These get harder every year. Mostly because my memory is getting worse thanks to all the beer, but still…
Best UK Cask Beer: Oakham Citra
My drinking has shifted in the last year or two and I now drink way more keg beer than cask beer. One of the best casks I had was Portobello’s Pilsner, in The Gunmakers, but it seemed like a one-off barrel of brilliance and I haven’t tasted it as good again. Burning Sky Aurora was amazing and I can’t wait to drink way too much of it next year. But Oakham Citra is becoming one of the best beers in Britain and that’s the best cask beer I’ve had this year (their Green Devil is also ruinously good).
Best UK Keg Beer: Camden Town Indian Summer
A lot of contenders for this one. BrewDog Dead Pony Club is something I find impossible not to order. I’m loving Beavertown’s Gamma Ray. A couple of Siren beers really stood out – Soundwave and Liquid Mistress. Citronvand by Alpha State was a crackling little beer bursting with big hops. My favourite was the beer that I’ve probably had more pints of than any other British beer this year (given that I worked there one day a week, that makes sense, but still…): Camden Town’s Indian Summer. A hopped-up 6%ish IPA-slash-lager, it’s exactly the kind of beer I love. I’ve already requested that it becomes a permanent beer. And goes in cans.
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Partizan Mosaic Saison
Summer Wine Maelstrom has nailed the Double IPA in a way that no other British brewery has – a bottle that I had this summer was unreal. When Dead Pony Club is good it’s unbeatable. Any of the Salopian small-batch stuff is superb. A bottle of Tap East’s APA was fantastic. But the best… Partizan Mosaic Saison was ohmyfuckinggod good, as was the Amarillo version, and as are all the other variations they do on saison.
Best Overseas Draught Beer: Nomad Karel
Nomad Karel. No question one of the best IPAs I’ve ever tasted and it’s made using only Czech hops. I drank it on a stag do in Prague and all I remember is basically spending two hours saying how much I loved the beer and that it’s the best beer in the world ever. It was so juicily fruity, so clean, so soft and just perfect. I also had plenty of other good ones: a green-hopped pilsner from Schonramer; Eschenbrau’s pilsner in Berlin rocked; Bells Two Hearted was a perfect IPA when I had it in Philadelphia; Uerige Alt from the brewery is an unmissable beer experience; as is rauchbier in Bamberg, where my first taste was Spezial’s; Naparbier’s Back in Black in Barcelona was as good as any black IPA I’ve tasted; since Lagunitas IPA arrived in Britain I’ve got too drunk on it too many times; all of the beers at Social Kitchen and Brewery in San Francisco; and an Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils on draft in Philly was beautiful and way hoppier than I’d tasted it before.
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer: Stone & Wood Pacific Ale
I’ve had a lot of Duvel this year and it’s become a fridge staple. FirestoneWalker’s Pivo Pils almost made me propose marriage to David Walker, then I realised how drunk I was and walked about 50 New York blocks home… (I’m just glad I didn’t drink Union Jack in front of him on the same night or it would’ve got really embarrassing). The single most holy-shit-this-is-awesome beer was Boulevard’s Tank 7 which after one sip made me text Mark and tell him to buy bottles immediately. But the beer I fell headoverheels in love with this year was Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale. I don’t know how they manage to make a beer that’s so bloody delicious.
Best Collaboration Brew: Fyne and Wild Cool as a Cucumber
Cool as a Cucumber by Fyne and Wild. It’s an amazing beer and I want more! The Wild/Burning Sky/Good George Schnoodlepip was also really excellent.
Best Overall Beer: Nomad Karel
Nomad Karel for the joyous pleasure it gave me while drinking it. I even went back to another bar the next day to drink more (when I should’ve been chilling for a while before a big night out). It must’ve been that cheeky pint which gave me the stamina to still be sitting in a Prague strip club at 5.30am… (LAD!)
Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label: Partizan
The easiest choice this year: Partizan. I love them all. Alec Doherty's artwork rocks.
Best UK Brewery: Partizan
Partizan. I think every beer is excellent and they make exactly the kinds of beers I want to be drinking. Super hoppy saisons, a wonderful singel, banging pale ales, and the dark beers rock.
Best Overseas Brewery: Schlenkerla
I’ve drunk more bottles of Schlenkerla Marzen than almost any other beer this year and I got to go to the tavern in Bamberg. It’s such a weird and esoteric beer yet it’s remarkable. Go to Bamberg if you can – it’s one of the best beer town’s in the world.
Best New Brewery Opening 2013: Burning Sky
Burning Sky. Gorgeous saisons, plus pale ales and IPAs with more hop flavour and depth than almost anyone else. And there’s going to be barrel-aged beers coming soon.
Pub/Bar of the Year: Well and Bucket
The Well and Bucket. It’s my favourite London pub. Cool place, lots of good beers, sliders. And jointly this also goes to The Gunmakers. It’s my new work local and there’s nothing like walking in there and being warmly greeted by the staff – you can also guarantee some of the best-kept cask beer in London.
Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013: BrewDog Shepherd's Bush
BrewDog Shepherd’s Bush. It’s an insane beer playground and I expect to drink there a lot in 2014.
Beer Festival of the Year: GBBF
I’ve been to shockingly few festivals this year (I’m a bit bored of big old halls and warm, weird beer – I’d rather go to the pub). I’ll never miss GBBF because it’s the best. Going to Braukunst in Munich was a fun experience.
Supermarket of the Year: Waitrose
Waitrose. Though I think Tesco is getting a lot better.
Independent Retailer of the Year: Bottle Shop
Bottle Shop in Canterbury. It always wins my award because I love it. The Beer Boutique in Putney also deserves a mention.
Online Retailer of the Year: AlesByMail
I use AlesByMail more than any other.
So there’s this book called Craft Beer World which I think is pretty good… CAMRA’s BEER magazine is always interesting, as is BeerAdvocate magazine (I do write for both of them...). Sadly there’s just a massive lack of general beer writing in more mainstream media, which is always such a shame.
Best Beer Blog or Website: Beervana
I think Beervana is the best beer blog around. Insightful, interesting, informed and it’s the blog which I wish I wrote (and I’m fairly sure I wrote the same thing last year, so I probably should just start writing that kind of thing…).
Best Beer App: Craft Beer London
Craft Beer London. I use it a few times a week and it’s excellent and reliable (and then on the way home I use the KFC finder app…).
Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer: Chris Hall
Chris Hall. Definitely one of the most entertaining voices in British beer.
Best Brewery Website/Social media: Camden Town Brewery
I think most are pretty terrible with streams of retweets praising themselves or just general boring posts like “Brewing our lovely bitter again today.” Very few actually get it right. I think Camden Town Brewery are one of the best, and I say that as the person that used to do it but now doesn’t (so with bitterness that it’s now better without me!). It’s conversational and interesting and not a stream of bullshit – nice work, Zoe!
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: Schlenkerla Marzen and everythingI’ve spent half the year trying to figure out great beer and food pairings (for my new book! It’s called Beer & Food! You can pre-order it NOW!). My new favourite beer to go with food is definitely Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen. It’s capable of some of the most unexpected and brilliant things (Try it with stilton! Try it with chocolate!). A simple one is often the best and with a spit-roast chicken it’s unbeatable. My other favourite new pairing is Sam Smith’s Oatmeal Stout with a good rare steak, parsnip chips and horseradish. It’s amazing.