While the Irish brewing scene hasn't grown as much in the last twelve months as it has in recent years, the task of picking a best beer from the hundred or so operational breweries has not got any easier. In this the eighth edition of the competition, 73 different beers received a preference from a Beoir member, cutting across styles, strengths and county of origin. As always, every beer brewed on the island and available in the previous year was eligible and voting was open to current Beoir members.
When all the counting up was complete, three winning beers and a winning brewery were selected. And they were:
2019 Beer of the Year
Citra Pale Ale
a pale ale by YellowBelly Beer, of Wexford Town
The format of the competition tends to favour special and one-off beers, and YellowBelly certainly produced no shortage of them during 2018. It's quite an achievement, then, to win Beer of the Year with a flagship, a beer that's widely available in cans and on tap around the country. Though they've been brewing since 2015, this is the first time YellowBelly has featured in these awards.
Citra is a beer of exquisite balance, packing a lot of New World hop flavour into a compact 4.8% ABV package, without going overboard on the bitterness. Originally packaged in 33cl cans, during 2018 it was upgraded to a larger 44cl one, well suited to its moreish qualities.
a micro IPA by Whiplash Beer of no fixed abode
The brewer of 2017 and 2018's Beers of the Year takes a back seat this time round. The Whiplash release schedule was prodigious during 2018, as was their mileage, bringing their high-end Irish beers to festivals in the UK and beyond. It was at Hop City in Leeds that Northern Lights made its first appearance, wowing the crowds with its powerful hop flavours -- Mosaic and Vic Secret in full voice -- but doing so at an ABV of just 2.8%. The way in which it tastes completely uncompromised, in both taste and texture, is nothing short of magical.
Later in the year, the brewers decided to make it a part of their regular line-up, tapping into the growing trend for lower-strength session beers. Northern Lights stands as a shining example of what can be achieved inside the sub-3% parameter.
Do You Wanna Touch Me
a double IPA by Whiplash Beer of no fixed abode
Of course, it's not the micro IPAs on which Whiplash has built its reputation, it's the banging double IPAs like previous award-winners Surrender to the Void and Saturate. Among the examples released during 2018 was this collaboration with Wylam of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
It's a punchy 8.3% ABV and represents all that's good about the New England style: the soft texture, the tropical hops plus hints of vanilla and garlic. As always, designer Sophie De Vere has provided striking artwork for the can and tap badge.
The Oliver Hughes Award for Best Brewery
no fixed abode
The Beoir member's obsession with hops shows no sign of abating so it's no surprise that the hoppiest brewer in the country has retained the favourite brewery award. Nine different Whiplash beers received votes, most of them IPAs of one sort or another.
Whiplash remains a cuckoo for the moment but has plans to open a standalone brewery during 2019.
Well done to YellowBelly and Whiplash, both fine examples of the high standards Irish beer drinkers expect. Thanks to everyone who took the time to express a preference this year.