Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008 Round-Up

Well it’s time for the 2008 review. Let’s get cracking. I’ve only put four or five stand-outs in this list; otherwise it’d be as long as your arm – I’m very good at being a beer bore. And I promise not to mention Neil frigging Morrisey either.

Local Pubs of the year
– has to go to the Abbey Inn, Newlay, Leeds – proud to call it my local. Martin and staff have not only got a lovely, no-nonsense little pub with a real family atmosphere going, but a real love of ale means always a good selection on tap; not to mention the charity work they do. Every week seems to have a beer festival on, and they are always worth a visit. City-wise , Foley’s flies the flag for enthusiasm and choice; knowledgeable and friendly staff make it the automatic choice for a mid-week, post-work pint or three (when Champion’s League is on). Let’s hope the recent sale of York Brewery doesn’t mean Foley’s disappears. Mitchell’s would be fools if they did - and god knows there are enough of them in the beer trade. Finally, an honourable mention goes to The Owl in Rodley. It’s really been turned around this year, and best of luck to them in 2009 – keep up the good work.

Beers – bottled
Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA
– this fresh, hoppy brew usurped Summer Lightning as my summer ‘go-to’ beer in 2008. Good stuff indeed; on the right side of hoppy and a great example of the style. Like an American new-wave IPA, but better balanced.
Rodhams – IPA and Wheat. From not even knowing they existed to top of the charts in 2008 – a fantastic micro, making fantastic beers. Gimme more.
Alhambra Reserva 1925 – one of the best, well-balanced bottled beers I have come across. Resiny, green, and fresh, a perfect accompaniment to food. Awesome stuff.
Cain’s Raisin Beer – fruity, but still light, this beer is not independent but man, is it tasty. I drank a lot of this in 2008. Complexity of flavours is the key to this one. In a similar vein, Sharp's Doom Bar remained awesome wherever it travelled.
Beers – Draught
Saltaire Brewery – and the ‘most improved’ award goes to Saltaire. Despite being previous underwhelmed by their stock, their Olympia Honey Ale was about the best-balanced honey beer I have come across, and their Hazelnut Coffee Porter was heaven itself. Well done, and keep up the good work.
Kelham Island Brooklyn Smoked Porter - if there’s one style I stay away from its smoked beers. Not this one. Awesomely balanced and poetry in a glass.
Thornbridge Jaipur IPA – ok, the bandwagon carries on here, but have you tasted this stuff? Jesus Christ, it’s good.
Wylam Northern Kite – a ruby red, malty treat, this is real northern ale. Wylam doing what they do best – making no-nonsense examples of the style, and hitting the nail on the head every time.

Blanche de Bruxelles - Refreshing in a way I didn't know beers could be.

Rooster’s Wrangler – it wouldn’t be a TGS list without something from Sean Franklin! Creamy, sessionable, golden...always quality, no mater where served. Get me to Blind Jacks!!

Villain of the year
– Who other than our esteemed Al Darling? If he’s looking to make a name for himself he’s certainly done that in 2008 – by becoming the man who nails the English pub trade to the wall. Missing the point spectacularly, he tightens the screws on publicans whilst supermarkets continue to sell spirits for home consumption at ridiculously low prices. Change is needed, fast. Never before has dealing with the scourge of ‘Binge-Drinking (TM)’ been so elegantly mishandled.

Hero of the year – well, I guess every publican who struggles on in this kind of market. Everyone who organises beer festivals. Everyone who tries something new at the bar. Everyone who stocks good beer in their shops or online. Everyone who forsakes a pint of pop for a pint of something good. Everyone who supports real ale, its consumption and production.

I think that’s you. Here’s to 2009 – mine’s a pint.


Heather said...

Is it just me, or was this year's Anchor Steam seasonal ale kind of drab? I miss the orange, coriander and juniper of 1999. :\

I'll have to hunt down a few of your 2008 winners. Here's to 2009, indeed.

Will said...

Can't argue with that little lot. Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year Leigh!
PS Hope your brand new manager is slightly less successful than ours for the remainder of the season!

Leigh said...

heather - i havent actually tried this years but i'll seek it out. Will - we'll see, lad, we'll see! have a good one!

Anonymous said...

Some great beers there Leigh, I've just left a comment over at "A Swift One" saying that my beers of the year include Lakeland Gold by Hawkshead, YPA by Roosters and Guzzler by York Brewery.

We'll certainly have to have another outing round Leeds as i really enjoyed that day out.

Leigh said...

thanks John - you know your'e welcome here anytime. Let me know about the Jan session. Roosters YPA - ooh. Awesome. Hawkshead have been great this year, too.

Bailey said...

Ooh -- I had a Belhaven Twisted Thistle just this week and, yes, it's a corker.