With beer, a Flagship is the beer that defines a brewery. It’s the one that you immediately think of when you hear the brewery’s name, the one that most people associate with the business. In most cases, it is their best-selling beer and often the one that outsells all their other offerings by a wide margin. A good flagship also allows a brewery to be able to afford the seasonals, specialty beers and the other one-off beers in their lineup.
As we hurtle towards February, thoughts turn to Flagship February, an initiative brought to us by Stephen Beaumont, Jay Brooks, Porter Hughes, and Eric Warner, where we remind ourselves of THE beers that made us fall in love with certain breweries, Whether it’s Punk IPA, or Anchor Steam, each brewery has a flagship beer. I threw the question out on Twitter for Irish suggestions. So here are some of the standout Irish Flagships, in no particular order here they are. (I was happy to see some of my favourites were mentioned more than once!)
Trouble Brewing – Ambush (Juicy Pale Ale)
Mentioned more than once, and a beer that’s got the ultimate catchphrase, “Lads, I’m Back on the Ambush” courtesy of the legendary John Coote. While this wasn’t one of their original core beers, it’s got to be a flagship now as it’s widely available, and is always in tip top form!
Hope Hop On Session IPA
Lamenting the lack of airport travel in 2020, my usual trick of picking up a pint of Hop On – Hopes delicious session IPA, in the Marquette bar before my flight. However, as a core beer this beer is always widely available and does exactly what it says on the tin. Refreshing, Bitter, and crisp.
Kinnegar – Scraggy Bay
Donegal’s Kinnegar have a great core range and regularly release great specials, one of the most consistent brewers in the country. Scraggy bay was always a beer if i saw it on draught anywhere, i’d have it, then when they canned it, it became a staple in the fridge. Delicious IPA. Though some would argue for Crossroads, I feel this is a suitable beer to call a flagship.
O’Hara’s – Leann Follain
Straight up OG Stout from Carlow Brewing Company. Rock solid, dependable, and blooming tasty as. A beer that reminded me how good a stout can be. People might argue for O’Hara’s Pale Ale, but this is a much better beer from their stable imo. Widely available and very good value for money also.
McGargles – Big Banging IPA
One of the great Irish IPAs, easy to forget it’s been around a while now. But this is a great IPA, widely available and part of a great core range that includes a great session IPA too.
Thankfully we are totally spoiled for choice nowadays, we’ve got saison, IPAs, Pale Ales, Stouts, and Sours that form part of breweries offerings, and in some cases are infact show cases, such as Black Donkey’s Sheep Stealer, Yellowbelly Castaway, Blacks of Kinsale KPA, Stone Barrel’s Boom and many many more
Remember, the beauty about flagship beers are they are there all the time. Let’s take a moment to appreciate beers that have laid the foundations for brewers to go nuts experimenting with styles, additions, and techniques. You will be able to get these in your local independent bottle shop / off licence, even in your supermarket when you’re picking up the groceries. Give some Irish Beers a chance, and you’ll never go back.
Get involved in the twitter thread that i’ll keep pinned to my profile for the month of February 👇. Sláinte
So, as is the trend in January, human nature. We step on the scales, and think. Oh. Born from that is a trend that ordinarily would see 1000s of people sign up to gym memberships that people use for a month then don’t use, and normally tied in for 12 months. Personally, for me, it’s a combination of covid, Christmas, and a change in my circumstances.
I’ve gone from having a 25 minute walk from the train station to my office, to driving pretty much door to door. Combined with golf clubs being closed, my regular game of five a side binned, and general levels of lethargy has led me to move to a lower carb heavy diet. Beer is liquid carbs. Let’s not forget that. Not exactly compatible with a beer centred podcast and blog! 😆
Thankfully, with a number of US brewers beginning to churn out low cal / low carb beers, so I decided to pick up a couple and give them a whirl.
First up, Firestone Walker – Fly Jack Hazy IPA. The can tells us that there is 96 calories, and 5g of Carbs in each 355ml cans. The Firestone Website, lists the hops as follows Kettle: Cascade, Callista. Dry Hop: El Dorado, Chinook, Mosaic, Strata, Sabro, Idaho 7 Appearance – as you can see, it’s a nice straw hazy body. Thin white head, that dissipates quickly Aroma – Faint hints of grapefruit zest and tropical fruits Taste – Bitterness, and citrus comes through on the taste. Crisp dry finish. Mouthfeel – As is expected in beers of this ABV, it is a little bit thin, but forgivable as they’ve packed a good amount of flavour. Overall first impressions, i’d drink this again for sure. Knowing it’s not going to damage my carb intake too much, it’s a very nice change from drinking spirits with sparkling water or slimline tonic!
Next up, Oskar Blues – One y IPA 100 calories, and 5 grams of carbs Dry hopped with El Dorado, Comet and Citra Appearance – lighter in body shade than the Firestone beer, with a slightly better head, which too dissipates quickly Aroma – Faint citrus on the nose, small amount of biscuit aroma. Taste – Quite bitter, a little unbalanced actually, needs sweetness to balance this, but seems to be too much bitterness going on Mouthfeel – as above a light body, which is to be expected. Overall, i preferred the Firestone beer.
Now, I’ll admit, I poorly researched this choice, I had assumed that because this was a lo calorie session version of Cigar City’s Jai Alai that it would automatically be a low carb beer. There is 11g of carbs in this can, and when I drink it, this is very apparent. I CAN TASTE THE CARBS PEOPLE! Here we have Jai Low by Cigar City which is a session version of their world renowned IPA, Jai Alai. The brew team in Cigar City cite their inspiration being British Bitter, and this evidence from the appearance of this beer. Appearance – darker than the other beers, very reminiscent of an English bitter. Aroma – Orangey aromas with a hint of malty biscuitness Taste – Orangy citrus carries through to flavour, balanced with a bready sweetness, with a familiar bitterness. Mouthfeel – Those extra carbs do add body, and this finish less dry than the previous beers, but it is a nice weight of body for it’s ABV Overall – this is a suitable little brother to Jai Alai, familiar notes, with a lot less ABV, and more drinkability.
So i’ve learned a valuable lesson there, low cal does not equal low carb. Low Carb does tend to be crisp dry finishes. This must have something to do with the Final Gravity being as low as possible. The Cigar City beer stands out just because it tastes like a low abv beer brewed without the compromise of low carbs there. But at 11g grams of carbs, it’s a literal treat as a few of them would smash your low carb limit if you were following a moderate low carb diet.
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 Year2020
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.
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.
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.
It’s a little bit late in the year for new years resolutions but i’ve got some great intentions to do some wonderful things with these pages here, and to kickstart this, i’m going to post a list of some suggestions for festive presents for people, but these don’t just have to be for Christmas, they could be a gift for any occasion.
2020 has been a strange year, due to Covid 19 our lives have changed, whether or not this is permanent will remain to be seen, but one green shoot of hope i’ve seen is there seems to be a very conscious effort to support local based businesses rather than large multinational conglomerates. There is no denying we will ultimately end up spending some money in these places, but if we choose to spend more locally it is simply money that stays in the local economy.
I’m a fan of twitter threads as being a good source of information, so people can reply with their suggestions, but the gifts below are some of the more stand out ideas i’ve seen.
Yellowbelly Beer Pack & Card Game
Ever the innovators, Wexford’s own Yellowbelly have designed a card game, in a gift pack with four of their beers, for the princely sum of €24.00. This would make a great stocking filler, and the game is a great way to kill the time. You can get them here, hurry though as this is a limited edition with only 100 packs available.
Beer Merch and Clothing
Many of the breweries have online stores now that sell their own merchandise, so start with seeking out your favourite brewery. However, there are a couple more bespoke and smaller folk like Irish Craft Tees and Craftgeek.co. On the brewery side, Kinnegar and Hope have some great merch available.
Trying something new
As a craft beer drinker, I’m always seeking out new things to try, so in the spirit of trying new things don’t limit yourself to Beer based presents this Christmas, there are some wonderful other great beverages being made here in Ireland. Here are just a few of the many on offer that I think would make a good gift.
I remember being at an event in the Irish Embassy in London a few years ago, and trying Kinsale Mead for the first time. They’ve got some lovely gift packs on their website plus vouchers for future guided online tastings. Check them out here
Fancy trying some ciders? Well you’d not go wrong with Legacy Cider’s gift packs, featuring a mulled Cider. Which is a treat and lovely alternative to mulled wine.
Brewery wise, The White Hag and Rascals have both put together some great beer boxes for the festive gift. If you’re a hot sauce lover, make sure to check out Brennans beer and chilli sauce set. I couldn’t forget my local brewery, who have two great options available, Hoppy Christmas, and Jingle Bru – I can attest to the new pint glasses, they are brilliant! Speaking of glassware don’t forget Wicklow Legends O’Brother Brewing have a wonderful range of branded glasses on their webshop
Make no mistake there will be a lot of packs available too in your local independent off licence that sells good beer.
I know this isn’t an exhaustive list, but It should provide some inspiration for you, failing all of that, if you go into an off licence, the staff there will be more than happy to help you put together a bespoke personally selected gift.