Thursday, 14 December 2017

Golden Pints 2017

Last year I tried my hardest to write my Golden Pints and ended up giving up because it was a year in which I did so much and visited so many different places so I just couldn't make any decisions. This year I've possibly visited even more places, and tasted even more beers so it's still difficult but I'm determined to get something down.

Best UK Cask Beer:

Honestly, I'm still drinking less and less cask beer than I ever have in the past although I've still drunk a lot of it. Here I could just default to a beer that I know I've loved for ages, but I won't. The cask beer from 2017 that really sticks out in my mind is Elusive Brewing Level Up Red IPA; I spent a night in the Plasterers for landlord Craig's birthday a few weeks ago and he'd invited Andy from Elusive down to Norwich along with Iain from Wild Weather to host a tap takeover, and out of all of the great beers I tried that night I just kept going back for Level Up with its juicy, tropical and almost dank and sticky hoppiness paired with a strong red malted backbone. I went back the next day for more, naturally.

Other notable cask beers I've enjoyed a lot are Grain Rye Pale, Almasty Session IPA and Tiny Rebel Juicy.

Best UK Keg Beer:

This is an easy one given my love for quality lagers... Lost and Grounded Keller Pils is as good as any top of the line lager I've had in Germany. It's crisp, fresh and highly smashable. I just wish it was available on tap here all of time.

Other notable keg beers from this year are Thornbridge Lukas, Adnams Earl Grey Lager & Three Blind Mice Juice Rocket.

Best UK Small Pack:

To be honest I'm pretty much blind to whether a beer comes in a bottle or can; it really doesn't matter to me so I don't think it's necessary to have separate sections like many people do. Fourpure Juicebox has been outstanding every time I've had a can of it this year because it does what it says on the tin, it's bursting full of hoppy fruit juice flavours but isn't overly sweet so I can literally chug a bag of cans.

I've had a lot of other great small pack beers too obviously, with highlights being Burnt Mill Pintle, Magic Rock Shredder & Weird Beard Gumball.

Best Overseas Draught Beer:

This is possibly even harder than the British section considering I've spent 5 days in Prague and 16 days in Germany this year (as well as a few hours in Austria) and have had the pleasure of visiting many little towns and villages whilst I've been there.

The thing is, as many decent IPAs or other non-traditional European style beers I've had it's the lager I go to the mainland for. It was only this year that I first tried Tegernseer Hell (Germany) and it fast became a favourite after finding a bar in Munich in May where I sat alone chugging pint after pint at the €2,50 Happy Hour. It's just crisp, refreshing and so chuggable because in Germany the beer is never overchilled.

Other highlights were Orcabrau Wanderlust (Germany), Permon Cryohop Mosaic (Czech Republic) & Mahrs U (Germany).

Best Overseas Small Pack:

I'll be damned if this isn't one of the easiest sections, even though I've been spoiled rotten with even more great bottled and canned beers from abroad. When I visited Stiegl Brewery in Salzburg for a day back in May I was lucky enough to try some rare bottled beers from their cellar. The beer that absolutely blew me away was Stiegl Jahrgangsbier 2015 - Sonnenk√∂nig II (Austria), a tequila barrel aged double witbier. Holy fuck, it was beautiful. You could taste the barrel ageing and sweet agave from the tequila which married well with the classic orange and coriander flavours of a witbier. I only had a few mouthfuls in the tasting cellar but popped the cap back on and snuck it out with me, only to drink the rest on the train back to Munich.

Some other packaged overseas beers I've really enjoyed are Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout (USA), Evil Twin Old Fashioned Lemonade IPA (USA) & Berliner Kindl Pilsner (Germany).

Best Collaboration Beer:

I've got a bit of an issue with collaboration beers unless it's for a particular special event, but I'll save that for another time. One thing I'll say though is that I've probably had tons of collaboration beers this year, but they're not always labelled properly in pubs.

My favourite has been Duration / Left Handed Giant Strategic Partnership which I spent an evening drinking with Bates & Miranda from Duration. It was murky as hell, and juicy as hell. Would totally drink again.

Other notables include Duration / Deya This Ain't My First Rodeo & Brewdog Berlin / BRLO Dr Frank's Happy Pils.

Best Overall Beer:

Lost and Grounded Keller Pils. Just send a keg to my house please.

Best Branding:

The new Suffolk brewery Burnt Mill have awesome branding. The keg badges look great and the cans look even better.

Best UK Brewery:

This is bloody difficult but I reckon Magic Rock because I will order one of their beers every time I see it on keg or cask, and grab their cans every time I see them. They're just consistently good and have a broad range of beers.

Honourable mentions for Thornbridge and of course Oakham.

Best Overseas Brewery:

Again, I've been spoiled this year but I'll go for Pivovar Matuska (Czech Republic). They brew hop forward beers like Raptor and Apollo Galaxy IPA and I'll order them every time I see them. In fact this year in Prague I think we walked about 2 miles to a bar we'd not been to before just in the hope they had a Matuska Beer. They did.

Special mentions for BRLO (Germany) & Stiegl (Austria).

Best New Brewery Opening:

I've really been impressed with two new breweries locally - Burnt Mill & Ampersand and can expect to see big things from them in the future. And of course you have to look out for Duration because if their collabs have been anything to go by...

UK Pub/Bar of the Year:

The Plasterers Arms in Norwich, obviously. Everything from the best cask & keg beers in the country, to the biggest bottle list in Norwich that's packed full of rarities from around the world, the frequent tap takeovers, the delicious pizzas and the complimentary rude service from Craig, the Manager makes it the best pub in Norwich.

Other pubs I enjoyed drinking were The Stoneworks in Peterborough and Brewdog Norwich.

Best New UK Pub/Bar of the Year:

Downstairs at Hawthorne in Norwich. It's not a craft beer bar and primarily a cocktail bar, but they do have decent beers like Trumans Lager on tap. Besides, mine's an Old Fashioned.

Best Overseas Bar of the Year:

The Muted Horn in Berlin was an absolute standout bar for me this year... 22 taps of incredible craft beer from all around the world at reasonable prices in the heart of Berlin along with the friendliest service we got in Berlin.

Other overseas bars I absolutely loved were Klub Malych (Pilsen) and Pivovarsky Klub (Prague).

Best New Overseas Bar of the Year:

I have to pick Beertime in Prague for this one because we stay in Smichov every time we go to Prague and up until now, the immediate area to where we stay has been devoid of craft beer up until now. Prices were reasonable, the courtyard was sunny and you can get a pint of Double IPA served in a Nonic pint glass for around £3.

The only other I can think of is Boeheim Bierhalle in Nuremberg which was great.

Best Brewery Tap of the Year:

Obviously Stone Brewing World & Bistro in Berlin. 75 taps of deliciousness in a massively awesome space. Only downside is how far out of the centre it is!

See also Schanzenbrau in Nuremberg and Stiegl Brauwelt in Salzburg.

Best Beer Festival of the Year:

I've already written about this but BRLO Brwfest is exactly how it should be done. We had an awesome day there, drinking beer from all around Europe in the sun with new friends.

Supermarket of the Year:

Without a shadow of doubt it's Marks and Spencer. They seem to have cut their range down quite a bit now, but it's for the best because they've really looked at which beers sell and focus on them. Plus they're making waves with selling full cases of beer from the likes of Fourpure and Adnams, which is a tick in my book.

Independent Retailer of the Year:

I am so, so happy that ABV Store opened on Norwich Market this year because it's an absolute blessing. Dan mostly only ever seems to buy one case of each beer which means that almost every time you go in there you'll find something new, but on the flip side if you miss it and it's only a special you'll miss out. Thankfully it's right in the city centre so I can visit on my lunchbreak. Norwich has needed a central bottle shop forever.

Best Beer Blog or Website:

Mate, of course it's Mark Johnson with his blog Beer Compurgation because he's a bloody good and passionate writer, and 99% of the time I can't disagree with anything he says.

Shout out to Andrew Fitchett with his blog Hot Break, too because he's the other Norwich Beer Blogger!

Simon Johnson Award for Best Twitterer:

I'm gonna go for Pilot Brewery because they're just hilarious. I'll leave you with this tweet below:




And I think that's it for this year. I drank so many great beers, in awesome places with some really nice people and it was just so difficult trying to write this in the first place. See you soon for more blogs.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Pubs of Norwich: The Dyers Arms

This is a series of posts where I am planning on visiting every single pub in Norwich regardless of any preconceived views about them. Even if I have been to a pub previously, I won't blog about it until I revisit it for this specific purpose.

It's one of those pubs that nobody has ever heard of unless you've lived near it; it's been there for years, so what's it like?

The Location:

It's on a street corner near several other pubs, and a couple of kebab shops in the Sprowston area of Norwich.

The Pub:

It's grotty and grimey, not exactly small and has a double sided bar, a dart board, a TV and weird seating around the edges of the room instead of in the middle.

The Food & Drink:

Any hopes of a gastronomic or craft experience can go out of the window, and on my visit you couldn't even hope for a brown, twiggy real ale as both hand pumps looked like they haven't seen any use since the conception of CAMRA 40 odd years ago.

The keg taps were blessed with delights such as Carling, John Smith's, Kronenbourg and Theakston Mild.

No Guinness on tap here, but there was a surger on the bar.

If you're wishing to dine, you're in luck because you can have a probably out of date packet of crisps or nuts.

Events:

Late enough on a weekend night you'll probably see a lot of eventful happenings, but a tap takeover it is not. I was told once by an ex-colleague that about 20 years ago he was at his girlfriend's house one night and decided to run across to the pub to buy a packet of condoms from the vending machine; he walked in and someone hit him with a bar stool. Never found out whether his condom mission was a success.

Oh, they show sports too. Unclear whether they actually pay for a Sky TV pub license.

Atmostphere:

Whatpub describes it as "a homely, cosy & friendly pub" but I would certainly not. It's grim and dusty. Not been cleaned since 1963. 

My Visit:

I walked in and got weird looks; I stepped up to the bar and scanned the taps before ordering a pint of Carling because it doesn't seem like the kind of place where you're allowed to order a half. Once the locals (who were shoving as much double cheap spirit and coke down their necks as possible) realised that I'm not a cop, it was OK but still weird.

I took my pint of Carling outside in the cold and stood at a bench that looks like it'd collapse beneath me if I sat on it and contemplated the fact that I never really have any intention of returning.