Well I knew I was indecisive, but this took ages! Here are my Golden Pint winners for 2011.
Best UK Draught Beer
To pack so much flavour into a beer so small; Redemption Trinity really is a triumph. Camden Town managed to change my mind on a whole style with their Gentleman’s Wit. Brewdog took a beer that’d become one dimensional and too bitter, and they turned it into an IPA that rivals anything from the US. The winner however, is a beer that had me coming back time and again, a beer that takes the Nelson Sauvin hop and makes it dance on a pedestal. Thornbridge Kipling.
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
I had some cracking bottles of Oakham Citra last year. There’s one brewery synonymous with bottled beer though, and that’s The Kernel. Their Imperial Brown Stout was fantastic, but even better was batch 2 of the Coffee IPA.
Best Overseas Draught Beer
Unfiltered, unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell was there at one of the best beer-related nights of 2011 - the European Beer Bloggers Conference. It was there when I finished a magical trip around the brewery cellars in Pilsen, and it was there when I drank one of the most ridiculous-but-delicious pints of the year. Inimitable, beautiful, delicious.
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
A runner up and a winner linked by age. I drank Great Divide Wood Aged Double IPA on Christmas day and it forced me to think about the ageing and storage of beer in a completely new way. I drank Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus at the brewery recently and the bottling was so fresh that it felt like I was drinking framboise for the first time all over again. The Cantillon takes it.
Best Overall Beer
Unfiltered, unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell. Simply put, if you love beer and you’ve only tried the standard version, you owe yourself a trip to Pilsen.
Best Pumpclip or Label
Whenever Johanna Basford works with Brewdog, the result rocks. The bottle label for Sunk Punk (above, from here) was a true work of art. I also think Badger are worth a mention for the overhaul they gave their bottles, and for the way they consistently display flavour profile and food matching information on their labelling.
Best UK Brewery
For picking up where they left off in 2010, The Kernel. For seizing 2011 and making it their own, Magic Rock. For most exciting me about 2012, Camden Town.
Best Overseas Brewery
Mikkeller rarely put a foot wrong, and when you consider the number of variables brought about by brewing in so many borrowed breweries, the opportunity for a cock-up is huge. Testament indeed to the sheer brewing skill and expertise of Mr Mikkel Borg Bjergsø. In truth, however, this is the easiest category to pick a winner for. The Cantillon brewery is one-of-a-kind. I could happily spend every Saturday morning there, watching American tourists recoil at their first taste of lambic and drinking some of the best beer in the entire world.
Pub/Bar of the Year
Moeder Lambic Fontainas has an awesome draft beer lineup and the kind of service that every barman should aspire to. Barcade in Brooklyn is the best beer bar I’ve ever been to. Ever.
Beer Festival of the Year
For its location, beer list, and for the amount of Gadds’ beer involved ... Planet Thanet. The London Brewers Alliance Showcase was great again too.
Independent Retailer of the Year
The Bottle Shop in Canterbury. Customer service to rival Moeder Lambic.
Online Retailer of the Year
For quality of service and product range, it has to be My Brewery Tap.
Best Beer Blog or Website
MrDrinkNeat. Video beer reviews the way (I think) they should be done – informative, well edited and succinct. Pencil & Spoon goes without saying.
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Brooklyn East India Pale Ale and pulled pork at Fette Sau. (To be completely honest though, the bourbon we had was even better).
In 2012 I’d Most Like To ...
Write more outside of the blog, visit the US again, see Paula Radcliffe win the Olympic marathon.