Dec 28 2021
With thanks to Boak & Bailey for the nudge (and allowing use of the image above), I’ve loosely based this list upon theirs – without the International beery aspect.
2021 has been another year where one took one’s beery pleasures where one could. There was the odd weekend trip, a number of pubs visited, but with my professional role being one where I couldn’t work from home, my trips out of an evening kind of ceased for long periods, public transport making me nervous of an evening – pre-outings LFT tests became a familiar ritual. Anyway. Here goes my best shot….
Beer of the Year (Draught) : Black IPA (Black Jack Beers) This award is spectacularly tricky. Like many, I haven’t drunk a vast amount in pubs. But one evening I had to wander out. I was going to my first concert (I’m old fashioned) since 2019. Caribou (as you’re asking). I stopped off in The Smithfield. For some cask Black Jack. And my eyes lit upon the Black IPA. It blew me away. Just rich enough. Superbly roasty. The hops were singing an aria. The bitterness was deliciously bracing. The beers coming from the kit that was installed earlier this year have been universally superb. I eagerly anticipated the new stuff. Look out for their beer in 2022, they’ll be going from strength to…. er…. strength.
Beer of the Year (Small Pack) : North Riding Brewery – Citra Pale. This award however, is anything but tricky. Straight outta Snainton (a small village just outside of Scarborough) come – for my money – some of the best beers in the UK. As good as the dark beers – brewed by the unassuming Stuart Neilson – are (You NEED Fudge Brownie Stout in your life), for me, it’s the Session Pales that bring me back, time and again. Mosaic & Cascade are both lovely things (award worthy themselves), but the Citra just….. I’m drooling just writing this. Sharp, beautifully citrussy and with a perfectly balanced bitterness. I adore Session Pales. And Stuart Neilson, quietly, is a bit of a master of them. (Divine on cask at the North Riding Brewpub this summer too!) [Try Also – Centennial – Mallinsons Brewery – Quite simply the most lovely demonstration of the lemony sherbet character of this most beautiful of hops. (Can’t get enough of it!)]
Pub of the Year : The Marble Arch – I’m not sure what can be said about “The Arch” that hasn’t already been said. Yes, it’s simply a beautiful edifice. Yes, there is beautiful beer within. Yes, the food is excellent (regular family Sunday Dinners…..). The staff are friendly. It just has everything I could possibly want in a pub. Apart from one minor detail. It isn’t next door to my house. Meeting my friends in The Arch is just the most natural thing in the world.
Brewery of the Year : Marble Brewery – This (as in every year other than last) comes down to whose beers have I drunk most. And that’s Marble. Great session Pales (Arm Bar was a revelation), the mighty Lagonda, Stout (which I have been much enamoured with this year) up to the magnificent Annual Releases (had a full 660ml bottle of delicious Decadence 2021 on Xmas eve – Sharing bottle my ass – simply beautiful beers. Consistently so. And rarely an adjunct in sight. (Runner Up – Black Jack Beers : Big things expected in 2022)
Best Taproom : Double Barrelled – Quite simply, just beautifully done, from conception to execution. Great beer, in great surroundings. And managed to get here with friends (2 for the first time – they loved it too). Mike & Luci should take a well deserved bow. Reading, when combined with visits to Elusive & Siren at Finchampstead – as we did – makes for a great beery weekend. Go try.
Best Collaboration Beer : Antigoon – Neepsend x Blue Bee Brewery – Possibly my favourite beer from #VISBF2. A beautifully rich, roasty and dry Farmhouse Stout, fermented with Saison yeast. I was determined to have both these breweries involved and was chuffed when they agreed to collaborate. This beer ticked all of my beer boxes. Simply outstanding. And not a grain of lactose in sight. Trust me, both breweries will be at #ISBF7 next year!
Er.. That’s it. Brief and to the point. And therefore so very unlike me.
Here’s looking forward to seeing some of you in pubs during 2022. And keep your eyes peeled for announcements re #ISBF7 and further #ISBFHeroes events – coming soon!
Be kind to one another. Jim x