Ballykilcavan Farm & Brewery
Ballykilcavan’s award-winning craft beers are produced in a 240-year old stone building on a farm that has been in the Walsh family since 1639. Although history is important to farm owner and Champion Green supporter, David Walsh-Kemmins, it was a concern for the future generations of owners that inspired the set-up of Ballykilcavan Brewery. “Diversification has always been important to keep our farm viable for future generations. When I took over Ballykilcavan from my father in 2004, my sole motivation was to try to sustain it so that someone else would be able to take it over from me.”
The business lost all its draught lines when the pubs and hotels closed, but managed to increase sales during the lockdown by selling directly from the brewery and through online retailers who could ship beers directly to customers.
They launched their first canned beers in summer 2019, which became hugely popular over the last few months due in part to their light, durable design – which made them ideal for shipping. All beers are made using malting barley that has been grown on the farm and converted to malt in Athy, 12km away. The farm has its own spring water and a small hop garden that allows them to make an annual beer where every ingredient is sourced from within 500 metres of the brewery.
Local support has been crucial to Ballykilcavan’s business success, says David: “99% of our sales are currently within Ireland, and almost all of those are within 80km of the brewery. Local support helped us to get off the ground as a business when we were starting off, and we simply wouldn’t survive without continuing local support.”
His business pays back the support it gets from their community by working with as many other local businesses as possible. All of the business’s branding, malting, transport and maintenance work is carried out by companies within 15 minutes of the brewery. They also offer the use of the farm and its historic 18th century farmyards to local groups at no cost. In 2019, they hosted an Operation Transformation event, a walk for the Laois Walks Festival and the Slieve Blooms walking festival, and a free tour for Heritage Week. They have also run charity evenings in aid of the local Simon community and the Irish Cancer society as well as sponsoring the local soccer team, Stradbally Town AFC, and Athy rugby club.
Before Covid-19, there were regular tours of the brewery and farm, with plans underway to build a new visitor centre and taproom to attract more visitors. With all physical tours cancelled during the lockdown, David made a series of virtual video tours to showcase the brewery and farm experience online. Watch them here.