Wednesday 18 December 2013

Golden Pints 2013

It's that time again! The time of year when I struggle to find the time and energy to write anything creative, and so fall back on the crutch of populating a list in order to give my online persona some semblance of animation!

·         Best UK Cask Beer
This year I've given up any pretence of drinking widely and variedly (as espoused in my first, and to date only, book 500 Beers, now sadly out of print), and have just abandoned myself to a year-long lupulin clusterfuck. I've been banged senseless by hops this year, and have loved every minute of it. It's of course impossible to pick out a single beer that best sums up my total hopslaggery, but highlights are the nigh-on peerless Magic Rock High Wire (still a mile better on cask than on keg) and the ruiner of men and women everywhere, Oakham Green Devil.

·         Best UK Keg Beer
Most of the UK keg beer I've drunk this has merely served to confirm my hunch that by eliminating cara-malt from their IPAs, British brewers are making beers that don't have enough residual sweetness to carry a keg serve. I should also point out that this has only just occurred to me, so you can file that under "reactionary bullshit", although I like the sound of it anyway. Beers that have confounded this theory are few and far between, although they include beer drunk at The Kernel brewery (worth it just to see the horrified look on MagicRockStu's face as Keykegs were used to serve beer that was brewed mere meters away - surely some serving tanks might be in order, Lord O'Riordan?). Magic Rock Cannonball, one of the UK's best beers, served to me by Ryan Witter, one of the UK's best brewers, at IndyManBeerCon, one of the UK's best beer festivals, was also understandably a high point. A late highlight last weekend was also Alpha State Orange Zest Farmhouse IPA.

·         Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
I mean, what the fuck? What sort of question is that? Why is this so hard for me to answer? I guess because as a bottled beer wholesaler, I seen an awful lot of bottled beer this year, and by that I really mean AN AWFUL LOT OF BOTTLED BEER. I really can't single out highlights, but beers that have come home with me more frequently than others are: Bristol Beer Factory Independence, Kernel IPA and Pale Ale, Oakham Citra, Roosters High Tea / Outlaw Mad Hatter, any of the Salopian small-bottle series (hell, any of their beers, full stop). One beer does stick out though, for being proof that you can still filter and bottle a beer and make it taste amazing, and that beer is Kirkstall Dissolution IPA. I'm not sure if it really qualifies, as from what I gather, it's not really a souped-up version of the cask version, rather a watered-down version of Kirkstall Generous George, but hey, ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.

·         Best Overseas Draught Beer
I don't get out much, and when I do, I like to drink British beer, so if anyone can say that they've seen me enjoying an overseas draught beer this year, please do let me know

·         Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
I really enjoyed Firestone Walker Wookie Jack, purchased at the GBBF this year, and as we import BrewFist, having Spaceman within arm's reach at all times is a bit of a bonus. Also, Kern River Citra Double IPA that MagicRockStu shared with me earlier this year was a bit like having Citra-infused hallucinogens blown up your nose by a Yanomani shaman and an intense, short-lasting Citra-based trip. Or was that last year? That's the thing about hallucinogens - it's so hard to keep track of time.

·         Best Collaboration Brew
Wild Beer Co / Good George / Burning Sky Shnoodlepip was pretty fucking epic.

·         Best Overall Beer
Oh please. "If you could only drink one beer for the rest of your life, what would it it be?" Piss. Off.

·         Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label
I really liked those enormous chrome wicket bar fonts that, oh who used it now, who was it, oh sorry, no that was just the Citra trip wearing off. Whose bottles look best lined up alongside each other? Red Willow, stupid.

·         Best UK Brewery
The Kernel are in a pretty good place right now, with Magic Rock pursuing a different furrow, but making equally great beers.

·         Best Overseas Brewery
I like what BrewFist are up to, but I am biased

·         Best New Brewery Opening 2013
No idea. [Human beard-mountain Ryan Witter informs me that Siren, where he is head brewer, opened for business this year, and they have made some pretty special beers too]

·         Pub/Bar of the Year
Pubs and bars are essentially outmoded concepts, and the sooner we lose the last of them and get to drown our empty selves, the better. But I have had some fun times at Friends of Ham this year.

·         Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013

·         Beer Festival of the Year
This is such a bogus category. How do you judge that? "Where have you been that had a lot beer that was all served in perfect condition by people you wanted to chat to for hours? Err, nowhere, thanks. It may as well be "Best Night Out You've Had This Year". Pass

·         Supermarket of the Year
They're all rubbish, although my local Morrisson's usually has Duvel for a couple of quid, so that's OK.

·         Independent Retailer of the Year
BeerRitz, duh.

·         Online Retailer of the Year, duh

·         Best Beer Book or Magazine
I haven't read much this year. Although I would just use this opportunity to bemoan the total dearth of coverage in the mainstream media food and drink columns about the revolution that is happening in beer currently. I had an exchange with a prominent food writer this year that summed up nicely the blinkered attitude that the broadsheets have towards beer. I sent an invite to this person for the 25th Anniversary do of the British Guild of Beer Writers, only to receive a an email back explaining that they didn't really like beer. This just doesn't compute with me - how can someone so well-placed, eloquent and versed in matters of taste and flavour say something so utterly bollock-brained? If they said to their editor that they didn't like cheese, or wouldn't eat lamb, they'd be thrown off their column/pedestal/velvet cushion. I offered to send them a mixed case of beer that would help them change their mind - this didn't even warrant a reply. If the British Guild of Beer Writers' Writer of the Year 2008 and owner of a beer mail-order/wholesale company can't give away a case of beer to a food writer, then something is seriously fucked-up.


I am available for both written and broadcast commissions.

·         Best Beer Blog or Website
I haven't read much print this year, but I continue to enjoy the non-linear relationship with narrative that Adrian Tierney-Jones has on his blog, and John The Beer Nut is always worth a look. And Matt Curtis at Total Ales reminds me of me when I was younger, which probably also means that he masturbates too much.

·         Best Beer App
Don't use any. Fuck you, Will Hawkes.

·         Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
Chris Hall and Craig Heap are pretty entertaining. As are Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham

·         Best Brewery Website/Social media
Don't know, care less.

·         Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
A late entry, but the Alpha State Orange Zest Farmhouse IPA and fionocchina (or whatever the fucking fennel salami is called at Friends of Ham) was a belter.

Here endeth the lesson.