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!


Buxton Brewery – Axe Edge at Brown and Green

This post is unashamedly aimed at people in Staffordshire and the surrounding areas, but please check it out even if that doesn’t apply. There are still some fantastic beer reviews on show (although I hasten to add, not from myself). I will say from the outset though that I have no connection (financial or otherwise) with either brewery or store. I just think they are both fantastic and hope you will too, if you give them a try.

Brown and Green are folks that in their own words are “passionate about providing you with great local, ethical and artisan food and drink which we have selected personally with care“. I know this to be true as I’ve experienced it first hand. I met the guys at B&G properly for the first time at an event they held with Brad and Viv at the fantastic Lymestone Brewery.

Anyway, as the evening went on and the Lymestone brews flowed, I took the opportunity to tell them about a range of new beers that I’d heard about from the then newly established Buxton Brewery, knowing that they were keen to stock local beers from local brewers.

Anyway to cut a long story short, within a few weeks they had duly arrived at the Trentham store as a new addition to the established beer section and ever since dashing up excitedly to buy and taste them myself, clearly then seeing what all the fuss was about, I became a massive fan.

Now I’ve read loads of posts and video reviews about Buxton beers and Axe Edge in particular, not one bad report at all and quite a few copied as links below for your perusal.

As such I am not going to reinvent the wheel and wax lyrical with a review of my own here. I was compelled though to write this blog post after watching this video review made by Simon at the Real Ale Guide. It just reminded me of how I reacted when I first tasted Axe Edge (and every time I have since).. 😉

All the Buxton range are brilliant in my opinion but Axe Edge sits head and shoulders above the rest it’s phenomenal. They do stock a good range of Buxton beers at Brown and Green but if you are trying one, try Axe Edge.

Don’t just take my word for it though check these reviews..

Dave from Broadford Brewer talks about Axe Edge and the Buxton range – “It was Axe Edge that introduced me to their beer, which is probably a little unusual as I would guess that a standard bitter or pale ale would usually be the first beer you might try as a way of introduction, followed by specialty beers or stronger niche varieties like the Double IPA.  For it’s mighty 6.8% it does not wield any destructive sharp edges, it is smooth and rounded and delivers more of a pleasant bludgeoning.  In short, I love it and its complex flavours and it goes straight onto my list of ‘beers of the year’.” Read more here…

Note: Dave’s blog page has moved since the above review, for new posts see here:

Eating Isn’t Cheating  – “These Buxton beers do something very difficult. They are both complex and hugely drinkable. You can concentrate and enjoy the depth of flavour, or simply sit back, drink them and enjoy. Which is exactly what I’ll be doing with the next bottle of either of these little lovelies.” Read more here…

Leigh at The Good Stuff (talks about the Buxton range) – “This is my first set of Buxton Ales, and they’ve really been a pleasure to drink. As a person, I like the juxtapostition of complex flavours, but carried out well so that each element stands out; Buxton certainly tick that box. Easy drinking, light beers with complex noses are the way to go with Pale Ale, and Axe Edge and Moor Top will probably go on to do great things.” Read more here..

Note: Leigh’s blog page has moved since the above review, for new posts see here:

A Swift One – “This is a 6.8% double IPA. Not for the faint hearted, it is just crammed with hop flavours from the selection used. How can a beer with nelson sauvin, citra and amarillo hops not be full of diverse and interesting fruit flavours, there is everything there, from orange to pineapple to lychees. A real classic beer.” Read more here…

Zak Avery (beer writer and owner of Beerritz) blog on Are You Tasting The Pith, talks about Moor Top – “Of the four beers in the boot, it’s not the never-ordinary, ever-dazzling Thornbridge beer that I’m excited about, nor the soon-to-be-crowned-classic Ilkley Mary Jane, but the Buxton Moor Top. I can’t think of a beer that is more of the moment than this one. Pale, low %abv, but absolutely stuffed full of hop character, it’s at once both no-nonsense and spectacular.” Read more here..

So it’s a big thanks to Brown & Green from me for doing what they do best, stock great local produce from equally great producers. Please pay them a visit, not just for Buxton, the rest of the local beer range is brilliant and it’s a foodies paradise too. BONUS!

If I’ve helped drive you there don’t forget to tell them Phil from Beersay sent you, you never know it may get me a few Brownie (and Greenie) points..  😉


Eskdale via Hawkshead & Victory Breweries

We took a short weekend break to Cumbria this weekend, destination The Woolpack Inn and the village of Boot in the Eskdale valley. It’s around a two and a half hour drive from Stoke with the options of a safe but longer route around the south of Lake Windermere, or a shorter and for the more adventurous, the route around the top of Windermere, then taking on the often treacherous Wrynose and Hardknott Passes.

Always up for a challenge and being a lover of all things Hardknott, we went for the latter. During the planning stages I noticed that our journey took us to within four miles of The Hawkshead Brewery and Beerhall, they had beer, good food and most importantly were “dog friendly” (which tended to drive most of our decisions) all boxes ticked, RESULT.

The brewery is located in the little village of Staveley not Hawkshead as the name may suggest, nestled in the middle of a small industrial estate is this little gem of a place.

The all new shiny beer hall looks to have been an addition to the older brewery main building, it compliments it perfectly though and clearly been built with large amounts of visitors in mind having loads of parking and plenty of outside tables too, although these weren’t in use as it was piddling down with rain in true Lakeland style.

Inside the beer hall it’s a large modern room with plenty of seating and a generous bar area where several Hawkshead beers were available. There is also a decent beer shop too with a good choice of foreign bottles available from Europe and the USA as well as Hawksheads own selection.

As I was driving I had to make a choice although I’d love to have tried them all, so I opted for half of the lovely dark roasted malty Brodies Prime whilst Mrs H went for Lakeland Lager which is described as “It’s Lager, but it’s tasty”.. 😉

I can vouch for the food to it was delicious. We both opted for the sirloin steak and caramelised onion ciabatta sandwich. The steak was beautifully cooked, buttery onions and a lightly toasted bread, Brodies Prime suited it perfectly.

Knowing we were calling in I’d made contact with Matt Clarke the head brewer at Hawkshead earlier that day, he’d kindly offered to meet us on arrival I just had to message him on Twitter and he’d pop around from the brewhouse. Sounds perfect until you hit Cumbria where all forms of mobile telecommunication ceases to work. Meeting Matt was going to prove difficult, I had no idea what he looked like so I couldn’t try and spot him. After a while one of the bar staff kindly pointed Matt out to me, but he was deeply engrossed in conversation with an American guy who clearly knew a thing or two about beer and brewing.

I’d taken a couple of beers along from our area that I thought Matt would like, Lymestone Stone Brood and Buxton Axe Edge, so I hovered before jumping in and taking my chance to introduce myself, thinking I would leave them to it and head off. It turns out that this particular American was not just a beer enthusiast, it was Jim Busch, Director of Victory Brewing Co.

Better still they were just off for an impromptu tour of the brewery and I was invited along, BONUS!

*Apologies for the poor picture quality

It was a brewery tour like no other, Matt asked and I agreed that he dispense with the normal beer tour basics, but it was then really interesting to watch Jim and Matt talking about brewing kit and how much things differed, sticking noses into this and that, generally getting excited about beer and brewing.

Twenty minutes later we were done and back in the Beer Hall tasting the wonderful Hawkshead NZPA, keep an eye out for this as it’s not currently a regular beer, it should be, it’s THAT good. It’s made using four New Zealand hops, Green Bullet, Riwaka, Motueka & Nelson Sauvin and is a real hopfest in a glass.. 🙂

Refreshed then and extremely happy we left Matt and Jim chatting away and set off for The Woolpack and the passes…

If you are in the area and want a haven from the normal touristy stop off points in the Lakes, I couldn’t recommend Hawkshead enough, even dogs and the kids are welcome. Better still stay in the area to take full advantage of the beers on offer, there is camping nearby and a range of B&B’s too.

Lastly keep an eye on their website for news of the onsite beer festivals, having sampled what’s on offer I know I will be.

Big thanks to Matt and everyone at Hawkshead for making us so welcome.