My Golden Pints 2013
Looks like it’s that time of year again, so – determined not to miss this again – I’m going to try and put some thoughts down – if not for the brewers and others involved…for me! I really need to keep more detail of what I drink. Anyway, onwards and upwards…
Best UK Cask Beer – Jesus, fallen at the first hurdle. Where do you even start? I genuinely couldn’t pick just one out, so I’m going to cop out (get used to it, there’s a lot of this coming) and stick a couple in. Rooster’s 20th Anniversary IPA was pretty special on Cask, and one in the eye for people who maintain cask doesn’t do hops, to boot. It’s not a regular brew, however, so I’ll have to stick something else in here, too...Saltaire South Island Pale. A no-brainer at every bar I see it on. Collingham’s Artisan’s Choice was also bloody lovely during the summer.
Best UK Keg Beer – Fyne & Wild’s collaboration Cool as a Cucumber really made me evaluate an entire style of beer (well, low-alcohol beers) - and if that’s not high praise, I don’t know what is.
Best UK Bottled Beer – two have stood out. Kirkstall’s Dissolution IPA was outstanding; a resinous IPA resolutely British in tone. If I look back at my notes, however, the beer I drank the most of during our hot summer was Oakham’s Citra IPA for M&S. Incredibly good value for money in terms of quality, the whole range this year was pretty darn good. Sorry, rest of the UK – gotta put my money where…well, where my money was. Bad Seed’s Saison and Three Tun’s Cleric’s Cure, and Salopian’s recently released Kashmir also knocked me sideways.
Best Collaboration Brew – Well, this is clearly my own collab with Ilkley on The Good Stuff! In all seriousness, brewing a beer for the launch of your first book is pretty special, and will forever remain part of the great (if a little stressful) memory of that night. Thanks again, Ilkley.
Best Overall Beer – Jesus, this is hard! One beer?!?! Rooster’s Fort Smith has not only been spectacular in bottled form, but cask too. Sublime.
Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label – only a recent addition, but I think Mark Tranter’s Burning Sky branding is seriously attractive. Saltaire’s rebrand is a lesson to all breweries who want to modernise without losing the life of your original brand.
Best UK Brewery – Pass. I can’t answer it; there’s too many. As the old adage goes, if it’s on here, then I think it’s pretty special.
Best Overseas Brewery – I actually (purposefully) spent a lot of 2013 focusing on drinking UK-based beer, especially from regions I didn’t have much knowledge of. So not one for me to focus on, but I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve had from Pretty Things, and await their collaboration with Rooster’s with relish. They’re just ….consummate. Tocalmatto’s Re Hop was also delicious; elegant and glorious in that special way that Italian Beers seem to get.
Best New Brewery Opening 2013 - Five Points. I like the sheer drinkability of their beers – unfussy, if you like. Just bloody tasty. Underwhelming to some, I know, but I place value in that kind of stuff.
Pub/Bar of The Year – York Tap for me, please. Not only did Jon Chappell and his team launch Great Yorkshire Beer with military precision, doing everything on the night and leaving me to basically buzz around, they’ve been nothing but outstanding all the time. I can never catch them out, whether it’s day, night…the staff, the beer… it’s a great pub, seriously – one of many in York.
Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013 – It’s a pleasure to finally have Kirkstall’s Bridge Inn and The Flying Duck open recently. Both great additions to Yorkshire’s pub scene. And there’s the small matter of The Leeds Tap (Well, Tapped Brew Co as it’s known as), too…
Best City for Beer in the UK – I’m going to put my rose-tinted bias for York away for a year and go for Edinburgh. It’s just brilliant. EBBC this year was an absolute blast; special people and some special beer in a special city.
Supermarket of The Year – Booths; for their continued interest in beer, particularly from the North – their festival this year was excellent.
Independent Retailer of the Year/Online Retailer of The Year – Beer Ritz for both, simply due to the fact that they are still my local heroes and ‘go-to’ guys. However, I must applaud Yorkshire’s other indie beer and food shops who not only stocked GYB (let’s not forget, they sell beer, not books) but continued to keep interest going and support the whole project – BierHuis, Yorkshire Ales and Keelham Farm Shop in particular. Thanks a lot, guys.
Best Beer Book or Magazine – CAMRA’s Beer Magazine still corners the market on the magazine front – but it’s not available to everyone, of course – and I still think needs a challenger to perhaps provide some good-natured rivalry. Not a beer book per se, but one of interest to people who love pubs, is Inn At The Top by Neil Hanson. It’s his account of running the Tan Hill Inn during the 70′s, and manages to be both wistful are terrifying at the same time. I also hugely enjoyed Melissa Cole’s Let Me Tell You About Beer this year - accessible, rewarding and with a range of beers that’s within the reach of the curious shopper.
Best Blog or Website – The death of the Blog has been greatly exaggerated. Some of the most inventive, interesting, up-to-date Beer writing is still happening on blogs, no matter what a small section say. Granted, it may be a case of sorting the wheat from the chaff, but if you’re not diving in then you won’t know, will you? First up, Loaded Kitchen. The sheer quality of what Maggie Cubbler is doing with food and beer is – in my honest opinion – unparalleled in the blogosphere (and, in some cases, beyond – take that, pro chefs!). Her blog made me take a second look at my own attempts - and that’s what I want? The blog looks great, reads great and the food (I’ve had the pleasure of eating some of it) tastes even better than it looks. Not only that, she’s breaking out from behind the screen and doing tastings and events, too – so keep an eye out.
From a purely Beer perspective, the progression of both Chris Hall and Craig Heap has been great to see. Both Chris and Craig have become go-to sites for me for not only the skinny on London and Cardiff respectively, but Beer in general. Chris’s article on Cantillon might be one of the most enjoyable blogs I’ve read all year. The fact that they’ve recently been given opportunities to contribute to this and curate this speaks volumes of the potential that I think they have. I’ve also found myself nodding in agreement to a lot of what Yvan Seth has had to say this year – I think we share a lot of the same headspace when it comes to beer.
Finally, Boak & Bailey, ATJ and Tandleman still continue to not only churn out great content weaving in social commentary, history, essays and prose, but still post regularly – which is great to see. Boak & Bailey’s Long Reads initiative has exercised a muscle in my writing arm that was seriously underdeveloped – and for that, I thank them. I’ve even got my subject for the next one all sewn up…
Beer App - don’t use any of them!
Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer – He’ll hate me for saying this but I still find Matt Gorecki’s twitter feed to be ‘most like that person is in real life.’ He may not blog much any more – but he’s done some first-rate guesting here and here. Don’t be a stranger, Matt!
Best Brewery Website/Social Media - Wild Beer Co’s new site is wonderful.
Here’s to 2014′s list!