Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Golden Pints Awards 2013

Golden Pint Awards 2013

So here we are at the very end of the year and after much contemplation, reviewing old posts and meticulously checking Untappd I've managed to finalise my favourite beers of the year for 2013, and more besides.
From all that I've read the consensus is that it's been another good year for beer overall with new breweries opening all the time, especially in London, lots of lovely beer being produced and more styles of beer being readily available than ever before.
I was extremely fortunate in that I also met some great people this year. I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that everyone I met who had a connection with beer in some way was genuinely friendly and interesting. If you were one of those people then I thank you for taking the time to indulge this cranky old beer blogger thrusting his hand in your direction and introducing himself.
So without further ado I'll kick off, as is traditional, with ...

Best UK Cask Beer 2013
I always find the actual beer selection categories for these awards more then a bit of a headache. The sheer amount of beer consumed over the course of 365 days and the various methods of dispense that they could be available in mean that sifting through the accumulated data of 12 months of drinking can be no mean feat. Looking back there was however one beer that stood out every time I was lucky enough to drink it, and was indeed the only beer I drank pint after pint of at a beer festival this year, and therefore my winner in:
Crouch Vale - Junga 4.1%
The balance of the malt with the raspberry and strawberry juice nature of the hop made this a clear winner for me. Crouch Vale are a local brewery so I was fortunate to get this in great condition and on gravity dispense on two separate occasions, which definitely helped.
Honourable mentions here for:
The Foundry - East Kent Pale 6.0% that I had at the Green Hop Festival launch and
Mauldon's - Black Adder 5.3% which is a beer that I've drunk for years and years and has never disappointed me.

Best UK Keg Beer 2013
I couldn't decide on a clear winner here so I've had to go for a tied first place in this category. The winning beers for me here are:
Lovibonds - Lager Boy 5.0%
Kernel - Double Citra 9.8%
The Lager Boy I first encountered in Henley, mere yards from where it was brewed. It was my first drink of a warm early summers day and it was so flavoursome and refreshing it quickly became my second and third drinks too. I also drank copious amounts of my runner up in this category:
Lovibonds - Sour Grapes 6.0% the non-barrel-aged version available at the brewery, as well as 69 and Dirty 69 that day (well, I was thirsty) but it's the Lager Boy that has stayed with me as a real cracker.
The Kernel - Double Citra I first encountered in Craft Beer in Clerkenwell. I had been on a bit of a journey here and there all over London that day and found myself in the vicinity of said establishment. I opened the door that leads directly onto Leather Lane and there in front of me was a Kernel pump clip. As I approached the bar and I realised what it was all the other beers seemed to melt away. I only had eyes for the Double Citra, and my judgement was not misplaced. for this moment alone it had to win in this category, a truly wonderful, if rather potent, beer.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer 2013
I've got through an awful lot of UK bottled beer this year, from those I've featured in my Beers Of London Series to the weekly BeerBods escapade on a Thursday night plus the many bottles I've been fortunate enough to be sent to review or have picked up on travels, mine and friends and family. I could have easily squeezed at least twenty beers in here, but are much head scratching and re-arranging my winner is:
Howling Hops - Amber De Luxe 4.6%
Even though I last had this back in July, you can read my review here, I can still bring to mind its wonderful aroma and taste, and it still makes me smile.
Runners up for me here are:
Honest Brew - Riwaka Hop Mule 5.4% an absolute explosion of hop flavour and aroma, and
Tavy Ales - Tavy Porter 5.2% a beautifully balanced Porter from a brewery that I hope to see more from in 2014, I'm quite keen to taste the IPA.

Best Overseas Draught Beer 2013
I think that 2013 saw more overseas draught beers being available in the UK than I can ever remember before. Whereas some of the best were the exclusive domain of such establishments as BrewDog and Craft Beer Co. this was not strictly the case with beers such as Lagunitas IPA appearing in a many more pubs and bars that cared about the quality and variety of beer available. However, just to be temperamental I've gone for a tie in first place again picking two beers that really lodged in my memory as some of the best I have tasted ever. Firstly I'm choosing
Brasserie De La Senne - Taras Boulba 4.5% that I had on tap at t'brugs beertje back in August. It had been a long day, we were all tired, but this beer really lifted me and the quality and flavours were so defined it really was outstanding. I've had the bottled version a couple of times since then but the flavour doesn't quite match up to the draught version.
My second choice is:
Toccalmatto - Supernova Suicide 4.5% This was a beer that I had at The Rake early in the summer after I had been to the Lichtenstein exhibition at the Tate Modern, when they featured beers from Italy that hadn't previously been seen in the UK. A Saison brewed with Australian Summer and Stella hops, with an enormous hit of apricot ably supported by a myriad of other stone fruits in a spicy saison wrapper. It's a stunning beer and  I'd love to have it again.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer 2013
There can only be one winner in this category for me in this category seeing as I think it's the nearest to a perfect beer for me as I can get. I was fortunate enough to have this beer on many occasions in 2013 and I wish I had a fridge full as I'd use it to toast every significant occasion in my life come. Who needs Champagne when you can have:
Mikkeller - Nelson Sauvignon 9%
There have been many other overseas bottled beers that have stood out for me this year and special mentions in this category have to go to:
De Dochter van de Korenaar - Extase 8.5% a bold blend of Belgian and US styles in a DIPA, and:
Dieu du Ciel - Peche Mortel 9.5% from Canada which I only had for the first time a couple of weeks ago but was such an amazing complex swirling vortex of tastes, flavours and sensations it would easily have made the number one spot here had it not been for the Mikkeller.
I also have to add Duvel - Tripel Hop (Sorachi Ace) as well. What an absolute cracker.

Best Collaboration Beer 2013
A popular choice on many Golden Pints this year and for very good reason, it's an absolutely stunning beer. Having had this on bottle and keg over the summer I have tried since to get some bottles without success. I wish I'd bought a case of the stuff. This beer is of course:
Wild Beer/Burning Sky/Good George - Schnoodlepip 6.5%
If you had it, and I certainly hope you did, then you'll know why.

Best Overall Beer 2013
If you're with me so far then you'll probably be assume that Mikkeller walks away with the title here, and it probably should really, but I wanted to go for a beer that was first produced in 2013 for this award so my winner here is, as above:
Wild Beer/Burning Sky/Good George - Schnoodlepip 6.5%
The keg version I only had the once, and that was at the Three Tuns in Bristol at the start of the CAMRGB Twissup at the end of August, and having such a fantastic beer in great company really made it special for me. A well deserved winner.

Best Branding/Pump Clip or Label 2013
An easy one for me, it's this beauty by artist Peter Beatty:
It's from an Imperial Black IPA that Honest Brew did for their Triple Hop event in collaboration with Column Arts Agency and Test Space that I attended this year. The beer was exceptional, I'm a sucker for a black IPA and this was very good indeed. I was also particularly taken with the artwork on the label, magpies are my favourite bird and I particularly liked the late Victorian/Edwardian feel of the whole thing. So much so that I actually own a limited edition print of it.

Best UK Brewery 2013
I'm going to have to go with:
The Kernel
They have consistently produced beers that I want to drink again and again and 2013 was no exception. Their hop combinations and consistent quality mean that I have thoroughly deserved their output, and I hope to do so for many years to come. The fact that they produced Double Citra helped a lot too.
Honourable mentions to Magic Rock and Beavertown. I think your beers are fab as well.

Best Overseas Brewery 2013
The winner here is:
Birrificio Toccalmatto from Italy
I have a great love for Italian beer, and the output from this brewery has been consistently astonishing. I absolutely love it.

Best New Brewery 2013
There is one brewery that I have spoken to, seen in action and drunk a few beers with this year that have amazed me with their output, enthusiasm and friendliness in 2013 and I'm sure are destined for great things in the year ahead, and that brewery is:
Honest Brew
If you haven't tried their beer then I urge you to seek it out. You won't be disappointed.
Honourable mentions to Belleville and Brixton here. Great people brewing great beer.

Pub/Bar Of The Year 2013
For me it has to be my local:
The Olde Dog in Herongate, Essex has been a real home from home for me and my family for many many years. Good cask beer kept in great condition and where Crouch Vale - Brewers Gold is always available.
If I had to chose the pub that I have consistently travelled more than forty minutes to again and again this year for the friendliness and quality of beer available the my vote would go to The Cock Tavern in Hackney. Whenever I go there I instantly relax and am made to feel like part of the furniture, and I can't really ask for more than that.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013
My winner her is:
The Pelt Trader under Cannon Street station in London.
It's not my favourite bar but the beer is good and the staff are friendly. It's also the only place I could think of that fitted this category.

Beer Festival 2013
No surprises here, and also no question in my mind. The winner is:
The Great British Beer Festival at Olympia
I had a wonderful day with some of my best friends personally and with many of my favourite beery people, many of which have become firm friends over the last year or so, united in a whole day of drinking and discussing beer. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Supermarket Of The Year 2013
I going for the supermarket that is a few minutes walk from where I work and one that I can pick up bottles of Thornbridge or Sierra Nevada as well as numerous others should I want a fantastic beer in a hurry. For me it's a no-brainer, and my winner here has to be:

Independent Retailer Of The Year 2013
I've had to go for joint winners here, one locally (within a few miles) and one a little further afield.
My local winner is Cellars Off Licence, specifically the one on Western Road in Billericay. I have been able to pick up some right little crackers there over the years, and there's always something new or surprising there that catches my eye every time I go there.
It shares the title with Utobeer in Borough Market. I simply love it's quality and depth of choice, and that's why I go there a lot.

Online Retailer Of The Year 2013
Again there's only one winner for me here and that is:
Ales By Mail
Local, hospitable and they have become real friends over the last six months or so and I'll often pop into them for a chat on my lunch break or after work. The beer selection is great and now that they have a shop front as well they could equally have featured in the above category too.

Best Beer Book 2013
I'm a big reader of beer books both ancient and modern and have read a good many of this years releases, most of which I have thoroughly enjoyed however there was one book that ticked all the right boxes for me this year and that was:
Boutique Beer: 500 Of The World's Finest Craft Brews by Ben McFarland
As I mentioned in my #beerylongreads Favourite Beer Books post it's both accessible and interesting and my only gripe with it is that it's A4 size makes it a little unwieldy to read in bed or on the move., however I thoroughly recommend it.

Best Beer Blog or Website 2013
Whereas I read beer blogs extensively there I very few that I can say that I read consistently, hand on heart, however two that I do are:
Boak & Bailey's Beer Blog
Martyn Cornell's Zythophile
I've also enjoy quite a few on a regular basis, not least among them are:
Matt Curtis's Total Ales, Phil Hardy's Beersay and for sheer output and interesting reviews Simon Williams's CAMRGB Blog to which I contributed a guest article this year.
You could do a lot worse that follow any or all of these.

Best Beer App
An easy winner here, and one without which compiling these awards would have been considerably harder. The award therefore goes to:
I'm a nosey chap and I like to see what everyone else is drinking and where they're drinking it, and seeing as most folk I follow are on it then it suits me rather well.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer 2013
My winner here is someone who tweets almost constantly with knowledge and interest, someone who replies to everything and has a view on it too, who wears his heart on his sleeve, is honest and always says what he thinks, and always makes me laugh. I'm also pleased to count him as a friend, and that person is, the one and only:
@NateDawg27 Mr Nathaniel Southwood himself.
Well done Nate, keep doing what you do as many many of us love it. Cheers fella!

Best Brewery Website/Social Media 2013
Strangely I'm not one to pay much attention to the bells and whistles of brewery websites. I generally call them up, get in there, get what I want and get out, however there is one website that I remember visiting that I was impressed by so my winner for this award for 2013 is:
Moncada Brewery
If you want to see it for yourself then you can do so here. I rather like it.

Best Podcast 2013
There is a podcast that I've enjoyed this year, particularly as I've seen the participants grow in their beer knowledge and appreciation, become friends and feature a great many of people I know well on their show, so my winner here is, of course:
The Beer O'Clock Show
It's well worth a listen if you haven't already done so, and you might want to consider sponsoring Steve as he 'goes dry' for January in aid of Cancer Research. All he's asking for is the cost of a pint.
There are two runners-up in this category that I urge you to seek out and listen to.
First of all from the UK: Beer Talkers and from the US: Craft Beer Radio
If you haven't listened to a beer podcast before then you won't go far wrong here, and the beauty of all of these three is that it doesn't matter which episode you listen to, pick one and enjoy.

Food And Beer Pairing of the Year 2013
And so you breathe a sigh of relief as I have come to the last category, and this one has no contenders, it's an easy choice.
In the summer we all went off to Bruges as a family, and on our first night searching for somewhere to eat we stumbled across De Bierbistro in an underground cellar, not too far from the main square. I opted for a prawn and vegetable pizza, and what a pizza it was. The dough was made with Orval, the tomato sauce was made with Chimay Red and the prawns were sautéed in La Chouffe, with a glass of La Chouffe to accompany it, well it was just about as perfect as it gets. In fact, it was so good I had it all over again on our last night.

So that's it from me for 2013, I hope you've had a wonderful year and I wish you an even more wonderful prosperous, happy, healthy and very beery 2014. Happy New Year!


  1. Thanks for the mention Justin, On behalf of the Beertalkers Cheers!

  2. Cheers Justin, very kind off you to mention Beersay as a worthy read. It's been a tough year & I've found reading others hard to keep up with and writing my own even more so with other pressures piling on, its comments like this that make it worth the effort, thanks bud.