When Boak & Bailey (from whom this lovely image is shamelessly stolen) publish one, you know that “Golden Pints” are still a thing.
This blog tends to go into an autumnal hibernation period around each ISBF and needs something to apply the defibrillators. Golden Pints are that excuse.
I shall retreat to the format of 2018 to give this some structure. (And again, split Best Brewery into 3 sub-categories)
Best Keg Brewery – Runaway Brewery
It never ceases to astonish me quite how much Runaway seem to fly below the radar. Even in Manchester.
Yes Manchester is a bit of a destination these days with any number of brewtaps open at weekends displaying excellent wares. But the beers brewed by Mark Welsby and his team just hit the required “mark”. Each and every time.
And Mark is a lovely human.
Best Cask Brewery – North Riding
If – as I firmly do – believe that the best Cask Conditioned beer is brewed in the North of England, that narrows the field.
Then it comes down to consistency of excellence. And specialising in the product. There are a number of breweries whose Cask Conditioned beer has been little short of exceptional. Marble, Five Towns, Brewsmith, Thirst Class, Neptune, Bad Seed. But ultimately, it comes down to a simple judgement.
And that is that North Riding Brewery of Snainton nr Scarborough brews simply the best Cask Conditioned beer in the UK.
They get rave reviews on various fora for their dark beers. And my heart is indeed dark. But the Session Pale adds simply outstanding. And their Mosaic Pale rules. Simply rules.
This is – as always – based on which breweries beers have I drunk most.
And – this year – I’ve drunk a lot of beer in The Marble Arch. Marble beer. And the level of excellence has never dropped. Every beer. Be in bottle, can, cask or keg.
Outside of Marble, I seem to drink an awful lot of Torrside. Again, the consistency of excellence. From Mild to Monsters Session Pales to Smoked IPA. Just…. WOW.
I judged a homebrew competition where Chris, Nick & Peter entered separately. Their beers were exceptional then. Then combine the three. And it’s no surprise that their reputation for excellence is growing and spreading.
And rightly so.
Best Beer (Cask) – Five Towns : DJ (I Am What I Play) (Brewed for #ISBF6)
I don’t get to drink much at ISBF. That comes with the territory of being the Organiser. But this year, I managed to get the “afterparty” back, on the Sunday. And I could let loose.
And I got myself some of this big Black Forest Gateau of a beer. And it blew me away. Intense chocolate and cherry flavour with a big roasty backbone.
It made a big impression. And not just on me.
Best Keg – Ampersand Brew Co : Four’s Company
Both of the “best beers” I had were at #ISBF6. And this beer couldn’t have been more up my street. 4% abv. Tart with gooseberry. Refreshing as a cold plunge.
It stunned me. But not so much that I didn’t repeat it. Repeatedly.
Need to see more of their beer up here.
Drink of the Year
Ross Cider – Ardbeg Barrel Fermented Cider (8 Yr Old)
My favourite ISBF experience. And it (inadvertently led to the best thing I’ve drunk all year.
Following extensive “sampling, we’d decided the Ciders for the blend.
Then Mike Johnson (Owner of Ross Cider) nipped upstairs in the barn. And came down with 2 pet bottles.
With carbonation that was champagne fine, a delicious smokiness and dry tannic finish.
It was astonishing. And – quite simply – the best drink I’ve had this year. A cider. This was the year that Cider hit me.
Best International Beer
Dollar Bill (Ballarat, Victoria, Australia) – Cider Barrel Aged Porter
Picture the scene. #ISBF6 set up. Wednesday. First beers hooked up were the Australian imports.
All the Pales were superb, then we got to this. And one taste later and I was pawing the ground. Like a bull about to charge.
Sweet baby Jesus was this good! It was better than that. It was the best beer I had at the event. Roasty, slight sourness, then a tannic fruitiness from that barrel.
The best beer I had all year. And it would have worked just as well on the Cider bar.
Best Beer Event – East West Fest
Small. Intimate. Friendly. Bonkers beer list. And my favourite beer weekend of the year.
We’ve booked our hotels over 4 months ago.
And people who travel to it return. Repeatedly.
Best Brewtap – Double Barrelled (Reading)
This was another #ISBF6 tie in.
Travelling to Reading with Malcolm (Five Towns) to brew with Andy Parker (Elusive). We went for a few “night before” beers at the magnificent Nags Head the grabbed a cab, landing in an industrial estate. And – on entering the door, my jaw dropped.
Here was a place that had been considered as much of the business as the brewery. And planned and laid out accordingly.
Exceptional beer, brewed on site. A magnet for local drinkers and a place more than worth travelling to.
(Honourable mention – Tap Beneath The Trees, Rivington)
Because it’s SUCH a brilliant event.
Pub of the Year – North Riding Brewpub
All of my previous comments apply from 2018. A combination of local and “destination pub”
Some of the best kept Cask Conditioned ale in the UK. Beer brewed in the cellar (and it’s bloody lovely)
A permanent line for The Kernel.
And rooms above (if you are lucky) to sleep it off.
If I wasn’t babysitting my heart’s joy, then I’d be there on New Year’s Eve.
(Honourable Mentions – The Brink (Home), The Marble Arch & The Nags Head)
Best New Bar /Brewtap – Marble
Located just off a regular and reliable bus route (No 50 from Mcr to Media City) and a short walk from the Metrolink tram, they’ve done a fabulous job converting some brewery space into a place both to goggle at the shiny new brew kit and drink some exceptional brewery fresh beer.
And – for #ISBF7 attendees – it’s a 10 minute bus ride from almost outside the door.