Golden Pints 2011
These are my Golden Pints for 2011. This is going to be one of those awards ceremonies that goes on for ages. My new year’s resolution should probably be brevity. However, if you like you can just read the bits in bold and skip the commentary.
Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg)
Winner: Summer Wine Diablo
I think 2011 has been the year of Diablo for me. I think I had it first around the start of the year, either just before or at NWAF, and at the time it was the perfect beer for me, picking up where Thornbridge Jaipur left off. Since then it’s been a regular drink on cask, keg or now in bottles. Probably the first beer of which I bought a full case, come to think of it.
Runner Up: Hawkshead Windermere Pale Ale
A revelation of a cask session pale, I’m always happy to see this on the bar when I’m thirsty. There’s virtually no other beer I’d rather drink after a long walk, preferably with a Brodies Prime Scotch Egg.
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Winner: Kernel 4Cs
More representative of Kernel’s ever-changing range of IPAs than an award just on its own behalf. Each of these beers is a joy to drink; so fresh, juicy and hoppy that they usually reduce me to silent admiration. Happily for my drinking companions.
Runner Up: Summer Wine Cohort
Double Black Belgian Rye PA. It sounds like overengineered nonsense; a lion with reindeer horns and the tail of a scorpion. But it works so very well that it seems effortless. Thursday evening on the sofa becomes a drink in the bar of Spacestation Ultrabruges IV.
Best Overseas Draught Beer
Winner: Tripel De Garre
Everyone should go to Bruges and enjoy the house beer in Staminee De Garre. Everyone.
Runner Up: Odell IPA
Much as I enjoy the big, brash, blockbusting DIPAs, Black IPAs etc of this world, this gets close to exactly what I want in an American beer, and I got to drink it on keg in both Mr Foleys and North this year.
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
I had a lot of very good Belgian beer this year, in Bruges and in Leeds, but this is the one I always want to have in the house.
Runner Up: Bear Republic Racer 5
I do wish the bears (I picture a Grizzly, Polar and Panda around a cabinet table in M&S suits) would get their act together and export more of these to the UK, so we can all enjoy one of the best IPAs in the world.
Best Overall Beer
Winner: Summer Wine Diablo
If this were always on in the pub, in keg or cask, and always in my fridge, I would be a very happy man.
Best Pumpclip or Label
Winner: Odell Myrcenary
Full of energy and understated style.
Runner Up: Sierra Nevada Hoptimum
Clever, refined and fun. Reminiscent of Tony Millionaire.
Best UK Brewery
Winner: Summer Wine
James and Andy work bloody hard to make beers they’d like to drink, and it really shows. Craftsmen.
Runner Up: Kernel
There’s a good chance Kernel would have won if I lived in London. But I don’t.
Best Overseas Brewery
Winner: De Molen
I’ve really enjoyed De Molen beers when I’ve had the chance this year, either in Amsterdam, Utobeer, the Rake or North Bar. I really want to get to know them better.
Runner Up: Odell
Did Odell seem to hit the UK in a big way this year or is it just me? Anyway, I really like quite a few of their beers and their design, so it pipped other, more established US contenders at the post.
Pub/Bar of the Year
You know what, it’s all very nice gallivanting to Staminee De Garre, Craft, Sheffield Tap, The Euston Tap, Port Street Beer House, The Sparrow, The Grove, The Rake, Hawkshead Beer Hall and so on, but it would mean very little if I didn’t have two such excellent bars to go to in my home city. They’re different, but both have been even better than usual this year, with North’s Magic Rock Launch Night and Mr Foley’s IPA Day Celebration being highlights. Well done Dean and Matt et al.
Runner Up: Staminee De Garre
Supermarket of the Year
Waitrose have been stocking Thornbridge beers this year, alongside Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Meantime IPA and a couple of other pretty special beers.
Runner Up: Marks & Spencer
Marks are different from the other supermarkets in contracting unique beers for their own brand range. Standouts have included Cornish IPA (St Austell) and Southwold Winter IPA (Adnams) and I’m really looking forward to trying the fancy big bottle of Greenwich Hospital Porter (Meantime) I bought the other day.
Independent Retailer of the Year
Winner: Beer Ritz
The beating heart of the West Yorkshire beer scene, which was nearly snatched from us without warning in the first half of the year. There are, at my last count, three beer bloggers involved in the management and sales at Beer Ritz. This tells you something. I don’t get home from a long day at work and think, “Oh, law is bloody brilliant. I really must write a blog entry about law”.
Runner Up: The Bottle Shop
Great selection, fortuitously attached to The House Of The Trembling Madness. Getting your clientele pissed on the premises, surrounded by taxidermy, fed to the brim on cured meats, and then making them walk them through a remarkable off-licence to exit: THAT, my friends, is a business plan.
Online Retailer of the Year
Winner: Beer Merchants
Good selection, easy-to-use website, great customer service.
Runner Up: Beer Ritz Mail Order
As above, with an improved website in recent months.
Best Beer Book or Magazine
Winner: BEER Magazine
The intelligent, thoughtful face of CAMRA. I got to write for it this year, which probably signals imminent decline.
Runner Up: The Oxford Companion To Beer
Regardless of the errata, which I am very grateful to various learned beer scholars for pointing out, this is full of fascinating and brilliant beer writing, not least from Garrett Oliver himself.
Best Beer Blog or Website
Oh bloody hell. This is like Solomon’s Dilemma. However, if you’re asking me to make a choice on the spot…
Winner: Called To The Bar
Adrian Tierney-Jones is the most interesting beer writer I read on a regular basis. His posts are interestingly written regardless of subject matter: it doesn’t matter if I’ll never have that beer, don’t like that beer, will never go to that pub. The post is an end in itself.
Runner Up: The Good Stuff
Leigh is also a superb writer. This is a bit awkward, as I know him and now regard him to be a friend, but recently he’s another writer who I’m actually excited to read, either on his blog or elsewhere. A bit of recipe porn and nice photos also helps.
Honourable Mention: The West Yorkshire Beer Blogging Massive
West Yorkshire seems to be replete with excellent blogging. Lock infinite West Yorkshire monkeys in a room with infinite laptops and infinite taps, and you’d still be very lucky to find The Complete Works of Broadford Brewer, Eating Isn’t Cheating, Hopzine, Ghost Drinker, New Briggate Beer Blog, Northern Writes, Real Ale Reviews and the others. Also of course, Sir Zak Avery.
Best Beer Twitterer
Winner: Simon Johnson
Simon will walk this category this year, and deservedly so. His blog is also as good as his tweets, and the fact that he isn’t mentioned in the category above is a travesty. Who’s responsible for this shambles?
From different ends of the country, through their blogs and twitter accounts these tie together the beer scene and write posts that make you think.
In 2012 I’d Most Like To…
Share a drink with those bloggers I haven’t yet met, so I’m really looking forward to meeting people like Steve Lamond, Phil Hardy and Marverine Cole at the European Beer Bloggers Conference 2012 in Leeds.
Open Category: Overall Highlight of The Year:
Winner: Brewing and drinking Summer Wine Covenant
A really lovely offer from Andy and James meant that beer was an integral part of our wedding celebrations. It was great that the beer came out so well and got such good feedback. However I should say that Summer Wine would have been mentioned as much as they are above regardless.