16/01/2015

Can you dig it?


Logan Plant of Beavertown proud
with his newly canned Gamma Ray
Canned beers have long been associated with mass-market, "stack-em high, sell 'em cheap" beers and often have connotations of low quality, metallic tasting beverages for cheap home drinking only. Yet 2014 saw the installation of canning lines at some of the UK's foremost craft brewers (Camden Town, Fourpure and Beavertown) with Roosters online in 2015 and Magic Rock Following hot on their heels with a line ordered for the new brewery. Brewdog are also moving their canning in house. So what's changed people's perceptions?

Craft beer in America has seen the can treatment for more than decade, with Oskar Blues leading the charge in 2002 and many other breweries following suit in the years since. The confusingly named Cask Brewing Systems (the supplier of most of the new UK systems) started off supplying brew kits to customers in Canada. They saw an opportunity to help brewers in the US differentiate themselves from competitors in the oversupply crisis of the late 90s and came up with the canning solution:
"These brewers were looking for creative and economical ways to increase sales“and we’ve always prided ourselves in finding solutions for our customers.  We knew that consumers were ready for cans if someone would just provide that option. So our solution for struggling brewers was to help them utilize the aluminum[sic ;)] can.” Peter Love, Founder

Cask have been there since the beginning and have done a lot of the ground work (along with the brave breweries who took the canning plunge!) debunking the canning myths and much hostility from established brewers who offered only bottled product. In the first year, Oskar Blues' (later at cask) employee in charge of can promotion (Marty Jones) even received a letter stating “I look forward to the day your company fails for attempting such a ridiculous idea.” charming!

Once these myths were put to bed however; any rational person could see that canned beer had numerous advantages over bottled beer and often preferable to draught dispense methods.The obvious one is that obviously cans are lighter than bottles; so not only easier to lug around once you've bought them, but cheaper to transport from brewery to stores. This also makes them more environmentally friendly and the life-cycle of aluminium from ground through smelting to finished product and numerous recyclings is less carbon intensive than glass manufacture.
Once you've got the can's home its easier to get them in the fridge and they cool more quickly. Its easier to drink them surreptitiously and you can take them to places where glass is banned (sports events and festivals).
In addition to this the beer actually tastes better, well all know about light strike, the process by which UV light reacts with hop compounds in bottled beers to produce a "skunky" aroma and taste. Yes, brown bottles slow down the process but canned beers eliminate this completely. Another less well appreciated issue is oxygen pick-up in the packaging process, often lead to a stale or papery tasting beer. Oxygen can also get in through bottle-caps but again cans are impervious. Modern canning lines can limit oxygen pickup to as little as 15-20ppb (that's parts per billion!). (For comparison purposes Brewdog's dissolved oxygen with all of their fancy kit is usually in the range 25-40ppb)*
Aesthetically cans look better too; giving the brewers more space to play with for eye catching visuals and they stack well creating a pleasing display in shops.

But I didn't start the post to expound the benefits of canning, I'm sure most of you know them already. No, today's post is to bring you news that the first Irish canning line has now been installed and will soon be producing beer with all of the above benefits for us to buy in the shops! From their inauspicious start Cask have gone on to work with hundreds of breweries and canned beer sales have grown in the US by >80% in the past year (whilst bottle sales grew by a mere 16%); no wonder the Irish breweries want a piece of the action!

"So who is it?!" I hear you cry; well those who have been paying attention to the Twitter sphere will already know but those of you who haven't the brewery is Metalman. As first adopters they'll have their work cut out but there are plenty of decent off-licences in the country that will stock them. Indeed the last few months of 2014 saw the arrival of some of the aforementioned UK brewers' products for sale over here. Look out for Camden Town IHL, Beavertown Gamma Ray and Fourpure Pils for three must-stock Fridge Beers

Cans being printed
 The fact that they produce decent beer (and unavailable until now in takeaway packaging) will of course see them through without any teething problems. As I type this Gráinne, Tim and the team are seeing their can designs produced in Wakefield ready to fill in to at the end of the month.



For those of the more geeky inclination, the ACS model Metalman have chosen can can 30 cans per minute. That's 1800 an hour, or the best part of 5000litres in an 8 hour day; so there should be plenty to go around if they already stretched brewery capacity can keep up! Until recently Metalman brewed on the rescued kit of one of the early microbrewing pioneers in Ireland, Biddy Early, who unfortunately were ahead of their time. This investment should help Metalman to remain a fixture in the Irish beer scene for a long time yet. Their machine also has a small footprint meaning its not eating into space required for an expanding battalion of fermenters!
(L2R:Dave Fitzgerald, Grainne Walsh, Wayne Jacques,
Tim Barber, Adam Doyle, Jacqui Kelleher.)
The first beers will be shipped on February 1st,  I for one am looking forward to buying a case!

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*In itself a massive improvement on their 100ppb plus dissolved oxygen content at their previous brew house.

14/01/2015

Time to reflect

January is typically a time for reflection looking back on the previous year and looking forward to the year to come. That is after all why the month was named after the Roman god with two faces, Janus!
And what an apt post to do it on too, number 300 - I don't think I even dreamed I'd hit 300 posts when I started this blog 3 1/2 years ago! 2014 saw a slowdown in the number of posts due to the usual excuses (lethargy, apathy and procrastination) but will endeavour to be a little more frequent in 2015.
Despite the lack of blogging the beer sampling has still continued apace with over 1100 (new to me) beers sampled. I made great headway with sampling the wide array of beer Ireland has to offer, we may not yet have the depth and breadth of the UK but we have a bigger proportion of exciting brewers with even more planned for 2015. See my roundup of new openings and my Irish Golden Pints plus Irish beers to look out for posts.
The UK too has been no slouch, with so many decent brewers now available, I'm largely content to just drink our own countries' outputs rather than searching further afield. After all its usually fresher, cheaper and more interesting than most of the US stuff we can get over here. That's not going to stop me sampling stuff when I see it on keg, or coveting other people's beers when they're travelling but the UK can now proudly offer up brews to compete with the best of the US (as my Golden pints should attest).
So enough looking back, what does 2015 have in store? Well plenty more brewery openings of course, both here and across the UK as a whole will mean even more beers to sample with some other established breweries pushing into the limelight. Hopefully this will be the year that I finally get to Indy Man Brew Con and I'd love to go back and work at GBBF after a number of years off. I of course fully intend to get to the Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival again too.
One of the highlights of the year will without a doubt be the Beer Bloggers Conference (which is in Brussels this year). With a number of pre and post conference excursions the weekend will be extended to almost a full week of beery education and frivolities. There's still time to book, hopefully see you there! Whilst on the subject of beery excursions Zephyr (The team behind the beer bloggers conference) are now also organising taste vacations, if you like good food, good drinks and travelling (and lets face it who doesn't?!) you can book a bespoke tour with them. Dislaimer: if you book through my affiliate link I get some monies!
300 posts in is also an excellent point to refocus the blog on beer and cider, especially on the island of Ireland which leads on to the launch of Our new blog (yes, Daisy is going to be writing too!)...drumroll please...DRINKS WE'VE KNOWN. Original eh? So expect to find whisky, rum, cocktails and perhaps even non-alcoholic beverage goings on at the other place. I'll try not to cross post too much, but if these things interest you please give us a follow.
That's all for now folks, thanks for sticking with me in 2014, all the best for 2015 and hope to see you all soon.

05/01/2015

Ones to Watch 2015

From Commence
So how did my predictions made at the start of the year fare?
Partizan is now well established on the Bermondsey mile and continues to pump out beers apace including some more interesting variants. Pressure Drop too continue to produce solid beers, but seem to have been less visible this year. One brewery that has been growing is Brew By Numbers, who (with the support of Brewdog) have increased their capacity, begun releasing barrel aged beers and featuring in many people's Golden Pints this year.

Wiper and True have continued to impress and are beginning to be seen out and about but are still relatively small. Tiny Rebel and Celt between them are now the best regarded brewers in Wales, with Celt continuing to produce plenty of interesting collaborations.

Top Out are another brewery who are continuing solidly but (aside from featuring in a Beers 52 selection box) have been fairly quiet. The Hanging Bat certainly seem to be producing some beers, with a slew of collaborations appearing but no facilities built as far as I'm aware!

Kinsale and Brown Paper Bag both continued to excel this year and I look forward to more from them. Farmageddon make interesting beers but some have been affected at the packaging stage. The Gold on cask at Belfast Beer Festival was excellent however. Red Hand has been fairly quiet, struggling on with their pilot kit and hopefully scaling up over the next year or so.

So that's the review of 2014 predictions (a mixed bag perhaps?) "What are your tips for 2015?!" (aside from Golden Pints) I hear you ask, well read on dear readers!

If you've been paying attention you'll know I expect big things from Boundary (I am now a part-owner after all!) with plenty of collaborations and specials already on the cards. I'm also looking forward to Belfast Brewing, helmed by the North's only Brewster,Alex (Hilden excepted, which Ann has been Brewstering at since the start, though I think Owen now does most of the day to day brewing!) Alex's beers impressed in the samples I picked up earlier this year; so look forward to seeing how they pan out when made on a bigger scale!

Moving south of the border Chris at Galway Bay has had a fantastic 2014 so expect 2015 to be the year they finally break out of Ireland and perhaps set up a bar in Belfast (please?!) and have some spare beer to send to thirsty beer drinkers across the water (either direction!). Metalman have just installed a canning line (the first in Ireland!) so looking forward to trying their excellent pale in this format. (previously only available on draught).

 See also my Irish Golden Pints, Brews to watch out for and summary of 2014 brewery openings

Moving across to the mainland Burning Sky is another brewery that has had an excellent year (sneaking into my top five at the last minute with the tasty saison l'Ete). Mark formerly brewed at Dark Star and was recognised by the British Guild of Beer Writers this year; so grab the beer when you get a chance! I'm yet to find one I've not enjoyed.

Northern Alchemy really impressed on a recent trip to Newcastle, bringing interesting ingredient additions to conventional styles, the beers are solid and interesting, good stuff! Look out for their chocolate and mint saison plus their excellent hopped pilsner.

Elusive brewing should hopefully hit its stride in 2015. Helmed by Andy Parker (@tabamatu) (winner of 2014 Craft Beer Co home brew competition) you can expect lots of hop forward pales, Belgian ales and experimental weirdness if his previous releases and home brew blogs are anything to go by!

Aside from those above pretty much anything from Buxton, Siren, Wild Beer Co, Beavertown, Partizan, Brew By Numbers, Marble, Hawkshead, Magic Rock, Tiny Rebel, Wiper & True, Redchurch, Pressure Drop & The Kernel will see you in good stead.

No suggestions for Scotland this year I'm afraid, I've not had a chance to visit since January but Stewart, Fyne, Tempest and Pilot all continue to impress, seek them out!

31/12/2014

Golden Pints 2014

Its mid December (12th) so about time I began my Golden pints post. As usual I won't be publishing until the 31st because there's still a chance that things could change before then. This year I've done a duplicate set of answers specifically for the island of Ireland as things have come on leaps and bounds since last year See Also: my beers to look out for in Ireland and look out for my "ones to Watch" post later this week.




UK&RoW
Best UK Cask Beer very few drunk this year, though I'll drink Buxton SPA whenever I see it.

Best UK Keg Beer Buxton Double Axe was superb

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer BBNo IPA 05/05 (Simcoe and Chinook), Redchurch Hoxton Stout and Siren shattered dream were my top rated UK bottled beers. Canned: Fourpure Pils really stood out and impressed.

Best Overseas Draught again, very few tried been happy with UK & Ireland stuff.





Best Overseas Bottled Great Divide Impressed as usual with both Old Ruffian and chocolate Yeti tried for the first time this year. Mikeller Amarillo IIPA also very juicy.
 
Best collaboration brew Wild Beer/ Beavertown Rubus Maximus, Tiny Rebel/ Dark Star Rebel Alliance and Hawkshead/ Lervig Green Juniper & Hemp DIPA

Best Overall Beer Wiper & True Pale Ale the Summer (but any Pale ale from W&T equally worthy of trying!)

Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label Bad Seed, single colour, basic type and parcel tags.

Best UK Brewery Wiper and True probably my top UK brewer right now Runners Up:Brew By Numbers & Buxton

Best Overseas Brewery Still Great Divide based on what I've had this year!

Best New Brewery Opening 2014 Anspach and Hobday impressed on their launch with both Porter and Smoked Brown...look forward to visiting again in 2015.

Pub/Bar of the Year Not got to very many, Famous Royal Navy Volunteer in Bristol

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2014 was Small Bar this year? Edit ah they were tail end of 2013, but as I didn't visit until this year they still win it!

Best beer and food pairing Cheese and Beer ;)

Beer Festival of the Year N/a

Supermarket of the Year N/a

Independent Retailer of the Year Alesela for keeping me topped up with Scottish stuff and for keeping me entertained for an evening in Glasgow. Ales By Mail are also still fantastic of course.
From B&B's blog

Online Retailer of the Year Eebria is a fantastic new service, good selection boxes but ordering direct from brewers is a great idea...just waiting on a Beermondsey box now!

Best Beer Book or Magazine Boak & Bailey have won this hands down though there have been many excellent books this year. Hot Rum Cow still best drinks mag.

Best Beer Blog or Website Its still The BeerCast, Zythophile and Boak & Bailey I read most these days. Special mention to Larsblog for his fantastic series on Norweigan Farmhouse Ales.

Best Beer App Ratebeer

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer Matthew Curtis (despite regularly making me jealous!)

30/12/2014

Irish Beers (&Ciders) to Watch Out For 2014

Wow, what a whirlwind of a year we've had! Ireland has almost doubled the number of brewers in the past 12-18 months, to such an extent that many of my previous recommendations in September 2013 (whilst still good beers) just don't cut the mustard when compared to newer releases. I've also been busy sampling passing 100 Northern Irish (72%!) and 315 (50%) Irish beers & ciders total. Here are some I'd recommend (obviously these beers  fit my preferences, yours may vary! I've tried to include things you'd still have a chance of finding) In no particular order...

When Chris (Galway Bay) released his  of Foam and Fury it hit the market with much hype which certainly seems justified - its been compared to Pliny (the elder, Russian River) in some quarters. Its very much in the American vein, robustly bitter, tropical fruits and lots of pithy citrus. Also worth seeking out is Via Maris the table beer produced from the second runnings.

Kinsale Pale Ale especially when fresh this beer is a juicy balanced pith-bomb and probably the beer I've drunk most of from the island this year, look for it on keg or visit the brewery to get the super fresh stuff!

West Kerry Riasc Black my bottled beer of the year in Ireland, everything I expect froma porter nd then some: toasty, earthy, dark fruits, coffee all complemented by an addition of blackberries. A one off but the Carraig Dubh still stacks up well if you can't find it.

White Gypsy Scarlet was fresh at ICBCF this year lightly tart, balsamic strawberries and slight woody dry notes. heavier fruit and vanilla come through in finish. I'm hoping its not the last sour offering from White Gypsy. It certainly won't be the only brewery experimenting with souring in 2015 (Carlow and Galway Bay have also released intentionally sour beers and Boundary brewing have already announced plans!)

Eight Degrees Hurricane IPA has been rehashed and is now at a more sessionable (but not session beer) ABV of 5.8% Full of mangoes and passion fruit without the hop burn of the stronger version...juicy banger contender?

Sarah bravely put her N17 Oatmeal Stout on cask in front of thirsty bloggers (many of whom can get stouts on cask easily in the UK) and it went down a storm; dark ruby brown, rich leafy hops, chocolate, roast barley, medium bodied, good resinous bitterness. There should be no issues then getting buy in over here, just need more beer engines installed! The only new opening of 2014 making it on to this list!

Carlow's Leann Follain is already an excellent stout, but age it in Irish Whiskey casks and the magic really starts to happen. Slightly lactic, molasses, vanilla, full bodied, slight carbonation, rich, toasty, slight sourness, warming, prunes, long tongue numbing, dry finish.The perfect bottle to share and sip around a fire on these colder winter nights.

Dan Kelly's Fiona's Fancy is a great balanced cider in the Herefordshire vein (i.e. not enamel stripping tannic but not too sweet either). the apple is punchy and tastes as if its fresh off the tree despite having been pressed three years ago with a long fruity finish.

You wait a while for a decent BIPA then three come along at once. Along with last year's highlight (Kinsale Black) this year Trouble Brewing released the roasty, lots of pine and simcoe orange then burnt toast, full body and bitter Oh Yeah and Kinnegar created a dark version of their Rustbucket with Black Bucket Rye IPA. Look out for all three!

Tempted XL (barrel aged) is a festival special; so you'll need to come to one (try Belfast or ICBCF in 2015) if you'd like to try it. You'll be rewarded with a rich molasses nose and fruity rum married fantastically with dry apple pulp and caramel notes. Drinks like water; dangerous at 8%!


Cockagee Keeved Cider is something a bit different, keeving is an historic method of cider production which leaves a residual sweetness and removes the proteins to give a clear cider full of complexity; fruity, rich, sweet, smooth, complex apple flavours, dry and tannic yet sweet and fruity.

Andrew at Kilmegan impressed with his bone dry cider last year and new Irish Farmhouse cider takes it a step further. Slightly acetic dry tart apple with honey notes. Lightly sparkling fruity Cox apples, golden syrup, dry, slightly funky in finish, some vanilla. Look out for bottles in the North.

Farmageddon Gold was excellent on cask at Belfast this year, American hop freshness against a scant malt body allows all of the tropical fruit to shine through.

Brown Paper Bag Project's Gose was most unexpected beer this year but it doesn't surprise me it was those guys that made it. Was good fun guessing along on Twitter tart pineapple with some green apple notes on nose. Medium bodied, light carbonation, tart with citrus flavours with coriander and salt following in the finish as it warms. They've since gone on to make  a rye wine, Gratzer and fresh hopped IPA.

Pokertree Dark Nirvana is certainly the best beer Northern Ireland currently has to offer. A coffee black IPA it has Coffee (of course!), fruity dank hops, pithy citrus, herbal, full bodied. Low carbonation, dry, coffee, full of pine and hemp, delicious!

Whitewater's Festival Special bodes well for what may be upcoming from these guys, licorice blackcurrants on nose. Full bodied, slightly sticky toffee, some moderate resinous hops then plenty of burnt sugar, coffee and toast. Hopefully something makes it to bottle, which it is crying out for (bottle conditioned please!)

Another beer that went down well at ICBCF  was Hilden's Mill Street IPA. Chock full o' hops and plenty of citrus oozing out. This beer exists in different iterations but hopefully Owen will settle on the best and make a large batch in 2015. Fingers crossed!

24/12/2014

New Irish Breweries 2014

With 26 27 28 new breweries this year its been hard to keep on top of all the beers coming out; but I'll try my best to summarize where we're at. My new "Irish beers to look out for" post will be up in the next few days.  As always, your results may vary.

Independent (Conamara, Galway)
The first beers I tried from independent (pale and gold) were solid enough but didn't blow me away, but the mlk stout is a different kettle of fish and really stood out as a highlight of the beer filled weekend which was #EBBC14 in Dublin this summer. They've also released a barrel aged version (I had it on keg in RDS, great stuff) and out now in bottles. More dark beers please guys!

N17 (Tuam,Galway)
Sarah really impressed with her complete ingredient life cycle planning, using spent grains to make granola for example, but here beers also stack up well too. A personal favourite is the oatmeal stout with a lovely mouthfeel and plenty of flavour, especially on cask!


Jack Doyle's*(Enniscorthy, Wexford) 
yet to try these guys!








Mescan(Westport)
My new opening of the year for doing something a bit different with Belgian styles the stout and red tripel being particular highlights.

9 White Deer (Ballyvorney,Cork) 
Only one beer so far, their Stag Ban is a decent enough APA, look forward to more from them.

Black Donkey (Roscommon)
Also just the one beer from Richard et al, but what a beer it is! Decent midstrength saison suited just fine in summer.




Blackstairs (Enniscorthy,Wexford)
I personally wasn't keen on their Ruby IPA (too much caramalt for my liking!) but looking forward to trying the fiery (jalapeno+ginger!) porter when I can get it!





Jack Cody's (Drogheda, Louth)
I wasn't particularly keen on their pilsner at the RDS this year but the Smiggy Amber is a decent hoppy amber.

Kelly's Mountain Brew  (Clane)
Is it fair to judge a brewery on a lone bottle? Probably not but wasn't keen on the Justice I picked up earlier this year (diacetyl butterbomb). Will look out for others next year.

 
Rye River (Kilcock, Kildaire)
The controversial opening of the year. Launching with some borderline xenophobic "character"(McGargles) beers was always going to raise a few eyebrows, then there was the question of it being brewed in the UK whilst they were awaiting a brewery, the link of some of the owners to big beer and the plain fact that most of the beers just weren't very nice. They're now brewing in their own (top of the range) facility and the COusin Rosie I tried at 57 The Headline was at least finishable. A few supermarket own brand ranges haven't been met wth much enthusiasm either, but perhaps something aimed more at beer enjoyers rather than drinkers will coem around next year...if not, well there are plenty of other options in the market now!

St Mel's Brewing Company(Longford)
A solid (unusual) core range of lager, pale and brown ale. Look forward to more in 2015.


 

 
White Hag (Ballymote,Sligo)
Perhaps the most hyped brewery launch of the year when White Hag arrived with 8 keglines of all new beers at the RDS. Of course publicity was helped around the Fleadh fiasco. I stupidly didn't try all of them and it now seems a hefty chunk of production is export only. Of those I have tried (IPA,Wheat and octoberfest) nothing really stood out but the Black Boar is a decent big beer and certainly not one for sessioning. I also enjoyed the Yule beer with a combination of ginger and fresh cascade dryhopped by the bucketload presenting a really zesty yuzu flavour. Certainly haven't hit on the good stuff yet but I've no doubt it'll come


12th Abbey (Trim)
Recently picked up their three beers, a solid range that would do very well in cask, the IPA (more of an APA really) being the most enjoyable.


Hercules (Belfast, Antrim)
A fairly anoymous concern up here in the North. Their lager is iindistinguishable from most macrobrews and indeed could have been a rebadge to begin with. Their Belfast Pale Ale on cask at Belfast was an interesting choice but seemed like Yardsman in cask form and was fairly flabby and unimpressive.


Four Provinces (Dublin) (Currently contract brewing at Trouble)
Hurler is a typical Irish red malt profile with some nettley hops. 


 


Cloughmore (Contract brewed at Whitewater)
A decent holy trinity with a twist (heather in the IPA). Stout decent, the other two not so much.




Hillstown (Randalstown,Antrim)
Have been a bit difficult to get hold of. Their horny bull "12%" stout appeared in The Vineyard. Good stuff but doesn't seem anywhere near its declared strength. No reply from the brewery to my questions.
JJs (Ballyagran, Limerick)
Yet to track this one down so no idea on their Hugos Pils yet! (also their facebook is MIA)

Brehon (Carickmacross, Monaghan)
Bottles en route but yet to try. Beer Nut's thoughts here

Costello's (Kilkenny) (Currently brewed at Trouble)
A decent fruity Irish red, one of the better ones of this ubiquitous style.

Munster (Youghal,Cork)
Two beers, neither very nice.

Wicklow Wolf (Bray,Wicklow)
Another one I have coming  in my next delivery. I've tried the amber so far, but that wasn't much to right home about; so again will reserve judgement until 2015!
http://www.wicklowwolf.com/
https://twitter.com/WWolfBrewery
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wicklow-Wolf-Brewing-Company/



A final handful have launched in the last few months; they're on my "to try" list for 2015!
West Cork (Baltimore,Cork)









O Brother (Kilcoole,Wicklow)

Glens of Antrim (Ballycastle,Antrim)

 
Northbound (Derry/Londonderry)

23/12/2014

Golden Pints (Ireland) 2014

This year I've done a set of Golden pints just for Ireland because I want to highlight what a fantastic selection we have here. Indeed one of my top five rated brewers this year is Irish. Read on below for more:

I've had a busy year supping almost 200 Irish beers and Ciders in 2014. We've been truly spoilt with 25 new breweries opening in the last 12months alone, almost doubling the total on the island. This should continue apace in 2015 as there are already 16 breweries (that we* know of!) in the planning phases. I'll post a summary of these new openings in the next few days but for now, here's my "best of the best" for 2014.


    Best Cask Beer: have only made it down to Dublin a few times but must The Barrelhead dry hopped pale ale certainly stands out in my memory. 
    Best Keg Beer Blacks Kinsale Pale Ale was fantastically fresh at the brewery when we visited for our Beoir brewday in 2014. Honourable mention to the much applauded Galway Bay of Foam and Fury
     
    Best Bottled Beer A last minute entry Beoir Chorca Riasc Black is just everything you would want from a porter, with added blackberries to boot. Took me by surprise and one of my top overall beers (regardless of origin)Try it whilst its available! Eight degrees Double Irish was excellent, Irish Whiskey Aged Leann Follain s;lipped down far too smoothly. Far too many others to mention!
     
    Best collaboration brew Eight Degrees/By The Horns Horn8's nest took the best elements of weisse and IPA to produce an excellent hop-forward hopfenweisse. Brown Paper Bag Project/ Fano Gose was also superb and one I hope will be rebrewed.
     
    Best Overall Beer White Gypsy scarlet, the first proper sour in Ireland, refreshing, full of flavour and hopefully not a one off!
     
    Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label McGargles (not)..not really sure, haven't been paying as much attention as to what's on the bottle as to what's in it though I'm a big fan of Trouble's bold simple motif, single colour new labels.
     
    Best Brewery would have to be awarded to Eight Degrees, for a solid, hop forward and varied range of releases this year.
     
    Best NI Brewery Pokertree continue to impress with Dark Nirvana being seriously impressive
     
    Best New Brewery Opening 2014 Its been hard to keep track of them, thic and fast openings this year. I'll pick Mescan for their unsual but solid raft or Belgian inspired offerings.
     
    Pub/Bar of the Year Norseman (nee Farringtons) for the excellent range of beers and providing a location for thirsty beer bloggers/ homebrew meets/ impromptu bottle shares. They also now have a taplist on their website, which helps we who are looking to sample new beers no end!
     
    Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2014 57 The Headline has a proper backstreet local feel to it, lovely interior, solid range of beer and (I've heard) decent food.
     
    Best beer and food pairing Franciscan Well Chieftan and Burger & Chips
     
    Beer Festival of the Year Only been to the ICBCF which is obviously the best anyway  

    Supermarket of the Year M&S has yet again proven itself with a great range of single hopped beers.
     
    Independent/Online Retailer of the Year Drinkstore is the stalwart but was also impressed by selection, prices and speed of delivery from Bradleys of Cork
     


    Best Beer Book or Magazine Slainte is an excellent guide to Irish breweries as at September 2014. I'm looking forward to more editions of BeoirMag too.
     
    Best Brewery Website/Social media Brown Paper Bag Project for release events and excellent manning of the Twitter for questions answering.
     
    Most Anticipated Brewery Opening 2015. Jointly between Belfast Brewing and Boundary Brewing...The North is going to be very different beerwise this time next year!

    *Beoir