Looking back over a year of so many outstanding beers and pubs, it’s been really difficult trying to narrow it down to just a few winners, but here’s my attempt.
Best UK Cask Beer
1st: Moor Freddy Walker. Wonderful at Cambridge Beer Festival this year, I enjoyed serving this to people and noticed several take a first sip and briefly close their eyes as they savoured the moment!
2nd – A tricky one this, I’ve enjoyed a lot of great UK beer this year with many standouts, but for a period this summer Oakham Citra seemed to be on everywhere, largely because it appeared on Greene King’s guest list so here in the heartland plenty of pubs had it on. It became the default beer, yet on every occasion it proved consistently refreshing. Making a beer like that must take some doing.
Honorable mentions: Bexar County Papa Steve at Peterborough Beer Festival, Moonshine Ison at Cambridge Winter Beer Fest, Blackbar BBB4B at the Green Man Grantchester, Adnams Fat Sprat instantly became my favourite of their beers and Mighty Oak Kings for being one of the best of many many Citra hopped beers.
Best UK Keg Beer
1st: Buxton Wyoming Sheep Ranch. Had this when it was launched at the Euston Tap and was generously given a special 500ml bottle of it to take home, just one of many great beers I’ve enjoyed from Buxton.
2nd: Magic Rock Cannonball. Likewise, I could have chosen any from this brewery, every one I’ve tried has been great, but Cannonball takes some beating.
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
1st: Thornbridge Jaipur. As Waitrose is so close to our house, I’ve tended to find an excuse to visit most days and always seem to come back with a few bottles of Jaipur. It’s probably the beer I’ve had most of throughout this year, and it hits the spot every time.
Best Overseas Draught
1st: Maine Beer Co – Peeper Ale. On draught in New York, Boston and Portland, simply one of the finest beers I’ve had the pleasure of drinking.
Honorable mentions: Evil Twin’s Yuzu Pale was ridiculously good, a bold, bretty IPA that laughs in the face of other beers that consider themselves ‘citrusy’. A number of Pretty Things beers have impressed, particularly Meadowlark IPA. Lagunitas IPA is the overseas beer I’ve probably had the most this year, especially as it’s travelled so well to these shores.
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
1st: Maine Beer Co – Another One. Best. Beer. Ever.
Honorable mention: Port Brewing Wipeout was terrific from a bottle and on draught.
Best Collaboration Brew
1st: Stone Brewing Co / Adnams Supremely Self-conscious Black Ale
Honorbale mentions: Siren Craft/Cigar City – Neither, Moor/Arbor – Dark Alliance
Best Overall Beer
1st: Maine Beer Co – Another one. Although I only had Maine Beer Co Another One a couple of times, in the moment I considered it the best beer I’d ever tasted, so I’m sticking with that until the next ‘best ever’ beer comes along…
Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label
Grain for having pumpclips that can be recognised at speed as I cycle past, and inevitably return to, a pub.
Best UK Brewery
1st: Thornbridge. Because Jaipur and Bracia.
Honorable mentions: Salopian, Buxton, Magic Rock, Kernel, Moor, Marble, Buntingford, Hopshackle, Grain – what superb breweries the UK has.
Best Overseas Brewery
1st: Maine Beer Co. The occasions I had beer from Maine Beer Co were few but fantastic.
Honorable mentions: Southern Tier, Pretty Things, Evil Twin, Amager
Best New Brewery Opening 2013
1st: Bexar County Brewery. Although Bexar County Brewery actually began late last year, we first encountered them in January this year, and spent the rest of the year being delighted by the new beers as they reached local pubs and beer fesivals, often accompanied by brewer Steve. Through meeting Steve and drinking his beers this year we tried our first (and best) Gose, enjoyed at least three different beers that were amongst the finest we had all year – San Jacinto, Seis Banderas and Papa Steve – and a beery highlight of the year was being invited over to throw a load of hops into a brew that was served in my local pub the Free Press on my birthday.
Pub/Bar of the Year
1st: Free Press, Cambridge
2nd: Elm Tree, Cambridge
The two pubs I’ve visited most over the past twenty years – the Free Press and the Elm Tree. I like to think of them as my locals, acknowledging that I don’t put in nearly as much time as the true locals do. However, for my birthday this year, the Free Press put on a beer from Bexar County that I’d helped brew. Hands down the best beery experience of the year for me.
Honorable mentions: Blind Tiger, New York.
Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013
1st: Pint Shop (Cambridge). For being adventurous and bringing beers like Magic Rock Salty Kiss, Burning Sky Saison and a number of cracking DIPAs to Cambridge.
2nd: Cambridge Brew House for a regular fix of Lagunitas IPA
Beer Festival of the Year
1st: Cambridge Beer Festival
Honorable mentions: Peterborough Beer Festival is always excellent, Green Man in Grantchester holds the best pub beer fests.
Supermarket of the Year
1st: Waitrose for supplying me with Jauipur all year round, and Fullers London Porter all winter.
Honorable mentions: Marks & Spencer had an interesting variety, B&M for having Guinness Foreign Extra Stout for 89p and Stringers Mud City Stout for £1.39.
Independent Retailer of the Year
1st: Bacchanalia (Cambridge)
Honorable mentions: Beautiful Beers (Bury St Edmunds) and Beers of Europe.
Online Retailer of the Year
1st: Beers of Europe. Best choice of beers, next day delivery every time.
Honorable mention: Beer Ritz – for swiftly delivering Salopian and Siren Craft.
Best Beer Book or Magazine
1st: World Beer by Tim Hampson. An up-to-date book on craft beer, packed with good photos and tasting notes, great book to dip into.
Honorable mentions: I really enjoyed reading the Beer Advocate magazine when I picked a copy up in the US.
Best Beer Blog or Website
1st: Boak and Bailey
2nd: A Good Beer Blog.
Both consistently thought provoking blogs, with authors that will have books out next year, which probably says something about the quality of the writing.
Honorable mention. Beer Talk for this epic post on East Coast USA beers and bars
Best Beer App
Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
Best Brewery Website/Social media
1st: Moonshine. For sticking to his guns and insisting that all people need to know about a brewery is the phone number so they can order some beer.
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
1st: Beer and chips
Honorable mentions: Stout and Colston Bassett Stilton, Bexar County Gose with a bowl of Carluccio’s green olives stuffed with chilli.
Here’s to another year of beer… cheers!