On Saturday April 3rd, the fourth and final Irish Craft Brewer Beer of the Year Awards were announced at the Franciscan Well Easter Beer Festival in Cork. As with 2009, voting had been open to all members of the community and every beer brewed and available on the island of Ireland was eligible for a prize. An additional prize was also awarded for a beer of particular merit which was available at the festival but not normally on sale elsewhere.
The winners were an interesting mix of cask, keg and bottled beers and represented all four provinces of the island.
I would imagine there are very few craft beer enthusiasts in Ireland who haven't heard of The Porterhouse. Not only did the Dublin microbrewery start a revolution in Irish beer, but it hasn't been slow to build upon its success. As well as owning five pubs in two countries, its beers are a regular fixture at events around Ireland, including the Franciscan Well Easter Festival and the Great Irish Beer Festival in Galway.
The company was founded by two brewing enthusiasts, Oliver Hughes and Liam LaHart. They had previously run an unsuccessful microbrewery in Blessington in the 1980s, before buying a pub in Bray, renaming it The Porter House, and beginning their expansion plans. The beer came next, with a brewing plant installed in their second pub, on Parliament Street in Dublin's Temple Bar. London then beckoned, and by this stage -- in 2000 -- the brewpub kit was no longer up to the job of keeping the bars supplied with beer. A new standalone brewery was established in Dublin's industrial belt, and it was to this facility that an ICB delegation was invited last Wednesday to field test the latest seasonal beer from the brewery: a pale ale called Hop Head.
Well, according to the Brewers of Europe it is. At least in moderation! They produced a booklet called "The Benefits of Moderate Beer Consumption", currently in its third edition (2004) which is based on a symposium held in October 2003. This conference was billed as revealing that moderate beer consumption can "reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, potentially protect against late onset diabetes and reduce the risk of osteoporosis amongst other benefits". This article takes a quick look at the booklet, and pulls some of the key points out, tongue firmly in cheek!
Following a post on the forums from a member of ICB asking about old breweries, it occurred to me that given my career path -- firstly as a land surveyor working in an archaeological research institution, to developing Geographic Information Systems for organisations such as Ordnance Survey Ireland and the Department of the Environment -- I have had maps and documents pass through my hands that provided a rich foundation for finding out more about where our native breweries were at a time when there were certainly far more than there are now, and when the surveyors recorded the finest detail about their surroundings: the early 19th Century. Armed with an online copy of A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis from 1837, I set out to find all references he made to breweries in the places he describes, and to put them on a map for all to see.