It's that time of the year again. The time of year where I get to give my own personal review of the past 12 months and pick some of my favourites. 2014 was probably the busiest year in Irish Craft Beer history with a record number of new breweries opening, multitudes of new contract brands appearing and a plethora of awesome Irish beers hitting our shelves and bars.
Best Irish Cask Beer:Ireland is not known for cask ale but it has made a comeback. Unlike the UK, cask ale in Ireland is a premium product. It often costs the same or more than its kegged counterpart. Only a few breweries do regular cask ale and then others do specials from time to time, usually at beer festivals. For me, the best cask beer which was consistently good throughout the year was the Barrelhead pale ale. Brewed at the J.W. Sweetman's brewpub in Dublin, it never lasted much more than a day or two whenever it appeared which meant it was always fresh and delicious.
Honourable mention to Dungarvan's Black Rock stout, one of the best cask stouts I have ever tasted.
Best Irish Keg Beer:
Best Irish Bottled or Canned Beer:
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer:
Best Collaboration Brew:
Honourable mention to
Best Overall Beer for 2014:This is never one that I can pick with ease. Last year it was easy. Of Foam And Fury (Galway Bay) just blew everyone's mind and it still does. Beoir#1 was similarly excellent. Where Of Foam and Fury was all about the hops, Beoir#1 was a little more about the body with the massive hop levels balancing that out. Was there a better beer than Of Foam And Fury in 2014? I have no doubt that there was but it still stood out for me as being a world class beer without equal.
Honourable mention to Brown Paper Bag Project: Gose, a wonderful beer of almost unequalled thirst quenchability.
Best Irish Brewery:How does one pick a Best Irish Brewery? I didn't even bother last year. What sort of criteria does one use? Is it the brewery that produces the best beer? Or simply has the best people working for them? Or maybe they just do a lot for the Irish Craft Beer Scene? There are so many to choose from. In order to make my decision, I have combined as many elements as I can and decided that the best Irish Brewery of 2014 was the Galway Bay Brewery. There are a number of reasons for this. Their beer has pushed the boundaries of Irish brewing and in doing so, forced other breweries to up their game. Their bars have provided a gathering place for craft beer fans to crowd together and enjoy great beer, be it their own or someone else. They are a great bunch of people, are intelligent in running their business but still know how to have a good time.
Honourable Mention to The Carlow Brewing Company who have done so much for raising the profile of craft beer by running large beer festivals each year. They have helped turn beer festivals from small gatherings in beer gardens in to massive events with thousands of attendees.
Best New Brewery Opening 2014:I don't even have to think about this too much. The White Hag Brewery stormed on to the scene with a bang. First, there was the outrage and indignation following the FleadhGate scandal. Then they boldly showed up at the RDS in September with a whopping 6 beers pouring. To top it all off, they had the audacity to be pouring outstanding beers! This was a brand new brewery, how did they do it? That was easy, they had a little money behind them and imported an American brewer with 10 years experience. They are joining the ranks of Irish craft breweries exporting to the US, this will help increase demand for Irish beer and help drive the export market.
Pub/Bar of the Year:
Best Food and Beer venue:
Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2014:
Beer Festival of the Year:
Supermarket of the Year:
Independent Retailer of the Year:
Online Retailer of the Year:We don't have too many of these but drinkstore.ie again wins it for me.
Best Branding, Pumpclip or LabelI'm going to go with a non Irish one here. I think the Beavertown branding is just brilliant on their new can range.
Honourable mention to Trouble Brewing for their inventive cartoon bottles.
Best Beer Book or Magazine:Book: Sláinte – The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider. Ireland finally has a decent book on craft beer and cider. It's aimed more at those new to beer but is entertaining and informative enough to keep the experts happy too and not to mention accurate.
Magazine: Beoir magazine of course. That reminds me, I have to start thinking about the next edition after Christmas. Note to self, print more than 7000 copies.
Best Beer Blog or Website:I don't get to read too many beer blogs regularly these days but The Beer Nut is one that I make time for.
Honourable mention for Fuggled.net for keeping me informed of the goings on of a cask starved Scottsman in Virginia and for getting me in to this whole beer writing thing back in 2008.