Dec 15 2022
2022 – What was supposed to be a year of hope (post-pandemic), has morphed into the opposite for the Independent Beer sector. From the bastards of the SBDRC getting their way – getting the Government to lower duty relief to small micros – to the recent spate of brewery closures.
Yes. This “bubble burst” has been forecast for over a decade. And – until this winter – has never materialised. Covid, post-covid reluctance, tanked economy, vastly increased costs (energy/raw materials), SBDRC bastardry. These all add up to one hell of an onslaught on the Microbrewery sector. That light at the end of the tunnel might well be an oncoming train.
It’s difficult to focus on the positives. But there have been many. And – by nature – I’m an optimist. So…… To appropriate Doreen’s hashtag #LetsBeerPositive!
Beer of the Year – Cask : Redwillow Brewery – Double Heritage Porter (White Port Cask). For those that don’t know, I organise 1 beer festival (Independent Salford Beer Festival) and help out another (@EastWestFest). For the latter, I approach the best I can find, West of the Pennines, to supply a cask (we also had a keg beer this year). When I approached Teg at Redwillow, he offered the DHP. Supremely rich. Marvellously roasty. Light bitterness, with a gentle winey tang. At 8.8% I should have been sensible. I wasn’t. I don’t remember getting back to the hotel……. It was magnificent.
Beer of the Year – Keg : Marble – Decadence – Made venturing into Manchester on a cool December evening SO worthwhile. Rich, dark, vinous, warming. Brilliant with cheese. Simply stunning. (Quite magnificent on cask too)
BOTY – Small Pack : “Goddess of Delicious” (Tomato & Basil Sour) – Northern Alchemy – Earlier this year, The Boss fancied a weekend away. She loved our trip to Newcastle back in 2019, so off we trotted. Whilst there, I heard a tale of a beer which sounded odd enough to be intriguing. I was offered a taster in mighty The Free Inn, but oddly demurred.
Moving onto The Cumberland (aka The Cumby), I bumped into Andy from Northern Alchemy. The same beer was on keg there and Andy encouraged me to try it. CHRIST ON A BIKE it blew me away. So much so, that next morning, I trudged up the hill from the hotel on the Quayside to the brewery to buy a bagful for people back in Mcr.
The can was even better. All the elements were there, like drinking carbonated Tomato water with a really subtle, yet distinct, lift of Basil at the end with a mouth watering tartness. The beer amazed me.
With this category, I have 4 “honorable mentions”. Because this year, I’ve had some simply exceptional beers in small pack. They are : Mallinsons – “Centennial” (Single Hop Pale). The beer that defined Centennial as my favourite hop; North Riding Brewery – “Sun Machine” (IPA). On cask at ISBF it was gorgeous. In bottle, simply STUpendous. I’ve still got some. I’m a lucky fella
Pastore Brewing – “Il Crumble” (I’m starting to appreciate Sours!) This was like drinking a liquidised fruit crumble. But sour. It was simply amazing. And (as above) Redwillow – Double Heritage Porter. Again, simply stunning in can. Even without the White. Port Barrel!
Brewtap of The Year – Tom’s Tap (Crewe) This is for a number of reasons. Exceptional Beer? Check. Warm welcome? Check. Quirky as hell? Check. Sense of Community? Check again. Sean & Jacqui Ayling have done a simply phenomenal job of creating an inclusive, all-embracing beer community, focused on their little taproom on Thomas Street in Crewe.
With their frequent hook ups with the rock station Primordial Radio, the regular, sublime, online cheese tasting nights. It’s just brilliant. Go to Crewe. See for yourself. You can thank me afterwards.
Pub of the Year – (A split award) The Marble Arch / North Riding Brewpub : Two of my Holy Trinity of pubs (the other being The Nags Head in Reading). The Arch is simply a beautiful pub with superb Marble beers and exceptional pub food that will rival many a restaurant (we regularly go for Sunday Dinner). Just a beautiful place.
North Riding Brewpub (North Marine Road, Scarborough) – Because of head exceptional cask beer from the best cask brewery in the UK (spoiler alert!). Because it has at least one – frequently more – beer from Kernel on keg. Because it’s got simply magnificent cellar keeping (the lovely – and bloody talented – Karen). It is yards from the stunning North Bay beaches. And there are rooms upstairs. What else do you want?
Best Beer Event – East West Fest (Wakefield) Simply, the finest, most bonkers of beer events. This is the place where my friends and I go for the weekend (we’ve already booked our hotel rooms for next May!), to drink exceptional cask beer. To laugh. Cry. Just have the simplest of fun. The brainchild of Malcolm Bastow (Ex of Five Towns) it is an event in his image.
We love it. It’s small. Intimate. Friendly. I get the crap torn out of me but a bunch of Yorkshire folk. I just love it. Did I mention it’s held in a Red Shed?
Brewery of the Year (Cask) : North Riding Brewery – Quite simply the best cask conditioned beer. I happily travel for it whenever I see it on cask. Exceptional Session hoppy Pales. Some of the best West Coast IPA you’ll b get anywhere. And superlative, lush Stouts and Imperials. I simply don’t know what else to say.
Brewery of the Year (Keg) – The Kernel. If you don’t love beers from this Bermondsey pathfinder, then you’re dead to me. From Table Beers, through Pales, IPAs to Stouts, Porters and blended beers and Saisons. Everything exceptional.
I remember a conversation with Stuart Neilson (North Riding) about canning hours Pales. His response? “When Kernel start canning, I will“ When I was struggling with keg lines at ISBF, a quick phone call to Bermondsey and Ric (sales) sorted me out. With fresh brews of London Brick (Red Rye) & Imperial Brown. I may have necked a few on the Sunday night.
Brewery of the Year (overall) – Black Jack Beers : The Tap nights are a Manchester institution. What has crept up on some it’s quite how magnificent the beers have been since they took the plunge and installed their new Brewhouse. During the Pandemic.
Risky? Damn straight. But the beers are simply gorgeous. Across a range of styles. Keg & cask. This award generally reflects what I’ve drunk the most of on draught. And that’s Black Jack. They don’t hype, they just make bloody good beer that more people ought to be trying. It doesn’t hurt that they’re a simply lovely bunch of people too. (nudge……. Bring back Dragon’s Tears!)