- Steve Lamond
Saturday 22nd April saw the judging take place for the first ever Champion Cider of Ireland. A team of five expert judges from across the UK and Ireland deliberated on almost 40 ciders from 20 producers entered into five categories to assess which ciders deserved recognition. Ten ciders made it through to the final round but only one could be crowned Champion Cider of Ireland: for 2017 that cider is Tempted Dry Cider!
Davy Uprichard, a first generation cider-maker with 8 years experience based in Lisburn is rightly pleased with his cider’s success: “I knew my cider was good - it’s won plenty of awards before but to receive this award on my home turf and beating a lot of other cider-makers who I respect makes it more meaningful.”
As well as winning the competition Davy took home three other awards with the dry cider coming best in category, Tempted Elderflower awarded best fruited cider and Tempted Sweet took second place in the non-dry category.
Runner up and best non-dry cider was awarded to the Cider Mill’s Cockagee keeved cider. Mark Jenkinson said of his awards “What a great weekend, chuffed with 3 wins in inaugural Irish Cider Championship. A big, big thank you to Beoir and all the organisers and judges for holding such a professional and proper cider competition.” Mark’s Cockagee Perry was also awarded best perry.
Third place overall went to newcomers Johnny Falldown. Founder Barry Walsh said “We're very happy with result ourselves, as there was clearly a lot of quality on board”
The competition was organised by Steve Lamond, Cider Liaison Officer for Beoir, the Irish Beer Consumers Association. “I wanted to showcase the breadth and depth of ciders available on the island of Ireland and give the recognition to those producers that is well overdue. I’m really with happy with how the day turned out, a big thank you to all of the entrants and judges who helped to make it a success - we’ll certainly run it again!”
Susanna Forbes, one of two lead judges alongside Pete Brown said of the day “It was a pleasure and a privilege to judge the first Champion Cider of Ireland competition. Quality overall was commendable, with a few exceptions. Beoir are to be congratulated on this positive initiative to welcome entries north and south of the border. As it becomes further established, I’d welcome seeing further cider makers in the competition in future years.”
Beoir Champion Irish Cider 2017
Champion Cider of Ireland
1st Tempted Dry Cider
2nd The Cider Mill Cockagee Cider
3rd Johnny Falldown Cider
Llewellyn's Dry Cider Frizzante 2014
1. Tempted Dry
2. Llewellyn's Frizzante 2014
3. MacIvors Dry
1. The Cider Mill Cockagee
2. Tempted Sweet
1. The Cider Mill Cockagee Perry
2. Llewellyn's Frizzante Perry 2014
1. Tempted Elderflower
2. MacIvors Plum and Ginger
No overall winner chosen but all 4 entries highly commended for efforts.
Dan Kelly's Whisky Cask
The Cider Mill Ice Cider
Johnny Falldown Pommeau
The event was kindly hosted by the Wine Rack, Stewartstown, which hopes to stock all of the winning ciders.
On Thursday 23rd March the Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016 will have its second stage debate in Dáil Éireann. If passed, this legislation will allow breweries and distilleries to sell their produce directly to the public, revolutionising the Irish artisan drinks industry while also bringing it into line with almost every other country in the world.
Taprooms will increase beer tourism, help stabilise the current industry and attract new players to this tentatively growing field, all across the country. Independent Irish beer makes up less than 3% of the market at the moment; the presence of taprooms will help build that to the level found in fully developed beer markets of around 12-15%.
Since it was first published late last year there has been a small but positive reaction to the Bill. However, some major influencers on the legislative process, including the Government itself, have yet to express an official position. It's entirely possible that those who do not want the Bill to pass are simply waiting quietly for it to be stifled in the Dáil. As it's a private members bill introduced by a Labour Party deputy, there's every chance that that could happen.
And this is where you come in. Contact your TDs, from all parties. Write, email, telephone, meet them at their constituency clinic. Tell them that the Bill is due for second stage on Thursday 23rd. Ask them if they will consider co-sponsoring the Bill: this will give it more time in the chamber and increase its chances of surviving. At the very least ask them to vote for it, and remind them that you will be watching on the day. If the Bill doesn't make it to the next stage, at least you can say you did your bit.
For details of your representatives, see www.whoismytd.com.
For the last six years, Beoir's Beer of the Year competition has offered the clearest picture of the Irish beer connoisseur's drinking preference. That beers of such high calibre as Of Foam & Fury, Shandon Century Stout and The Full Irish have won it previously shows that we are, collectively, a discerning bunch. Uniquely, the competition has no entry process or fees, or limitations on which types of beer and from which kinds of breweries may enter: as long as it's Irish it's eligible and the only judge is the individual drinker's palate.
This year, for the first time, an additional award has been given to the best overall brewery: the one which scored the most points in total across all of the beers nominated. It exists to give particular recognition to those breweries committed to giving customers the quality and variety we seek. Fittingly, the award has been named in honour of the late Oliver Hughes who made an immeasurable contribution to the quality and variety of Irish beer.
2017 Beer of the Year
Surrender to the Void
a double IPA by Whiplash Beer, of no fixed abode
Another year, another champion double IPA. The style, while not exactly ubiquitous in Irish brewing, has certainly become more commonplace. What separates Surrender to the Void from many of its contemporaries, however, is the clean, clear and distinct flavours without any syrupiness or heat. As well as the secret combination of hops, this beer's success owes much to to the care taken with canning and distribution, ensuring it's as fresh as possible when it lands in the glass.
Whiplash arrived on the scene in the first half of 2016, though the man behind it, Alex Lawes, was well-known in Irish beer previously, from his full-time job as Head Brewer at Rye River. Surrender to the Void was brewed at Rye River, though Alex has travelled to other breweries during the year to make different recipes, qualifying Whiplash as a fully-fledged gypsy brewer.
a session IPA by The White Hag Brewery, Ballymote, Co. Sligo
It's not all about pounding great IPAs for the Irish drinker: a need for beer by the pint is still part of the national character. And few beers are as rewarding to drink by the pint as Little Fawn, the 4.2% ABV session beer that White Hag introduced in the summer of 2015. It was a bit of a gamble for a brewery which specialised in stronger, heavier beers, especially since the style of session IPA had never been brewed here before. But it paid off handsomely, becoming the brewery's most popular beer by the time it was celebrating its second birthday in July 2016.
Mosaic is the signature hop, giving it a mouthwatering tropical fruit character backed by just enough of a bitter pinch to balance the flavour.
an India dark ale by O Brother, Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow
Pester-power is not to be underestimated. Bonita caused a sensation when it arrived in a very limited edition in early 2015. The reason for it being such a small batch was perhaps understandable: it's all of 7.1% ABV for one thing, and its amazing dark malt and floral hop complexity suggested that it was very expensive to make. And sure, maybe it was just a fluke. After a year of being asked when Bonita is coming back, the O Brother brothers finally gave in in autumn 2016 and brought it back, this time sending it out bottled as well as kegged, with a small amount on cask as well. And proving, of course, that they were well capable of repeating the feat of brewing a stand-out, unique, style-defying beer. Unsurprisingly, Beoir members deemed that deserving of an award, though presumably only to ensure a more regular supply.
Among the several hundred votes cast, for a total of 135 different beers from 39 different suppliers, a handful of breweries stood out as being the consistent favourites. When the final count was tallied, The White Hag scored highest, its total spread across eight of its beers. Though other breweries had more beers in the running, it's clear that White Hag's made a bigger impact on a per-beer basis, receiving plaudits for annual seasonals such as Yule, radical one-offs like their Brett Pale Ale, as well as permanent fixtures such as Little Fawn.
When White Hag arrived in a blaze of glory at the Irish Craft Beer Festival in 2014, Oliver Hughes was amazed that a new brewery in Sligo could be producing such a high-quality diverse output. It's fitting that the first recipient of the award bearing his name is that same brewery, still amazing the customers two and half years later.
Thanks as always to everyone who voted, and congratulations to all the winners.
- Reuben Gray