What’s in a rate?

60302320The problem with rating anything is that it is personally subjective, plus there are so many variable external influences that can, or could, influence the reviewers score or comments either consciously or unconsciously. Rating beer is no different.

Mood, location, are you too warm or too cold, is the beer to warm or too cold. Is it lively or flat as a kippers dick, is it supposed to be lively or like the other.

Knowledge, personal preference, location, experience, expectation, loyalty, brand perception, the unknown, peer pressure.

The last drink you had, that bag of spicy Space Raiders you just ate, or the delicious cheese you are eating right now that just pairs so well.

Who brewed it, when did they brew it, how was it shipped, is it fresh, is it old, is it “meant” to be drunk fresh or is it better to save it until it is old, if so for how long, how long is too long?

Where was it stored, how was it stored, how did you pour it, into what, was it clean, did you bother to pour it into anything, a can is for supping from right, did I see you just chugg that Orval??

Too bitter, too sweet, too hoppy, “hoppy, this isn’t hoppy”? Wow that’s strong, pfft too weak, way too much whisky barrel, it’s cloudy, that’s haze, too clear, I love unfiltered, this is boring, too brown, why is there fruit in here, can you taste phenolic sweetcorn?

What you just read on Untappd, Ratebeer, Beeradvocate and such?

Then there’s the actual rate, how do you rate, what is “good” for you, a three, a four, a FIVE, in that case what is exceptional?

Untappd Groupie!

Untappd Groupie!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking folks who rate, I personally use Untappd for example, and as such am at times (and definitely without any positive thought going into it), a certified “badge wanker”.. It was during such activity last night that these thoughts were pondered.

I don’t normally post comments, or at least anything worth reading tasting note wise, maybe an expression of delight or at worst a “meh”, but last night reading down some of the others below before I “tappd” I was a little bemused by some of the comments, so I did:

“Fucking hell there are some odd remarks about this beer on Untappd, it is ace, end of 😀 #justsaying” I said, exactly.

The beer in question being the Buxton-Evil Twin collaboration “Anglo Mania, described as an English Barley Wine.

What made me think that more than anything were the two comments on separate rates below.

“My rating is based on expectation of a smash English Barleywine. Way too hoppy. It’s more of an American Barleywine.”

“Love a good barleywine but I feel this could do with some big piney American hops.”

One was expecting an English Barley Wine and clearly didn’t get one, too damn American tasting, what WERE those brewers thinking!?! The other bought an English Barley Wine and wanted it to be bloody “Merican”, maybe that clue in the title just wasn’t clear enough… For me, I don’t really care which style it was, it tasted great, I loved it.

Then of course there’s the marking system, (if you use one). I do, but it’s hardly rocket science and probably changes several times a session depending on many things including alcohol and memory. It goes something like this.

1-1.5. Shite, drain pour, why me..

2-3. Meh, below average, probably wouldn’t drink again.

3-4 Decent, rising through regular standard, I like sorta beer.

4.5. OOOOOH, really good, I could drink loads of this.

and finally

5. Fuckadoodledoo, call the registrar and arrange a special licence, I’m in love and we are gonna have ourselves a wedding. (I actually rated this as a five, it was probably only a 4.75, so put away that wedding dress Mr Stronge.) 

But then of course others rates are totally different, as again was evident in a conversation with a good mate who I know, knows his beer. He (Rich) said “I gave it a 3.8 so it was quality”. On chatting he clearly loved it, but obviously has a different, perhaps more in-depth (or less haphazard) way of logging what he’s tried than I. Different strokes for different folks…

Then do you share your thoughts on social media, or keep them to yourselves? Personally speaking I rarely share these days apart from the odd one or two and of course the obligatory “badgewankery”. Some do though and at times I think for slightly unscrupulous reasons too on occasion.

The thing is, people do read these comments and can pre-judge by what has been said and/or for low or high scores. I know I have, especially if it relates to an unknown brewery or perhaps a particularly expensive beer, where I will have a quick peek at what people are saying before deciding on whether or not to buy. I’m not proud of it, and dread to think of how many really good beers I’ve passed by in doing so.

So, what’s in a rate, a personal opinion of a moment in time is all it is. So keep an open mind when you next read beer notes and be mindful of what you write.

Cheers

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.
IMG_7098
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!

Antisocial media?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/purplemattfish/Some folk absolutely love to do it alone at home or maybe out and about in absolute secrecy, hiding in shadows afraid of being discovered by a jealous partner.

Others prefer to do it groups, either privately gathered together in dimly lit rooms, or for the uninhibited, even in broad daylight the dirty swines!

My Mrs absolutely hates it and is always telling me to put it away. She says “I should stop playing with it all the time and taking pictures to show other people how good or bad it was”, “it makes you look like a geek” etc…..

Love it or loathe it, lots of us are doing it and I’m talking of course about using Untappd.

qfox8afmxczdwmj4s4ymI started using Untappd late last year basically as a tool to log what I’ve tasted over the year as my memory is awful. I came to write up my Golden Pints and thought “I’ve been to some amazing places and drank copious amounts of superb beer, but I haven’t a clue what they were now”, after all, I’d slept since then.

Anyone who follows me on there knows that I don’t write much if anything, maybe the odd note or a thank you or whatever if the beer was from a friend. My rating system leaves a lot to be desired too, but again, I’m not losing any sleep over that either and would say only that you are and actually give a monkeys what I drink, then if I’ve marked it at 4 to five stars it’s probably worth a punt to being ace in my view.

untappdWhat I have noticed though since I started to use the app or website, is that despite the published aim of Untappd above, I think at least personally I chat with people less about what I’m drinking now than I ever did before. Yes, if I post the beer I’m drinking via Untappd to Twitter or Facebook I do get the odd comment or sometimes a conversation commences as a result, maybe even a comment on Untappd itself, but nothing like it was in the days I first started using Twitter.

I’m not sure why this happens, maybe it’s because some people really hate Untappd and things like it and just switch off, maybe there is just too much of it now for folks to have time to winnow anything worth discussing from the chaff? Of course it could be that it’s just me that has noticed this phenomenon and you are all bored shitless of me wittering on about beer every day…

Don’t get me wrong here, I like Untappd (despite being labelled a geek) and will continue to use it, as for me it’s proving an invaluable tool to log my beer journey and I’m looking forward to revisiting all the info at the end of the year, but maybe I’ll post a bit less publicly via this and more directly in an old school stylee in an attempt to rekindle some lost friendships and contacts.

What’s your views on this, are you a lover or a hater? I’d love to hear of your experiences using Untappd and others like it?

Cheers

Pic by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/purplemattfish/