Established in 2014, Black Donkey Brewing is the brainchild of returned emigrant Richard Siberry and his wife Michaela. Based in Roscommon, it is the first and only commercial brewer to use a native Irish yeast.
The brewery’s limited edition beer, Underworld, is fermented with a wild, native yeast strain, harvested from the legendary Oweynagat cave, part of the prehistoric Rathcroghan Complex in Co. Roscommon.
Upon learning of the cave's existence, founder Richard Siberry enquired if beer could be matured in it, like the caves of Champagne. A negative response resulted in his statement; “If I can’t bring beer to the cave, I’ll bring the cave to the beer”.
On October 31st 2017, Siberry and brewer Glenn Reid went underground, determined to see if a viable brewers yeast strain could be isolated from the cave and its environs. With the quest dubbed “The Wild Yeast Chase”, the duo were guided by staff from the Rathcroghan Visitor Center. Samples were taken from the walls, air and vegetation of the cave, which were then assessed and propagated by microbiologists from IT Tallaght, Dublin. Promising samples were returned to the brewery for further growth and tests, and Underworld, Savage Ale was created.
Lightly hopped, with an ABV of 5.6% and brewed with 85% Irish barley and Connacht water, Underworld showcases the character of the wild Irish yeast. Not unlike the legendary farmhouse ales of Belgium, Underworld packs a unique, refreshing and yeast forward flavour.
Currently available in Ireland as a limited release in both 500ml bottles and 30L kegs, Black Donkey will be adding Underworld to it’s permanent line-up later this year.
Other beers in the Black Donkey portfolio include critically acclaimed and novel Sheep Stealer (an Irish farmhouse ale), Buck It (hybrid amber ale), Beyond, (rye pale ale), Happy Out (pale ale) and Western Warrior (lager).