Monday 24 October 2016

Beer Tasting: Crate Sour

The recent canned output from Crate, which seems to include a range of new (and perhaps one-off) recipes, has really impressed me. I don't mind the Crate core range, but it is conservative. The cans that have come out recently, on the other hand, have ventured into new territory, such as a well hopped West Coast IPA, an Amarillo single hop APA, and a Hibiscus and Passionfruit sour, which sits in front of me now.

The beer pours mostly clear gold/grapefruit pink with a creamy, receding white head. Pleasant aroma, with nips of lemon, berries, tangerine. Light sweet flavour with balanced but assertive acidity, juicy passion fruit, moderate salty bite, more lemony notes. Light bodied with average, spritzy carbonation. Cleansing and quenching on the finish, with further lemony acidity, decent acetic burn, more passion fruit, berries, hibiscus tang, tangerine, notches of white grape. There is a charming jammy undertone, but it is quite subtle and the acidity slices it off before it catches. Overall, this is a great beer, and massively refreshing. One of the best from Crate that I've had.

I purchased this beer from Offie & Toffee, which is a rather excellent little off-licence right near the Bethnal Green tube station.

Monday 25 July 2016

Beer Tasting: The Kernel Pale Ale Simcoe Centennial Amarillo

This one pours totally clear gold (Kernel? Is it really you?), lightly effervescent, with a frothy, pure white head. Floral hops circle in the aroma, along with some citrus peel, lemon, pine needles. Lightly sweet, with dry pale malts, a little perfume, more pine needles, dashes of melon, lemon peel, pithy grapefruit. Light bodied with fine to average carbonation. Pretty clean on the finish, with further pine needles, biscuits, citrus peel. 

Perhaps not quite as juicy as other Kernel APAs, but very clean and highly drinkable. 

For the record, I procured this bottle from the ever-handy Offie & Toffee.

Beer Tasting: Kew Richmond Rye

I bought this beer, appropriately, from Whole Foods Richmond. 

It pours mostly clear amber-gold, effervescent, with a foamy, off-white head. The aroma is big and grainy, with lots of bready malts, notes of ripe citrus, orange peel, a little toast. Light-medium sweet flavour with just faint minerality, touches of white grape, melon, more citrus fruits, bitter orange rind, grainy pale malts. Light bodied with lively, massaging carbonation. The beer finishes with more lightly toasted grains, drying minerals, a dash of pine resin, more rindy citrus. 

Overall, it's not bad. If you like grainy rye beers, this one is a fair example of the style.

Monday 20 June 2016

Beer Tasting: Weird Beard Double Perle

I have been doing a lot of rummaging in my 'cellar' (spare space in flat) during the past month or so. My latest discovery is this, Weird Beard Double Pearl, which was bottled in July 2014. This beer would not reach its second birthday.

It pours oily black with a dense, creamy mocha topping. The aroma is simply gorgeous, with lots of milk chocolate, smooth coffee, some dark fruits. Big sweet flavour - a little syrupy but still rounded and smooth, with more gooey chocolate, moderate roasted malts, burnt toffee, raisins, dried cherries and coffee ice cream. 

Full bodied, creamy and chewy, with fine carbonation. Barely a suggestion of the alcohol in the finish, just a little bit of warmth, with further overarching chocolatey character, more coffee ice cream, a dash of espresso bitterness, scorched earth, more raisins, faint vanilla and toffee. 

This is spectacular stuff. The richness of the chocolate is just phenomenal. This is definitely one of the best Weird Beard beers I have had. It has aged beautifully.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Beer Tasting: Beavertown Bloody 'Ell

I hadn't had this beer for quite a while, so decided to revisit now that a fresh batch came out.

This really is a great beer. While the citrus character is not much more intense than you might find in a well constructed, juicy IPA, the citrus character is mighty. Lots of orange, tangerine, also some melon and papaya. The juicy sweetness is balanced out almost perfectly with nips of orange rind and oily pine. There's an interesting citric note in the aftertaste.

Beavertown have really been in the groove for a while now, and this beer is further evidence that they brew some of the best beer in London.

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Beer Tasting: Howling Hops Farmhouse Saison (Sorachi Special)

I snared this saison at BottleDog in London. 

The beer pours mostly clear yellow-gold, highly effervescent, with a billowing, frothy and pure white head. Pleasant citrusy hops in the aroma, augmented with some dry wheat, pale bread, zesty lemon, tangerine, pithy grapefruit. Light to medium sweet flavour with mellow bitter grain husk, more citrus peel, some grass, wheat bread, and subtle saison yeast expression. Light to medium bodied with lively carbonation. Nicely balanced on the finish, with well rounded citrusy hops, more lightly dried wheat bread, some straw, tangerine, lemon meringue, mild pithy grapefruit, biscuits. 

Well, this is pretty great stuff overall. Super drinkable, with a nice amount of complexity. Great work.

Beer Tasting: Late Knights Hop O' The Morning

I inadvertently aged this one. I think it boasts two to three years of age. Thankfully, the beer is still in great shape, and shows almost no signs of wear and tear. 

It pours clear, dark brown with a frothy, light khaki head. The nose has lots of ashy roast, tobacco, burnt leaves, faint cocoa. The flavour is lightly sweet with prominent hard, ashy roast, some dry earth, torched tobacco leaves, bitter cocoa, leather. Light bodied with average carbonation. Dry and bitter on the finish, with more steady and sturdy ash, chalky bitter cocoa, old espresso. Lingering burnt pine in the aftertaste. 

Pretty OK overall, in that hard-edged ashy kind of way. There's a lot of flavour jammed into the 4.2% abv. 

Monday 11 April 2016

Beer Tasting: Anspach & Hobday The Stout Porter

If I were to give a Most Improved Award to any one London brewery for the past few years, I would almost certainly give it to Anspach & Hobday. It's not that they started from a low base, though. It's just that they have kept plugging away across a broad range of styles (much broader than most breweries in the Big Smoke, it is worth noting), and they have now brewed highly accomplished examples of, amongst many others, double IPA, tripel, saison, barrel-aged beers, rauchbier and Belgian ale.

But one area where A&H have thrived since Day 1 is with their dark beers. Perhaps the best example is their [The] Porter, which ranks in the top 50 for its style on (amongst more than 11,600 entries for the style). 

The A&H Stout Porter is also excellent. I bought a bottle from the brewery when it was first released back in October 2014. I ended up aging the beer, and just opened it tonight. I am overjoyed to say that the beer has matured gracefully, and it now nothing short of world-class.

This original bottling pours oily black with a dense, frothy beige head that settles into a long-lasting cream. The aroma is enticing, with prominent notes of charred wood, cocoa, dried and leathery dark fruits, faint tangy berries and some earthy hops. The flavour is medium sweet, with richly layered chocolate character, bittersweet baking cocoa, old leather, more burnt wood, scorched earth, aged berries and hints of raisins. It is full bodied, lightly chewy, with fine carbonation. The beer finishes with moderate alcohol warmth, more rich and bittersweet dark chocolate, strong roasted malts, torched wood, burnt toffee, dried dark fruits. It is somewhat drying in the aftertaste, with a light tannic quality about it. Overall, the level of complexity here is superb. 

While A&H have improved on many fronts, their dark beers have always been stellar, and this beer is a testament to that. Well done.

Sunday 20 March 2016

Beer Tasting: Kew Petersham Porter

Kew have continued to crank out solid beers. As a reminder, this brewery operates within a challenging set of parameters, such as only using English malts and hops. Kew's motivation here is sustainability. Off hand, I can't think of any other breweries in London that make such an effort, so Kew should be commended for their efforts.

Today I try the Petersham Porter. At 4.3%, it's a relatively mellow offering. It pours clear, rich brown with a creamy, beige head. The aroma is fairly straightforward, with moderate roasted malt character, hints of dusty earth and chocolate. The flavour carries light to moderate sweetness and has notes of smooth, chocolatey malts, toasted biscuits, subtle earthy bitterness, and accents of prune and raisin. It's light bodied with fine carbonation and a velvety texture. The finish is nicely balanced, with easygoing cocoa, some toasted toffee, hints of dried berries and more bitter earth.

Overall, it's a very drinkable beer, although not surprisingly (given the strength) it doesn't have a lot of depth. That's not a knock on it, however - I certainly recognise that this type of porter is built for drinking by the pint. It would be fun, though, if the brewery made a stronger version of this beer. I think if some of the characteristics that are already present were intensified, it could be quite interesting.

Beer Tasting: Kernel India Pale Ale Amarillo Mosaic

Another week, another new Kernel IPA. This one features two hops that I very much enjoy: Amarillo and Mosaic. Indeed, Kernel's single-hopped Amarillo and Mosaic IPAs are some of my favourite beers the brewery has ever produced. While I don't think this combination quite matches up to the level of the single-hopped versions, it's still outstanding, and more expressive than the vast majority of IPAs out there.

This one pours hazy orange-gold with a frothy white capping. The aroma features a lot of plump and juicy citrus, particularly orange and tangerine, along with melon, pear and a little dank pine. Light to medium sweet flavour with a nice pale, bready base, some ripe cantaloupe, more tangerine and orange, restrained piney bitterness. Medium bodied with average carbonation. It's lightly resinous on the finish, somewhat warming, with gooey citrus fruits, more orange, nectarine, tangerine, pine, further pale bread and melon. Overall, it is a classic Kernel IPA: juicy and vibrant, and the liquid vanishes all too quickly.

Beer Tasting: Kernel Stout

Today we try one of Kernel's stouts. This version is "a blend of two different stouts one of which was dry hopped" and has an ABV of 8%, which places it pretty close to 'imperial stout' territory, at least in my estimation.

I'm a huge fan of Kernel's stouts, whatever the ABV. While the brewery garners a significant amount of praise for their hoppy offerings - and deservedly - their dark stuff is, in many cases, just as good. The Export Stout London 1890, for example, is the highest-rated beer in its category ('Foreign Stout') on That's a huge accomplishment - the category includes a universe of more than 700 beers, according to RateBeer.

With that digression behind us, on to the beer at hand. Of note, it was bottled in October of 2015, so has presumably had enough time to coalesce.

This one pours deep brown, with a rich and lasting beige cream head. The aroma gives away a lot of dark chocolate, ashy roast and burnt coffee. The flavour follows wonderfully, with a hard-edged roasted malt character that I consider one of the hallmarks of Kernel's darker output. Again, we get a lot of dark and bittersweet cocoa, rich coffee, some scorched earth, and a moderate punch of alcohol. The beer is full bodied and somewhat chewy, with a delicate level of carbonation that lends the beer a velvety texture. The finish includes further bittersweet chocolate, earth, some woody dryness, very slight hints of oily pine, burnt sugars and an enveloping alcohol warmth. Overall, it's a classic Kernel stout: robust, richly layered and hugely drinkable.

Beer Tasting: Partizan Saison Lemongrass

I've always loved the low-ABV Partizan saisons. I typically drink them fresh but, for no reason other than curiosity, I aged a Saison Lemongrass for a little less than a year to see how, or if, the beer changes; it hasn't changed, really.

It's as delightful with a little age as it is fresh. It pours a perfectly clear pale yellow with moderate effervescence and a dense, creamy white head. The nose carries dry dough, biscuits, lavender, vanilla and hints of lemon. The flavour follows nicely, with mellow doughy sweetness, lemon meringue, a touch of bitter citrus peel, grass, straw. Its light body and lively, massaging carbonation makes the beer a pleasure to drink. The finish has further vanilla notes, lemon meringue, angel food cake, doughy biscuits and slight bitter hay.

The balance is excellent. Lemongrass can sometimes be a little overbearing and even astringent, in unfortunate cases. Here, it provides a nice layer of complexity. This is a wonderful beer.

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Beer Tasting: Brew By Numbers 25|04 White IPA - Antipodean

I picked up this most recent BBNo White IPA at the brewery. This offering features a blend of Southern Hemisphere hops, including Southern Cross, Motueka and Ella. 

The beer pours soupy gold with a dense, lasting off-white cream head. The nose has forward bready malts, some ripe and gooey citrus, suggestions of pine. Medium sweet flavour with fairly prominent ripe citrus fruit character, most notably tangerine and orange, balanced out with light piney bitterness and underscored by pale wheat bread. It's medium bodied with fine to average carbonation. Lightly resinous to finish, a little warming, with more bready malts, hints of wheat, ripe and chewy orange, tangerine, some peach, melon and grapefruit. Overall, this beer is nice and juicy, and it drinks very easily.

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Beer Tasting: An Introduction to Reunion Ales

I recently ventured down to Richmond to attend the first Richmond Brewers' Fair. It was a fun event, and featured a range of breweries, both old and new. Among the newer operations was Reunion Ales, which in just the last few months began brewing "next to Hanworth Park where the Longford River runs south to Hampton Court Palace". I bought a pair of bottles at the Fair, and here are my thoughts on Reunion's inaugural output.

Appropriately enough, I'll start with the Opening Gambit. The first thing to notice is that the beer is immaculately clear. Given the ubiquity of cloudy or hazy beer, especially here in London, it's something of a novelty to pour one like this. The CAMRA gods must be smiling.

The aroma is straight-ahead British golden ale, with dry and crispy biscuits, touches of citrus rind, suggestions of grassy hops. The flavour follows well, with further pale, biscuity malt character, some husky grains, grassy bitterness, orange peel. With its light body and adequate, massaging carbonation, this is a very easy beer to drink. The finish has just a whisper of lip-smacking bitterness, some hay, more grass and citrus rind, and a ballast of bready malts.

Overall, Opening Gambit is a very nice beer, and all the more impressive for such a young brewery. I gather this will be one of the core beers for Reunion, and I would say that's a good choice. The flavour profile is relatively restrained so your palate won't get worn out. Couple that with a low ABV (3.8%) and you've got a highly drinkable beer.

For their winter ale, Frost Fair, Reunion have ramped up the ABV to a comparatively heady 4.5%. This seasonal offering also pours perfectly clear in chestnut brown, with a creamy head atop. The relaxed aroma gives off notes of toasted caramel, wholegrain bread, perhaps some dried berries. The flavour is dialed in, presenting a pleasant balance of toasty-bready sugars and mellow toffee, with earthy and leafy bitterness, along with edges of leathery fruits. As with the Opening Gambit, the body here is fairly light and the carbonation level is spot on, lending the beer a massaging texture. In the finish the bitterness kicks up a bit more, with prominent earth, toasted grain husk and even impressions of baking cocoa; further undertones of bready malts and dry toffee round things out.

This winter ale is not a showy beer, but it hits the right notes and makes for an easy-drinking beverage. At 4.5% it's certainly not in the realm of heavy-hitting winter warmers, barley wines or imperial stouts, but it would make for a nice respite from a classical ale drinker's normal diet of bitters and golden ales.

And speaking of classical ale drinkers, I think that is exactly the demographic that could be attracted to Reunion. While two beers is obviously a very small sample size, if they are any indication of the direction the brewery plans to take then I think it's safe to say that it is not making a play to encroach on the turf of more progressive breweries. And that's absolutely fine. I love Kernel IPA Citra; I love Fuller's London Pride. There's room for all styles of beer when they are brewed well - and in the case of Reunion, I would say they are off to a very good start.

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Beer Tasting: Redchurch East End Saison

I picked this beer up at the brewery a while back. As you can tell, it pours clear gold, energetic with lively carbonation and a billowing, frothy white head. The aroma is dominated by saison yeast character, with accents of damp grass, ripe lemon, faint sweat, doughy wheat bread. Its medium sweet flavor holds hints of white sugar, rich wheat bread, some boozy kick, bitter lemon rind and slight grass, yeast, mild phenols. Medium to full bodied with active carbonation. Finishes sweet and lightly warming, with further dominant yeast, light citric astringency, pale bread, alcohol, grass and rind. The balance and ’drinkability’ could be better, but it isn't bad overall.

Sunday 3 January 2016

The Mondo Tap House: one of London's best brewery taprooms

There really are only a handful of great brewery taprooms in London. Mondo Brewing Company has one of them.

Ever since The Kernel popularised the concept of 'drinking at the brewery', many other London breweries have emulated the setup.* It is a great concept: it allows the consumer to drink the beer as fresh as possible, and to connect with the brewery on a more personal level. Saturdays at The Kernel quickly turned into Saturdays at [insert Bermondsey brewery], and many other breweries around the capital have followed along in due course.

"There is something to be said for a brewery that creates a space to serve customers in a more permanent, comfortable setting."

But few breweries have expanded beyond the Saturday-only or weekend-only model, or put in much effort to actually foster a truly nice drinking experience. To be sure, I do enjoy drinking at the makeshift brewery bars that have sprung up in railway arches and industrial parks. Yes, there is a certain romance to drinking beside a brew kit; however, there is also something to be said for a brewery that creates a space to serve customers in a more permanent, comfortable setting.

The Mondo Brewing Company Tap House is just such a place. During a visit to the taproom at the end of November, I walked into a neatly laid out bar area, with seating for perhaps 25 people or so. The music was reggae on vinyl, the scratchy warmth of the record hammering home that this is a cosy taproom, not an airy production facility. (While the brewing area is completely separate from the taproom, you can still view it in all its stainless glory.) On the far wall of the taproom, 14 different taplines of Mondo beers stood at the ready - in addition to one guest beer, which at the time was Brooklyn Brewery Defender (the 2015 iteration). I also noticed a small selection of bar snacks; however, on this visit I did not eat.

As I worked my way through a selection of the beers, I chatted to the barman, Tom Palmer, who is one of the co-founders and brewers at Mondo. Palmer, who hails from the US, told me they were trying to create an 'American style' taproom where the primary aim would be to showcase a broad range of beers. The team at Mondo has certainly hit that target. With few - if any - exceptions, there is no other brewery taproom in London with such a comprehensive range. Fourpure and Beavertown come close, but they cannot match the ambiance that Mondo confers on its patrons.

"The beers covered an impressive amount of terrain, stylistically speaking, signalling inspiration from Germany, Belgium and the US."

While selection and ambiance and snacks are certainly important, I visit taprooms for the beer, first and foremost, and the drinking experience is usually better when the beers are good. In this regard, too, Mondo delivers. The beers I drank covered an impressive amount of terrain, stylistically speaking, signalling inspiration from Germany, Belgium and the US. My favourite beer of the day was All Caps, a 4.9% American pilsner defined by crisp biscuits, light bitter hay and grain husk. Also impressive were Berry White (a blackberry Berliner weisse), Coco Loco (a smoked coconut porter), Watch Maibock (a German maibock), Mundo Diablo (a hoppy American brown ale), and Up in Smoke (a fairly classic German rauchbier). That is an impressive amount of variety, and it covers less than half of the Mondo beers that were available on tap or in bottle.

For a relatively young brewery - Mondo began selling beer in March before a wider launch in May - the beers are all well constructed and nicely balanced. The Germanic styles, in particular, are good, and would provide an excellent introduction for a drinker not familiar with, say, rauchbier or maibock, both of which are relatively esoteric styles here in the UK. Of course, the quality should come as no surprise: the folks behind Mondo have a wealth of brewing experience, with a stint at the beleaguered London Fields Brewery preceding their current endeavour.**

Having named the Mondo Tap House as the Best New Pub/Bar Opening of 2015 in my Golden Pints (and Mondo Brewing Company as runner-up for Best New Brewery Opening of 2015), it is obviously no secret that I am a fan of the work that they are doing. As we begin the new year, I hope more of you become aware of this great work, and perhaps even venture down to Battersea to try the beers from the source.


The Mondo Tap House is located at:

86 Stewart's Road
London SW8 4UG

And has the following winter opening hours:

Sunday-Tuesday: closed
Wednesday-Friday: 17:00-23:00
Saturday: 14:00-22:00


*We could squabble over other breweries that might have had a 'drinking at the brewery' angle before The Kernel in 2010, such as perhaps Meantime or Fuller's, but when tracking the breweries most relevant to the more modern beer movement ('craft', if you will), I choose The Kernel as the forerunner.

**Regardless of what you think - or thought - about London Fields and its ownership, the brewing team there did put out some very good beers.

Beer Tasting: Brew By Numbers 10|05 Coffee Porter - San Sebastian

Brew By Numbers have produced more coffee beers than your average brewery. (Given co-founder Dave Seymour's past experience in the coffee trade, and a general passion for the drink from others at the brewery, perhaps this penchant should come as no surprise.) So far, BBNo have incorporated coffee into no fewer than seven of their beers, most notably porters, but also red ales.

I recently tried their latest Coffee Porter, which incorporates, according to the brewery's website, "'San Sebastian' honey process red bourbon beans from Guatemala." The end result is a very nice beer. It pours deep brown with a frothy, mocha head. There is lots of milky coffee in the aroma, some well roasted malts, accents of scorched earth. The flavour is light-medium sweet, with strong, bitter coffee, bittersweet baking cocoa, more earth, some woody dryness. It's medium bodied with fine to average carbonation. Dry and bitter on the finish, there are notes of ashy roast, more baking cocoa, bitter espresso, scorched earth. If you enjoy hard roast and bitter coffee flavours, you will love this. Overall, it’s very good, although perhaps just a little lacking in depth.

Beer Tasting: Gipsy Hill Six O'Clock Swill

To commemorate their 100th batch, Gipsy Hill brewed this all Nelson Sauvin IPA. It's a decent beer overall, save for a mild off-note that's reminiscent of plastic or chlorine.

The beer pours hazy orange-gold with a frothy, white head. The aroma has a bit of pleasant tropical fruit, but also an off-note of chlorophenols - something like soap, or plastic. The flavour is medium sweet, with notes of white bread, tangerine, light soapy astringency, lemon peel, orange. Medium bodied with average carbonation and massaging texture; the condition is optimal. Lightly resinous on the finish, with more pale bread, the beer also shows citrusy hops, some melon, papaya, and that unfortunate phenolic off-flavour. This would be quite nice if not for the off-notes. I've very much enjoyed the overall output from Gipsy Hill, so it's something of a bummer that this one didn't entirely hit the mark.

Saturday 2 January 2016

Golden Pints 2015

This was a great year for beer, for the UK and many other places, and what follows are the beers, breweries and places that impressed me the most. By way of background, I do most of my drinking in London (go figure). Although, I got out a bit around the UK, visiting Bristol, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Norwich and...Reading. I also went to the US a few times (to the northeast, where my family and many friends live), and a handful of places around Europe. So even while London is my focus, there's been a fair bit of drinking outside the capital that informs my selections.

Let's begin.

Best UK Cask Beer: 

Siren / Elusive Dinner for One (Vienna pale ale from Finchamstead, England)

This was a stunning beer. Styled as a 'Vienna pale ale', it's a pretty close approximation of British bitter - toasty bread, citrusy hops, a little piney bitterness. There's some interesting side-story to this beer. The brewer at Siren at the time was Ryan Witter, who has since moved on to Hill Farmstead (a brewery that figures prominently in my Golden Pints, incidentally). And on the other side of this collaboration sits Andy Parker of the hopefully soon-to-be-opened, and much anticipated Elusive Brewing. It's fun when a beer has a story.

Runners up: 

Wild Beer Co Bibble (session IPA from Shepton Mallet, England)

Fuller's London Pride (bitter from London, England)

Redemption Trinity (golden ale from London, England)

Best UK Keg Beer: 

Magic Rock Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady Dessert Edition (barrel-aged imperial stout from Huddersfield, England)

As if Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady wasn't special enough. This beer had the addition of chocolate and cinnamon, and the result was a decadent, complex and yet still immensely drinkable masterpiece. Here's hoping Magic Rock makes it again in the future.

Runners up:

Beavertown / Prairie / Caravan Coffee Barrel Aged 'Spresso (barrel-aged imperial stout from London, England)

Magic Rock Grand Marnier Bearded Lady (barrel-aged imperial stout from Huddersfield, England)

Best UK Bottled Beer:

The Kernel India Pale Ale Citra Zeus Simcoe (IPA from London, England)

This edition of the ever-changing Kernel IPA line-up came out around October. While most Kernel IPAs are excellent, this one was absolutely world-class. It was just perfectly balanced, with an other-worldly amount of hop expression - tropical fruits, citrus, a bit of resinous pine.

Runners up:

The Kernel India Pale Ale Citra Mosaic (IPA from London, England)

The Kernel India Pale Ale Citra Cascade (IPA from London, England)

Brew By Numbers 08|02 Stout - Imperial (imperial stout from London, England)

Best UK Canned Beer:

Beavertown / Boneyard Power of the Voodoo (triple IPA brewed in London, England)

This collaboration - a triple IPA - was the clear winner this year. Beavertown has made some great double IPA on their own, and when they teamed up withOregon hopmasters Boneyard, they kicked it up a notch and the result was an absurdly fruity, dank and dirty beast of a beer.

Runners up: I don't have any other stand-out single beers, so will instead give a shout-out to some of the great can breweries out there, such as BrewDog, Fourpure, and of course Beavertown more generally (and even Camden!).

Best Overseas Draught Beer:

Trillium Upper Case (double IPA from Massachusetts, US)

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Trillium, they are based in Boston, MA and they produce some of the best hoppy beers in the US. Upper Case is one of their double IPAs. It was extremely expressive and obscenely juicy, with lots of peach, mango, nectarine and citrus fruits.

Runners up:

Other Half Nelson IPA (IPA from New York, US)

Cellarmaker Gracious Days (IPA from California, US)

Funky Buddha Snowed In - Bourbon Barrel (barrel-aged imperial stout from Florida, US)

Hill Farmstead Conduct of Life (American pale ale from Vermont, US)

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer:

Bottled - Hill Farmstead Damon - Port and Bourbon Barrel Aged (barrel-aged imperial stout from Vermont, US)

This double-barrel imperial stout was an absolute masterpiece. The beer has all the hallmarks of an imperial stout (sturdy roast, cocoa, etc.), while the barrels added notes of burnt wood, gooey chocolate, rich berries, cherries and figs. It was stunning.

Canned - TIE

Other Half / Trillium Street Green (IPA brewed in New York, US)

Tree House Eureka - Mosaic (golden ale from Massachusetts, US)

Tree House In Perpetuity (IPA)

Tree House Curiosity 22 (IPA)

Foundation Epiphany (double IPA from Maine, US)

The Other Half / Trillium collaboration IPA was a thing of stunning beauty. One of the juiciest IPAs I had all year. As you can guess, Tree House does great work on the can front. The brewery, based in Massachusetts, US, puts almost all their hoppy beer into can (in addition to kegs and growlers). Like a whole bunch of other breweries scattered around the northeastern US, they make impressively clean, juicy and balanced hoppy beers. Foundation is based in Portland, Maine. I've only had a few beers from them, all in the past year, and they have really blown me away.

Best Collaboration Beer: 

Beavertown / Boneyard Power of the Voodoo

As noted above, this was an outstanding beer. It's fitting that Beavertown takes this category, given that they have done so many great collaborations during the past year or so, including with the likes of Prairie (mentioned above), Dogfish Head, Alechemy, Bellwoods, Kona, Lervig, Mikkeller, Naparbier, Odell - I could go on, but you get the picture.

Best Overall Beer:

Hill Farmstead Damon - Port and Bourbon Barrel Aged

As noted above, this beer was a work of art.

Runners up: 

Trillium Upper Case (double IPA from Massachusetts, US)

Evil Twin Double Barrel Jesus (barrel-aged imperial stout, contract brewed in South Carolina, US)

The Kernel India Pale Ale Citra Zeus Simcoe (IPA from London, England)

Beavertown / Boneyard Power of the Voodoo (triple IPA from London, England)

Magic Rock Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady Dessert Edition (barrel-aged imperial stout from Huddersfield, England)

Hill Farmstead Sue (wine barrel-aged IPA from Vermont, US)

Trillium Pier (wheat IPA from Massachusetts, US)

Hill Farmstead Aaron (barley wine from Vermont, US)

Hill Farmstead Dorothy (saison from Vermont, US)

Best UK Brewery:

The Kernel (London, England)

Looking over my favourite beers from the past year, The Kernel shows up more than any other UK brewery. For me, they brew the best IPAs in the UK, and they are really on another level for this style of beer. They also brew some of the best American pale ale, Berliner weisse, imperial stout, export stout and black IPA. They have produced some of the best double IPA in the UK, although on this front there has been some inconsistency; hopefully they will rectify this area. But overall, The Kernel continues to shine.

Runners up:

Beavertown (London, England) - they boast one of the best core ranges in the UK, and have shown the ability to do some excellent limited releases and collaborations. 

Magic Rock (Huddersfield, England) - again, a solid core range across classic styles, and they also produce some of the best barrel-aged stouts.

BrewDog (Abderdeen, Scotland) - say what you will about them, but BrewDog produce some of the cleanest hoppy beers around, along with excellent high-strength and/or barrel-aged stouts.

Buxton (Buxton, England) - yet again, this is a brewery that has an outstanding range of staple beers, in addition to exciting and well executed experimental beers.

Brew By Numbers (London, England) - one of the few UK breweries to brew consistently excellent saisons. BBNo also do great work with their stouts and low-ABV hoppy beers.

Siren (Finchamstead, England) - Siren can do it all, and they excel at both cask and keg. Their strong stouts are among the best in the world, and their core range is also stellar.

Redemption (London, England) - these guys quietly put out some of the best cask beer in London and, indeed, in the whole of the UK. At the same time, they don't shy away from experimenting and tend to be successful with whatever they brew.

Best Overseas Brewery:

Hill Farmstead (Vermont, US)

There's really no contest here. Hill Farmstead brews some of the best beers in the world across a range of styles, most notably saison, American pale ale, IPA, double IPA, barley wine and porter. They have also proven themselves to be masters of barrel aging. Due to intense quality control and an emphasis on serving local markets, their beer rarely gets outside of the northeastern US. And until a brewery expansion that was completed this year, their beer rarely even made it out of Vermont.

Best Overall Brewery*: 

Hill Farmstead

For the reasons noted above, this is an easy choice.

Runners up:

The Kernel (London, England) - I've already run through their many accomplishments above.

Russian River (California, US) - they are the benchmark for West Coast-style IPA, and they also produce some of the best sour beers in the US.

Trillium (Massachusetts, US) - their hoppy beers are absolutely world-class, while their saisons, sour beers and stouts are also excellent.

Magic Rock (Huddersfield, US) - as noted above, these guys can do it all.

Tree House (Massachusetts, US) - some of the best hoppy beer in the US, alongside world-class stouts.

Tired Hands (Pennsylvania, US) - this brewery only packages a small proportion of their output, mainly their saisons and sours - which are superb. They also make world-class hoppy beers, which are only available on tap or in growler.

AleSmith (California, US) - one of the old guard of American craft brewers, AleSmith has remained on the vanguard thanks to their excellent barrel aging (barley wine and imperial stout, mostly), not to mention their classic IPA.

Best New Brewery Opening:

Cloudwater (Manchester, England)

I feel as though this is something of a 'safe' or 'boring' answer, but I really can't think of many other new breweries - let alone breweries that have impressed me in some way. For me, Cloudwater is not yet a top tier brewery, but they have already made some accomplished beers, and they show quite a bit of promise. I'm excited to see what they do next.

Runner up:

Mondo (London, England) - since launching in February, Mondo have brewed some great beers, particularly with styles drawn from the German tradition.

Best Branding:

Brew By Numbers, The Kernel and Beavertown

For pure simplicity and transparency, I love the branding of BBNo and The Kernel. For their creative side, I love Beavertown. Their labels always invite a closer look.

UK Pub/Bar of the Year:

Craft Beer Co (various locations, primarily London)

If I had to pick a favourite location from the chain, it would likely be the Clerkenwell branch. But all the locations are stellar, offering some of the top beers from around the UK, Europe and the US. The staff are always friendly and efficient, happy to offer advice or samples.

Runners up:

Mother Kelly's (London, England)

Fat Cat (Norwich, England)

Small Bar (Bristol, England)

Best New Pub/Bar Opening:

Mondo Brewing Tap House (London, England)

I'll go with a brewery taproom/bar, if you don't mind. The Mondo taproom is excellent, and easily one of the best taprooms in London. The place offers 15 keg lines, 14 of which are generally occupied by Mondo beers. I don't know of any other brewery taproom in London that offers such an extensive range of their own beers (maybe Fourpure?). The bar area itself is well set up and separated from the brewery; although, you can peak into the brewery if you like. Many brewery bars in London seem like afterthoughts - a bar installed in a corner of the brewery. The Mondo taproom suggests that a lot more thought went into it, and the atmosphere is great.

Best Restaurant for Beer and Food:

UK: Duke's Brew & Cue (London, England)

I love barbecue, and I love Beavertown. The marriage of the two is the stuff of greatness. The fact that the restaurant also offers a stellar range of beers from other breweries makes it that much better.

Non-UK: Prohibition Pig (Vermont, US)

Not only is the food here outstanding, but you can also routinely find some of Vermont's best breweries on tap (Hill Farmstead, Lawson's, etc.). The restaurant is also attached to a brewpub, so they offer their own beers as well. It's an absolutely wonderful place to have a meal.

Beer Festival of the Year:

Great British Beer Festival and Pigs Ear (both London, England)

I spend the bulk of my time focusing on the 'craftier' side of beer, given that craft is the area where London really thrives. But I love traditional cask beer and all the styles that suit such dispense and, as such, I love the opportunity to try beer from breweries all around the UK that I otherwise almost never see. To these ends, GBBF and Pigs Ear are both outstanding.

Supermarket of the Year:

Marks & Spencer

I don't buy a lot of beer from supermarkets, but I like that M&S offers a good range of solid stand-by options. I also like the M&S branded beers, which they contract out to some great UK breweries, such as Adnams and Oakham.

Independent Retailer of the Year:

Hop Burns & Black and Kris Wines (both London, England)

Given the timing, I will offer up a Star Wars analogy: Hop Burns & Black is to Luke Skywalker as Kris Wines is to Obi-Wan Kenobi. While as far as I know Kris has not trained the HB&B gang in the ways of the bottle shop, he has been around much longer and I do think he still runs one of the most interesting and well stocked shops in town. HB&B, on the other hand, is new and exciting, with a lot of enthusiasm and great potential. HB&B bring in great beers, throw events, and keep everyone up to speed on social media.

Both are excellent shops. (And I hope my analogy extends no further and that Kris Wines continues to thrive.)

Online Retailer(s) of the Year:

Beermerchants, Ales By Mail and Eebria

I have used these three throughout the year, in almost equal measure. Each continues to offer an excellent range of beers, and each puts a premium on customer service. All are worthy of congratulations.

Best Beer Book or Magazine:

Original Gravity

I always enjoy reading through this periodical. The editors incorporate a nicely diverse collection of opinions, covering a broad, interesting and relevant range of topics.

Best Beer Blog or Website:

Boak & Bailey, Good Beer Hunting and RateBeer

For intensely geeky, UK-centric reading, I think Boak & Bailey's Beer Blog is excellent. For long-form writing with more of a crafty angle, Good Beer Hunting really excels. For interacting with other beer geeks and gathering information on beers, breweries and bars, is invaluable.

Best Brewery Content:


Cloudwater and Brew By Numbers

I don't read a lot of brewery-generated content. That said, what I have read from Cloudwater and Brew By Numbers has been excellent. Both breweries seem to be putting in some effort and should be commended for it.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer:


Rarely do I actually agree with what he says. But Stonch offers up opinions that often provoke me to re-assess my own positions. Of course, rarely - if ever - does his banter inspire a change of position, but it's the exercise that I value most.


*In my opinion, for a brewery to be considered a 'best overall brewery' it must brew a range of styles and do so at the highest level. For that reason, I wouldn't have most lambic producers on my list (for the record, my favourites are, perhaps not surprisingly, 3 Fonteinen, Cantillon and Tilquin).