YellowBelly Beer: A Look At The Rise Of Wexford’s Favourite Craft Beer

Simon Lambert and Sons’ own YellowBelly Beer has experienced a meteoritic rise to prominence since first being created in 2015…

The year is 2009 and brothers Simon Jr and Nicky Lambert are embarking on a brewing course in Manchester, England. Across the Irish Sea, their family-owned pub Simon Lambert & Sons lies in the heart of Wexford town. Not unlike Sir Walter Raleigh’s triumphant return to England with potatoes and tobacco, the Lambert brothers will soon return with something revolutionary: the seeds for a craft brewery. 

Twelve years later, Simon Lambert & Sons is a thriving brewpub that boasts an eclectic range of craft beers under the YellowBelly brand. Since first opening in 2015, YellowBelly Beer has experienced a meteoric rise to prominence; YellowBelly beers are distributed at a national level and have earned awards and recognition for their high quality.

To date, they have released over 300 different beers and have never failed to experiment with new and exciting concoctions.

Simon Lambert & Sons’ house favourite, Citra Pale Ale, defeated beers from all over the country in 2019 in the national scramble to attain the coveted ‘Beer of the Year’ award. 

Pic via Luke Bradley, Wexford Weekly

In a mere three and a half years, Simon Lambert & Sons’ own YellowBelly Beer had evolved from a brewery in the basement of a pub to a nationally recognized brewery of exceptional importance. But how did this local pub become the stage for a major player on the Irish craft beer scene?

The Lambert brothers returned home from Manchester with a vision: the transformation of the basement of their family-owned pub into a brand new microbrewery, with the ultimate aim of brewing and selling their very own beer. The pub has been in the Lambert family since Simon Lambert Sr bought it from noted athlete Jess Purcell in 1965. The building itself, located at 37 South Main Street, dates to the 1820’s and it is thought to have been first inhabited by Richard Walsh, who became mayor of Wexford in 1847.

Over the past two centuries, the building has been home to grocers, boot-makers, shipwrights, publicans and finally, brewers. 37 South Main Street also became home to a new category of people when the Lambert family purchased it; Simon Sr and his wife Mary had a great love for the Wexford Opera Festival and before long, Simon Lambert & Sons became known as the unofficial pub of the hugely popular event. Looking back, Simon and Nicky’s vision of transforming their beloved locale into an aspiring brewpub was an ambitious venture, but as the saying goes, ‘No risk, no reward’.

With limited resources, Simon and Nicky made use of recycled milk tanks and transformed the pub’s old storm rooms into a semi-automated micro-brewery. From these humble beginnings, YellowBelly was born. Initially just brewing enough to supply their own bar, Simon and Nicky brewed exclusively out of the building’s basement where they had a 200 litre Nano brewery in operation. Under the guidance of Head Brewer Declan Nixon, the team produced over 100 beers in their first year of operation.

However, the team’s passion for brewing ensured that expansion was inevitable and soon a larger brewery was needed to meet popular demand. In 2017, just two years after first brewing in the basement of Simon Lambert & Sons, YellowBelly Beer opened a brand new brewery on top of Whiterock Hill, just outside Wexford Town.

The YellowBelly brand has since expanded in other ways; their creation of a comic book and original YellowBelly characters that front their eye-catching artwork, credited to the talented Paul Reck, have been an integral part of the brewery’s mission to ‘tell a story’ with their beer. 

Today, Simon Lambert & Sons and YellowBelly Beer have shown no sign of running out of ideas. With the recent establishment of a brand new BBQ pit and plans to install a new brewery in the basement of their pub once again, Simon Lambert & Sons always has a project on the horizon.

Pic via Luke Bradley, Wexford Weekly

When asked what the future holds for YellowBelly, Simon Lambert Jr opened with “We’re always expanding.” Their rapid growth in the past six years makes this a fact that is difficult to argue with, and their plans for new beers, greater distribution and a new visitor’s centre in their brewery in Whiterock point to one thing: The sky’s the limit for YellowBelly. 

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Simon Lamberts and Sons Pub in Wexford was rated in the Top 10 as voted by Wexford people. See where they ranked here.

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