also recently packaged a delicious Seaweed Gose which we made with our Liverpudlian mates, Neptune Brewery.