Golden Pints 2014

Golden Pints 2014

Crikey. It’s been a bit of a year, hasn’t it? Time to beat ourselves to death again over what were the best beers of the year. Having already done my Golden Posts, I thought I would have sufficiently limbered up the beer memory section of my brain, but alas, no, Golden Pints gets harder every year. This is obviously brilliant though, so let’s crack on.

 

BEST UK CASK BEER

Jarl.

Jarl. Jarl. Jarl.

Jarl.

Fyne Ales Jarl.

Jarl is a stunning beer in any format, but it also shows just how great a dispense method cask can be. It’s all about what the beer gains from it in terms of body and finish, and it makes most other pale ales seem embarrassingly one-dimensional.

Runner up: Magic Rock High Wire, Adnams Ghost Ship.

 

BEST UK KEG BEER

I’ve been hugely impressed by the consistency, conditioning, and clarity of flavour of Beavertown Gamma Ray this year. Foaming out of the glass, its gorgeous flavours in stunning high-definition and in perfect nick. Every. Single. Time. It’s no coincidence – it’s hard work and it’s paying off big time.

Runners up: Pressue Drop Pale Fire, Camden Town Brewery Pils, Brew By Numbers Berlinerweisse Lime

 

BEST UK BOTTLED/CANNED BEER

2014 really was the year of the #can, and among the leading pack of Beavertown, Fourpure and BrewDog, a late runner emerged in the form of Camden Town’s IHL. It’s simply the best lager being made in the UK, and one of the best-tasting beers in the UK overall. Whilst to many it might seem like ‘just another hoppy beer’, the technical accomplishment of this bright, detailed and glorious beer should not be underestimated.

Runner up: BrewDog Dead Pony Club

 

BEST OVERSEAS DRAUGHT

I tried some amazing Czech beer when I visited Prague earlier this year, but missed out on a trip to Pivovar Kout due to having to fly home early. I was overjoyed to see some of its beers launched at Mother Kelly’s last month and after one taste of the Kout 12˚ Unfiltered, there was no doubt left in my mind. Quite possibly the fullest, richest and yet most balanced lager beer in the world. Sensational.

Runners up: Firestone Walker Double Jack, Lagunitas Lil’ Sumpin’, Troubadour Magma

 

BEST OVERSEAS BOTTLED/CANNED

The reaction to Galway Bay’s Of Foam and Fury double IPA from visitors to Dublin for EBBC14 was unanimous – this is truly an incredible beer that stands up to the very best from the US and the UK, and sums up in so many ways the heart and ambition in the Irish craft beer scene.

Runners up: Westbrook Gose, Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s IPA,

 

BEST COLLABORATION BREW

The ingenious blend of Camden Town Gentleman’s Wit and The Kernel London Sour is a great achievement in its own right, but the ageing of that blend in a burgundy barrel took the resulting beer to a whole new level. Camden Town/The Kernel Gentleman’s Agreement was easily one of the most memorable beers I’ve tasted this year, with a stunning complexity that punched well its modest strength of 4% abv.

Runner up: Beavertown/ELLC Londonerweisse

 

BEST OVERALL BEER

I don’t want to choose, I really don’t, but one beer  has impressed me more than any other this year and it’s Camden Town IHL. What an incredible piece of work.

 

BEST BRANDING, PUMPCLIP OR LABEL

It’s a very crowded field these days, and too tricky to choose one from so many, so here are my favourites of the year and why:

– Pressure Drop for Nanban Kanpai and Ballwanger

– Beavertown for Gamma Ray and Bone King

– Camden Town for IHL and Hells cans

– BrewDog for their rebrand, which grows on me day by day, and especially for how Jackhammer and Zeitgeist now look.

 

BEST UK BREWERY

It’s nigh on impossible to pick just one anymore. The only criteria I could really use this year was whether any one brewery is as good or better than the brewery I gave this to last year – The Kernel. I think only one brewery in the UK has really nailed every single beer they sell, no matter the container, the style or the packaging, and that’s Beavertown. It’s been an amazing year for them. They’ve advanced themselves enormously, but also the craft beer scene as a whole with some amazing events and incredible collaborations.

Runners up: The Kernel, Thornbridge, BrewDog, Magic Rock, Camden Town, Weird Beard, Buxton

 

BEST OVERSEAS BREWERY

Dieu Du Ciel! is probably the only brewery that can get away with having an exclamation mark in its name, and that oomph is locked into every one of its beers. I was blown away by Moralité and the sheer breadth of beers they brought over for tap takeovers in BrewDog bars this year. Incredible stuff and a brewery I want to see more of.

Runners up: Firestone Walker, Cantillon.

 

BEST NEW BREWERY OPENING 2014

The beers knocked out by Connor on his first try with the new kit at the Dragonfly in Acton told me me this was a brewer who knows what he is doing. Hitting the ground running with well-rounded examples of best bitter, American pale ale, dry stout and hefeweizen in one the best-looking pubs in the capital is a strong start, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they grow in 2015. Special mention for Runaway Brewery whose IPA and American Brown both really impressed me this year.

Runners up: Runaway Brewery.

 

PUB/BAR OF THE YEAR

It has the best staff, amazing customer service, a new and improved food menu and not just the range (“40 taps of awesome”) but also the management to make every one of those taps count. Every time I’ve been to BrewDog Shepherd’s Bush I’ve felt like a valued customer and left full of great, great beer.

Runners up: Mother Kelly’s, Hop and Berry, North Bar.

 

BEST NEW PUB/BAR OPENING 2014

From the moment it opened, Mother Kelly’s has been making all the right moves. Fully refrigerated beer selection to enjoy there or take away, an ever-rotating selection of great draught beers and simple, well-chosen sharing boards in an area that’s fast becoming a microcosm of great independent bars of all kinds.

Runners up: Dragonfly Acton, Hop and Berry. 

 

BEER FESTIVAL OF THE YEAR

I loved Leeds International Beer Festival this year, but when I finally went to the Independent Manchester Beer Convention this year for the first time, I saw where the DNA came from. IMBC is the most influential change to British beer festivals since CAMRA, and it’s right that more people emulate its formula that brings great beer to great people in a great location. It’s brilliantly organised, and the hard work behind it shows in the smiles on the faces of the attendees.

Runners up: London Craft Beer Festival, Leeds International Beer Festival.

 

SUPERMARKET OF THE YEAR

Waitrose would have taken this again, but M&S clinched it at the very last minute by being the first UK supermarket to sell six-packs of bottles of craft beer (Lagunitas IPA). It doesn’t sound much but it’s a huge step-change for supermarket retail in the UK. Waitrose and Tesco will follow.

Runner up: Waitrose

 

INDEPENDENT RETAILER OF THE YEAR

A tough category as the choice gets better every year, but my winner is Sourced Market in St Pancras. The selection is great, the prices decent, the option to drink on the premises very welcome, but I’m always stunned to see just how fresh the beer is (Kernel pale ales bottled yesterday you say?) and the newest beers in London are always well-represented. Special mention for newcomer Hop Burns and Black, who, whilst very far away from me, have an amazing selection that demands regular return visits.

Runners up: Hop Burns & Black.

 

ONLINE RETAILER OF THE YEAR

I rarely order online, but I’m going to give this one to BeerBods (disclosure: I’ve done a couple of write-ups for them) because they’re doing great work in getting people interested in trying and talking about new beers. I also like their new ‘collections’ of mixed beer cases they’ve started to offer. They are fighting the good fight the right way, and the number of people emulating what they do shows just how right they are.

Runner up: Ales by Mail

 

BEST BEER BOOK OR MAGAZINE

The long awaited modern history book for beer geeks, Boak and Bailey’s Brew Britannia, was as great as we had all hoped. It’s not just a great read, it’s also important and right that we have finally have an objective text covering the rebirth of British beer. The authors tireless research and insightful conclusions are both fascinating and, by the end, hugely reassuring. It’s a real triumph.

 

BEST BEER BLOG OR WEBSITE

For the stories, the breathlessly excited tasting notes, the pictures, the bravery to tackle divisive issues with passion and the composure to respond to criticism with unflappable calm, my winner is Total Ales by Matt Curtis. I work closely with Matt and we’re good friends, but his blog is still the one that makes me think ‘Shit, I’d better write something bloody good next time’.

Runners up: Get Beer Drink Beer by Justin Mason, The BeerCast by Richard Taylor, Boak and Bailey’s Beer Blog.

 

BEST BEER APP

Fiz provided a fun and cheerful escape from dreary commutes for good little while, but nothing connects me to beer, beer people and beer places more or better than Twitter. It’s easily become the most useful, adjustable and accurate lens through which I view the world of beer.

Runners up: Fiz, Craft Beer London.

 

SIMON JOHNSON AWARD FOR BEST BEER TWITTERER

David Bishop (@broadfordbrewer) says what we’re all thinking, or at least, what many of us would be thinking if we were as funny as him. His #twattybeerdoodles have become finger-on-the-pulse political cartoons for the world of beer, and his high-quality dad jokes take the edge of even the most ferocious hangover.  He’s a lovely bloke too, annoyingly.

Runners up: @totalcurtis, @boakandbailey.

 

BEST BREWERY WEBSITE/SOCIAL MEDIA

When it comes to online and social media interaction, no brewery comes close to BrewDog, but Beavertown and Camden Town have both upped their game and are themselves quite far ahead of everyone else.

Runners up: Beavertown, Camden Town

 

UPDATE: Golden Posts 2014

(‘Beer cans’ by Michelle Tribe, from Flickr, under Creative Commons)

You may or may not remember a post I wrote back in *adjusts spectacles, squints at screen* February, in which I proposed an end-of-year celebration of the best beer blogs and blogposts, The Golden Posts, in a similar fashion to The Golden Pints.

Whilst we all generally get along and say “good post!” and argue in each others’ comments feeds, there’s not that much actual feedback in the blogoshire, or indeed any formal celebration of particular blog posts. Bloggers can submit their work to the annual awards held by the British Guild of Beer Writers (whether they are members of the Guild or not), but I don’t think that this (currently) adequately caters for the diversity of beer blogging, or indeed the sheer number of us.

The other reason I want to do the Golden Posts this year is because I’m really interested in what everyone’s personal tastes are when it comes to beer blogs, and whether, year-on-year, any identifiable trends emerge. Each tired sigh from the crypt of “is beer blogging dead?” (accompanied by the rattling of chains, creaking of doors and so on) suggests to me a suffocating, numbing ignorance of just how many great beer blogs are out there, so I hope The Golden Posts could help people find new, great blogs.

My suggestions for categories were: Best History Post, Best Impassioned Rant, Best Pub Post, Best Palate Post, Best Beer Travel Post, Funniest Post and an Open Category.

Initial feedback was positive, though there were several requests for a video category. I’ve thought about this a bit and decided that whilst there’s a lot more video bloggers these days, I’m not sure there are really enough to compete against each other on a level playing field. Most are trying to be different to each other, or are hard to compare directly.

However, there are several that are still more than worthy of praise, so I’ve decided to make the Open Category even more open: it can now be ANYTHING posted online about beer that you think is worthy of everyone’s attention and praise. Abstract blog posts that don’t fit in the other categories, tweets, Vines and indeed videos of any kind. If loads of people pick different videos, I’ll take that as evidence to include a video category next time, or something.

I’ve also adjusted the descriptions and names of a couple. Impassioned Rant could also be a professionally written Op-Ed sort of piece that firmly nails the author’s colours to the mast on a specific issue, and the Best Palate Post can also be one that shows off some beer and food skills whether in recipe/pairing/description etc.

So, the Final Categories are:

  • Best History Post (a post that covers, explains, or unveils a fascinating bit of beer or pub-related history)
  • Best Impassioned Rant/Op-Ed (a post that has JUST ABOUT *HAD IT* with a particular issue, but makes some damn good points too)
  • Best Pub Post (a post that shines a light onto a particular pub, and makes us want to be there with the author)
  • Best Palate Post (a post that showcases the dazzling, laser-accurate palate of a gifted taster and bring the description of a beer or beers to life. This might also be a post that demonstrates a masterful food and beer pairing/recipe)
  • Best Beer Travel Post (a post that really takes you somewhere and gets well-refreshed/rowdy/locked up in a foreign jail to boot)
  • Funniest Post (a post that… *giggle*…I mean, the way it… it… *guffaws*… it’s just absolutely *sobs, falls off chair*)
  • Open Category (anything posted online about beer that impressed you – whether it’s a video, tweet, Vine or photo, or a beer blog post that inspired you, amazed you, had great photos, personal significance or otherwise is deserving of praise but doesn’t fit in any other category)

One winner per category, please, but feel free to note any honourable mentions/runners-up. Most importantly, tell us why that post is a winner, and what the blogger in question did right. Tell the world about your Golden Posts in a blog post around the end of the year, or by tweet/Facebook/series of Vines stitched together, and I’ll do some kind of round-up. Hashtag your tweets #GoldenPosts and/or send an email with a link to cshallwriter[at]gmail[dot]com.

But wait! some of you cry, I want to take part in the Golden Posts but I:

  1. didn’t know you’d suggested doing so;
  2. can’t think of any posts to give awards to; and/or
  3. saw you say something about this but totally forgot.

No problem. I’ve thought of some prompts to help you remember posts you might have particularly enjoyed this year to get you rolling. Make some notes on them, use apps like Pocket etc., or perhaps start a draft blog post now that you add to as the year goes on. Here are some little prompts:

  • What beer festivals/beer launches/dinners/tasting events have you been to this year, or really enjoyed reading about?
  • Which are your favourite blogs to read, and why?
  • Have you bought any books by beer writers this year, and do you like their blogs?
  • Did you read a blog this year that inspired you to write something yourself?
  • Did you read a blog this year that convinced you to try a new beer, or revisit one you don’t like?
  • Have you planned to go on a beery holiday or trip somewhere because of a great blog post you read?
  • Did you start following someone on Twitter/Facebook etc. on the strength of a post you read?

I hope those help. I’ll be doing my Golden Posts at some point in December, and I’ll try to remind everyone again closer to the time. I’m really looking forward to seeing what people pick this year, and thanks in advance to everyone who wants to participate. Cheers!

 

UPDATE (20/11/14): I’m planning to post my #GoldenPosts blog in the first week of December. Feel free to join me in the opening week, or wait and have a read to get the idea before taking the plunge.

 

Golden Posts 2014?

(‘Beer cans’ by Michelle Tribe, from Flickr, under Creative Commons)

At the British Guild of Beer Writers‘ Awards Dinner in December, Pete Brown, last year’s winner of the Golden Tankard, was on the judging panel and made some very astute comments on the state of beer writing, and particularly online.

Pete took charge of judging the Online Media category, where there were more submissions than in any other, and more than ever before. No longer are we as beer writers restricted to the written word. Podcasts, video reviews and more all make up part of the online beer landscape, and comparing them directly is particularly difficult. In the end though, those that took home prizes were all bloggers and writers, using the written word alone to further the cause of good beer.

Pete noted that many more online beer writers deserved awards than just Richard Taylor and Adrian Tierney-Jones, and I was dumbstruck to hear my own name given an honourable mention alongside previous Silver Award winner Jerry Bartlett. As well as being enormously proud just to hear my name said out loud by a man with a microphone, I was struck by the fact that online beer writing must surely now outweigh the conventional printed word.

I think the Guild does a great job of recognising those that deserve acclaim annually, but in the modern world of beer writing, that might not be enough. In fact, hell, it isn’t enough, okay? There are people (not me, admittedly) who bust their chops in the blogoshire every hop damn day, fighting The Good Fight.

Some do enormous, inspiring, epic pieces. Others write in a solid, unyielding crusade on a single issue. Others still have a voice that is just so compelling that anything they write becomes essential reading. So, in recognition of this, I’d like to start A New Thing to run alongside Mark Dredge and Andy Mogg ‘s Golden Pints: the Golden Posts. The Golden Pints have an award for best beer blog/website, but as a single award I don’t think it adequately reflects the breadth of online beer writing anymore, which is a Really Good Thing.

I think the categories can be flexible. Off the top of my head:

Best History Blogpost – a piece that uncovered something truly interesting from the history of beer and pubs, whether that’s something poignant, weird, academic, esoteric, important or frivolous.

Best Impassioned Rant – we’ve all been there. “THIS JUST ISN’T RIGHT!” The words come tumbling out, the language gets colourful, the issue gets red hot and everyone’s going on about it. These are the pieces that start riots, but they might also be deeply-felt, well-reasoned and just as convincing.

Best Pub Piece – Most likely a pub review, but not always. Maybe they just ended up at a pub, and described it perfectly. It’s most probably a piece that champions the pub, but there’s no reason it can’t be a This Pub is What Is Wrong With The Industry type thing. Maybe they found out a great story, or had a Herculean session, or became the stars of a great story as a result. Maybe the piece just gave you a warm, fuzzy feeling about how great pubs are.

Best Palate Post – We all read a lot of beer flavour descriptors now. Often, far too many. Sometimes, people are just listing fruits they can name. Not this blogger. Whether this person has had professional training or not, they seem to pick out the most inspired flavours, and you can tell they aren’t just making it up. Their palate is a finely-honed instrument, challenged by unusual beers but never bested by them. Pick a particular post that demonstrates this.

Best Beer Travel Post – This piece will have taken us somewhere exotic or familiar, but in any case it really took us there. Simply, the best beer-oriented travel piece you’ve read. It should make you want to go to that place immediately, or at least make you seriously consider it. Maybe they went to a brewery, or a city, or a city full of breweries, fifty pubs, then fell in a ditch. Someone write that.

Funniest Post – Think of pieces that took an irreverent or satirical look at an issue everyone has scrapped over. The kind of piece that cuts right to the quick, makes you laugh at the beer scene, or even yourself. Maybe it was controversial and close to the bone, perhaps it was just a warm-hearted jest with just the right amount of cheekiness. Laughing Out Loud at the very least.

Open Category – This could be anything. Maybe you want to award a particular blogpost for cheering you up on a particularly rough commute, or it introduced you to your new favourite brewery. Maybe the post just has fantastic photography, or has personal significance just to you. Beer writing should be evocative, so give this award to the post that deserves recognition but doesn’t fit in anywhere else.

How to go about collating all this, though? It’s hard enough remembering what our favourite beers are. I would suggest apps like Pocket if you read a lot of blogs on your phone or tablet as well as your computer. You could even just have a bookmarked folder you add particularly impressive posts to as you come across them.

I think the Golden Posts is worth a try. It’s more than just clapping each other on the back. There are tonnes of great bloggers out there who aren’t members of the Guild, or they are and their stuff isn’t getting the recognition it deserves. I’m going to do my damnedest to make a list of my favourites as the year goes along. Let me know if you have ideas for categories and ways of collating lists, or any thoughts on the idea at all, in the comments.

UPDATE: After a very positive response, I think the Golden Posts 2014 will be going ahead. A blog post later in the year will confirm the number and name of the categories. Until then, please continue to leave any ideas or suggestions in the comments. Cheers!