The story of Bullhouse Brew Co began back in 2011, when founder Willy Mayne got a taste for great beer on a road trip around the west-coast of the US with his brother. Visiting Green Flash Brewery in San Diego was the epiphany moment. Drinking flavoursome beers on an out-of-town industrial estate on a Friday afternoon with a mix of local office and factory workers and seeing how beer and particularly breweries can be an integral part of the community was a real eye opener.
Coming back from the trip, Willy started homebrewing on the farm he grew up on just outside Belfast, Northern Ireland. After homebrewing for four years, he set to work converting the old bull’s house on the farm into a tiny 500sq ft brewery. Working full-time and living at home to save money, over the space of 12 months he converted the Bullhouse into a small brewery, buying second-hand equipment from dairy farms and other breweries across Ireland, including a mash tun made from a converted catering fridge. Starting a commercial brewery for £600 doesn’t result in anything too pretty, but it was something, and it made some tasty beer.
The centuries old Bullhouse pre-conversion.
The (soon to be) oil fired HLT being lifted in with the lend of the neighbouring farm’s forklift.
An early brewday
An early event – Newry Craft Beer Fest 2016
Even before launching Bullhouse onto the market, the difficulties operating in Northern Ireland - the most restrictive beer market in Europe - became obvious. But the desire to put new styles of beer on the market and the idea of making a tiny dent in this ridiculous system overcame any doubts about the viability of the project.
Bullhouse launched in March 2016, with El Capitan being the very first commercial batch. For 18 months, everything was done in the evenings and weekends. Midweek brewdays resulted in a 2am finish, before heading to work for a plastic manufacturing company at 7am.
Before long, the weekends and evenings started creeping into the afternoons, and eventually, in September 2017, Willy took the plunge to pack in the day job and go it alone, brewing P45 for the occasion. One of the early successes was winning Champion Beer of Belfast at CAMRA’s Belfast Beer and Cider Festival in November 2017 with The Dankness.
Fast forward to September 2020 and backed by a Bounce Back Loan, the team (now grown to 3) finally moved out of the cramped Bullhouse to a
6000sq ft industrial estate in south Belfast.
We’ve grown pretty quickly since then, despite all the challenges thrown at us.
We opened Belfast’s first permanent brewery taproom (Bullhouse East) in June 2022, a pivotol moment of change in the local beer industry. We now sell our beer throughout Northern Ireland, GB, the Republic of Ireland, France, Italy and the Netherlands and employ 26 people across the brewery and taproom.
Our mission is to do our bit to bring Northern Ireland together by serving world class beer in welcoming, inclusive environments, while disrupting the night-time economy through the creation of a free market for beer.
We take a light-hearted approach to making world class beer.
We believe beer is just that, beer. It’s great to drink something challenging and it’s great to push the boundaries of what beer can be. But at the end of the day, we go back to what beer is for. We wholeheartedly believe that beer is about bringing people together and we’re passionate about the power of sitting down and sharing a beer with friend or stranger alike and having a chat.
We create world-class, award-winning beer with a lighthearted, inclusive approach that’s reflected in our ethos and our outlook. We work with people we like and get on with and we try to avoid transactional relationships. The beer industry can be a cliquey place. When you come into our venues, we don’t care if you don’t know what a Geuze is, we’ll happily tell you over a beer and share our passion, but we want you to feel included, no matter what age you are or where you come from.
Despite being an urban brewery now, we’re proud of our heritage and where we’ve come from in very challenging conditions. Our logo is centred around the fact that we’re hopheads. We love drinking fresh, hoppy beers and we love making them. It’s one of the areas of the industry that’s going to be here for the long term, as it’s the one style of beer Macro breweries can’t do well. The skull reflects our heritage, as the original Bullhouse is on Greengraves Road, a short distance from the Kempe Stone, a Mesolithic burial chamber.