Since 2012, Beoir has been calling on its members to choose their favourite beers from among all those brewed on the island of Ireland. Though the brewing scene is now unrecognisable compared with then, great beers still stand out and, due to our unique selection process, get counted. Without nominations, shortlists or any other prompting, members vote in secret for their personal top three. From the marks awarded, Beoir's Beer of the Year is chosen, along with two Runners-Up and the brewery which scored highest amongst all of its beers is also commended.
Exactly 100 Irish beers received some level of preference from voters. Here are the results:
Last month, the business media reported that two of Ireland's larger and more established craft breweries had merged. One partner, BRÚ Brewery, was already the product of a previous merger, when last year the owners of Carrig Brewing in Leitrim acquired BRÚ, adopted its brand and moved beer production to BRÚ's facility in Meath. The deal also brought the five Dublin venues owned by BRÚ and Carrig under one umbrella. To this has been added the current eleven pubs run by Galway Bay. That includes The Oslo in Galway where the brewery began in 2009, though it now runs a full-sized production brewery in Oranmore. Brewery mergers and takeovers are usually not good news for beer consumers, coming as they do with the baggage of closed sites, retired brands and loss of choice. Shortly after the news broke, I caught up with Jason O'Carroll and Andy Byrne of Galway Bay in the group's newest opening, The Beer Temple in Dublin, and a week later had a quick chat with James Dunne of BRÚ, to find out what will happen to the brands, the pubs and most importantly the beer under the new arrangements.
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At this moment, world leaders are meeting in Glasgow at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). Which brought me to thinking about what the Irish beer consumer could do about the crisis facing our species. By the way, our planet does not need to be saved – just our existence on it as it changes. It is easy to take the view “let them sort it out” and continue with our daily lives. This would be a mistake for two reasons; first, they are mostly politicians subject to lobbying by big players (fossil fuel industry, mining, agriculture, and fishing interests) so could you trust them? Second, it’s an easy way out to hope that “they” can sort out a complex issue and absolve us of any action.
What can the Brewers do?
The Brewers of Europe have signed up to a new EU-wide pledge to support the shift towards sustainable food systems. Individual mega brewers like Carlsberg have gone further and pledged to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint by next year and to achieve zero emissions by 2030. What can Irish brewers do? By its nature, brewing often involves the importation of ingredients from across the world in the form of speciality malts and hop varieties not grown locally (or indeed on the continent of Europe). It’s hard to see how this can change, and who would wish to stifle innovation? But they can start by reducing the amount of water they use in the brewing process. They can look at being more efficient with energy. Then try to use sustainable packaging, labelling and transport options. But that is for them, not the consumer.
What can the Consumers do?
The first thing is the most obvious – drink locally produced beers. Support your local brewery! Reducing the distance from producer to consumer is a clear way of reducing the carbon footprint of a product.
- Be especially supportive of breweries that use Irish malt products. Some even grow their own barley!
- Be especially supportive of breweries that use other sustainable practices and are trying to reduce their carbon footprint.
- Recycle all your empty cans and glass bottles at your local recycling centre.
- Drink in the pub! This reduces the amount of packaging required.
- Travel to the pub on foot or by bicycle, or by public transport where possible.
- Reduce the amount of “beer holidays” taken in other countries and try to travel where possible by ship and rail.
- Drink less! I’ve said it, but I know it’s going to be difficult!
Does this mean that you should avoid imported beers? I will leave that one up to you!
John Stephens, 1st November 2021
The European Beer Consumers Union is this year marking thirty years since the beer drinkers' associations of Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK grouped together to fight for drinker's rights on a continent-wide basis. Since then, they have been joined by over a dozen fellow organisations, including Beoir in 2012.
Issues around taxation, pricing and consumer information remain as relevant today as they were three decades ago, while newer concerns including the buying up of microbreweries by large multinationals and the ongoing assault from a well-resourced anti-alcohol lobby have become a major part of EBCU's remit in recent years. It is vital that the beer drinker retains an independent voice in such debates, free from commercial interests and government spin, and for that reason Beoir is happy to remain an active participant in EBCU's initiatives.
Cheers, Proost, À Votre Santé, Sláinte!