Monday, 26 December 2016

Pintes D'or 2016

Marble - Pint

Sometimes it's the simple things that are most pleasing and this classic from Manchester's Marble Brewery is just that.  My first encounter with this beer happened quite some time ago and it would be safe to say it has always been a grand beer (even in the shadow of its big brother Dobber).  

This iteration was slightly reformulated under new head brewer JK's watch and was an absolute delight to drink.  When we had occasion to invite Marble to the Craven Arms for a Meet the Brewer, the cask was gone within 24 hours which is in my eyes the sign of a beer done good!

Bubbling Under:

  • Cloudwater - Vermont ESB
  • Weird Beard - Curse of the Ryeclops
  • Siren Craft Brew - Tidal Wave

Alpha State - Saison # 1

Kent based Alpha State excite me in a way that not many can or often do; the beer that Jon Queally brews tends to mostly go to international shores so what little of it is left for the domestic market should always rightfully be seen as gold dust.  Saison # 1 is no exception to this rule; essentially this a fairly straight laced beer but delivered with massive aplomb.  Kentish elder-flower and the Du Pont yeast strain are the stars here and deliver a stylish take on a classic style that is endlessly drinkable.

Bubbling Under:

  • Elusive - Spectre's Lair
  • Bexar County - El Diablo De Timanfaya
  • Siren Craft Brew - Hillbilly Wine
  • Cloudwater/Magic Rock/JW Lees - Three's Company

Little Earth Project - Organic East India Pale Ale

So get this a relatively tiny and and practically brand new brewing operation from Sussex have swept in at the 89th minute and snatched victory with their take on brewing historic styles.  Little Earth Project's Organic East India Pale Ale is far and away not the easiest drink for the uninitiated; for a start its all sour and lacks any real carbonation, its full of that woody flavour your get from fermenting exclusively in  wood.  But then equally that is the beauty of them too, a beer that confounds expectation one which is not easy but at the same time is.  I'd happily give over whatever it takes to drink this again and again and again, I think you should too!  

Bubbling Under:

  • Burning Sky - Gaston
  • Odyssey Brewing Co - Dr Green Thumb
  • Marble - Into the Void
  • Buning Sky - Descent Into the Maelstrom

Moor Beer Co

Call this a cop out if you will but I think pretty much everything that Moor Beer Co package into cans is of the most exceptional quality.  I'll be the first to admit that I am not 100 percent on board with the canning revolution and I've had more than one from a few folks that has been less than what I was expecting.  So it really is good to know that their is a level of dependency that makes all Moor beers (in can specifically) stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Be that Hoppiness, Nor Hop, So Hop, JJJ, Claudia, PMA, TFA, Agent of Evil, Guardian of Peace...  I could go on and name every beer they have in can and be happy to recommend it every time!

Bubbling Under:

  • Magic Rock - Inhaler

Cigar City- Jai Alai IPA

Something familiar this, one which I have tried a few times over the years but haven't seen for a while; cue The Craven Arms scoring a rare UK bound keg in the mid part of this year and putting it on the bar.  Instantly familiar and always rewarding this is that classic American IPA done exceptionally well, one which has malt balanced so well against hops that you can go back again and again.

Pirate Life Brewing - IIPA

The beer which Pirate Life first brewed at the beginning of their journey and one which they seemingly nailed on their first attempt.  A bold and indeed balanced Double IPA which is all about drink-ability.  I had the pleasure of hosting Mick and Jack from the brewery in Birmingham a few weeks back and they bring that Australian bonhomie with them when they speak to any crowd.  If you see their beer at any point in, you should not question for a second whether to buy it.  Their beer has quality stamped across it on all levels!

Cascade Brewing - Sang Noir

I had the opportunity to try Sang Noir when Cascade Brewing first washed ashore in the early part of the year and its a beer that has stuck in my memory all year.  Having devoured Michael Tonsmiere's "American Sour" the previous year I had read much in to the positioning  of Cascade in the ascendancy of sour brewing culture in the US, but put it down as something I'd never really have the chance to experience first hand.

On opening the bottle all of the various elements are present in an un-muddled order but at the same time they are together in the most fantastic homage to the Flanders Red style as you can imagine without actually being the one.  Then the cherries kick in and it becomes a beguiling halfway house between the former and something akin to a Lou Pepe Kriek.  Its simply that good!!!

Cloudwater/Magic Rock/JW Lees - Three's Company

Collaboration is fairly common place these days; so it takes something fairly special to pique my interest and in this threeway collaboration for Manchester Beer Week all three delivered something spectacularly good.  Originally envisioned as a collaboration between Magic Rock and Cloudwater; the beer produced added an extra player through the use of JW Lees house yeast strain (whom Cloudwater had previously collaborated with as part of the further Manchester Beer Week preparations).  The beer itself took all of the best elements of both main parties knowledge and parlayed it into a spectacular display of what is possible in beer.

Cloudwater Brew Co

I think this is two years in a row for Cloudwater Brew Co and its testament to just how good their constantly evolving branding is.  All of their branding is clean and concise and provides exactly what I "the drinker" want; it gives me enough information to be able to make an informed choice as to what goes into my glass at point of sale.

Burning Sky

Mark Tranter's Burning Sky has a rare quality in today's brewing scene; one which sees attention to detail stand side by side with quality.  Its rare thing to see a brewery put out a faultless run of seasonal saison releases, alongside a well considered range of more conventional beers.  The thing that Burning Sky do particularly well is understand how all of the parts come together to make beer and for this they should be lauded...  The fact that I am writing this whilst drinking the utterly fantastic "Saison Anniversaire" and wishing it will not end is in itself its own recommendation.  

Now where did I put those two bottles of the the original run of Saison A La Provision?

Brouwerij Alvinne / Brouwerij Kees

In a year where the relative standard of brewing in the UK has been of such a high standard I've found myself at times not paying a great deal of attention to breweries from too far away from these shores.  However I have found myself returning to both Brouwerij Kees and Brouwerij Alvinne on a fairly regular basis.  

Glenn, Davy and the guys at Alvinne continue to put out an almost continual succession of to die for for sour and fruited beers.  Meanwhile Kee's puts out beer of an exceptional quality only to then usurp it by collaborating with some of the best the UK has to offer.

Bubbling Under:

  • Põhjala

Lost & Grounded / Elusive Brewing

Two winners here because I can... 

 When Andy Parker initially mooted his plan to finally turn Elusive Brewing into a real life living and breathing brewery in the mid part of last year  its fair to say there was most definitely some excitement.  Some months later we finally got our first glimpse of what the up-scaled Elusive beers would actually be.  The verdict is they were good, here's to your first year  in production Andy you've deserve every plaudit that is thrown your way.

Lost and Grounded Brewers are an assured joint winner here; Alex, Annie and the brewing team have achieved an amazing run of beers in a stunningly short amount of time.  The first I heard of Lost and Grounded was a chance meeting with them in Manchester in January this year.  With their honest approach to explaining their motivations for the choice of core range, branding and equipment it meant that when I finally got to try their beer at the Meet the Brewer event at The Craven Arms it was indeed a revelation. 

The Craven Arms, Birmingham

Its a bittersweet award this one; as at the time of writing this The Craven Arms will have reverted back to what it was prior to Chris and Sharon's stewardship.  I had planned to pen my own feelings on the developments at Upper Gough Street but have not yet felt it appropriate to do so.  Over the close to four years that Chris and Sharon ran this pub there have been many many high points.  I have been honored to have worked both behind the bar and to have been given opportunity to arrange the Meet the Brewer events there also.  I've also made two very good friends who have helped me through some dark days.

Above all else the beer that passed through the cellar at Upper Gough Street has been of the most extraordinary quality; Birmingham has lost two very prescient reasons to drink within its borders...  

York you are incredibly lucky, please do not squander the opportunity in the same way in which Brum has!

Cafe Beermoth

Simply put Cafe Beermoth is the model for what all modern bars should aspire to be both cutting edge and at the same time affordable.  Using the fantastic Beermoth bottle shop as a blueprint and taking in elements from both Europe's cafe bar scene and the America's taproom culture Cafe Beermoth is a high point for beer culture.  Combining a very well conceived and put together beer list with a bottle list to die for it would be very possible to lose a few hours here, or possibly days!

Jolly Good Beer (Yvan Seth)

In my humble opinion no one person in the UK beer industry at large is more deserving of the title of "Independent Retailer of the Year" than the self confessed misanthrope that is Yvan Seth, and by extension Jolly Good Beer.  His tireless efforts towards the promotion of quality at critical points in the mechanism of beer should be sung from the trees/hills/mountains.  A true independent spirit interested in making sure good beer gets from producer to consumer in its best possible condition.  If beer advocacy groups were to get behind the ideals that Yvan talks about the industry as a whole would be in a better position to move forward in a quality focused manner that to date has at best eluded them for the most part!

Beers Manchester (Jim Cullen)

Jim's musings via Beers Manchester are incredibly pleasing to read; the man behind the sadly now defunct Independent Salford Beer Festival is a writer of much talent.  He writes from a very honest albeit slightly Northern perspective (you didn't think I'd get through this without at least one jibe did you Jim?) about all things beer.  His greatest posts this year were sadly informed by personal tragedy which were as always with Jim honest and with an underlying and very pertinent message.  If he doesn't write anything again next year he'd still have his archive of writing to be very proud of... 

Pilot Brewing (@PilotBeerUK)

Those Scottish neer'do wells at Pilot Brewing have given me more laughter this year than I thought possible; from nonchalantly providing the best food and beer pairings to running a poll on which pose would be best to strike for an impending visit from a press photographer they have provided many belly laughs.  Then there was the whole stapler business, which in itself is a whole other matter.

Oh and they make good beer too, on the odd occasion it makes it down below the border!

Cloudwater Brew Co

In an age where most of the world is driven by information; Cloudwater Brew Co have taken the issue to its logical extreme.  No other brewery questions itself so much, but in doing so they prove that openness about their processes can be parlayed into providing a fascinating insight into the mysteries of brewing.  This has seen some criticism landed at their door, and the creation of a bizarre self populating so called "hype" bubble, but with typical aplomb and without missing a beat co-owner Paul Jones has taken it all in his stride and proved that being customer focused is not a bad thing and it need not cost the earth to achieve.

1 comment:

  1. :')

    Thanks Tim, whilst we do not "retail" per se - we do our bit to supply & support great retailers in both the on- and off- trade. Be it by supplying awesome coldstored beer, or by helping them achieve better dispense. I hope we'll leave a mark - with more people doing it right, and helping build greater respect for great beer.

    I have a response, of a sort: