This is the first time I’ve taken part in the Golden Pint Awards, and as ever with my writing the results are very London-centric – but London’s the capital of UK beer, right?
Best UK cask beer: Hammerton Brewery N1. This is awarded simply on the basis that it’s the cask beer I’ve drank most of this year, and with good reason. At 4.1% it’s a sessionable pale ale bursting with flavour, and when in top condition (as it always is at the Duke’s Head in Highgate), this beer is a delight.
Best UK keg beer: Cloudwater Brew Co. DIPA. Do flagon fills count? If so this was one beer (kindly held for me by the folks at Hop Burns and Black) that definitely lived up to the hype. If they don’t, then I’m going with Pressure Drop Brewing Pale Fire. My heart skips a beat whenever I walk into a pub and this beer is on. It’s a simply brilliant pale ale, which I eulogised here for BeerBods.
Best UK bottled beer: The Wild Beer Co. Yadokai. A Sake inspired ale made with flaked rice, Scottish sea buckthorn, Japanese Yuzu and two types of seaweed. Yes, you read right. Wild Beer Co. regularly pushes the boundaries of what beer can be, and none more so than with this complex brew. Genius. A close runner up is Brewdog Born to Die 27.11.2015. The self-styled punks have their detractors, but when the beer is allowed to do the talking Brewdog can be sublime. This iteration of Born to Die was a case in point. Never has the phrase “live fast, die young” been more relevant.
Best UK canned beer: Moor Beer Co. Hoppiness. The rise of the canning line has been one of the headline stories of the UK beer scene this year, with mixed results. When it’s done right I’m a big fan, and no brewery has bettered this spectacular beer from Moor.
Best overseas bottled/canned beer: Modern Times Blazing World. I first had this beer from the San Diegan brewery at Brewdog Manchester in September, then proceeded to drink as much of it as I could while stocks lasted. I fell head over heals in love with it, so much so that I asked Modern Times’ founder and owner Jacob McKean for an interview, and he duly obliged. You can read it here. A special mention goes to Gunnamatta from the Yeastie Boys – we are blessed to have beers from it and the rest of the New Zealand Craft Beer Collective here in the UK.
Best overseas draught beer: Geuezerie Tilquin Oude Gueuze Tilquin à l’Ancienne. I enjoyed this at the Saturday afternoon session of IndyManBeerCon, but I am always curious as to whether such epiphanies are more to do with the context rather than the beer itself. Either way, drinking this beer while sharing a cheeseboard with Gemma in one of the changing booths at the Victoria Baths is my undisputed beer memory of the year.
Best overall beer of 2015: Five Points Brewing Co. IPA. My go-to take-home beer this year. It never disappoints; it’s big and boozy and eminently satisfying and were it not for limitations of finances and health I would drink it each and every day, copiously.
Best branding: Cloudwater Brew Co. Enough said.
Best UK brewery opening: Cloudwater Brew Co. No brewery has made such an impact, even prior to its first brew, than Manchester’s Cloudwater. With its unique approach of producing seasonal ranges, some may have sensed a gimmick. I know I speak for others, however, when I say that Cloudwater has delivered on its promise, and how. The Motueka Lager was my first beer at IndyMan, and it wasn’t bettered.
Best UK brewery: Five Points Brewing Co. The Hackney brewery is my winner for many reasons: it continues to grow and is a real success story; its social media savvy means I always know where to get a pint of Pale or Hook Island Red; and it’s the organiser of London Brewer’s Market. In a nutshell, this award is for services to beer.
Best overseas brewery: Modern Times. This is a deeply personal choice; Blazing World moved me in a way no beer has before or since. We’re going to New York, Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans next year, and I briefly considered begging Gemma to tear up the schedule and make for San Diego instead. Luckily I managed to comport myself with dignity, just.
Best new pub/bar opening: Howling Hops Tank Bar. The UK’s first dedicated tank bar was the most exciting development for beer drinking in London since Mother Kelly’s. Fact.
Pub/bar of the year: The Duke’s Head, Highgate. From the moment I entered this pub, I received a warm welcome. It’s a place where cask and keg are held in equal esteem, and the monthly food pop-ups are more hit than miss. Added to this are the regular events held in collaboration with Matt “Total Ales” Curtis, plus THEY PUT MY NAME ON THE BOARD! I also regard manager Tom as a good friend now, a friendship forged through a shared love of great beer.
Best festival of 2015: The Independent Manchester Beer Convention. My tongue-in-cheek comment about London being the UK’s beer capital is arguably undermined by this one event. Simply fantastic.
Supermarket of the year: Waitrose. If there was a Tesco near me it would be the winner as I would be in there weekly, filling my trolley with Tesco Finest American Double IPA (Brewdog Hardcore IPA). As it is, Waitrose is a good shout for a regular supply of reasonably priced Punk IPA, Oakham Citra and Sierra Nevada Pale – and the annual Fuller’s Vintage Ale of course.
Independent retailer of the year: Hop Burns and Black. This one was a close call as since Caps and Taps opened in Kentish Town it’s become my local, truly great bottle shop. Hop Burns and Black is awesome, however, with a unique concept and owned and run by two absolutely lovely folk. With a great line up of events, customer service that is second to none and great beers, it’s worth making the trip south of the river for.
Online retailer of the year: Eebria. It furnished me with three bottles of Good King Henry Special Reserve along with many other great, rare beers this year.
Best beer book or magazine: Brew Britannia. A Christmas present last year, this tome from Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey traces the history of beer in the UK from pre-CAMRA to post-craft, with valuable insights from the key players. A must if you want to know how we got here.
Best beer blog or website: Total Ales. This has been a great year for Matt Curtis, what with his growing list of events, joining the team at Good Beer Hunting and that awesome bouncy mop of hair. His is the blog I read the most. Kudos.
Best beer app: Twitter. While Untappd continues to be a great aide-memoire and I increasingly use Instagram to document my beery journey, Twitter is unrivalled for #CraftBantz (groan).
Best Brewery Website: Modern Times. When doing research for my interview with Jacob I was fascinated by his blog which documents the trials and tribulations, thrills and spills of starting a brewery. An honourable mention goes to Cloudwater Brew Co.’s excellent blog.
Best brewery use of social media: Five Points Brew Co. As stated above I always know where its beer is on, and my Twitter timeline isn’t flooded with retweets of Untappd check-ins of its beers. Admirable restraint that other breweries could learn from.
Best collaboration brew: Buxton/Omnipollo Yellow Belly. I realise this was originally brewed last year, but I had it for the first time this year. Colin Stronge and the Buxton team are on fine form currently, and I was blown away by this collaboration with the brewery from my former hometown of Stockholm. I have another two bottles in my
cellar cupboard, and am looking forward to seeing how they develop.
Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer: Broadford Brewer/Twatty Beer Doodles. The first for the dad jokes, the latter for the amazing beery doodles. It’s one and the same person (David) in case you were unaware.
There we have it. Perhaps not the most diverse range of beers, styles or breweries but this is what I enjoyed most this year. Cheers!
Addendum: The Beer O’Clock Show podcast often misses out on awards and the like on account of its format, so I wanted to give it a special mention. The guys have had some fantastic guests on this season, and it continues to go from strength to strength – #cheersguys!