#GoldenPints 2015 – Our look back over a great year for beer.

Ok, so we may be cutting this close to the finish line for 2015, but here’s our look back over the last 12 months in Beer in Ireland and beyond. This should be fun! There may be arguments as we write this!! (Janice’s are in Italics)

Best Irish Cask Beer 
As we all know, Cask is a rare beast on these shores, but there are some notable exceptions. There are some bars pouring some quality Irish Beer on cask. Oddly, Janice & I are in mutual agreement on the winner. We first had the luck of having it pouring at our festival in Smyth’s during the summer, but got to revisit it in Porterhouse Temple Bar with Will Siss who proclaimed it his favourite beer of the evening. None other than Brehon Brewhouse Shanco Dubh

Best Irish Keg Beer
Now, this is where it gets really difficult. There has been a large number of standout brews this year which have genuinely given loads of pleasure. But as Highlander says, “There can only be one!” for me, the beer that gave me a genuine Wow experience was McGargles Francis’ Banging IPA, this is the beer that should change a lot of peoples perceptions, as this was such a juicy banger. I’m so happy it’s widely available in Bottle too.

Those loveable scamps from O’Brother Brewing have announced themselves to the Irish Beer audience with a sequence of excellent beers, my favourite of theirs is Bonita a juicy delicious Black IPA. I really hope to see this again.

Best Irish Bottle Beer

Only one winner for me, 200 Fathoms by Galway Bay especially after we reviewed it with the Beer O’Clock Show recently after the bottles had been conditioning for a good number of months after. Such an amazing beer and can’t wait for the 2016 edition

Our favourite Antipodeans Scott & Cam of 8 Degrees have regularly been knocking it out of the park this year. My favourite though was Polar Vortex which highlighted that classic hop Cascade in a great IPA.

Best Irish Canned Beer

Not too many potential winners here, given canning is relatively new to these shores, but if anything Blacks Kinsale Pale Ale is a shining example of a beer perfectly suited to this medium. Keeping this beer ultra fresh for enjoyment. Also being reasonably priced this helps. We’re looking forward to trying more Irish Beers in Can in 2016

Best Overseas Draught

Oh good lord, how is one to choose only one here! This year we’ve had some truly amazing beers on our travels. Really it’s such a difficult one. But for me it’s going to be a beer I had at Indyman in Manchester back in October. For me it was the amazing Yellow Belly Sundae collab by Buxton & Omnipollo. 1st beer of the Saturday session a true pleasure.

Again reaching back into the Indyman box, was the Key Lime Tau brewed at Hawkshead in collaboration with Crooked Stave just tasted like liquid Key Lime Pie. Amazing

Best Overseas Bottle

Wow this is another tough one. For me, I adore hoppy beers. So it’s literally a toss up for me between Brewdog Born to Die 27.11 or Cloudwater DIPA both absolutely amazing beers. Got to try the two pretty close together in Manchester back in November. I think the Born to Die just sniffs it for me, as they’d balanced it out better than their first version. A truly great beer, and delicious fresh
For me, it was another tough choice, while I loved Born to Die. The best foreign bottle beer i’d had this year was Mikkeller Crooked Moon DIPA such unbelievable fruity flavours. 

Best Overseas Can

Well we’re getting a fair few overseas cans over here. But my caveat for this is as yet i’ve not drank Cannonball in Can’s yet. So it’s not there. It’s a straight up choice for me between Beavertown Power of Voodoo DIPA and Vocation Life & Death. The Vocation beer just pips it, on the basis that i’ve had all the cans in their range now and Life & Death just sings in this format.

As if there weren’t enough reasons to get more Roosters beers over here, but really enjoyed the Baby Faced Assassin that we got in a care package 

Best Collaboration

Only one winner for me. Buxton & Omnipollo combining for Yellow Belly Sundae. Although I was genuinely impressed by the Irish Collaboration between Stone Barrel Brewing and Simon Lambert’s & Sons – the Stone Belly IPA was genuinely great. 

My favourite collaboration was Key Lime Tau by Hawkshead & Crooked Stave

Best Overall Beer

For me Brewdog’s Born to Die 27.11 was the best beer in 2015, however really honourable mentions to Shanco Dubh and Francis’ Bangin IPA as they are available a lot more easily. 

My favourite Beer of 2015 was Bonita by O’Brother Brewing

Best Branding

I personally love the branding on the O’Brother Brewing bottles as it stands out from the crowd. The sleekness of the Wicklow Wolf is also very good. But showing growing maturity as a brand, the labelling on the 8 Degrees portfolio, especially the specials is fantastic.

I love 8 Degrees branding for me. Notable mentions to Mountain Man, and Black’s of Kinsale

Best Pumpclip

As far as standout pump clips go O’Brother Brewing Bonita surely got them chattering. Which we both loved. Great to see them work with an Irish artist for their labelling.

Best Irish Brewery

For me, 8 Degrees this year just pip it from some of the others. A really solid range, and a regular slew of specials throughout the year. Well done lads looking forward to seeing what you come up with in 2016

Relatively new to the table i’m going with O’Brother Brewing who have some great American style beers, and aren’t afraid to use hops, as well as some great specials like Brutus, and Joe that show they’re more than a one trick pony.

Best Overseas Brewery

Based on the range of beers they produce alone, and their collaborations, Buxton Brewery have really impressed us, we’re looking forward to trying more of their wares in 2016. Axe Edge is a really good IPA that would challenge any other beers out there.

Best Pub / Craft Beer Bar

Based purely on range of Irish craft on draft i’d give it to them alone, however add in their quality food offering and genuine hospitality, 57 The Headline is my favourite. It’s well worth the short trip out to Clanbrassil St

How could I not say Brew Dock after all, we’ve been pretty much drinking their since it opened. It’s had a paint job, and rumour has it they’ll have more taps on soon!

Best Beer Festival

We didn’t attend the Irish Craft Beer Festival this year as we were in Belgium at the time but we did attend other festivals. Abv Fest in Belfast back in May was a great event in a great location. There was also the Alltech Brews & Food Festival in February. But our favourite experience this year was Indyman a truly unique festival with a great vibe and great people.

Independent Retailer / Online of the Year

Usually when buying beer I buy it off line, and spread it around a few indy off licences. Baggot St Wines, Carryout Tyrellstown, Winehouse Trim, Drinkstore. All truly great places. Too hard to pick a winner, but if I had to, it’d be The Winehouse in Trim, mainly as it’s local and I can get there in 10 minutes. For Online Drinkstore is hard to beat. We have used Brewdog online a bit this year and they know how to package their deliveries! 
Best Beer Blog or Website

There can only be one – BeerOClock Show – a nicely laid out site with blog, podcasts and other bits and bobs. We also enjoy Simon Says You Should Drink This, The Beernut, Belgian Smaak and Total Ales.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer 

It would have to be Tom of @CraftBeerHour he has created a truly great thing with #Craftbeerhour and we love to take part. It was great to meet him recently, and who knows what the future may hold collaboration wise! 🙂

Best Brewery Website / Social Media

For Website – 8 Degrees all day long, they always have info on their new beers including recommended food pairings and tasting notes
For Social Media – O’Haras do a great job via their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds.

Thanks for reading our Golden Pints!

@Beeroclockshow #CrimboCrawl – Leeds 2015

This past weekend, I’d the opportunity to return to Leeds for the annual christmas beer pilgrimage of the Beer O’Clock Show. Having lived in Leeds for a time during my younger years I was keen to get back and sample the ever increasing beer scene. 

This was going to be a two day affair, flying in on the Friday morning. The plan was to get to Leeds around Lunchtime. So I met up with Steve around Lunchtime and we made our way to that famous of Leeds establishments, Whitelocks, where we had our first couple of the day.

Bad Co Mogwai, and Squawk Small Pale Simcoe

From there, we made our way to Little Leeds Beer House for a couple of beers, and to meet one of our fellow crawlers. It’s was a nice opportunity to recce the venue before we descended on it as a group the next day. Located in the city’s Corn Exchange this has proven to be a little gem. I tried in here Northern Monk’s New World IPA, and Harbour’s Antipodean IPA.

But the hero beer of the day – given we don’t get any Cloudwater on our fair shores, it was their Winter IPA – it was quite simply stunning. It was only bottled a couple of days previously. 

The other purpose of the trip was to scope out some beers to bring home that would cheer up Mrs Beer Snob so from here we met everyone and made our way down to Huddersfield to visit Magic Rock and their Taproom. So that meant one thing! Train Beer! I picked a can of Moor Beer Revival which delicious and tasty just what I need in a train beer.

So we arrived at Magic Rock’s Taproom and i’m instantly impressed. A nice space that doesn’t just look like a bar tacked into a warehouse. This has been given a lot of thought. There are plenty of seats and tables. A nice long bar so you can get served easily.You can see into the brewery and they have their barrel ageing facility in the Taproom. Also a nice touch for the technologically dependant there was Wifi and multiple plugs available.

I love their branding and the beer list on the night did not disappoint either. The place was buzzing nicely with locals and we went to our table. Of course the first pint had to be Cannonball their superb IPA. Obviously had a taste of a number of their other beers. But i’m a big fan of Bearded Lady and was excited to try their latest version, aged in Pedro Ximenez barrels. 

That was the end of Day 1 for me, I returned back to Leeds to meet my friend and call it a night. 

Day 2, the day of the actual crawl I was really excited for, not only as it was the main event, but that i’d get to meetup with guys i’d met at Indyman recently. It’s true what they say – beer folk are good folk. So it was great to see all the friendly faces, and have beers with these folks.

The route itself was Northern Monk Refectory, The Black Swan, Little Leeds Beer House, North Bar, and Brewdog Shuffledog

Feeling a little delicate from the night before in Northern Monk I had a half of Monacus Pale Ale which was nice and tasty and light enough to get the day started. A session strength of 4.5%

Next stop was The Black Swan on Call Lane, in here we had a nice space reserved where we were able to chill out and natter. In here i tried Thornbridges Tonttu and Paradise Pale Ale both nice beers. I was particularly impressed by the Paradise beer, given it’s low ABV it was packed full of flavour. From here we moved on to Little Leeds Beer House and it was great again. The staff are very friendly and accommodating – this time around I had a can of Vocation Life & Death which was delicious. I also picked up my Beer that i’d selected the day before. 

From here we broke off up to North Bar, a Pint of Cannonball? Yes Please! At this stage food was needed, so we got some food. From there we were off to Brewdog’s new bar in Leeds, Shuffledog. An interesting concept, in a great space, in a marvellous building just a little outside the city centre! It was also the first time I got to avail of my EFP discount! They do draught only, and some spirits and coffee. There was some food but we were stuffed. 

The beer list itself was good and I got to try the new Albino Squid Assassin Red Rye IPA. It was a nice beer, and am looking forward to getting one or two cans when they become available. The Camden beer was clearly there before the big announcement! 🙂 I also had a couple of halves of the Nitro Milk Stout – just needed to sooth myself into my last beer of the night – Mikkeller Til Fra (Via) Imperial Porter. Really enjoyed the concept. The shuffle board downstairs looked like a laugh, but I was hooked on the retro arcade machines and Pinball! 

Venue of the weekend for me was Little Leeds Beer House, a great bottle shop with growler station, and located in the lovely Corn Exchange. The team were so helpful and patient with us. 

Any Irish importer reading this – you need to get Cloudwater, Moor Beers and Vocation Brewing beers into this country. They are superb

A huge thanks to Steve and Si (@Leedsbeerwolf) for all their hard work in organising a great trip. Make sure to check out some of the other guys blogs / photos from the trip (which i’ll update as more write it up) Can not wait for the next one.