The end of yet another year. What started out as a soon to be gone fad a few years ago has become a runaway juggernaut. This week we have sold almost as much beer as we did in the whole of last December. We have 5 new staff, another joining in January, it's been bonkers. It's actually now a full-time job just keeping up with new beers, and frankly I'm too old for that. I've two cats and a pair of slippers. I drink tea.
So thanks to everyone we work with, if your beer isn't on here it's probably because I haven't tried any. I rarely go out these days. Or sit in. I just wait outside in the car,crying and praying for the noise to stop.
Here's to a fantastic 2017.
1 Best UK Cask Beer
My favourite category and the easiest to complete. It’s so rare I drink cask beer I can remember every one I’ve had in 2016. I could say Hawkshead Windermere Pale every year to make things easy, but Magic Rock Punchline Porter was so good I had three pints. I don’t drink cask. I don’t drink pints. So it wins.
2 Best UK Keg Beer
Magic Rock Hypnotist seems to get a battering whenever I see it on a draught board, my taste buds love it, my liver isn't such a fan.
I had an ‘I can’t stop drinking this’ experience with a Kernel Galaxy Pale in London recently (shortly before a similar experience with Neck Oil).
Wylam’s Hickey the Rake was a memorable first.
Had a couple of BBNo’s Pales and IPA’s which were stand out.
North Brewing Co, Transmission IPA; Absolutely tremendous.
6DN Pils; a go to.
My winner is Lukas by Thornbridge. Because it’s an absolute triumph.
3 Best UK Bottled Beer
Good King Henry. Not the reserve (it wasn’t as good, Garvie was wrong.... again), just the Imp Stout. Truly great, and a beer I’d not had in over five years, so a nice revisit.
I’ve been periodically drinking Kernel Imp Stout throughout the year also, and with each bottle it got better. It’s now at it’s peak (I think…) and is tasting pretty incredible.
All three Thornbridge sours are superb (my fave, the one no one has talked about, Heart Desires)
I thought 2/3/8 of the vDipa Cloudwater's were terrific.
*Edit - Totally forgot Tempest Bomber IPA... Smashed 12 bottles in a week. Straight to rehab.
However, Lukas in bottle replaced water in our house for a while. You don’t get much more essential than that. So that wins.
4 Best UK Canned Beer
North Brewing Co; Transmission IPA. In a market littered with IPA’s, this stood out. Repeatedly.
5 Best Overseas Draught
Cantillon Iris Grand Cru. I can’t even remember what it tasted like, but I remember it being lovely. I remember the memory. So my best memory of a memory is that. Probably.
6 Best Overseas Bottled Beer
1996 Cantillon Gueuze at Cantillon. It’s not the oldest Cantillon I’ve ever had but it reminded me just how good these things can become if stored right and left alone. The Modern Times Mosaic also left an indelible mark.
7 Best Overseas Canned Beer
As much as it pains me to admit it, probably Stone Go To IPA (Berlin brewed). I’ve never been a fan of Stone beer brewed in the US. The IPA always tasted too metallic and the Go To was hop water. The German versions I’ve really enjoyed, we've always got the Go To in the fridge now.
8 Best collaboration brew
6DN / Adnams A6 tripled fermented Imp Stout aged in spirit of Broadside casks. We’ll be talking about this beer for years. Not enough people got to try it, those that did will remember it.
9 Best Overall Beer
Lukas by Thornbridge.
10 Best Branding
Rich Norgate’s new Magic Rock tall boy designs are fantastic. Hard to pick an overall winner. I still love the simplicity of The Kernel, and think Pilot’s branding is wonderfully timeless.
11 Best Pump Clip
I rarely go in bars which use them. The new Hawkshead badges are great though.
12 Best Bottle Label
Beavertown for the Sour Power collab bottle. We kept it and use it as an ornament. In the toilet, but still...
13 Best UK Brewery
I can’t see past Thornbridge this year. Kernel still make the best IPA’s and their barrel aged stuff has been brilliant. Cloudwater, Beavertown, Magic Rock, Wild Beer, Burning Sky & Buxton in particular have been keeping the excitement ticking over with new releases of big assed flavour assaults.
All the while the grandfather of UK craft has made two world beating sours (and a 3rd one which wasn't at the WBC, which was the best), the utterly brilliant and totally unique Serpent, an incredible Helles in Lukas, a top IPA with Huck, and they’ve made almost every other world style in every format (other than can), and nailed the lot AND done it with class. Top beers, top people.
14 Best Overseas Brewery
The Modern Times beers lure me in, like some kind of filthy temptress.
15 Best New Brewery Opening 2015
Technically they opened in 2015, but as they didn't really bother to tell anyone at the time, this still counts. I’ve been so impressed with the North Brewing Co stuff. Their flagship bar has such a reputation that the pressure was on, if they’d fucked it they’d have fucked it big. They didn’t. They’ll be everywhere in 2017.
16 Pub/Bar of the Year
I could probably count on one hand the number I've been in this year (alright, may be two hands). We do use 6DN in Edinburgh as an office though, and the staff are great, the 6DN Pils is ace and the food is superb.
17 Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2015
As much as I’d like to say Salt Horse, it’s a bit disingenuous, so I’ll say 6DN Edinburgh. There’s been nothing new new in terms of concept that’s made any impact at all though. If Wylam Brewery counts as a pub / bar, that does at least have it’s own swimming pool… I mean, lake.
18 Beer Festival of the Year
I actually went to some this year. I did IndyMan for the first time, too. CBC in Wylam’s new Palace was a riot (Dave started that) & Quintessence. All different, all very enjoyable.
19 Supermarket of the Year
Waitrose. I miss Waitrose now we’ve moved to the mountains.
20Independent Retailer of the Year
6DN - their bars are just great places to be and the two new bars have retained the quality of the original Aberdeen bar.
21 Online Retailer of the Year
Etre Gourmet - only one I’ve used.
22 Best Beer Book or Magazine
Not really interested. I read Ferment not that long ago, hilariously badly edited. Wylem? Dear me.
23 Best Beer Blog or Website
I loath the blog culture* (ironic, given this is a blog post) and the only reason to go to a beer website is to buy something.
*To qualify that, not all blogs. There are some very good writers out there. Just not very many.
24 Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
Pilot make me laugh, and I think Simon would have approved of their joyful (joyless) cynicism.
25 Best Brewery Website/Social media
Best? Has to be Cloudwater, proving that engaging and involving the people drinking your beer can pay huge dividends.
If best actually means funniest, that’s Pilot again.