Here is a run down of my Golden Pints for 2014 (run by Beer Reviews Andy). This represents a collection of brewery visits, beer festivals, football trips and, more recently, trips to London to visit historic pubs interspersed with the latest craft beer bars for my Taverns in Town project.
Best UK Cask Beer
Tiny Rebel Cwtch – I first had this on cask in Reading in March and any time I’ve seen it since I’ve had to buy it.
Honourable mentions for Adnams Ghost Ship and Kissingate Six Crows.
Best UK Keg Beer
As a rule, I tend to opt for cask over keg, but the star of the London Craft Beer Festival for me was Weird Beard Double Perle. A truly fantastic beer.
Best UK bottled or canned
Beavertown seem to have nailed their range and Gamma Ray in a can is now my go to train beer. But my beer of the year in this category is Brewdog Jackhammer.
Best Overseas Draught
Lagunitas IPA wins for me here. I used to say I wouldn’tever pay more than £4 a pint for beer. For this I will happily make an exception.
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned
One of the stories of the year has been Wetherspoon’s foray into craft beer. A bottle of Lagunitas IPA for £2.50 – yes please!
Twickenham Ales / Kissingate Nooksack APA. First tried at the Horsham Spring Equinox Beer Festival. And then a few more times since at the brewery.
Best overall beer
Tiny Rebel Cwtch.
Best branding pump clip or label
Beavertown – I love the artwork on their cans, bottles and pumpclips.
Best UK brewery
A tricky one. I love the range and consistency of Thornbridge and Dark Star and I love some of the invention coming out of some of the newer breweries like Weird Beard.
I have to give this to Beavertown. Great beers and a great range. Gamma Ray, Smog Rocket and Neck Oil are all great core beers.
Best overseas brewery
I’m not sure I can really judge this as I don’t really drink enough. But I’ll say Westmalle, who gave us lots of free tasters at the Visit Flanders section of the London Craft Beer Festival in August. I’m looking forward to visiting and meeting the monks next May!
Best new brewery opening
Fourpure – I think they actually opened in 2013. But they only caught my attention with the launch of the range in cans earlier this year. Everything I’ve tried has been very good.
Pub / bar of the year
I award this to a pub I hadn’t been to before. This year it’s The Alehouse in Reading. A fabulous little pub – it could qualify as a micro pub – with an excellent ale line up and lots of interesting nooks and crannies, making it very atmospheric.
Best new pub / bar opening
Mother Kellys in Bethnal Green. Top notch. Trendy, without being achingly so. Superb line up of beers and the bottled range in the fridges is something else.
The London Craft Beer Festival, which I wrote about here.
No contest – Waitrose. I would have been very hard to put together a good budget beer advent calendar without it! I have used Horsham, Cobham and Salisvury and all have a great range and brilliant offers.
Best Indy retailer
Oddbins – nice to see a decent craft range all around London.
Ales by Mail are my ‘go to’ online retailer.
Best beer book or magazine
Well for Christmas I received a subscription to Hop and Barley and Brew Britannia by Boak and Bailey, and while they are both great at first glance I haven’t read them yet. So I’m going to go for Original Gravity magazine. Only one issue so far, but good stuff.
Best beer app
Craft Beer London. Invaluable as I look to discover good drinking places in between my Taverns in Town.
Simon H Johnson award for best beer Twitterer
Always informative and interesting, never too intrusive in my timeline and well balanced in opinion: Boak and Bailey.
Best brewery web / Social Media
Brewdog remain the best by a mile.
So there you have it. What will 2015 have in store? I have 37 Taverns in Town left to visit. Early in the year I should be visiting New York for work. In May I visit Berlin for a stag do and then have a nice beery trip to Antwerp booked after winning the Visit Flanders competition at the London Craft Beer Festival.