Tag Archives: Tryst

Best new beers of 2013…the best of the rest


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 2013. They were, in my eyes (in order of release):-

Harbour Aji Limon IPA
Magic Rock Salty Kiss
Tempest Old Parochial
Fyne Ales/Wild Beer Cool as a Cucumber
Bad Seed Saison
Beavertown Stingy Jack

Of course, with twelve months of full-on beer drinking under the (gradually 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 we were lucky enough to try, and run down some of the ones that were just as outstanding as the six mentioned last week.

Arguably the stand-out brewery in terms of individual beers that tickled my tastebuds was Alpha State – any of their offerings could easily have made the top six. In fact, it was touch and go as to whether their fantastic Sorachi Red IPA was going in, meaning it was probably the seventh-best beer I had in 2013 (there’s something for the pump clip). Their Neapolitan was also superb, one of the best home-grown dunkelweizens that has been released for a very long time, and another beer that made me reconsider a style.* Citronvand, also (which the photograph above comes from) – pretty much every Alpha State beer I managed to find, essentially.

*Well, consider a style, maybe. Been a while since I was fully versed in the lore of the dunkelweiss

Collaboration beers were, yet again, another trend of the brewing year, and although Fyne and Wild’s Cool as a Cucumber made the top six, there were a few ‘meeting of the minds’ beers that just missed out. Coal Porter, produced by Alechemy and Elixir Brewing Companies, was an absolute cracker, and the pick of BrewDog’s collabfest was also (so nearly) one of the beers of the year; the Imperial brown coconut IPA made by Arbor and the staff from BrewDog Bristol. Likewise, two stand-out dual-brewery offerings that I tried at the Thornbridge takeover of Islington’s Craft Beer Co deserve a mention; Coalition (made with Terrapin Brewing) and the fabulous Twin Peaks, co-brewed with Sierra Nevada.

Two Kernel beers really stood out (‘only two?’ I hear you ask) – the fruit-laden IPA Mosaic, and the perfectly balanced London Sour (although that might well have been released in late-2012). Elsewhere in the other capital, Camden’s Seven Hop Lager proved that golden and fizzy need not be boring – not that we needed reminding of that – and further north, Buxton’s White Wine Saison was the pick of their incredible takeover of the Hanging Bat. Also on drinking trips oop North, an otherwise disappointing trip to Friends of Ham in Leeds was rescued by Summer Wine’s Devil Loves Simcoe, and Marble’s Black Marble also stood out from a trip to the North West.

Ending in Scotland, as I am duty bound to do, four fantastic beers proved that our brewers here are as good as any in the world. Take four styles – a lager, an IPA, a Black IPA, and…er…a pink peppercorn and lychee fruit ale (file under: speciality). I don’t think you’d get four better depictions of those beer types than the following; Alechemy’s Stereotype, which was, for a lager, perfectly hopped (i.e. just enough but not too much); Stewart’s spellbinding Ka Pai IPA; Well Fired Black IPA from Tryst, which I had once, on cask, back in January; and Elixir’s taste-sensation that was Jump the Shark.

Yes, the overall winners of the new beers of the year were largely unusual and rare – a salty beer, a chilli beer, a cucumber beer, etc. Is this what modern brewing is about? Well, yes and no. Most importantly, those were all examples of beers that could have been truly awful if not thought about creatively, planned carefully, and brewed perfectly. The beers in this post today were also superb, and representative of a huge range of styles, from lagers to sours. Yet again, it’s more evidence of just what great shape the British brewing industry is in.

With that, there’s one more post to come in 2013 – our brewery of the year. Who will it be? And were there any beers that you tried this year that should have been in the above list? Let me know in the comments…

The best IPA in Britain


This is, in truth, a post I’ve wanted to write for a long while. A list – my list – of the best IPA’s in Britain. The problem is, every time I sit down and riffle through the selection of names, there are more to consider. Another one arrives seemingly every week. The demand for India Pale Ale on this, rightful, side of the Atlantic is growing at a pace comparable to the other side. Well, almost; the US craft beer scene is the standard-bearer for hop-forward IPA’s, and probably always will be. But, we’re catching up here in the UK, fittingly churning out more of our beloved style.

That s-word is one that leads to a whole host of blind alleys, each one containing a different beer expert, slowly pounding a cudgel against an open palm. This post is by no means intended to be a definitive list of IPA’s – heck, some might not even be true India Pale Ales. I’m no style expert. Nor do I enjoy constraining beers into rigid pigeonholes. However, I have used a few simple rules. These are beers I (or RateBeer/Beer Advocate) consider IPA’s – so therefore I have excluded Double/Imperials as a result. No Moor JJJ, Fyne Ales Superior IPA or Magic Rock Human Cannonball here.*

*That’s pretty much the start of the next list, I think…

Also, I’m going with fairly golden, reasonably standard IPA’s – so, likewise, there’s no place on this list for India Pale Ales that are black (Hardknott Code Black), red (Brodies Hackney Red) or those that have other grains in (Tempest RyePA) or unusual adjuncts (Kernel Suke Quto Coffee IPA). Speaking of the Bermondsey powerhouse, to stop a brewery having too many hits in the list, I’ve also taken the hard, hard step of only considering each brewery once. This prevents over-Kernalisation (something to be welcomed, on any other day).

Originally, I was just going for ten – but came up with so many alternatives I broadened the scope to twenty. In truth, I could probably have piled in even more. You may notice that the list reflects a certain style of IPA – feel free to comment on that if you’re a fan of Deuchars IPA or Sam Smith’s India Ale. I go for strong, hoppy, fresh-tasting IPA’s that make my tastebuds tingle. This list reflects that. Please feel free to disagree in the comments, or (as is inevitable) mention any that I have forgotten or neglected to include. Cheers!


RajIPA20. Tryst Raj IPA (5.5%)
From one of Scotland’s most under-rated brewers; one of Scotland’s most under-rated beers. When it came out around five years ago, Raj IPA announced a step change for John McGarva – until that point, session ales were his thing, either dark or light. This was his first beefy number, and on cask it still has the power to surprise, even today. Alongside the lemon and orange flavours, there’s more than a hint of earthy backbone about it – on cask, there are few IPA’s from north of the border that can match it.




MarbleLagonda19. Marble Lagonda (5.0%)
Here we have the first application of ‘the Kernel rule’ – with Marble’s Lagonda IPA. The Manchester concern have long dispensed golden hop bombs to the lucky locals of the Marble Arch – and there are few better beers than Lagonda to enjoy as the glowing sun filters through the windows there. Utility IPA could also be on this list, quite frankly – and if I was allowing adjuncts, Earl Grey IPA would be too (very near the top). As it is, one brewer, one IPA, and we can more than make do with the brilliant Lagonda.




WilliamsJoker18. Williams Brothers Joker (5.0%)
Joker is in this list for one simple reason – I was reminded recently just how good it can be. Having drunk more than my fair share of Williams Brothers’ IPA in the past, it had been registered, logged and mentally filed away. A great beer – also under-rated in Scotland – one of the best ‘no-thinkum’ beers you can stack the fridge with. However, a visit to Leith’s Vintage the other week – a charbar* part-owned by the Alloa brewers, and a pint of Joker brought back all those memories – and more. In short, it was superb. You can fly through this, nuzzled by citrus as you go.

*charbar being the modern, charcuterie-forward version of a gastropub, of course.




RadicalRoad17. Stewart Radical Road (6.4%)
Loanhead’s Stewart Brewing have been quietly upping the ante over the last year or so – beers such as No3 and Copper Cascade making way for black IPA’s, Belgian-style tripels, and the beer that arguably started it all – Radical Road. Brewed as a one-off, it has swiftly moved into the ‘regular’ folder for Stewart – based largely on public opinion. As their new brewery is taking shape, complete with public brewkit and growler station, their honeysuckle-edged Radical Road definitely seems to have marked the crossover point.




Cannonball16. Magic Rock Cannonball (7.4%)
Huddersfield’s finest were one of the easiest to include on this list – as a series of beers, their ‘Cannonball run’ has blasted into the hearts of hop-loving drinkers all over the UK. The original may have been overtaken on the geekblogs by the walloping double IPA Human Cannonball (itself surpassed by the upcoming Un-human Cannonball), but the debut India Pale Ale is one of their very best beers (and talking about Magic Rock, that’s not an easy assumption to make). But an abundance of tropical fruit and resin – what’s not to like?




HoxtonSpecial15. Brodies Hoxton Special IPA (6.6%)
San Diego or Portland may consider themselves IPA towns, but London is the place for our favoured beer style. Brodies are one of the city’s most prolific brewers, churning our dozens of different cask beers from their base in Walthamstow. A full-on blast of California sunshine, Hoxton Special sings out of the glass with every mouthful. Passion fruit, grapefruit, papaya and mango – as good as any hop-forward C-bomb from the Pacific Coast.




MeantimeIPA14. Meantime India Pale Ale (7.5%)
Staying in London for our next pick, Meantime claim to be ‘Britain’s only producer of authentic India Pale Ale’. Whether that means they are the only ones to pack Goldings and Fuggles into a beer like this, or they send it to bottle shops via Kolkata, I don’t know. But it’s a great beer – and a fantastic IPA. Greenwich’s finest have put out a lot of different lines since their India Pale Ale came out, but few better.




LotusIPA13. Ilkley Lotus IPA (5.6%)
Another cracker from another seriously under-rated brewery. Ilkley hit the jackpot with Lotus IPA – a fantastic mix of Cascade and Summit hops – giving a sweet, pineapple and peach flavour to the beer. Lotus is a prime example of a cask-led, session-strength brewery turning everything up, just a little, and really coming good. Of all the IPA’s on this list, Lotus is the one that would catch up with you the quickest, being supremely quaffable at 5.6%.




HarbourIPA12. Harbour IPA (5.0%)
Cornwall – pounding surf, pasties and fishermen with impenetrable, fixed-distance stares. As they stand, rigid, on the decks of surging trawlers, maybe they are thinking about the one that got away. Or, they could be rapt with attention on the beers they’ll be knocking back once they beach the boat and stumble up the shingle. Harbour IPA – again, since enveloped by doubles of different hoppage, is a cracking beer in cask or bottle.




SummitIPA11. Acorn Summit IPA (5.0%)
Barnsley’s finest knocked one halfway to Leeds with their single-hop Summit IPA, brewed (as far as I can tell) just the once. I was trying to avoid hard to find, unusual beers such as this (otherwise Rooster’s Serlo de Burgh would have to be in this list), but had to make an exception for Acorn’s Summit. I only ever saw this once, in Edinburgh on cask, and it was fabulous. Like standing on a Caribbean beach at sunrise (only with rain battering on the windows).




SWBDiablo10. Summer Wine Diablo (6.0%)
There can’t be a harder working pair in British brewing than Andy and James from Holmfirth’s Summer Wine. They seem to be permanently at work, double brewdays throughout the week, travelling to all ends of the country (even Scotland) for their craft. Hard work only gets you so far, of course, but the SWB guys really back it up with their creative take on modern styles. As pretentious as that sentence sounds, it’s absolutely true of Diablo – the first Summer Wine beer I ever had. I can still remember reeling in Mr Foleys, Leeds, from the grapefruit-laced right hook it delivered.




SouthvilleHop9. Bristol Beer Factory Southville Hop (6.5%)
Modern, hop-forward IPA’s are all about the fruit flavours, and how they interplay with the other components of the beer. The sweeter malt notes, or the punchy, bitter resin. Southville Hop (to my taste buds, at least) combines two of the most complementary of those fruit flavours – pineapple and grapefruit. Yes, it sounds like a Lilt advert – but if any brewer in the UK would be advised to release an Alco-Lilt, it would be BBF. Southville Hop is a stunner, and deservedly in the top 10 British IPA’s.




69IPA8. Lovibonds 69 IPA (6.9%)
Speaking of two complementary elements, the next IPA on the list features the easy marriage of Centennial and Columbus. Lovibonds 69 IPA blends the two C-hops almost perfectly, and gives a beer that would not be out of place in any Pacific hop-den – which was pretty much the intention. Lovibonds’ beers are as outspoken as their creator, Jeff Rosenmeier; 69 IPA walks the walk, and strides boldly into the resinous territory of the puckering tastebud. A revelation.




Halcyon7. Thornbridge Halcyon (7.7%)
So, back to the ‘Kernel rule’ and representing Thornbridge – who, had to be in this list somewhere – is the jaw-trembling Halcyon. Jaipur probably has more fans – or, it certainly used to – but Halcyon is simply stunning. It may verge into the double IPA category, but when a beer is this good, styles go out of the window (as do morning meetings the next day). Prepare that shaky-sounding phone call to the boss, and crack open another.




BraveNewWorld6. Tempest Brave New World (7.0%)
With India Pale Ales, I get the impression that some are made by breweries because they feel obliged – the kind of ‘oh, well, people like them so we should put one out’ mentality. Without exception, those kinds of beers become middling, and unbalanced. It’s almost as if that attitude becomes reflected in the final beer. Thankfully, there are IPA’s where you drink them and think ‘You know what? I bet this beer is the first thing this brewery wanted to make’ – Brave New World is just such a beer – I’ll wager any amount you care to mention that it’s the favourite beer of the guys in Kelso. It certainly shows in the final product.




GreenDevil5. Oakham Green Devil (6.0%)
Peterborough’s Oakham produce some spellbinding golden, hoppy cask beer – such as the (almost) peerless Oakham Citra. The cheerfully menacing scaly hop peers out from that pump clip, just as his horned counterpart does for Oakham Green Devil. This is one of those beers that if you ever see it on at a pub, it’s time to count the blessings and order it. Doesn’t matter what else is there – dance with that green devil and forget everything else. Without doubt, one of the best beers in the UK.




AKA4. Cromarty AKA IPA (6.7%)
From here on in, these beers are pretty much interchangeable depending on which I have sampled the most recently. Cromarty AKA is (in my opinion) the best IPA in Scotland, and getting on the way to taking over the whole country. Made by the most charmingly affable brewer you could ever hope to meet, in a brewery that looks out over the wind-churned whitecaps of the Cromarty Firth, AKA is the real deal. It shows exactly what the modern IPA should be about – that blend of citrus and resin on the flavour is pretty much as good as it gets. If you haven’t heard of this beer yet, you will – it’ll make Craig Middleton a household name in brewing circles.




GreatEastern3. Redchurch Great Eastern India Pale Ale (7.4%)
Drinking beer is (amongst other things) about discovery. Hearing about new breweries, stumbling across new pubs, and trying new beers. I remember trying Redchurch’s Great Eastern IPA for the first time, in the Holyrood 9A in Edinburgh. It reminded me of a distilled sweet shop – honeysuckle, pear drop, pithy orange zest. For such a new brewery, it’s a quite astonishing achievement. London is awash with new breweries – which is great, of course – but as the other capital’s legion of drinkers nose around, looking out these new drinking options, they need only head to Hackney for the very best.




KernelIPACitra2. Kernel India Pale Ale Citra (7.2%)
Well, Hackney and Bermondsey. The Kernel are unstoppable – since moving into larger premises they have continued almost unabated. The freedom they have from brewing whatever they want, with whatever hops or malt they can get hold of, is infectious. People in the food industry talk about seasonality. The Kernel do this with brewing – small batch, no fuss, get it out fresh, simple and effective. They’re the brewery BrewDog wish they could be, but never will. Evin’s original IPA Citra is still one of the beers that truly affirmed my love of modern, well-made British beer. Some bigger IPA’s have Citra piled in to such an extent, it gives a leading edge of astringency – but not this classic.




axe_edge2709101. Buxton Axe Edge (6.8%)
So, here we are. The best India Pale Ale in Britain comes from the Peak District – Buxton’s Axe Edge. This, to me, could be the perfect beer. High strength, to give the alcohol body, but not monstrously high that you can’t have at least a few. The mix of Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin and Citra that point to every part of the hop compass – sweet orange, vinous lime, juicy pineapple. For me, it’s mango that always seems to come out first (the most moreish of all hop flavours), building to a rich, sweet pine and caramel finish. It’s sublime, and works on cask, keg or bottle. Soon to be brewed by the newly arriving Colin Stronge – no pressure, Col – it remains the IPA by which all others should be judged. Oh, and I know the label says Double IPA, but I couldn’t put this list together without Axe Edge, pride of place at the very top.

Denis at Buxton confirmed to me this morning that Axe Edge has not been referred to as a ‘Double IPA’ for a while – they class it as a regular India Pale Ale…

Here comes the sun…

The arrival of tailbacks on the roads and wasps in the parks can mean only one thing – Spring is here. After enduring months of snow, sleet, winds and haar (something we say every year, only this time it actually happened) the weather is taking a turn for the better. Here in Scotland that means average highs in the mid-teens Celsius. So while we all rush to reveal that pale flesh and stick another white pudding on the barbie, beer sales traditionally rocket.

So what to drink? Clearly, avoiding macrolager is the only decent option. But there are so many alternatives out there, it can be something of a muddle. That’s why we’ve compiled another BeerCast guide – to the best of the Spring/Summer seasonals. Just because it’s time to rush to the nearest beer garden/park/roadside verge, doesn’t mean there can’t be a good beer involved somewhere along the line. So put down that oak-aged imperial blackcurrant porter, and pick up a golden session ale. (Whisper it) – it’s not always about the abv…

If you manage to get yourself into that rarest of things – a sunny Scottish beer garden – then what should you select after wandering, blinking, into the pub (which will still have a roaring open fire)? Light, golden beer has a great tradition north of the border, stretching back to the days of Edinburgh Pale Ale and beyond. There are plenty of modern-day equivalents, such as the peerless Fyne Ales Avalanche. Hoppy, refreshing and unbelievably drinkable – it’s the perfect beer garden pint.

Along the same lines, Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted is another corker – one of only two beers from Scotland to win Champion Beer of Britain. A very rare sighting on cask, but Williams Brothers Ceilidh is tremendous when served this way, the slight spicy edge from the bottle mellowing really well on cask. Other great quenchers include Strathaven Summer Glow, Deeside Nechtan and Stewart Brewing Forth Mist – a really underrated wheat beer.

The beauty of bottles is of course the fact that they are portable. Until Scotland truly embraces the canned beer revolution that (if you look very, very hard) is taking place, then the bottle is the best option. Alfresco drinking here usually involves either one of Scotland’s great exports to the world – Irn Bru – or one of the big imports – Buckfast. But if beer is on your wishlist, then dig out that opener and wander along to the nearest green space, with a clinking carrier bag of…

Cairngorm Trade Winds, which has a touch of elderflower to give it that distinctive summery flavour – in my humble opinion it’s one of the few beers that tastes just as good from a bottle as on cask. Inveralmond Ossian is another golden thirstbuster, as is Williams Brothers Harvest Sun. We adore Fyne Ales Jarl here on the BeerCast – but stablemate Hurricane Jack was also bottled for the first time recently, and is just as good. Finally, to rival Trade Winds – what about a bottle of Tryst Blathan? Another zesty elderflower beer that translates as ‘little blossom’ – what could be more Springlike?

Yikes. Keg beer. Well, the majority are pretty much made for good weather – easy drinking, crisp and refreshing, high carbonation. Obviously we’re not going to recommend drinking Fosters, but if something cold is on your radar then what about the two kings of Scottish kegged lager – Harviestoun Schiehallion and Black Isle Organic Blonde? Either would be much more preferable, surely.

Also on the cooler, fizzier side of things we have Stewart Brewing Edinburgh Gold, which has made recent appearances in the capital on keg. Heading along the M8, WEST Hefeweizen is a clovey, banana delight – particularly when drunk outside the Templeton brewery watching the ‘goings on’ in Glasgow Green. Finally, keg fans would be foaming (artificially) at the mouth if we didn’t mention BrewDog – their re-styled, reduced but much improved Punk IPA would make any sunny afternoon much the better.

So what are your ideal summer thirst quenchers? As we move into Easter long weekends and Royal Wedding holidays, what will you be reaching for? South of the border there are many great golden-esque ales that fit the bill – Pictish Brewer’s Gold, York Guzzler, Thornbridge Kipling, Purity Pure Gold, St Peter’s Golden Ale, Ossett Pale Gold etc etc

So many beers…so little sunshine. Drink up!

BeerCast #56 – Beer of the Year 2010

The first podcast of any year is always one to look forward to – as tradition dictates it’s our BeerCast Beer of the Year show. As highlighted in our recent preview, the four highest scoring beers we could find from the podcasts recorded in 2010 are re-sampled, and a winner picked. Previous winners are Anchor Christmas Ale 2006 (2007), Hop Back Summer Lightning (2008) and Stone Ruination IPA (last year), so whichever beer came out on top this time, it would be in good company. Re-tasting is always an interesting experience, as a second go often brings a different result from last time – and so it was to prove. The four beers in our BOTY show were Tryst Raj IPA (5.5%), Odell Isolation Ale (6.1%), Kernel IPA C.S.C. (7.1%), and BrewDog Abstrakt AB:01 (10.2%). On the extended panel – Shovels, MrB, Andy, Richard, Jess, Grooben and a debut for panellist Katie, all of whom were seconded to a remote location to sharpen the tastebuds…

1. Raj IPA (5.5%abv) 500ml glass bottle
Tryst Brewery, Larbert, Scotland.
BeerCast#49 scored 32½/40 (81%) 3rd June 2010
Originally tasted by Richard ; Grooben 8; Shovels 8; MrB 8

What They Say“This India Pale Ale marks a slight change in direction of Tryst Ales, away from low alcohol session ales to rather more substantial and serious Real Ale. This IPA is hopped with three popular British hops to produce a deep lingering taste, complementing the underlying malts for a memorable pint.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Jess – It’s quite sour and strong but I really like it
Grooben – Has a great balance of bitterness and sweetness
MrB – A great Scottish session IPA
Richard – Lot of bitterness from the three hop types
Katie – It’s maybe too bitter but I’d have it again
Shovels – I’d drop it to a 7½ but it’s still good
Andy – Tastes like old shoes that have been left in the garage

2. Isolation Ale (6.1%abv) 355ml glass bottle
Odell Brewing Co, Fort Collins, Colorado.
BeerCast#55 scored 33/40 (83%) 22nd December 2010
Originally tasted by Shovels ; MrB ; Grooben 8; Richard 8

What They Say“Available each winter from the first of November until it runs out, Isolation ale is amber in color, malty and strong. We consider it a traditional winter warmer, without the addition of fruits or spices.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Andy – Needs no tweaking as the balance is perfect
Richard – Malty and fruity, with almost a caramel sweetness
Jess – It’s almost nutty, absolutely delicious
Grooben – Odell beers are always very well balanced
Shovels – Their beers have that fantastic aftertaste
Katie – I’d definitely have this again in the Autumn
MrB – Odell just don’t make a bad beer

3. Kernel IPA C.S.C. (7.1%abv) 330ml glass bottle
Kernel Brewery, Bermondsey, London.
BeerCast#52 scored 34/40 (85%) 27th October 2010
Originally tasted by MrB 9; Richard 9; Shovels 8; Grooben 8

What They Say“American hops meet English malt. Burnished golden colour. Aromas of tropical fruits, hints of grass. The sweetness of the malt gives them the impression of fruit salad on the palate, juicy, then followed up with a big bitterness, with some pepper and spice.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Katie – There’s a bit of floral that balances the bitterness
Richard – Fantastic piney IPA smell, it’s outstanding
MrB – I don’t want to drink this, I want to savour it
Shovels – A really fantastic IPA
Grooben – Balanced so it doesn’t taste crazy for 7%
Jess – I prefer this to the Raj IPA
Andy – Would be difficult to drink a lot given the strength

4. Abstrakt AB:01 (10.2%abv) 375ml glass bottle
BrewDog Ltd, Fraserburgh, Scotland.
BeerCast#50 scored 32½/40 (81%) 16th July 2010
Originally tasted by Shovels ; Richard ; MrB ; Grooben 7

What They Say“Abstrakt will only ever brew and release a beer once. BrewDog’s Abstrakt is about exciting, progressive and conceptual beers, beers which not only push the boundaries but smash them up completely.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – You can taste the vanilla more, but I still like it
Grooben – Sweetness has taken over, it’s a bit one-note now
Richard – The flavours have definitely developed with aging
MrB – I’m trying to work out why I gave it 8½, I don’t like it
Jess – First taste it lovely, but it gets overpoweringly sweet
Andy – I like sweet beers but that’s some sugary ass sh*t
Katie – I can taste some liquorice and parma violets

So that was the thoughts – or re-thoughts – of the panel during the tasting of the four beers that had made it through to the final. The next thing to do was go round the table and give a first and second choice for beer of the year, plus a beer each that we enjoyed over 2010 and felt deserved a special mention…

“For me, Isolation Ale was outstanding, and then the Kernel IPA. The best beer I had this year was a Wherry’s in Norfolk, from local brewer Woodforde’s, that I really enjoyed.”

“My two picks are Isolation Ale and then Kernel. My beer pick for 2010 was Wold Top Gold – a blonde ale on tap and in the bottle is very good.”

“First choice is Isolation then Raj IPA. I’ve drunk more Sierra Nevada than anything else this year but also enjoyed St Lupulin and Wold Gold after a bike ride.”

“Kernel C.S.C., it has to be – because it’s the best one. My second choice is Raj IPA. My beer of note would have to be Tripel de Garre in Bruges.”

“It’s really really close, but Isolation number one and Kernel number two by a very small margin. I can’t think of any beers that have busted my chops – but discovering lambics has been interesting and my mind is starting to open to Belgian ales.”

“Isolation Ale was a country mile ahead of the others, Kernel IPA second. My beer of note would have to be Shovel’s homebrew 6D.”

“My favourite from tonight and my beer of the year was Kernel IPA – I love Evin’s approach to brewing. My second is Abstrakt because I love how it has changed character over the months. My notable beer is also Tripel de Garre – probably my favourite beer of all time.”

The comments during the tasting made it look like a close run thing – but when it came to the judging there was a runaway winner. Five of our seven panellists went for the same first pick, making Odell’s Isolation Ale (6.1%) our 2010 BeerCast beer of the year. Congratulations to Doug and the team, their amber malty winter warmer is the fourth winner of our BOTY – and interestingly the third American beer to come out on top. Kernel IPA CSC (7.1%) came out second, with unfortunately the local entrants in third and fourth. Maybe 2011 will be the year a Scottish beer comes out on top…

Our panel also tasted a fifth beer – a surprise bought by Richard and smuggled to the podcasting under the strictest secrecy. On the Isle of Wight, the Yates brewery have combined with a nearby garlic farm to produce a 4.1% Garlic Beer. Listen to our tasting after the BOTY voting, and check back to the website in a few days for a full review post on a beer that truly united the panel…

  • Listen to the episode here: BeerCast #56 – Beer of the Year 2010
  • Subscribe to the podcasts in iTunes or our Site Feed
  • 2010 Beer of the Year Preview

    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.

    2009 Beer of the Year Show
    2008 Beer of the Year Show
    2007 Beer of the Year Show

    Scottish Real Ale Festival 2010

    Following the announcement that Highland Orkney Blast was awarded the 2010 Champion Beer of Scotland, it was time to pay a visit to the festival as a punter and sample some of the new and unusual beers on offer this year. Nobody attends the SRAF to drink Deuchars IPA, after all. As ever, the larger ballroom was opened up to escape the warm atmosphere of the main hall – providing a rather ornate backdrop to the business of drinking beer. I got there to find the rest of the guys drinking the aforementioned CBoS from Orkney – the third time in four years Rob Hill’s brewery has won the title – and with three different beers.

    Obviously, I’d had a sample of Orkney Blast already that day – check back later for my thoughts on judging the Champion Beer – so I set off to find something I’d never seen before. First to fit the bill was Fyne Ales Jarl (4.0%), which was so new it wasn’t in the official programme. We’re tremendous fans of Argyll’s finest at the BeerCast, having visited them a couple of times – and their Cairndow brewery recently hosted their own beer festival, at which they launched their latest beer – Jarl. It features a relatively new high alpha hop – Citra. First presented at the 2008 World Brewing Congress, the Sierra Nevada-backed hop gives a fabulous tropical fruit flavour to Jarl. It’s extremely sessionable, golden and with a lovely bitter grapefruity aftertaste to compliment the pineapple up front.

    Next I went for a hometown tipple, and Caledonian’s Surf Sup (4.0%). Deuchars IPA may be ubiquitous, but their seasonals can sometimes slip between the cracks. Surf Sup is their ale for June, and is also citric and sessionable. At exactly the same abv as Jarl it was ripe for comparison. The hops give less of a ripe fruit taste, it’s more lemon zesty than mango. It’s also pretty good, but the addition of the Citra hops elevates Jarl over Surf Sup on points. My third beer was Linger (5.0%) from the newly-reborn Fowlers who brew out of the Prestongrange Gothenburg in Prestonpans. It certainly does linger – very hazy with a ginger aftertaste, it was pretty empty after the ginger hit. It may need a touch more refining.

    The next round was the traditional ‘buy something for the BeerCaster to the left’ round – which results in an even mix of nutty bitters and 9% barleywines. For MrB I selected Broughton’s Champion Double Ale (5.0%) – the only blend on offer at the festival (strong ale mixed with porter), it was a bit rough around the edges, but drinkable. It was Shovels buying for me, and I ended up with a Traditional Scottish Ales Bannockburn (4.2%). Described as a pale, golden beer with a ‘thick, tight head’ it was almost totally flat and pretty insipid. TSA had brought eleven beers to the SRAF, but this one wasn’t one to savour.

    Seeking a high note, I then went onto Raj IPA (5.5%), from the Tryst Brewery in Larbert. It scored very highly in BeerCast #49 (from the bottle), on cask at the festival it was just as good. A classic strong IPA with corresponding piney resinous hop flavours, it was really outstanding. It was interesting to see how the flavour differed between a chilled bottle and a warmer cask pint – either way it’s currently one of the best British IPA’s out there.

    The final beer I sampled was a dark one – Islay Dun Hogs Head Ale (4.4%). The Islay brewery were founded on the whisky-loving island of the same name in 2003, and have seven ales in their range. They are pretty tough to find over here on the eastern side of Scotland, so I was keen to try at least one. The Dun Hogs is a dark, roasty stout with a really nice bitter finish complimented by some initial sweetness. It’s always good to end on a dark note, and Dun Hogs Head was a great way to end the festival.

    Thanks to all at CAMRA for hosting the festival, we’ll be back next year to sample more local treats. Whilst the overall winner of the 2010 SRAF was Highland Orkney Blast (with Black Isle Hibernator second and Cairngorm’s Black Gold third), the beers that really stood out for me were Tryst Raj IPA and Fyne Ales Jarl. Thanks to everybody for checking the BeerCast during the festival, we’ll see you again for another beer festival in the near future.