This is my first beer blog post and I’m starting things off in a fairly straight forward manner with my 2015 Golden Pints. The writing might have been straight forward, but the decisions definitely haven’t been – it’s been a year which has seen lots of great beers and beer businesses. Celebrating that incredible hard work, creativity and skill on display in 2015 seems to me a great way to begin blogging.
Without further ado, here are my (totally biased) selections from the last 12 months!
1. Best UK Cask Beer – Jarl; Fyne Ales. At the Fyne Ales Brewery Tap, next to the beautiful Loch Fyne… Pretty much as good as it gets, but pretty tasty at my local too!
2. Best UK Keg Beer – Cannonball; Magic Rock. At the Hop Inn, and it’s been on there a few times this year, with good reason.
3. Best UK Bottled Beer – Finders Keepers; Cromarty Brewing. Just about nudged past such phenomenal beers as Buxton’s Axe Edge and Mad Hatter’s Penny Lane Pale.
4. Best UK Canned Beer – So’hop; Moor Beer. I’ve not drunk a lot of cans this year, but Moor Beer have stood out as consistent wins.
6. Best Overseas Bottled Beer – Schneider Weisse Aventinus. Love love love this beer, for a clear win despite tough competition from the Belgians.
8. Best collaboration brew – Off the Rails; Fallen Brewing & Hanging Bat ; with honourable mentions to Trolltunga from Buxton & Lervig as well as Atlantis Gose from Freigeist Beirkultur & Stillwater Artisinal. This one was probably the closest of all the decisions, and all the contenders were sours.
9. Best Overall Beer – I hate making this call, but it’s going to Schneider Weisse Aventinus.
10. Best Branding – Weird Beard; distinctive, fun, characterful.
13. Best UK Brewery – Cromarty Brewing takes this on the back of two of my favourite beers of the year – both foraged saisons. They just about win out over the consistent excellence of Buxton, Weird Beard, Mad Hatters and Magic Rock among others.
14. Best Overseas Brewery – Põjhala win out as a new entry from Estonia, over my recurring favourites St Feullien, De Ranke & Maredsous.
15. Best New Brewery Opening 2015 – Cloudwater – they’ve made it look like they’ve been doing it for ages, with a changing range of thoughtfully constructed beer. Top work.
16. Pub/Bar of the Year – The Hop Inn, Newcastle-under-Lyme. A great cask and keg line up has had a great bottle selection added to it, delivering great beer, great value and great service in a great environment. There are honourable mentions for Chez Sofie in Shrewsbury (lovely bottles and kegs with delicious crepes) & Buxton Tap House (part cutting edge, exciting beer bar and part rustic comfort that is so so difficult to drag yourself away from).
18. Beer Festival of the Year – Birmingham Beer Bash wins this one, but it was so close with runner up IMBC.
19. Supermarket of the Year – Waitrose gets my vote this year for it’s edge on overseas beers, but again, it’s a close one with M&S.
20. Independent Retailer of the Year – only opening in the last few weeks of 2015, none the less I’m giving this one to Otters Tears, Burslem. It’s a lovely shop with an exciting selection of some of the hardest to find gems in the beer world – with much more to come I’m sure! If they hadn’t opened for a couple more weeks, this would have gone to Leek Bottle Lab who have brought a shockingly good bottle shop to rural Staffordshire.
21. Online Retailer of the Year – I’ve not bought much online this year, but my BeerBods box has continued to delivered an interesting & tasty selection.
23. Best Beer Blog or Website – Larsblog – every post this year has been gripping reading – from detailed discussion of microorganisms to compelling descriptions of traditional brewing, it’s all been essential reading.
24. Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer – @broadfordbrewer – for bad puns, perspective and generally making me smile a lot.
Thanks to all of those mentioned and all of those others who haven’t been mentioned, but who have made my 2015 a lot of fun and full of delicious beer!