2015 – What a year of beer and brewery visits !
It turned out that Toronto did indeed have world class IPA’s and barrel aged stouts. We visited 2 super friendly small breweries, Great Lakes Brewing and Nickel Brook Brewing to sample their excellent beers.
A #BeerPilgrimage was taken to Southern Tier Brewing the home of Pumking & Creme Brulee and resulted in a beer swap of a bottle of Westy12 for a full day out in the ‘Empty Pint’ taproom, a behind the scenes tour plus a case of beers, cheers!
De Molen was visited on a really quiet cold January weekend.
Later in the year a West Coast USA visit took us to Coronado Brewing, Ballast Point, Stone and Pizza Port Brewing, all great breweries doing it right.
Oh, we popped to Cantillon too, you can read about that further down this blog page.
Here’s my Golden Pints for 2015.
Best UK Cask Beer
Piccadilly Pale Ale – Brodies Brewery
After going through a change in brewing personnel the beers did go slightly awry earlier in 2015. If anything they might have come back even better than before with Piccadilly Pale, this sessionable clean super bright smash it down hop fest. Fantastic ale.
Best UK Keg Beer, Best UK Bottled Beer, Best Overall Beer
BrewDog BornToDie 27-11-15
Three categories tied up by one beer for me this year.
Born To Die 27-11-15 was simply West Coast IPA perfection. Better than anything I drank in San Diego in September, seriously I thought it was that good. Can it be replicated? Maybe it was one of those moments.
The brewery made too much of it, ha, there could never be too much!
The keg version had a bit more of the tropical fruitiness, the bottle punched in with huge citrus, both delivered an immense IPA.
Best UK Canned Beer
Heart & Soul – Vocation Brewery
I love session IPA’s and Pales. Tried this beer (on cask) for the first time completely out of the blue in The Star Inn, Huddersfield in June, was so amazed that I bought a random old gent a pint to see his reaction and drove up to Hebden Bridge, where the brewery is based to buy bottles of it. When the beer appeared in cans it was a no brainer to fill the fridge. Still a go to beer of the year and a canned champ.
Close runner up is IHL. When you can get it fresh Camden Brewery IHL still hits the mark. Sadly (fresh) it’s a rare sight now, shame there’s not the facility to produce this in vast quantities… oh wait..
Best Overseas Draught
The Pupil – Societe
The sun was about to set on a balmy evening in San Diego. Just the perfect time to sit on a pier and sip away. I had it on good authority that a small beer bar/bistro called Fathom Beer Bait & Bistro had fresh Pliny The Elder on draft. The Uber driver had never heard of the place, the local bars around our hotel had never heard of it either but we managed to find our way along to Shelter Island, a small spit of land overlooking the bay and US Navy facility based on the East side of Coronado.
I dived into the bar to be met with the sight of the handle being unscrewed from the tap – the keg had kicked, Pliny had passed.
The look of disappointment must have pinged the bartender into action, a couple of tasters were thrust in my direction and an IPA revelation in the form of Societe Brewing ‘The Pupil’ was encountered, it saved the evening and even though we did encounter Pliny later that night, for me, it didn’t compare.
Best Overseas Bottled
Serendipity – New Glarus
Thanks to Avios air miles and BA’s generous first class luggage allowance I have been able to bring back quite a few faves from the US to share out here in the UK.
I love the massive tropical hit from Toppling Goliath’s Sosus DIPA….
…but the massive fruit tartness backed up with huge aroma and bite in Serendipity from New Glarus is simply stunning. Wisconsin apples, cranberries and cherries aged in oak and wild fermented. Do whatever you can to get hold of this beer and try it. Spectacular.
Best Collaboration Brew
Ice Cream Sundae
I’ve berated collabs in the past for a being an excuse for a brewery p-up rather than a real actual collaboration. Also wasn’t too enamoured with a lot of the Rainbow Project beers of 2015.
Then Buxton and Omnipollo came up with Ice Cream Sundae. Win!
Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label
Magic Rock struck gold when they signed up Richard Norgate to sort out their branding. They stuck more gold with their canning ident.
Best UK Brewery
If you needed proof that great beer starts with great water then here it is. Of course you also need genius brewers.
Colin Stronge and his fellow team are consistent, open, friendly, skilled and boundary pushing innovators.
Plus… Ace Edge – a lesson in Sorachi Ace dry hopping – delicious.
mmmmmmm Ace Edge.
Best Overseas Brewery
They hop the hell out of their IPA’s and stick ’em in tall boy cans.
My beer trader mate in Minnesota can source rarities which are super fresh. Some of the world’s best BA stouts and Todd The Axeman was insane this year.
Best New Brewery Opening 2015
Vocation Brewery, Hebden Bridge.
I know Cloudwater are brilliant but that’s an easy choice, my vote goes to Vocation Brewery. Another Yorkshire hero in the making? I reckon so.
The Grove, Huddersfield.
Turn up day or night and there’s something interesting on.
Special dry-hopped Jaipur for the pub always available.
A chalkboard-tastic line up.
Big beer garden.
A 5 min taxi ride from the Magic Rock tap.
I’m sorry about twittering about your new branding looking like a Co-Op!
Best Tap Rooms
Welome to the Magic Rock Tap, Huddersfield
Beer Festival of the Year
A friend fest as well as a beer fest. Always goes too quickly, if they ran a 24 hour session I’d sign up.
Supermarket of the Year
Marks and Spencer
‘Marksies’ have certainly moved up in the beer stakes. Generally a decent selection, plus the totally lush FourPure Session IPA.
Waitrose loses the crown simply because they’ve pulled back on certain stock from Thornbridge.
Independent Retailer of the Year
One of the first in the UK to have KBS on the shelves (not for long).
One of the first in the UK to have Left Hand Nitro.
One of the first in the UK to have growler fills.
Regular kegs from the likes of Alpha State, Brodies, Magic Rock and Brew Dog.
Huge amount of imports.
Massive discounts for fans and friends (and CAMRA)
It has to be the crazy chaps from Coppers Gosforth
Online Retailer of the Year
Brew Dog Store
Simply because of their brilliant customer service which I’ve had to call on a couple of times this year. Never a hitch, the customer is always right attitude and some great beer at decent prices with your EFP 20% discount.
Best Beer Blog or Website
TotalAles has gone all professional hasn’t it?
Still a good read and balanced opinions.
Plus some great photography!
Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
Seeing The Lizards has amused me somewhat.
I’m not 100% sure if Matthew is really having a dig, or it’s just #bants.