Beer For The Year Golden Pints 2013

As a follower of everything beery on Twitter, I saw a post from Mark Dredge at the beginning of December entitled Golden Pints 2013. I did not think much of it at the time as I thought the task would be too great to be able to think of a suitable choice for each category out of the plethora of breweries and beers that are available. Really, there is an amazing choice. Gradually over the last three weeks I have seen many fellow bloggers posting their Golden Pints choices and that got me to thinking, I really should be able to do this too, however monumental the task maybe. Luckily (or ‘OCD’ily, however you want to look at it), I have a list of all the beers I have drunk over the last year with ratings, so the task should be easier. So here goes for my choices for Golden pints 2013…………

Best UK Cask Beer – Finding it hard already. If I could remember what I had on cask and what I had on keg, it would be a lot easier. I am going to mention three beers that I found really good at beer festivals and a local one. I can’t guarantee that the festival beers are 100 % cask but I know the local one is. BF – Coffee in the Morning by Tap East, a great cold coffee beer. Citradelic by Melwood Beer Co, great pale ale with, you guessed it, citra hops, massive grapefruit and lychee. Citra/centennial by Quantum, a thick, juicy and fruity pale ale that was very drinkable, despite the 8% abv. My local brewery, Loose cannon, is producing some great beers currently, nothing too adventurous but a well flavoured core range of beers. The stand out beer from them at the moment is the Gunner’s Gold. A well hopped, fruity golden ale that is very drinkable. Gunners Gold Pump Clip

Best UK Keg Beer – Would have to be Soundwave by Siren Craft. A brilliant IPA that is full of tropical fruits and hops. I love just about everything that they produce.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer – Going to have to choose two for this category. The first time I had both of these, it was wow. Mariana Trench by Weird Beard with it’s amazing grapefruit and tropical fruitedness. It must be the citra, I am addicted to it. Bloody ‘Ell Orange IPA by Beavertown is also very good. Just waiting for the guys to purchase some more blood oranges so that I can get hold of more.

Best Overseas Draught Beer – Not had so many of these. But on a trip to Copenhagen, I had Sort Gul by Mikeller at the Mikeller bar. A great example of a balanced black IPA.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer – I do love a good can and Phoenix Pale Ale by Sly Fox comes in a good can and tastes very good too.

Best Collaboration Brew – You are going to start seeing a theme here. Näcken by Siren Craft and Omnipollo. An amazing hoppy hefeweizen, as they call it, and it really is. A combination of tropical fruits from the IPA side and the yeasty, wheaty undertones from the wheat side.

WP_001479 Best Overall Beer – I have not gone back to many beers over the last year, mainly due to the challenge that has been happening (365 beers in a year in case you did not know), but there is one that I have tried, and gone back to, a few times, Liquid Mistress by Siren Craft. An amazing hop hit along with the a great red biscuit malt.

Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label – Magic Rock. The branding is so colourful and I like the theme that they have running through all their beer names. The pump clips jump out at you when you see them at the bar, screaming ‘come try me, we are fun and tasty’.

Magic Rock Pump ClipsBest UK Brewery – There are plenty of great breweries currently on the scene that are producing a massive output of brilliant beer. If you were to twist my arm though and say pick one, I would have to say Siren Craft Brew. I can’t believe they have only been going for less then a year and producing the amazing beers that they do. As mentioned above, I love just about everything that comes out of their tanks. I will, however, also give an honourable mention to my local Brewery again, Loose Cannon. They produce some great beers.

Best Overseas Brewery – I am going to pass on this one. I have had a few overseas beers this year but not enough from one single brewery to make an informed choice. Unless of course Scotland is overseas and I could choose Black Isle Brewery or Brewdog.

Best New Brewery Opening 2013 – It’s getting boring now (the repetition not the Golden Ponts categories), I am going to have to go with Siren Craft Brew. For the above reasons.

Pub/Bar of the Year – I go to quite a few pubs, as you can imagine, and whilst many of them have a good choice, the choice is never massive. That is until I went to the Craft Beer Co in Clerkenwell. It looks like a normal pub with wood paneling and mirrors on the ceiling (?) but when I saw the 30+ cask hand pulls and keg dispensers, I thought I had gone to heaven. Subsequently, I have been to a few other places with as much choice but this pub holds a special place in my heart for introducing me to so much tap choice.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013 –  This is going to sound a weird choice but The Narrows in Abingdon. I know, a Wetherspoons pub. But it has brought more choice to Abingdon and you can guarantee at least 9 beers on tap including local and farther afield beers.

Liverpool Craft Beer Expo Poster Beer Festival of the Year – Tough to choose. Indy Man Beer Con or Liverpool Craft Beer Festival? Both craft. Both very good. Both great venues. Both great beer choices. Both you could get served at the bar very easily. Both very cool. Nope, I can’t choose. One of those! Indy Man Beer Con Poster

Supermarket of the Year – Waitrose. Their selection seems to be slightly less mainstream than the Tescos near me.

Independent Retailer of the Year – Cotteridge Wines. Very friendly guys who know their beer. One of the first places I visited to start off my beer obsession. They will even save beers for you in a box in their back room if you send them a tweet. The go to guys for everything Siren Craft.

Drink-Better-BeerOnline Retailer of the YearBeerbods. Great customer service. A gift to yourself that keeps giving and giving, 12 bottles every 12 weeks to be precise, of really good beer. And you get to interact with others drinking the same beer every Thursday night. Thursday night is Beerbods night!

Best Beer Book or Magazine – The Complete Beer Course by Joshua M. Bernstein. A beautiful book with lots of information on how to taste beer. Also Beer, the magazine that comes with the CAMRA paper. I always look forward to reading this every 3 months. Always interesting.

Best Beer Blog or Website – Simon from CAMRGB. Short, no nonsense beer reviews that get to the point. I am not sure how he does it but every review is different.

Best Beer App – Untappd. One of the best ways to follow how much you have drunk over the year. And you get badges to celebrate how much you have drunk. What more could you want?

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitter – broadfordbrewer (@broadfordbrewer). Some very droll tweets and jokes that make me laugh.

Best Brewery Website/Social media – Twitter. I signed up to Twitter when I joined Beerbods at the beginning of the year. I have found some great people to converse with on-line and have met some of them in person. Twitter has been a great way to find like minded beer geeks to drink with.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year – I have to admit, when it comes to beer and food pairing, I have absolutely zero knowledge of what goes really well together.

There you have it, my Golden Pints for 2013. Looking forward to starting my new list of beers in the New Year in readiness for Golden Pints 2014.

How I came to have 51 different beers in the house

P1030223A bit of panic started to set in last week, well maybe panic is a bit of a strong word. I was a little worried. I only had 13 beers in the house to keep the challenge going. ‘Oh no’ I hear you say (well, probably not). In reality this was only 7 beers, as 6 of them are from Beerbods and I am only allowed to drink one of those every week (their rules, not mine). Seeing as at least half of the beers that I will be drinking in this challenge will be bottled beer, seven beers is not going to last me very long. So how was I to go about getting some more? I could have gone to the local shop or supermarket to easily pick some off the shelves, mostly big brand beers that I can get anywhere. But I wanted beers that were new and interesting, beers that I have never seen or heard of before. Although supermarkets and shops have a few of these, I needed to widen the search. What I really needed was a Beer shop, like a wine shop but selling mainly beer (just in case you need an explanation). However, there does not seem to be a beer shop close to here that sells beers from around the UK. The closest one is in Birmingham (Cotteridge Wines, an hour and a half drive) and although I am dedicated to this challenge, I am not dedicated enough to travel to Birmingham for some beer.  In the last two months of internet searches and twitter following I have come across a great many breweries in the UK. Some sell their beer online, others do not. Most of the ones, if not all, that do sell online, tend to sell beers in crates of 12 with only three or four types of their beer, or they sell gift packs with only three bottles. Both good ways to try new beer, but not good for the 365 challenge. Internet searches and twitter following have also led me to a few websites that sell beer by the case. Like Best of British Beer who sell handpicked cases of british beer or provide a service where you can sign up to a beer club and receive up to 12 cases of beer a year. But these cases are pot luck and I would worry about getting beers that I have already tried, especially further into the year. Eventually I found two websites Beer Hawk and Ales By Mail on which I could buy individual bottles of any beer I wanted in order to make up a case of 12 or 24 beers. I was very excited at the prospect of trying some new beers and went through both websites making a list of all the beers that I wanted. Then, last week, just before I was going to order these beers, I had to go on a two day training course on learning how to use the new robot at work (sounds exciting doesn’t it, using a robot at work). As luck would have it, this training course was just outside Birmingham. P1020879I could go on the training and at the end of the day visit the beer shop. An excellent idea! No need to order beers on the internet, I could go in person and choose from a massive selection (according to the website, over 850 beers from around the world). I was very excited. The day came and I journeyed from the place of the training to the shop. The shop was great, smaller than I expected but a lot of beers to choose from around the UK and the rest of the world. They even had some of the beers that I had listed from the two websites. I am not sure that there were 850 ales but there was alot. It took me 45 minutes to choose the beers that I wanted and even then I could have been there longer. After a good chat with the owners about beer, they were friendly and helpful, I went home with 26 beers, a beer glass and a big smile on my face.

P1030215But the story does not end there. We were off to York for the weekend to see this beautiful city that we had heard so much about. Maybe there or close by they would have a beer shop. So with another piece of luck, an internet search found a beer shop, Trembling Madness, right in the centre of York. Amazing! The shop was smaller than the Birmingham one but had a lot of beers from Yorkshire, the UK and the rest of the world. Again I was in the shop for about 30 minutes (thank goodness Conchi is so patient with me and this challenge) choosing 12 new beers.

So thanks to a lucky robot training course in Birmingham and a nice trip to York with Conchi, that I partially hijacked for the 365 challenge, I am now the proud owner of 51 bottles of beer. Hopefully these beers should last me until June. We’ll see.

First month done: big tick

Last day of the first month of the Beer for the Year 365 challenge today. It has been a pretty good month. Including the beer that I will have later courtesy of BeerBods, Stringers Dry Stout, I will have had 43 different beers in January, 12 beers ahead of a beer a day. As a Scientist, I know that my fellow Scientists, particularly the Biologists, love statistics. So I thought for this post I would prepare and show some stats for the last month.

Number of new beers tasted: 25/43         58%

Number of beers tasted before: 18/43     42%

Most number of beers in one night:          5

Number of lagers: 10/43                               23%

Challenge progress: 43/365                        12%

Favourite new beer: Saltaire’s Triple Chocoholic

Favourite old beer: Youngs Winter Warmer and Abingdon Bridge

Reflecting on the last month of beer and the availability of beers, I really cannot see that there will be a problem getting hold of and trying 365 different beers (well, another 322). There are plenty to be had at local shops and supermarkets or in local pubs. A weekend away to another place in the UK or abroad will give plenty of opportunity to try beers from other places. Then there is the Beer festivals, the holy grail of getting to meet new beers. An article I was reading the other day said that there were around 1000 regular breweries in the UK serving around 5000 different kinds of beer.  That is a lot of beer. So with that in mind I cannot imagine where I could go wrong!

Beer #21 Chocolatey beer

In my quest to find different beers to fulfil this quite momentous task that I have set for myself, I have signed up to a website called BeerBods. In a nutshell, you pay your money and BeerBods send 12 different beers to your door every 12 weeks. Great! Then on Thursday of every week BeerBods say to you which beer you have to drink that week and have a live twitter tasting. Everyone drinks the same beer and, if you feel like it, you can make a comment on the website rating it. I am not sure about this part as it does seem pretty weird to me *he says writing about beers on a blog entitled ‘Beer For The Year’*. I signed up to this last Sunday (13th January) and by Tuesday afternoon I had in my possession 12 excellent new beers, 11 of which I had never seen or heard of before. I say excellent but I have only sampled one. Last night was the first Thursday after the delivery and BeerBods dictated to me that I should drink the Triple Chocoholic stout by Saltaire Brewery.

WP_001312     WP_001315

Apparently this beer came to life as a result of a bet, trying to be more chocolatey than Youngs Double Chocolate Stout. Now I like chocolate a lot (I know, what a surprise that I have said that) and I like beer a lot (again, what a surprise) but I was not sure about Triple Chocoholic. Currently, I am not a big fan of stouts or very dark beers, although I am sure that will change, and have to change, if I am to make it through to 365 beers. So when I tried this beer, I was pleasantly surprised. It is made with chocolate malts, real chocolate and chocolate syrup but does not taste too sweet, in fact a very balanced taste. The beer is not heavy at all, very smooth and comes without the dark beer bitterness that you normally seem to get with dark beers. So I am a fan of this first beer that I have tasted with BeerBods and shows promise for the rest of the beers. Although BeerBods send an email on Thursday to tell you the next beer to drink, their website shows the beers for the subsequent three weeks. The next beer in the queue is Pure UBU. I am looking forward to trying this one again.