Boak & Bailey’s Golden Pints for 2017

Golden Pints 2017.

Ah, the Golden Pints – a grim obligation undertaken out of habit rather than joy, a mere ‘circle jerk’, a relic of a past era of beer blogging…

Nah, we like ’em. We enjoy the chance to reflect, and to think about what we’ve actu­al­ly been drink­ing and which beers have real­ly stuck with us down the months.

We also enjoy read­ing oth­er peo­ple’s. They’re often biased, full of odd choic­es, and demon­strate unabashed local boos­t­er­ism… Which is what makes them great. When there are enough of them trends emerge and the same names to crop up again and again. And you know that beers and brew­eries from one part of the coun­try grudg­ing­ly men­tioned in Gold­en Pints from anoth­er must real­ly be some­thing.

We’ve decid­ed this year that an impor­tant test of Gold­en Pint sta­tus is repeata­bil­i­ty – in a land­scape of infi­nite vari­ety and choice, did a par­tic­u­lar beer war­rant a sec­ond pint? Did a par­tic­u­lar pub demand a sec­ond vis­it despite the temp­ta­tion to explore new ter­ri­to­ry?

With all that in mind, here’s what we came up with, omit­ting any cat­e­go­ry to which we did­n’t feel we could give a decent answer.

Handpumps at a Bristol pub.

Best Cask Beer

Our short­list includ­ed Bris­tol Beer Fac­to­ry Papil­lon, Moor Stout, Young’s Bit­ter and Hawk­shead Win­der­mere Pale. All passed the mul­ti­ple pint test and, indeed, all passed the mul­ti­ple ses­sion test. But Young’s Bit­ter, though it blew our minds in the sum­mer, seems to be in the process of los­ing its mag­ic again (the jury is out); Moor Stout, though won­der­ful, excit­ed Ray more than it did Jes­si­ca; and Win­der­mere’s appeal is at least part­ly func­tion­al – we can drink a lot of it with­out a whis­per of a headache the next day. So the win­ner is BBF Papil­lon.

At 4.3% it is ses­sion­able but robust and – per­haps betray­ing our age and the peri­od when we learned to love beer – is a pure, won­der­ful expres­sion of Cas­cade hop char­ac­ter, which we love and rather miss.

Keg taps.

Best Keg Beer

This is par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing to reflect on. For the first part of the year we were down in Pen­zance where inter­est­ing keg beer was scarce, but even since mov­ing to Bris­tol we’ve drunk rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle. That’s part­ly because there’s so much entic­ing cask ale around (the fault line seems less dis­tinct here than some oth­er places) but also down to the fact that when we have explored keg beer, so lit­tle of it seemed to real­ly click. (In par­tic­u­lar, we tried so hard to get NEIPA, half after expen­sive half, but still don’t.)

One that did stick in our minds, though, is Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Marsh­mal­low Porter. We drank it at the won­der­ful Ves­sel in Ply­mouth while research­ing our (now defunct) Devon Life col­umn and enjoyed it in the same way as wack­i­ly-flavoured jel­ly beans or some Hes­ton Blu­men­thal nov­el­ty dish. That is, it was more aston­ish­ing and mind-bend­ing than actu­al­ly like­able, but we could­n’t stop going back for just a bit more.

Marble beers in a row.

Best UK Packaged Beer

We’ve got an obnox­ious answer to this one: it was the 1970 Bar­clay’s Russ­ian Impe­r­i­al Stout Ray bought at a car boot sale for £1.50.  (Tast­ing notes here.) It’s not as daft an idea as it might seem: it turns out these beers are around and can be acquired for rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle. Go and check the grand­par­ents’ base­ment and keep your eyes peeled in junk-shops.

But if we must choose some­thing less hip­ster­ish and obscure then we’re going to men­tion a recent hit: Mar­ble Sai­son du Pint. It’s a clas­sic north­ern pale ale fin­ished with Bel­gian sai­son yeast and the results were won­der­ful – all the fun of Sai­son du Pont at 3.9% ABV! Such a sim­ple, clever idea.

Bruxellensis label.

Best Foreign Packaged Beer

We’ve been devel­op­ing an inter­est in Brus­sels brew­ery de la Senne for a while but this year it real­ly tipped over into out­right ado­ra­tion. Hav­ing warmed up with var­i­ous bot­tles at home and in Bris­tol’s own Bel­gian beer bar, the Straw­ber­ry Thief, on our recent trip to Brus­sels we real­ly went to town. It says some­thing that in a city with hun­dreds of bars and all the Bel­gian beers you could dream of, we kept com­ing back to this one brew­ery, and even­tu­al­ly to one par­tic­u­lar beer: Brux­el­len­sis. In some sense it’s a clone of, or rather trib­ute to, Orval. We need to drink more of both before we opine on the dif­fer­ences between the two but suf­fice to say we’ve now got a sup­ply in and it con­tin­ues to delight.

Fuller's & Friends.
Best Collaboration

We don’t nor­mal­ly both­er with this cat­e­go­ry but it final­ly hap­pened: some­one did some­thing that real­ly excit­ed us. Yes, pre­dictably, as Fuller’s fan-per­sons, it’s the Fuller’s & Friends box set. Brew­ing six beers with six dif­fer­ent mod­ern British brew­eries was just such a classy move.

We wrote up our notes for Patre­on sub­scribers here but, short ver­sion, we loved all but one of the beers. Last week­end, we brought two box­es to a par­ty and they went down well there, too, with some­thing for every taste and, let’s not for­get, at only £2 a bot­tle.

Papillon pump-clip.

Best Beer Overall

We’re cask drinkers by default so our favourite cask ale is our favourite beer over­all: it’s Bris­tol Beer Fac­to­ry Papil­lon.

Best Brewery

This is always dif­fi­cult to call but because we’re always excit­ed to see their beer on offer, because they cov­er such a range of styles, because the slight­ly con­ser­v­a­tive clean­ness of it all appeals per­fect­ly to our palates, and because they brewed our favourite beer of the year, it’s Bris­tol Beer Fac­to­ry.

A group at the bar.

Best Pub

We’re going to put togeth­er a post break­ing down our first six months of Bris­tol pub-going but the head­lines are that the Drap­er’s Arms (our local) is our most vis­it­ed pub with the Bar­ley Mow by Tem­ple Meads a close sec­ond. But we’re going to dodge the fraught busi­ness of choos­ing a local favourite by giv­ing this one, once again, to the Star Inn at Crowlas, near Pen­zance. Its per­haps the thing we miss most from Corn­wall and was on par­tic­u­lar­ly good form for the first part of this year, inspir­ing Ray to write this trib­ute. We prob­a­bly won’t get chance to vis­it again any time soon so this is a final farewell ges­ture.

Lady Sinks the Booze.
Best Blog

She wrote one of our very favourite posts of the year, her pub crawl accounts are bril­liant­ly writ­ten, and we’d hap­pi­ly read twice, three times, four times the amount of posts if she wrote them: it’s Kirst Walk­er (@doubleshiny) at Lady Sinks the Booze.

5 thoughts on “Boak & Bailey’s Golden Pints for 2017”

  1. You GUYS! This has made me so hap­py – who needs a Guild award with an hon­our like this?

    Does this mean I have to write four times as much though?

  2. Ne ipa was briefly my favourite style but by the time I’d got my head around what it was it became the wag­on to jump on. Nev­er had a bad one but plen­ty that were for­get­table and not worth the mon­ey.

  3. This jogged my mem­o­ry to detour to wait­rose for a fullers and friends box. Took longer than planned and ini­tial­ly assumed it was sold out. Hid­den amongst the world lager sec­tion for no good rea­son, it’s not going to sell to peo­ple look­ing on bot­tles of per­oni. Six 330 ml bot­tles for 12 quid, absolute top end of super­mar­ket pric­ing but look­ing at their friends WOW,

  4. Young’s Bit­ter does indeed seem to be on the wane. In fact, bit wor­ried about the future of the ex-Charles Wells brewery/brands; there is no men­tion of them on the Youngs, Marstons or Wells web­sites

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