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.

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!)


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!


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!

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!

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)


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!



    I've Got a Teeling (Woo Woo)

     You'll have noticed fewer posts on here recently and perhaps you're missing regular whiskey reviews? Fear not as (along with this post) another two whisky tastings are coming up before Christmas. Despite living in Ireland I've tried very few Irish Whiskeys (Bushmills, Jamesons and Connemara). This is something I shall need to rectify in the next few years as there's a new wave of distillers coming online, especially if they produce anything anywhere near the standard of last night's whiskey. 

    The whiskey in question is the new single malt from Teeling, a new Dublin based distiller. This particular whiskey bears no age statement but its component parts are well travelled having spent time in five different casks: Sherry, Port, Madeira, Cabernet Sauvignon and White Burgundy* and are up to 23 years old.  These have come together to produce an excellent sipping whiskey (46%, non chill-filtered) at a very reasonable price (Just under £40/ €50).
    It pours an attractive pale copper, with fairly viscous alcohol legs up the sides of the glass. On the nose at first fruity oaky some butterscotch up front with an underlying Turkish delight and peppery notes.

    On warming it starts to gain some melon and banoffee pie hints, its a complex beast! The same is true in the mouth really full bodied, with sweet sultanas, meaty sherry like umami notes, sandalwood, caramel, butter, a growing saffron spiciness and of course vanilla notes from the wood. Its fairly fiery and warming, but as your palate acclimatises blueberry becomes the overwhelming note, with underlying mango. This multifaceted character helps to keep the whiskey interesting from first to last sip. Don't bother adding water to this one, it just dumbs it all down to blandness, its great as it is!
    Thanks to Steve as always for organising and Stephen Teeling for the sample. If you're down in Dublin there's a Teeling Tasting in the Norseman on Friday. The distillery should be open to the public from Mid-April next year, I for one am looking forward to visiting to see those shiny new copper stills! Cheers All and Slainte!
     *I'd love to try those constituent parts Stephen if you're reading!


    Wow, that was fast!

    On Friday I wrote about a hopeful new brewery start up in Belfast. Well that dream begun 18 months ago has almost become a reality! Boundary have hit the £70,000 target in just six days (currently £75,000) with around 300 of us (mostly Northern Ireland dwellers) joining with the board to make the vision a reality. Funding will stay open until £100,000, the closer to the stretch goal, the more fermenters and thus the more frequent the collaborations and specials that can be produced.

    Their blog yesterday also hinted at the purchase of multiple wine barrels via contacts with the excellent OX Belfast for ageing beers in. Matthew intends to brew the first (intentionally!) soured beer in Northern Ireland in the Flemish Red style which will be the inaugral brew on the new kit. This will then be aged in those barrels along with various monster Imperial Stouts to slumber  away and be brought out on special occasions. It appears us members will be given first refusal on these special brews...it seems we will continue drinking our own investment for a long time to come.

    After the keys have been obtained it will take around a fortnight to refurbish the building and install the brew kit, with the hope to be mashing in the first brew in late January. After that it'll take around 90 cases/ month to break even on overheads and after that any profits will be reinvested into the business. Matthew hopes that they'll be able to take on their first paid employee towards the end of 2016. Beers should sell in offlicences around the same price point as Kernel and Siren (as long as the "craft tax" isn't set too high), and going for 330ml bottles should really set them us apart from the competition.

    The fantastic response from everyone will mean that Matthew should even be able to afford a week off for Christmas before the hard work begins in earnest in the New Year. Thank you to everyone who has helped the dream become a reality and there's still a wee bit of time left to get involved if you haven't already; you've probably got a few days at most!

    Follow Boundary on Twitter to keep up to date with other new developments.