Boak & Bailey’s Golden Pints 2014

Duvel Tripel Hop 2014

Prompted by Andy Mogg at Beer Reviews, here are our nominations for the best bevvies, bars, book and blogs in the world of beer in 2014.

Bear­ing in mind that we live a long way from where the action is and haven’t been abroad, our choic­es are per­haps a bit parochial and con­ser­v­a­tive. In gen­er­al, though we try to keep a bit of dis­tance and remain objec­tive, you might also want to cross-ref­er­ence this lot against our dis­clo­sure page. And who knows how this list might have looked if we’d writ­ten it yes­ter­day, or tomor­row.

Best UK Cask Beer: St Austell Proper Job

Proper Job pump clip.After much over-think­ing, we decid­ed that we want­ed to recog­nise a beer from one of our local brew­eries, of which we have drunk sev­er­al pints every week, usu­al­ly at the Yacht Inn in Pen­zance, and which con­sis­tent­ly delight­ed us – that is, made us say ‘Ooh!’ and ‘Ah!’ The peachy, pithy, juicy aro­ma gets us every time, laid over a clean, fresh-tast­ing beer with no rough-edges at all. Through com­pro­mise rather than design, it’s been an Amer­i­can-style IPA at ses­sion strength for some years, which is now appar­ent­ly all the rage. We expect to drink lots more of it in 2015.

Best UK Keg Beer: Brew By Numbers Cucumber & Juniper Saison

Brew by Numbers Cucumber and Juniper Saison.At first, we strug­gled to think of any keg beers we’d drunk often enough to form a strong opin­ion – we dab­bled with a lot of one-off glass­es in Man­ches­ter, Leeds, Sheffield, Bris­tol and Lon­don, but didn’t go back for sec­onds of many or any. Then we recalled this beer which we enjoyed back in June and liked enough to seek out for a sec­ond ses­sion. A gim­micky beer from a brew­ery whose beers we don’t find uni­ver­sal­ly bril­liant, it nonethe­less knocked us for six – the beer equiv­a­lent of a clas­sic ‘fruit cup’. (We have also found it good in bot­tles, but not as good as from the keg.)

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Thornbridge Tzara

Thornbridge beer bottle caps.The most con­vinc­ing Kölsch you’ll taste out­side Cologne and, debates over style and styl­is­tic sub-divi­sions aside, one of the best lager beers around. The most impres­sive thing about it is the malt char­ac­ter – sol­id enough to chew on. Not flashy but classy, and a real demon­stra­tion of brew­ing skill. (Here’s what we said back in Feb­ru­ary.)

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer: Westmalle Tripel (again)

Because it’s the best beer of all time, full stop.

Best collaboration brew: Magic Rock/Lervig Farmhouse IPA

Magic Rock & Lervig Farmhouse IPA.This fas­ci­nat­ing­ly com­plex sai­son-IPA hybrid was a con­tender for over­all beer of the year based on the sheer gig­gling joy it prompt­ed when we tast­ed it at the Sheffield Tap back in May. Even though sub­se­quent bot­tles (we bought quite a few) were less excit­ing for some rea­son, it’s a beer we think every­one should try, and goes some way to prov­ing that col­lab­o­ra­tions aren’t just oppor­tu­ni­ties for brew­ers to muck about with their mates and can pro­duce real­ly great results. (Here’s what we said in May.)

Best Overall Beer for 2014: Duvel Tripel Hop 2014 (Mosaic)

We could have cho­sen almost any of the beers above but decid­ed to go for some­thing unique to this year. It’s the Duv­el we know and love but with a bit more oomph from a sea­son­ing of fruity US hops and a touch more alco­hol by vol­ume. Ludi­crous­ly drink­able for a beer of 9.5%, it shows that ‘bal­ance’ doesn’t have to be an excuse for meek, weak beers.

Best UK Brewery…

Because we nev­er hes­i­tate to buy their beers on sight and always find them inter­est­ing, at the very least; and because, for all the exper­i­ments and the hip brand­ing and the leo­tard-relat­ed-antics, they take the mat­ter of mak­ing qual­i­ty beer seri­ous­ly, it’s Mag­ic Rock.

Pub/Bar of the Year: Star Inn

It’s a prop­er pub that also has great beer brewed on site at less than £3 a pint, and it’s a 10 minute bus-ride from our house. An easy choice, real­ly.

Beer Festival of the Year: Birmingham Beer Bash

We enjoyed the wide range of care­ful­ly cho­sen beers from cask, bot­tle and keg; an entire bar of his­tor­i­cal recre­ations; a mixed crowd; Ron Pat­tin­son talk­ing about Bret­tanomyces; and a relaxed atmos­phere. Good stuff.

(But it’s also the only fes­ti­val we went to this year, because we were speak­ing at it, and they gave us free beer, so this nom­i­na­tion might not mean all that much…)

Supermarket of the Year: Waitrose

OK, OK, we give in – Wait­rose does have the best selec­tion of beer on the high street. Our near­est is still in the next coun­ty over, but there’s no deny­ing the child-in-a-sweet-shop thrill of see­ing those shelves groan­ing with good­ies, and at fair­ly rea­son­able prices, too.

Independent Retailer of the Year: Red Elephant, Truro

It’s our near­est spe­cial­ist bot­tle shop and is way bet­ter than some­thing so far from a major city has any need to be. We nev­er fail to find some­thing inter­est­ing and, though it can seem a touch pricey, there is a dis­count for CAMRA mem­bers which take the sting out.

Online Retailer of the Year: Beer Ritz

This was a tough deci­sion because we use Beer Mer­chants more often – the web­site is bet­ter and it has a bet­ter choice of Bel­gian and Ger­man beers. This year, how­ev­er, Beer Ritz wins on the basis of the selec­tion of British beers avail­able, and the speed and qual­i­ty of ser­vice.

Best Beer Book or Magazine: The Homebrewer’s Guide to Vintage Beers by Ron Pattinson

Detail from the Homebrewer's Guide to Vintage Beer by Ron Pattinson.Ron Pattinson’s ring-bound book dis­tils years of ram­bling, pon­der­ing and rag­ing on his blog into a sin­gle read­able vol­ume – a crash course in beer his­to­ry for the TL;DR crowd. The recipes are inspir­ing and edu­ca­tion­al, too, of course, but you don’t need to be a home brew­er to get some­thing out of it.

Best Beer Blog or Website: Larsblog

OK, this is get­ting embar­rass­ing, but the fact is, we think Lars Mar­ius Garshol’s work explor­ing indige­nous brew­ing tra­di­tions in Nor­way, the Baltic and beyond is real­ly impor­tant. It doesn’t hurt that he also writes well, high­light­ing char­ac­ters and sto­ries, and deft­ly evok­ing remote and inter­est­ing places. (For the short list, see our Gold­en Posts.)

Fiz: the brewery management game (screenshot)

Best Beer App: Fiz: the brewery management game

Let’s be hon­est – the only apps we real­ly use to help with beer geek­ing are Twit­ter and Google Keep. This game, though, became an obses­sion for a few weeks at the start of the year.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer: The Beer Nut (@thebeernut)

He’s fun­ny, shares inter­est­ing stuff, and he’s got good man­ners, e.g. he Tweets links to his blog posts once, not 12 times through­out the day. If we’ve got a ques­tion about Twit­ter eti­quette, he’s the bloke we ask. (For a longer list of good beer Tweet­ers see this post from last week. For the reeeal­ly long list, see every­one we fol­low.)

Best Brewery Website: Thornbridge Brewer’s Blog

We’ve real­ly enjoyed Rob Lovatt’s blog posts reveal­ing the think­ing behind par­tic­u­lar beers and busi­ness deci­sions: this one about canned beer is an all-time clas­sic. A back­ground note of right­eous spik­i­ness only adds to the fun.

10 thoughts on “Boak & Bailey’s Golden Pints 2014”

  1. The best Gold­en Pints list I’ve read so far, prob­a­bly because I’ve had all the beers, I went to BCubed and I drop in to Wait­rose every Fri­day on the way home from work, so there’s not much to dis­agree with here!

    Oh, and I also like the Beer Nut blog. He’s a very engag­ing writer.

    And I down­loaded Fiz last week. Stu­pid game. I drained the bat­tery on two phones on the first day.

  2. Good to see Prop­er Job get­ting the recog­ni­tion it deserves, it’s a shame St Austell seem to put most of their mar­ket­ing exper­tise behind Trib­ute.
    One thing that has always slight­ly trou­bled me; why is the char­ac­ter on the PJ pump clip wield­ing a Union Jack instead of St Piran’s flag? Is this a pre­lude to the mar­ket­ing of PJ out­side its heart­land?
    I did spot it a few months ago in the Bridge Street Ale House, New­cas­tle under Lyme, a recent­ly opened and very enter­pris­ing microp­ub.

    1. Beer geeks take it for grant­ed but for a lot of peo­ple, PJ is crazi­ly bit­ter and per­fumed. It’s sur­pris­ing, in a sense, that Trib­ute is as wide­ly accept­ed as it is, being quite dom­i­nat­ed by US hops.

      Not that we’re experts on Cor­nish cul­ture but we’ve found peo­ple quite hap­py to be thought British, as long as you don’t call them Eng­lish. PJ’s use of the Union Jack is prob­a­bly most­ly there as a nod to the impe­r­i­al ori­gins of the beer style, though

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