Wednesday, 10 January 2018

#344: Golden Pints 2017

It's been a big year for the Destrier offline, especially these past two months, with a busy Christmas work schedule, Brewing and Distilling study outside of those hours and, of course, the small matter of my own wedding in November.

Plenty of beer littered this timeline, of course, and while much of it was noted there was precious little time for typing. As such, in this glorious gap between Christmas and the beginning of studies, I belatedly present my Golden Pints for 2017.

Best Irish Draught Beer: White Hag Little Fawn. It's been around a while, sure, but it's one of few beers from anywhere that I have to order when I see it on tap. It's slick and thirst-quenching and bright and fruity and basically the beer upon which I model almost any give pale ale I brew for myself. Special mentions for Galway Bay's Careen.

Best Irish Canned/Bottled Beer: Otterbank's Brett Brux Stout. This beer, like so many others, is languishing deep in the notebook and absent from this blog but is a superbly rich expression of deep red wine and imperial stout, with subtle bretty funk complexity. Honourable mentions for this year's Two Hundred Fathoms, continually in and around the pinnacle of modern American-style craft brewing in Ireland.

Best Overseas Draught: Virtually all candidates for this category were indeed consumed overseas and while the oily and rich BA Bible Belt from Prairie and Evil Twin sticks in the mind as a superlative beer of sorts, I've had a number of experiences like it and indeed there are more waiting in the beer cupboard. What I haven't had much of is anything like Moor's Hoppiness poured from cask earlier in that same session in Manchester. It was sublime and juicy but not in that sweaty onion way that we all pretend to like about new American IPAs, but in an actual clean, zesty, sweet and slightly bitter orange juice kind of way. Although a touch on the heavy side at 6%, this is the kind of style I'd like to see pouring from Irish casking breweries.

Best Overseas Canned/Bottled Beer: A wealth of choice here, as seemingly most of the beer I drink is packaged and imported. Yet, it's an easy one; Brasserie de la Senne Bruxellensis. Scandalously absent from this blog for now but you'll have to take my word for it; wonderful. Sure, it's one for Orval-leaning brett fans and perhaps many of that group would see it as an unworthy pretender to the throne. I find it more than worthy; drunk fresh it has more of characteristic bretty funk and earth than fresh Orval, while a few months helps it develop that superb dry and bitter harmony for refreshment, complexity and moreishness, as much as those things go together. Stay tuned for more of this. A whisker behind is Boon Black Label, a gueze par excellence that, along with Mariage Parfait and 3 Fonteinen's Oude Geuze, I coveted like a parched goblin. 

Best Overall Beer: I usually don't bother answering this category because it's silly to think you can compare all beers and all drinking experience to find an objective best, but without overthinking it I'd throw my hat in with Little Fawn. Brett Brux may have been a personal highlight but it's not one that I'd drink at any time on any day, even if its limited output hadn't already prohibited me from doing so. In contrast, Little Fawn is a beer for all seasons, and a galvanising inspiration for my own brewing, which wins it this award.

Best Irish Brewery: Another knockout edition of Two Hundred Fathoms, a highly accomplished wood-aged barleywine in Harmonic Convergence, deliciously pale'n'hoppy Althea, quenching Careen - it has been a good year for the brewers and drinkers of Galway Bay.

Best Overseas Brewery: Boon! My love for geuze, already strong, crystallised quite a bit in 2017 and that's largely because of Black Label and Mariage Parfait, the latter of which was my inaugural beer as a married man. In any case I will always champion the consistent, affordable, available and accomplished output of Brouwerij F. Boon.

Pub of the Year: Ever since that trip to Manchester back in March and my visit to Café Beermoth I've been besotted with the place. The decor is dark in tone but calming and airy, clean and geometric but with old bottles and bountiful hop bines offering a contrast around the high ceilings. It struck me at the time as pretty much the perfect place in which to drink beer; bright and big yet comfortable; comfortable yet unfussy; unfussy yet stocking a cleanly presented and clearly fussed-over selection of cask, keg and cellared bottles. I recommend to all readers.

Of course, that was just one visit, and almost all of my other pub visits were to The Bierhaus, so an important mention is called for there. If it annoys you that I keep giving The Bierhaus as an answer to this question every year then I'm not sorry; Cork is small and this place is still the best, and generally continues to improve with an absolutely unrivalled selection in the city, coupled with the all-important genuine interest and passion for the stuff from the bar staff.

Best Beer Blog/Website: Belgian Smaak. Already a fantastic beer and food blog, this past year's run of podcast interviews with the likes of Yvan De Baets, Jean Van Roy and Frank "The Boonbox" Boon has been nothing short of delightful; this is the kind of thing Patreon was made for - we will give you good money for more of this content Breanán. Fantastic stuff and professionally presented with atmospheric photographs and thirst-inducing pour sounds. 

And that's a wrap. Thanks for sticking around for the year and have a healthy and happy 2018.

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