Thursday, 1 January 2015

Golden Pints of 2014

Every year I find myself rooting backwards through my Untappd checkins to try and remember what outstanding beers I have consumed; and every year I resolve to blog and check in more, to make the Golden Pints task easier. But life getting in the way of beer ticking is a blessing, not a curse.

Best UK Cask Beer
I am tempted to nominate Batham’s Bitter, as I spent all day drinking it with a friend back in March and still wanted more. However, there is a more suitable candidate that is available in Glasgow, though also not a local beer: Oakham Green Devil. There is a group of dedicated drinkers who follow this beer around the city, waiting to pounce on it as soon as it appears. Cosy free house or city-centre Spoons, the presence of Green Devil is the key criterion. And I can’t say I blame them. It is a superb beer, both tasty and consistent: it looks great (with deep yellow colour and dense white foam), it smells great and it tastes great.

Best UK Keg Beer
Fourpure Pils. Since I raved about it in the summer, I’ve been to the tap room and tasted some of their other beers. They were perfectly alright but not outstanding in the same way as the Pils. I don’t care. One beer of this quality is enough for any brewery. As runner-up, I really enjoyed Drygate’s Inevitable Conclusion, a 9.9% double IPA with gorgeous tropical fruit and root ginger aromas, and if I could have afforded to, I’d have drunk far more of it than would be wise.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Five Points Railway Porter has become a reliable, tasty go-to beer.

Best Overseas Draught
Spezial Lager

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier as usual.

Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label
Ah, who cares?

Best New Brewery Opening 2014
It’s taking some time for them to find their feet, but we have already seen some more than decent beer coming out of Drygate and I think the best is still to come. Every time I have the bog standard Bearface Lager I am reminded of how good it is, and several of the bottle-only or draught-only pilot brews have been really nice.

Runner-up here is Fallen. Paul Fallen has been getting his beer contract-brewed for a couple of years now. Since earlier this year he’s got his own gaff and the difference in the beers is like night and day. One of my major beery regrets of 2014 is not having drunk more of Paul’s beer.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2014
I really liked Grunting Growler’s pop up in the Halt Bar – read why here. Since the sudden end of that, Jehad has found space in the Drake Bar just down the road.

The runner-up here is the Raven on Hope St. I’ve found myself going in here quite a bit with friends. There is usually a more than decent cask beer available and the prices are very reasonable by city-centre standards. Some of Maclays’ other establishments could take lessons here. The music is always too loud.

Best beer and food pairing
People still do that? On the other hand, a pint of barley wine, some cubed beef and about 16 hours in the slow cooker makes an excellent pie filling.

Beer Festival of the Year
For some reason I have failed to make it to the usual round of festivals this year. I made it to Larbert and Paisley and GBBF, and of course the Glasgow CAMRA festival, but missed SRAF, Alloa and others. FyneFest stands out as ever; there is nothing quite like drinking a fresh pint of cask beer in a field.

Supermarket of the Year
To tell the truth, you cannot complain about any of the supermarkets – they all now have a range of perfectly drinkable beers. Not that I buy much beer in them. But this year I got to a Booths store for the first time and the praise this chain gets for its beer is well deserved.

Independent Retailer of the Year
Oh, this is a tough one. Hippo Beers should, by rights, get this as they have gone to considerable lengths this year: from hosting a homebrewing demo to commissioning their own beers from friendly local breweries to launching their own beer festival in the coming spring. I would like to use the award to honour a shop that is providing a splendid selection of beer in a much more challenging location: Maxwells in Pollokshields. Far more than a convenience store that sells decent beer, the range here makes it the best beer retailer on the entire South Side of the city.

Online Retailer of the Year
I have bought beer online precisely once this year. Worthy of an award? The beer arrived safely and postage wasn’t too expensive, but that’s about what you would like to be able to expect.

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