New Belgium

Golden Pints 2015

The annual Golden Pints awards are the UK beer blogging community's version of the Oscars and are gaining steam every year. We've been lucky enough to win eight Golden Pints awards so far this year (thanks Beer O'Clock Show, Brew GeekeryAndy Parker, Beer Is The Answer, Jonny Garrett, Kat Sewell, Beer Revere and Yeastie Boys UK), so thought we should do our own in return.

We don't get out much (which is why, for example, we haven't named a favourite pub below) so a lot of our opinions have, by necessity, come from our daily life running a beer shop. And for us, great beer is about the whole experience of drinking it - where, when, who with, what's going on around us - not just the technical expertise used to brew it. That's why we've adjusted the category names slightly, replacing 'Best' with 'Favourite' - they reflect our own personal and highly subjective journey through an awesome year of beer.

Likewise, we've steered clear of naming a Best Blogger or Tweeter - so many of the UK's greatest bloggers and tweeters are customers, and in some cases, they even write for us, so we wouldn't want to play favourites... You all know who you are. xx
 

Favourite UK Cask Beer

Jen: Moor B Moor Porter at the Crown & Anchor in Brixton. Enjoyed alongside a well-matched dessert and in the company of the two Justins from Moor - the pleasure, the privilege was ours.

Glenn: Arbor Beech Blonde at the Old Nun's Head during one of our more riotous Hop Burns & Boogie excursions. We love pretty much everything these Bristol superstars do.

Favourite UK Keg Beer

Jen: Magic Rock/Stillwater Pina Collision Pineapple Sour Saison. This juicy delight was the beery soundtrack to our summer, enjoyed with many a BBQ. Miraculously we even had enough left over to sell to customers.
Honourable mention: Cloudwater's magnificent DIPA.

Glenn: Wild Beer Tom Yum Gose. Andrew from Wild Beer was kind enough to meet with us before we opened the shop, taking us through the brewery with a full range tasting afterwards. We love the way they blur the boundaries and this crazy concoction was one of the favourites of our summer.

Favourite UK Bottled Beer

Jen: Mad Hatter Tzatziki Sour. Yoghurt, mint and cucumber just shouldn't work in a beer. But they do, and it's amazing. And I hate cucumber!
Honourable mention: Siren's Bones Of A Sailor Part III.

Glenn: My bottled beer of the year is an English bitter - a possibly unexpected result. Moor Ready Made 2, brewed with Birrifico Dada, is rich, caramel, malty, hoppy perfection. A beautifully balanced beer.
Honourable mention: Wild Beer Squashed Grape.

Favourite UK Canned Beer

Jen: Moor Return of the Empire English IPA. When we heard Moor were launching in cans, we knew Justin 1's fastidiousness would ensure they launched with the best cans the UK had ever seen. This IPA is a showcase for the new UK Jester hop and it's glorious. Moor's Hoppiness IPA usually gets all the love (and deservedly so), but my heart belongs to the Empire.

Glenn: Could have been any of the Vocation range so went for the one in the middle, Pride & Joy APA. Yet to have a bad beer from these guys - every can we've had in has been exceptional. Have my eye on a 750ml bottle of Naughty & Nice chocolate stout for Christmas Day too.

Favourite Overseas Draught

Jen: Yeastie Boys PKB Remix Dark Matta - one of the only two kegs in the UK, launched at the Beer O'Clock Show's live podcast in November. (Disclaimer: we invested in the Yeasties' crowdfunding campaign earlier this year, but this isn't the only reason this beer won. Though we do want a good return on our investment, right?) 
Honourable mention: Renaissance Fresh Hop Black The RIPA. We put this on at our NZ Fresh Hopped celebration event and people haven't stopped talking about it since. Tastes great in the bottle too.

Glenn: Unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell Tankovna at Duck & Rice in Soho. Almost as fresh as drinking it at the brewery door. The perfect accompaniment for a plate so loaded with sichuan peppers and chilli that it made the back of my head sweat. 
Honourable mention: Tuatara Sauvinova. Lush.

Favourite Overseas Bottled Beer

Jen: Alvinne/Stillwater Wild West, enjoyed at Nuetnigenough during our 36-hour beerathon in Brussels back in February. The staff at this restaurant really know their shit, and recommended us the most incredible beers to go with our food. Go there! 
Honourable mention: Tuatara Conehead, an "air-hopped" IPA (i.e. made with fresh hops that they flew over from Nelson to Wellington) from New Zealand. Dank and resinous, this blows the mind of everyone I push it on. Makes me feel a bit like Timothy Leary.

Glenn: Bruery Rueuze. Everything I look for in a gueuze - funky, fruity, tart, thirst-quenching... Exquisite. Next time I won't drink it at 3am.
Honourable mention: New Belgium Lips of Faith Le Terroir 2015. Cheers Matt Curtis.

Favourite Overseas Canned Beer

Jen: Westbrook Gose. Salty sour goodness has never tasted so good. Could drink this by the bucketload and would, given half a chance.

Glenn: Founders Centennial IPA. For all the reasons Matt Curtis details here.

Favourite Collaboration Brew

Jen: Hawkshead/Crooked Stave Key Lime Tau was the hands-down stand-out at this year's Rainbow Day. I ran across town to beat the crowds at Beavertown and had to cram as much sampling as possible into two hours before heading back to work, which sadly meant a lot of pouring away of great beers. Drinking this - a kettle-soured, lactose-infused golden ale brewed with fresh lime zest and lemongrass - in the blazing sunshine with good people was pretty much beer heaven.

Glenn: Moor/Birrificio Dada Ready Made 2, as detailed above.

Favourite Overall Beer

Jen: Mad Hatter Tzatziki Sour.

Glenn: Wild Beer Tom Yum Gose.

Favourite Branding

Jen: Brick Brewery. When you stand behind a counter and look at 300+ beers all day long, you quickly work out what works and doesn't work on a beer bottle. I love Brick's branding because of its beautiful simplicity. Its clean design is reminiscent of Penguin Books' classic design.
Honourable mention: Wiper & True and Beavertown's clever 'starry night' initiative for limited edition can runs.

Glenn: Naming no names, but a lot of cans from mobile canning units look terrible. Vocation's labels instantly attract attention and make you forget they're just stickers on a plain metal can. On closer inspection, the intricate designs, different on every can, tell their own stories. 

Favourite UK Brewery

Jen: Moor, but Vocation and Arbor are close contenders indeed. And you should never overlook the Kernel - every time a coconut. It's impossible for them to make a bad beer.

Glenn: Wild Beer, for all the reasons given above and more. They've always blown my mind.

Favourite Overseas Brewery

Jen: 8 Wired Brewing. Saison Sauvin and Tall Poppy were two of my standout beers of the year, and there's nothing like Superconductor when you need a wake-up call. (On a side note, it's weird how New Zealand-centric many of my choices have been for this exercise given how much I couldn't wait to leave the place. But there's no denying the colonies are making great beers. And we're looking forward to trying all of them in January.)

Glenn: New Belgium. I've never been there but read Matt Curtis's blog and tell me it's not one of the most fascinating beer destinations on the planet. We were lucky enough to enjoy a muled bottle of Lips of Faith Le Terroir 2015 that Matt muled back from Colorado at our No More Heroes event in November... no words.

No More Heroes: drinking beer for mental health

Last night we got the chance to celebrate the craft beer world's underrated heroes with a fantastic event at ours hosted by beer writer Matthew Curtis of Total Ales.  

This event came about when both Matt and HB&B were approached by an agency offering us cash or a donation to a charity of our choice to tell them all we knew about craft beer. As it transpired, the agency was working for a multinational brewing corporation, so naturally we both said no - but we didn't want a charity to miss out on getting some much-needed funds, so No More Heroes: A Tutored Tasting of Beer's Great Unloved was born.

With 100% of the ticket sales going to the wonderful mental health charity Mind UK, as well as donations sourced via our JustGiving page, we've managed to raise more than £400 for Mind (much more than what the agency would have handed over!).

If you couldn't make it last night, here's the beer list you missed - wonderful beers matched with some of our favourite punk and post-punk tunes, and even some suggested spicy food matches to try out at home... Keep an eye out on Matt's blog too, where we're sure he'll do an even better round-up soon.

Augustiner Lagerbier Hell, 5.2%
Music Match: The Stranglers – No More Heroes
Spicy Food Match: Chicken Jalfrezi
To be fair, this isn't an unsung hero in our shop any more. We've turned so many people on to the joy of this classic Munich lager that it's always in our Top 10 best-selling beers. It's the lager or people who think they don't like lager. Clean, crisp, bready perfection, and a perfect partner for curry. Here's what Matt wrote about it for us in September.

Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro, 6&
Music Match: Modern English – I Melt With You
Spicy Food Match: Beef Chilli Con Carne
Possibly the best-loved beer of the night, judging by the number of takeaways sold afterwards. A beautiful milk stout that's so smooth and creamy as to be almost 'melty', says Matt - which is why he chose Modern English's killer tune to go alongside. A great match with chilli too - we'd drink it with AND throw it in the pot too.

Beavertown 8 Ball Rye IPA, 6.2%
Music Match: Magazine – Shot By Both Sides
Spicy Food Match: Pepperoni & Jalapeño Pizza
Matt says, "The fact that Gamma Ray and, to a lesser extent, Neck Oil, steals all of 8 Ball's limelight is criminal." Shot by both sides, you might say... "It might not have the in-your-face hop punch of its more popular cousin but it’s a wonderful beer all the same." We couldn't agree more. A Beavertown gem that deserves to be duly celebrated.

Boon Kriek Mariage Parfait, 8%
Music Match: The Runaways – Cherry Bomb
Spicy Food Match: Dark Chocolate with Chilli
A glorious sour from Belgium's much underrated Boon brewery (pronounced Burn apparently - who knew?). Here's Matt's marvellous account of discovering Belgian lambics and geuzes (and his visit to Boon) for Good Beer Hunting, Naturally we paired this with The Runaways. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-CHERRY BOMB!

Renaissance Stone Cutter Scotch Ale, 7%
Music Match: Th’ Dudes, Bliss
Spicy Food Match: Steak & Cheese pie or a Pig & Hay scotch egg smothered in hot sauce
Renaissance is a terrific brewery from Marlborough, New Zealand, who don't tend to get the attention they deserve over here, overshadowed as they are by their more out-there NZ Beer Collective colleagues such as Yeastie Boys. However they're making some amazing brews, such as their fresh hop monsters Grandmaster Fresh Hop MPA and Black the RIPA. Stone Cutter is their flagship beer, a Scotch Ale that gets better and better with age. Matt recommends drinking it with that bastion of Kiwi cuisine, a steak and cheese pie. And we got to introduce London drinkers to the NZ beer-swilling student anthem that is Th' Dudes' Bliss!

New Belgium Le Terroir 2015
Music Match: Plastic Bertrand – Ca Plane Pour Moi
Spicy Food Match: Chicken Tinga Tacos
Going out with a bang, our final beer of the night had been muled back from the US by Matt himself. The latest in the Lips of Faith series, Le Terroir 2015 is a delectable sour dry-hopped with Galaxy hops from New Belgium, a brewery we've been dying to try for the longest time. Here's Matt's account of visiting New Belgium. We paired it with Belgian's finest musical export, Plastic Bertrand, mais oui!