This is a summary of the year’s best beery offerings organised by Mark Dredge and Andy Mogg. Most of these categories are subjective and the strength of the choices are only as good as my memory, but when lots of people participate it does give an impression of who has been good this year and what to look for in the next. Here are my selections;
Best UK Draught Beer
Brewdog Dead Pony Club - I tried this several times in a couple of different bars just to make sure. And it really is very good – full of flavor, ever so drinkable and you can have plenty without falling over. Surprisingly brilliant and one was never enough, which is why it gets my vote. Two more beers that blew me away were Tiny Rebels Billabong, a little bit of Australian sunshine packed into a cask, and Camden Town USA Hells, which was everything you could want in a summer session beer.
Best UK Bottled or Canned BeerLovibonds 69 – I had one bottle of this all year, and I’m still thinking about it. I also loved Kernels Table Beer, probably my favorite of their creations so far, and a few bottles of Redchurch Great Eastern IPA were stunning – a couple were a bit rubbish as well but when its good its good.
Best Overseas Draught BeerFirestone Walker Union Jack & Double Jack. I can’t separate these two. The little brother is hoppy perfection and the big brother is boozy heaven. Both were so drinkable as to be properly dangerous. I also have crystal clear memories of a Half Acre Daisy Cutter which was clean and beautiful.
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned BeerHalf Acre Ginger Twin. My favorite beer on the planet. Deep, bitter and sweet. My great regret is that I shared it. I also absolutely loved Flying Dog’s Wildeman, which was funky and hoppy and great. £11 on a 750ml bottle of Brooklyn Sorachi Ace was so worth it I bought it again.
Best Overall BeerHalf Acre Ginger Twin.
Best Pumpclip or LabelCamden Town and Half Acre are very different but the branding on both is exceptional. The presentation of the Shepherd Neame Generation Ale was the years design highlight.
Best UK BreweryFullers. Excellent across the board - they were good enough already, but bringing Wild River into the fold and the emergence of Black Cab was enough to pull them ahead of the pack. Camden Town had a great year of brewing with several new beers that were original and delicious while their permanent range still impresses. Buxton continue to make beer that people want to drink, and I always look out for them on draft.
Best Overseas BreweryHaymarket. As yet their beer is unavailable outside of their Chicago brewpub, but it gets my vote as the range, quality and freshness of every beer was outstanding. After drinking all 10 or so they had on offer, the only option was to order some more. My first taste of Firestone Walker this year totally lived up to the hype, and Three Floyds beers were always memorable.
Pub/Bar of the YearEarl of Essex, Islington. A great vibe, good beer range and delicious food. Craft in Farringdon is unmatched in its ability to produce a range of cask beer in tip top condition, and my first visit to the North Bar in Leeds was very impressive.
Beer Festival of the YearGBBF. A better venue and great people.
Supermarket of the YearWaitrose. A better quality range than everyone else.
Independent Retailer of the YearCity Beverage Co, Old Street. Just for keeping me stocked with Kernel, Beavertown, Crate and American craft beers.
Best Beer Book or MagazineOxford Companion to Beer. Really good reading on the toilet.
Best Beer Blog or WebsiteTandleman & Zythophile. I just like reading both of these guys.
Best Beer TwittererWho cares?
Best Online Brewery PresenceBrewdog’s sheer level of communication is slightly annoying but also impressive and usually funny. Camden Town has produced a nice website with an informative blog.
Food and Beer Pairing of the YearFish finger sandwich and Camden Town Unfiltered Hells at the Earl of Essex - A moment alone cannot be spent better than this without touching oneself. Half Acre Daisy Cutter and deep dish pizza, and also an Old Style and hot dog at Wrigley Field are the fondest memories.
In 2013 I’d most like to...See the glut of dodgy London brewers improve quickly and get really good.
Open category – Best new London additionFuller’s Wild River. A great new beer for casual drinking. Crate’s brewery/bar/restaurant is all round fun, and Beavertown have kept improving their beer, food and labels to become a leading light in London’s brewing scene.