Category: Festivals

Golden Pints 2013

The Golden Pint Awards 2013

The Golden Pints 2013 – With Thanks to Mark Dredge and Andy Mogg

I have been writing this blog for a few years now, but this year is the first year in which I feel that I have been varied enough in the beers that I have tried to justify writing up the list of my Golden Pints . Sure in past years I have drunk a lot of different beers, but I usually struggle to even think of any foreign beers that I will have tried over the past twelve months. Like many of us beer bloggers I have quote a bad memory. I’m not going to do much of a short list, just the winners. So here are my thoughts on the best beers of 2013…

  • Best UK Cask Beer
    • Elland’s 1872 porter – I first tried this in a Wetherspoon’s in Manchester city centre. The weather was cold and I was still a bit hung over from going to the National Winter Ale Festival  the night before but never the less it was still a fantastic pint, and it was still a fantastic pint when we had some at the St. Neot’s beer festival later in the year. I wish I could see it on more often in the pubs need me because I need more of it in my life.
  • Best UK Keg Beer
    • Hepworth and Co‘s Conqueror – Although not the most mind-blowing beer in the whole world, it is exactly what is needed when you’re in a heavily packed music venue. This is a beer, which along with it’s siblings from the Hepworth Brewery, followed me around Brighton a lot  during the Great Escape Festival this year. No doubt we’ll meet again next year as well.
  • Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
    • Brewdog‘s AB:12 – When I first thought about this category I was so ready to shrug my shoulders and just say any old thing that popped into my head. Then I looked back at my untappd account and realised all of the beers which I have had this year that were bloody excellent. I’m also going to give a nod to Orkney’s Dark Island, Tullibardine 1488 whisky beer and The Celt Experience‘s Bleddyn 1075. Brewdog’s AB:12 however was the most different, standout, un-beer-like-beer with such a smooth warming finish, it was more like drinking a port than a beer. Whether that is a good thing or not in a beer is up for debate but for me it was a revelation.
  • Best collaboration brew
    • Dogfish Head and Charles Wells DNA – For me it has to be. Not only does it get Charles Wells out of their public image of just doing things like bland old Eagle IPA but it also tastes juicy and refreshing. It’s just fruity enough to be a good drink on a night out, and just relaxingly malty enough that you can curl up with a pint in front of the fire in the cliché old world pub scene. I have drunk this beer in both these cases and can tell you that it works fine in both.
  • Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
    • Steven’s Point IPA – This isn’t a strong category for me, I can’t think of many beers which were all that great, but Steven’s Point does stick out as a good one. An honourable mention  also: Schlenkerla‘s Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier.
  • Best Overseas Tap Beer
    • De Bekeerde Suster‘s De Manke Monnik – A group of us had a pint of this each whole we were at the brewery in Amsterdam. Such a hit with all of us that we are still looking of an effective way to get it imported.
  • Best Overall Beer
    • Taking in all of the above beers, as well as all of the other beers which I have drunk in the past twelve months I can’t help but think that all of these beers don’t really reflect what I drink overall. In fact, most of the time I drink standard stuff from the supermarket, because for the day to day beer has to be reasonable value as well as taste good. That is why my over all beer has depth of flavour, a good mouth feel, a sessionable ABV (so I can go to work in the morning), character, visually appealing in the glass and in the can, as well as a reasonable price tag. drum roll please…. Thwaites Champion Dark Mild.
  • Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label
    • Lancaster Brewery – I try not to be swayed by such things, but we all know that I am, along with everyone else. I like a brewery which has a theme running through their beer labels. The recent Greene King rebranding of the IPA range certainly gets my approval, but the best branding for me Lancaster Brewery. Their bottles are printed so well, and their pumpclips as well are of high quality, with a classy understated design which doesn’t try and distract or frog-march you to a decision with jokes and wit. It just sits there, on the bar, quietly understated.
  • Best UK Brewery
    • Adnams – For me a brewery which, although not getting  mention in the above individual  beer categories above, consistently produces high quality ales as well as innovative new brews that I know I am going to enjoy. You never hear the conversation; Someone:”Hey Looke, try this beer, it’s the new one from Adnams.”  Looke:”Hmmm, I dunno, is it any good?”. Of course it’s going to be good, it’s brewed by Adnams.
  • Best Overseas Brewery
    • Brouwerij ‘t IJ – Back on our Amsterdam trip we visited the giant windmill in the middle of Amsterdam that it the brewhouse of this brewery. Not one of their beers was bad. And they were still good when we tried some at the Bedford Beer Festival as well.
  • Best New Brewery Opening 2013
    • CAMRA says that 187 new breweries have started in the past 12 months but I have no idea which one’s they are and it I have tried their beers or not.
  • Pub/Bar of the Year
    • While some places on my travels do come close, The Albion in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, still is the place to go for a night in the pub. Plenty of real ales to try, some from the local B and T Brewery. It has guest spirits, guest ales and Guest ciders. A great community atmosphere where you are always welcome.
  • Beer Festival of the Year
    • St. Alban’s Beer Festival. While most CAMRA beer festivals are fairly similar to one another and St Albans is no exception (you buy a glass, get it filled, drink it, get it refilled, drink it, eat something, refill the glass, drink it while being amused by the entertainment etc.) it does make more of an effort with the entertainment. I feel the food is also slightly better quality than most other festivals that I have been to this year. And of course, any evening that you come home with a pocket full of cheese is a good evening.
  • Supermarket of the Year
    • Morrisons – I was all but ready to write Waitrose, like every other blogger for their wide range of generally good beers, then I had a little think. Tesco, they don’t even deserve a link for their poor array in my local branch. Sainsburys? There is always a choice but it is all a bit bland to my mind. Asda isn’t bad, and neither is Waitrose (although it is expensive). The more I think about it the best beers I’ve bought this year and more importantly have found me something new and different to try when I needed it most… Morrisons.
  • Independent Retailer of the Year
    • Dart’s Farm, Topsham, Devonshire – The more I think about all of the different shops I’ve been in since January to buy beer, none of them have been helpful, especially the little independents who look at you like your about to rob the place. Whilst not strictly speaking a beer retailer on its own, it does have a HUGE selection of beers within it’s farm shop as well as a selection of wines, spirits and ciders (including a house cider which was being pressed in the next room). On top of all that the staff asked if they could help and were friendly and nice. It makes all the difference, a difference I am willing to pay a little extra for.
  • Online Retailer of the Year
    • – I have used a few different online suppliers this year for different beer related purchases. They all delivered on time (kudos to the delivery company which delivered by bottle of Gin from Adnams, all of the problems caused were my fault and they were so helpful). Most of the websites were reasonable to use, none really blew my mind in the way of helpful user interfaces. But was stick out for me was the level of packaging and the amazingly quick delivery time, considering they are in Denmark, was, the online seller of all things Carlsberg. My wish for their Mermaid Porter was their command and they carried it out with the most efficient diligence.
  • Best Beer Book or Magazine
    • Beer Blast by Philip Van Munching – It may not be a book released this year, but it is one of the best beer related books I have read this year. You can read my full report here.
  • Best Beer Blog or Website
  • Best Beer App
    • Feedly – Not strictly a Beer app, but an app I use a lot for the purposes of trawling the internet for Beer news, information and opinion. It is basically a one stop shop for all the blog feeds I follow, presenting them in an manageable way. Since Google Reader went down it has been my salvation.
  • Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
    • I haven’t really had much time for twitter this year, I have a new tablet PC now, which may help with this though.
  • Best Brewery Website/Social media
    • Lancaster Brewery – I’d love to say but like everyone else I was disappointed with the end result of the entire thing. Lancaster brewery, while not a social media is a good Brewery website which tells you what you need to know and nothing more. Clean and simple. Also it keeps the corporate imagery, logo’s and fonts running throughout, tying it in with its product nicely.
  • Biggest Dick in the world of beer

Cambridge Beer festival

Last year I couldn’t make it to Cambridge, I was otherwise engaged. I wasn’t too happy about that because I really like Cambridge. They make the effort to make it just that little bit more than a place to sit about with a beard and talk about different malts. For those who haven’t been to Cambridge beer festival before, it takes place in a marquee, set up on Jesus Green and has many outdoor burger vans and doughnut  stands and the like, plus a raft of posh toilets (not something most people think about but really welcome).

Inside the marquee are tombola’s and t-shirt stands, somewhere to buy books and pewter engraving. All of this plus the main attraction: the beer. The beer selection is vast. With literally hundreds (200+ according to the posters) of British real ales to choose from, plus a foreign beer bar, plus a cider and perry bar, plus a a selection of meads plus a selection of country wines. You really couldn’t go to Cambridge and not find something new to try.

I personally was only sable to attend for a few hours and as such only had a few drinks, they were:

  • Felstar’s Peckin’ order – 5%. A very refreshing drink, perfect for starting the event with. Lightly carbonated and with a real flavoursome hit.
  • Growler’s Mary’s Ruby Mild – 4.5%. Contrasting well with the Peckin’ Order. A dark, thicker more fruity tasting beer. Much more robust and a fine ale.
  • Otley’s O1 – 4% – A golden ale, not bad but completely forgettable.
  • Lord Conrad’s Sticky Hot Cross Bun – 3.8%. The name suits this beer perfectly. I don’t know whether they were shooting for a beer that tastes like an Easter time treat buy by god did they end up with exactly that. Right down to the butter and raisins. It tastes truly like its namesake. Mind you – it does also look like they boiled up a bun and left it in some hot water overnight as well. Not a looker this one. It was a treat to try but after a half I was finished with it. Becoming more and more sickly with each mouthful. Nice to try but definitely one to buy more than once.

Although the weather hasn’t  been good this week, and apparently earlier on in the week the site was a quagmire, by the time I arrived on the Saturday afternoon, the grass had dried out and everyone was basking in the sunshine with a beer in their hands. You couldn’t have asked for a better end for what was, as ever, a great beer festival.

Booze on the Ouse 2013

I couldn’t make it as far as Sheffield. Both financial and logistical blockades put the mockers on that. I will have to wait  until next year before I can see what it’s like at Beer-x. I could make it as far as St. Neots though. Which is a stroke of good luck because it was the same weekend as the St Neots beer and cider festival, known as Booze on the Ouse (the Ouse being the name of the river which flows through St. Neots).

I had already asked all the usual suspects about going to a beer festival, and all of them had politely declined. Either work, otherwise engaged or no money were the main excuses. Undeterred I went by myself, I packed a book to read, thinking I’d be myself.

I arrived in town before the festival had opened and I was ravishingly hungry. The obvious thing to do then was to find the Wetherspoons… which I did. I ordered breakfast and while I waited had my first pint of the day, Salopian Brewery‘s Oracle 4%. This was OK, but nothing to write home about. Breakfast arrived and was quickly demolished. It was then followed by a pint of Hambleton Ale’s Nightmare 5%, a really enjoyable porter.

By this time the festival had opened. The festival takes place in the Priory Centre, just off the main road through the town centre. It’s not the worlds biggest venue, but it just about copes with the number of visitors which arrive. Having got there early enough I was able to grab one of the last seats. I sat down with a half of Elland 1872 6.5%, a rich ported which I was fortunate to try while I was in Manchester at the beginning of the year. I knew how good it was and decided to start with that to make sure I got a sample before it inevitably run out, it being the Champion beer of the National Winter Ales Festival, I’m sure it would go quick.

So, there I was, enjoying my book when I hear “Hi Looke, how are you?” I look up to see Matt, a friend of a friend who I haven’t seen for ages. He explains he is here to meet some friends from his course. Naturally he joined me until his friends arrived and when they did they sat down too. Soon after our newly formed group got talking to a a couple of chaps at the other end of the table we were all at, who’s names I’m at a loss to remember (sorry if your reading this).

The younger of the two really knew his stuff when it came to beer, especially the things from the bottled bar, which I usually don’t care much for. By the end of the day we had many different bottled beers which I usually wouldn’t even entertain, including lambic and gueuze beers. I can see why people say they are an acquired taste in beer, but you know what? I really liked them!

As the afternoon drew on people started to leave, the last train home and things like that were calling. Matt, the chap with all the bottled beer knowledge and myself had one more in The Pig n Falcon, a pub in St Neots, well known for its real ale selection. We then went our separate ways, Matt and myself ending up back at home, where we had a few more at the Flitwick club, before closing time.

All in all, a good day out.