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.