Generalisations about beer culture

Golden Pints 2022: notes on an almost normal year

Which beers and pubs have we enjoyed most during 2022? It’s never an easy question to answer, but pondering is half the fun.

It goes without saying that this is a personal list. We can’t take into account beers we didn’t have, or places we didn’t go.

There’s also an element of compromise when you’re working in a partnership. We’ve noted where we had differences of opinion in a couple of different places.

We’re going to start with the best pub and work our way up to what, we suppose, is the top award – Best Beer.

Best pub

We don’t have a local these days, or even one go-to pub within a reasonable walking distances. The Swan With Two Necks has become a favourite, and the relaunched King’s Head might become one. We decided not to overthink it and name a pub we wish was our local: The Union in Nether Edge, Sheffield. It’s not a pub we’d necessarily tell people to go out of their way to get to but the experience of drinking there was wonderful.

Best new or relaunched pub

You might have guessed this from the paragraph above. The King’s Head in Bristol, near Temple Meads station was shut for three years and has now reopened under the stewardship of Good Chemistry. After two visits, we’re quite besotted: Edwardian signage, dark wood, interesting beer, ten-sided pint glasses… The only problem is that it’s so small you don’t stand a chance of finding a seat if there are more than about 20 people in.

Best beer shop

We’re fascinated by Pat’s News and Booze, our local specialist off licence. It’s not a fancy bottle shop but the kind of place you buy lottery tickets and vape juice. It also just happens to have an incredible range of canned craft beer from breweries such as Vault City and Yonder.

Best beer city

In the UK, it’s probably still Sheffield, although we also always enjoy a trip to London where you can find anything you want if you know where to look. But we can’t stop thinking about Cologne which we now realise has exactly the right drinking culture for us, with our limited capacity for booze and love of German beer. You can read more about this in our post called ‘Impressions of Cologne: one beer, but it’s more complicated than that’.

Best beer writer

Earlier this year we said we thought David Jesudason was the most likely winner of the British Guild of Beer Writers beer writer of the year award. (He wasn’t, but it was close.) So it’s probably no surprise that he’s our choice this year. He’s got his beat – Desi pubs, and the British Asian experience as it relates to beer – and keeps finding new angles within that. He finds great stories and isn’t afraid to be challenging. We’re looking forward to his book immensely.

You might also want to check out our list of best beer writing of 2022. It includes 20 pieces that made our weekly round-ups

Best beer book

Someone needed to write about working men’s clubs and Pete Brown was the right man to do it. We really enjoyed reading Clubland and learned a lot from it. It’s going to be our go-to reference on this subject from now on.

Best cask ale

We had a bit of a moment here, looking back over our notes for the year, and realising that all the cask ales we’d loved were well-established classics. We’ve enjoyed faultless Fuller’s ESB, astonishing St Austell Proper Job, fantastic Butcombe Original, vivid Oakham Citra, and fabulous Fyne Ales Jarl… It feels weird to say this having left it behind in Cornwall but the one we both agreed on was St Austell Proper Job. Wherever we’d drunk it, from London to Pensford, it’s made us smile.

Best keg beer

Most of the candidates for ‘beer of the year’ we jotted down happened to be keg beers, even though we’re cask drinkers by default. Jess lobbied hard for Siren Pompelmocello, a grapefruit sour which our notes describe as “somehow tasting like Tokaj”. And Ray made the case for Left Handed Giant Weizen, which he liked so much he stuck with it on two separate sessions weeks apart. But the one we both agreed on was Newtown Park Leading Lines, an American-style brown ale. It packed a lot of character into 6% with a lot of pine and citrus – the kind of thing we’d have loved to drink at The Rake in about 2009. It’s a shame the brewery is now winding up.

Best bottled or canned beer

It’s always Westmalle Tripel, of course, but for the sake of variety, Taras Boulba from Brasserie de la Senne has become our other by-the-case beer. It’s dry, bitter, spicy and fresh. There’s a touch of funk, too. You can put a splash in a boring beer and it brings it to life, like seasoning. Spending some time in Brussels this year, and visiting the brewery especially, helped us decide. We’ve got a crush on Brasserie de la Senne, simple as that.

Best beer

Overall, it has to be Newtown Park Leading Lines. That red tinted, redwood forest, forest moon of Endor style is just irresistible to us.

Best brewery

There were a couple of contenders here. Do we name breweries that are forces for good, and do the right thing? Doesn’t the brewery that makes the best beer automatically get best brewery? In the end, we decided, almost a bit to our own surprise, to give the award to Siren. It’s slowly become a brewery whose beers we’re always pleased to see on offer and who, thanks to a constant presence at The Swan With Two Necks, have featured in our ‘beer of the week’ round-ups on Patreon more than most. Their Caribbean Chocolate Mole Cake stout was another strong beer of the year contender.

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