2020 – good riddance ya filthy animal

So 2020 eh? What a year that was! Looking back to January, now seems like such a long time ago. Personally speaking for me, it was a new job in the new year, and sadly it wasn’t what I expected, and took the not to easy decision to move on from it after just under 3 months. Little did I think that Covid 19 would have such an effect on both my job hunting and of course our way of living.

It’s not my intention to write this post as a lament of 2020, but more so to highlight how it makes you grateful for the little things. Things we took for granted during our everyday lives, in the pursuit of professional and personal satisfaction. Yes. It would be remiss to say that 2020 wasn’t without its challenges, but I would like to think there has been some learning gleaned from it all.

It didn’t seem like I was out of the work force for too long, I picked up work in Logistics thanks to my Dad, a truly temporary gig, but it kept the lights on, even though it meant being in the UK three days a week doing the long run down from Holyhead to London Heathrow. This job allowed me a full reset and consider where I was going, and what I wanted professionally. It also allowed me to bring home copious amounts of Keller Pils.

Opportunity comes from the strangest places. It wasn’t long before I was having conversations with my new employers, the dance so to speak, and after a few zooms the deal was done. I’ve been there just over 6 months now, and it honestly has been like a breath of fresh air for me. It’s also helped me with my ennui, professionally, and to a certain extent beer.

Obviously the loss of keg volume has been catastrophic due to the continual lock down pretty much of hospitality, as well as loss of exports as much of Europe went into lock down. We’ve seen a massive pivot to small pack, cans especially, and also mini kegs from most breweries, but is it enough to keep the lights on? Some brewers embraced the B2C model, of engaging directly with their end customer, others kept the B2B model they’d worked with before, and in many cases for a long time. Some did a hybrid. From chatting to one or two brewers there was a huge demand earlier in the year while the weather was great and that people were stuck at home, and it went through peaks and troughs then for the rest of the year. But it was refreshing to see them up their game across the spectrum.

I thought the horse meat scandal a few years would have highlighted the need to know the provenance of what we’re buying. However, this was different, you weren’t able to travel far for food, so it put a renewed focus on local. We saw breweries across the country brew up different styles, sell multipacks and keep things ticking over. We saw one brewer become an off licence selling beer nationwide. Crisis breeds ingenuity.

Is 2020 the year that independent, small breweries finally make that breakthrough to mainstream consumers?

Anyhow, here’s a brief look back at some of my beery highlights of the year, in an abridged version of golden pints.

Beer of the Year 2020

Crushability, drinkability, flavour, sessionability, plus the fact that I bought loads of it, it has to be Ace of Haze by Black’s Brewery in Kinsale.

Honourable mentions to Four Provinces Dark Mild, Stone Barrel / Third Circle Conglomerate Centurion, Hope Beer Seasonal Red IPA.

Brewery of the Year

Third Circle / Stone Barrel / Third Barrel of Bluebell. I’ve bought a few cases of beer from them over the year, the quality and variety of their beers has shone to the fore. It also helps that they’re a sound bunch of lads too. Definitely doesn’t hurt they’re only 10 minutes from my office! My brewery of the year

Honourable mentions to Hope Beer, Blacks, Kinnegar and Whiplash.

Best Pub

Not that we’d been out a load of times this year, but I’ve popped into 57 The Headline for takeaway beers, or got them delivered. But for that brief period we could go out an visit, we had a lovely sunday lunch back in September, felt really safe, and the food was delish! Only needed a few Yorkshire puddings too.

Locally, we visited Larry & Nora’s and had a lovely dinner in the beer garden, they also serve Bru on draught which is a nice bonus too with some tasty food. We also visited Cross Guns Gastro Pub on the outskirts of Navan, for a lovely dinner. They also serve Bru in Bottles.

Best Off Licence (Bricks and Mortar)

Given the restrictions this year, we’re not blessed in Navan with a great variety of off licences, only really O’Brien’s carry any kind of range, so the majority of my spending this year was with The Winehouse in Trim. Roddy runs a lovely off licence, his staff are super helpful, and they have a great range of beers, wines and spirits. The range of beers mightn’t be as wide as others, but the range is always turning over, to ensure you’re getting fresh beer.

Best Online Off Licence

I can’t really award this to one over the other, having also ordered direct from breweries, we generally got most of our beer from the aforementioned Winehouse in Trim. However, kudos to Craft Central, Beer Cloud, and Martins of Fairview who all shipped us beer promptly and safely during the height of lockdown. They’re all doing a great job.

Best Beer Twitterer

I have to give this to Brian of Craic Beer Community. Brian started doing virtual beer festivals, with a curated box during the height of lockdown. Working so close with Beer Cloud made for a great event. He’s also started doing mystery beer tastings with Craft Central. But most importantly, he’s helping curate a community that has participants joining from outside the bubble, and this is what we need, to spread and champion our local producers. Fair play Brian.

Best Beer Blog

This has to go to The Beer Nut, I know the boak and bailey nod means a lot more, but John’s posts have been comforting in their business as usual with feck all pandemic talk. We were delighted to have John join us on a recent podcast where we discussed the merits of canned rheinbacher versus bottles.

Best Brewery Social Media

I’ve said it before, and i’ll say it again, I just love the Instagram feed of Ballykilcavan, it’s just gorgeously curated, and you feel like you’re truly joining David and his family on their journey of being a functioning barley growing farm to a working farm with a brewery on site.

Best Podcast

Ours! No no, I kid. You all know i’m a huge fan of Martin & Steve on Hopinions, but i’m going to give the nod to Eoin & DJ of The Snugcast who we had the pleasure of being on earlier this year. We had such a hoot, and the post session pints were awesome. But what swung it for me was their amazing Candemic Series. Well done lads and really looking forward to your output in 2021.

Over the next few months we are looking forward to bringing some new content to you via the podcast and the blog.

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