Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) BeerThere are too many to name one. I’m going to do a top ten instead, of beers I thought were a just a little bit more special or out of the ordinary. In no particular order, and not limited to ten: Williams Bros Impale IPA (Simcoe dry hopped version), Fyne Zombier, Fyne Fladda Rock, West Unkölsch, WEST Wild West unfiltered lager, Tempest Unforgiven, Cromarty Hit The Lip, Kernel Table Beer, Stewart Coconut Porter, Alechemy Cairnpapple, Tryst Citra Hop Trial. The Clockwork’s special foraged beer made during Beer Week was something of a risk, but the result was splendidly fresh and aromatic.
Best UK Bottled or Canned BeerPeople drink bottled beer?? I haven’t been out of the pub enough to drink bottles this year. At least that’s what I say. The pile of empties tells a different story. Let’s see. I have drunk a fair bit of Redchurch beer, nice stuff, kind of Kernel-a-like with less sediment. But not enough to judge an award on. Hang on, there is one bottled beer I bought as much of as I could get my hands on: Fuller’s Past Masters Double Stout. It is fantastic. They must make it a regular. I don’t care that they have two stouts already.
Best Overseas Draught BeerThis is always a tricky one as I don't really drink overseas beer and when I do, it’s bottled. Umm. I can only even remember two – some free Maisel’s Weisse and some Sierra Nevada Summerfest lager. Both were drinkable… but the Jever Pils at the Paisley Beer Festival was better than I was expecting it to be, and unlike some of the other beers, lasted long enough for me to get some!
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned BeerI really enjoyed the Russian River Damnation that a friend brought back from America. Very nicely done, balanced beer.
Best Overall BeerThere can’t really be a “best beer”. But there can be perfect beer moments. Though they are something rare, just like hot days in Scotland. The two combined one afternoon when I dropped into the State Bar and had a spectacular pint of Fyne Hurricane Jack. The condition of the beer couldn’t have been better, nor could the ambience as the sun streamed in through the window, just missing my preciously cold pint of golden beer. Pale ’n’ hoppy at its peak.
Best Pumpclip or LabelI haven’t really been wowed by any, though the Loch Lomond Brewery’s branding is quite nice and I really like Offbeat from Crewe’s look. I liked Fyne’s IPA Project artwork a lot too. More and more brewers seem to be moving away from the dull old oval pumpclip, which is nice, but it’s only to be expected that some will make regrettable decisions on the way.
Best UK BreweryI am going to sound like such a sook; but I’ve thought about it and there is no reasonable excuse I can find not to give the award to Fyne Ales. We have been completely bombarded with new beers this year – Rune, Earra, Cloud Burst, Roxy and some I don’t even remember. There was also the ambitious IPA Project of three pairs of IPAs, each produced in pale and dark versions, with the additional Fladda Rock blonde thrown in just for the hell of it. Not to mention the deadly Zombier stout. Did I mention that all the new beers were fab? All this while continuing to produce their core beers, opening a new bar at the brewery, planning expansion and dealing with the departure of their head brewer. Hats off!
As far as runners-up go, I haven’t had a bad beer from Moor or Tempest this year. They always cause a thrill of anticipation when I enter a pub and see their beers on offer.
Best Overseas BreweryAugust Schell, not for their beer, which I have never tasted, but for publicly calling out “craft beer” wankery in the belly of the beast.
Pub/Bar of the YearI have on occasion considered giving up trailing around town in search of beer, and just doing all my drinking in The Laurieston. I don’t think I will actually go that far, but it is a lovely place.
Beer Festival of the YearI didn’t make it to SRAF or GBBF this year due to illness. But I really enjoyed working at CAMRA Forth Valley’s Alloa festival. The beer was in top nick and volunteers are well looked after there. A novel kind of distributed festival was the Edinburgh Independents’ Beer Festival with some of Edinburgh’s top bars pulling out all the stops to get avant garde beers on sale. At times it seemed more like a walking festival, and my best pint of the day was a Cromarty Hit The Lip in the Diggers, which wasn’t actually taking part, but it was terrific fun.
Supermarket of the YearI very rarely buy beer in supermarkets now. When I do, it’s likely to be Tesco or Morrisons as they’re on my way to work. I suppose Morrisons as they now sell three types of Mild.
Independent Retailer of the YearIt’s been a good year for Glasgow bottle shops. The range at the established outlets Peckhams and The Cave has noticeably improved. But the award has to go to The Good Spirits Company – really a specialist spirits shop as the name suggests, but they have a small beer section, and frankly with that small section they have kicked everyone else’s arses.
Mention must be made of Hippo Beers, which looks very promising indeed, but since they only opened at the end of November it’s too early to start giving them awards. Really, it is.
Online Retailer of the YearI don’t buy beer online.
Best Beer Book or MagazineThere have been several important beer books published this year: Beaumont and Webb’s World Atlas of Beer, Mitch Steele’s IPA, Stan Hieronymous’ For The Love of Hops; but I haven’t yet read any of them. And I hear Mark Dredge’s book is complete and awaiting publication, which should be very good too despite having the C-word in the title, so I can see myself binge-buying books in the New Year.
But the award goes to a magazine I have only just discovered: Doghouse. I haven’t even read the latest issue yet but I can say this is a must-read for anyone who loves pubs.