In no particular order.
Best UK Cask
I don’t get through a lot of cask beer, as it’s generally pretty underwhelming, hit-and-miss stuff. But the Moor Beer Sloe Walker two weeks ago at the famous Bag o’ Nails in Bristol was an absolute treat. This is a very personal beer for me, as a few years ago—along with Thornbridge Jaipur and Marble Black Marble—it was a gateway beer, changing forever my perception of what a beer can be, and starting me along a beery journey, of which this ridiculous blog project is just part.
It’s delicious stuff and in painfully short supply, so the 250 mile round trip from London was an easy decision to make. The opportunity to hang with some of the pub’s 15 cats was a nice bonus.
Best UK Keg
I could start listing all sorts of 15% barrel-aged Barley Wines and Belgian Quads and whatnot, but The Kernel’s Pale Ale was the revelation for me this year.
Hiding in plain sight, and often overlooked in favour of the brewery’s giant IPAs and Imperial Stouts, the Pales are the bread and butter of the Kernel range, yet when served eye-wateringly fresh, as can often be found at The Lyric in Soho, they’re very hard to beat. Attempting to brew something similar myself has been enough to show me why the Kernel are a world-renowned brewery, and I’m a computer programmer.
It’s almost redundant to mention how good The Kernel are, and it was nearly going to be them, but for me this year has been all about Moor Beer. In many ways an understated brewery compared to some, their keep-it-simple approach to just brewing straightforward beers to the highest possible standards resonates strongly with me. The chance to spend an hour or so drinking and chatting with giant brewery dog Baz at the Moor taproom in Bristol recently remains a special memory, even if he steadfastly refused to pose for photographs.
UK Pub/Bar of the Year
It’s always going to be the ever-magnificent Stormbird in Camberwell, isn’t it. The exceptional selection of beers, the lovely staff and the unnecessarily reasonable prices combine to make Stormbird one of the very finest places to drink beer on the planet.
Extra special mention has to go to The Lyric and The Queen’s Head, both in Soho. It’s so rare to find a proper, honest, individual pub in central London, and I’m lucky enough to have two right on the office doorstep.
Overseas Pub/Bar of the Year
Alright, I’ve only been to two other countries this year, but I’m pretty sure I could travel the globe and struggle to find anywhere of the calibre of Moeder Lambic Fontainas and Poechenellekelder in Brussels, and La Capsule in Lille. Happy, if slightly hazy, memories of all three this year.
It’s clearly non-shrieking beer-drinking sardonic sickpot Matt, isn’t it. A man who knows a good beer when he sees it, and the perfect antidote to the cliquey, self-appointed Twitter beer elite. Besides, who else do you know that has adopted a seagull this year?