Two hundred posts in and it's time to finally do a proper Golden Pints. I'd really hoped to do a few more posts before this, but rather than agonizing over writing about delicious beer over Christmas, I figured I would get this job out of the way and enjoy drinking delicious beer over Christmas. Now there's a plan.
Best Irish Draught Beer
Few Irish readers will be surprised that this goes to Galway Bay's Of Foam and Fury, coming right at the end of the year and delivering the experience everyone wants from a DIPA. Very honourable mentions go to Kinsale Pale Ale, O'Hara's DIPA and 8 Degrees' Amber Ella.
Best Irish Bottled Beer
Here Amber Ella stood out for me, despite some feeling it was secondary to the draught version. It was fresh and incredibly flavourful, and certainly one of my highlights of the beer year. Franciscan Well's wonderful IPA is a close second.
Best Overseas Draught
Thankfully I actually got some overseas beering in this year, and with some fine results. Ramses Oak-Aged Shire Stout was absolutely to die for in the Arendsnest, while runner-up Ayinger's Altbairisch Dunkel made for a wonderfully flavoursome yet drinkable half-litre measure.
Best Overseas Can/Bottle
Much of the action in this category happened late for me, with stuff from Hardknott, Great Divide and Jopen all seriously impressing. I guess that's what happens when you save special beers for the winter. This is why I wanted to have a few posts done before the awards, as I've yet to write about Great Divide's Belgian-style Yeti. It is amazing; one of the richest, most complex and intense examples of a Russian Imperial Stout I've ever had. Post soon to come.
Best Overall Beer
An impossible choice really, as it could be any of the above. Any answer is likely to leave me feeling uncomfortable. However, when I look back over the year of beer, the liquid that stands out the most will have to be Of Foam and Fury. Whether it was travelling to a freezing Dublin to try it, its freshness in my memory or its genuine top-notchness, I can't ignore the prominence of this beer.
Another tough one, but Brewdog's recent 'Old World' series had gorgeous illustrations by the artist Johanna Basford. As a long-time producer of pen and ink illustration myself, her website makes for great scrolling.
Best Irish Brewery
An easy choice and a victory Eight Degrees. With a barrel-aged stout, a pair of North and South Hemisphere-hopped IPAs, a fantastic amber, and a winter trio of chilli stout, black IPA and imperial stout, they really have been churning out some great stuff this year. All on top of brilliant old reliables like Howling Gale Ale and Knockmealdown Porter.
Best Overseas Brewery
Hardknott are a only a tea-stain away on the world map, and as such are an excellent source of brilliant and fresh treats. I look forward to exploring their range further.
Bar of the Year
Easily the Bierhaus for me. Always a great selection on draught and tap, and the perfect place for an afternoon drink. If only it opened an hour or two earlier. I didn't get to the Abbot's much this year, something I hope to amend ASAP.
Beer Festival of the Year
Of the two I went to? But that seems silly... oh alright then...
Fran Well's Easterfest. The focus on Irish craft beer is much more enjoyable than their October Beer Fest, with the lineup this year yielding delicious Kindred Spirit, White Gypsy Mustang and cask Stonewell Cider.
Supermarket of the Year
I suppose it would be unfair to award this to Albert Heijn, seeing as we don't have it, and its brilliance is less a result of its ingenuity and uniqueness, and more a side-effect of being in a country which doesn't punish the existence of alcoholic beverages with murderous tax rates and all that other stuff I don't understand but am plenty angry about. For us, Dunnes Stores did a good job, expanding their craft range and always having a group deal or two on the go.
Independent of the Year
This is where the real shopping got done, and Bradley's was my most frequented spot of the year. They too expanded on their range and acquired the beer nerd's catnip; books, glasses, mugs, pitchers, bar mats, metal signs, even a Schneider Weisse shirt or two. Was a great off-licence, now a beer haven in the city.
Best Beer Book/Mag
Cormac McCarthy doesn't write beer books, so I didn't get around to much beer reading. I did read through Dave Line's Big Book of Brewing though, and a great read it is too. Perfect preparation for your entry into homebrewing, and a nice step on the road to consuming all the beery knowledge you can get your hands on.
Best Beer Blog/Website
I've thoroughly enjoyed the Beermack. Reports on the delicious happenings in the capital take the newest and best Irish craft beer into consideration, as well as the latest foreign imports to reach our shores. Well written and honest opinions, what more do you want.
Best Beer Twitterer
I'm only new to that myself, so I really don't know.
Best Online Brewery Presence
To be honest, with Facebook and Twitter all the Irish breweries are pulling their weight and interacting plenty with their desperately thirsty fans, so a winner is hard to spot. Eight Degrees seems particularly active on Twitter and have a nice website, so that seems as good a bet as any.
Food and Beer Pairing
The weisswurst and Schneider Weisse in Munich was irresistible, and I'm looking forward to eating the delicious Carrigaline farmhouse cheese with a range of beers over Christmas, but I simply can't stop craving the humble soft pretzel to go with any wheat beer, lager or pale ale.
In 2014 I'd most like to...
Go UK beering. I haven't done any proper UK travel in a very long time and now seems as good a time as any, with London in particular drawing my attention. That said, I've rather shockingly never even been to Scotland... In the meantime, the year should get off to a good start with a trip to Galway.
So there we have it. Thanks to all of you who take the time to read this beerlog and to those who have donated real life beer in the name of, er, science. Happy Christmas from the Destrier.