2019 is over. As a new decade starts we thought we'd give out beery highlights of the last year, and our beers of the decade too.
Donzoko Brewing Co. - Northern Helles
Above all else this has been the year I’ve passed seeking out new beers every time I drink. Granted, I still do love trying new beers and new breweries but a lot of this year has been spent enjoying the same pint over and over. One said pint I’ve have definitely enjoyed over and over was Northern Helles from Donzoko Brewing Co.
At Hop City this year I finished the festival on a pint of the stuff, jumped on a train to Manchester and immediately ordered a pint of it in Port St Beer House, can't say I’d do that for many beers. It's a beautifully made Helles that, for me, is easily the best the UK has to offer in that style at the moment. A modern classic, I have to get every time I see it.
A southern pub, I know, but I bloody love the place. Perfectly kept cask, vegan pizza, plenty of room, gold leaf signs on the windows, what's not to like. With it being at least a 3 hour journey away from my house I haven’t exactly been loads this year but as soon as I walk in it feels like my local and I just want to sit down and work my way through the cask.
Rivington Brewing Co. Taproom
I visited Rivington Tap/Brewery/Home Farm recently and it's just a bloody lovely place for a beer. I said it during our podcast with them many times, but there just isn’t a beer place like it in the UK (yet). Ben and Mick are the nicest people making brilliant beer with an ethos and determination that I respect no end. I'm excited by what they will be doing in the coming years and possibly decades.
Sitting in amongst the working farm and tucking into some barley wine is a must for an beer nerd in 2020.
Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen Lambik-O-Droom
Visited this place for the first time this year and by christ if it isnt a wonderful place to sit and spend an afternoon. Just happened to bump into two mates in there too so we sat and shared bottles while digging through a lump of cheese and bread.
Can't really say much that hasnt already been said about this place, so just go, its brilliant.
Dark Lord Share
Tom’s brother and the Cvlt Enforcer Max ask a few people to join him in cracking a Three Floyd’s Dark Lord vertical he had collected from around the world over the last couple of years, spanning 2014-2018 with a few variants in between. Everyone then obviously brought their own good bottles being cracked and it led to a boozy afternoon in Leeds were we downed some solid beers, some not so solid beers and talked shit. A lot of this year has been about who I’ve been drinking withm not what I’ve been drinking, and this was a testament to that.
Friends & Family & Beer
Despite the name haha, FFB was my favourite festival of the year. We all know the issues that happened so I won’t dwell on that, but I will say the work that went into saving the fest and the volunteers and staff that dug in and made it happen on the Saturday deserve all the praise they can get.
Just looking at the beer festival side of it though I didn’t drink a bad beer, the selection was as perfect as I’d seen. All styles covered, tickers and casual drinkers were catered for, you had new breweries and old pouring side by side. I walked around trying beer after beer (quite responsibly of course) and was always happy with my choice.
The size of the venue, the seating, facilities etc all made for a relaxed atmosphere, can't wait to do it agin in 2020.
Runaway Birthday Weekend
The Runaway Brewery 5th birthday weekend was a great celebration of one of the most solid breweries in the country, a boozy weekend with friends old and new that could of made the list on its own. What made it extra special for Beernomicon, and by extension me, was that Mark (owner and head brewer at Runaway) asked us to run two talks at the brewery during the weekend. We had never been asked to do such a thing, merely seeing ourselves as bullshitters on the internet, but Mark showing some confidence in us meant a lot. It was something new for us and we hope we did Runaway justice, and that everyone who was involved in the talks enjoyed them.
Beernomicon Bottle Shares
We wrote a blog for the Mikkeller Webshop on bottles shares earlier this year (Read Here), so I won’t dwell on this. Yet the shares we do each month are still so much fun. Met some great people through them and drank some amazing beer.
Thanks to Beermoth for letting us have them in their shop cellar too.
Pellicle started earlier this year and have been constantly putting out great articles since. Mixing beer writing with travel is always a win for me, who doesn’t love spending a cold British morning reading about the beer scene of the Faroe Islands? The cider posts have opened my eyes the most though, and I’m looking forward to exploring the apples and pears a lot more in 2020. With a particular favourite cider write-up being ‘A Diamond in the Rough - Meeting Cider Legend Roger Wilkins’ by Nicci Peet (Read Here).
Seems to be even bigger and better things planned for Pellicle next year and I cant wait.
Northern Monk Brew Co. - Eternal
I started this list talking about how 2019 was the year I wanted consistency above all, and Eternal from Northern Monk has been just that. With the brewery's bar opening in Manchester in 2018 I seem to end up in the place at least a few times a month. The first thing I look for is Eternal on cask and it never lets me down. Whether I’m on the look out for a sessional beer to start the day or a palate cleanser after hours at a festival, it's always hit the spot.
What makes this beer special, though, is its consistency through various drinking options. Can of Eternal for a train beer and you can't go wrong, obviously the cask is a personal favourite, but the keg version has really stuck with me the last few months. Not often I find myself ordering a pint of keg, never mind going ‘bloody hell it's good that’ after every sip like I have done with this over the course of the last year.
It’s just right for all occasions.
I’m looking forward to the next decade of beer. It's gone pretty well within the last one and I’m sure it’ll continue to grow (for good and bad). With that growth I just want more ridiculous beers, more well-made traditional beers and a good session with mates, think that's not much to ask for.
Beer of the decade for me has to be Marble’s Manchester Bitter, a beer I’ve enjoyed for years that I never get sick of. Whether I’m starting a day of drinking or ending one it always seems to hit the spot. Quite fancy a pint now actually.
Now prepare to be rambled at as I take you through my highlights of the beer world this past year and a little round up of the past decade.
In April this year I got married, and to celebrate the occasion I was allowed to brew whatever the fuck I liked. For the occasion I brewed an imperial red IPA at 9%, Red Wedding. My aim was to brew a beer that all our guests would enjoy and in turn get 'em fucked up!
A beautiful red hue from a rich, but delicate, malt base that leads to a piney tropical hop bite with a smooth moreish finish. It was the greatest day of my life and I had the pleasure of enjoying the day with a beer brewed especially for it.
Manchester has often been thought of as the beer capital of the UK thanks to its many breweries, the wonderful IMBC and vast array of exceptional bars. However I have to say that the past couple of years though have left me questioning its title. Leeds, with equal if not more of the aforementioned qualities is a contender and it's a challenge it may be winning since the arrival of Brownhill & Co. Little Leeds Beer House has been a destination beer shop for some time; so when Rich of LLBH opened Brownhill, people got excited!
The team at Brownhill & Co have created a relaxed euro style bar/cafe vibe in the heart of Leeds. There is always a solid lager on tap followed by an eclectic selection of those top teir names most search far and wide for. Not forgetting their glorious fridge filled with all your spontaneous needs.
I have been lucky enough to travel a bit this year and visit some great bars along the way. During my stag do we visited Lokál in Prague with its long beer hall filled with serving tanks and traditional Czech food which kept us busy for a while. 3 Fonteinen's lambik-O-droom, needs no introduction. A short train ride out of Brussels to their brewery where you can spend an afternoon comfortably going through their bottle list in a relaxed contemporary environment.
My top venue however has to be Muted Horn. Somewhere I've been eager to visit and was fortunate enough to get to go to celebrate my birthday. From kegs of Foam to bottles of Bokkereyder these guys have managed to curate a beer selection for anyone to enjoy. All this in a friendly, fun environment. We spent the night playing board games, munching pretzel sticks and drinking amazing beers, what more could you ask for.
Brewery wise Burning Sky have definitely surpassed themselves this year with the arrival their canned core beers, the Four Friends collab and the continued release of their Coolship lambic style beers. Burning Sky are a brewery who are more than capable of producing beautiful refreshing casks of pale ale but who can also turn their hand just as easily to blending world renowned mixed cultured beers. A perfect brewery for any taste buds, whether you enjoy a delicious robust Porter or seek a complex palate of flavours from Assemblage.
I spoke of this great festival earlier this year on Cvlt Con but it deserves more recognition; the outstanding Fidelity Fest in Dublin. Initially to celebrate the arrival of Whiplash's new brewery, this festival has been confirmed for a second year! I have been to no other beer fest that has felt like such a party. From the punters, volunteers and the breweries we were all there to just have a great time! No mad queues for beer, everyone getting the beer they want!
The decade is up and we can all agree that the world of beer is well and truly alive. Looking back on it, it is easy to see its growth into the mainstream. Whether you fondly look back on beer festivals and their beer lists swelling with more international, intriguing and inspiring beers or even when craft beer became factored into the British budget in the weekly shop. It is safe to say it's been an exciting decade for beer but what is the style of the decade, what beer defines it all? For me I have to say lager; for many would have started the decade drinking macro lagers, now here at the end they're still drinking lager but they know (hopefully) what makes a good a good one, whether it be local, craft or from the motherland.
I'll wrap it up now with my beer of the decade. Be me, you work in an office getting paid too much to do too little. You're unfulfilled and hate everyone. You have one respite from the world, your local bar. That little haven puts on a keg of Siren's collab with Mikkeller and some hokey back water American brewery you've never heard of, Hill Farmstead. That beer was Limoncello IPA. It's summer and you spend every waking moment drinking pints of this delectable beer. 5 years later it gets a rebrew, everything has changed, you hate people less, you do what you love, it's not the same beer but you'll always have that summer.’
Can the blog be called Highlights of 2019 please, and I’ve attached an image for the header too.