Last week, as is traditional for the second week of December, the BeerCast was turned over to the newcomers – the six best new British beers of 2014. They were, in my eyes (in order of release):-
Brew By Numbers Saison 01|08 Wai-iti and Lemon
Harbour Chocolate and Vanilla Imperial Stout
Brass Castle Heretic
Siren/Cigar City Caribbean Chocolate Cake
Weird Beard/Elusive Brew Lord Nelson
Buxton/Omnipollo Yellow Belly
Of course, with twelve months of full-on beer drinking under the (expanding) belt, there were plenty more that could have made the list. As we move into the final blog-posting week before Christmas, it’s time to look back at the rest of the great new British beers that were tried this year, and run down some of the ones that were just as outstanding as the six mentioned last week.
First off, I need to address the elephant in the room. Pictured above, the spellbinding Buxton Double Axe. The beer of the summer, it dominated social media and ratings websites as the sun was making its last fleeting appearance (at least in Scotland) of the year. In any other twelve-month period, it would have made the top six. However, the Yellow Belly was so staggering, that went in instead, and as I operate a firm one-entry-per-brewery policy – aka the ‘Kernel Rule’ – there was no place for Double Axe. Other than my fridge, of course.
The other brewery with second entries that nearly made it – and third entries – is Siren for Tickle Monster and 7 Seas IPA; the latter released near the beginning of the year but made it all the way through as the best Black IPA I had in 2014. As for Tickle Monster – hell, it’s entirely plausible to write a six beer best-of post and only feature Siren, what with the Finger and Toe series of beers. As with Yellow Belly though, there was just something extra special about the Caribbean Chocolate Cake that lifted it above that very high Berkshire parapet.
Other beers that really stick out in the memory from 2014; Cromarty’s fantastic Kowabunga (and not just because of the serve) – a #juicybanger before its time. Other expressive beers that worked beyond their looks were Pilot and Elixir’s truly luminous Sumac Me Feel Like a Natural Saison, and Howling Hops’ 7% Cola-esque Belgian dubbel. Elsewhere, pretty much the first beer I had in 2014 stood out – Wild Beer’s Belgian Peppercorn, which fired a beautifully spiky blend of seasoned warmth into a fairly awful January afternoon.
Aside from those first two, there were other great Scottish beers this year – I really enjoyed Harviestoun’s Orach Slie (when, hands up, I really didn’t think I would). Glenfarclas-aged lager was a revelation. Further afield, Beavertown’s Earl Phantom was pipped by the jaw-dropping Celt/Melissa Cole Cell Rebirth:Silk Road 01 as the beer of IndyMan, and Almasty Export Brown was the outstanding beer of the raft of new breweries to open in 2014. Finally (for this list is getting very long), another wonderful beer I had was in the much-maligned Spoons at the Foot of the Walk in Leith – Adnams/Sixpoint Make it Rain. The cask beer of the year.
Again, as with last year the overall winners of the new beers of the year were largely unusual – a Caribbean stout, a lemon saison, a peanut butter and biscuit imperial stout. I’ve been wondering recently if this is now the beer I go for – the weird and wonderful. But it really isn’t, it’s just that these beers are all so fascinating, and have been thought about from such an early stage, as to be totally rewarding. And that’s what makes them – and the British brewing industry – truly special.
With that, there’s only a few more posts to come this year – my Golden Pints, and the newcomer Golden Posts, both on the run up to the New Year – but first, at the end of this week, my brewery of the year. Who will follow the shoes of Fyne Ales (2012) and Buxton (2013) – what do you think? And were there any beers that you tried this year that should have been in the above list? Let me know in the comments…