Wow, January 9th already, time is flying by and already into week two of 2015, let’s do this….
2014 has been a very different year for me, challenging even. Family traumas to endure and attempt to overcome. A long, long period of work related issues with negative knock on effects physically, mentally and financially. With the whole melting pot leading to I suppose, a degree of lethargy. All of which means that I haven’t done as much of anything, be that drinking, travelling, reading or writing on the beer front.
However, personal issues aside it has still been another marvellous year for beer, to be involved in beer and be around great beery folk. New beer festivals have popped up and old favourites got better, breweries did pretty much the same. New characters have appeared both in person at events and on the writing scene too. Beer, is good…
Wittering over, Golden Pints, my favourite things in 2014…
Favourite UK Cask Beer: Roosters – Baby Faced Assassin, I have to admit that I have become a bit of a keg-head in recent times, but wherever I’ve seen this beer appear I still get a buzz of excitement, even when presented with a beer board of keg delights like those at RedWillow Bar Macc, all get bypassed for a little Roosters Magic. Speaking of magic, special mention number one has to go to Magic Rock for the amazingly consistent High Wire, it always smells and tastes wonderful. Also to Cheshire Brewhouse for Sorachi Ace at Birmingham Beer Bash, lovely stuff proving Sorachi is Ace..
Favourite UK Keg Beer: Hmmm “bit of a keg-head” I said, bit of a forgetful numpty-head more like. I thought this would be easy, but my memory is crap and my Untappd (supposedly there to remind me) check in’s are somewhat lacking this year. Anyway conscious that I may have forgotten some, clearly beers that have stuck in my memory have done so for a reason. Buxton’s Rain Shadow was the first to pop into my mind, a massive Impy Stout which was far too drinkable even when blended with the also awesome Buxton Double Axe. Standard Axe Edge (standard??) is also always up there on my must drink list and NEVER lets me down EVER!
Honourable mentions to Weird Beard for the Sadako Ardbeg BA and the fantastic Elusive collaboration Lord Nelson, also Moor – Hoppiness, Summer Wine – Mauna Kea IPA and Wild Beer – Evolver. I could go on and on but… Rain Shadow!
Favourite UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Easy, Salopian – Kashmir. I drink absolutely shit-loads of different bottled beers, but fell head over heels in love at with this beer from the very first bottle. You can smell the tropical fruity hit as the cap releases the first hiss, hypnotic aromas drawing you in from across the room like a scene from the Bisto Kids..
Honourable mentions, again, wow so many, but Moor Beer Co for Hoppiness (again) is just ace and their Fusion Cider Barrel Aged Old Ale can only be described as pure drinking pleasure.
Favourite Overseas Draught: As I said earlier I’ve had very few foreign trips this past year, but on our main holiday to Mexico it was incredibly good to find Los Muertos and their fabulous brewpub in Puerto Vallarta. Not to be confused with “Cerveceria Mexicana” who’s beers are beginning to circulate over here under the banner “cervezas de los muertos”.
I wrote about the visit here and promised to publish a brief chat I had with owner/brewer Conner Watts a few days later, SEVERAL MONTHS later I still haven’t, but will… A great bar with some interesting beers, the best of which I recall was Revenge Pale Ale. Of course I’ve drunk many more foreign draft beers over here in Blighty too, Lagunitas – Maximus quite recently, and who can forget the amazing De Struise – Pannepot, both of which appeared in Macclesfield in 2014, a testament to this great towns drinking credentials.
Favourite Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer: I had my first taste of Brouwerij De Dochter van de Korenaar this year thanks to @6townsMart and since from Beermoth, Extase in particular really blew me away, I searched in vain for any beer notes taken, but liquid hoppy marmalade keeps looping into my head…buy some, try it!
nicked from @jezza off of that Twitter
Honourable mentions to De Ranke for XXX Bitter, and Brouwerij The Musketeers for their fabulous Troubadour Magma Triple Yeast, which I described as “caramelised pineapple upside down cake on acid”, I liked it you see…
Favourite collaboration brew: Has got to be the Buxton and Omnipollo collaboration Yellow Belly Peanut Butter Biscuit Stout, if only this picture was in smellovision….. “doffs cap”
“Yellow belly” — a person who is without courage, fortitude, or nerve; a coward.
To us, one of the most cowardly deeds is to act anonymously, hiding behind a group.
A signifying trait of institutionalised racism.
This beer is brewed to celebrate all things new, open-minded and progressive.
A peanut butter biscuit stout with no biscuits, butter or nuts. Taste, enjoy, and don’t be prejudiced. Henok Fentie, Karl Grandin, Denis Johnstone, Jake Oulsnam, Geoff Quinn, Colin Stronge.
Other tip-top collaborations this year included “Lord Nelson” from the ever talented folk at Weird Beard and Elusive Brewing, also De Passie from Ilkley and Rooie Dop
Favourite Overall Beer: I am going to stick my neck out here and say Kashmir from Salopian. I could have picked any one of the above top choice beers, especially considering the inclusions of Yellow Belly, Axe Edge, Baby Faced Assassin, Hoppiness, Extase and Troubadour etc. But if I think back over what beer I have looked forward to, supped the more of and would most dearly love to see filling my fridge right now it’s Kashmir. Salopian go quietly about their business, but they are growing and word is spreading far and wide, if you see a bottle or two of this knocking about, you know what to do..
Favourite Branding, Pumpclip or Label: Buxton – Yellow Belly for its controversial simplicity, drawing the drinker in to see that it’s not actually controversial at all.
and Weird Beard for everything they do…
Favourite UK Brewery: Are you shitting me, I can’t decide that?
Buxton feature heavily throughout this post so of course they are up there, but also Magic Rock, Burning Sky, Weird Beard, RedWillow, Siren, Roosters, Summer Wine, Moor Beer Co, Wild Beer Co, Beavertown, Thornbridge, Hawkshead, any UK brewery listed on this post for starters and oh so many more that aren’t, I salute you all….
Favourite Overseas Brewery: A similar story to above really, can’t choose, won’t choose, sue me! Omnipollo, St Bernardus, De Dolle, Tilquin, De Ranke, Brouwerij De Dochter van de Korenaar, Toccalmatto, De Molen, SNAB and Jopen to mention but a few…
Favourite New Brewery Opening 2014: Runaway, runaway with it! Mark is a great guy and is brewing some exciting stuff as sampled at #BackInMacc earlier this year. Keep em peeled…
Favourite Pub Of The Year: I am oh so happy to write these words, “HopInn, Albert Street Newcastle Under Lyme”, happy as it means I now only have to travel around ten minutes to be able to sample beers from Magic Rock, Summer Wine, Mallinsons, Hopcraft and such like, all of which were almost unseen in the area until the Hopinn opened its doors in February of this year. Martin and Ginny Ford took an old under utilised pub, gave it a good old spruce up to make it clean and welcoming, then set out with one mission in mind, serving great beer. They succeeded….
Honourable mentions should also go to the Holy Inadequate, another local pub with a similar approach who hold bloody good mini beer festivals several times a year, serve guest keg including beers such as the wonderful Buxton Double Axe this year, have a great bottle list and delicious pork pies too. Finally, last but not least, my old faithful in Macclesfield, The Wharf.
Favourite Bar of 2014: Although not new and hence the title change RedWillow Bar in Macc continues to go from strength to strength with a massive and exemplary beer and spirit line up, great food including a delicious pizza menu, topped off with a creative events calendar to cover all tastes. Definitely my favourite place to drink in 2014. Again not new but new to me, Brewdog Shepherds Bush was my highlight of the year. I think I’d sort of fallen out of love with Brewdog bars until I paid this a visit, the beer menu didn’t excite me as much as it used to, perhaps because the core range gets about a bit and other things too. But Dean has really raised the bar in Sheps, the place spacious and comfortable, staff are even more attentive than normal and that beer menu, oh my lord, that beer menu..
Honourable mention has to go to the Northern Monk Refectory in Leeds. I can’t list it truly as my “newly opened” favourite bar as in truth I’ve not actually been in it when physically open. I did though have the pleasure of spending a few hours there with head brewer Brian whilst it was under renovation though and it looked stunning then, you truly would not believe what lies inside these walls… One for 2015 definitely!
Most enjoyable beer and food pairing: “Strawberry and tonka bean rice pudding, hazelnut and nasturtium” served with The Kernel “Export Stout. Yes a bit of a mouthful in more ways than one, this was at the Lord Clyde kitchen takeover at RedWillow Bar, with the tasting menu created by chef Ernst Van Zyl, this was an absolute match made in heaven.
The other was Neil at Great North Pie‘s “breakfast pie” creation served at this years BaccInMacc twissup, served at Treacle Tap it went with EVERYTHING!
Favourite Beer Festival(s) of the Year: This was always going to be a close call between Birmingham Beer Bash and Indyman, both were fantastic events, similar aims, very different executions both of which were really enjoyable. The Bash was hampered by scorching weather on one hand, but it also helped create a really relaxed outside vibe, although the cellar management guys may not agree.. ;) Indyman, was perhaps more polished, well into its own groove and swinging it baby, superb venue, more rooms, great atmosphere as always. I declare this one a big fat draw!
I also had the pleasure of Hawkshead Spring Fest this year, such a beautiful place and a very close third to the above. If you’ve not been trust me it s worth the journey, just don’t expect telecommunication, it’s totés rural..
Supermarket of the Year: M&S especially in the latter part of 2014. Also rans… Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
Independent Retailer of the Year: Cotteridge Wines is still hard to beat in my opinion, an incredible range, great service and with the addition of the new tasting room that is unlikely to change very soon. I just wish it was closer, although this would come with additional dangers.. Similarly Beermoth in Manchester’s Northern Quarter is a must visit when in the city, the new sampling and events room is great and I had the enormous pleasure of sharing beers with a tasting session held by Nino Bacelle of De Ranke there last year. Closer to home Brewtique in Macc, The Beer Emporium in Sandbach and Beerdock in Crewe are all doing really well and have a fine range of beers between them although all three are very different in how they do things.
Online Retailer of the Year: Although I’ve not really used many this year I’d say Beermerchants. With a special mention also for my local friends at Best Of British Beer.
Best Beer Book or Magazine: “Belgian Beer and Food” A must read for anyone with an interest for what’s best to drink and fill your face with on your next trips, a mix of old school, high-profile and lesser known breweries and establishments. Still in its infancy and only on issue four, they need your support to continue and grow, cheap too at only €16 for 4 quarterly issues. Check them out here.
Favourite Beer Blog or Website: I’ve read less beer blogs than ever this year, which is slightly hypocritical as I write one. I had my reasons which are not for sharing here, but it’s also fair to say some of my personal favourite reads were not posting much themselves for reasons of their own too. What surprises me most when I actually think about what I did read or view most last year is that the main candidate wasn’t posting in written form and was video blogging, a format that I don’t normally watch or follow that much, but I do enjoy Rob Derbyshire’s Hopzine so he takes this one for me.
Other favourite reads this year include Jim’s “Beers Manchester” and Matt’s “Half Pint Gentleman“, both of which offer a mix of beer and pub reviews plus some top beer travel inspiration and advice.
Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer: Dave Bishop or @broadfordbrewer Dave has been a friend now for several years and….hang on, hang on, to save my typing, nothing much has changed since last year…
“Winners of this most prestigious award this year are, Dave, aka “@broadfordbrewer” who always makes me smile (because he’s clearly barmy). Plus of course my partner in crime Chris aka “@ckdsaddlers“, the Watler to my Staldorf, an entertaining drinking partner and a bloody good egg, even when he’s talking Wolverhungaristonian”.
Best Brewery Website/Social media: Lovely folk, great Twitter and Facebook presence, a blog and a whizzy website, what’s not to love about Weird Beard. Whatever happened to James aka Summer Wine Brewery’s Raising The Bar, a comeback in 2015 maybe?
Phew, that’s it, I think Im finally done, NURSE, medication time….