Meet the archaeologist who has returned to Longford to establish a new brewery named after a nephew of Saint Patrick
by David Rickman
St. Mel is a name highly renowned in the Irish Midlands. Not only are there a famous cathedral and second-level college named in tribute to the nephew of Saint Patrick, but now a local archaeologist is part of the team behind the thriving new ‘St. Mel’s Brewing Company’.
Based in the Ardagh pocket of Longford, archaeologist Eoin Tynan and biotechnician Liam Hanlon are the brains behind the exciting venture, and their back story is an interesting one.
“I was raised on a dairy farm near Ardagh village,” says Eoin, “and was driving a tractor as soon as I knew how to ‘lock hard’. I was used to pulling and dragging and doing any kind of farm work that was expected of a chap of my age.
“After secondary school I went on to Maynooth College where I studying History and the Classics, and from there my interest in archaeology exploded.”
As a historian hunting through the earth for clues to the past, Eoin has been involved in many interesting excavations around Ireland, and further afield.
“We uncovered some really interesting finds around Ireland in places such as Carrickmines and the Victorian Gaol in Mullingar. I came across Bronze Age burial chambers, cremation sites and the gaol in Mullingar was especially captivating as you could get down and walk around the cells, up to waist level.
“One of the more memorable research projects took me to Sparta in Greece where we spent two months uncovering a Roman Amphitheatre. We found pillars and blocks and carved stones, some from the Byzantine period which would have been post Roman, and pre-Ottoman.”
In the late noughties, Eoin’s career took a different trajectory when he enrolled on a Masters in Finance course in Dublin. On his wedding day, when he married his American sweetheart, Melissa, at a marquee which was held on the family farm, he had a conversation with master brewer, Liam, and the seeds of a business partnership were sown. A year later they revisited the idea, and in 2013 the St. Mel’s Brewing Company was formed.
“Things happened quite quickly after that,” explains Eoin. “We went to the Leader Project in Longford, told them what we had in mind, and the Community Resources Ltd granted us funding. We rented a unit from the Local Enterprise Office and now run a 1,500-litre brewery.”
And that’s when the name of Saint Mel entered the frame.
Saint Mel, or Moel, was a 5th-century saint and the son of Conis or, Chonis, and Darerca.
Saint Darerca was a sibling of Saint Patrick and recognised as the ‘mother of saints’ because most of the children that she gave birth to (seventeen sons and two daughters) undertook a religious vocation.
Mel and his brothers Melchu, Munis and Rioch travelled with their uncle Patrick to Ireland and helped him carry out his missionary work. Mel and his brother Melchu were both reportedly consecrated bishops by Patrick himself.
After St. Patrick built the church at Ardagh, he appointed Mel as Bishop of Ardagh.
With a cathedral and college already named after him in the area, and given Eoin’s huge appetite for Irish history and culture, the brewers decided to adopt the saintly title for their product, as the name St. Mel travels far throughout the Midlands.
“The business is up and running since June 2014,” says Eoin, now resettled at his homeplace, and combining the bottling and brewing of the drinks with managing the farm.
“There are the two of us here and an apprentice brewer, Mark Connolly, who is learning from the master, as Liam is at the highest grade of his craft in Ireland, having studied Brewing and Distribution in Edinburgh. Then we have the family and friends who help us out with the bottling – they are, of course, paid in kind!”
For further information on “St. Mel’s” follow the team on Facebook, or on Twitter @stmelsbrewing. Or email them on email@example.com