Monday 4 January 2016
My Golden Pints for 2015
Best UK Cask Beer
Oakham Hawse Buckler – it's been around a few years but I only caught up with it in 2015, when I had it a couple of times in different places, and it was excellent both times. It's a very hoppy (as you'd expect from Oakham), roasty-winey dark ale, verging on a Black IPA or Export Stout.
Best UK Keg Beer
The Kernel India Pale Ale Amarillo – there's so many Kernel IPA variants, but this one was the best so far. The thing I like about these IPAs in general is they're pretty full-bodied, and in this one the hops added aromas of pineapple and orange, followed by more fruit on the palate along with hints of wintergreen and rosemary. Delicious.
My runner-up – and it was very close – was Brew By Numbers 100/4 Baltic Porter – Sherry. Again, this was part of a set, where the same beer was aged in five different barrels, and having tried all five this emerged as my favourite, perhaps because it was just barrelly enough without being like actually drinking sherry – just touches of dried fruit, dusty caramel and a light herbiness to enhance the lovely flavours of the base beer.
Best UK Bottled Beer
Twickenham Hill 60 – blended in the best Belgian traditions by combining soured dark ale that had been so long in the barrel that it was very hard to drink straight with fresh strong Mild to lighten it and give it zing. The result was complex and refreshingly drinkable for a sour, with hints of sour cherry, burnt treacle and an earthy bitterness.
Best UK Canned Beer
Beavertown Holy Cowbell India Stout – that rich piney hop nose with roasty black treacle and a touch of smoke just blew me away.
Best Overseas Draught
Evil Twin I Love You With My Stout – another midnight-black beer, its heavy body, with notes of coffee, liquorice, pine and grapefruit, was almost too much but thankfully managed to stay on the “Wow, utterly amazing!” side of the border.
My runner-up was an Italian farmhouse ale – Toccalmatto's Tabula Rasa. It's a complex and multilayered brew, with aromas of lemon, white grapes and a little floral perfume and horsey funk.
Best Overseas Bottled Beer
3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze – back in the summer, I toured the Lambic region immediately after the European Beer Bloggers Conference in Brussels, and amazing beer this was one of the real stand-outs of the trip. Lemon-sour and with faint strawberry notes, its initial sweetness immediately turns to a complex dry and lightly earthy bitter-sourness.
Runner-up was Ratsherrn's Wintertiet. Brewed on the Hamburg brewery's micro kit as one of last winter's specials, it masterfully showed how to create a complex and flavoursome winter ale without chucking the whole damn spice cabinet in there. Rich and drily soupy, it offered notes of treacle toffee, bitter orange, liquorice, christmas cake, dried figs and a light earthy bitterness. Delicious.
Best Overseas Canned Beer
St Feuillien Saison – canned for the US market, I think, it combines the peppery hoppiness of many farmhouse ales with toast, bread, spice and fruit notes that almost remind one of an Ur-weisse. Well within the Saison boundaries, yet with a very tasty twist.
Best collaboration brew
Adnams / Magic Rock The Herbalist – another Saison, again with those characteristic spicy, earthy and hoppy notes, but this time also with hints of tangerine and pineapple on a fruity, dry-sweet and herby-bitter body. Oh, and it was properly cask-conditioned, like the original Saisons would have been.