Its been a full 18 months since I last participated in one of these; so may be a bit rusty. Bear with me; I'll try to repost the blog after each new beer but sometimes can get caught up in the conversation and actual drinking! Follow along pics on +Steve Lamond and I'll add them to this post when I get a chance.
I'm sat on a table with Jim & Laura from Mashtun and Miaow; Adam from Brewbie; Andy Parker, blogger emeritus & homebrewer turned pro brewer; Veteran #EBBC attendees The Baron & Chris & the inimitable Jules of Beer Revere, Hop Hideout & Sheffield Beer Week - great company indeed.
First Up is James & Alex from Thornbridge part of a 50 strong team from Thornbridge with their nip bottle of Eldon. Roasty, Fruity
Second is a nice palate cleanser Lost Industry/ Steel City collab, not normally a fan of peach but this one is excellent. peach melba fromage frais with a hint or tartness
Andrew And Rachel from Sharps Brewery presenting their smoked Boscawen now, only 12 casks made. Familiar Northern Ireland accent from Andrew - not far up the road from me at Limavady. Classic rauchbier aroma, rather sweet amber ale with lovely full body, great mouthfeel and fruity finish.
"Hi I'm Dan, I'm a cancer, how are you all doing?" good introduction from Abbeydale's sales and marketing director. Heathen IPA from a can - ooh trendy. Had this on keg yesterday actually, fruity mosaic, orange yoghurt and slight sweaty guava notes, clean, moderate bitterness, aggressive hooping. Trial brew #6 originally. First batch to be canned, 3000 canned on Sunday. As a brewery we mustn't forget cask, taht enables us to do all of this fun stuff but its very much our bread and butter. 30BBL brewery, 200bbl sales/ week with capacity for 300, new special every week. 'If we were to present this to the traditional drinker they'd say "its off, its cloudy" we've had a few stand up rows at SIBA this week!'
Fifth beer is Twisted Barrel Soup Dragon, 50% rauchmalt & 50% pilsner malt in mash, 250g chipotle & hand grated 110 limes for 1kg zest added five mins from end of boil. fermented with saison yeast which alongside a hint of smoke covers the nose. the taste really develops from first to last, sharp lime up first, fruity saison esters, loads of smoke then some warming heat from the chipotle. Unsurprisingly for something with a lot of my favourite flavours in its very enjoyable.
Alex from sentinel pouring his RRG a rhubarb and rosehip gose now. good as apertif, could make a sorbet from it, tonight tehy're steaming mussels in it. they make a rosehip tea (rosehips from Denmark) Yorkshire rhubarb added 5mins from end of boil, 4kg of each also "dry rhubarbed". Low salt level to avoid impact on drinkability, sits there on tip of tongue but acidity main driver. Took 5 years to find right site and pull money together.
And finally a familiar brewery for me, Ilkly Lotus. taking the end position at Edinburgh beer bloggers conference a few years ago now, they've gone through a few iterations. First consideration "what hops did we not want to use - no citra, cascade, columbus, etc no amrillo, no mosaic, no summit, no simcoe, no galaxy - to try and push us to use some more progressive hops. So we used eureka, equinox and comet" We stopped it at 5.9 which is about as high as you can go and still drink in quantity without losing your faculties. Matt from Ilkley presenting. really drinkable. Canned in brewdog, centrifuged too to prevent clogging of canning machine - more visually appearing but perhaps lost a bit of itself vs keg but keg doesnt have quite the crispness of it on can.
Well its been a while since I blogged, but I figure missing out on my golden pints nominations would be a step too far! Not going to separate out UK & Ireland this year, partly because now Ireland's reaching maturity I think the beers should stand on their own against the best of the rest but also because there's a danger it'll be a rerun of last year. It'll be trickier this year not least because I've not been as active on Ratebeer as usual but also because I've been drinking far and wide including a return to GBBF for the first time since it moved back to Olympia.
Best Cask was supped right at the start of the year - at the time I knew it would be in contention and still stands head and shoulders above the competition. That beer was Wiper & True Pink Peppercorn Porter
Best Keg plenty of stuff sampled this year but the Cloudwater Claussenii Stout Cherry Bourbon Barrel Aged was drunk in copious amounts at ABV; so that takes the crown.
Best bottle My top rated beers of 2016 are both from Buxton, but marginally ahead is their AngloBelgique, a magical combination of juicy IPA hopping and fruity Belgian yeast without the stickiness or cheesy esters sometimes associated with the style. The pinnacle of their Belgian series
Best Can Vocation smash and grab really impressed as an easy drinking DIPA, but the beer I enjoyed enough to buy the remaining stock in the York Tap Was the Beavertown 2016 release of Spresso. Looks like the barrel aged version took best keg last year - I'm nothing if not consistent!
Best Collab There's been a few noteworthy efforts this year, including brew by numbers/ de la senne but the Magic Rock/ Cloudwater/ Lees Three's Company is still playing on my mind all these months after drinking it; so that takes the crown
Best Overall has to be the Three's Company, which I'd happily drink multiples of. Luckily its been rebrewed and released in cans by Magic Rock as Big Dipper; so hopefully it'll become semi-regular.
Best Brewery For their excellent work with the Belgian series plus tasty new imperial stouts and IPAs the award this year goes to Buxton. The recent batch of axe edge (pretty much my favourite continuously available UK beer) was particularly delicious! Well done to Colin, Denis and team! Please continue to crank out these excellent beers! Honourable mention to Cloudwater who really made some excellent beers this year, with DIPA v8 being another favourite of mine along with the collaboration and barrel ages stuff mentioned above.
Best New brewery is a bit harder as I can't think of breweries that specifically opened in 2016. Lost and Grounded have gotten a lot of love, but having only sampled one beer I can't fairly nominate them. So I'm going to pick a couple from 2015 that escaped my notice until this year. The first is Vocation, whose aforementioned smash and grab was a a favourite this year, but their hop utilization across the range is excellent leading to stuff that's far too drinkable for my own good.. Closer to home (though not as the crow flies!) is Simon Lambert and Sons in Wexford, better known as Yellowbelly. With brewer extraordinaire Declan at the helm no style goes unbrewed with solid results across the range and some excellent beers in the sour family of styles, which is where Declan's heart lies (also checkout his side-project Otterbank for more wild and mixed fermentation beers).
Best overseas Draught Insufficient supped to make a fair judgement, 2016 has been the year of local on draught for me.
Best overseas bottle/can Hoppin' Frog Hop Heathen stands out from the scores as an excellent Black IPA
Best Overseas brewery Was kindly sent a selection of Amager in a Rate Beer local swap and was very impressed by pretty much every beer, recommend people seek them out!
Best Overseas bar only got to Spain this year; so my experiences more limited than usual but the obvious winner here is Fogg Bar Madrid for my dream concept of a proper cheese and bar bar, all Spanish beers, an excellent bottle selection and cheese/ charceuterie options including a small tapas with every beer. Recommend a visit!
Best new bar Southampton has really come along leaps and bounds in beer since I left for the balmier climes of Norn Iron. For my 30th I managed to visit a good number of them and I think the Bookshop Alehouse was my favourite. Previously an antiquarian bookshop, there's a selection available for sale/ browsing, great range of cask, keg and bottles and a chalkboard pointing the direction to nearest food establishments with patrons encouraged to bring their own food in. This would have been my local whilst in Southampton and provides a much needed watering hole between St Denys and Bevois Valley. (I'll hopefully get a blog up on Southampton scene if I ever pull my finger out!)
Best bar overall is tough, revisited a number of old favourites this year, York Tap and Small Bar are both strong contenders, but this year it goes to Marble Arch with an excellent range of well kept beers in many styles on cask and keg and of course the DIY cheeseboards always win bonus points!
Best Festival again didn't get to as many as I would have liked this year, very much enjoyed the winter cask fest at Franciscan Well, but just pipping it in breadth of beers, choice of food and general party atmosphere was Killarney.
Best branding another fierce battleground this year, with Beavertown knocking out enough awesome can labels to completely plaster my chromebook and Cloudwater's guest program churning out all manner of eyecatching and unexpected designs but for me the Boundary branding has really come into its own this year now more specials and series have been released - not many breweries can boast an in house artist's studio!
Just realised I gave them runner up last year too!
Best book/ magazine We're pretty lucky now with plenty of decent beverage magazines available now, almost too many as I'm in perpetual backlog! This year's award goes to Beer 52's Ferment for the quality of writing, look and feel, breadth of topics and managing to stick to a monthly publication schedule. Well worth subscribing to but please guys do some proper editing, far too many typos!
Online retailer goes to Eebria again this year, almost by default as I've not really ordered from many others - largely because they've not had enough of interest in stock to justify the shipping costs.
Independent retailer that most impressed was Beer Moth. If it wasn't for limited drinking time/ luggage space my wallet would have been considerably lighter on exit! Fantastic selection from far and wide at very fair prices.
Best Blogger is another tough one this year, a lot of my favourites have fallen silent and I'm yet to find any that really click with me. Matt Curtis has written some great pieces across multiple platforms this year, but as ever its Boak and Bailey I always read off the bat rather than pocketing for later with their regular blogoshire roundup posts always turning up some gems which would otherwise have been missed. Cheers guys!
Just noticed they also won last year, must be doing something right or else I'm just boring*
*not mutually exclusive
Simon Johnson Award for best beer Tweeter this year is going to Yvan Seth for his honest and sometimes brutal insider view of beer wholesale - though admittedly this is mostly on facebook. Keep at it sir, you're leading a sea change.
Thanks everyone for reading here's to a beery 2017 (with hopefully a return to semi-regular posting from me...we shall see...)