So here we are again, another year of beery goodness has screamed past like Felix Baumgartner on his way to opening night of Heston Blumenthal’s free Schnitzelhaus and it’s time to pick my nominations for The Golden Pints Awards 2012, hosted as always by Andy Mogg and Mark Dredge.
Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer: OK, I have to say from the outset, I have an awful memory and trying to do this has highlighted the fact that I need to start to log beers in some way, untapped, ratebeer, a notebook!
When I blog I either have the beer to hand, do it live at a venue, or rely on photographs to stir a memory, once there it all floods back. That said I have had some absolutely outstanding beers in amazing places in 2012 and none of this makes this any easier so I’m taking the easy way out and quoting a few all worthy of merit.
- Roosters Brewery – Baby Faced Assassin – EBBC12
- Buxton Brewery – Tsar Bomba – Borefts
- Magic Rock – Bourbon Barrel Aged Bearded Lady – Post EBBC12 brewery tour
- Summer Wine Brewery – Surfing Monk – Port Street
- Marble/Emelisse collab – Earl Grey IPA – 57 Thomas Street
- Red Willow/Pure Origin Choclate collab – Heartless at various locations
- Brodies – Shoreditch Sunshine – Southampton Arms
There’s some serious copping out there I expect you are saying, but all these have a special place in my heart as they stir fond memories, if you are of a sadistic nature and are forcing my hand, go from the top and move down the list but seriously there ain’t much in it. Honourable mentions (as if I haven’t sneaked enough in) go to Quantum for Blood Orange Pale, Bitches Brewing (also brewed at Quantum) Choc Chilli Stout and finally to Michelle at OffBeat, she’s doing some really great beers at the moment and going from strength to strength, Weird Whisky Mac and Dotty IPA to name but two.
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Oh god, I thought the hard bit was over.. More pathetic procrastination coming up I’m afraid.
- Hawkshead – NZPA – Still knocks my socks off every time I taste it and is soooo bloody drinkable..
- SWB Kopikat Clynelish Barrel Aged – Big hitter on all fronts, awesome
- Marble Brewery – Saison – I love saison (as you’ve probably gathered) and this on form is up there with the best.
There, that wasn’t too bad was it and at least there was some method in my madness. Honourable mentions go to some (I hope they don’t mind me saying) new kids on the block, new to me at least. Tiny Rebel for Hadouken, Harbour Brewery for their Double IPA No3 Nugget and finally Beavertown for Black Betty. All three are brewing up a storm and have brilliant branding too.
Best Overseas Draught Beer: This at least is getting easier, to a degree. A double Dutch helping of De Molen here with Bomben et Grenaten Cascade Barley wine from Borefts and Gelovige Thomas as tasted at Arendsnest in Amsterdam both show-stoppers at both places. Honourable mentions go to Evil Twin for Hey Zeus and Molotov Fruit Cocktail, Emelisse TIPA which is an absolute dream and for St Bernardus Abt12 as tasted at Cafe Rose Red.
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer: Sweet lord above this is tough. For a proper foreign beer complete and utter nut job I should really struggle here and no doubt when I publish this I’ll think oh shite, what about…(insert multiple beer names here?
I’d love to say it was one the fantastic “De Molen Beast” beers that I lugged lovingly back from Borefts, but as I’ve not opened them I can’t. One beer always jumps to mind at this point and it’s already been mentioned above, that being Emelisse’s wonderful Triple IPA. However and I never thought I’d say this or commit it to text, I’ve had a bit of a sour beer epiphany this year and two beers really stood out. Both are from Cantillon and both are incredibly good, the Fou’ Foune Apricot and Lou Pepe Kriek as introduced to me by Mart Ridge, Teg Teggers and the gang from The Wharf in Macc.
Best Overall Beer: Are you having a laugh?
Pick anything from the list above, pick anything from the drinks I’ve shared with you, whoever you are and wherever that may have been, it may even be the bottle of Jupiler I drank as I sat in a crowded square on a warm summers night in Watou. Beer that stirs a memory is always the best beer…
Best Pumpclip or Label: At last a relatively easy one (Andy, Mark, this is torturous). Last year my vote went to Red Willow and to be honest it’s still probably my firm favourite, simple, clean, instantly recognisable and always looks great in fact it’s “Faultless”… (See what I did there?) I could also go along the Tiny Rebel Line with Hadouken, a real attention grabber as are all their range, but Hadouken has that added “kick”.. The winner though in my book has to be the grim, foreboding artwork that graces Durham Brewery’s Diabolus..
Best UK Brewery: No faffing here, Summer Wine Brewery. They have a fantastic core range of beers and are constantly pushing boundaries to come up with new and exciting additions to tempt me. Kopikat, Strewth, Calico Jack, Surfing Monk to name but a few that have made me part company with large quantities of cash over the last year or so. That said there are some folks running very close on their heels as honourable mentions, Brodies being one of them, man I’d love to live near the King William The Fourth. Hawkshead too, great beers great guys and hosts to one of the best beer festivals in the UK in my opinion. Magic Rock go from strength to strength but sadly I’ve had far too few occasions to drink any this year, surely a New Years resolution in the making? Honourable mentions go to rising stars Weird Beard, Tiny Rebel, OffBeat and Beavertown.
Best Overseas Brewery: No brainer, De Molen. Taking aside my visit to their amazing Borefts Beer Festival this year and the fact that the brewery is in a bloody windmill, how cool is that?? Their range is phenomenal and damn near all of it tastes the same (the same as in phenomenal not as in alike..)
Pub/Bar of the Year: Another tricky category that I intend to cheat a little on by splitting it in half. Local: The Wharf in Macclesfield, ok it’s not that local but along with The Macc and the Treacle Tap (isn’t that a triangle), it’s enough to get me in a taxi to Stoke and to take a 15 minute train ride.
All three pubs deserve plaudits as friendly forward thinking fine beer establishments but Chris as host in The Wharf, just helps edge it for me. For a pub that sits on a humongous hill slightly out of town he gets some amazing beer on for starters, add to that his boundless enthusiasm for anything beer related and you get the picture. Honourable mentions also go to The Young Pretender in Congleton and once a month to Michelle at OffBeat for Firsty Friday…
National: Slightly tougher to call, but I’m really happy to say that for once none of my choices are from London. I mean that in a positive way as it means clearly that things are on the up for the rest of us. Top dog I think has to be The Grove in Huddersfield, it’s not dissimilar to The Wharf in some ways in that it’s slightly out of town and always has an enthusiastic hands on involvement in all things beery. The range on offer though is mind bogglingly large too, throw in a beer garden and some deep fried crickets and you are sorted. Deliriously honourable mentions go to Friends Of Ham and North Bar in Leeds, plus The Free Trade Inn and Bacchus in the Toon, I’d love any one of you to be my local..
Beer Festival of the Year: Indyman, Borefts, Indyman, Borefts, Hawkshead please don’t make me choose??? (All were awesome, I best go back and do them again next year to be sure..)
Supermarket of the Year: All of them need to take a serious look at themselves in my view, take some time out and employ buyers who have a clue, Asda and Morrisons are dire, Tesco and Sainsbury’s are much better but still make massive gaffs, Waitrose I’m led to believe fairs better, but there’s none near me so I rarely partake. Wooden Spoon Award sits firmly in this group.
Independent Retailer of the Year: Both Cotteridge Wines and Stirchley Wines are fantastic and for those lucky locals less than five minutes from eachother. Beerritz in Leeds is of course wonderful, sadly I rarely get to visit. Honourable mention goes to The Beer Emporium in Sandbach. (Alexandra Wines in Coventry too when they get their new premises organised)
Online Retailer of the Year: Beermerchants, for choice, price, shipping cost, packaging and most of all customer service which has been above and beyond this year, plus a great social media presence that entices me to but more and more beer when I really don’t need to. Honourable mention to Beerritz.co.uk for very similar reasons
Best Beer Book or Magazine: Melissa Cole, Let Me Tell You About Beer. I wouldn’t call myself a beer novice, but I’m certainly no expert and am always open to learning more and more about my favourite subject. Enter LMTYAB, it’s laid out logically, easy to pick up and read and is packed with great examples and ideas. Perfect for the novice, a good source of information for the more learned.
Best Beer Blog or Website: Andrew aka @SheriffMitchell‘s “Oh Beery Me“. This year Andrew has embarked on a mission of complete blogging madness in that he’s challenged himself to write a beer review every day in 2012. Let me tell you for nothing this is no mean feat despite the fact that he gets to drink a fine beer every day, #Beer366 is a real labour of love, a long hard slog. Writing a beer review of the quality Andrew produces takes time, effort and is no doubt taking its toll but it’s impossible to tell as each one shows a flair for writing, good taste and depth of research, expect this guy to feature in the category above one day soon. Honourable mentions go to The Good Stuff, my favourite source of food and beer. Rock n’Roll Beverage for beer, music and laughs, Are You Taking the Pith as I quite simply enjoy the way Zak writes (although that’s not as frequent as it once was at present) and finally for sheer bonkersness Enormous Face!
Best Beer Twitterer: @BroadfordBrewer everyones favourite twatterer this year it seems, he’s a top bloke, has some of the worst jokes on twitter and was once branded a serial retweeter, for me personally he’s a bit of a confidante, a superb brewer and writes an excellent blog which is mainly features home brewing these days, (I don’t brew (yet) hence he’s not above this year but it’s still a great read). Honourable mentions go to @ckdsaddlers as beer hauler/sharer in chief and a fine new drinking buddy (try keeping him off your timeline ;) ) and to @6TownsMart the beer worlds answer to Alan Whicker
Best Online Brewery presence: Hard to call this one as so many have been Raising The Bar, but SWB have to be up there, the Hardknott gang too have been up to no good all year with some wild and whacky videos and twitter madness.
In 2013 I’d Most Like To… Widen my twitter beer tastings and take them to the next level, live tastings! Learn more, get involved, hopefully brew some beers, basically again taking things up a notch with a view to maybe getting into beer full-time in the future. Open a bar, a bar with beers that I want to drink, exciting new, fresh, no twigs allowed. Not take myself too seriously and not get pissed off when others do. Bring the “C-beer” revolution to Stoke.
Open Category – Homebrewing: To say I’ve been blown away by the quality of home-brewed beer I’ve been lucky enough to taste this year would be an understatement, really refreshing news as surely there are up and coming breweries just around the corner for some. A big shout out goes to @Leedsbrew, @hardknottAlex, @Ghostdrinker and @OthertonAleMan. Also some serious congratulations and thanks to my good friend @BroadfordBrewer not only for the great beers he’s shared but for winning a competition to brew his fantastic Transatlanticsm with Roosters, two bombers of which sit just out of reach on my desk. The most memorable of all this year was a bottle of saison from brewing newbie @tabamatu aka Andy Parker, brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops and using a French saison yeast, an absolute stunner and at only his second attempt too, another rising star.(Check out this review on Hopzine)