Golden Pint Awards 2011

So 2011 was the year I truly discovered great beer. I’ve drank a lot of the stuff over the past 12 months & met tons of great people along the way. Done my best to pick a ‘winner’ for each category but it wasn’t easy. Here goes…

Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer
1st – Summer Wine Diablo (Keg) – Not for the faint hearted, I think it scores somewhere around a million IBUs… Love it!
Runner up – Magic Rock Human Cannonball (Keg) – Topped off a hoptastic IPA day!

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
1st – Brewdog AB:06 – Tastes like liquid chocolate orange, delicious.
Runner up – Kernel 100 Centennial IPA – I think a lot of Kernel IPAs deserved a mention but this one was the jewel in their IPA crown for me.

Best Overseas Draught Beer
1st – Odell IPA – I’ll never forget my 1st sip of this at the Free Trade Inn. Stunning!
Runner up – Southern Tier Mokah – This sort of beer is good enough to have as a dessert, yum!

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
1st – Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Ale – AMAZING!
Runner up – Flying Dog Raging Bitch – @zakavery was right, terrible name but brilliant beer.

Best Overall Beer
1st – Any IPA from The Kernel, they always hit the spot!

Best Pumpclip or Label
Pumpclip – Magic Rock – New brewery who got their branding spot on from the start.
Labels – Odell – They aren’t beer labels, they are works of art!

Best UK Brewery
1st – Kernel – Pretty sure I have had more beers from them than any other brewery. Yet to be disappointed by a single one.
Runner up – Summer Wine – 2 great guys who keep knocking out top notch beers that really satisfy my hop cravings.

Best Overseas Brewery
1st – Stone – The kings of US craft brewing.
Runner up – Odell – Really glad we can get a good range of their beers in the UK. Did I mention the labels?

Pub/Bar of the Year
1st – Free Trade Inn – Besides all the excellent beer it offers the best view from any pub I’ve been to. I just wish I got there more often!
Runner up – Mr Foley’s – Dean is extremely passionate about bringing great beers to the people of Leeds & it shows.
Honourable mentions – Northbar (Leeds), Bacchus (Newcastle), Craft Beer Co. (London), Cask Pub & Kitchen (London).

Beer Festival of the Year
It has to be #twissup in Newcastle. A day of great beer & great company all taking place in the Toon!

Supermarket of the Year
1st – Waitrose
Runner up – Sainsbury’s

Independent Retailer of the Year
1st – Beer Ritz – It’s the greatest beer shop in the world god dammit!
Runner up – Rehill’s (Jesmond, Newcastle) – You’ll always find a brilliant selection of beer at this place. They need to get on Twitter…
Honourable mention – Coppers (Gosforth, Newcastle) – This shop keeps getting better & better.

Online Retailer of the Year
1st – My Brewery Tap – I haven’t bought much beer online but when I have this lot have provided an excellent service. They get some truly amazing beers in stock!

Best Beer Book or Magazine
1st – 500 Beers (Zak Avery)

Best Beer Blog or Website
1st – The Beer Boy – The 1st beer blog I read, turns out Zak is a genius in this field 🙂
Runner up – Ghost Drinker – What this guy doesn’t know about beer isn’t worth knowing. Always writes with a good sense of humour.
Honourable mentions – The Good Stuff, Beer Prole, Eating isn’t Cheating. There are many more blogs I enjoy reading, too many to mention!

Best Beer Twitterer
1st – @rickfurzer – This guy knows his booze (amongst other things) Always so willing to give advice, great chap!
Runner up – @broadfordbrewer – Really friendly bloke & always a good laugh. Pretty good home brewer too! Thanks for the free beer 😉
Honourable mentions – Anyone I have had conversations with over the past year, far too many to mention but you all know who you are.

Best Online Brewery presence
1st – Summer Wine
Runner up – Magic Rock

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Has to be The Kernel Export Stout & Citra IPA with Prosciutto ham & Comte cheese while sat outside the brewery itself. One of my favourite memories of 2011.

In 2012 I’d Most Like To…
Keep drinking great beer, simple!

Open Category: Best beer related event of the year
The day spent at Rooster’s Brewery. Fantastic day & an absolute pleasure to have been invited.


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‘Bizarre’ Beer

It seems that more & more weird & wonderful beers are being created these days as breweries are determined to explore the possibilities of this versatile beverage. These beers tend to be a big part of many breweries in the US but not all breweries have this approach in the UK of course, many are still happy to simply show us what good old hops can do & that’s all fine and well, my favourite style of beer is a good IPA after all! But don’t get me wrong, I love to try a beer that is completely different to anything I’ve had before; this is surely one of the main things that helps keep the world of beer so interesting. So I thought I’d aim to do a running feature titled ‘Bizarre’ Beer to celebrate those wacky creations that come along & really change the way we think about it.

The ‘bizarre’ beer in question today is Bitch Please which comes from those crazy dudes at Brewdog, surprise surprise! In fact it’s a collaborative brew with 3 Floyds so I guess that was always gonna put the wacky level up to 11!

I must be honest I didn’t actually know much about this beer before I tried it on Keg in Northbar (@northbardrinks). All I knew was that it was a big Barley Wine and that was enough for me to order a half at the end of the night, although I had been warned by Rob Derbyshire (@BGRTRob) that a half may be too much for me to stomach but I gallantly soldiered on! 🙂 As I took my first sips I struggled to work out the flavours I was getting, this certainly wasn’t like any other beer I’d had before. Luckily Josie (@brewdogupnorth) was on hand to shed some more light on the subject. It was then I discovered Bitch Please is not your average Barley Wine. It is brewed with peated Islay whisky malt (Laphroig I believe?), shortbread & toffee! You can see why I have put this under the bizarre heading. After fermentation it is then aged in old Jura single malt whisky barrels for 8 months! A beer like that certainly sounds good to me.

I only made mental tasting notes that night but I do remember a big burnt toffee taste & also a smoky, phenolic quality which obviously came from those whisky malts and the fact that it’s aged in a Jura cask. It wasn’t the easiest beer to get through feeling quite heavy at the end of the night but I found it interesting & enjoyable none the less.

I knew many people wouldn’t enjoy this half as much, it had a love it or hate it feeling to it so it came as no surprise when numerous people on twitter had the opinion that the beer was a bit of a mess, or words to that effect. I started to doubt whether the other beers I’d had on that night masked my true opinion of Bitch Please so now is the time to open a bottle & see if I am still a fan…

The nose is filled with peated malt but that’s about all I am getting. The flavour was pretty much similar to the one I had on keg, the big peaty whisky qualities are there but seemed less in your face & as the beer warmed became more & more enjoyable. I certainly don’t get any of the toffee or shortbread coming through, I’m not even sure what quality shortbread would give to a beer, any ideas? There may be a slight burnt toffee sweetness in there but I certainly remember that being more prominent on keg which may have been why it didn’t seem as easy drinking. Saying that at 11.5% this is still a sipper! There is a big bitterness that hits you towards the end and happily stays around in the back of your mouth for a while. It reminded me of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot which is a lot more bitter than many other Barley Wines. I imagine ageing would soften this a little.

Overall I really enjoyed this beer, it seemed a lot more balanced from the bottle so maybe the bit of time it’s had in there has helped it out. It’s a shame that many people I have discussed the subject with on Twitter have extremely disliked it, but no beer is ever going to be liked by everyone I suppose. If you want to explore the flavours that can be achieved in beer then this is certainly one I’d recommend you check out. You may love it, you may hate it but you just have to keep on exploring!


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