t’s Golden Pints time yet again, only this time I hope that my excruciatingly annoying use of Untappd has paid off, allowing me to actually remember all (or at least a damned good proportion) of the beers I’ve sampled. The only negative side of that fact being that if I can remember or recall more, the bleedin’ choices are now much wider and decisions therefore more difficult to make…grumble, grumble, grumble…
Best UK Cask Beer
Well, that has immediately buggered up my new “foolproof system”, as Untappd only logs the beer and not the dispense method. To add to my pain, I’m a bit of a keg-head generally as and when it’s available and drink shit-loads of bottled beers. I “think” I can remember which ones were cask, but if I get this wrong and you brew and KNOW it was keg only please don’t crucify me, it was still obviously a memorable beer. Even then, taking all my excuses into consideration I still can’t pick one winner and I’m edging towards three, with several runners-up..(Decisive I know, you should see me ordering a meal)
Roosters 20th Anniversary IPA & Marble Old Manchester
both sit fondly as being excellent in the memory with Roosters Baby Faced Assassin a very recent and most welcome third front-runner. All three followed very closely on the heels by the Red Willow/Offbeat collaboration Shapeless, Thwaites “Craft” 13 Guns, Weird Beard Mariana Trench and the ever-present and always stunning Buxton Axe Edge and Hawkshead NZPA. Dare I also mention Marble Decadence…? (Hides under table)
Wow and I thought cask was tough, these next two categories are going to be killers..
Best UK Keg Beer
There are SOOOO many contenders for this, 2013 has been absolutely amazing for keg, new beer festivals embracing it, new bars opening and showcasing it, even specialist beer shops peddling it in store and by the growler, all of which suits me absolutely fine. The Wild
collaboration “Shnoodlepip” and Arbor/Moor “Double Dark Alliance” were both superb at the Birmingham Beer Bash and I can’t forget the Bitches and Black Jack collab “Isosceles” I helped with for the Macclesfield Twissup, I may be a little biased here but it was pretty darned good. For once though I am going to stick my neck out with one beer that has stuck in my head as being top dog, that beer was Buxton “Wild Boar”
, as sampled at the Euston Tap, funnily enough during the Wyoming Sheep Ranch launch tap takeover
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
As with keg, there has been an explosion of bottled beery goodness this year and it’s getting so much more accessible too which is grand, with more and more high street and internet retailers fighting for thirsty drinkers pound notes. Without a doubt the bottled beers I’ve drunk most of were some in the Great British Beer Hunt, Harbour IPA and Porter, Thwaites Crafty Dan, Hardknott Infra Red and Williams Bros Hipsway being notable mentionables. I also was lucky enough to get a super fresh case of Buxton Axe Edge earlier this year too and immediately decided then that this was my bottled beer of the year. However, there have been developments, new beers, different beers, all of which have clouded my mind along with old favourites that have prodded me in the ribs to remind me “I’m still here”.. Of those I have to give credit to Red Willow Ageless, always impressive. Wild Beer Co for Ninkasi, surely one of the most beautiful bottles of beer, inside and out ever, and finally Salopian
Automaton, Kashmir, Black Ops, Boomerang (basically all of their other recent stuff) what the hell has happened at that brewery, they were always pretty good but these new additions are just brilliant!
Still, there has to be one winner, but despite wittering on for ten minutes it’s none of the above, although I stand by them all regardless. This years top banana bottle award goes to The Kernel for Double Citra, a stupendously flavoursome and aromatic beer I wish I had more of..
Best Overseas Draught Beer
We spent almost two weeks in Europe this year for one reason or another, most of it exploring Gent, Antwerp and Bruges, but also another two wonderful days in Bodegraven for the De Molen
” beer festival. So you can believe me when I say I’ve done the rounds in terms of sampling foreign draught beer in 2013. With the latter particularly I could rattle on for hours about the seemingly endless selection of new and interesting beers on offer, with absolute certainty more than I can remember or noted. Outstanding efforts of note include “Rime of the ancient mariner’ and “Hot & Spicy Naga Jolokia” both from De Molen, “Mademoiselle Aramis” Brasserie Du Mont Salève, “Ot the explorer” and “Utrecht Strong” by Rooi Doop and “Buffalo Trace Barley Wine” from Emelisse. There were others you can read about here
, but not all were draught and so don’t meet the criteria.. Another notable mention must go to Troubadour Magma Galaxy, as supped at Cafe Rose Red in Bruges..mmmmm.
However…we do still have a winner and it’s as big a surprise to me as no doubt it will be to you as it’s nothing new, or weird or rare etc.. I’m giving this to Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel
as served to me at “Het Waterhuis aan De Bierkant
” in Gent earlier this year. The sun was blazing and we sat outside by the waterside, the beer arrived and was as fresh as I’ve ever tasted it and on banging good form, smelling and tasting it was just perfect, so perfect that I had a couple more. (You can’t beat “the beer moment”)
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Another bloody tough call this, but for once I’m keeping it brief. Toccalmatto
have been outstanding, Bedda Matri Barley Wine Marsala Wine BA and their Russian Imperial Stout (aged in Sagrantino di Montefalco red wine barrels) being two that stand out, the latter being one of the best presented beers I’ve ever seen, I’d love to get my hands on either of them again. Also De Dochter Van De Korenaar
, new beers on my radar, but all so far have been delicious. But, the “White Label, Buffalo Trace BA Barley Wine
” from Emelisse
just pips Toccalmatto to the post for me, a deserved first place. It tastes like bottled molten Crunchie on boozy steroids…
Best Collaboration Brew
Surely 2013 has to be the “year of the collab”there have been so many it’s hard to keep up and the standard beyond belief. Wild/Good George/Burning Sky with their wondrous concoction Shnoodlepip, Weird Beard/Elusive with a particular favourite Nelson Saison, the Red Willow/OffBeat Shapeless and Bitches/Black Jack Isosceles, both absolute belters, the latter of which I assisted with and chose the hop additions (proud of that). The highest accolade though goes to Thornbridge and St. Eriks Brewery for the sublime Imperial Raspberry Stout, rich and dark with that cutting tartness of raspberry goodness..Mmmmm
Best Overall Beer
Always difficult, this year almost impossible, the standards have been incredible. In the CAMRGB awards I voted for the Kernel Double Citra as mentioned above and it would be so easy to stick with that. Zona Cesarini too rocked my world in bottles I’ve had a few of and really wish I’d got to try on cask at Indyman. However I do think the best overall beer needs to be something accessible, a beer that you can and want to return to again and again which takes me back to Buxton “Axe Edge”. It’s still a beer that makes my eyes light up and my heart sing if I see it gracing a bars hand pumps, keg taps or bottle fridges.
As if I haven’t procrastinated enough, I’ve had three new beers this week that I feel deserve a mention as being “must try more of” material. Moor – Hoppiness, great value and absolutely stunning. Pressure Drop – “Pale Fire” as seen on keg at Red Willow Bar very recently and finally “Ogham Oak Exotic Belgian Triple’ by The Celt Experience, a whirlwind or flavours and aroma.
Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label
I’m pretty sure this is almost the same as last year, Harbour, beautiful branding, highest quality labelling ever. New entry for Weird Beard, inventive, beautiful, entertaining, fun and tasty to match. Top dog though is again Red Willow, simple but stunning logo on complimentary contrasting coloured backdrops. The labels and pump clips are instantly recognisable and look second to none on a shops shelves in my opinion, something I revisited earlier today at one of the UK’s largest specialist beer shops.
The Craft Bandwagon award for successfully reinventing themselves as such
…goes to Thwaites “Crafty Dan”
. Hands up, I moaned about them jumping on the “C” bandwagon last year and have been made to eat (drink) my words. The new brews have all been delicious and the new bottles look ace. As for the worst, well there have been a few, with Greene Kings TV advertising bringing the biggest guffaw, other candidates shall remain nameless although it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work them out
Best revitalised brewery
Salopian, unlike the all others, just “quietly getting on with it” as their website states and launching beer after superb beer in the new black bottles, not shouting about it, but gathering pace all the same…2014 watch out!! #DoffsCap
Best UK Brewery
Tough call, Magic Rock have been ace but are rarely seen around these parts, as are Kernel, Summer Wine, Tiny Rebel. I’ve really loved the Weird Beard bottles I’ve sampled this year too, along with lots of specials at various festivals etc too. I think though I have to declare this one as a draw between Buxton and Wild Beer Co.
Axe Edge still sits as one of my favourite beers ever and as I said earlier that fresh case I supped was outstanding, then of course we have Wild Boar, Wyoming Sheep Ranch and Colin “Stronges Extra Stout. Whilst Wild Beer Co have just been so inventive and got away with some stunning concoctions. Ninkasi, Wildebeest, Madness IPA, Epic Saison and Modus Operandi, and not forgetting the fine collaboration brews Shnoodlepip and Cool As A Cucumber
Best Overseas Brewery
Toccalmatto, no arguments, although I have to add that it has been fantastic to see more European countries (and beyond) with emerging new breweries where before all seemed desert like, with only yellow tasteless fizz lapping at their borders. I love the Toccalmatto branding, the labels leap out at you screaming buy me, and you are very rarely disappointed with a range of interesting delicious brews. Great guys too.
Best New Brewery Opening 2013
Weird Beard, hmmm maybe not new this year but not far off and thankfully still going great guns. Northern Monk Brew
, yes, new and bristling with beery magic and mystery. But I reckon I’m going to go for Siren Craft Brew
as leading the pack of brand spanking new masters of the mash tun.
Pub/Bar of the Year
I could quite easily pick The Grove in Huddersfield in this category but as I haven’t made it there this year, a fact which both surprises and disappoints me I can’t really do so. As normal I’m splitting this in two and choosing a pub AND bar as both are very different places to drink in my view.
The Wharf in Macclesfield still sits as firm favourite for me with it’s mix of a homely welcome, pleasant atmosphere and superbly presented beer (in fact it’s worth noting that two of the three top cask beers were supped here) making it top dog on the pub front. Port Street therefore takes the crown on the bar front, I love the atmosphere, the staff are amazing and friendly folk and the beer list goes from strength to strength. Another fine year for both.
Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013
No brainer, Toby and Caroline Mckenzies “Red Willow Bar
‘ in Macclesfield.
I never thought I’d see the day that would see a venue serving 15 ever-changing keg beers, 5 cask and 50 gins a short 15 minute train ride from my home. I fills me with hope that Stoke will soon catch on and follow suit. Everything in the place has been nailed down to the finest level of detail (I know this as I was lucky enough to watch it grow), again the staff are brilliant, knowledgeable, friendly and welcoming. It’s hard to choose to go anywhere else these days. One to watch next year…
Beer Festival of the Year
As with beer in general 2013 has seen a most welcome explosion of new and exciting beer festivals, happy to embrace fine brewing in all it’s guises. Sadly due to unforseen family issues I had to miss Indyman Beer Con this time around and so as with The Grove, she’s out of the running which is a real shame as I’d love to have made that comparison. However it’s also quite a happy thing as it gives me the greatest of pleasure to give this nomination to Birmingham Beer Bash, an event conceived and run admirably well by good friends of mine. I had two fabulous days in Brum this year and can’t wait to see what the guys come up with for 2014.
Overseas, no brainer again, De Molen Borefts
, the one fest to rule them all. Relaxed, no barriers, no security, just the most stupendously good beer list you can imagine, combined with tasty food and the worlds finest beer folk. If I could choose to go to one place each year it would be here.
Supermarket of the Year – Although none are really worthy I think Tesco’s larger stores fair better than most.
Independent Retailer of the Year
, I think I have to be a shareholder by now?
In all seriousness I really don’t know how Jas and Kal manage it, two of the most hardworking passionate blokes I’ve ever met. An Aladdin’s Cave for any beer lover.
I also have to give credit to three local retailers who are also growing fast and are a most welcome site in these parts, Brewtique in Macclesfield, The Beer Emporium in Sandbach and Beerdock in Crewe. God help my wallet… Plus of course not forgetting Beermoth in Manchester, a must visit on every Mancunian beer trip.
Online Retailer of the Year
Being honest because the high street presence has grown and the standards above have been so high, I haven’t used online so much in 2013, but when I have then Beermerchants
have been my go to click of choice. Honourable mention goes out to another local business Best Of British Beer
. I’ve got to know these guys well in the last few months and have been really impressed by what they are doing and have done over the last year or so. Another one to watch for 2014.
Best Beer Book or Magazine
Great Yorkshire Beer by my good friend Leigh Linley. I love Leigh’s writing style anyway and it early comes across well in this mix of venue and brewery guide, with fine recipe ideas to pair it with. GYB kept me entertained this year during a short hospital stay, although it didn’t help that I was on a “nil by mouth” regime at the time.
Best Beer Blog or Website
Best Beer App
, although it’s flawed and I do think creates friction in some circles, it’s a great tool as a memory aid and I’m intent on trying to keep that restricted to the app whenever possible next year.
Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
I, as many others no doubt would want to award this to Simon himself this year, he used twitter as it should be, with cutting wit and sarcasm alike if needed. Not afraid to take the piss out of himself as well as others, but always with dignity and the craft of a master wordsmith. I’d rather one tweet a day like that any day of the week than a deluge.
Winners of this most prestigious award this year are, Dave, aka “@broadfordbrewer
” who always makes me smile and I’m so glad to see him back online after a short absence. Plus of course my partner in crime Chris aka “@ckdsaddlers
“, my partner in crime, the Staler to my Waldorf, an entertaining drinking partner and a bloody good egg, even when he’s talking Wolverhungaristonian.
Best Brewery Website/Social media
I don’t spend a lot of time looking at brewery websites to be honest, but I’d say I’ve visited Weird Beard
more than most and enjoy their blogging too. I also quite like a cheeky voyeuristic peek at the Magic Rock
chaps via their webcam.
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Various beers along with loads of cheese, bitterballen and these mahoosive molten cheese filled sausages at Borefts has to be mentioned.
But I’d go a long way to find better than Cheshire Brewhouse
“Bondi Blues” paired with Great North Pie Co’s “Isosceles Breakfast Pies” at the Treacle Tap during this years Macclesfield Twissup. That was an amazingly good combo.
That’s it, decisions made and committed to cyberspace forever.. Many thanks to Andy
for hosting this again, and a massive thanks to all the brewers who’s beers I’ve drank in 2013 and to all the bars and retailers I’ve bought them from.