As things wind down over Christmas we traditionally turn our attention towards the annual BeerCast Beer of the Year Show. We tally up the scores achieved by each ale podcasted over the last twelve months, and take the four highest scoring [more on this in a moment] away to a secret location for a re-sample. Which beer will follow on from Stone Ruination IPA and become our BOTY for 2010? Our BeerCasts this year featured 49 different beers, but only four can make it to the BOTY show.
For the three previous years, we’ve been very careful (and lucky) to track down the top four for the re-tasting. Even a beer from Sweden we tried in January 2009 we managed to root out for that’s years BOTY show (Carnegie Baltic Porter – it came fourth). Sadly this time a combination of rare podcast themes and the suddenly shocking British weather conspired against us. Of our actual top four, we have only one – the others we were unable to find again. Caldera IPA (93% in BeerCast #49), Sierra Nevada Harvest 2009 (90% in our 50th BeerCast), and Kulmbacher Monchshof Schwarzbier (84% in BeerCast #53) won’t be involved.
This is a massive shame, of course – Caldera IPA proved definitively that canned beer can be just as good as bottled, the Sierra Nevada was a peerless wet hop ale that was just down our collective streets, and the German entrant was a rich, malty discovery that none of us had heard of before. The problem is, Caldera is hard to find even outside Oregon, and when the shipments to the UK are gone, they are gone. Sierra Nevada Harvest is a seasonal release – we should really have bought more than one bottle – and I have ordered some Kulmbacher, but it never arrived having been delayed en route by the bad weather. I’m looking forward to trying it in January (hopefully).
So the 2010 BOTY show isn’t technically the top four highest scoring beers of the year – but we still have some absolute corkers, and a decent range to boot (our exact top four contained three IPA’s). Our first entrant – the top-four member we did source again – is Kernel IPA C.S.C. (7.1%). Since I paid a visit to London’s Kernel brewery in August we’ve been falling over ourselves to sample his beers. I say his, because it’s a one-man operation – Evin O’Riordain brews strong pale ales and historic London recipes that take his fancy. Our Kernel Showcase BeerCast featured some outstanding offerings – his Centennial, Simcoe, Chinook IPA the pick of them.
Kernel IPA C.S.C. scored an excellent 85% – the next beer to make it to our Beer of the Year show finished just behind, on 83%. Over recent months more and more Odell Brewing beers have made it over to the UK – probably as a direct result of Doug Odell’s visit here a few months ago. With probably the nicest labels in brewing, their English-inspired ales are a good fit for the British market. Odell Isolation Ale (6.1%) finished top of our recent Christmas Special, and really impressed the entire panel. We have a number of American craft beers at the top of our rankings – Isolation becomes the latest import to make it to our BOTY show.
However, our next two finalists both fittingly hail from Scotland, and they both scored 81% in their respective podcasts. Taken in alphabetical order first we have BrewDog’s Abstrakt AB:01 (10.2%), a vanilla-bean infused Belgian quad from Aberdeenshire. It marks the second BrewDog offering to make it to a BOTY show, after Hardcore IPA (9.0%) reached our 2008 final, finishing second. No other producer has featured twice – can they go a step higher in 2010 with the first of their well-received Abstrakt series? Designed to age well, six months after BeerCast #50 the flavours should have improved even more.
Our final BOTY finalist is Tryst Raj IPA (5.5%) – so we have two India Pale Ales in our four entrants at least. Also a one-man operation, John McGarva produces a range of classic Scottish ales from his base in Larbert, just outside Falkirk in central Scotland. Selected by MrB for BeerCast #49 (the show that unearthed Caldera IPA), the beer takes it’s name from the classical history of the India Pale Ale. You can argue we have a bias towards the hoppier offerings (all four BOTY shows have contained at least one IPA – indicating we score them highly), but when they are this well made – how can we not?
So we can look back at another great drinking year on the BeerCast. We’ll be recording the BOTY show at New Year with a specially extended panel, and it’ll be up sometime within the first couple of weeks of January. Stay tuned for surprises, controversy, and personal highlights, and in the meantime everyone associated with the BeerCast wishes our readers and listeners a fantastic Christmas and New Year, and all the best for 2011.