Throughout the month of January, Beoir members voted on the best beers of the previous twelve months. The aim is to find the nation's favourite Irish beer -- not the most true-to-style or technically adept, but the one that the drinkers enjoyed drinking most of all.
Every beer brewed on the island of Ireland and available commercially during 2013 was eligible. From a field of hundreds, 85 different beers received some sort of preference from at least one drinker, crossing styles from pale lagers and weissbiers to spiced porters and imperial stouts, produced by breweries of all sizes, multinational industrial and local microbrewery alike.
In the end, three beers came out as the consistent favourites, making the results unusually clear cut.
2014 Beer of the Year
Of Foam and Fury
a double IPA by Galway Bay Brewery, Salthill, Co. Galway
Remarkably, this beer only arrived on the market in late November 2013 and distribution was limited to the brewery's own pubs in Dublin and Galway, though a bottled version is now available in good off licences. A massive 8.5% ABV might suggest this is not for the faint-hearted or lily-livered but it's a masterpiece of the brewer's art, drawing out fresh flavours of peach and nectarine from the hops alongside the more assertive acidic grapefruit. Its strength isn't exactly hidden -- this is patently obviously a strong beer and to be savoured not slurped -- but the alcohol is put to good use as a carrier of flavour and is not simply there for its own sake.
an amber ale by Eight Degrees Brewing, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork
An instant hit with fans when it first appeared on draught at the 2013 Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival in Dublin last September, Amber-Ella has since been made available in bottled form. The hops are a carefully chosen combination of Australian varieties: Galaxy for its jaffa and tangerine fruitiness, and Ella for a sharper, spicier edge. While the hoppiness is at the level one would expect in a pale ale, this has been given a darker malt base, adding a richness which complements the hops rather than hiding them. Originally a limited run, a second batch of Amber-Ella will be available very shortly.
Metalman Pale Ale
by Metalman Brewing, Waterford City
Though brewed for the first time a mere three years ago, Metalman Pale Ale has firmly established its place as a regular beer for the discerning Irish consumer. It cemented this position by claiming the Beer of the Year in 2013, and while it has moved aside for newer releases this year, it still beat off stiff competition from a host of other pale ales new to the Irish market. For those who have not yet made its acquaintance, Metalman Pale Ale is a 4.3% ABV session beer created with Cascade and Summit hops. Crisp citrus is the centrepiece and it manages the difficult trick of combining complex flavours with easy drinkability. It's available nationwide, on draught only, for the moment.
Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all the Beoir members who took the time to vote.