Golden Pints 2015

A rare visit to the blog for me, as you may have noticed I’ve been a little side-tracked of late, meaning writing has had to take a back seat. Maybe I’ll get more time to bash the keys more in 2016, who knows..

I normally have time to sit and ponder over this for hours (days), but as I’m trying to write this in between customer visits to Otter’s Tears, this one maybe brief and perhaps a tad hasty for someone who takes twenty minutes to decide what main meal to grab from a menu, then immediately regrets the choice as the order makes its way to the kitchen… (it wasn’t, see later)

Best UK Cask Beer: What an amazing year it has been for beer in the UK, so many great festivals, pub, bar and shop openings especially here in Stoke On Trent which makes me so proud. But one beer leapt immediately to mind as a read this first category, Yellow Belly Sundae from Buxton. Tried alongside keg and bottled versions of the original Yellow Belly at the stupendously good Omnipollo tap take-over at the Buxton Tap. Heaven..

Best UK Keg Beer: This one is an altogether much more difficult proposition, as a huge keg-head I’ve tried and forgotten a lot.. Yellow Belly again, Magic Rock “High Wire Grapefruit”, the Beavertown “Phantom” range at Birmingham Beer Bash, all brilliant and many many more.

But I think I’m sticking with Hawkshead’s delicious “Key Lime Tau”. If you are at an event like the Magic Rock Rainbow Project launch with such a ruinous choice of beer and choose to go back for more, something has just clicked. Matt, please make more, I’ll take a keg and many cases if you please..klt

Best UK Bottled Beer: Wow, a tricky one, especially in my new chosen profession. I love Weird Beard “Safeword”, Brew By Numbers 09/02 Brown ale and 01/02 Orange and Amarillo Saison, Blackjack have also excelled this year too as have Northern Monk with their seasonal specials. As I write the though, with one beer in mind from the outset, three more are beating the shit out of the very small decision-making area of my brain, screaming “ME! ME!”

  • Buxton – Trolltunga
  • Mad Hatter – Tzatziki Sour and/or Hold Your Plums
  • Cloudwater – NZ Hopfen Weisse

IMG_5473IMG_5296

IMG_4867I’m sorry, I can’t decide between them, all very different, interesting, flavour packed, EXCITING beers, all bloody brilliant.

https://twitter.com/vocationbrewery/status/623525707726106624

@vocationbrewery

Best UK Canned Beer: Much easier, an absolute no brainer hands down. “Vocation – Life and Death”. This was the first beer I’d tried from Vocation earlier this year after picking it up in Brewtique Macclesfield. It totally blew me away, as has everything else I’ve tried from these guys. I’ve been lucky enough to get up to their hilltop brewery a few times late this year and gotten to know them, such a warm friendly bunch in a beautiful location. I also have to give a special mention to Magic Rock for their canned range, High Wire Grapefruit looks tastes and smells amazing, a beer that always makes me smile.

Best Overseas Draught: If this category means physically drank overseas, I’d have to go for Saison Dupont Dry Hopping I reckon as supped in Café Rose Red. Regardless, and it is a very difficult choice, but almost anything on the menu at the Omnipollo tap takeover as mentioned earlier. Without doubt the best one brewery line up event I can remember enjoying. So many incredibly good beers, with “Magic #4:21 Raspberry Smoothie I.P.A” nicking it from memory. Hats off to the Swedes…

Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Fresh in the memory, Immediately jumped in with Omnipollo again, for “Noa Pecan Mud Cake Stout”. Then…then I remembered my visit at last to Cantillon. Everything was delicious of course, but the “Zwanze Cuvée Florian” was a revelation. My only wish is that I’d tried more of the Zwanzie range, instead of hitting bottles of old favourites. Also ran, was the luxurious Calvados barrel St Bernardus Oak Aged Abt. A very close call indeed.

I think this is actually Fou' Foune but hey..

I think this is actually Fou’ Foune but hey..

IMG_3022Best Overseas Canned Beer: I’ve not had that many to be honest, at least that my muddled brain can recall. Oscar Blues “Ten FIDY” is always a firm favourite though, so err, that.

IMG_5473Best collaboration brew: This could easily go to either the Buxton/Omnipollo Yellow Belly, Hawkshead/Crooked Stave Key Lime Tau collaborations. But, a beer I have bought far to many times in recent weeks that ticks all the right boxes is the delightful “Trolltunga Gooseberry Sour IPA” by the hands of those reprobates at Buxton (who seem to be taking a starring role in proceedings) and Lervig Aktiebryggeri (Norway). A fruity, sour, tart, hoppy, sharp, funky, juicy, bottle of sherbet magic.

Best Overall Beer: Having copped out in the highest order on best UK bottled beer, I’ve now made it almost impossible to call this one without making that category meaningless. In truth though, any of those beers and indeed any of the other category winners could take the plaudits. I’m going to say though, and purely from the memories of gazing around the Buxton Taphouse at the looks of wonder in the eyes of those present, that an Omnipollo/Buxton winner is the only fair result. “Yellow Belly/Yellow Belly Sundae” with “Magic #4:21 Raspberry Smoothie I.P.A” biting their heels.

IMG_5449Best Branding: Sitting at the counter in my own beer shop should make this easy, instead the indecision demon in my head is having a field day. The minimalistic classy look of Brew By Numbers bottles I love, but I do find them tricky to distinguish, the same goes for Cloudwater, stunning look and feel, but tricky I think to pick out individual beers on a shelf although clearly both well worth doing so. Magic Rock cans look fantastic, as do the Mad Hatter bottles. I also delight in the inventiveness of Weird Beard, my favourite t-shirts too.

Sticking my neck out here though I’m going to say new kids on the block Vocation take this category. Their cans look and feel great, and are easily recognisable. Clean, bold and classy. Honourable mention to Northern Monk Brewing Co for the special edition range, I see so many people walk past and take a step back to look again, super branding.

Vocation Range IMG_5477Best Pump Clip: In the age of beer list boards, I rarely notice, for sheer beauty of logo design and backdrop, I’d say Cloudwater. Despite my earlier reservations about bottle identification, on a pump clip they really stand out well, drawing the eye from across a busy bar. I really must visit them soon, their merchandise is so cool too, the Tees at Indyman looked ace and I always want to buy a hat when I see them even though I never wear one! 😉

Best Bottle Label: As an individual label, the Mad Hatter “Sorachi Face Hugger” makes me chuckle every time I see it.

IMG_5478Best UK Brewery: Tough gig… Mad Hatter, whacky mad scientists producing beers that make you go WOW. Cloudwater, living up to the hype of that big build up in glorious style. Brew By Numbers, quietly getting on with it with superb range. Magic Rock, for just being Magic. Moor for making me want more. Buxton feature far too heavily in my list to not just nick it though, by an axe edge..

Best Overseas Brewery: Omnipollo. Case Closed!

Best New Brewery Opening 2015: Has to be Cloudwater, producing some outstanding results in a brewery that is a thing of beauty, oh that NZ Hopfen Weisse is good.. Closely followed by Vocation, with a special shout out to the guys at Torrside too.

Pub/Bar of the Year: RedWillow bar in Macclesfield is a firm favourite. Magic Rock Tap & the Northern Monk Refractory too, I only wish I could visit either of them more often.

I’m incredibly happy though to be able to give this one to someone local. The HopInn in Newcastle Under Lyme has gone from strength to strength this year. Constantly in search of the UK’s finest beers and generally getting them. The recent addition of extra cask and keg lines increasing the beer offering to 14, not including your standard lager and cider type ranges. Old standards mix with craziest of craft, meaning there is something for everyone.

Martin and son Olly can often be seen out at the best bars actively “researching”, for no personal enjoyment, selflessly testing what is new and interesting to stock. 😉 The whole family and team at the pub though are all brilliant in truth, an absolute pleasure to drink there. (A special shout to Mark Coltman who’s not pictured, who regularly keeps me updated on what I am missing)

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2015: Magic Rock Tap, what a cracking place, can’t wait to visit again. Also really excited by the new Beermoth Café, a place I must visit very very soon.

IMG_4173 IMG_4473Beer Festival of the Year: Indyman Beer Convention & Birmingham Beer Bash, I flatly refuse to choose between them as both are superb events in slightly different ways and both are run by groups of people I both love and respect massively. Roll on 2016

Supermarket of the Year: Aldi, their bacon is fantastic

Independent Retailer of the Year: What a year it has been for the rise of the independents, not least here in Stoke where we now have BottleCraft – Hanley, Ten Green Bottles and The Hopwater Cellar in Newcastle Under Lyme, as well as my gaff Otters Tears in Burslem

Otter’s Tears has to win of course, “my gaff, my rules! 😉

Seriously though, Cotteridge Wines are hard to beat, their range is incredible and they are lovely guys. Beermoth is uber cool and I love to visit them whenever I venture to Manchester. I also have to give a huge shout out to the guys at Brewtique – Macc, Beer Emporium – Sandbach and The Bottle Lab in Leek who were all incredibly supportive while we set up our new venture.

Online Retailer of the Year: Rarely used any this year, usually Beermerchants if any, that said Eebria are doing really good things these days, so I’ll say those guys.

Best Beer Book or Magazine: “Hop & Barley” is a super professional publication, really glad I subscribed to them, and “Belgian Beer & Food” look after my yearnings for Belgium. I’d highly recommend both.

Best Beer Blog or Website: Beers Manchester and The Half Pint Gentleman keep me happy, “Boak & Bailey” and Matt Curtis are always coming up with something different too, lots of updated snippets that draw me in. In terms of a winner though the “Beer O’Clock Show” guys take it on one count for their podcast, always mega enthusiastic and interesting, big twitter presence, not forgetting the sheer hard work put into Big Beery Night. The other goes to my old mate John Clarke for his work on Dutch beer, “JC’S Beer Blog is the one I look out for in my inbox of late, mainly as I’m interested in the subject and John’s knowledge is exceptional.

IMG_4147Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer: David Bishop aka @broadfordbrewer and @twattybeerdoodles he’s clearly mental but oh do I love him! (in a manly hug sorta way). Special mention to my partner in crime @ckdsaddlers of course.

TwattyBest Brewery Website/Social media: Not something I tend to visit often, but I reckon Thornbridge, their website is clean easy, to navigate and always has some goodies in stock. Plus they are regulars to twitter as are the brewing team, lots of posts and interaction. Not really a brewery presence, but again both the “Beer O’Clock Show” and “Craft Beer Hour” have both brought new life to Twitter.

So that’s me done, completely failed to meet my deadline yesterday, so am finishing this at  midday on New Years Day, ah well, best get cracking on this years beers!

Cheers for reading and a Happy New Year to you all.

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Golden Pints 2013

Igp2012-225x300t’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…
Here goes….

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 MolenBorefts” 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…

IMG_7921Best 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.
IMG_7961STOP PRESS: 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  

russian-imperial-stout-toccalmatto-b000275Best 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.

IMG_6369Pub/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.
20131112-192254.jpgI 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…

9rlfhvBeer 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

Cotteridge Wines, 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

Leigh, again with his online persona “The Good Stuff” (Leigh send the tenner to the normal address please…) After that anyone that keeps me entertained, light hearted, fun writing hopefully with a humorous edge, Oh Beery Me, Pencil and Spoon, Are You Tasting The Pith being some that immediately spring to mind.

Best Beer App

Untappd, 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.
IMG_7165

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.
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IMG_6367
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 and Mark 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.
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Golden Pints 2012

golden-pints-2011So 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 IMG_3301a 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.

IMG_4520There’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?

IMG_4858I’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…

diabolusmainBest 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..)

IMG_4550Pub/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..)
IMG_4629Supermarket 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)

beermerchants-blogheaderOnline 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.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: Crab N Prawn cakes with Wild Hare and Bamberg Pulled Pork with Rauchbier both from Leigh at The Good Stuff and both delicious.

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.

imagesOpen 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)

Cheers everyone

The Golden Pints Beer Awards 2011

The Golden Pints Awards is bit of fun to see out the end of 2011 with a few nominations of what’s been the best of beer from the previous year.

The problem that I have, as anyone who knows me well will testify, is that I am extremely indecisive…(I think?)

Therefore the awards I’ve made are based then on my own personal journey this year, on the people I’ve met spoken to and interacted with most in 2011.

The places I’ve visited and the beers that I have tasted, thoroughly enjoyed and kept on returning to time after time, be that in the pub, beer house or at home.

If I’ve missed you and you thought you should be there, you probably should. 🙂

Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer

Winner: Magic Rock – High Wire. Runner Up: Summer Wine Brewery – Cohort both sampled on keg and two beers in all honesty that I’d love to see as permanent fixtures in my local.  Honourable mention: to Buxton Brewery for Axe Edge and Hawkshead Brewery for New Zealand Pale Ale (NZPA)

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer

Winner: Buxton Brewery – Axe Edge Runner Up: Kernel – Imperial Brown Ale Honourable mentions to: Summer Wine Brewery for Kahuna and Bristol Beer Factory for Southville Hop.

Best Overseas Draught Beer

Winner: De Molen Brouwerij Esra Reserva  Runner Up: Stone Brewery Arrogant Bastard  Honourable mentions to: Southern Tier for Imperial Crème Brûlée Stout, De Molen (again) for Vuur & Vlam and Pivovar Boumov Kvasnicak Pepper

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer

Winner: Viven Imperial IPA  Runner Up: Odell IPA  Honourable mentions to: Flying Dog”s Raging Bitch, Bear Republic”s Hop Rocket & St Bernardus for Abt12.

Best Pumpclip or Label 

Winner: Magic Rock Human Cannonball  Runner Up: Red Willow Fathomless Honourable mentions: to Kernel and Summer Wine Breweries

So many options here but what I like about all of the above is their simplicity and continuity throughout the range. Each are instantly recognisable across a bar on in a bottle fridge, Kernel is the simplest of all but nonetheless fabulous.

Best UK Brewery

Inseparable winners: Buxton, Summer Wine & Magic Rock Breweries Runner Up: Hardknott Brewery Honourable mentions: I’ve already listed far too many so I’ll stop before it all becomes pointless..

Best Overseas Brewery

Winner: De Molen  Joint Runner Up: Odell and Stone  Honourable mentions: t’Hofbrouwerijke and any of the Trappist brewers

Pub/Bar of the Year

Winner: Port Street Beer House Runner Up: Craft Beer Co Honourable mentions go to: Mr Foleys, The Free Trade Inn and my local The Bulls Head (Burslem)

Beer Festival of the Year:

Winner: GBBF Runner Up: The Bhurtpore Inn Honourable mentions to: Stoke CAMRA

Supermarket of the Year

Winner: Sainsbury’s Runner Up: Morrisons

Independent Retailer of the Year

Winner: Brown and Green for holding a great selection of locally sourced beers and being willing to try new suggestions Runner Up: BeerRitz Honourable mention to: Utobeer

Online Retailer of the Year

Winner: My Brewery Tap Runner Up: Beermerchants Honourable mention: Beers Of Europe

Best Beer Book or Magazine

Winner: Tasting Beer (Randy Mosher) Runner Up: Beer (CAMRA)

Best Beer Blog or Website

Winner: Ghostdrinker Runner Up: The Good Stuff Honourable mentions: Broadford Brewer, Beer Reviews, Pencil and Spoon and Beers I’ve known

Again there are so many I could have mentioned for different reasons, but I value all of the above for the sense of fun, experimentation and most of all interaction.

Best Beer Twitterer

Winners: @broadfordbrewer @BeersIveKnown& @6townsmart all top bananas Honourable Mentions: @tuff86@hardknottalex@Abarth50010, @kempicus, @Ghostdrinker@krider2010 in fact everyone who follows me and interacts, really sorry I can’t list every one of you…

Best Online Brewery presence

Winner: If we are talking Twitter, all the Hardknott’s take it, what a clan, Sooty’s latest residence. For their websites: Magic Rock and Summer Wine both rock.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year

Winner: Leigh at The Good Stuff for Crab n’ Prawn Cakes with Bath Ales Wild Hare Runner Up: Mark Dredge from Pencil and Spoon for Punk Ass Chicken and I loved Beer On Toast, crazy but fun and informative. Honourable Foodie Mention goes to: Leigh again for Bamberg Pulled Pork, this time hosted on Beer Reviews by Andy Mogg

In 2012 I’d Most Like To… Gain more knowledge about beers and brewing, understand flavours and food parings and hopefully get the chance to brew. I also really fancy getting some brewery tours, pub visits organised and a bottle swap night set up locally with likeminded people in the area. To enjoy beer

The Judith Chalmers Award for beery travels, sharing the knowledge and even fetching me the odd beer from half way across Europe goes to: Mart Ridge aka @6townsmart for services above and beyond the call of duty

Special Mentions: to my favourite local breweries Lymestone and Offbeat, really looking forward to trying more of your beers in 2012. Also to everyone who has supported me, hosted me, sent me a beer or just read the blog and made comments good or bad, Thank You.

Finally the Golden Pint award for services to the UK & International brewing industry goes to: My lovely wife Rach, for helping me to embrace my passion for beer and enduring the aftermath… Luckily she likes a beer too!

Cheers