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!

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