Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Golden Pints 2012

The Golden Pints is a round-up of the year's best beers and beery events, organised by @BeerReviewsAndy and @markdredge - the idea being that beer bloggers and tweeters will post up a list of their favourites in various categories, and Mark and Andy will then collate these and declare the overall 'winners' or those with the most votes/mentions among the replies. See Mark's blog post here for more details.

I nearly made 2011's Golden Pints my inaugural blog post last December, but indecision got in the way - I find it really hard to state an overall preference for one thing over another, when so much depends on context - such as what style of beer I was in the mood for at any given time, what type of pub best suited the occasion's needs, or just the availability and exposure I have had or not had to certain beers and breweries over the year. But I'll make a stab at it this year and try to put some thoughts down - then I'll have something to agonize over for months to come when I remember other good ales and drinking experiences I neglected to mention!

The categories:

Best UK Draught Beer 
So many good beers I've had this year, so difficult to choose. I was blown away by my visit to Edinburgh where I got to check out some Scottish draught ale rising stars - @CromartyBrewing, @AlechemyBrewing and @TempestBrewCo to name a few - as well as the many great English breweries producing consistently exciting beer, and old favourites such as Bathams - but overall, the draught beer I craved the most in 2012, and was always super happy to find available, was Fyne Ales Jarl. Outstanding Citra flavours in a very drinkable 3.8%.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
No contest - this goes to @OakhamAles Green Devil IPA. This was definitely the bottled beer I consumed the most of in 2012, because it's bloody delicious. Got another one in the fridge as I type this, and always have a spare in the cupboard in case of emergency!

Best Overseas Draught Beer
The Firestone Walker Double Jack IPA rocked my socks off when I had it at Brewdog Edinburgh; it's the overseas draught that's made the biggest impression on me this year.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Again a category where it's almost impossible to make a choice from all the rich stouts, hoppy wonders, and everything inbetween I had this year, but I'm going to make a stab at it, and say the Hitachino Nest Japanese Classic Ale from Kiuchi Brewery. I'd first had this in Japan in 2011, and it was great to have more of it when dining at Yamamori Izakaya in Dublin in 2012.

Best Overall Beer
Going to give this to the Oakham Green Devil IPA - as it's given me the most pleasure throughout the year!

Best Pumpclip or Label
Magic Rock Brew Co have the most lovely intricate label designs and a clear brand identity. Always makes me happy to walk into a bar and spot their distinctive pump clips (so the tap take over at Brodies' King William IV had me grinning ear to ear!)

Best UK Brewery
Again a bit difficult to single out one favourite, as so many established and new breweries have made beers that have brought joy to my palate this year, but I think it will have to go to Oakham - not just for the beers I've enjoyed at the Bartons and bottled Green Devil, but for being innovative in first bringing over the Citra and Baby Belma hops to England's shores, and continuing this in 2012 with securing first supplies of the Multihead hop - driving things forward hop-wise.

Best Overseas Brewery
It might not seem a likely choice, being owned by Heineken, but Paulaner Hefe-Weiss has given me a lot of enjoyment over this year, and having my birthday lunch in the smart Paulaner am Nockerberg brasserie in Munich, overlooking the large-scale Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr breweries, and then having a nightcap in the Paulanerbrauhaus elsewhere in the town, were special moments, so they get my overall vote.

Pub/Bar of the Year
I visited many good craft beer bars and ale pubs this year, but my favourite overall is the Barton's Arms. It may not have the widest choice, or crazy Mikkeller and Evil Twin selections popping up on draught, but I craved visits to this pub and appreciated it every time I visited; I love the Minton tiles and elaborate decor, but also the down-to-earth friendliness of the welcome and the reliable Oakham Ales - always keen to return here. I was also very impressed with @TheVictoria starting to stock craft beer in bottles too.

Beer Festival of the Year
Without a doubt, this was @IndyManBeerCon - which raised the bar several levels for any beer festival to come, in terms of beautiful historic venue, unparallelled beer selection, great food and all-round amazingness. If you were there, you don't need me to explain. If you weren't - you better make damn sure you go next year!

Supermarket of the Year
Sainsburys was the one I used most, to pick up bottles of Weihenstephaner and Brewdog with my shopping, but my vote goes to Waitrose, for having a much better selection, including Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Thornbridge, and Hogan's Cider and Perry.

Independent Retailer of the Year
This has to go to Birmingham's two amazing craft beer off-licences, which both have friendly proprietors who are genuinely interested in engaging with their beer geek customers and have all striven hard to push exciting beer availability in Birmingham beyond the boundaries this year - hats off and a big thank you to @StirchleyWines and @CotteridgeWines!

Online Retailer of the Year
I don't think I actually ordered any beer online this year, but if I had, it would have been from @AlesByMail or @beermerchants as I've had good service from both in the past.

Best Beer Book or Magazine
I was pleased to see @ArranBrewery bring back "Beers of the World" magazine as I used to enjoy picking this up as something with a wider beer focus than What's Brewing and BEER from CAMRA. Book-wise, the Beer Drinkers Guide To Munich was invaluable and much-used on our trip to Bavaria for mine and @dave_car's birthdays in April.

Best Beer Blog or Website
I've thoroughly enjoyed reading lots by @BoakandBailey this year - they always have something interesting to convey, on a diverse range of beery subjects, and it's a blog with real personality.

Best Beer Twitterer
So difficult to pinpoint someone out of the many, many people I've enjoyed following and conversing with on Twitter this year, but if I have to choose, then it might have to be Mike from Okell's Ales, for tweeting consistently interesting links to lots of beery news.

Best Online Brewery Presence
Apart from following breweries on Twitter, I haven't viewed a lot of online brewery content this year, but I like the Williams Brothers website redesign and have enjoyed their emailed newsletters throughout the year.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Pulled pork and any decent IPA. I forsee more of this in 2013...

In 2013 I’d most like to...
Learn more about hops. A lot more. And attend the European Beer Bloggers Conference in Edinburgh, 12-13 July 2013.

Open category – you decide the topic
Difficult one this - where to start? My topic is "what would I like to see happen in the beer world in 2013" - I'd like there to be more hop innovation, particularly in England - it was very heartening to see English hop growers rallying and stepping up the campaign to keep the industry going in this country, and to follow people like Ali Capper and Paul Corbett on Twitter, and hear about new English varieties such as Jester being used by Moor Beer. I look forward to more progress on this front in 2013.

Sláinte, and a good year of beer to all!


  1. Great round-up, though on point of pedantry, Paulaner belongs to Heineken rather than AB InBev. In fact, I think they only own 49% of it so they can pretend it's still Bavarian-owned.

    1. Ah I was a little confused by that when I was looking into ownership - I saw Heineken mentioned but then thought the parent company overall was InBev. Thanks for the info!

    2. Will edit my post too so I don't end up misinforming anyone!

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