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Golden Pints Awards 2016

Golden Pint Awards 2016

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I know these posts are supposed to be published before the end of the year but I was too busy, well, drinking beer.

And to be honest, they also took me far longer than I expected. It turns out I drank a hell of a lot of beer in 2016 (according to Untappd: 2347 total, 1391 unique!) And the vast majority of them were good. Very good.

Last year I included two runners up for most awards. This year I’ve increased that to a ‘top 5’ for some of the awards. A couple of people disagreed with my stance but I think choosing a top five from 1391 beers is fair enough.

Think of the other four as ‘honourable mentions’ if you like.

Best UK…

Best UK Cask Beer

Best UK Cask Beer

It’s fair to say I don’t drink a lot of cask beer. It’s just not really my thing. But for the right beer  – and crucially, when well kept – it can be a beautiful thing.

3rd: Timothy Taylor – Landlord (Disclaimer: This one is potentially influenced by emotion)
2nd: Magic Rock – Common Grounds

1st: Buxton/Omnipollo – Yellow Belly Sundae

Yellow Belly Sundae is a clear winner for the second year running. I think I prefer the original, but I’d forgotten how much more depth this version has.

Aged in bourbon casks with vanilla beans and cocoa nibs; it’s bigger, boozier, richer and more complex.

Like Yellow Belly, the aroma is mostly peanut butter and chocolate but there is a slight note of bourbon too. While the taste is sweet chocolate, biscuit and nuts with warming bourbon at the end.

Buxton Brewery / Omnipollo - Yellow Belly Sundae
Buxton Brewery / Omnipollo – Yellow Belly Sundae

Best UK Keg Beer

Best UK Keg Beer

Man, this was a tough one. There were just so many amazing beers to choose from. It’s entirely possible I’d pick a different winner tomorrow, perhaps even a whole new Top 5. But here goes…

5th: BrewDog – Barrel Aged Albino Squid Assassin
4th: Magic Rock – Piña Collision
3rd: Buxton – Barrel Aged Double Axe
2nd: Cloudwater Brew Co. – Pedro Ximenez BA Imperial Stout

1st: Magic Rock – Bearded Lady Bourbon Aged Hazelnut Dessert Edition

I’ve been obsessed with this beer since tasting the Bourbon version in early 2014.

Since then I’ve enjoyed Grand Marnier, Pedro Ximénez and Dessert (Cacao Nibs, Vanilla & Cinnamon) editions.

They’re all pretty special and this Hazelnut version is no different. With a massive aroma of chocolate and hazelnuts. Taste is the same and more. Roasted malts, chocolate, vanilla and a touch of coffee. But mainly hazelnuts.

Essentially, it’s boozy Nutella.

Magic Rock - Bearded Lady Bourbon Aged Hazelnut Dessert Edition
Magic Rock – Bearded Lady Bourbon Aged Hazelnut Dessert Edition

Best UK Bottled Beer

Best UK Bottled Beer

There’s a clear winner here. But the other four could easily have been 200 different beers, it’s been such a strong year for UK beer.

5th: Mad Hatter Brewing – Tzatziki Sour
4th: Wild Weather Ales – Skadoosh
3rd: Brew By Numbers – 55|03 Double IPA
2nd: Siren Craft Brew – Barrel Aged Life Is A Peach

1st: Buxton Brewery – Bourbon Skyline

There have been plenty of beers inspired by cocktails but most aren’t very good. I was dubious about Bourbon Skyline too – Buxton’s take on a Whisky Sour – but I trust them so went with it.

I’m so glad I did. The bourbon barrel aged Berliner Weisse is really something.

The aroma is sweet bourbon. Taste is slightly sour, dry and refreshing with bourbon and vanilla flavours coming through.

Buxton - Bourbon Skyline

Best UK Canned Beer

Best UK Canned Beer

It’s amazing how much great beer is available in cans these days. Marble Earl Grey IPA was one of my craft gateway beers many years ago. It astounds me that I can now get it in cans, though not quite as much as having 10.5% imperial stouts in cans. I’m not sure the novelty will ever wear off.

5th: Beavertown x Boneyard – Bloody Notorious
4th: Northern Monk – Heathen
3rd: Beavertown – Double Chin
2nd: Marble – Earl Grey IPA

1st: Magic Rock – Bearded Lady Grand Marnier Chocolate Orange Stout

Despite being a massive Magic Rock fan I was disappointed with their initial canned offerings. Cannonball, High Wire Grapefruit and Salty Kiss are all great beers but the early cans were nothing like as good as on tap.

Bearded Lady Grand Marnier was the first that tasted as good out of the can as I remembered from the draft version.

It’s dark, thick, rich and delicious. Big and boozy with huge orange flavour but smooth and well balanced. Just a stunning beer.

Magic Rock - Bearded Lady Grand Marnier

Best Overseas…

Best Overseas Draught

Best Overseas Draught

5th: Cantillon – Zwanze 2016: Framboise
4th: Mikkeller – Beer Geek Vanilla Shake
3rd: Omnipollo/Dugges – Bourbon BA Anagram Blueberry Cheesecake Stout
2nd: Cantillon – Fou’ Foune

1st: Mikkeller – Spontanquadrupelblueberry

This was one of the few beers I made an effort to queue for at CBC.

I loved Spontantripleblueberry at ‘Mikkeller & Friends’ the previous night but this was something else.

It had the most incredible colour, amazing deep purple with pinkish head.

Then an aroma of intense blueberry and a flavour to match. Almost pure blueberry juice yet it was almost 10%. WHERE’S THE ALCOHOL???

I don’t hand out many 5* ratings but this rightfully earned one. For me, it’s beer perfection.

Mikkeller Spontanquadrupelblueberry
Mikkeller Spontanquadrupelblueberry

Best Overseas Bottled Beer

Best Overseas Bottled Beer

5th: AleSmith Brewing Company – Speedway Stout
4th: Green Flash Brewing Company – Flanders Drive
3rd: Evil Twin Brewing – Pappy’s Even More Jesus
2nd: Almanac Beer Company – Hoppy Sour: Mandarina

1st: Stone – Mocha IPA

This is one of those mind-bending styles like ‘white stout’. It’s essentially a DIPA with coffee! It shouldn’t work but it does.

Initially, it has the smell of a traditional West Coast DIPA then a tiny bit of coffee comes through as well. The taste is hoppy, piney and resinous but full on creamy coffee at the same time.

Stone - Mocha IPA

Best Overseas Canned Beer

Best Overseas Canned Beer

5th: Westbrook – Gose
4th: Stillwater – On Fleek
3rd: Alchemist – Focal Banger
2nd: Oskar Blues – Ten Fiddy

1st: Mikkeller – Spontantripelblueberry

Slightly fewer blueberries than Spontanquadrupleblueberry (a mere 1500 grams of them per litre!)

It’s actually pretty close to its big brother in terms of flavour though, visually as well. It’s really only the thicker, richer mouthfeel that sets the quad version apart.

I’ve never seen that quad anywhere outside of CBC but it’s amazing to have this readily available in cans.

Mikkeller - Spontantripelblueberry
Mikkeller – Spontantripelblueberry

Best Beer…

Best Train Beer

Best Train Beer

I’ve seen people add this category to their Golden Pints. Although, I’m not entirely sure why. I mean what even is a train beer? Just a beer drunk on the train, right?

I guess many people choose decent but generally cheap and accessible beers for their #trainbeers. Maybe stuff available from M&S or Waitrose at the train station.

But personally I like to travel in style and carefully select my train beers before setting off…

5th: Kernel – Imperial Brown Stout London 1856
4th: Oskar Blues – Ten Fiddy (can)
3rd: Magic Rock – Bearded Lady Grand Marnier (can)
2nd: Buxton/Omnipollo – Yellow Belly

1st: Mikkeller – Foret De Troncais Light Toasted

Part of a series of six barley wines from Mikkeller. The same base beer is aged in aged in three different barrels for different lengths of time.

This one was amazingly light and subtle for a 19.3% beer. Flavour wise it was sweet and slightly fruity with notes of caramel and toffee coming through.

It’s hard to imagine a better #trainbeer. I must remember the stilton next time, though.

Mikkeller - Foret De Troncais Light Toasted
Mikkeller – Foret De Troncais Light Toasted

Best Collaboration Brew

Best Collaboration Brew

5th: Beavertown x Boneyard – Bloody Notorious
4th: Buxton/Omnipollo – Lemon Meringue Pie
3rd: Omnipollo/Dugges – Anagram
2nd: Cloudwater / Magic Rock / J.W Lees – Three’s Company

1st: Omnipollo/Dugges – Bourbon BA Anagram

There have been some brilliant collaborations in 2016. Omnipollo have been involved in their fair share of them.

The regular version of Anagram is many people’s beer of the year. But for me, the barrel aged version is even better! I tried them side by side, just to be sure.

This has that same aroma of chocolate, roasted malts and biscuit but with the addition of bourbon and oak.

The taste is just insane. It’s rich and chocolatey with even more blueberry flavour coming through. Then the flavours from the barrel follow; oaky bourbon and a warming boozy finish.

Omnipollo / Dugges - Barrel Aged Anagram
Omnipollo / Dugges – Barrel Aged Anagram

Best Christmas Beer

Best Christmas Beer

Despite BoxBeers best efforts (selling an advent calendar containing ONLY Christmas beers, totally without warning and most very average) I still love a Christmas beer. Well, the good ones anyway.

5th: To Øl – Black Bauble
4th: BrewDog – AB:20 (Not strictly a Christmas beer I know but I had it on Christmas Day and it definitely fits the profile).
3rd: Stone – Xocoveza
2nd: Mikkeller – Santa’s Little Helper 2012 (Tequila BA)

1st: Cloudwater/To Øl – Christmas Cake Imperial Stout

A thick, rich, big and boozy imperial stout with just the right level of spice. There’s a fine line between non-existent and overwhelming and they got it bang on here. The first two times I had it served too cold but my bottle at almost room temperature was absolutely perfect.

I hope this is rebrewed as it could definitely become a Christmas tradition.

Cloudwater / To Øl - Christmas Cake Imperial Stout

Best Overall Beer

Best Overall Beer

This is by far the hardest category. How the hell do you narrow down from 1,391 to just one beer?

It’s even harder because for me it’s not just about the beer. The context and overall experience plays a huge part.

My first time drinking one of my favourite ever beers on draft, Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Vanilla Shake, at the launch party of To Øl’s new bar BRUS in glorious Copenhagen sunshine, was DEFINITELY my best beer. At the time.

But then, so was the Fou’ Foune I had in Cantillon’s brewery. It genuinely tasted better than it ever has elsewhere.

After much consideration I’ve gone for this because it was simply stunning and basically left me speechless. If I could only pick ONE beer to have again, this would be it.

1st: Mikkeller – Spontanquadrupelblueberry

As above…

Mikkeller Spontanquadrupelblueberry
Mikkeller Spontanquadrupelblueberry

Best Branding…

I’m not going to lie. Branding isn’t something I pay too much attention to. So these are totally off the top of my head and clearly not very original.

Best Branding

Best Branding

3rd: Omnipollo (EXCEPT THE POOP EMOJI SERIES!!! 💩💩💩)
2nd: Pipeworks

1st: Magic Rock

Outside Magic Rock Tap

Best Pump Clip

Best Pump Clip

1st: Magic Rock – The Upside Down

Best Bottle Label

Best Bottle Label

3rd: Omnipollo/Dugges – Anagram
2nd: Tiny Rebel – Stay Puft

1st: Buxton/Omnipollo – Yellow Belly

No, it’s not racist.

Buxton/Omnipollo - Yellow Belly

Best Breweries…

Best UK Breweries

Best UK Breweries

Buxton are clear winners here, again. But I really struggled with the next two. At first I thought Magic Rock hadn’t done enough to make the Top 3, they’ve had some underwhelming beers in recent months. But after completing the above awards I realised that some of my very favourite beers this year have come from them. Various versions of Bearded Lady, Piña Collision and UnHuman Cannonball are all top drawer.

Marble take second spot for managing to reinvent themselves in the space of months. From great but fairly traditional – godfathers of craft, in a way – to producing beers as modern and innovative as anybody around.

Honourable mentions go to Kernel, Siren, Northern Monk, Wild Beer and probably several others I’ve enjoyed amazing beers from this year.

5th: Chorlton
4th: Cloudwater
3rd: Magic Rock
2nd: Marble

1st: Buxton Brewery

I’ve been a huge Buxton fan for years. They have an entry in my ‘Top 3’ for pretty much every beer style I drink (Axe Edge, Wyoming Sheep Ranch, Imperial Black, Rain Shadow, Yellow Belly etc). They’re really varied and ambitious in the types of beer they brew yet somehow hugely consistent too.

They’ve had a fantastic 2016, starting with an interesting series of Belgian-style beers including Tripel, Dubbel & Quad. Followed by some stunning new beers like Guatemalan Coffee Extra Porter, King Maker and of course, Bourbon Skyline. Plus, amazing versions of already great beers too: Barrel Aged Double Axe, Single Barrel Rain Shadow, Brett Aged Raspberry Rye Sour etc.

And I didn’t even mention the collabs with Omnipollio!

Buxton Brewery

Best Overseas Brewery

Best Overseas Brewery

I could’ve picked some tiny, obscure breweries here or some elite U.S brewery that I’ve been lucky enough to try a few beers from. But instead I’ve gone for the three I’ve drunk the most over the past 12 months*

*(To Øl would probably replace Cantillon purely on numbers).

5th: Crooked Stave
4th: Omnipollo
3rd: Mikkeller
2nd: Almanac

1st: Cantillon

I’ve loved Cantillon since my very first sip of Rosé de Gambrinus in 2013.

Their beer was hard to come by in the past but I drank more in 2016 than all previous years combined. Thanks mostly to trips to Cantillon Quintessence in May and Zwanze Day. As well as the increased availability of Cantillon bottles in Manchester bars and online from BeerMerchants and BrewDog.

Cantillon Quintessence 2016

Best New Brewery Opening 2016

Best New Brewery Opening 2016

I was really struggling with this award. Last year was so easy with Chorlton, Cloudwater and Vocation to choose between. I couldn’t recall many new ones this year, let alone any on that scale

Until I asked Twitter & Facebook and ended up with a huge list. Not just of great new brewries that I’ve liked but forgotten about. But also several that I’ve missed and now need to check out in 2017 (particularly Little Earth Project & Deya Brewing).

Honourable mentions go to the following breweries whom I’ve enjoyed beers from very much but just not had enough to justify being on the list (but will definitely be drinking a lot more of in 2017): Elusive Brewing, Lost & Grounded, Odyssey Brew Co

3rd: Fierce Beer
2nd: Torrside Brewing

1st: Verdant Brewing Co

I’ve not had *that* many beers from Verdant this year as I only discovered them at Indy Man in October. But the few I’ve had have been fantastic. Bloom is as good an IPA as any brewery has ever produced in their first year. While Pulp is a fantastic DIPA and UTO is an incredible double BIPA.

They recently released several new beers in cans, so I’ll be working my way through the rest of their range as soon as possible.

Best Venues/Festivals etc…

UK Pub/Bar of the Year

UK Pub/Bar of the Year

5th: The Pilcrow, Manchester
4th: The Marble Arch, Manchester
3rd: The Grove, Huddersfield
2nd: Cafe Beermoth, Manchester

1st: Salt Horse, Edinburgh

There are so many great places to drink in Edinburgh. Salt Horse is the newest but already my favourite.

An excellent bottle shop in the day, with beers to takeout or drink in. Along with coffee and delicious doughnuts.

Next door the bar is small but brilliant. With 10 taps of fantastic range and quality beers.

It was the first place I had Buxton & Omnipollo’s Lemon Meringue Pie. And I found Cloudwater DIPA v9 and Magic Rock Wayniac & Hypnotist there before I did in Manchester.

Salt Horse Edinburgh

Foreign Pub/Bar of the Year

Foreign Pub/Bar of the Year

3rd: Moeder Lambic, Brussels
2nd: BRUS, Copenhagen

1st: Himmeriget, Copenhagen

God I love Copenhagen. I could fill a top 5 just with CPH bars: Warpigs, Koelschip, Mikkeller & Friends, BRUS etc.. But I’ve gone for the formerly Evil Twin owned Himmeriget on the strength of its insanely good bottle list.


Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2016

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2016

3rd: Dead Crafty, Liverpool
2nd: Pilcrow, Manchester

1st: Salt Horse, Edinburgh

Salt Horse Edinburgh

As above.

Best UK Brewery Tap

Best UK Brewery Tap

3rd: Buxton Tap House
2nd: Northern Monk Refectory

1st: Magic Rock Tap

Magic Rock Tap

Best Foreign Brewery Tap

Best Foreign Brewery Tap

3rd: Cantillon Brewery, Brussels
2nd: BRUS, Copenhagen

1st: Warpigs Brewpub, Copenhagen


Beer Festival of the Year

Beer Festival of the Year

Despite being one of my favourite days of the year I decided not to include Cantillon’s Quintessence since I guess it’s not strictly a beer festival.

3rd: Leeds International Beer Festival 2016
2nd: Independent Manchester Beer Convention 2016

1st: Copenhagen Beer Celebration: CBC 2016

I think I covered it here well enough here.

Copenhagen Beer Celebration | CBC2016

Best Retailers…

Supermarket of the Year

Supermarket of the Year

I’ve not bought much beer from supermarkets this year. I don’t see the need when there are so many great independent bottle shops and online web stores these days.

M&S are worthy of a small mention as they have a very solid range including the likes of Arbor and Northern Monk. But really the only supermarket I’ve bought from regularly are Booths.

1st: Booths

If you’re not lucky enough to be a Northener, you may not have heard of Booths. It’s an amazing supermarket with quality products, a fantastic cheese counter and a seriously impressive range of beers. Both craft and more traditional.

Independent Retailer of the Year

Independent Retailer of the Year

3rd: Epicurean, Didsbury
2nd: ReAle Twickenham

1st: Craft Beer Shop – Bridgend Services

This place totally blew my mind. Situated seemingly in the middle of nowhere, somewhere between Edinburgh and Perth. It is literally a petrol station. Just one that happens to sell an incredible range of craft beers at very reasonable prices.

And we’re not just talking token craft like Flying Dog and Gamma Ray. I mean full on fuss; New Zealand DIPAs, the Buxton/Omnipollo collabs, 16.5% BrewDog beers, Belgian geuzes, barrel aged imperial stouts, the lot.

But that’s not the only reason they won.

I stupidly left one of my bottles (and even more stupidly, didn’t even realise). Not only did owner Craig go out of his way to let me know, he then offered to drive it several miles to a different petrol station. Because it was less of a detour for my return journey! Now that’s service.

Online Retailer of the Year

Online Retailer of the Year

The main reason I don’t buy a lot of beer from supermarkets is the internet. There are SO many great online stores I could have made a top 10 here (mental note: do a ‘Top 10 Online Webstores’ post in future).

I’ve narrowed it down to the two I’ve used the most (#1 & #2), and the one I think deserves massive credit (3, obvz). The latter for doing an amazing job of competing with the big boys whilst sticking to his beliefs. If I ever ran an online shop, it’d be very much like Hoptimism. If I wasn’t so lazy anyway.

3rd: Hoptimism
2nd: BrewDog

1st: Beergium

I just love Beergium. They’re based in Belgium so we have to pay in Euros. It’s depressing that since the Brexit referendum the exchange rate is pathetic, meaning everything costs significantly more.

But I don’t even care because it has loads of stuff that you just can’t get else where. Particularly big American stuff. In 2016 alone I bought Pipeworks, Dogfish Head, Bear Republic, AleSmith etc.. Not to mention Omnipollo, Amager and Mikkeller stuff that we never see over here.

And to be fair, despite the terrible exchange rate and even factoring in international shipping it remains good value. €2.59 for Rochefort 8 anybody?

Best Media…

Best Beer Book or Magazine

Best Beer Book or Magazine

1st: BrewDog – DIY Dog

Not just a beautiful archive of every beer they’ve ever brewed but the recipes converted for home brewing too! Maybe someday I’ll brew the San Diego Scotch Ale that I missed!

Best Beer Blog or Website

Best Beer Blog or Website

I genuinely can’t think of a blog that I read on a regular basis. I don’t even have enough time to write my own two.

I’m actually going to give the award to…

1st: Cloudwater

For anybody that remembers anything I wrote in 2015 this is somewhat contradictory, I know.

Cloudwater’s blog and social media presence was one of the things that annoyed me about them in the early days. I felt at times they were showing off about the money they spent on a brand new brewery and at one point they had more Twitter accounts than beers available.

And then their early beers weren’t good enough to justify that level of early hype for me. But over time they’ve won me over. I’ve been a fan of their hoppy beers for pretty much all of 2016 (especially DIPAv2 which is still the best). And by the end of the year they were producing dark beers that I love too; Christmas Cake Imperial Stout and Pedro Ximenez BA Imperial Stout especially.

I digress. As well as being won over by the beers I can’t help but be impressed by the openness and level of detail of their blog posts.

Long posts detailing the thinking behind the ever evolving DIPA series, the potential impact of Brexit and the reasons they’re switching from bottles to cans have been enlightening and genuinely refreshing.

A perfect example was published just other other day. They announced this week that they will no longer be producing cask beer. But rather than leaving it at that, as surely any other business would do, they produced a 7,000 word essay explaining exactly why they came to the decision. Including detailed production numbers, sales figures and projections.

Cloudwater Brew Co

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer

I said last year I was ashamed I didn’t even know who Simon Johnson was and hardly follow any beer people on Twitter. I’m doubly ashamed this year that I still don’t, on both counts.

However, I have noticed lots of other people’s Golden Pints mention…

1st: @beerdoodles

I’ve only been following for a week or so but I’ve already laughed several times.

Beer Doodles

Best Beer App

Best Beer App

1st: Untappd

Still. Well I’m not going to stop before 5,000 am I?

Seriously, it is a great app. I initially used it purely to record my own drinking (I may have slight OCD and like to track anything I can). But what I didn’t expect was to benefit from the social side. I’ve met loads of great people because of Untappd including some of my best friends.

It’s really useful for discovering beer too and it’s getting better all the time. With more and more bars becoming ‘Verified’ it should continue to go from strength to strength.

Food & Beer

As a massive foodie I love the fact that I can now combine my love of food with my love of beer. Be it festivals or brewery taps with quality street food vendors, bars with good quality food or most excitingly, top restaurants beginning to embrace craft beer.

Best Beer Snack

Best Beer Snack

3rd: Manchester Egg (From various Manchester bars inc: Pilcrow, Piccadilly Tap, Brink)
2nd: Popcorn Cockles (Common, NQ, Manchester)

1st: Oysters (Indy Man, Cafe Beermoth, Alphabet & Magic Rock Tap)

Holy Crab are a Manchester based street food vendor who I seem to have followed round for much of 2016.

Their produce a range of seafood delights including crab balls, crab fritters, crab sliders, crayfish sliders. But it’s their oysters that I’ve enjoyed the most.

They’re top quality and phenomenally fresh. They come with a lovely shallot vinegar and even beery sauces.

Holy Crab Oysters Holy Crab Oysters

Best Beer In A Restaurant

Best Beer In A Restaurant

5th: Blackjack – Fullhouse (Bretted Double IPA Red Wine Barrel) @ Hispi, Didsbury
4th: Founders – KBS @ Bundobust, Leeds
3rd: Cloudwater – DIPA V10 @ Bundobust, Manchester
2nd: To Øl – Smoke On the Porter, Fire In the Rye @ Ply, Manchester

1st: Buxton/Omnipollo @ Timberyard, Edinburgh

A top class, fine-dining restaurant with an incredible beer list.

Buxton - Yellow Belly @ Timberyard

Phew! That was tough.

Feel free to let me know in the comments whether you agree/disagree or those a glaring omission.

Find out what I’m drinking in 2017 on: Instagram (for when I remember to photograph my beer before drinking it), Facebook (though I hardly ever remember to post anything there), Untappd (I am good at keeping up with that one) and Twitter:


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