Tuesday, 18 December 2012

My Golden Pint Awards 2012

It’s been a crazy, busy, strange kind of year. I’ve drunk more beer in more places than I thought would ever happen this time last year, which means I’ve got a lot of beers to run through in my head before coming up with any winners. But here they are, my Golden Pints for 2012... And, nicely, it’s coming as my 600th blog post.

Best UK Draught Beer
Camden Town USA Hells. Ignore the bias, this is a seriously good beer. If I owned a brewery then I would make this beer as my main brand. It’s exactly the sort of thing I love: clean and dry, unfiltered which gives a smooth body, then juicy and fruity with American hops.

Others worth high-fiving: Tiny Rebel’s Billabong was the definition of why some beers are best on cask as the hops were remarkably fresh and fantastic; The Foundry Belgian IPA at Planet Thanet was a burst of hops and spicy yeast; Lovibonds Sour Grapes and the Berliner Weisse-esque version are seriously good beers that I wish I could drink more of.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
The Kernel’s Table Beer. What a marvellous little thing. Briskly carbonated, brightly hoppy, fresh and something I never want to stop drinking.

Big up: Fuller’s Past Master’s Old Burton Ale which is gorgeously complex; I drank my BrewDog Zephyr this year and it’ll be hard to drink something better, ever; Moor Revival is another beer that seems to be made to fit exactly my tastebuds.

Best Overseas Draught Beer
I don’t get Belgian Reds or Browns. Or I didn’t get them until I had Odell’s The Meddler. What an incredible beer. Teasing acetic sharpness is hidden in the background, there’s lots of oak and body, a smooth fullness and a winning sweet-sour balance.

Back-slaps go to: Santorini Brewing White Donkey, a sensational Wit that I drank from tank at the brewery; Birrificio Italiano Bibock that was bright, light and fresh; Avery 3point5 after GABF when I was thirsty for something light, hoppy and delicious – USA nailing pale and hoppy.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Pretty Things Lovely Saint Winefride and St Botolph’s Town – I’m not sure I’ve had any beers which have ever struck me as more completely and utterly breathtaking. The texture, the depth of flavour, the way that every gulp is magical and different. Beers which are beyond brilliant.

Fist-bumps for: Duvel Triple Hop which pimps the classic beer with Citra; Camba Bavaria Pale Ale  a German US-style IPA that was superb; Crooked Stave WWBI is a masterpiece of brett, barrel and fruit.

Best Overall Beer
Aargh, so hard to choose just one of those... But I’m going for the two Pretty Things beers purely because no beer has ever made me react like these did (back flips, hollering, bowing down in reverence, speechlessness...) and Pretty Things made two of them.

Best Pumpclip or Label
Anything by Half Acre. I also love Brasserie Saint Helene (images from their designers).

Best UK Brewery
I'm going local: Gadds. They might be based nearby but I rarely see their beer; when I do, I get excited and I order it. Not many breweries make me feel that. This year the Green Hop ale was excellent, No. 3 is a proper classic Kentish Ale, while the dark duo of Dogbolter and Black Pearl are always good. Camden Town also need a shout: USA Hells, Rude Boy, Gentleman's Wit, Pale Ale, Hells Lager... I've spent all year drinking them and love the quality and clean depth in the beers. 

Best Overseas Brewery
I’ve visited and drunk beer in around 30 breweries this year and a few stand out in my memory: I always knew Odell Brewing was good but going to the brewery blew my mind; Haymarket and Half Acre in Chicago were both fun and the beers were exceptional; Septem and Sanorini in Greece put great beer in different places. But the best... this year I’m going for Brasserie de la Senne. Taras Boulba and Jambe de Bois kick ass and they remind me of a fun weekend drinking in Brussels.  

Pub/Bar of the Year
I really like the Earl of EssexThe best bar I drank in outside of the UK was Sugar Maple in Milwaukee – we drank 36 beers and spent $80 there in a few crazy hours at the end of a weird and wonderful day. I also loved Pizza Port Ocean Beach – a walk by the Pacific and then a flight of great beer with a delicious pizza. Moeder Lambic also rocks (see photo above).

Beer Festival of the Year
I went to GABF this year so that gets my vote. Indy Man Beer Con is favourite to win this category next year.

Supermarket of the Year
Torpedo IPA, Thornbridge Kipling and Fuller’s Vintage in Waitrose? Winner.

Independent Retailer of the Year
The Bottle Shop in Canterbury. I love that place.

Online Retailer of the Year
Ales By Mail and BeerMerchants share it because they are the ones I use most of the time.

Best Beer Book or Magazine
The World Atlas of Beer is excellent; I really like Beer Craft by William Bostwick and Jessi Rymill; Andrew Jefford’s Peat Smoke and Spirit isn’t about beer and wasn’t released this year, but it is a great book.

Best Beer Blog or Website
I’ve struggled to keep up with all the blog reading this year, almost as much as I’ve struggled to write anything... Beervana is consistently excellent and well informed and I return to it more than any others.

And two completely opposing websites need mentioning. For services to great graphic design, Oh Beautiful Beer is the best. For services to utter shite and pointing out the horrors of British beer branding, Pumpclip Parade is fighting a campaign which we should all get behind.

Best Beer Twitterer
@WinBassett always has a stream of relevant and interesting things. If I’m bored on the train or in the pub, I find Win’s feed and there’s always a link nearby (whether about beer or something else) that’s worth reading.

I always look out for @Broadfordbrewer’s tweets for their mix of beer and one-liners, @ThornbridgeDom mixes technical detail and silliness in a great way and there’s always something interesting to see from @alessioxleone

Best Online Brewery Presence
I genuinely don’t know... I guess that means no one is standing out for the right reasons.

Food and Beer Match of the Year
Fried chicken tenders, fries and a Pliny the Elder sitting in the sun at Falling Rock in Denver. It was my idea of perfection, even if I did nearly miss my flight because of it.

In 2013 I’d most like to...
Do better; sell a million copies of my book (dream big); write another book; go to Germany; learn a new language (learn my own language a little better); win the Paris marathon (I’ll settle for finishing it); get published writing about something that’s not beer-related; catch up on life; spend more time with Lauren. That last one is the most important.


  1. Great Mark. Maybe a little late for your consideration but from my London centric viewpoint...

    Best UK Draught Beer EAST LONDON BREWING CO. (ELB) QUADRANT STOUT a bit biased, but very pleased with this creamy beast. THORNBRIDGE CHIRON a very close second place.
    Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: HARDKNOTT’S AETHER BLAEC a beaut to share with a close friend or loved one in these cold months
    Best Overseas Draught Beer DE MOLEN’S AMARILLO DOUBLE IPA. Delicious peach and orange with a sweet, full mouthfeel that dries steadily with more elusive soft fruit lingering. Thanks to the smiley service too at Exmouth Arms on a suitably cold December evening.
    Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer ALCHEMIST HEADY TOPPER is such an exciting, gluggable, moreish beast, in a 440 can, on public transport.
    Best Overall Beer ALCHEMY HEADY TOPPER by a country mile.
    Best Pumpclip or Label WILD BEER CO. across the board for brand presentation. Also great to see one of the new breed not present themselves with faux or overt American aethetics.
    Best UK Brewery FULLERS for occupying the ‘I’m feeling delicate, what cask beer can I drink?’ realm and also catering so well in the ‘I want a special strong bottled complex beast?’ spot too.
    Best Overseas Brewery DE MOLEN just knock the carbonation down a little pls.
    Pub/Bar of the Year BAR AWARD TO CRATE BREWERY for creating such a relaxed and inclusive environment with such a simple quality offering. PUB AWARD to Exmouth Arms for the sheer range of good beers, presented by friendly staff in such a beautiful Victorian pub.
    Beer Festival of the Year INDYMANBEERCON (IMBC) for singlehandedly propelling the service you get from ‘festival’ bar staff so far forward – the brewer’s serve you no less.
    Independent Retailer of the Year PIG’S EARS beer distributors offer the on-trade the best customer service this side of Pret-a-Manger.
    Best Beer Book or Magazine Although not published this year, THE OXFORD COMPANION TO BEER remains my go-to for specific information and pot-luck.
    Best Beer Blog or Website HARDKNOTT BREWERY for their charming and educational videos
    Best Beer Twitterer @BRODIESBEERS James for irreverent entertainment.
    Best Online Brewery Presence HARDKNOTT BREWERY for their charming and educational videos
    Food and Beer Pairing of the Year I DRINK WATER WITH FOOD.
    In 2013 I’d most like to join in MIKKELLER’S COPENHAGEN BEER CELEBRATION.

  2. Thanks very much, Mark. More beery goodness to come from us in 2013

    You're right about the American Hells. It would be my go-to beer of choice at home if it was brewed regularly, especially in those bomber bottles...

  3. Good to see you also going for De La Senne in the overseas category. As you will have seen from my nominations they really are one of the top breweries around at the moment (just a thought but why have so many Golden Pint entrants been so USA centric - the sooner the UK beer blogging scene sheds its transatlantic obsession and starts appreciating beers made rather closer to home the better in my view. Sorry, rant over and hobby horse put away).

    De La Senne just seem to everything well. Their Schieven IPA is stunning and they have even collaborated with the guys at Moeder Lambic to make a superb pale and hoppy cask beer (yes, really!) - Band of Brothers.

  4. By the way - justa thought about IMBC - many people have raved about this (and it was fantastic) because they could have beer served by the brewers. Those of us who are veterans if the Belgian/Dutch beer festival scene don't exactly expect this as a matter of course but it's certainly not uncommon over there so in a way that was perhaps one of the least remarkable features of that superb event.

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