So without further adeu, my 2013 Golden Pints awards are as follows.
· Best Irish Cask Beer - Cask in Ireland is a growing phenomenon but it's still just a phenomenon with few Irish breweries doing cask, though more and more are giving it a go because cask is becoming more and more popular. It's a hard category because finding something outstanding is pretty hard but here it is. Tripple Hopped Purgatory pale ale from the Franciscan Well brewery in Cork. They may now be a member of the Molson Coors family but they can still brew a bloody good beer.
· Best Irish Keg Beer - A much easier category since most Irish beer is kegged but made very difficult by the fact that the competition for this category is at an all time high with some outstanding beers available. In the end the best beer of 2013 can only be the absolutely awesome Of Foam and Fury (think they should drop the "of") from the Galway Bay Brewery. This is the first true DIPA brewed by an Irish brewery. A fair mention to O'Hara's DIPA a few months before which was a good attempt but in American terms was more like a good IPA. Another mention to 8 degrees for Amber Ella which was probably my beer of the festival at the ICBCF, though I didn't make anything official in that regard. Not to worry lads, look to the next category.
· Best Irish Bottled or Canned Beer - 8 degrees Amber Ella was the clear winner. While they and other breweries had some phenomenal beer in bottle this year, for me the beautiful malt backbone, new world hops and almost sessionable ABV of 5.8% meant this was a cracking beer and something I bought a lot of during the year. Note to Cam and Scott, brew more please!
· Best Overseas Draught Beer - We are getting in to tough territory here. Ireland has seen some brilliant overseas kegs and casks arrive and picking one is going to be hard indeed. Perhaps this is unfair but the one I'm picking is the one that's freshest in my mind because it only arrived in the country a few weeks ago and indeed is the last article I wrote before this one. Modus Hoperandi from Ska Brewing in Colorado wins it for me for me. It wins because it was a beautiful beer, it's not often you see some Ska Brewing beers on tap outside the US and especially in Ireland and it was pretty good value I thought.
· Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer - Another tough one but I'm going to go with another surprise appearance from the US. Founders All Day IPA is a session IPA. At 4.7% it just makes it in to the session category even if it's a few points over in reality. Founders is from my wife's home state of Michigan so holds a special place in my heart. Founders have better beers available but this one is just so quaffable that it wins for me.
· Best Collaboration Brew - There are may interesting possibilities here, even Ireland had a few collaborations this year but nothing outstanding yet. I'm going to go again for something relatively fresh in my mind. Black Tokyo Horizon from Nøgne Ø, Mikkeller and BrewDog.
· Best Overall Beer - I'm going to be biased and pick Of Foam And Fury from Galway Bay here because it's Irish. No doubt there are better IPAs but it's fresh in my mind and I'm going to be patriotic here.
· Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label - Brown Paper Bag Project wins this for me. They use different icons/colours depending on their beer and that stands out. I also love that the labels on the bottles are like brown paper bags. They also essentially put a pair of boobs on one of their beers called Doxie.
· Best Irish Brewery - I want to pass on this one as they have all done a great job this year.
· Best Overseas Brewery - Passing here too, I can't say who the best overseas brewery is.
· Best New Brewery Opening 2013 - I'm going to go with Black's of Kinsale here. Beoir raised €2000 for them and in exchange we get to go down and brew a beer. Each of the 40 people who contributed will get 20 bottles of beer at the end and also bragging rights as some of it will go on sale commercially. It helps that the beer is good!
· Pub/Bar of the Year - Just picking my favourite bar in Dublin for this one. Brewdock is conveniently located by all public transport imaginable, has great background music, good bar food, awesome beer selection and a great atmosphere. It's a tad expensive for beer and is often packed so hard to get a seat but otherwise it's what any decent craft beer bar should be aiming for.
· Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013 - 57 The Headline on Leonard's corner. Goeff who made the Bull and Castle in to Dublin's first independent craft beer pub has moved on and set up his own place. It's a little out of the way for me but it's still an outstanding pub and hopefully it will prosper. They even have extract homebrew kits for sale.
· Beer Festival of the Year - Easily the ICBCF at the RDS in September. It's by far the largest beer festival on the island and gets bigger every year.
· Supermarket of the Year - Probably Superquinn if I had to pick one. Although since they were just bought by Supervalu, I guess it's Supervalu that wins here.
· Independent Retailer of the Year - Drinkstore in stoneybatter, Dublin for striving to bring in every beer they can possibly fit in their little shop and many that don't fit.
· Online Retailer of the Year - Drinkstore.ie for the same reason as above but also for their cheap shipping across the whole island meaning there's no excuse for anyone in the country not to have access to great beer (or any alcoholic drink) even if they live in the arse of nowhere.
· Best Beer Book or Magazine - pass
· Best Beer Blog or Website - I'll list both. For beer blog I would say The Beer Nut and for website it has to be Beoir.org but I'm clearly biassed on that one. It is however the best resource for craft beer in Ireland so is well deserving I think.
· Best Beer App - BeoirFinder app because I would be lost without it in Ireland.
· Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer - I'll stick @TheBeerNut down here, his dry pedantry often results in an out loud chuckle. Unless it's aimed at me, then he's just an arsehole!
· Best Brewery Website/Social media - The Galway Bay Brewery got a flashy new website and has made great use of social media this year. A mention usually garners a very quick response.
· Food and Beer Pairing of the Year - For the hell of it, I'm going to put Kentucky Bourbon Barrel ale with blue cheese as a likely pairing. I had it at the press launch for the 2nd Annual Alltech International Craft Brews & Food Fair. They matched it with 28 day aged steak and it didn't work but I found it worked perfectly with the blue cheese. Much better than the bourbon they paired with the cheese as that went better with the steak of course.