It's that time of year again and my third stab at summing up what has been yet another great year for beer, especially in the UK where a new wave of excellent breweries has added to what was already a very solid scene. Let's get straight down to business!
Best UK Cask Beer: Siren Craft Brew launched with aplomb earlier this year and their Liquid Mistress is simply wonderful on cask.
Best UK Keg Beer: This was a beer that completely caught me on the hop while visiting Edinburgh's wonderful The Vintage pub in Leith back in July. This pub has a great selection of beer (and food!) and yet there was one beer that had me going back for more and more. That beer was Cromarty's AKA IPA. A West Coast style hop bomb of the highest order! I must also give a hoppy nod to Summer Wine's Diablo and Thornbridge's Chiron - beers I'll always buy when I see them on keg.
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Back in August I wrote about Magic Rock's foray into the world of bombers. Pick any one of those - they were all fantastic! Here's to more cans in 2014!
Best Overseas Draught Beer: I was lucky enough to visit California in October and enjoy many of the beery delights that entails. However, there was a standout beer. Stone's Enjoy By IPA (11/12/13 release) had me uttering expletives. On keg at the brewery it was absolute f*cking perfection.
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer: Plenty of choice here too but I'm going to plump for Alpine Brewing's stupendous Nelson. Honourable mention to Firestone Walker for Double Jack.
Best Collaboration Brew: There are so many to choose from here but one I really enjoyed was the Bitches Brewing and Black Jack Belgian IPA, Isoceles. Buxton had a couple of belters with To Øl and I really loved the 3Friends and Howling Hops Farmhouse Saison.
Best Overall Beer: I'm going to be annoying and name a beer that you probably haven't heard of from a brewery you probably haven't heard of. Blood Orange Sour from Morro Bay's Libertine Pub (a microbrewery). See, told you. By god it was good! (sorry)
Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label: There's a standout here for me - Weird Beard got this absolutely spot on. Their beers just leap out at you and the personalisation of each different beer keeps things nice and fresh. I honestly believe their branding has played a big part in the huge year they've had. In the above linked article I also mention how well Magic Rock's branding translates so well across all dispense formats. The impact branding has on appeal and therefore sales cannot be underestimated in my view although of course repeat sales will decline if the product is poor. Thankfully these two have nothing to worry about there!
Best UK Brewery: This is so hard. I'm going to give it to a brewery I've drunk plenty from this year and not once been disappointed. Well done on another cracking year, Brodie's.
Best Overseas Brewery: Going left of field here but during the aforementioned trip to San Diego I came across an outstanding new (to me) brewery called Rip Current. Check them out here. It takes something special to stand out against all that San Diego has to offer and that's exactly what they're doing. Honourable mention to Firestone Walker.
Best New Brewery Opening 2013: Got to give a hat-tip to Alpha State (Kent, UK) here as they took a bit of stick for launching with a bonkers Sorachi Ace Dunkelweiss that wasn't to everyone's taste (described as 'alcoholic neapolitan ice-cream'!) but didn't compromise and resort to crowd pleasing run-of-the-mill brews as a result. Balls to the wall stuff and long may it continue. Also, Siren Craft Brew (Finchampstead, UK) have had a cracking first year and continue to produce some excellent beer. However, London's own Weird Beard just edges them both for me.
Pub/Bar of the Year: Edinburgh's The Hanging Bat. I *so* wish this was my local.
Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013: BrewDog Shepherds Bush. This is a bar that promised much and has totally delivered. 40 taps. Count 'em.
Beer Festival of the Year: The Independent Manchester Beer Convention returned in 2013, taking what was already an outstanding festival to new heights when they really had very little room for improvement. Well done to all involved.
Supermarket of the Year: Waitrose - still doing a great job of supporting local breweries while listing some top brews on a national level.
Independent Retailer of the Year: The Bottle Shop, Canterbury.
Online Retailer of the Year: According to my bank statements it was BrewDog. Some top guest beers graced their virtual shelves this year.
Best Beer Book or Magazine: Mark Dredge's Craft Beer World. Looking forward to his second book covering food and beer pairing.
Best Beer Blog or Website: I've really enjoyed reading Justin Mason's Get Beer, Drink Beer blog this year, especially the Beers of London series and his ever creative photography.
Best Beer App: Craft Beer London.
Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer: We'll miss you, Scoop.
Best Brewery Website/Social media: Adnams. Comprehensive, engaging and well written.
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: I laughed when I read it but indulged Tyler Kiley's late night recommendation of a PB&J sandwich with Duvel anyway. Oh. My. God!