You’ve skipped the longer 2020 summary narrative (fair enough) or arrived here after slogging through it, so well done. And, really, well done in any case for making it through 2020. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my favo(u)rite beer and whiskey discoveries of the year.
I love everything about Hope – quality all around, something for everyone in the standard lineup, and fantastic seasonal releases. Bonus points for being not only train-accessible, but train-celebratory: their Hop-on Session IPA features the Dart train. I LOVE TRAINS. And great beer.
Four Provinces Brew Co
MILD JOY. Gob Fluich is a perfect dark mild – absolutely the ideal ‘school night’ beer, and one that goes with everything from pizza to chocolate (so, essentially, all the key food groups of lockdown). But again, the whole lineup is delightful – a very more-ish lager and a fantastic session IPA, among other tasty beers. Very much looking forward to their pub re-opening since 1) I’ve never been and; 2) they will have a beer engine. Cask of all sorts is hard to find in Ireland, but I can’t wait to have the mild on cask. Additional plus for being a good entry point for the new learners of Irish – their bilingual approach is a handy excuse to get studying.
Wonderful beer, friendly people and top-class branding – Whiplash cans are instantly recognisable and always a sign of good times to come. I’m not, on the whole, a fan of hazy beers, but a hazy IPA from Whiplash is always welcome. There are some wonderful stouts and grisettes in the mix, too, and I cannot wait for their Fidelity Festival in 2021 (vaccines permitting). We had a great time interviewing Lynsey, Whiplash’s lead cellar brewer, on the Beer Ladies Podcast, and learned some fascinating inside information – give it a listen!
Who doesn’t love a good brown ale? While the style may currently be too thin on the ground for my liking, Ballykilcavan Bambrick’s Brown is outstanding, another ideal go-to beer with nearly everything. Once again, the year-round beers are great, and all named after features on their beautifully-photographed family farm (truly a strong Instagram game). The seasonal and one-off specials are all worth a try as well – some lovely surprises in the mix.
And on to the honourable mentions: I have thoroughly enjoyed a number of beers from Lineman, Kinnegar, Trouble, Rascals, Heaney and Yellowbelly – all Irish breweries doing a lovely job, and I look forward to more from each one in 2021.
I’m still very much learning the basics when it comes to whiskey, but have been very impressed with the various bits I’ve been lucky enough to sample from Tipperary, and love their approach to mixing technology and tradition – you can scan the QR code on the bottle to find out about the barley used in the whiskey, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Their own-barley single cask whiskey is amazing.
The whiskey is matured in seaweed-charred barrels. It sounds weird. It is weird. But it’s good weird. They also feature great art direction and beautiful bottles, but it’s very much backed up by the product inside. Another pleasant way to wind down after a day of not leaving the house.
I’ve only had the good fortune to discover all these brands through the thoughtful sourcing and speedy delivery from a number of amazing local Irish businesses – many of which had to develop an e-commerce function overnight. So, massive shoutouts to: L. Mulligan Whiskey Shop, Craft Central, Beer Cloud, The Beer Club, Martin’s Off-License and Craft Geek Merchandise – you’ve each had a hand in introducing me to a new beer or whiskey and/or kept my wardrobe up to date with appropriately-themed merch.
Here’s to a better 2021 for all.