- Reuben Gray
Last month, Beer Ireland launched their Micro Brewed badge and it has since started to appear on bottled beer and possibly on pump clips too? I'm not sure about that one.
For those that don't know, Beer Ireland is one of the two industry groups that represent craft breweries in Ireland with the other being the ICBI. Don't forget, Beoir represents the consumer and not necessarily the interests of the industry, though the two tend to go hand in hand when it comes to craft beer.
Beoir welcomes an attempt to provide a label that consumers can use to identify a beer as being independent. While being from an independent brewery doesn't necessarily mean the product is better, it does mean that it comes from a small brewery that supports local jobs and industry rather than a foreign owned multinational. One could consider it similar to the Guaranteed Irish badge except that it's more restrictive. At its core, the badge allows the consumer to make an informed choice to support a verified independent brewery.
To qualify for a Beer Ireland Micro Brewed badge, you need to meet the same definition Beoir uses for Irish Craft Beer with the addition of one.
- The beers have been produced in a brewery on the island of Ireland.
- The brewery is legally and economically independent of any other brewery.
- The brewery meets the legal definition of micro brewery.
- The brewery owners are professional members of Beer Ireland.
The last one means that the absence of the badge doesn't mean it's not a micro brewed beer, it simply means they are not a member of Beer Ireland and are perhaps a member of the ICBI or perhaps even not a member of any industry group at all. It's also worth noting that the criteria is all about the brewery that produces the beer, not the brand. A contract brand brewed by an independent brewery would still qualify in the same way it qualifies as Irish Craft Beer under our definition.
If you are ever in in doubt, just check the Beoir A - Z list. If it has a green tick, then it is a micro brewed beer and meets our definition.
The world’s longest lasting piece of consumer legislation, the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot, which aims to protect the purity of beer recipes, celebrated its 500th anniversary on Saturday, 23rd of April 2016.
The European Beer Consumer Union (EBCU), which speaks for beer consumer groups across Europe, hailed it a major contribution to the concept of protecting beer consumers by setting brewers some basic standards since 1516.
However, EBCU also sounds a note of caution for its future relevance.
“The strict rule that excludes the use of sugar, syrup, starch, maize and rice in beer brewing is still relevant to brewing classic German beer styles like Helles, Münchner, Märzen, Kölsch, Altbier and others” said EBCU Chair Henri Reuchlin, adding, “but the restrictions on the use of alternative ingredients is getting in the way of the German brewers developing their own take on beers from other European brewing traditions. It also has the potential to interfere with the revival of some older, local German beer styles, which is not so helpful.”
EBCU believes that a modern equivalent of the Reinheitsgebot would impose improved standards of beer labelling, by insisting that beer labels in the EU should all list ingredients and state which brewery company made the beer.
The Reinheitsgebot was originally known as the “Surrogate Prohibition”.
It was introduced in 1516 by the then Dukes of Bavaria, Wilhem IV and Ludwig X, as a way of dealing with a price war that had developed between brewers and bakers over the purchase of wheat. It also allowed them to address longer standing concerns that brewers were polluting beers with herbs, root vegetables, fungi and animal products.
It was brought in on St George’s day (23rd April) as this marked the end of the traditional brewing season in much of central Europe, which begins on St Michael’s day (29th September). Before affordable large-scale refrigeration was brought in around 1865, the summer months were deemed too hot for beer to ferment safely.
At that time there were two basic types of beer. Brown beer was made with malted barley and white beer contained a large amount of wheat. The original diktat effectively outlawed the lighter, more summery wheat beer, stipulating that beer could only be made from barley, hops, and water. Yeast was not mentioned, as its nature was not yet understood.
However, the ban on wheat was soon withdrawn in favour of a heavy tax on its use in brewing. This was replaced in 1602 by a licensing system introduced the Elector of Bavaria, Maximilian Wittelsbach, though he faced much criticism when all the licenses were bought by members of his family, who held an effective monopoly for the next two centuries.
As the German states came together under Bismarck, many adopted this Bavarian standard, in doing so outlawing numerous historic local beer styles that used outlawed ingredients such as salt, spices or herbs.
The universal adoption of the Reinheitsgebot in 1919, was made a condition of Bavaria accepting its amalgamationinto the new Germany.
The Reinheitsgebot was formally withdrawn in 1988 after the European Union declared it a restraint of free trade, although many German breweries abide by its tenets to the present day, as do most brewers in Austria and many in the Czech Republic. To this day it is accepted as the gold standard, by craft brewers in many parts of the world, especially when making pale lagers.
Industrial lagers, including many of the world’s best known brands, substitute sugar, syrup, starch, maize or rice for malted barley, reducing the amount of background grain flavours featuring in the beer and accounting in part for their relative lack of flavour. These may be and sometimes are substituted for up to a third of the grain bill (the fermentable sugars).
This is the fifth run of Beoir's annual awards, seeking to find the drinkers' favourites from among the beers produced in Ireland. Given the ever-growing number of breweries in Ireland, and the range of beers that the established players have been coming out with, competition was understandably intense. A record 150 different beers received a nomination by the members of Beoir who cast their votes through the month of January 2016. Every beer produced on the island of Ireland and commercially available during 2015 was eligible and as always the top three favorites receive awards. Beginning with...
2016 Beer of the Year
Of Foam & Fury
a double IPA by Galway Bay Brewery, Galway City
Galway Bay Brewery's double IPA is no stranger to the Beoir awards podium, having won a trophy every year since its release. After scooping the top prize in 2014 it was beaten into third place last year but has now regained the crown. It polled steadily throughout the month of voting and emerged as the clear winner at the end.
First brewed in late 2013, Of Foam & Fury has become something of an ambassador for Irish craft beer, its big and bright new-world hop flavours making it a world class offering. As head brewer Chris Treanor passes the baton to his successor Will Avery, Of Foam & Fury is a significant part of the legacy he leaves at Galway Bay.
a rye pale ale by Kinnegar Brewing, Rathmullan, Co. Donegal
This is the first time Kinnegar has featured in the Beoir awards though Rustbucket, brewed since 2013, has always been popular, even spawning a spin-off dark variant: Black Bucket. It's another bright and fresh hop-forward beer, bursting with tropical fruit and with a sharp, invigorating bitterness given an extra edge by the grassy rye flavour. Kinnegar's output over the last year has been phenomenal, with a seemingly endless sequence of experiments and one-offs. The affection that the drinking public has for Rustbucket shows that the core range is by no means being neglected.
a sour heather ale by The White Hag Brewery, Ballymote, Co. Sligo
Sour has never been so popular in Ireland and it was only a matter of time before one such featured in the Beoir awards. In fact, all three breweries here have been experimenting in the sour genre of late. Beann Gulban, in its current form, first appeared in late 2015. In contrast to the hoppy winners, this is made with heather in place of hops making it an incredibly complex, and unique, flavour experience.
Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all the Beoir members who took the time to vote.
- Reuben Gray
Beoir would like to offer a heartfelt congratulations to Seamus O’Hara on his appointment as the new Chairperson of the Irish Brewers Association (IBA). Seamus set up the Carlow Brewing Company in 1996 which celebrates its 20th birthday this year.
To say that Seamus was a pioneer of the craft beer industry in Ireland wouldn’t do him justice. Seamus has helped to see Ireland in to the 21st century in terms of beer choice and the promotion of independent brewing and has been at the forefront of what some might term the craft beer revolution in Ireland. He was also among the first independent breweries to export beer outside of Ireland and has done so for the last 20 years.
Beoir has an excellent relationship with Seamus and we expect that to continue in his new role. While independent brewing still makes up a small part of the market, it is growing every year. This is despite the fact that global beer consumption has been slowing down. It shows a new level of respect for what was once a fledgling industry. There are approximately 75 independent breweries on the island of Ireland now and that number increases every year.
We wish Seamus the best of luck and expect some interesting times ahead for independent brewing in Ireland.