Beoir - Supporting Craft Beer in Ireland
Saturday, July 20, 2019
   
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Beer of the Year 2019

While the Irish brewing scene hasn't grown as much in the last twelve months as it has in recent years, the task of picking a best beer from the hundred or so operational breweries has not got any easier. In this the eighth edition of the competition, 73 different beers received a preference from a Beoir member, cutting across styles, strengths and county of origin. As always, every beer brewed on the island and available in the previous year was eligible and voting was open to current Beoir members.

When all the counting up was complete, three winning beers and a winning brewery were selected. And they were:

2019 Beer of the Year
Citra Pale Ale
a pale ale by YellowBelly Beer, of Wexford Town

The format of the competition tends to favour special and one-off beers, and YellowBelly certainly produced no shortage of them during 2018. It's quite an achievement, then, to win Beer of the Year with a flagship, a beer that's widely available in cans and on tap around the country. Though they've been brewing since 2015, this is the first time YellowBelly has featured in these awards.

Citra is a beer of exquisite balance, packing a lot of New World hop flavour into a compact 4.8% ABV package, without going overboard on the bitterness. Originally packaged in 33cl cans, during 2018 it was upgraded to a larger 44cl one, well suited to its moreish qualities. 

 

1st Runner-Up
Northern Lights
a micro IPA 
by Whiplash Beer of no fixed abode

The brewer of 2017 and 2018's Beers of the Year takes a back seat this time round. The Whiplash release schedule was prodigious during 2018, as was their mileage, bringing their high-end Irish beers to festivals in the UK and beyond. It was at Hop City in Leeds that Northern Lights made its first appearance, wowing the crowds with its powerful hop flavours -- Mosaic and Vic Secret in full voice -- but doing so at an ABV of just 2.8%. The way in which it tastes completely uncompromised, in both taste and texture, is nothing short of magical.

Later in the year, the brewers decided to make it a part of their regular line-up, tapping into the growing trend for lower-strength session beers. Northern Lights stands as a shining example of what can be achieved inside the sub-3% parameter.

 

2nd Runner-Up
Do You Wanna Touch Me
a double IPA by Whiplash Beer of no fixed abode

Of course, it's not the micro IPAs on which Whiplash has built its reputation, it's the banging double IPAs like previous award-winners Surrender to the Void and Saturate. Among the examples released during 2018 was this collaboration with Wylam of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

It's a punchy 8.3% ABV and represents all that's good about the New England style: the soft texture, the tropical hops plus hints of vanilla and garlic. As always, designer Sophie De Vere has provided striking artwork for the can and tap badge.

 

The Oliver Hughes Award for Best Brewery 
Whiplash Beer
no fixed abode

The Beoir member's obsession with hops shows no sign of abating so it's no surprise that the hoppiest brewer in the country has retained the favourite brewery award. Nine different Whiplash beers received votes, most of them IPAs of one sort or another.

Whiplash remains a cuckoo for the moment but has plans to open a standalone brewery during 2019.

Well done to YellowBelly and Whiplash, both fine examples of the high standards Irish beer drinkers expect. Thanks to everyone who took the time to express a preference this year.

New EU proposals on excise duty structure

EU flagThe Irish laws governing taxation on beer, including where the various tax breaks are applied and to what, are largely controlled by European law. Specifically, Directive 92/83/EEC allows member states to grant up to 50% excise duty relief on brewers producing up to 200kHL of beer annually, and allows for extra-low rates of excise duty on beer below 2.8% ABV.

The European Commission is now proposing a revision of these rules, in a way likely to have a significant impact on the craft drinks industry in Ireland. Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directive 92/83/EEC on the harmonization of the structures of excise duties on alcohol and alcoholic beverages aka COM(2018)334 can be downloaded from this page, along with associated impact assessment documents.

Three particular proposals are of note:

  • An increase in the threshold for low-strength beer duty from 2.8% ABV to 3.5% ABV

  • The creation of a pan-European certificate for independent microbreweries to assist with claiming the lower rate of duty in other member states

  • The extension of the microbrewers' duty cut to cider makers.

Of these, the final one is perhaps the most impactful and is something that Beoir and Ireland's cider producers have been calling for for several years. The Commission's proposal sets a limit of 15khL of cider to avail of a maximum 50% excise duty cut.

Feedback is being sought on the proposals from anyone interested (link). The closing date is 20th July 2018. For its part, Beoir welcomes the proposals and will be requesting that they be implemented.

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Indie Beer Week 22nd June - 1st July 2018

Show support for your local brewer!

The second annual Indie Beer Week begins on Friday 22nd June and runs through to the following weekend. This is an initiative by the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland and is made up of a series of events all across the country. 28 independent Irish microbreweries are involved, from Kinnegar to Black's of Kinsale and Bridewell to O Brother.

There will be tours, talks, tastings and tap takeovers, with many of the breweries opening their doors to the public and offering a rare glimpse at their processes.

For a full list of events, see the Indie Beer Week calendar, and follow the week on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for live updates. And most importantly, go to your local events and bring a craft-curious friend!

Beer of the Year 2018

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
Saturate
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.

 

1st Runner-Up
Ambush
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.  

 

2nd Runner-Up
The Hare & The Hag
an Irish coffee stout 
by 
The White Hag Brewery, Ballymote, Co. Sligo and
Kinnegar Brewing, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal

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 
Whiplash Beer
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.

Beer consumers send warning shot to AB InBev

The European Beer Consumers Union, of which Beoir is a constituent member, has written to the CEO of the world's largest brewer, AB InBev, expressing concerns over the company's business practices. The letter from EBCU chairman Henri Reuchlin to ABI's Carlos Brito (full text here) notes that the multinational brewer now controls 30% of the world's beer market and appears to be further intensifying pressure on its competitors. ABI now has worldwide business interests in hop growing, as well as packaging, distribution and retailing. It is obvious how this level of involvement in the entire supply chain can have a knock-on effect on the consumer as other brewers are given less preferential treatment or locked out of the supply chain altogether.

EBCU has noted in particular the creation of ABI's "disruptor company" ZX Ventures which, as well as buying up previously independent breweries in Europe and abroad, has interests in the media, bars and home brewing. ZX made headlines recently when its investment in RateBeer came to light, and it is particularly concerning that this revelation was more or less accidental: ZX is under no obligation to reveal where its business interests lie. EBCU executive member and beer writer Tim Webb has written more on the ZX situation here.

Though ABI does not operate directly in Ireland, employing C&C Gleeson as its agent, Beoir fully agrees with EBCU's position that the company's activities are a matter of grave concern, for both smaller beer producers and the consumers who drink their products. At the very least, the management of AB InBev need to be made aware that their activities are being watched. EBCU will continue to report on the consolidation activities of all multinational brewers to help keep consumers informed via its news page at EBCU.org.

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