Golden Pints 2017

So, Golden Pints 2017! This is my first ‘Golden Pints’ end of year award style post. I must admit, my original plan was to do something different in name. However, having seen how many other writers have interpreted Golden Pints to their own structure and style, I’m also going to stick to the name but do my own thing. I want to focus on the truly amazing beer and events I’ve experienced this year, so this won’t be a comprehensive list of categories. It’s just what I think is the important stuff, with a top three in each. All in reverse order, enjoy!

Best Beer 2017 (Leeds Breweries)

A special category for my home city. As a Leeds-based beer writer and former Leeds CAMRA chairman, I am so fortunate to know brewers across Leeds, so this category is for you guys! Here’s the top three beers I tried in 2017.

3. Nomadic Beers – IPA (6.1%)

I first had this on launch night for Nomadic Beers, who brew on the kit in the cellar at the Fox and Newt pub, on Burley Road. Katie and Ross brewed a classic IPA with great hop led flavour and aroma. Sadly, they haven’t made it since. Please fix that Katie! You can read more about Nomadic beers here.

2. Wilde Child – Opaque Reality (5.9%)

A mango and passionfruit IPA. I don’t think I need to say much more! Hazy, juicy and so fruity, it’s incredible to think that Keir, the head brewer, can create such delights on such small brewing kit. You can read more about Keir here.

1. Wilde Child – Behemoth (11%)

And Wilde Child completes the one-two! A collab barley wine brewed with Whitelocks and released at Whitelocks beer festival in the summer. At Whitelocks, there was a version available of this on cask and it was just stunning. Leading with honey, this was sweet, smooth and really boozy. I have a bottle at home aging, I can’t wait to see what it becomes.

Nice work, Keir!

Best Beer 2017 (UK)

Moving away from Leeds and to the wider United Kingdom for this category. Here’s the top three UK beers I tried in 2017.

3. Brewdog – Punk IPA (5.6%)

Surprised? There were two things that happened with Punk IPA this year, that made me realise how tasty this beer is. The first, was Brewdog getting it into bars as fresh as possible. This really lent itself to the tropical hop flavours coming through. The second, was the special release of Punk IPA original, which was underwhelming I thought. The cynic in me thinks that original Punk wasn’t the actual original recipe and was brewed to showcase how great modern Punk IPA is. Regardless, Punk IPA was on point in 2017.

2. Hawkshead – Tiramasu (10%)

A boozy and warming pudding delight. Chocolate and coffee, this is so tasty, decadent and a little bit naughty! I’m excited to see what the Hawkshead expansion brings in 2018.

1. Thornbridge – Jaipur X (10%)

The big brother to Thornbridge‘s headline beer, Jaipur. First brewed in 2015, Jaipur X 2017 flavour took on more hop character and balanced really well. Aged for a few months and this one really takes off. This always gives me fond memories of a Thornbridge tap takeover in London, earlier in the year. Lovely!

Quickly becoming a classic

Best Beer 2017 (Non-UK)

The world outside of the UK is also full of beery delight! Here’s the top three non-UK beers I tried in 2017.

3. Founders – Kentucky Bourbon Stout (KBS) (11.8%)

As you’d expect in the name, this one was aged in bourbon barrels. What came out of the bottle was rich, peaty, bourbon, chocolate and coffee. Boozy, warming and a pleasure to drink!

2. Alpine – Duet (7%)

I purchased an out of date case of this at the start of the year. Yes, it’s ok for beer to be consumed out of date! In fact, in this case, it was tasting immense. It made me think of a richer, maltier and smoother version of Lagunitas IPA. This was so moreish and, when I had the opportunity to try fresh later in the year at Whitelocks Beer Festival, it did not disappoint either. Superb.

1. Goose Island – Bourbon County Stout 2015 (14.3%)

Another strong, dark and bourbon aged one! Two years of aging and this became one hell of a beer. Deep chocolate, coffee, liqueur flavours, incredibly smooth and rich. If you get chance, there’s an amazing series of videos on YouTube, on how BCS is made, aged and packaged. This beer will likely be rare now to get hold of, but worth the effort if you can find it.

A very special beer

Best Beer Event 2017

I feel fortunate to have been to so many amazing events in 2017 and this was a difficult category for me to shortlist. However, I got there, so here are my top three.

3. Craft Beer Calling at Wylam Brewery

Set in the wonderful Palace of Arts, this festival not only showcased established alongside new brewers, but it was the friendly atmosphere that really made this an enjoyable event. You can read more about my visit here.

2. Thornbridge Tap Takeover at Craft Beer Co. Clerkenwell

A seemingly endless range of Thornbridge beers on tap and a special bottle tasting session hosted by Meg and James. What could go wrong? This was a well-run event and I was made to feel really welcome, despite not having my name down on the tasting session beforehand! Thanks Meg and James, this night will live long in the memory. You can also read more about this here.

1. Goose Island LDN Block Party

This Goose Island party was stand out for me. I genuinely didn’t know what to expect when I had opportunity to go to this event. But, when you have choices of the core range, the sour sisters and various incarnations of Bourbon County stout, you know things are on the up. Add to this a stage for live music, a German-style Oktoberfest celebration and a night club, all in one place, this goes from good to elite. I loved this event so much! You can also read more about this here.

All-Time Top Beers

I frequently get asked what my all-time top beers are, and it is so difficult to shortlist these, let alone list them in favourite order. How do I see these differing from the categories listed above? These are the consistent quality, the ones I always go back to. It’s tough to break into my top three, but not impossible.

3. Lagunitas – IPA (6.2%)

Booo! “Big beer” I hear you cry. But, when beer is as good as this, does it matter who is brewing it, or who owns the brewery? I don’t think so. Having been fortunate to visit Lagunitas‘ Chicago brewery in 2016, I can appreciate what these guys are doing to create great beers. This is the headliner in a great portfolio, a well-balanced beer that does not taste it’s 6.2% ABV i.e. dangerous!

2. Brewdog – Jack Hammer (7.2%)

This is such an intensely hopped and incredible beer! On draft, it’s something special, but in a can, this reaches a new level for me. The smell as you first crack that can and start to pour, sublime. That first sip of tasty citrus fruit flavours, followed by hard and lingering bitterness. A belter.

1. Thornbridge – Jaipur (5.9%)

This was the cask beer that first completely bowled me over in terms of flavour. A real pleasure to drink. On cask, this is like nectar, and remains for me, Jaipur at its best. However, kegs and bottles have complimented the beer so well for consistency and quality. It’s no surprise to me that this beer has inspired so many to brew this style. But, the original is still the best.

Still the king of beer (for me at least!)

Time for the After Party!

So there we have it. Apparently, I like IPA’s and strong dark beer. This was quite difficult but so much fun to compile and I hope you enjoy reading as much as I did writing. Actually, I do have one more category, but I’m dedicating next week’s post to that – pubs! Wishing you all a happy and boozy Christmas weekend, cheers!

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