The Open Gate Brewery at St. James’s Gate brewery opened its doors to the public for the first time just last December, but Guinness has run a pilot brewery for experimenting with different brewing ideas and developing different beers since 1909. The present location within St. James’s Gate has been operating since the mid-1960s and their tinkering and inventive spirit has led to the development of things we think of as ubiquitous, such as draught Guinness.
The Open Gate Brewery is now open to the public on each Thursday and Friday between 5.30pm and 10.30pm, and you will need to book a spot in advance through the brewery’s website, guinnessopengate.com. The €6 cover charge gets you a tasting tray upon entry, where you can sample any four of the beers on tap during your visit in one-third of a pint measures.
This is the first in a series of profiles of some of the team behind what goes on at the Open Gate Brewery, to find out just how their ideas make it from their brains to our glasses.
Brewer at Diageo
Jasmine Winterer is a brewer for Diageo, originally from the Black Forest in Germany’s southwest who has been working with the Open Gate for over a year. “I think my interest in brewing started in school. I was 14 when we had biology class, talking about yeast and how it works, and we had beer as an example, and since then I’ve been really interested in the science behind beer. There’s so much happening and you need to understand the biochemistry and the biology behind it, and it’s just so interesting to know that if I change this and this then, because of the biochemistry, I’m changing the flavour or some other factor. That’s the most interesting part for me,” explains Jasmine. “Of course there’s a big culture of it in Germany. Over there you can study for three years and then become a brewer, so that’s what I did. Then I worked as a brewer for a year, then went to Berlin for a year to get my master’s diploma.”
Since arriving to Dublin over a year ago, Jasmine has focused on experimentation and innovation for Guinness. “My role here is as a pilot plant technologist, so I spend most of my time here in the Open Gate Brewery brewing the beers, also for the whole team, for the Innovation team, not just for the Open Gate Brewery.”
As part of a team of seven brewers based in the Open Gate Brewery, Jasmine is heavily involved with the process of developing several different beers for the Open Gate at any one time, trialling ideas initially on a small scale hectolitre brew – equivalent to 100 litres of beer – before testing and experimenting further to refine the recipe. Once the brewing team are happy with those results, they scale up the brews to a ten hectolitre brew, the results of which are served behind the bar at the Open Gate Brewery.
Looking at the list of beers available behind the bar, Jasmine says, “I actually worked on the Vienna Common Lager, I also worked on the Oatmeal and Vanilla Ale… in fact if you go down the list of beers, I was involved in every beer! [Laughs] Like I said, I’m here all the time, so I’m helping everybody else, or I’m brewing the beer, or it’s ‘my’ beer. In April there’s one being launched which is ‘my’ beer.”
“The idea behind this brew is that we’re celebrating the 500th anniversary this year of the Reinheitsgebot, which is the German beer purity law,” says Winterer. “It’s called the 1516 Anniversary Pilsner. 500 years ago in Bavaria they decided that you’re just allowed to use hops, malt and water for your beer. It’s the oldest food declaration in the world, and that’s how you learn brewing in Germany, so I wanted to brew a special beer so that we can celebrate it here in Dublin as well in the OGB.”
Ahead of the big anniversary on April 23rd, Jasmine is busy, with the rest of the brewing team, perfecting the new brew which despite its pared-back recipe still takes an expert to master. “In Germany we say it’s the hardest beer to brew, because it’s a really crisp and pale beer, so you can taste every off flavour and you can taste if the brewer is not very experienced, or isn’t a good brewer. You need to have the right temperatures, the right timing. It’s a real test of your brewing fundamentals.”
Having your workplace on show to the general public might seem daunting, but Jasmine and the rest of the team have relished the opportunity to show off the fruits of the labour. “The feedback is great. We also had craft brewers from around the country visit and they’ve been impressed by the beers we’ve been brewing, by the plant. It’s been great, I was just in here with my brother who visited and he said, ‘It’s so nice to see how you’re working!’ And it really is my workplace here, so it’s really exciting to have people come in and see what we do.”
WHAT’S ON TAP
Opening up the Open Gate Brewery has pulled back the curtain a revealed a world of variety happening at the home of the world’s favourite stout, with the bar serving up eight different beers at a time. At any given time the bar is serving the old reliable draught Guinness, as well as the now familiar Hop House 13, a double-hopped lager which mixes a American and Australian hops to create its lively, crisp palate. Hop House was launched in February 2015 as part of the Brewer’s Project, having been developed in the Open Gate Brewery since August 2014. “That’s an example of a beer that started off life in here, but then moved to a bigger brewery to scale up. But it wouldn’t have happened without this little bar here,” explains Pádraig Fox, bar manager at the Open Gate Brewery.
Another brew permanently on the taps in the Open Gate Brewery is the Nitro IPA, which is was developed for the American market. Smooth, creamy and rich with a pleasant bitter hoppy finish, the Nitro is laced with traces of citrus and berries. It has the consistency and two-part pour of draught Guinness but a taste that hits you strong and sweet, while a bitterness lingers after the beer is well and gone. “Irish tastebuds seem to really like, it because it has that nitro mouthfeel, but it’s not quite as hoppy as a lot of the American IPAs,” explains Fox.
On a revolving basis, the other taps will feature four other brews exclusive to the Open Gate Brewery, including two experimental new brews each month – such as the 1516 Anniversary Pilsner – which are served until the batch is finished. Last month saw the introduction of Dublin Wheat Beer. But as Fox notes, “They’re all limited edition beers, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Until the next one!”
You can follow the latest developments from the Open Gate Brewery on Twitter at @OpenGateBrewery
This post is sponsored by Diageo.