2018 is the seventh consecutive year in which Beoir has chosen a Beer of the Year and two runners-up. As always, the net is cast as widely as possible, with votes coming in from Beoir members all over Ireland, and abroad, and beers selected purely on merit alone, regardless of style, strength, availability or brewery size or ownership. The only criteria is that beers be brewed in Ireland and commercially available during the previous twelve months. It is the purest impression possible of what the discerning drinking public appreciates in Irish beer.
This year a total of 107 different beers received a preference from the voters. From this a top three was chosen mathematically and for the second year running the highest-scoring brewery overall was awarded the best brewery prize.
2018 Beer of the Year
a double IPA by Whiplash Beer, of no fixed abode
It has been a momentous year for Whiplash, beginning of course with it winning Beoir's 2017 Beer of the Year for a previous double IPA, Surrender to the Void. Since then there have been no fewer than five new beers in the same style using different hop combinations. Despite this variety, quadruple-dry-hopped Saturate won drinkers' hearts, topping the table by the highest margin in the history of the competition. The recipe showcases Mosaic hops, employing 20g of hops per litre of beer, and captures their tropical essence perfectly.
Late 2017 saw Whiplash move from its usual headquarters at Rye River and become fully independent, with co-owners Alex and Alan making the project their primary occupations. Alex is working temporarily at Larkin's Brewery in Co. Wicklow, and it's expected the next batch of Whiplash beers will be from there.
a pale ale by Trouble Brewing, Kill, Co. Kildare
Despite a number of near misses over the years, and some very deserving beers, this is the first time Trouble Brewing has featured in the Beoir awards. Ambush's success is a combination of persistence, fashion and of course sheer beer quality. Version 1.0 arrived in early 2017 and two further numbered editions were to follow, all excellent, before the brewery settled on the recipe which is now regularly available, on draught and in cans.
There's a nod to the New England style in here, with its cloudy appearance, soft texture and low bitterness. It avoids the extremes, however, keeping everything fun, juicy, and very drinkable.
At the 2017 Alltech Brews & Food Festival, Kinnegar and The White Hag shared a stand and launched this collaboration beer, brewed on the White Hag kit and presented as the first in a North-Western collaboration series. Though there's nothing new about putting coffee in stout, or ageing it in whiskey barrels, and certainly nothing new about serving it nitrogenated, the combination of these elements here is greater than the sum of its parts. It's smooth without being dull; warming without being boozy and flavoured without being a gimmick.
Of course, as a special edition beer, it may never return to draught again. There might still be a rare bottle or two around, however.
The Oliver Hughes Award for Best Brewery
no fixed abode
OK, so it's not a brewery as such. Recently, Whiplash has produced beers at Rising Sons in Cork and Boyne Brewhouse in Drogheda, as well as its original home of Rye River. We've had collaborations with Galway Bay (Ireland), Max Lager's (USA) and Beerbliotek (Sweden). Though pale 'n' hoppy is the principal specialism, with a significant portion of recent output being double IPAs, 2017 saw the first Whiplash Berliner weisse and its first quadruple. A black IPA is apparently in the tanks for early 2018 release.
Though Saturate (above) garnered far and away the most votes, the other double IPAs scored highly too, indicating that Whiplash is very much in tune with what the Irish beer enthusiast enjoys drinking.
Thanks as always to everyone who voted, and congratulations to all the winners.
- Reuben Gray
Beoir performed the judging at the 2018 Cask and Strange Brew Festival in Cork which takes place at the Franciscan Well each year. The judging was performed on Saturday, January 27th between 1pm and 5:30pm and 30 beers were judged in total on the day. I should say that not every beer at the festival could be judged, only those that were available to judges on Saturday during the judging period. Most beers that were running out on Thursday and Friday were bottled for judging but some were missed. Likewise, a few beers were not tapped until after judging was complete but overall, these winners represent the best beers available on the day.
We also had some audience interaction this year. I performed a talk on how to judge beer to seven audience members. Six of these stuck around to help judge the Strange Brews category. The strange brews category included everything in the specialty category and also any kegged beer that was on. They judged the available beers at that time which totaled five out of the eight beers entered in that category. I'm happy to report that our fledgling judges managed to pick the same top three beers as our experienced judges up until this point.
So now to the results. The overall top three beers were announced on Twitter that evening.
Category Winners 2018
- Stout / Porter - Brehon – Shanco Dubh Porter & YellowBelly Dark Abbey
- Pale Ale / Lager - White Hag – Bran & Sceolan IPA & Yellowbelly - Citra Pale
- Dark Ales - Barrelhead – Amber
- Specialty - West Kerry – Barrel Aged Winter Ale
- Strange Brews - West Kerry – Barrel Aged Winter Ale & 9 White Deer - Mexican Imperial Stout
The act of including the kegged beers in the competition led to an interesting result. Only two kegged beers were entered and because there were a number of joint places, 8 beers ended up in the final instead of 5, one of which was kegged.
- 9 White Deer - Mexican Imperial Stout (keg)
- White Hag – Bran & Sceolan IPA
- Yellowbelly - Citra Pale
It's worth saying that even though the winning beer was actually served from a keg instead of a cask, I think the judges agree that it probably would have won if it were served on cask anyway. In fact, it would likely be even better on cask.
The beer is simply stunning and 9 White Deer deserve all the credit for brewing it. It's officially called Imperial Stag and it's a whopping 13.5% beer that was brewed as a 75 litre pilot batch. I think it's safe to say that this will now be scaled up to a full size batch. You can read more about the beer here.
There is no shortage of books on English pub life and pub culture. It is, after all, as essential a part of that nation’s self-image as the café is to Paris or the beerhall is to Bavaria. Popular works on the pub, however, have tended to take an overtly celebratory or sentimental approach, and this much is noted by Boak and Bailey at the beginning of their latest work on the subject. But 20th Century Pub: From Beer House to Booze Bunker is no tub-thumping demand for the pub to be recognised as the cornerstone of civilisation, nor a misty-eyed look back at an ornate past full of horse-brasses and handpumps. There’s a proper academic rigour to their treatment, while avoiding getting bogged down in detail.
The structure is broadly chronological, beginning at the creation of the modern pub in the 19th century from an amalgamation of the tavern, inn and beerhouse: each serving a different market need in their own ways. From the resulting Victorian pub, we follow developments through the social optimism of the early 20th century, the upheavals of two world wars and their aftermath, and into the pub diversification that we know today. The later chapters focus on specific archetypes of British pub: the theme pub and its most popular spin-off, the Irish pub; the gastropub; the superpub and the more recent developments of the community-run pub and the micropub. In each case we get illustrative examples, fastidiously researched and presented with original documentary sources, first-hand interviews and real-life visits. The authors clearly put in significant mileage when putting the book together and it really stands to them in the observations and photographs they provide.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is how many other corners of life and society it touches on. Urban planning and development is obviously a major factor in how pubs have evolved in Britain, likewise the class system, attitudes to women, and of course the temperance movement. All of them play bit parts in the drama, stepping in and out of the narrative as required.
Fans of the authors’ first book, Brew Britannia: The Strange Rebirth of British Beer, will enjoy the similar style in this one: a big picture, sliced into easily-digestible chapters and fleshed out with colourful characters and anecdotes from behind the scenes. It’s narrower in scope, however, and speaking as a beer person more than a pub person, I found it somewhat less engaging. Your mileage may vary of course. Overall it’s an excellent look at recent British history through the lens of the pub, and certainly more substantial than any number of glossy coffee-table works.
- Reuben Gray
When you think of great beer cities in Ireland, you wouldn't normally include Limerick in that list but things have changed significantly in Limerick. We just had the Beoir AGM there last Saturday and were met with a very warm welcome. Craft beer aside, there are some fantastic pubs there and now with local Limerick beer available in many. While specialist craft beer pubs are short on the ground, the ones that are there are doing an admirable job.
Mother Macs and the recently opened Wickham Tap are flying the flag for not just Irish Craft Beer but especially local Limerick beer such as Treaty City. Both pubs do serve regular macro beer too but they are both biding their time until that's no longer necessary.
Treaty City Brewing themselves went above and beyond by providing us a wonderfully entertaining and informative brewery tour thanks to Stephen.
What makes Limerick so special? We really needed to be there to understand it but Limerick seems to lack a lot of the big chains that have blighted many Irish cities. Everywhere you look there's a local café or bakery. A local barber, local pub, local shop. The only big chain coffee shop we noticed was in the train station, although I believe there's one other somewhere in the city. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples of big, foreign chain retailers in the city but the area we were in was all about the local community. The biggest chain of anything we saw were a number of pubs called Flannery's which is only a chain in the sense that they are run by the same family. However they are run separately by different members of the family.
What does such a close community do to promote local craft beer and local pubs? They join forces and brew a community beer.
The night before the AGM, the beer was launched and Beoir members tried it on Saturday morning while visiting Mother Macs, before the AGM started. It was a very good beer too.
Here’s some of the press release surrounding the beer:
The beer is the result of a unique collaboration between the publicans of the Market Quarter and Treaty City Brewery.
Developing a beer from scratch is a long process that includes extensive research and numerous tasting sessions.
The result is the creation of ‘The Market Quarter Beer’, a light beer with a floral, citrus hop aroma.
“The Market Quarter beer is slightly floral and fruity with a medium malt flavour. It is an incredibly drinkable session beer low in bitterness and light in colour” explains Stephen Cunneen of Treaty City Brewery.
Not only is the beer unique, but the way it was developed is unique. It began with the Market Quarter publicans discussing the potential for a common beer, which would be exclusive to their pubs only. The publicans then met and discussed what could be done with Stephen Cunneen of Treaty City Brewery and a partnership was formed.
This is the first time this sort of approach has been undertaken anywhere in Ireland. It caters for traditional drinkers and craft beer enthusiasts alike.
James Lennon, Chairperson of the Market Quarter described the launch of the Market Quarter Beer; “We’re delighted with the launch of our Market Quarter Beer. It’s something that has brought us all together as a group. People are looking for a different drink experience, we can see that in the expansion of the craft beer and gin market. Customers want something more authentic. Therefore, we have developed this beer and want our customers to experience a new brew that’s interestingly delightful, and most importantly 100% Limerick made. We have loved creating it so we hope that you will love tasting it!”
The pubs where the beer is available are as follows.
- Smyths Icon
- The Red Hen
- Mother Macs
- The Old Quarter
- Phil Flannery’s
- Nancy Blakes
- Charlie Chaplin’s
- Angel Lane
- The Library
- The Office