One of the favourite times of the year as a Blog reader over the past couple of years has been Christmas, and checking out other people’s end-of-year posts. Other people’s Golden Pints is something I always make a point of seeking out and seeing so many Bloggers come up with their lists has been a good mental refresher for me of the year in Beer – highlights, remembering a great beer I might have forgotten and recommendations for new things to try.
Hopefully, my list will prompt a similar response, let me know if you agree with my selections. If you disagree, your opinion is factually incorrect….
Best UK Cask Beer – High Wire – Magic Rock Brewing Company
High Wire really is my go-to Beer, one of those that if I walk into a pub and it’s on, I will invariably order a Pint. The Cask version for me is slightly preferable to Keg, if only for the contrast between the Citric, Bitter hop profile and the creamy sparkled mouthfeel that we get in the North (and even as a Southerner, I’m happy with a Sparkled Pint). Honourable Mentions go to the wonderous and mind-altering half of Beavertown Bone King I had on an unexpected lunchtime visit to Friends of Ham, and also to Kirkstall Brewery’s Black Band Porter.
Best UK Beer Keg Beer – Cannonball – Magic Rock Brewing Company
Predictable? Yes. Named by plenty of other bloggers for their Keg choice? Check. Do I care? No! Best Keg beer for me by far. Wonderfully consistent, increasingly, and in Leeds readily, available and a guaranteed flavour bomb. Other memorable beers include Northern Monk’s black IPA ,Dark Arches, and Summer Wine’s Pacer – a superb Pale Ale that enabled a heat-hating bloke to a relax with a Summer-y pint on a hot day.
Best Bottled/Canned Beer – Bottle – Wild Beer Co – Ninkasi Premier Cru
Ninkasi was my favourite Beer of 2013, and to see the Premier Cru version being launched made me initially feel a bit wary. At the time, I’d had a few Barrel-Aged or special edition version of other Beers I’d enjoyed that didn’t particularly add to the original, or felt like a sideways step into ignoring the strengths of the original version. On opening the Premier Cru, the aroma immediately dispelled any negativity. The Brett character of the original was enhanced, with a sharp apple tang but also a smooth, satisfying feel. Moreish in the extreme. For these reasons, it also gets the nod from me for Best Overall Beer.
Best Overseas Draught Beer – Freigeist Bierkultur – Salzspeicher (Raspberry)
Some Beers defy style, some seem to invent new ones and having this on tap at North Bar during their Oktoberfest was slightly mind-blowing. A sour Raspberry Porter, I felt a bit reticent to try this at first but the combination of the tart berries and roasted maltiness won me over. I only had the evening to try this and haven’t seen it anywhere since, but those three halves were a memorable experience.
Best Overseas Bottled/Canned Beer – Odell Brewing Co – Myrcenary
A huge double IPA with an even huger aroma, this had me immediately online ordering more. I also drunk a few six-packs of Ska Euphoria over the summer, and Brewfist’s Czech Norris punnery was forgiven when I tasted an Imperial Pils that kicked more ubiquitous Italian Lagers in the Crotch and spat on their neck.
Best Collaboration Brew – Magic Rock/Lervig Farmhouse IPA
Simultaneously fresh and hoppy but also with a saisony earthy quality, this beer was an instant entry into my year’s top beers. Looking forward to seeing how this develops, I think some was kept in reserve for Barrel-aging. Runners-Up medals go to Stone/Smuttynose Cluster’s Last Stand, and Buxton/Omnipollo Stolen Fruits.
Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label – Wild Beer Co
Simple, yet distinctive – clear brand recognition and informative, yet uncluttered front labelling. Classy.
Best UK Brewery – Magic Rock Brewing Co
For a smaller brewery to produce such consistently good and innovative Beers must take such dedication and hard work. One of the strengths of Magic Rock is that they don’t rest on their laurels. With an expanded brewery on the way and a canning line being fired up, 2015 is going to be their biggest and hopefully best year yet. Along with Wild Beer Co and Summer Wine Brewing, I always scan the shelves or stock list of online or offline Beer Vendors for their products first.
Best Overseas Brewery – Odell Brewing
I think with the increasing number of US Breweries that are becoming available to Beer consumers in the UK, Odell have been slightly overshadowed for some reason in the search for the ‘new’. For me, Consistency and quality are paramount when it comes to divvying up the monthly Beer allowance and Odell almost always feature in my basket. Not only are their core beers reliable and often fresh as a daisy, their seasonal specials also seem to make the long trip East intact and loaded with flavour.
Pub/Bar of the Year – Northern Monk Refectory and Best New Brewery – Northern Monk Brewing Co
Like many in Leeds, I was hugely excited when it was announced that Northern Monk had chosen Holbeck just outside of Leeds City Centre, and even more enthused when they announced their plans included a 20-tap Refectory. Around 10 of their beers are on tap at any time, and accompanied by Grub and Grog Shop’s fancy, but not fancily priced food it is truly a Beer destination for Leeds to be proud of. Northern Monk isn’t exactly a new Brewery, having released cuckoo-brewed Beer and Collaborations previously, but with a new home and a buzz around them, it feels right for me to select them after a great year. I’ve also been encouraged by the beers I’ve tried from Atom Beers of Hull and look forward to slurping my way through more soon.
Festival of the Year – Leeds International Beer Festival
2014 was the Festival’s third year, and aside from the fact that I was the only Festival I got to, it is a worthy nominee. In the grandiose setting of Leeds Town Hall, the event felt slightly larger than the previous year’s – it certainly seemed busier and the Saturday evening session was rammed. I spent most of my time in the main hall circling the centre of the room where the Northern Monk/Kernel/Magic Rock bars were located, with an occasional foray to see outside on the Town Hall steps in the warm evening sunshine.
Supermarket of the Year – Waitrose
Enough said really, I don’t shop at Supermarkets for beer often but when we pass a Waitrose I’ll pop in for a few bottles.
Independent retailer of the year – Bierhuis
My nomination for this Category goes to Bierhuis mainly as it’s my local Beer retailer, and one with a great range of bottles at good prices. If you’re looking to sample a range of bottles from Yorkshire’s smaller micros I’d recommend here above the other shops in the area due to the sheer depth of their range in this department. They also stock a good range of Belgian and World beers, and often get one-off deliveries of Beers which I havent seen available elsewhere in West Yorks. This is probably one of the tougher categories for me to pick a sole nominee, also being a loyal customer of Beer Ritz for a good few years, and greatly appreciative of and excited to see Tall Boys opening a bottle shop in Leeds City Centre – something that was sorely lacking before.
Online Retailer of the Year – Beer Merchants/Ales by Mail
I’m going to duck this one slightly as I don’t buy beer online often, being pretty well served by the businesses above, but both Beer Merchants and Ales by Mail have been exemplary in my personal experience and both stock great ranges.
Boak and Bailey don’t just write interesting and well researched articles that cover the whole spectrum of Beer and Pub related topics, they also encourage and collate efforts from other bloggers and draw attention to subjects that may have otherwise been overlooked.
Best Beer App – Twitter
My main source of info about new Beers, Breweries and Blog posts is Twitter – via the people and businesses I follow and interact with, my knowledge of the ‘scene’ and issues and news surrounding Beer has increased exponentially. Beer is nothing without people, and getting to know people and read their thoughts and opinions on Beer through Twitter has been great. The occasional paddys/meltdowns/furious rants that pop up on my timeline are also very entertaining.
I’ve followed David since joining Twitter, and have been continually entertained by his timeline’s mix of Dad jokes, doodles, thoughtful blog posts and general good-egg qualities.
Best Brewery Website/Social Media – Brewdog
Slick motherhubbards doing their thing. You like what they do or you don’t. No further explanation needed.
So, there you go, just my thoughts on what has been a good year for Beer. Much expansion planned by some of my favourites Breweries and Bars, so 2015 already looks like a year to remember.