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
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 Essex. The 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
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.