Thursday 15 December 2011

Golden Pints

I know soon as I click 'publish' I'll start remembering things I should have included, but hey ho, let's go....

Best UK draught beer: Joint winners here. I don't want anyone to think I have a particular loyalty to my home county, it just so happens that this year three of my most memorable, almost tear-in-the eye moments, have been from beers from my own turf. 

Coniston Brewery's "Blacksmith's Ale". This one snuck up on me. Although I've been drinking various Coniston beers for years, This one wasn't on my radar. In my fifteen London years, Coniston beers were eagerly anticipated on homeland visits. I think that I had been reacting viscerally to its misleading description "winter warmer", a term which suggests to me, moderately-hopped sweet toffee-ish beers. In reality it's a copper-coloured ale with abundant hops. It's magic is in the way the flavours hang together and integrate as a  coherent intelligent magical whole. Borrowing a word from the wine world, this beer has "length" – its flavours develop and mutate upon every sip, it lingers, it slowly reveals new nuances. There is no greater complement for a beer – from me anyway.

Cumbrian Legendary Ales "Rothay Red IPA" – A new one. Only appeared in recent weeks. Possesses all the complexity of "Blacksmith's" but with abundant use of some kind of reddish malt and (I'm guessing) some rye. 

Stringers "Furness Abbey" - Splendid Belgie-esque cask beer.

Camden Lager. Hugely quenching, biscuity. Everything you need from a standard lager. Intelligently conceived. Properly brewed. Nicely presented.

Best UK packaged beer: I'm struggling to think of any particular beer that deserves to be singled out as overall winner so I'm just going to mention some that I have found myself making repeated acquisitions of.

Coniston's "Thurstein Pilsner" is misleadingly named; if it wasn't a protected designation of origin "Kรถlsch"would be more appropriate. Then again, no resident of Cologne would mistake it for one of their own. It's flavour is more savoury than a Kolsch. Whereas Pilsner hops are often described as "grassy" I might be inclined to described Thurstein's as "celery salty". And I like celery salt. A lot. By the way, according to Wikipedia "The lake [Coniston] was formerly known as "Thurston Water", a name derived from the Old Norse personal name 'Thursteinn' + Old English 'waeter'.[2]This name was used as an alternative to Coniston Water until the late 18th century."

Hardknott's "Queboid". Dave may be busy trumpeting about his new "Vitesse Noir" but I think this is his best beer.

Best Overseas packaged:

"Boont Amber" by Anderson Valley and "Anchor Bock" by Anchor of San Francisco.

Best Overall Beer: 

It has to be the aforementioned Coniston Blacksmiths

Best Pumpclips: 


Best UK Brewery:  


Best Overseas Brewery: 


Pub/Bar of the Year: 

The Free Trade Inn, Byker, Newcastle and the Jolly Butchers, Stoke Newington.

Beer Festival of the Year:

GBBF, simply because of the import selection and that I get to see almost all of the friends I've ever made in beer.

Supermarket of the Year: 

Booths, but I really wish they would do more interesting imports. [Booths – if you're reading this – I am available for consultation]

Independent Retailer of the year: 


Online Retailer of the year: 

Dunno, haven't used any.

Best Beer Book/Mag: 

Beer. If only it was more widely available and not so on-message of the CAMRA narratives.

Best Blog: 

For being an elegant writer and for not being someone who endlessly posts links to their own utterances on every bloody medium known to man

Not sure it counts as a blog but I rather like

Best tweeter: 

Do me a favour.

Best Online Brewery Presence: 


Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: 

There have been many. If I recall a particularly outstanding one I'll come back and edit this.

What I'd like to do in 2012:

More of what I've done in 2011 but with a healthier bank balance. 

Open Categories:-

Worst Pumpclip:

Most Over-Rated Brewery: buy me a couple of pints and I'll tell you.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Heresy? (Hardknott Dave, avert your gaze)

I've tasted Hardknott's mad bonkers Vitesse Noir a few times now.

It has a fantastic complex aroma of coffee and multitude of malt nuances. It's a beer that needs sipping, it's so rich and juicy and strong it defies a decent gulp. Its carbonation is barely discernable.

So in the pub recently I quipped it would benefit from a dash of Coke. The veins in Hardknott Dave's neck bulged as he forced a laugh at my heretical utterance.

At home last night I realised I was in possession of some Coke (a-Cola, that is) and a VN. So an experiment was in order.

I poured VN into two glasses. One as a control, one to receive the heretical mixer.

In the second glass I started with Coke:VN at 1:1. Yuk. The Coke overwhelmed the beer and a perfectly acceptable soft drink was ruined.

I upped the beer. 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5, 1:6, tasting the mixture at each stage. By 1:6 the overwhelming Coke sweetness was suitably diluted whilst some of its carbonation gave the cocktail a lift.

Tasting the control beer in the other glass came as a shock; it seemed extra rich, cloying and intense. The mix was lighter and easier drinking whilst the VN's abundant flavours remained. But the Coke flavour seemed to fight above its weight. Further dilution was necessary. I poured the control and the mix into one glass. Finally it was spot-on. I guess the ratio was about 1:10.