Monthly Archives: December 2016



Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the beautiful surroundings of The Sage Gateshead for what is, on the beery calendar, the most eagerly anticipated evening of the year. Tonight, live on stage the winners of the 2016 Golden Pints awards shall be presented with the glittering trophies. It’s a star studded crowd, there was much clamour to find out who everyone was wearing, the Evening Chronicle photographer camped out for 3 days to get a good spot for celeb spotting!

So without further ado, to the awards:

And the nominations for the Best UK Cask Beer are:
Almasty Brewing Co – Mk VII IPA
Fyne Ales – Jarl
Wylam Brewery – Galatia

And the winner is: Almasty Mk VII IPA – hop forward but with a delicious marmalade malt base made this an awesome delight in cask format.

The nominations for Best UK Keg Beer are:
Beavertown Brewery – Barrel Aged ‘Spresso
Cloudwater Brewery – Damson, Blackberry, Plum Red Wine aged custard porter
Wylam/Yeastie Boys – WXY

And the winner is: Beavertown Barrel aged ‘spresso a tremendous beer, brought to the region for Craft Beer Calling. An amazing imperial coffee stout. Beavertown do big Stouts so darn well.

The nominations for Best UK Bottled Beer are:
Almasty – Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
Cloudwater – Citra IPA
Brew by Numbers – 55:03

And the winner is: Almasty Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout! Quite frankly this beer wins for a great many reasons. This was the beer I reviewed with the boys on the final ever studio show for Beer OClock Show podcast. A real honour. But mainly, because it’s such a stunning beer. Beautifully balanced and oozes quality.

The nominations for Best UK Canned Beer are:
Beavertown/Boneyard – Bloody Notorious
Magic Rock – Human Cannonball
Almasty – MK X IPA

And the winner is: Magic Rock Human Cannonball. There was something special about this years release of the Cannonball series. Unhuman was the best yet (and would probably have won the previous category if it wasn’t for the sentiment and fondness for the brewery that won it. Human Cannonball was delicious, sharp, raspingly bitter and juicy. Tremendous.

The nominations for Best Overseas Draught are:
Galway Bay – Goodbye Blue Monday
8 Degrees – Double Irish
Founders – KBS

and the winner is: Galway Bay, Goodbye Blue Monday. My first beer after landing in Dublin, on my trip to visit the Irish Beer Snobs. Was quite taken aback by the quality of an unobtrusive beer. Bangin hops, with a smooth rounded oatmeal malt bill. Really delicious.

And the nominations for Best Overseas Bottled/Canned Beer are:
Cigar City – Jai Alai
Omnipollo – Anagram
Oskar Blues – Barrel Aged Ten Fidy

And the winner is: Oskar Blues, Barrel aged Ten Fidy. Ten Fidy itself was abit of a disappointment for me. I struggle with some sweet Stouts and I found Ten Fidy abit sweet. This Barrel Aged version was more balanced. It’s a massive flavourful beer. This was a mere taster thanks to Daisy Turrell on the #crimbocrawl.

The nominations for best Overall Beer are:
Magic Rock – Unhuman Cannonball
Omnipollo – Anagram
Cloudwater – DIPA v10

And the winner is, Magic Rock Unhuman Cannonball. This is my 3rd year of trying this special beer. And for me, this was the best of the lot. A beer which has set many trends for buzz and excitement over annual releases, this beer doesn’t disappoint. It was amazing!!
The nominations for Best Supermarket are:
Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer

And the winner is: Marks & Spencer. I don’t mean to be flippant with this award, but aside from the great independent retailers in the region there isn’t much of a competition between the supermarket chains. Marks and Spencer’s extended beer range this year makes it a hands down winner for me.

The nominations for Best UK Brewery are:
Magic Rock

And the winner is, Buxton. Another quiet unassuming year for a brewery that simply does not produce a bad beer, ever. Always top notch. Each and every double IPA they produce if the envy of many other breweries, Axe Edge continues to be as sharp an IPA as any on the market and when it comes to Stouts, they’re simply exceptional. Add in the collabs with Omnipollo which have been the source of much excitement this year and you know this is a brewery that can’t be touched.

The nominations for Best New Brewery Opening 2016 are:
Box Social Brewing
Odyssey Brewery
Elusive Brewery

And the winner is: Box Social Brewing. From a small lock up in Newburn, not far from where I live. Here’s a brewery with a real character and a good local community ethos that really brings a charm to me. Added to that the fact that they’ve produced DIPA, IPAs, pales that I’ve loved and sours that Mrs L has loved and they’ve really added to the local beer scene. With their new bar on Forth Street behind the central station in town, this is a brewery to watch in 2017.

The nominations for Pub/Bar of the Year are:
The Free Trade Inn
The Cumberland Arms
The Crown Posada

And the winner is: The Free Trade Inn. Simply put, I love this place. The beers are amazing, the banter is always great and the staff are all good solid, knowledgeable, passionate beer fans. Great chilled vibe, and the coolest cat on Tyneside. Say no more.

And the nominations for Beer Festival of the Year are:
Craft Beer Calling
Alltech Brews and Food

And the winner is: Craft Beer Calling, by a country mile the best thing that’s happened on Tyneside. The addition of the invitational element added to fantastic new surroundings added so much to this festival. It was awesome!

The nominations for Independent Retailer of the Year are:
Coppers of Gosforth
Beer Central

And the winner is: Coppers of Gosforth, Ina year when they’ve added a tasting room to their offering, the core of what they do is all about connecting with people and being active and encouraging. There’s a real community grown up around this shop, which I love and their customer service is well above and beyond what any other shop gives.

The nominations for best Online Retailer of the Year are:
Ales by Mail

And the winner is: Eebria, always fantastic fresh beer delivered quickly and without fuss. Really can’t fault this service.

The nominations for Best Taproom are:
Box Social Brewing
Wylam Brewery
Howling Hops Tank room

And the winner is: Wylam Brewery. It had to be really. The Palace of Arts is stunning. But it’s become a symbol of the ever growing craft beer scene here on Tyneside. The taproom will draw folk to Tyneside which will then benefit a great many other breweries here too. It’s a massive addition for us, super fresh jakehead too! I’m sold!

The nominations for the Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer are:

And the winner is: @BeerOClockShow I know it’s a podcast, but a podcast is a recording of a past conversation. As a listener, you can’t join in. Steve uses twitter to provoke and stimulate conversation so that people feel that they can join in. I’ve spoken many times about the community around the show and that is cultivated through brilliant engagement online.

The nominations for Best Beer Blog / Website are:
Beer Compurgation by Mark Johnson

And the winner is: Beer Compurgation by Mark Johnson. Simply put no other blog gets close to the way Marks posts get me thinking about issues and events. The mental health posts are two of the most amazing and memorable blogs you will ever read.

The nominations for Beer Podcast of the Year are:
The Beer O’Clock Show/Hopinions
Irish Beer Snobs

And the winner is: The Beer O’Clock Show/Hopinions. When the Beer O’Clock Show announced that it was coming to an end, the outpouring of sadness was testament to the high regard the show was held in. To step back, evolve and come back better than ever is great work. Mark was brilliant on the original show, Martin is perfect for the new show and Steve has worked hard to make it all seem effortless, it’s a great listen every time.

So with that the final award of the night, the winners all troop off to enjoy the after parties while the runners up all take away a sense of pride.

2016 has seen a great many new shoots in the craft beer garden, a great many of those shoots are still to flower. 2017 has a lot to live up to but signs are it’ll be even bigger!

#12beersofxmas day 11 – Hawkshead Brewery No 2 Jim


Whenever I travel I like to visit local beer shops and see what interesting things I can pick up.  This was one such bottle that I picked up in Edinburgh probably 2 years ago. It’s quite an old beer but it’s one I’ve never really known when to drink. Here’s on everything of the biggest plusses of #12beersofxmas, it’s an excuse to crack open bottles that have been sitting about gathering dust. It makes you review your stash!


This is Hawksheads Brodie’s Prime brewed to what they call ‘export strength’ meaning it’s ramped up a notch or twelve… coming in at 8.5% abv. Not excessively high but plenty high enough.

It pours a deep dark ominous broon in colour.  Not overly dense, it will allow some rays of light through.

Wow, the aroma has a powerful slap. The Jim Beam whiskey cask has well and truly put its stamp on this beer. It’s so powerful that it’s difficult to get beyond it on the aroma.

Flavour wise the whiskey is still powerful, but the base beer does well for it. There are plenty notes in the beer that the whiskey compliments. Redcurrants, treacle toffee, brown sugar and that ever watching dominant whiskey warmth with vanilla notes casts its shadow over proceedings in the way Mount Vesuvius is ever on the horizon no matter where you go around the Bay of Naples. You can’t escape its glare!

So it’s a bloody good job I’m enjoying it.  Compliments cheese incredibly well, I’ve demolished an entire block…

#12beersofxmas day 10 – Steel City Brewing/Hopcraft Brewing/Arbor Argy Bargy


A black barley wine, I’ve never had a black barley wine before. I’m not aware of any others in existence! So this is a new style to me and I’m keen to give it a go. I love barley wines as they’re not that common. Good ones are usually really enjoyable, Magic Rock Strongman was a real eye opener for me for the style.

A tan head soon fades to just lace the edges of the surface. The beer is deep black, doesn’t appear to lace the glass when swirled though.

Incredible body to it, its thick and smooth but still distinct from a stout. I can’t quite explain why!

The black of the black barley wine brings a huge slab of roastedness. Powerful full strong coffee roastedness.  It’s really really good.

Packs a punch too 10.4% abv commanding you to take your time.

Funny though, the #12beersofxmas is abit of an ordeal.  I spend all year eyeing up beers to be included and when the time comes I bemoan the fact that I didn’t pick more variety. My daily blogs all seem to include similar references, and yet I feel like the beers I’ve had have all been distinct from each other.

#12beersofxmas – day 7 Old Chimneys Good King Henry Special Reserve 2014 edition


A small little known brewery tucked away in the heart of England each year releases one of the top rated beers in the world. This is the highest rated UK produced beer on ratebeer. So to say I’m expecting great things is an understatement!

Its a quiet cap opening, very little noise rushing out on opening, but there’s a hearty aroma escaping.

It pours like engine oil, I open the sump plug and leave the bottle to drain into my glass.  Its incredibly dense, with an oily lacing on the surface.

The aroma is dark fruits, Christmas cake ingredients all washed together loaded with brandy for moisture.

First taste is full of body, glides over your tongue and down your throat. You won’t drink this too quickly though. The fruits are prominent, juicy raisins and sultanas. The roasted coffee notes are bold too.

Sip it slowly, as it warms the coffee notes are surpassed by the booze soaked fruits. It’s a lovely beer, well worth it’s high rating.

#12beersofxmas day 9 – Buxton/Omnipollo Texas Pecan Ice Cream



Yup it’s them again. I think I’ve seen more Omnipollo mentions than any other brewery in people’s #12beersofxmas and I can understand why. I loved both the Rocky Road Ice Cream and the Anagram I’ve had so far. So what of the Texas Pecan?

Well what is a Texas Pecan? No it’s not a bird, you’re thinking of a Toucan…

Pecan nuts are originally found in a Mexico however, their popularity in the United States led many producers there to start growing them. Random fact, Georgia is the US biggest Pecan producing state, Texas is second.

So this is a nutty ice cream beer from the second largest Pecan producing state in the US. Got it?

Regardless, for me this beer has to be judged in direct comparison to the rocky road I had earlier. And for that I think it suffers.

The aroma is dark chocolate, Cocoa even, but not a lot more. The beer appears thick and dark, a light vacuum. Ain’t no light getting through this bad boy.

The texture is thick, but actually feels thinner than the rocky road. Without that rocky road comparison I’d be enjoying this a lot more. It’s a bloody good beer, just not as good as it’s brother. Sibling rivalry agogo!

The Pecan isn’t very pronounced. It’s hinting at a yellow Belly style beer but seems to hold back. It’s the quiet twin isn’t it. The family member that no one will remember. That had as much ability as any other family member but didn’t put down a statement of intent strong enough to stand out.

They should pretend this is from any other brewery and it’d be awesome. As it stands I’m disappointed. Which is just crazy.

Cracking beer, suffers for its company!



#12beersofxmas day 8 – Tempest Brewing Co Mexicake


So I’m 8 days in yet a day behind, will catch up tonight!

This was a fun one for me. In years gone by there have been some pretty obvious overlaps in beer choices, by that I mean there has always been a few beers that were in most people’s line ups. And the collaborative fashion in the industry usually saw folk drinking these together and comparing notes. What’s been noticeable this year is that the array of beers on offer has been so vast that there have been far fewer same beers supped. So when a few of us mentioned Mexicake we all got together to sup it on the same day, at the same time.

So tonight great beery colleagues @thegreatcubbio and @thealelady and I sat down to crack open this beast.

I say beast, it’s really quite tame, but watch it….

it pours abit flat, no real drama. In appearance I’m abit wary that it may be abit thin.

Aroma is bold though, chocolate to start, some fruitiness in there, think berries but then a warm rum note to it.

First sup is chocolate, milk chocolate, not too bitter. Berries do back it up, rich juicy dark berries, blackberries, blueberries, raisins too.

The body appears thin but in a reverse Dr Who tardis like fashion it becomes thicker on the inside. The minute it hits your mouth it must expand because in mouthfeel at least it’s got a lacing thick texture that is very pleasant and in no rush to move on. Gives you time to enjoy it.

While your enjoying that lingering texture, watching a few programmes, doing a few chores, then right when you least expect it boom! The chilli jumps out, booo! Made me jump! The warmth is really strong, but doesn’t overpower, doesn’t last and ruin your next sip, just makes it presence known. Little victory dance on your tongue and gets back in its corner for a pep talk before round 2.

This is a lovely chilli stout. Really good example of the style.

Tempest are a brewery I always look out for and this beer is exactly why. Nice work!




#12beersofxmas day 6 – Thornbridge The Heart Desires


Remember when you first started drinking craft?  Chances are back then you at some point discovered Jaipur/Chiron/Kipling. These beers are such classics that they often get forgotten about in conversations but they’re iconic. Their problem is that they’ve been too good for too long that they’re just not new anymore.

They still excel. They still astound you with quality. If you see these beers, buy them. Simple. Cask, keg whatever, they always deliver.

So Thornbridge are taking steps to push boundaries. And I think these barrel aged series beers represent a real big, deliberate, articulate, step in the direction of progress.

So far we’ve seen Days of Creation, Love Among The Ruins, Serpent (the collab with Brooklyn brewery) and The Heart Desires.

Love a beer with a caged cork, classy and rewarding when opening. Similar ‘pop’ to champers!

The zest is in your face from the moment you pour. The beer zips and sings around in the glass like an eager bee hunting pollen.

Every sip is met with a crisp refreshing wash. This is a beer that gives your tongue a workout. It’s a deep cleanse of every tastebud. Washing through every other lingering flavour in your mouth. Ultimate reset button.

But it’s so much more than that. It’s classy, and crisp, drying to the finish, taunting you to take on more, go on, have another gulp….

I bloomin intend to!





#12beersofxmas day 5ish – Omnipollo Anagram – An interview with the big man!


”Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la laaaaa etc etc….

Christmas eve, I love the feel good anticipation and good spirit that floats around on Christmas Eve.  Not least of all from my sons.

Theyve spent the whole day getting so excited they could burst at any moment!  My eldest (5) came to me and said “dad, can we leave one of your extra special beers out for Santa, cos he’s a very special man”. And how could I say no to that!

So the remainder of this blog is my interview with the big man. Enjoy!

Me: Hi Mr Claus, thanks for sparing time to speak to me on tonight of all nights. I know you’re a big lover of good beer. What did you make of the Anagram?

SC: hick! Erm is that a mince pie?

Me: Erm yeah, would you like one? There’s one on your tray.

SC: Thanks, they’re delicious! Ho ho ho!

Me: Sorry Santa, did you enjoy the beer?

SC: Oh did you leave that for me? It was delicious! It smelled every inch like a blended blueberry cheesecake and blueberries aren’t exactly a strong aroma, or at least strong enough to be pronounced in a 12% beer aroma. This beer is superb.

Theres a thick coating texture to it, lining your insides with over the top patterns like Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen on steroids.

The cheesecake element is that vanilla creamy flavour and texture and the initial flavour is the blueberry.

Backing that up is a stiff upper lip. A thick slap in the face from the boozy liquor that lifts this beer from being a sweet devourable beer to a bigger more involved experience. You know when you’ve had this beer. It’s one that takes you on a journey and not just to the fridge and back.

Quite possibly beer of the year. It’s certainly in the conversation.

Me: Thanks Santa. That’s great insight. Can I be the first to wish you a merry Christmas and hope the rest of your night goes well.

SC: thanks, must be off! Ho ho ho!! Merrrrrrryyy Christmas!!!!


#12beersofxmas day 4ish – De Struise Pannepot


Long since held in wide acclaim, highly regarded on ratebeer and yet its long since eluded me.  Had a few folk telling me they rate it higher than a Rochefort 10. Now hold your horses there squire….

Truth is this is a stunning beer.  Feels very authentic and loaded with pedigree. The aroma is dark fruits and top quality brandy.

The beers dark deep brown like a glass full of sultanas, zero head to speak of.

First taste is those dark fruits. The beer has a good body and slightly thicker mouthfeel. I kinda perceive better quality beers to have more body, or at least I’ve been disappointed in the past by a beer simply because of its mouthfeel. Which sounds very prejudicial but hey ho!

The flavours in this are juicy and bold, balanced and well pitched. Those dark fruits are indeed soaked in brandy. It’s all kinda sultanas, raisins, figs and almonds. This feels very Christmas, Santa in a glass, mine pie accompanying splendour!

Another lovely beer, #12beersofxmas going very very well!






#12beersofxmas day 3ish Hawksheadbrewery Cider Brandy Barrel aged Oat Wine


OK firstly an apology, this is yesterday’s beer supped today.  ‘Twas my works Christmas do last night and after a few too many Jakeheads I wasn’t in any position to fairly evaluate a complex beer like this!

So here I am! I’ve heard a lot of people talking about this beer. Not overly hyped but seems a slow burner. There are a great many folk who have gotten in touch since I posted my line up to say that this is a stonking beer. I cannae wait to crack it!

Bottle opens to very little drama. Pours quite calm, not looking too lively. Settles with no head to speak of, looking like a glass full of golden marmalade.

Aroma is very smooth, the ciders there but it’s not sweet or overly dry, smells well balanced and enticing.

First taste is good. The oat wine base gives a good body to it. It’s very smooth. The cider apples are prominent, the brandy is the spike of alcohol to remind you this is a beer.  A beer standing at 9% no less.

Man this is smooth. There’s a lovely mouth coating quality yet it’s not syrupy. It’s big, bold but feels decadent. Why don’t other try this style?! I want to try more beers as good as this!!

Theres a hint of sweetness beneath all the noise. Almost toffee apple esq.  This would work so well with apple crumble. But it’s the custard that would compliment it best. Mmmmm custard…..

Tremendous work folks!