Another year, another roundup – thanks as always to Mark and Andy for hosting the annual celebration of all things beery.
Best UK Draught Beer
I know that this category has been split into Cask and Keg, but that just seems to be unnecessarily divisive. The fundamental thing, surely is that it’s beer you’ve enjoyed out of a glass in the pub rather that out of a bottle at home – are we really still hung up on what sort of container it comes out of?
It’s a tough category; an honourable mention goes to Weird Beard Holy Hoppin’ Hell which I first encountered at the Reading Beer Festival (being a CAMRA do, I’d assume it was in a cask, but I didn’t honestly ask) – it was the first thing I’d tasted from Weird Beard, and it blew me away.
However, the winner has to go to Bath Ales Festivity, which is a damn fine beer in bottles and, it turns out, even better on draught.
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
This is a tough one, happily because I’ve had some awesome beers this year. Ironically, having given Weird Beard an honourable mention in the last category, they get another one for the bottled version of their Holy Hoppin’ Hell which is easily as good as on draught, and doesn’t require me to sit in a muddy field next to Reading station to enjoy it.
However, Redchurch Great Eastern IPA takes the prize by a whisker.
Best Overseas Draught Beer
I drank a fair amount of beer when we went to Japan earlier this year, but I didn’t really make it to any proper craft bars. So pretty much all my draught beer drinking overseas was of fairly unremarkable mass-market stuff.
That said, a cold Asahi Black always hits the spot.
Best Collaboration Brew
At the risk of blowing my own trumpet, it has to be the Coffee Porter that the lovely folk at the London Brewing Company were kind enough to let me brew with them. Not only was it an incredible opportunity to brew in a commercial brewery, but it actually came out damn tasty too!
Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label
A tricky one, for the best of reasons – that breweries are putting out some stunning branding these days. Honourable mentions go to a number of the new litter of London breweries – Redchurch Brewery‘s whole branding, from the labels to the website, is utterly beautiful, while Brew By Numbers approach is clean, clear and a bit different.
The regionals have been looking to their branding too, though, and so I’m going to give this to Fullers for their new bottled range. While I’m sure it’s a cynical marketing attempt to shift more beer, the simple fact is that the new bottles look fantastic.
Best UK Brewery
Some breweries produce stunning individual beers, and some produce a solid, consistent range but the truly exceptional ones do it all. My pick as best brewery not only produces an entire range that I’m deeply in love with, but they package it beautifully too.
I’ve already mentioned them a couple of times, so perhaps it’s not surprising that Redchurch Brewery is my UK brewery of the year.
Pub/Bar of the Year
For me, a pub has to tick a lot of boxes. It has to have great beer (obviously). It has to have a great range. It has to be comfortable, and friendly. It has to not have 14 TVs showing the fucking football. And it needs to feed me some tasty food (not least so that I can bribe my designated driver to come with me!)
The Bull, Highgate ticks all those boxes and more, so it’s for this reason – and not just because they let me into their brewery – that I happily award them Pub of the Year.
Beer Festival of the Year
It’s not been a very festival-heavy year for me, but the Reading Beer Festival is certainly a highlight in my calendar. There’s a bewildering number of beers, a tolerable amount of seating – still a third of the volume needed, but that puts it miles ahead of every other festival I’ve been to – and the weather is always impossibly kind.
Supermarket of the Year
With the continuing loss of beer shelf-space to alcopoppy ciders, it’s hard to get excited about any of the supermarkets these days. Morrisons, at least, have a slightly different range than the rest of them so just about snags the award – but seriously, supermarkets, sort yourselves out.
Online Retailer of the Year
There are some exciting new online retailers on the horizon, but for now Ales By Mail hold the crown, not least for their fantastic Best of London boxes. Of course, they’re no longer just an online retailer, having opened a physical store too – although fortunately for my bank balance, it’s a bit of a journey from me!
Best Beer Book or Magazine
Although I know I’m repeating myself, my winner from last year remains my most well-thumbed beer book on my shelf. For pure inspiration, Randy Mosher’s Radical Brewing: Recipes, Tales and World-Altering Meditations in a Glass remains a fantastic read.
Best Beer Blog or Website
Another category where it’s tough to resist falling back on last year’s winner, but this year I’m going to pick Total Ales for being a thoroughly good read.
Best Beer App
They’re mostly terrible, frustrating and broken. The exception to this, and therefore the winner, is Untappd although I accept that it’s all a bit … pointless!
Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
The old saying about not knowing what you’ve got until it’s gone was proved this year, when I had to endure several months without the entertainment of broadfordbrewer in my timeline. Happily, service has now been resumed.
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
A good porter with sausage and mash. You don’t need anything else.
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