It takes great vision and a large dollop of courage to see a dilapidated stone shed on the family farm and think ‘that would make a great brewery’!
But if the two Durnin brothers have anything, it’s the tenacity and talent to start a new venture during a global pandemic and an energy crisis.
Robert and Oran are the brains behind Jumping Church Brewery, a small artisan brewery on their farm outside Ardee – where four generations of their family have farmed – but nothing like this.
“I suppose some people may think we’re a little touched alright, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, and our four ales, beers and stouts – with a summer special too - are doing really well locally, and starting to take off nationally too,” says Robert, who is an engineer by trade.
“We have had great support from local restaurants like No 3 in Collon, and Inside Out in Slane, and the goal is to start seeing the bottles and drafts behind local bars too, as well as branching out across the country’.
Robert and Oran are twins...but not to each other!
“There are six boys, with two sets of twins,” explains Oran with a smile. “The oldest Mark in an organic farmer, my twin is Tommy, and Robert and Rory are twins, then there’s the youngest Diarmuid.”
Before we think there must be something in the water around Ballybailie, the townland on the Dundalk Road where the farm and brewery are housed, Robert explains his mum Mary is a twin too!
“Our parents Mary and Thomas have farmed the land here since taking it over from our grandparents Mannix and Josie, who also took it over from relatives, so we’ve been farming sheep, cattle and tillage for four generations,” says Robert. “We just started to grow barley now too, and are looking to grow malt as well, so we can have everything we need on the one farm, but if not, we try to source as much as we can locally.”
The current business started as a hobby back in 2016, when the brothers started to make their own home brew with kits.
“Oran has a background in food science and construction, and I have been brewing for years as well as being an engineer, so we decided to put them all together and give it a go,” says Robert with a smile. “It was then a long process of trial and error, and a lot of testing and tasting, to get our beer just the way we wanted it, and we were finally ready this time last year.”
Their first Irish Pale Ale under the Jumping Church label was released on November 21st 2021.
“We called it Gae Bolga, after the fierce, magical weapon that killed Ferdia in the three-day battle he fought with his best friend Cuchulainn near here,” explains Oran. “The brewery is obviously named after the church at Kildemock, where a wall is supposed to have jumped three feet, and now we’ve called all our range after the local myths and legends.”
The other products in the range are their IPA, which is named after the magnificent St. Ledger's Castle which stands proud on the main street in Ardee, their stout named after ‘The Turf Man’, dedicated to all the hardy men who dug and footed turf in Ardee Bog and the Red Ale named after the legend Ferdia who died on the banks of the river Dee after a three-day battle with his friend Cuchulainn.
From humble beginnings with home brew in bell jars in the hot press, the brothers now have an impressive set-up in the beautifully renovated shed, where up to 3,000 bottles can be brewed from one batch.
It is a labour-intensive process for the two-man crew – about 21 days for each beer - and with all the bottling and capping done by hand on-site.
“The capping machine is actually a vintage one from about 1962, and is still as good as new,” says Robert proudly. “Bottling, capping and hand labelling is a three-man job for a full day, so we rope some more of the family in!
“People might wonder why we’re a little more expensive than the commercial beers, but we’re not mass-produced, and we are keeping everything in the local economy. Pearse Lyons in Dundalk produces more pallets in one day than we can in six months!”
When the brothers started last year, their market was mainly around Ardee, but that has expanded out to shops and businesses in Drogheda, Dundalk, and beyond.
“Boyne Valley Flavours have been great, and we will be at the Oldbridge Christmas Market on Sunday 27th, so we’d love people to come along and sample our beers,” adds Oran. “We are a local business trying to put Ardee on the map, with every beer telling a story and hopefully it’ll bring back tourism and create more local employment.”
More details can be found on www.jumpingchurchbrewery.ie or on social media. The Oldbridge Christmas Market runs from 11am to 3.30pm on Sunday November 27th