I tend to drink a lot of beer over Christmas, so I wanted to wait until the New Year before I posted this. If you're wondering what the Golden Pints are, have a look at this.
Best UK Draught Beer
Brewdog Dead Pony Club. How many breweries make sub-four-percent beer that has body and mouthfeel and brilliant hop flavour? Not enough. Not enough, because it’s bloody difficult to get right. If someone offered to replace my tap water with Brewdog Dead Pony Club, I’d ask for advice on how to get the other-half to agree to it. Brilliant, brilliant beer. A style that American craft beer drinkers are desperate for, but that nobody is doing better than us.
(Kernel’s Table Beer was memorable for the same reasons).
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Beavertown Black Betty. The most memorable beers I drink are often those that are opened without expectation. Never more true than when I de-capped a bottle of this black IPA. Excellent balance of malt and hop flavour, enough dark malt character to prove a point whilst never becoming too much. Expectation for future Beavertown beers is now through the roof.
Best Overseas Draught Beer
Gahh, whatever! Too difficult! Taras Boulba in its native Brussels is always exceptional; it’s the first thing I order if I’m lucky enough to find myself at Moeder Lambic. I drank Goose Island at the brewery this year and it was faultless. Whether at home or abroad, a lot of the best draught beer I’ve consumed this year has one thing in common - it was drunk at, or very near to, the place it was made. For that reason, I’m going with Three Floyds Gumballhead. A pint of Gumballhead, gulped down in the brewery car park, whilst the madness of Dark Lord Day unfolded around me. Hard to beat.
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Three Floyds Dark Lord. Wonderfully ridiculous. Perfectly over the top. Associated with good times and smashed bottles.
Best Overall Beer
I’ll go Gumballhead, but ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably say something completely different.
Best Label / Pumpclip
Camden Town have done amazing things with their branding this year. Their bottles and clips look sophisticated and grown-up but cool and on-trend at the same time. When I see a bottle of Camden beer, I want to drink it. That’s the highest praise I think you can give.
Best UK Brewery
I think we widened the gap in 2012. Those breweries that were already good, got better. Magic Rock, Buxton, Kernel, Gadds’ and so on. Whilst those that aren’t so good, haven’t really improved. I think Brodies need a shout out here - I’m a sucker for their creativity and willingness to try things out. Really only Thornbridge can be given this title though. Who else is brewing beer as diverse and consistent as they are? Nobody.
Best Overseas Brewery
Last year I wrote this: “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”. Nothing’s changed. I tried my best to put the magic of Cantillon in to words this year. I failed. I was always going to fail. If you like beer, go.
Pub/Bar of the Year
Any of the micro pubs that are spreading across East Kent like they think they’re Tesco Express. Four Candles, The Why Not, Bake & Alehouse. A pint of fresh local cask ale, a locally made pork pie, crisps cut from potatoes grown two miles away. All in a room the size of your lounge. What more do you want? I’d say go out of your way to visit one, but it would defeat the entire point.
Online Retailer of the Year
You might be lucky enough to find equivalent service to Beermerchants.com, but you won’t find better.
In 2013 I’d most like to...
We’ve championed the opening of new breweries in London for a couple of years now. I want to see an improvement in quality. Don’t open a brewery if you don’t know how to make beer. I don’t care that a pub has beer from ten London breweries if all ten of those suck.
It’s probably about time I repeated myself about this too. I’d love to see better use of hops from London breweries in 2013.
I also plan on blogging it a bit more again.
Open Award: Go-To Brewery ...
Kernel. By a mile. I probably drink twice as much of their beer as I do from any other brewery.