And so we come to the end of another calendar year on The Drunken Destrier. To my estimation 2015 has been the most successful year of beering on the blog if not for the volume consumed (which was considerable) than for the quality of the beers living in my notebooks and, eventually, here on the site.
With that, we get to the 2015 Golden Pints, an abridged version with only the 'main' categories considered.
Best Irish Draught Beer
An narrow victory for Kinnegar's Crossroads, a properly juicy, punchy, punget grapefruit and fresh citrus rind U.S. IPA that sparkled on draught and was almost as good in the bottle, though the take-home option suffered from ever-so-slightly wobbly grain twangs at the finish. Still, on tap it is a near-perfect example of a high impact, bittersweet U.S. IPA. Very close behind is Trouble Brewing's Fallen Idol, and close behind that is O Brother's Bonita, both incredibly good examples of bold, hoppy, black beers.
Best Irish Bottle/Can
We actually have a few cans on the island now so that part of the question is now valid, but the best still comes in glass. For me it's a dead heat between Eight Degrees' Polar Vortex and Galway Bay's Two Hundred Fathoms, both of which are stellar examples of their respective styles. For the record, the Eight Degrees entry is also fantastic on draught and, for what it's worth, KPA is the best Irish canned beer around.
Best Irish Cask Beer
Torc's 5 Malt Dark Ale made for a lovely, full but totally sessionable treat at the Franciscan Well's Winter and Cask Ales festival at the start of the year, but the big, juicy, surprisingly drinkable Hi Viz from Blacks was on the same bar on the day and seduced me into seconds, so that gets my vote. Another honorable mention here for Radikale's Radical Brew, a rye ale made with gin botanicals from Blackwater Distillery that shouldn't even be drinkable, let alone delicious.
Best Overseas Draught
As is likely to become a tradition here, my nominations for this category appear to all be ticks from my travels, and chief among those is Emelisse's Black and Tan Wild Turkey B.A. that came to me, of course, in Arendsnest in Amsterdam. Big, bold, and intense, yet never offensive, especially impressive when you're dealing with a potentially ruinous Bourbon cask.
Best Overseas Bottle/Can
This is easily the most congested category for me, and after a lot of deliberation I reluctantly pick a tie between Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout and two De Struise beers, Pannepot and XXX Reserva. I would have also put Pannepot Reserva and Grand Reserva in this category, but seeing as I've yet to elevate those notes to blog posts they can wait.
Pub of the Year
Galway Bay's new place The Beer Market is a wonderfully designed spot in Christchurch that offers the beer nerd a ridiculous amount of choice with their vast imported and local draught list. Sure, you can expect to pay for the privilege, but once you get the first couple in you'll start to feel like a swashbuckling beery adventurer to whom money is no object in the search for good beer.
I draw the curtains early here, and thank you folks for reading The Drunken Destrier this year.
You should all really do some actual work.