Monday, 24 April 2017

Inaugural Beoir Champion Cider of Ireland Competition

I blogged about this back in February, but what I didn't mention is that Steve Lamond, Beoir's Cider Officer and author of Beers I've Known, had invited me to judge at it.

So Friday evening last (21st April) I travelled up with Reuben Gray (Beoir Chairman, The Tale of Ale blogger) and Andrew Moore (author of the BeoirFinder app) to Steve's house just outside Dungannon, Co Tyrone, stopping off on the way at Balbriggan to collect the final entries from David Llewellwyn of Llewellyn's Orchard fame. Steve has quite a cellar of beers and ciders, and Friday evening was spent making a noticeable dent in that (thanks Steve!). But I digress.

Saturday morning we were whisked off to The Roadside Tavern in Stewardstown where we met our fellow judges, author and blogger Pete BrownSusanna Forbes, Beer & Cider Editor for the magazine Imbibe, founder of, and boutique cider maker at Little Pomona cidery, and Caoimhe Nic An tSaoir, general foodie and the driving force behind Scullery Made. After some quick introductions it was 11 o'clock and time to start.

Pete, Caoimhe and I were on the dry category to start with, with Susanna and Andrew on the not-dry. Seventeen entries in dry, the majority of them commercial but a few amateur ciders in there too, before moving onto the speciality entries of which there were four. The other team finished the smaller not-dry category before moving onto fruited ciders and perries. Best in category winners were chosen at that point by each team. Ten entries in total made it to the Best of Show round where every judge was involved. This was more of an elimination round but once it came down to the final four or five it became seriously difficult to place as it really was cream of the crop stuff. Judging finished up just before 5pm and shortly afterwards a few commercial cider makers popped in, just in time for the awards ceremony.

Best in show round

When all done and dusted judges, organisers, stewards and some commercial cider makers headed to The Brewer's House, a beautiful gastro brewbup in Donaghmore for some of the most amazing food I've ever had. Highly recommended!

I'm absolutely delighted that Davy Uprichard, from whom I've been buying cider apple juice for the last number of years, scooped the top spot and more, but well done to all and especially to Steve and his main squeeze Daisy for being their hospitality and making sure everything ran like a well-oiled machine.

The judges were unanimous that there was a gulf in quality between commercial and amateur ciders and as I moderately experienced amateur cider maker I know that you can't just bung yeast in a random apple juice, wait for a few months and expect to have commercial grade stuff. The right apples are mandatory, usually a blend, and so is proper back sweetening (with real juice, nothing artificial), even if it's only slight. Or residual sweetness from keeving, but that's not for the faint-hearted.

Looking forward to next year already :)

Champion Cider of Ireland 
1st Tempted Dry Cider
2nd The Cider Mill Cockagee Cider
3rd Johnny Falldown Cider

Honourable mentions:
Tempted Elderflower
Llwellyns Dry Cider Frizzante 2014

Dry ciders
1. Tempted Dry
2. Llwellyns Frizzante 2014
3. MacIvors Dry

Non-Dry Ciders
1. The Cider Mill Cockagee
2. Tempted Sweet
Highly Commended
Johnny Falldown
MacIvors Medium

1. The Cider Mill Cockagee Perry
2.  Llwellyns Frizzante Perry 2014

Fruited Ciders
1. Tempted Elderflower
2. MacIvors Plum and Ginger

Speciality Ciders
No overall winner chosen but all 4 entries highly commended for efforts.
Longueville Mor
Dan Kelly's Whisky Cask
The Cider Mill Ice Cider
Johnny Falldown Pommeau

Friday, 24 February 2017

A Day Out in Leitrim!

Carrig Brewing Co (the only brewery in my home county of Leitrim) purchased the Wolf Trap in Tullamore late last year and are redeveloping and re-opening it as Tanyard Lane next month (March). To mark the occasion the owners invited some lads from around the area to travel to their brewery in Drunshanbo, to brew a beer of their choice on their 80-litre pilot kit, which in turn will be served at the launch. Props go to Liam Tutty, logistics man extraordinaire, for making it all happen.

The recipe is for a beer built by local Tullamore man Brendan Kenny, a 6 percenter oatmeal and coffee stout. The brew is unusual (to me) in that it has lactose too, so I suppose that kind of makes it a coffee oatmeal milk stout!

Around 20 or so of us beer enthusiasts travelled from all over to Drumshanbo for the day in the brewery. Thankfully everything went to plan. After the brew day was finished, it was off into Carrick-on-Shannon for some happy pints in Carrig's own bar, The Barrel Store, followed by some more in The Oarsman. (One of the owners of The Oarsman, Ronan Maher, and I, were great friends in primary school, but it will interest any readers to know that they are in the process of becoming a full blown brew pub... watch this space). Any craft beer fans ever in Carrick, there are only two places that serve a decent selection: The Barrelstore and The Oarsman. I highly recommend both!

A big thank you to all the folks that made the day such a huge success!

Some photos of the day...

The crew in the brewery

Lar, Liam and Roger in The Barrel Store

Lar, Brendan, Brendan, Anto and me, in The Oarsman

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Compeititon Time

I want to give Steve Lamond (BeersIveKnown) a bit of a leg up on this. Steve is Beoir's Cider Officer. It's a tough job but fair balls to him, he's gone and organised their first Cider Competition, which is open to professional and amateur cider makers. I think some amateur cider makers in Ireland are past the Hail Mary stage, and some aren't, but several of the professionals are producing truly excellent stuff which has already won many awards.

I hope Steve himself is judging as he was at Sourfest, as his palate is truly exceptional.

The entry page is here, make sure to read all the background stuff. Judging will be April 22nd with entry closing a week earlier.

Don't let the BJCP-look to the site put you off, BJCP is not in use.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

The Best Irish Sour Beers of 2016

...according Utappd users.

Click on any heading to sort by that column.

Boundary Brewing Sour Bake 20164.2466274
Boundary Brewing Chloe Dancer4.2177431
YellowBelly BeerCastaway4.15115
YellowBelly BeerJack Bauer's Power Shower Sour4.0681844
YellowBelly BeerFor Whom the Sour Trolls4.0518953
Otterbank Brewing Co. Beta Barrel 13.9852917
Eight Degrees Brewing No Way Gose3.9675
Boundary Brewing Silver Lining3.9225
Boundary Brewing A Berliner Vice: Derek3.9062516
Galway Bay Brewery Godspeed3.89764254
YellowBelly BeerClub Tropicana3.87534
Galway Bay Brewery The Eternalist3.84565230
Kinnegar Brewing Walla Walla3.8443998
Boundary BrewingA Berliner Vice #4 - Nearly Nilsson3.8421119
Metalman Brewing Spicy Cucumber And Fruit Sour3.8333315
Trouble Brewing Weisse City3.825463
Kinnegar Brewing High Glen3.82453161
YellowBelly BeerGreat For the Town3.80414157
Kinnegar Brewing Sour Grapes3.8037690
Galway Bay Brewery Maybe Next Monday3.78804276
Boundary Brewing A Berliner Vice #23.7870427
Kinnegar Brewing Geuzberry3.7839581
Brown Paper Bag Project Aul Bruin Bagger3.77245245
Boundary Brewing Milk Agitator3.738163
Rascals Brewing Co Project Sour: #1 the Hoppy One3.7265664
Brown Paper Bag Project Gose3.7147185
Boundary Brewing Push & Pull: Funkacidic3.7142928
Boundary Brewing Sourish Bake 20153.6969733
O'Hara's BreweryWild Side3.687516
Hope Beer Peach And Blueberry Sour3.66667111
White Gypsy Brewery Sour Stout3.6532331
Galway Bay Brewery Brigid/Ceasefire Rhubarb Sloe3.64765425
The White HagThe Púca3.64062768
The Open Gate Brewery Damson Plum Sour3.62520
Rascals Brewing Co Project Sour #3: Forest Fruit Sour3.6120758
Galway Bay Brewery Space Suit3.58648159
White Gypsy Brewery Scarlet3.57031127
Rascals Brewing Co Project Sour #2: Seriously Saison3.5408249
The White HagBeann Gulban Irish Heather Sour Ale3.525191429
Galway Bay Brewery Heathen3.52252433
Boundary Brewing A Berliner Vice #13.4246673
Metalman Brewing Razzbeer3.42325114
Metalman Brewing Razzbeer3.42325114
The White HagSearbh Rua Imperial Sour Red3.22043575
IndependentConnemara Cherry Sour3.19186129
Boundary Brewing Vilca Weisse3.17520

The wisdom of the crowd. May not be perfect, but it is what it is.

Big news this month is Boundary's Sour Bake 2016 has taken the top spot, and deservedly so. My Irish beer of the year, a beer which shows you can't hurry perfection.

From next month this list will only include beers that were available in the previous 3 months as a lot of these were specials for 2016.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Golden Pint Awards 2016

  • Best Irish Keg Beer: White Hag's Little Fawn. A simple beer, which when fresh on tap is fantastic. Runner up goes to McGargle's Big Bangin' Francis. Worst beer name ever, and a beer I didn't like much at its initial outing, but I do now. At 7.1% and on wide distribution on tap is a feat in itself. Solid beer.
  • Best Irish Bottled Beer: While available on draught at their tap rooms, Boundary's Sour Bake 2016, a barrel aged sour stout, only recently available in bottles, is totes amazeballs. This beer is simply stunning and has perched itself atop the Untappd list of Irish sour beers that I post. I cannot emphasise enough how good this beer is, and again, how Boundary are the DJs of how the current best of the Irish scene dances.
  • Best Irish Canned Beer: Choice is better than last year and Razzbeer from Metalman gets the award for being the first sour(ish) beer in cans from an Irish brewer. That takes courage. Worthy of mention is Surrender to the Void from Whiplash, a balls in your face DIPA from Alex Lawes, with superb branding from his main squeeze, Sophie DeVere.
  • Best Overseas Draught Beer: For God's sake I spent the summer in the US! Too much choice so no way to do it justice. Chicago's All Rise does the best IPA in the world, Reverend Bob's. This beer is simply stunning. If you're in Chicago check them out, they're a stone's throw from Goose Island in the Cobra Lounge, a famous Chicago pub. But there are so many more....
  • Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Arrows of Neon from the Rare Barrel. What a name, what a beer.
  • Best Overseas Canned Beer: Too many to list but Lawyers, Guns & Money from Crazy Mountain was a stand-out not only as a great beer, but a great name.
  • Best Collaboration Brew: Imbib with an Alibi, an exceptional sour saison, brewed and aged in two separate breweries and then blended. A beer to behold in the wonderful town of Reno.
  • Best Overall Beer: Boundary's Sour Bake 2016. No other comes close.
  • Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label: I rewrote this one. Whiplash. Sophie has done such a great job on branding. Beer names are awesome too.
  • Best Irish Brewery: Again, for going out on a limb, Boundary Brewing. Honourable mentions to Whiplash and to Hope Brewery for getting off to a great start.
  • Best Overseas Brewery: Cascade of Portland. Enough said, these guys could survive on reputation alone.
  • Best New Brewery Opening 2016: Not so many new breweries, but Hope gets it. Solid start and great potential. (If Whiplash was a physical brewery they'd get it)
  • Pub/Bar of the Year: The old stalwart, the Porterhouse (Parliament St). 57 The Headline too. Both exceptional. State-side, The Beerhive in Salt Lake City, the best craft beer joint in Utah, bar none.
  • Beer Festival of the Year: I've been to exactly two beer festivals in 2016. One was in the RDS. The other was in Snowbird, a ski resort atop the Wasatch Front. Great selection of beer but the fact that it's held over 10,000ft above sea level, where there's still snow in July is enough of a USP for me!
  • Supermarket of the Year: SuperValu. The range is increasing steadily, but still not a patch on....
  • Independent Retailer of the Year: Drinkstore.
  • Online Retailer of the Year: Belgium in a Box.
  • Best Beer Book or Magazine: Beer in the Beehive, a history of brewing in Utah. Did you know the Mormons were pioneers of alcohol? Written by my beer buddy (and owner of the Beerhive in SLC) Del Vance, this is one of the most well-researched beer history books I've ever read (disclaimer: Del gave me my copy of the book). A very close second is Beamish & Crawford - The History of an Irish Brewery.
  • Best Beer Blog or Website: Shut Up About Barclay Perkins. I worked with Ron Pattison during the year to re-create a Murphy's XXX stout recipe from 1916. His blog is always a fascinating read and has been the inspiration for Kernel and others. Of notable mention is the  Utah Beer Blog - written by Mike Riedel, another beer buddy of mine. Nothing goes down in the Utah beer scene without getting mentioned here first. It is the Utah Beer Oracle.
  • Best Beer App: Untappd. Coming into its own, there really is no alternative mobile phone app. Think of it as the international, social media, version of BeoirFinder. A fantastic (the only?) resource if you're in the US, and making great inroads into Ireland too.
  • Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer: The Beer Snobs. Where-ever you go, they're there!
  • Best Brewery Website/Social media: Rye River. I especially liked the video interviews with brewers. I attribute a large part of their success to Liam Tutty and Simon Broderick, though they're a man down now, sadly.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

All Irish Sour Beers Ranked - December 2016 Utappd users.

Click on any heading to sort by that column.

Boundary BrewingChloe Dancer4.2177431
YellowBelly BeerCastaway4.15132114
YellowBelly BeerJack Bauer's Power Shower Sour4.0681844
YellowBelly BeerFor Whom the Sour Trolls4.0518953
Otterbank Brewing Co.Beta Barrel 13.9852917
Boundary BrewingSilver Lining3.9225
Boundary BrewingA Berliner Vice: Derek3.9062516
Galway Bay BreweryGodspeed3.89764254
YellowBelly BeerClub Tropicana3.87534
Hope BeerPeach And Blueberry Sour3.8595973
Kinnegar BrewingWalla Walla3.8453697
Galway Bay BreweryThe Eternalist3.84498229
Boundary BrewingA Berliner Vice #4 - Nearly Nilsson3.8421119
Metalman BrewingSpicy Cucumber And Fruit Sour3.8333315
Kinnegar BrewingSour Grapes3.8176585
Kinnegar BrewingHigh Glen3.81719160
YellowBelly BeerGreat For the Town3.81376149
Trouble BrewingWeisse City3.8073861
Galway Bay BreweryMaybe Next Monday3.78804276
Boundary BrewingA Berliner Vice #23.7870427
Kinnegar BrewingGeuzberry3.7839581
Brown Paper Bag ProjectAul Bruin Bagger3.76042240
Rascals Brewing CoProject Sour: #1 the Hoppy One3.7539763
Boundary BrewingMilk Agitator3.741861
Brown Paper Bag ProjectGöse3.7202484
O'Hara's BreweryWild Side3.687516
Galway Bay BreweryBrigid/Ceasefire Rhubarb Sloe3.66888376
Boundary BrewingPush & Pull: Funkacidic3.6666724
Boundary BrewingSour Bake3.6562532
The White HagThe Púca3.65031642
Metalman BrewingRaspberry Chilli Sour3.6304323
Rascals Brewing CoProject Sour #3: Forest Fruit Sour3.62534
Rascals Brewing CoProject Sour #2: Seriously Saison3.6220943
The Open Gate BreweryDamson Plum Sour3.6093816
Metalman BrewingRazzbeer3.5882434
Galway Bay BrewerySpace Suit3.5828157
The White HagBeann Gulban Irish Heather Sour Ale3.531251392
Galway Bay BreweryHeathen3.52151430
DOT BrewSour Cherry Apricot3.465
Boundary BrewingA Berliner Vice #13.4246673
The White HagSearbh Rua Imperial Sour Red3.22847569
IndependentConnemara Cherry Sour3.18595121
Boundary BrewingVilca Weisse3.17520

It's not perfect, but it's a start. This uses some code I wrote to pull the rankings from Untappd and format them into the table you see above. I manually built the list of beers so let me know if I've missed any.

Untappd doesn't aggregate scores for beers with less than ten ratings, so they don't appear on the list. Most with less than ten seem to be duplicates that were probably entered by users who couldn't find the official brewery entry -- which reminds me, if your brewery has a beer (any beer) coming out, it's a good idea to add it to Untappd before release to make sure you get the check-ins in the right place.

Observations on the list itself: as you can see a few Irish breweries dominate in terms of volume, but there are fifteen breweries there in total. In 2015 that would have been no more than three or four, so things are on the up. The other observation is that by and large all these are quick sours. With barrel projects coming on line hopefully we'll see more complex sours in 2017.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

International Stout Day 2016 -
Brewing Murphy's XXX from 1916 - Part 1

A History Lesson

Earlier this year myself, Mark Nixon and Alain Dekoster visited the UCC Library to have a look through the Murphy's Brewery archives. As 2016 is the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, brews from that time were of particular interest -- some Irish micro breweries released "inspired by" products to capitalise on the occasion, but we went in search of the real thing. The archives contain records from around the foundation of the brewery up in 1856 up until when Heineken took them over in 1983. Our thanks go to the staff at the archives for assisting us on the day.

The Beers

In the 1860s Murphy's had the imaginatively named West India, London Extra, London Porter, Extra London, X Beer, № One, Double Stout, and Common Porter (despite the initial excitement about West India possibly being an IPA, it too was a porter), but by the turn of the 1900s Murphy's had simplified their portfolio to just four beers:
  • Murphy's Plain Porter -- OG 1.045, FG 1.015
  • Murphy's X (stout) -- OG 1.049, FG 1.015
  • Murphy's XX (stout) -- OG 1.067, FG 1.019
  • Murphy's XXX (stout) -- OG 1.087, FG 1.0285


XX grist from 1912
Much to my surprise, Murphy's imported a lot of malt from England. At the time there would have been quite a number of Irish maltsters but transport would have been an issue; bulk loads would need to be shifted by rail and more commonly water, and Cork city has an extensive port. The same maltsters appear over and over again in the records of the time:
  • Gilstrap of Newark on Trent (destroyed by fire in 1930)
  • Donegan*, probably Daniel Donegan & Sons, 19 Merchants Quay (offices and/or stores) and 5 (Lower) John Street (maltings), Cork city (right behind the Murphy's brewery)
  • Donegan Chil, barley from Chile malted by Donegan (thanks Ron!)
  • Riverstown, probably the ale brewery and maltings in Glanmire, opened by Denny Lane in the 1800s, and sold to Murphy's Brewery in 1901, according to this.
  • Thurply - while it sounds English, this was misread by me and is actually Murphy (thanks again Ron!)
  • Thorpe, a massive maltster in Essex. Closed in the 1970s. Some nice information here.
  • J J Murphy*, 4 (Lower) John Street, Cork city. 
  • Ao Calif - this is actually do Calif, which means Californian barley malted by the above, in this case Murphy (thanks yet again Ron!)
  • Bairds, still in existence.
XXX grist from 1911
* Donegan and Murphy appear in the same grists, but they may not have existed at the same time. Searching Guy's Cork City & County Almanacs shows both, but never concurrently. E.g. Donegan is in the 1884 Almanac, but not Murphy. Conversely, while Murphy appears in the 1912 Almanac, Donegan does not.

Common to all grists is Black, origin unknown. Only one malster in Ireland was making patent black malt for sale, Plunkett's of Dublin, but it's quite possible, and even more probable that Murphy's did their own roasting as we know Guinness do. And your eyes don't deceive you: there are no speciality malts other than Black in any of the grists!


X hop load 1912
There were no commercial hop farms in Ireland until around 1961, so all hops were imported. It's documented that conventional wisdom at the time in Guinness was that American hops should make up half the hop load, and it's no surprise to see them in Murphy's too. Unlike the exotic names of today's hops, back then they seem to have taken their names simply from where they were grown, or from the person who grew them. Kents show up in the earlier brewing records, but not from around the time.

  • Burley - possibly from this oast house in Rainham, north Kent.
  • Wacher - unknown, possibly also from Kent
  • Oregons -  Emil Clements Horst had one of the biggest hop plantations in the world at the time and was known to be supply Guinness. More here. Maybe he supplied Murphy's as well.
  • Hallertaus -  From the Hallertau region of Germany, a traditional hop growing area.


Brewing was single infusion mash at around 66 to 67°C for 90 minutes with XXX done in smaller batches for which Mash Tun Number 2 was only ever used. Batch sparge at around 71°C. Boil was 90 minutes.


We don't know the origin of Murphy's yeast, but we do know that it was a very poor attenuator, resulting in full bodied, fairly sweet beer. Attenuation of around 66% was typical. The only Irish ale yeasts commercially available are White Labs WLP-004 and Wyeast 1084, which are known to have originated in Guinness (who currently use two yeasts, which strain is used depends on the market) and attenuate slightly better than 66%. Wyeast 1968, White Labs WLP-002 (both apparently from Fuller's of London), and Danstar Windsor, all English ale yeasts, are probably closer to what Murphy's used in attenuation terms. Update: on further discussion with Ron it's entirely possible that Murphy's yeast came from a London-based brewery. While it's possible it's Fuller's there are another number of likely candidates, Whitbread, Truman, Barclay Perkins, Courage, etc.

Calling in the Big Guns

To faithfully reproduce a beer from the archives, we felt we had to enlist the help of beer historian, Ron Pattison. Ron does one of the best beer blogs in existence, Shut Up About Barclay Perkins; check it out if you haven't already. Ron did a trawl through the records, and we discussed it back and forth for a while. This is the resulting recipe for 5 gallons (imperial) of Murphy's XXX:

94% Pale malt
6% Black malt 
Fuggles 90 mins 4.00 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 4.00 oz (or Willamette)
Hallertau 20 mins 5.00 oz
OG 1089.1, FG 1028.5, ABV 8.02%, apparent attenuation 68.01%
IBU 127, SRM 35
Mash at 153ºF for 90 mins
Sparge at 160ºF
Boil time 90 minutes
Pitching temp 60ºF
Yeast WLP-004 Irish Ale

Yes, that IBU figure required a double take! Ron confirmed that XXX would have been aged, and possibly blended, which would have reduced bitterness. Even though it would have been relatively sweet 127 odd IBU is too bitter!

Coming up in the Part 2, what I brewed, why I brewed it, and how it turned out....