Our Golden Pints of 2019

It must be the end of the year… Wait, no, the end of the decade – because here we are, once again, debating which pubs and beers we want to declare The Best of 2019.

It gets easier, this, when it’s a habit. Throughout the year we find ourselves saying to each other: “Could this be a contender?” We keep notes, we check-in every now and then, and so half the post half-written by October.

It also helps that we’ve been reporting to our Patreon supporters on the best beers of each weekend most weeks and so have a decent record of what really impressed us.

As last year, though, it’s amazing how often that’s The Usual Suspects – Young’s Ordinary, St Austell Proper Job, Dark Star Hophead, Bass, Oakham Citra or JHB, Titanic Plum Porter, Hop Back Summer Lightning… Classics, in other words.

Bristol Beer Factory might have won more awards if its range was a bit more stable. As it is, the many excellent but barely distinguishable pale-n-hoppy cask ales we enjoyed from them never seem to be on sale with any regularity to we never quite get to know them.

Now, then – the awards.

The Drapers Arms -- a table with beer and filled rolls.

Best Bristol pub – The Drapers Arms

Yes, again, but how could it be anything else? We go at least once every week, usually more like twice or three times, and it’s got to the point where we can’t be remotely objective about it. It’s also become a kind of office for us – somewhere to meet visitors to Bristol, such as the charming Texans we got sloshed with in the summer. And we’ve never felt more like part of the community than when our neighbours responded to Jess’s call for apples.

Runner-up: The Good Measure.


The Laurieston.

Best non-Bristol pub – The Laurieston, Glasgow

A historic building with period decor is obviously exciting but when the beer is also great, and the service, and the atmosphere, you’ve got a winner.

Runner-up: The Waterloo, Shirley, Southampton.


Au Stoemelings.

Best overseas bar – Au Stoemelings, Brussels

This is a fairly basic bar with what, by Belgian standards, a bog standard beer list, but we loved it because (a) we found it ourselves and (b) it felt so real. We got the impression that if we’d sat in the corner for a week, we’d have come away with material for an 800-page novel.

Runner-up: Cafe Botteltje, Ostend.


Best cask beer – Five Points Pale Ale

When it came on at The Drapers, we couldn’t stop drinking it, and nor could Ray’s parents. On multiple occasions, we schlepped across London to The Pembury determined to drink it. Softness, fruitiness, peachy goodness… It’s a great beer.

Runner-up: Bath Ales Prophecy.


Best bottled beer – Westmalle Tripel

We barely drink bottled beer these days but this one… This is irresistible. Still the best beer in the world.

Runner-up: Augustiner Helles.


Best keg beer – Bristol Beer Factory White Label

A 3.3% pale ale with Belgian yeast is more or less the perfect concept and this particular example really delivered. One of those beers we marked up as CONTENDER? In about May and revisited a couple of times thereafter.

Runner-up: Bristol Beer Factory Banoffee Pies.


Best beer overall – Five Points Pale Ale

See above. And the fact is, cask ale is what we like best.


Best brewery – Stroud

We thought long and hard about this but, looking back over a year’s-worth of notes, saw Stroud’s name popping up time and again in the Beers of the Weekend posts on Patreon. This award, we think, has to be about consistency as much as moments of brilliance and the facts is that we’re always relieved to see their name on the board at The Drapers. Their Budding has become a go-to bitter, too. But there’s plenty to get excited about, too: towards the end of the year, they produced a stunning, irresistible cask Rauchbier.

Runner-up: Moor.


Best blog – Tandleman

One of the last of the old school, blogging for the sake of blogging, drinking beer and visiting pubs not many others notice, writing with a voice so strong it nearly knocks you off your feet.

Runner-up: Bring on the Beer


Best beer Twitter – The Beer Nut @TheBeerNut

Again. Possibly forever. Who knows.

Runner-up: Jezza @BonsVoeux1

Our Golden Pints for 2018

This is always an interesting exercise for us but all the more so as we’ve got better at keeping records throughout the year.

Those records, in the form of just-about-weekly Patreon posts on which beers we’ve enjoyed most each weekend and spreadsheets from #EveryPubInBristol, help to avoid the recency effect and push us to be honest.

So, after a good bit of back-and-forth over Lemsips on Wednesday night, here’s our list of the best beers and pubs of the year.

The best English pub of 2018

It’s been a year of pub lists for us (1 | 2 | 3 | 4) and we’ve visited some great places that were new to us, as well as looping back to old favourites.

But let’s be honest, there’s only one winner: our local, The Drapers Arms, on Gloucester Road in Bristol.

The Drapers Arms -- a collage.
A selection of our ‘Drapers‘ photos from Twitter.

It’s a micropub and has funny hours. It tends to be either a bit quiet (Monday evening, Saturday afternoon) or crammed (the entire rest of the time). Occasionally, we wish there was a regular, reliable beer on the list.

But the stats speak for themselves: at the time of writing, we’re just shy of our hundredth visit since moving to Bristol. (Not including the times one of us has been in without the other.)

Now, that’s partly down to proximity – it really is the closest pub to our house – but we’ve challenged ourselves on this: is our number three pub, the Barley Mow near Temple Meads, better than the Drapers? No, it isn’t.

Best Pub: the Drapers Arms.
Best non-Bristol pub

The Royal Oak at Borough, London, is the best pub in London, for now, and that’s not opinion, it’s scientific fact. Sussex Best! Those salt beef sandwiches!

The best Belgian bar

We find ourselves going back to Brasserie De L’Union in Saint-Gilles, Brussels, so that’s our winner. It’s earthy, a bit grotty, utterly bewildering, and there’s usually someone behaving downright weirdly. The beer is cheap, the service cheeky, and a diplomat’s girlfriend forced us to accept a gift of exotic fruit. And maybe the most important thing – we found it for ourselves.

The best German beer garden

We had such a nice time pretending to be regulars at the Michaeligarten in Munich in the autumn and can’t stop dreaming about going there again.

The best beer of 2018

Certain beers came up repeatedly in our Beers of the Weekend posts on Patreon, some of which surprised us when we looked back:

  • Young’s Ordinary
  • Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
  • Lost & Grounded Keller Pils
  • Five Points Pils
  • Bath Ales Sulis
  • Bristol Beer Factory Pale Blue Dot
  • Harvey’s Sussex Best
  • Dark Star Hophead
  • Thornbridge Jaipur
  • De la Senne Taras Boulba
  • Tiny Rebel Stay Puft and Imperial Puft
  • Titanic Plum Porter
  • Zero Degrees Bohemian
  • Zero Degrees Dark Lager

And there were also some one-offs that we remembered, and remembered fondly, even months down the line: Siren Kisetsu, a saison with yuzu fruit and tea, for example, or Elgood’s Coolship Mango Sour.

But there’s one beer that we both agreed has become a favourite – that we find ourselves excited to encounter, and sticking on when we find it in a pub – and that’s Cheddar Ales Bitter Bully. It’s clean, consistent, properly bitter, and a very digestible 3.8%. It also almost in that northern style for which we’ve got such a soft spot.

Best Beer: Bitter Bully.
Best foreign beer

Based on volume consumed, and time spent dreaming about, it’s got to be De la Senne Taras Boulba.

Best Tripel

Look, we’ve been over this: it’s Westmalle, but, boy, are we loving Karmeliet right now.

Best blend

Tucher Weizen with Oakham Green Devil – Hopfenweisse!

Best blog/writer

With a year’s worth of news, nuggets and longreads posts to look over, this is another we don’t need to leave to guesswork because certain blogs (or writers) got linked to time and again:

But there’s one blog we reckon stands above the rest for its frequency and depth, and for the measured insight it offers into a beer culture not our own, and that’s Jeff Alworth’s Beervana.

Best blog: Beervana.Best beer Twitterer

It’s @thebeernut. Again.

Best beer publication

Original Gravity because it’s different, both in terms of editorial approach (creative, impressionistic, thematic) and distribution model (free, in pubs). Good job, ATJ! (Disclosure: we’ve been paid to write a couple of bits for OG.)

* * *

And that’s us done. We’ll also try to find time for our usual Best Reading and Best Tweets round-ups in the next week or so.

Boak & Bailey’s Golden Pints for 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.

Continue reading “Boak & Bailey’s Golden Pints for 2017”

Other People’s Golden Pints, AKA Our To Do List

Inhaler and Fort Smith cans, crushed.

With the idea in mind that January is a good time to try new things we’ve been looking at other UK bloggers’ Golden Pints posts for inspiration.

Some headlines: Northern Monk’s cans are impressing people (as they have us) and Buxton crop up frequently in the bottled beer category. Other recurring names are Beavertown and Magic Rock (the usual suspects, you might say) and Torrside, about whom we know nothing, but maybe that’s a Manchester mafia thing?

Our plan was to order as many of the bottled and canned beers as possible (or, rather, as is reasonable given our budget) and hopefully try a few beers we wouldn’t otherwise think to order.

The problem is that so far it’s proved tricky because the vast majority of the beers nominated are one-offs or limited editions released months ago and long out-of-stock everywhere we’ve checked. The few that weren’t — Magic Rock Inhaler, Five Points IPA, Buxton Axe Edge — we’ve already had more than once.

So, instead, we’ll using people’s suggestions as a hit list of breweries for 2017 rather than specific beers.

Anyway, in case you reckon you might have more luck than us here’s the list we came up with based on all the Golden Pints posts we could find using Google and Twitter:

  • Alphabet Flat White (Hop Hideout)
  • Almasty Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout (Myles Lambert)
  • Beavertown Bloody ‘Ell (Martin Oates)
  • Beavertown ‘Spresso (Brewers’ Journal/Steve Lamond)
  • Beavertown Imperial Lord Smog Almighty (Glenn Johnson)
  • Burning Sky Saison Anniversaire (Matt Curtis)
  • Buxton Anglo-Belgique IPA (Beer O’Clock Show/Steve Lamond)
  • Buxton Axe Edge (Mashtun & Meow)
  • Buxton Bourbon Skyline (Beer Geek Blog)
  • Buxton Yellow Belly (Beernomicon)
  • Cloudwater DIPA V3 (Half Pint Gentleman)
  • Cloudwater DIPA V4/V5 (Hop Hideout)
  • Cloudwater DIPA V6 (Sharky)
  • Five Points Hook Island Red (Ian Cann)
  • Five Points IPA (Ian Cann)
  • Four Pure Juicebox (Rob Derbyshire)
  • Hawkshead Tiramisu Imperial Stout (Rob Derbyshire)
  • Little Earth Organic East India Pale Ale (Tim Rowe)
  • Mad Hat Tzatziki Sour (Barrel Aged Leeds, and us BTW.)
  • Magic Rock/Cloudwater/Lees Three’s Company (Boozy Procrastinator/Martin Oates)
  • Magic Rock Common Grounds (Jules Gray)
  • Magic Rock Bearded Lady Grand Marnier Chocolate Orange Stout (Beer Geek Blog)
  • Magic Rock Human Cannonball (Myles Lambert)
  • Magic Rock Inhaler (Half Pint Gentleman/Craft Beer Channel)
  • Marble Portent of Usher (Chris Elston)
  • Marble Valancourt (Jules Gray)
  • Northern Monk/Against the Grain/Nomad Clan Smokin’ Bees (Ed/Mark Johnson)
  • Northern Monk Heathen (Simon Girt)
  • Northern Monk Mango Lassi Heathen (Beernomicon)
  • Northern Monk/Little Leeds Neopolitan Pale Ale (Beer O’Clock Show)
  • Northern Monk Holy Trilogy series (Beernomicon/Barrel Aged Leeds)
  • Old Dairy Tsar Top (Ed)
  • Red Willow Weightless (Boozy Procrastinator)
  • Thornbridge Days of Creation (Simon Girt)
  • Torrside Brewing American Barleywine (Mark Johnson/Beers Manchester)
  • Up Front Ahab (Barm)
  • Verdant Pulp (Sharky)
  • Vibrant Forest Imperial Red IPA (Glenn Johnson)
  • Wild Beer Squashed Grape (Joe Tindall)
  • Wylam Jakehead (Beernomicon)

Now, that’s specifically the beers named under bottles/cans — some bottled and canned beers were named in other categories such as, quite importantly, BEST BEER. (That probably explains Cloudwater’s relatively modest showing.)

We probably also just missed some lists altogether — it’s nothing personal, just let us know below and we’ll add a link (terms and conditions apply) — and there are a few more on the way, now that 2016 is actually over. But, anyway, it’s something to think on for now, isn’t it?

 

The Month That Was: November 2016

November 2016 (text over picture of pub ceiling).

November was a moderately productive month with a smattering of posts that we reckon stood out as a bit better than usual, plus all the side orders dished up on Facebook and Twitter. (Do give us a like/follow.)

A quick side note: December being the month of lists, round-ups and predictions, we’re going to be putting together a Golden Pints piece as usual but, this time, it’s going in our email newsletter rather than on the blog. Sign up if you’re interested in knowing which was our favourite crown cap design (UK) and to find out who gets the award for best use of grapefruit juice. But now, back to business.


We started the month, like almost everyone else, by having opinions about Anthony Bourdain’s opinions about beer: ‘STOP TELLING PEOPLE THE BEER THEY ARE DRINKING IS THE WRONG BEER UNLESS THEY SPECIFICALLY ASK YOU FOR ADVICE!’

Continue reading “The Month That Was: November 2016”

B&B’s Golden Pints 2015

Andy ‘Beer Reviews’ Mogg kicked off this year’s Golden Pints yesterday and, as this is about the one thing we try not to over-think, without much agonising, here’s our contribution.

Best UK Cask Beer: Penzance Brewing Company Trink

pztrinkpcA strong pale’n’hoppy (5.2% ABV) that we used to trek to the Star Inn for but which, this year, has become a regular at the Dock Inn in Penzance. (Causing us to all but abandon our usual Proper Job at the Yacht round the corner.) It’s so much fun to drink, with all those tropical fruit and citrus aromas climbing out of the glass, that we always end up having one more than we ought but we forgive it for the hangovers nonetheless.

Best UK Keg Beer: None

We’ve not been around the UK much this year and there isn’t all that much kegged beer down here in Cornwall so we struggled to think of an obvious candidate. We might have said St Austell Korev or, searching old Tweets, the Marble Lagonda that got us all fired up back in March but, really, neither feels quite right. So, we’re leaving this one blank. (Hereafter, if we haven’t got a nomination, we’re leaving the category out altogether.)

BrewDog Electric India in the glass.

Best UK Bottled Beer: BrewDog Electric India

It impressed us in the heats of our saison taste-off and then stood up to, and bettered, Saison Dupont in the final. BrewDog, we think, are at their best making decent, good value, slightly pepped-up versions of foreign styles.

Continue reading “B&B’s Golden Pints 2015”

Boak & Bailey’s Golden Pints 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.)

Continue reading “Boak & Bailey’s Golden Pints 2014”

Golden Pint Awards 1993

By 1993, Boak & Bailey’s beer newsletter was no longer a few stapled sheets.

goldenpints93-2

The December edition of that year was printed on glossy paper and contained features on the demise of Newquay Steam Beer; the meaning of the term ’boutique beer’; and a review of Barrie Pepper’s Bedside Book of Beer.

As was traditional, it also contained nominations for the Dredge & Mogg Golden Pint awards.

Read the rest after the jump →

B&B’s Golden Pints 2013

Cheery-beery!

It’s that reflective time of year again when we try to remember a beer we drank in January.

When we forget about a great pub we visited in March. When whatever we say will make someone angry. When we offend person X by ranking person Y above them.

But it isn’t about us. It’s about the consensus that emerges from fifty such posts across the blogoshire. With that in mind, here are our few drops in the ocean.

(With thanks, as ever, to Mark Dredge and Andy Mogg for organising.)

Best UK Cask Beer

The cask ale we’ve enjoyed the most this year was probably Oakham Citra (4.2% ABV) at the Wellington in Birmingham, which we could still taste all the way back to Penzance.  But the cask beers we’ve enjoyed most often have to be St Austell Proper Job, St Austell Tribute, Spingo Middle, Penzance Brewing Co. Potion 9 and — brace yourselves — Bass Pale Ale. Let’s warm up by making sense of that:

  • 1st place: St Austell Proper Job
  • 2nd place: Oakham Citra
  • 3rd place: PZBC Potion 9

Read the rest of our Golden Pints after the jump →

Golden Pints 2012

GoldenPint_2012

Our contribution to the annual blogging jamboree masterminded by Beer Reviews Andy and Mark Dredge.

Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer: St Austell 1913 Stout (version 1).

We prepared a shortlist of beers we’ve enjoyed so much we’ve drunk more than we meant to. St Austell Proper Job was on that list as was Penzance Brewing Co’s Potion 9, and Spingo Ben’s Stout. 1913 Stout has it, though, because (a) it was so delicious we drank too much two nights in a row and then (b) took what was left after the Dock Inn beer festival in a growler. (But note: version 2 was weaker and not quite as exciting.)

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Oakham Green Devil IPA.

We had a very strong, positive gut-reaction to this beer which you might call ‘love at first sip’. We used it at our first talk at the Eden Project and the crowd loved it; by the time the second talk came round, it had all been stolen, which says it all. (Runners up: Sharp’s Connoisseur’s Choice Honey Triple; Brewdog Punk IPA, our go-to fridge beer.)

Best Overseas Draught Beer.

We haven’t had all that many this year (overseas draught beer doesn’t really get this far west) but we seem to remember enjoying Brewfist Spaceman IPA in London during the Olympics, so let’s say that.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer.

We’re boring: Achel Tripel. (It was Westmalle Tripel last year.)

Best Pumpclip or Label.

This one for Tap East Kellerman because that’s Boak’s little brother on it, as depicted by Philippe Fenner. (Aww…)

Best UK Brewery.

We don’t really feel equipped to say as there are several ‘hot’ breweries whose beer we’ve never tried but, what the Hell… the Blue Anchor/Spingo brewery at Helston. Spingo Middle is our regular drop at the Dock Inn in Penzance and (the occasional quality wobble aside) the beer at the brewery/pub/brewpub is generally excellent, not to mention increasingly adventurous. (Pale Rauchbier!)

Beer Festival of the Year.

The St Austell Celtic Beer Festival had an exciting beer list and a buzzing atmosphere, so let’s say that. (Disclosure!)

Supermarket of the Year.

Waitrose for the simple reasons that (a) we came back from a trip to Exeter with rucksacks stuffed with Thornbridge beer from one of their stores and (b) Sainsbury’s, Tesco, ASDA and Morrisons never actually have the beers we’re looking for, even if they’re supposed to be on their lists.

Online Retailer of the Year.

We keep coming back to Beer Merchants who seem to have what we’re looking for at the right prices and who have delivered everything promptly and (touch wood) intact. (But there’s no one retailer who’s website and stock list is perfect.)

Best Beer Book or Magazine.

Pete Brown’s Shakespeare’s Local. It’s not a list of beers we have to try; it’s not a beginners guide; and it made us laugh out loud more than once.

Best Beer Blog or Website.

Martyn ‘Zythophile’ Cornell’s blog has it — rigorous, compelling and readable. (To note, though: the first blogs we look at every day, in alphabetical order, are A Good Beer Blog, Tandleman and The Beer Nut.)

Best Beer Twitterer.

Joe Stange, aka The Thirsty Pilgrim. We retweet, or want to retweet, almost everything he has to say. He’s not prolific, but it’s all good stuff.

In 2013 We’d Most Like To…

Get ourselves up north on a grand beery tour, especially Sheffield.

Open category: best really old book.

Richard Boston’s Beer and Skittles (1976) should be on every beer geek’s bookshelf.