30 December 2015

Gold and brown

And just like that the year was over and it was time to hand out the Golden Pint Awards for 2015. This is the seventh year that bloggers have been invited by Andy Mogg (and formerly Mark Dredge) to nominate the best of the year's beers, and beer-related artefacts and activities: if you're interested in what I've had to say in previous years, you can find them here for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Andy has expanded out several of the categories this year, and mercifully dropped a couple I never had much of an opinion on, though sitting up here on the first paragraph it remains to be seen whether the re-jig will make things easier or harder.

But before getting stuck in, the customary beer. There's a tenuous connection to the awards as I bought it from the winner of the Best Supermarket category, though longer ago than I realised because it was several weeks out of date when I pulled it from the fridge. Karmaliten Kloster Dunkel is a dark lager from eastern Bavaria, about half way between Munich and České Budějovice, so right in the heart of lager country. It's a pure mahogany brown colour and exudes noble hops on the aroma. Their acidic greenness doesn't go very well with the accompanying dark caramel smell so I was worried it may be a bit gastric on tasting. Thankfully it's not. Crunchy, chocolatey bourbon biscuit is at the centre: sweet, but cleaned up beautifully by lagering so it doesn't linger on the palate. It's also balanced by them hops, adding a healthy burst of celery, still fresh and moist even if the beer is older than it ought to be. The carbonation is little more than a light sparkle and the body is chewy enough to be satisfying drinking without getting difficult. It's a lot easier going than many a Bavarian dunkel I've had, though no less complex for that. Good, accessible quality, which is just what a supermarket beer should offer. And so to business.

The Golden Pint Awards 2015

Best Irish Cask Beer: Giant's Organ
It's always a roll of the dice when an Irish beer shows up on cask, but I'd no such qualms when it came to Lacada's IPA. It was beautifully kept at the Belfast Beer Festival: clean and clear and bursting with sherbet citrus. Honourable mentions go to a similar offering from the very opposite end of the island -- West Cork Brewery's Sherkin Lass -- as well as to Trouble's Centennial SMASH. All three were encountered at festivals. Wouldn't it be nice if pubs got the hang of keeping and serving cask beer reliably too?

Best Irish Keg Beer: Little Fawn
I've taken the decision to award this one to a beer I enjoyed pouring down my neck in quantity this year: it's as good a criterion for greatness as any other. As such, this comes down to a three-way battle between Galway Bay's Heathen sour ale, Rascal's Rain Czech pils and White Hag Little Fawn session IPA. And the fresh hops carry the day. Though I wasn't bowled over when I first had it bottled, the keg version is an absolutely perfect juicy explosion. And at 4.2% ABV you can just keep setting them up and knocking them back.

Best Irish Bottled Beer: Black Lightning
I can't help but feel I'm being a little unfair in this category. There are loads of fantastic Irish beers available in bottle but because I mostly drank them on draught I don't get to include them in the running here. One that I did come back to was 9 White Deer's black IPA, and while it wasn't as amazing as the ultra-fresh keg version at the Franciscan Well Easter Festival, it's still very good indeed.

Best Irish Canned Beer: Kinsale Pale Ale
A handful of Irish micros have cans available now. I have been very remiss so far in not getting hold of the recently-released Rascal's ones. But instead I've enjoyed the casual hoppy goodness of Black's Kinsale Pale Ale, with a bonus thumbs-up for the sub-€2.50 price tag.

Best Overseas Draught: Magma Triple Spiked Brett
Fresh hops and brett: together at last, said nobody ever. But this one pulls it off beautifully. Belgian maestros Troubadour fit the different elements together so well that you don't even notice how wrong it all is. If there were an award for best brand extension, this would also get it.

Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Spontanbasil
It was on my must-drink list for quite a while and it didn't disappoint when I finally got hold of it. I've had a couple of basil beers this year and they were all extremely tasty, but this Lindemans-Mikkeller collaboration takes the prize.

Best Overseas Canned Beer: Bibble
A string of lacklustre beers on a stifling hot summer's day in London was completely offset by a cold tinny of this beaut, swigged on the way along Gray's Inn Road. Shouts-out also to Beavertown Holy Cowbell and Rooster's Fort Smith. The Brits have got this one in the can! *cheesy wink*.

Best Collaboration Brew: Radical Brew
Perhaps I'm taking a bit of a liberty here by not awarding this to a collaboration between breweries. Radical Brew was released by Cork-based gypsy brewer RadikAle with input from Wate