Golden Pints 2011

31 12 2011




Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer: Tasted way too many good ones this year to make this an easy choice.  SWB Cohort, Magic Rock Curious NZ and Hardknott Vitesse Noir could all have justifiably snatched the crown but this year’s winner is Tyne Bank’s Southern Star.  It’s great to see a local brewery producing a beer of such outstanding quality.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Traquair Jacobite is still my all time favourite beer but the award this year goes to the flavour bomb that is Summer Wine Brewery’s Barista.

Best Overseas Draught Beer: Odell IPA a great beer but lifted to award winner status by the company with whom I was drinking it.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer: Orval.  Consistently divine.

Best Overall Beer:  The aforementioned Traquair Jacobite.  Everyone should have a comfort beer that keeps them warm, safe and grounded, a best friend in a bottle.   This is mine.

Best Pumpclip or Label:  Last year’s winner, The Yorkshire Dales Brewing Company, quite rightly holds on to their crown.  Honourable mentions must go to Magic Rock and Kernel.

Best UK Brewery:  Summer Wine Brewery.  Top beer, produced by top blokes.  What more could you ask for?

Best Overseas Brewery:  Orval.  See above.

Pub/Bar of the Year: Enjoyed drinking in many fine establishments this year, in particular the Newcastle Arms, the Bacchus and Mr Foleys.  However, this year the Free Trade Inn stands head and shoulders above all others.  A view to die for, matched only by its consistently excellent beer selection and ambience.

Beer Festival of the Year:  Stretching the category a little here, the award goes to Twissup Newcastle.  A true festival of beer worship, delivering top rated pubs, beer and company.

Supermarket:  Waitrose for keeping me supplied with the sadly “soon to be no more” Durham Benedictus.  Otherwise, Meh!

Independent Retailer: Joint winners in the form of Copper’s 8 ‘til 8 and Rehill’s.  However, both should apparently be punished for adding to @CiderTart_G’s stress levels as we attempt to “find somewhere to put all the damned stuff.”

Online Beer Retailer:  Not bought as much online this year due to the excellence of those establishments listed in the category above.  We do have a winner though.  I received great, prompt service from Beer Ritz when used recently and will definitely be using them again.

Best Beer Book/Magazine:  Hopagandamag, fun to contribute to, fun to read.  Looking forward to some no holds barred issues next year.

Best Beer Blog/Website: For the obvious, no nonsense joy he exudes when he writes about beer, the people who drink it and the places in which it is drunk, the winner is the Reluctant Scooper.

Best Beer Twitterer:  Not an individual but a community.  The award goes to all the beery twitterers of the North East.  Sharing the love.

Best Online Brewery Presence:  Summer Wine Brewery.  Like their beer, never dull.

Food and Beer Pairing:  A piping hot Gregg’s Seasonal Pasty, chunks of gorgeous cheese and a 1/3 of Vitesse Noir.  All devoured in glorious sunshine outside the Free Trade Inn during Twissup.  Thanks to @SamtheTree and @DrinkMatch for the food and @HardknottDave for the beer.

In 2012 I’d Most Like To: Enjoy myself…not bothered how that is achieved.

Open Category:  Thanks to all the people I have met, chatted to and got pissed with this year.  Without you beer is pointless.


Golden Pints 2010 Part 2

19 01 2011

After some subtle persuasion from KC, I had been asked to break my vow of silent contribution and nominate my belated Golden Pints Awards. So here we go

Best Draft UK Beer: Some excellent ales in 2010 the umptious Ascot Anastasia Imperial Stout, the vanilla based Yorkshire Dales Stout Of This World, the complete flavor surprise of Thornbridge Colorado Red and the gorgeous Harviestoun Ola Dubh 30. But in the end my vote goes to the excellent Highland Orkney Porter. Consistently excellent and comforting.

Best UK bottle Beer: Again lots of contenders. Scottish beers though dominate Williams Bros Midnight Sun, Traquir 2010, Harviestoun Ola Dubh 40 and Orkney Dark Island Reserve. They are all distinct and excellent, But for its uniqueness, consistency and what would always be my first Beer swap ale, the sublime Durham Temptation.

Best Overseas Draught Beer: A couple of German Draught Ales were the most memorable. At The National Winter Ales Festival, the smokey bacon crisp tasting  Schlenkerla Eisbock was a great find. Equally at the Brandling Arms Octoberfest, the recommendation of  Marzen Rauchbier brought an ale with a distinct kipper smell and deep smokey taste. It was surprisingly good.

Best Overseas Bottled beer: Some great strong dark beers. The Imperial Porters/Stouts of Flying Dog Gonzo and Left Handed were both amazing. But two presents take the top two places. In second, the excellent Mill St Coffee Porter from Canada and first, Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch, a stunning beer full of flavor and balance.

Best Overall Ale: Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch

Best Pumpclip or Label: Choice between the funny/clever or the iconic/business. On one side I love the pumpclips of Blue Monkey. The Che Guevera influenced Guerilla and the clever 99 red Baboons are distinctive and fun. On the other side, the distinct pumpclips for Yorkshire Dales Brewery are almost iconic art deco with a great use of colours showing beers of real quality. Prize goes to Yorkshire Dales.

Best UK brewery: Almost too hard to call. First of all, the best NE brewery would go to Bull Lane, arguably had best ales at both Leeds and Newcastle beer festivals. Summer Wine Brewery, Thornbridge and Yorkshire Dales continued to push the boundaries and produce excellent ales. But for real consistency of great beer and for making an IPA that I actually like, it needs to go to Highland Brewery.

Overseas brewery: Flying Dog gets my vote. Gonzo Imperial Porter was far too easy drinking & dogtoberfest, the maltiest beer I had this year.

Pub/bar of year: Outside the area it would be Marble Arch or North Bar. In Newcastle, Bacchus (8 course beer matches/great beer), Free Trade (getting better all the time) & Cumberland Arms (my fab bizarre local). But vote goes to Newcastle Arms, great bar staff, homely atmosphere & excellent beer festivals.

Best Festival: still adore Newcastle beer fest (especially all day Thursday). Leeds continues to be one of the most friendly. National Winter was an experience whilst Scottish national always has great beer. But for it’s uniqueness, atmosphere, location & excellent beer (despite polycarbonate glasses) it has to be York.

Supermarket: Tesco Online when ordering only in Scotland. Midnight Sun, Black Gold and Glencoe Stout. Enough said

Independent retailer: Beeritz was excellent, but for accessibility and constant improvement, Rehills Deli in Jesmond

Online retailer: don’t buy online

Beer book or magazine: Cheers

Best beer blog or website: Phils Newcastle Real Ale Listing. Indispensable resource for working out what/where you want to drink. Also useful for remembering what you had last night

Best beer twitterer: too difficult to call

Best Brewery OnlineBrewdog. Part interesting information part episode of the Young Ones

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: Agree with my esteemed colleague. Cranachan and Highland’s Orkney Porter at a food/beer matching event at the Bacchus was unbelievably good.

In 2011 I’d Most Like To…: write something on this blog… get in, one New Year Resolution down!


*Good work HH…keep ’em coming.…KC

Golden Pints 2010

13 01 2011






OK so I’m a bit late with this (started before Christmas, tidied up today) but, hey, I’ve had ‘things’ to do and it got here eventually didn’t it?






Best UK Draught Beer: There have been a number of beers that have wowed me this year; Highland’s Orkney Porter was stunning in the Bacchus as was Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co’s St’Out of This World.  However, for opening my taste buds to the delights of ‘lighter’ beer the winner goes to Thornbridge Kipling.

Best UK Bottled Beer: I’ve been drinking more bottled beer than ever this year and certainly a more varied selection than usual and up until New Years Eve the winner was still going to be my old friend Traquair Jacobite Ale.  However, I had the pleasure of sharing one of my bottles of Orkney Dark Island Reserve (2008) with HH and was totally blown away by it, a stunning drink.

Best Overseas Draught Beer: County Durham Brewing – C’est What? Steve’s Dreaded Chocolate Orange Ale.  Despite the name this doesn’t come from just down the road, rather I enjoyed this during July’s trip to Toronto.  Brewed specifically for the basement bar C’est What? this was a lovely dark malty beer which was lifted from being Nutella infused coffee by the sharpness of the orange in the background to start with and then prominently in the finish which took it to another level.

Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Rogue Old Crustacean 1999.  Again from my Toronto trip and this time served as an accompaniment to my ice cream in Beer Bistro.  There were so many aromas coming at me from this that I ran out of adjectives and was severely worried it was going to be a total mess.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  A gorgeous Barley Wine full of tangy dried fruits (dates, prunes and cherries), caramel and a stunningly pithy bitterness which complemented the food perfectly.

Best Overall Beer: For just being so damned drinkable – Thornbridge Kipling.

Best Pumpclip or Label: I really like what the Yorkshire Dales Brewing Company have done with their clips and labels, instantly recognizable and stylish with the advantage of almost always signaling a great beer.

Best UK Brewery: I had a lot of thought on this and a number of changes to the name here but in the end because they consistently come up with great drinkable beers the winner is the Yorkshire Dales Brewing Company.  Honourable mentions go to Highland Brewery, Summer Wine Brewery, Thornbridge and Bull Lane who could all have been justifiable choices.

Best Overseas Brewery: For the great beer tasted, the friendliness of all the staff and a great brewery tour the winner goes to Mill Street Brewery, Toronto.

Pub/Bar of the Year: Loved Smokeless Joe’s in Toronto for the company, the North Bar in Leeds for the drinks selection, the Cumberland Arms in Byker for being so welcoming, the Free Trade Inn again in Byker which has my all time favorite view but the winner is The Newcastle (Top) Arms…just because.

Beer Festival of the Year: Really enjoyed the National Winter Ale Festival in Manchester and on, a smaller level, regular festivals at the Newcastle Arms.

Supermarket of the Year: Meh!

Independent Retailer of the Year: Had fun rooting around Beer Ritz in Leeds and really wish I’d had more bag space but due to its closer proximity I’ll go for Rehill’s Deli in Jesmond which has a great selection of all types of booze…but no website unfortunately.

Online Retailer of the Year: Had great service from BeerMerchants, myBrewerytap and Ales by Mail this year with no problems and nothing but praise for all of them.

Best Beer Book or Magazine: Cheers has been a breath of fresh air in the North East and wipes the floor with the woeful local CAMRA effort.

Best Beer Blog or Website: Because it’s always handy to have an idea what may be waiting for you at the pub I always check Phil’s Newcastle Real Ale Listing.

Best Beer Twitterer: Enjoy all the banter so no particular favorites.

Best Brewery Online: Very rarely visit any to be honest.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: Cranachan and Highland’s Orkney Porter at a food/beer matching event at the Bacchus.

In 2011 I’d Most Like To…: Find time to write more here…but not at the expense of drinking.

Open Category: I think I’ve said enough.