Our Golden Pints 2017

Jamie WightmanComment

2017. It’s been a rather lovely year, with a couple of non business related blips. New Wave has rocketed thanks to phenomenal support from suppliers and customers alike. We’ve finally opened a bar in Glasgow (Koelschip Yard) and we’ve started some pretty interesting plans for 2018.
In positive personal news; Tim got engaged, Oliver got a new job (with us), Mclean was hilariously trolled by his own child, Jamie bought a flat & Chris's wife gave birth to a perfectly happy and healthy little girl.  
We had some down's too; Friends and family have passed away, others have been in and out of hospital.

All this reminded us that it’s just beer, innit? Oh and this is not intended to be taken seriously. Read these as they were written; blind drunk with a tongue firmly in both sets of cheeks.

1    Best UK Cask Beer
Tim - Some Almasty APA Jamie & I had at the Stockbridge Tap was so good it nearly prevented our mailer from going out that week. So that wins. The Beavertown Heavy Lord at BeaverEx was absolute scenes and I shouldn’t have been allowed near it. Hawkshead Windermere Pale is the most underrated UK cask - best sub 4% pale around.

Chris - Cask beer is rubbish and I have a deep rooted hatred of anyone who believes otherwise. Cask beer is for luddites, people who have an irrational fear of C02 (which, btw, we’d die without so y’know, get with it). It is a fact that the only people who drink cask beer are totally broken on the BMI scale, and have bad t-shirts.

All that said, I had two lovely pints of Ghost Ship at the Swan in Stratford with me pal, Tom. Cask beer is utterly tremendous when looked after right (a bit like dogs or allotments) and I could have smashed 12 pints and driven home, in true rural Suffolk style.
I was also particularly impressed with Tiny Rebel’s Juicy and Wylam's Club of Slaughters and Hawkshead Windy Pale is a perma must drink.

Oliver - I’m New to the Wave and actually began the year working the bar at Free Trade Inn, Byker and spending most of every shift getting slowly c*nted on Almasty APA. It’s still tasting out of this world as of my last check around October time.

2    Best UK Keg Beer    
Chris - Keg beer is rubbish and I have a deep rooted hatred of anyone who believes otherwise. Keg beer is for twats with beards, drain pipe trousers, big shoes and coats with stupid furry collars. And that’s just the ladies.  It is a fact that the only people who drink keg beer have friends called ‘Jeremy’ without any irony, and who eat avocado’s left handed whilst driving.     

All that said, I had a lovely 2/3rds of a pint of Kernel IPA everytime I’ve ever had a 2/3rds of Kernel IPA, ever. This year however, Kernel Biere De Saison Apricot blew me away. I was also very impressed with Green Path by Burnt Mill, Northern Monk, Faith, 6DN’s new recipe Hopocrisy and Pilot's North Sea Stout.

Tim - Either Kernel Export Stout Galaxy, or Kernel IPA Mosaic. So much of the noise is around fun, but for me ultimately less satisfying East Coast/Vermont/adjunct IPAs. It isn’t the murk - grubby looking IPAs from many UK breweries still hit the West Coast flavour profile - but maybe its time to re-appropriate the word craft: honing of skills in pursuit of perfection in a small area of expertise, whilst still embracing creativity. Those core range IPAs that are always there for you, always amazing - show them the love and the hype. Friends like Jakehead, Heathen, Lupuloid, Cannonball. Real IPA. Buy them, stock them, drink them. God I sound old.

Oliver - I was one of the lucky ones who got a taste of the Magic Rock BA Bearded Lady Hazelnut at Craft Beer Calling; being a pastry bro it was naturally very appealing to me.

3    Best UK Bottled Beer
Chris - Bottled beer is… I can’t keep this up… Bottles huh, do they still exist? I rarely see bottles, as I’m being blinded by the latest canned new thing by X brewery who likes making new things. The answer to this almost certainly involves the words ‘The Kernel’ somewhere, but which beer I’ve no idea. Probably Biere De Saison Apricot. If it doesn’t involve The Kernel, then it’s Fuller’s London Porter, which is like drinking luxury. Or Burning Sky’s Robust Porter. Or Burning Sky’s Les Amis Brassage. Or Burning Sky’s Imp Stout from last year (holy god it’s tasting good). I also had a couple of outstanding saisons from Little Earth Beer and this years Beyond Modus by Wild Beer was just outrageous, as were several the Redchurch Urban Farmhouse stuff’s.

Tim - Kernel Biere de Saison Apricot. It would win best UK Keg Beer too, but we drank almost all of Scotland’s keg allocation in Newcastle, so best to pretend it never existed in that format.

Oliver - The Kernel Biere De Saison Apricot - “tAsTeS aS GoOd aS FoU’ FoUnE”

4    Best UK Canned Beer
Oliver -
Norfolk newcomers Burnt Mill have made a pretty delicious IPA called Green Path, if you can find it, I implore you to drink it. If you’re a customer who hasn’t stocked it: shame on you.

Chris - One which you can pour all of the liquid in to your glass and not have to fish out 17grams of yeast? The answer is Magic Rock Clairvoyance. It could have been any one of a number of Magic Rock specials this year, they’ve all been tremendous. Rich has said Clairvoyance isn’t being brewed again. But I’ve got good news for fans, on January 19th 2018 at 3pm we have a pistol duel outside Huddersfield Library, if I win it gets brewed again. If Rich wins, I’ll not care as I’ll be full of lead. If anyone sees Rich before then, could you let him know I might be ten minutes late because of traffic. Cheers.

Tim - The rise of the tallboy has delivered some stunners. Most consumed is Northern Monk Faith, and the Magic Rock/Thornbridge Exaltation is a banger. Whiplash Fatal Deviation passed my lips but hours ago and is the best imperial stout I’ve had this year (because it isn’t pastry nonsense and is thick as all hell). But all are just beaten by newbie Burnt Mill Green Path IPA. 

5    Best Overseas Draught
Chris -
Tim and I had Basqueland Brewing Project’s Imparable IPA at their brewery in San Sebastian, and that was ace. It was dry and clean and full of America. We liked it a lot. I also became physically addicted to Musketeers Troubadour Magma at Moeder Lambic. Also, Rocket Brewing’s Zero Gravity.

Oliver - Tilquin Oude Quetsche à l’Ancienne - sorry, not sorry. Had bucket loads at BeaverEx.

Tim - Beerbliotek Hip Hops is pretty damn great, and reminds us all of when juicy meant resinous hop bitterness as opposed to “juice-like.”

6    Best Overseas Bottled Beer
Chris - Duvel Tripel Hop Citra
. End of discussion. It’s a bona fide miracle. It’s 9.5%, drinks like it’s 6% and it’s perfect. It’s no Fuller’s London Porter, but what is. Apart from Fuller’s London Porter, of course. Rocket’s Ruby is an absolute belter and as with much of their output, tragically underrated, and the Limited Edition Great Divide BA Yeti I spent just shy of £1bn on in Oliver Twist in Stockholm, was also quite tasty. 

Tim - Basqueland Brewing Project Imparable. Eating popcorn and failing at darts in the brewery with these guys, smashing enormous steaks, and sitting in the harbour in Orio or San Sebastian was a highlight of 2017. This excellent beer was the ideal accompaniment. Beer is experiential after all. Rocket Brewing Ruby disqualified for being too good, and because it will win in at least 8 of Chris’s categories anyway.

Oliver - Tommie Sjef Salie. Does this mean I win the cool awards?

7    Best Overseas Canned Beer
Tim -
I had a To Øl Sur Centennial which nearly ripped my face off. It was like twigs pulling you backwards through a boiled bag of tangfastics, and then drinking your own dishevelled self through a sieve of T90 pellets. I’m not sure I enjoyed it, so that probably means it is the best right?

Chris - Beerbliotek made a DIPA with Sorachi Ace which was utterly fantastic, but as is usually the case with Beerbliotek, they gave it a ridiculous name, and to truly compound the issue, the name was written in foreign. So not only did it make no sense as a beer name, it wasn’t even in English. Imagine, right? A disgrace. Stillwater Artisanal SuperHop also saw a lot of fridge action at our house.

Oliver - Much to my chagrin, the Mikkeller San Diego Windy Hill I had on Sunday night was a pretty banging IPA, even if James Andrews will taunt me for it.

8    Best collaboration brew
Oliver -
I loved all of the beers in 6 Degrees North’s Foraged & Found series but the one that stood out for me was 6 Degrees North x Rocket Brewing Spruce Saison. Back in April/May time I couldn’t get enough of Rocket Brewing’s Sunlicker and this collaboration took the pine needle thing one step further. Tastes like drinking a forest.

Tim - Thornbridge/Josh Smith Mr Smith Gose To… Watermelon Gose. A riot. Party in the mouth. Incredible beverage from the mind of a top UK homebrewer. Hawkshead/Modern Times Fortunate Tarns was incredible though and possibly even better than Fortunate Islands. But that was trying it in the glorious Lake District - I expect I’d say the reverse in San Diego. 

Chris - The 3/9 Project set up by Harbour Eddie and Phil Lowry. What a party, what a group of people, and oh what sunburn. Rob (6DN) and I had a lot of fun. We had Shouty Angry from Whiplash shouting and being angry at 3am when he had a flight at 7am. Quiet Forgetful from Whiplash who introduced himself to me three times in one day (btw, Whiplash are almost the 7 dwarves all on their own and lovely people and much taller than you’d expect). Alex from 3 Weavers was ace (and she brought the best beer of the weekend with her). A guy from Bevog who’s name escapes me,  he was a lot of fun although I’m not sure I understood anything he said. Me pal Fergus - ironic that I had to travel to the borders of France to see him when he lives 15 minutes from my parents. Two ace folks from Dechutes, Kenny from Breakwater, and Adam from Beerbliotek… who is absolutely the best person to invite anywhere if you want to make people’s jaws drop and hear them say ‘Does he actually mean that?’. I hope there is a 4/12 next year, I want to see how far Eddie’s hospitality budget will stretch.

9    Best Overall Beer
Chris - Clairvoyance
by Magic Rock. It was pretty close to perfect.

Tim - Opened a bottle of 2014 vintage Magic Rock Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady with some lovely people on Christmas Eve Eve. It made up 50% of my ageing pile, but it was the perfect moment to enjoy it - a good time with friends. Beer is for drinking folks, but saving something special is so rewarding. Bonus - its sitting at a perfect point with the vanillin subtle, but huge body and it hasn’t entered a “meaty” phase yet. 

Oliver - It’s still Orval.

10    Best Branding
Tim -
The Whiplash (big bag of) cans are looking real nice. Left Handed Giant are making a big statement with the recent collabs. Gotta be Northern Monk Patrons Project series though. If you aren’t familiar, their collaborations bring in local artists and general northern folk to spin big stories on their big cans. The peel off labels are a real huge step and each beer deserves more time & contemplation than their brief moment in the sun before the next new big release. 

Chris - That collab with the cat thing on the label by North Brewing and that Dutch brewery. Was that 2017? It must have been. That was a cool looking can. North’s branding in general is pretty suite. The Wylam can’s are looking snazzy too, as my grandmother would say. No idea what she’d say after 6 pints of Jakehead, but she’s 96 and drinks more gin than she does water. Well, you would, wouldn’t you?

The new 6DN branding looks great, and I really like the simplicity of Little Earth Beer’s labels, and I especially like that Tom’s mum drew it (#craft). See also, Pilot (Tom’s mum didn’t draw their branding, I just like it)>

Oliver - I don’t understand the question and I won’t respond to it.

11    Best Pump Clip

Chris - I’ve no idea. I don’t go out much so generally only drink in our own bars, and none of them have pump clips, and I don’t go to the warehouse because it’s cold and in the middle of nowhere and I might have to speak to someone in real life. We also hate pump clips, as they are the bane of our lives.

Tim - The rebranded Neck Oil is pretty, plus we always actually have some - so that.

Oliver - DEYA Sticky Fingers lol IDGAF IDST

12    Best Bottle Label
Oliver - All of the Burnt Mill stuff looks rel nice

Chris - Did that North Brewing thing with the cat on it ever make it to bottle? If it did, that. Or the Burning Sky Robust Porter label, it’s very pretty and feels lovely.

Tim - Tiny Rebel Cwtch - I’ve loved it since I was young. 

13    Best UK Brewery
Chris - My go to this year was Magic Rock. I'll admit to having drunk the square root of nowt from the core range but the tall boys and 330 specials have been a cut above the competition this year. Clairvoyance, Timequake, Exhaltation, Cherry Cola Vice, Dairy Freak, Psychokinesis, Telepathy, Precognition, Cryo Baby, Growler Owned, Modernisme, Wayniac. It'll be a shame to shoot Richard in cold blood, but that rebrew of Clairvoyance will make it all worthwhile. 

See also The Kernel, Burning Sky, Thornbridge and 6DN for unfailing quality and consistency.

Tim - Beavertown. No need for dark horse choices in this category. They are the best. Consistency, quality, branding, customer engagement, an incredible international quality festival pulled off first time, being lovely people. Moving Jonny Hamilton to the Tempus Project full time will mean keeping an eye on increased barrel store output too - another string to their bow.

Oliver - Year on year the Kernel Brewery consistently deliver some of the finest beers I drink and this year was no exception, so it has to be them.

14    Best Overseas Brewery
Chris - Dry & Bitter, Beerbliotek & Basqueland have made some superb beers this year, and they’re all great guys. I’ve also enjoyed a lot of ToØL, Mikkeller, Dugges, Ayinger & Stillwater Artisanal. However, Rocket Brewing were the standout surprise for me. Everything they make is so complex, so well thought out and so subtly superb. They bypassed the hype (the train missed their station) but I think they make amazing beer.

Tim - Schneider Weiss. 

Oliver - I really enjoyed a lot of Dugges beer this year; none of it was blow-my-mind-favourite-beer material (though Mango, Mango, Mango was up there) but I liked absolutely every beer I had by them so they get the nod for nothing if not consistency.

15    Best New Brewery Opening 2017
Chris - Burnt Mill. By a mile. A country mile at that, which could be anywhere between 400 yards and 2 miles. Green Path IPA, it’s Kernel good and I can’t think of anything nicer to say about it than that.

Oliver - I hate to repeat myself but it’s probably Burnt Mill - everything I’ve had by them has been great.

Tim - Burnt Mill. 

16    Pub/Bar of the Year
Tim -
Edinburgh has an insane number of great pubs, let alone the superb choice in the rest of Scotland. I’ll give this to The Free Trade Inn though - I went there for the first time ever during Craft Beer Calling and it just somehow feels spot on. Pub moment of the year may well go to Stockbridge Tap’s Schofferhofer tap, or Cloisters’ Kernel line. 

Oliver - This year I did a lot of drinking outside of my beloved Newcastle for the first time and when I consider all of the incredible bars I’ve been to and all of the knowledgable servers I’ve spoken with I’ll take the crumbling walls and awful service of the Free Trade Inn over anything ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Chris - I love North Bar.  I love the people who own it. I love the atmosphere. I love that it’s open to a totally irresponsible time even on a Tuesday, and I love that Cannonball is on permanently. However, it’s in Leeds so I’d be inclined to say Salt Horse because it’s basically the only place I go out to drink these days, but it doesn't count because it's one of ours. So this goes to Grunting Growler.

17    Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2017
Chris - I’m really proud of Koelschip Yard, and Dom, Ewen & Jake. We opened on the southside of Glasgow with no pints, no Tennents and no cash with a deliberately low budget and 8 days from completion to doors open (Well, I gave us 8 days, we did it in 9), and it’s got a great feel to it.
I was however somewhat more impressed with the Tiny Rebel Taproom in Newport, which is utterly magnificent. They had a bigger budget and I’m quite sure it took them more than 9 days. So we win.

Tim - Congratulations must go to The Craftsman in Aberdeen for very bravely shunning the mainstream with a new Aberdeen opening. Ditto Bier Hoose on Leith Walk - another who could have gone with some identikit macro options in a tough location but chose to do things right and it is paying off in the long run. Where else can you get vintage Schneider Weiss or gueuze in the same place as Schofferbombs? 

Oliver - So, I’m not sure if it counts but Flat Caps Coffee on Carliol Square now stays open at night under the guise Night Caps and does great beer and cocktails and is generally very pleasant to be at. If that’s not allowed then The Town Mouse Ale House is a nice little basement spot on the way from my house to St James’ Park.

18    Beer Festival of the Year
Chris -
I had quite a busy year for beer festivals as it goes. Beavertown’s 5th birthday was a blast, I had one hour at IndyMan, half a sober afternoon at Edinburgh Craft Beer Fest, an absolutely belting ‘smashed out of my mind, in bed by 9.30pm’ time at Hop City and of course Craft Beer Calling. A bloody wonderful time at CBC, as always. That venue, that wonderful Wylam Brewery venue. There’s few things I enjoy more than walking up that drive, looking up at that majestic building beyond the pond to see Sweary Santa on the steps, smoking a tab.
Edinburgh Craft Beer Fest though was incredible, mostly because it far exceeded my expectations of what could be done with that venue. Greg and Dan did an amazing job, the feel and atmosphere were perfect. Really looking forward to 2018’s event.

Oliver - I don’t want to say it’s because I was the only member of the team that went but I had a really lovely time at Indy Man* *Editors correction, that’s not true, Chris and Jamie also went

Tim - Beavertown Extravaganza. Still prepared to fight anyone who says they didn’t have a good time. 

19    Supermarket of the Year
Oliver -
Which one is the worst one? Tesco? Okay, then Tesco.

Chris - Waitrose. It’s the only place you can buy Fuller’s London Porter in Edinburgh and they now stock Fuller’s Imperial Stout, complete with presentation box.

Tim - We can truly all get some incredible beers in major supermarkets now. This is a big win for consumers and the breweries. But please, wherever you can, shop local with the folks who live and breathe great beer every day. Booths though…

20    Independent Retailer of the Year
Chris - Grunting Growler
in Glasgow. Jehad is a great bloke and the space he’s created is fantastic. Also Matt at Southside Coffee. He doesn’t sell beer but he made putting Koelschip together bearable by being 100yards away. He also leant us multiple tools, and a ladder I’m not sure we’ve returned yet.

Tim - Westhill Service Station (Hop Shop Aberdeen). Insane work and dedication from Chris & Darren on the outskirts of Aberdeen. Westhill have worked in a popular US concept of amazing beer when you stop off to get fuel. There’s even a high quality growler fill station. Props must go to Bridgend Services as a pioneer of this concept in Scotland - Craig continues to do great things.

Oliver - This is a dead heat between Champion Bottles and Taps and Block and Bottle BUT I have to go with Champion because I don’t fuck with meat. Sorry Katie and Steven.

21    Online Retailer of the Year
Chris - Me pal Zak at Beer Ritz. I can txt him my card details and send him an address and he makes boxes up for me. It’s a service he provides, just txt him 07465 894465! (Please don’t txt that number, I made that it up and it might be someone else’s actual number and I’ll get in to trouble).

Oliver - Nah. 

Tim - Nope. Go see a human being if you can (please do not point out the irony of our online based ordering system). 

22    Best Beer Book or Magazine
Chris - The Grid by Matt Watkinson, it’s about adaptive business management. It’s like a super highly functioning SWAT analysis. It’s very interesting, very well written (i.e. it’s readable) and more importantly, useful. Tim Anderson’s book Japaneasy is also very good, I like reading it in Tim’s voice, especially at the excitable bits. Both can be beer related.

Oliver - Cheers North East represent. 

Tim - N/A

23    Best Beer Blog or Website
Chris - I’m not in the slightest bit interested.

Oliver - There has been some really excellent writing by some very talented journalists over on Good Beer Hunting this year; whoever runs their twitter account needs to wind their neck in, though.

Tim - obviously (Tim just unlocked ‘unexpected bonus’)

24    Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
Oliver - @dontdrinkbeer
- because it’s only beer.

Chris - Pilot. The beauty of their feed is, it’s genuine. It’s almost irrelevant that they make great soup and they’re good people, when they’re that funny. And there’s always Jordan’s smiles if you feel you need a big Pilot cuddle. 

Tim - Daisy Turnell seems to be actually great. Or @dontdrinkbeer for real talk #barleywineislife

25    Best Brewery Website/Social media
Chris - Pilot
. For reasons, see above.

Tim - Forgot how pretty Almasty’s website is, they win that. Beavertown still kill it. Wylam impress at balancing professional spamming with an authentic tone on twitter, so the points go to Dave.

Oliver - Pilot make me laugh.

26 Best Beer Instagram
Tim -
New category - Tom Baxter is a rising star of the insta game. blue_zulu continues to flaunt whalez. Aly Mathers wins points for influence and style across multiple accounts.

Only Tim answered this as he added the category himself. Chris doesn’t use Instagram because he’s too old and Oliver is too mired in 1876.