Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Here we are again

Well hello again. It's been a while hasn't it? Returning to this blog was like prising open the door of a long locked room. Will the pigeons have found a way in and covered everything in a foot of droppings? Luckily a quick flick around with the duster and it looks good to go,

It's been a busy two years and I thought long and hard before returning here. If I re-start I really have to keep going but I have some more free time now so with a bit of luck we'll avoid the previous hiatus. I'll also be broadening the scope of this blog as well and venturing outside the Dutch beer scene from time to time.

So, with a suitably retro logo, let's get back on the road with Golden Pints 2017.  I've seen one or two of these already and there are quite a few long essays out there. These will be suitably brief.

Best UK Cask Beer
Many great cask beers have passed my lips over the last 12 months but one I keep returning to is Hawkshead Windermere Pale. It's one of those classic sub-4% beers that the UK does so well (and in the same field as Marble Pint, Track Sonoma, Fyne Ales Jarl and numerous others) and never disappoints. At the other end of the spectrum are two dark beers. In Stalybridge Station Buffet I came across as Stout by Squawk. Unlile many other of their stouts and porters this one came in at a heftier 7.4% and was stunningly good.  A heads up too to a brand new beer from a rebranded brewery. Dan's Brewery in Manchester has become Wander Beyond Brewing and among the launch beers was Cave Dweller a 11% maple imperial stout. Too sweet for some apparently but I thought it was glorious stuff.

Best UK Keg Beer
One beer stands out. By a mile. This is Chorlton Brewing's Cherry Sour. You've got to like sour beers but if you do you'll recognise Mike Marcus and his team are inspired brewers and I really don't know why Chorlton hasn't become a cult name.  This was tried at one of their all too rare brewery taps and it's a beer I could drink all day. At the time I likened it to a British Rodenbach - OK if you put them side by side they'd be quite different but it really was that good and the comparison is still valid. Mike tells me he sells most of his beer in London and Edinburgh - it's about time Manchester bars got behind this local star.

Best UK Bottle
Well, UK bottles actually. The imperial stout and old ale range from Marble in all its various iterations has been nothing less that magnificent. They have all been good and I'm not going to choose one above the other (yes, I know, what a cop-out). Also a big heads up to Marble's Pugin - one of the best, no, the best UK version of a Belgian blond bier I have come across.

Best UK Can
Back to Hawkshead again - their Key Lime Tau is a thing of joy and has become one of my all time favourite beers.

Best Cider or Perry
I've had some excellent ciders and perries this year, particularly on a trip to Hereford in November. Our party called in at the excellent Yew Tree at Peterstow which is owned by Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry. After lunch Mike Johnston of Ross-on-Wye gave us a talk and tasting in the attached shop. We all came away with lots of good stuff but for several of us the Moorcroft & Bartestree Squash perry was the star of the show.  It's a blend of two perry pears - Moorcroft from Worcestershire and Bartestree Squash from Herefordshire. The result is deliciously fruity and balanced with just the right amount of dryness.

Best Overseas Draught Beer
I drink a fair amount in Belgium and the Netherlands and this year have had some superb beers. However one that sticks in the mind was tried here in the UK. In December Brouwerij Kees had a tap takeover at Manchester's Kosomonaut and his Barrel Aged Caramel Fudge Stout was knock-out.

Best Overseas Bottled Beers
I see in my last Golden Pints I referenced Tommie Sjef Koenen as  "one to watch". He was a home brewer then. He's professional now as Tommie Sjef Wild Ales. Having subscribed to his crowd-funding for a new, larger barrel store I now get advance notice of all the releases and try not to miss one. The beers are truly great and turn heads whenever they are tried.

Another Dutch outfit making waves (and naturally below the radar here in the UK) is Brouwerij Demoersleutel which is run by four young (check out the Facebook photo - www.facebook.com/moersleutel)  brothers from Heiloo. I first encountered their beers  at Gents Bierfestival and then picked up some bottles in Amsterdam. Their dark beers are notably impressive. Moersleutel means spanner by the way and they badge themselves as "beer engineers".

Best Pub or Bar
I spend many happy Friday nights in Stockport's Ye Old Vic (sanctimonious disclosure - I actually own a tine fraction of the pub having subscribed for shares in the community company that bought it from the previous owner). Beer quality is excellent as is the atmosphere - and it has become the haunt of numerous brewers and beery people who live in Edgeley.

In Manchester it's difficult not to call in at Cafe Beermoth but perhaps my favourite haunt is the cellar bar underneath the Beermoth shop. 

Best Beer Festival
I seem to go to more beer festivals in Belgium and the Netherlands than I do in the UK.  At home I try and never miss the Hawkshead beer festivals - two a year in March and July (usually) and great days out with superlative beer choices. Two other "never misses" are Liverpool Craft Beer Expo and Leeds International Beer Festival

However my favourite remains Gents Bierfestival. Not only is Ghent a great city to visit for history and culture but it also has perhaps one of the best beer scenes in Belgium. The annual beer festival is in mid-August an always boasts a very imaginative list - what was on offer for 2017 is here

And finally....

Best Book
Like many I have been beguiled by Peter Brown's Miracle Brew (and for the record  his The Apple Orchard was also inspirational).

Well that's it folks. Back next week.


  1. Good to have you back blogging, John.

    As an occasional Stockport daytripper I'd concur on the quality of the Olde Vic, and that Hawkshead was pretty spectacular when I had in the Petersgate Tap recently.

    Martin Taylor

  2. Any chance of a review of all the micropubs in the area coming soon? I know it's a pain doing the 'research' however someone has to do it. ;)

    1. Now that's an idea - it could be a recurring series. Watch this space.

  3. I agree about Hawkshead, John. It's one of my favorite breweries, it's just a shame I can't vote for any of its beers in the CAMRA beers of the year survey!