Well, it’s coming to that time of the year again where beer enthusiastic bloggers and Tweeters are planning their golden pints for 2016. If you don’t know the golden pints are, it is each persons list of the top beers and beery people of the year. If you want to see how this works and want to be one of those people who cover my Twitter timeline with the hashtag #GoldenPints2016 you still have time… Maybe. If you’re reading this a little later, you certainly have time for next year. So go and get planning, while looking at my post HERE from last year and check out these awesome bloggers that have taken part this year:
As much as I would like to take part this year, I feel that so much happened to just name one brewery or person for each category: a lot have been more than wonderful. With that in mind, I wanted to break down the past year in beer for me on a personal/ professional level.
The year started with the mutterings that carried on from last year with the impending doom of a hop shortage. Brewers and breweries were tweeting about how they are worried about the lack of American, Australian and New Zealand hops coming into the country and how it would impact on breweries around the world. The output of these hops was drastically down on previous years. This meant all those lovely IPAs produced in the last year probably wouldn’t be produced as much. We were finally at an age of low bittered, low hopped beers, right? WRONG! Who would’ve expected it would be the year of the Double IPA. A beer that needs more hops than others; not just any hops but the fruitiest/ citrus tasting hops from the countries previously mentioned. Now that the yields of hops are extremely better this year, are we going to see this trend of overly hopped beers continue into next year? With the massive trend of NE American IPAs that has flushed over the UK this year, I doubt it will. Personally, I will be looking towards European styles of beers: Tripels, Hefes, Helles and even hoppy Pilsners.
Craft beer in 2016 was finally getting a definition in the UK. Then it didn’t. Then it did again. Then breweries were able to buy into a neat logo. Then they weren’t. It was a complete roller coaster of emotions (If you like queuing up and riding those things). Hoping for some form of press release/announcement/whatever in 2016 from United Brewer which didn’t come. A lot of people still had hope that the big micros of the UK could finally come to some agreement on how to protect the term ‘craft beer’. This in turn brought the term to the forefront of people tongues and, in my opinion, created an opportunity for breweries to label products how they see fit in marketing their beers. In August SIBA announced that, for a fee, they were offering their members use of a label showing they were a craft brewer. There have been many breweries out their pledging their support to this, but I am yet to see any breweries carrying this label. Is it a bit too late for breweries to market the term ‘craft beer’? Are we in the UK looking for something more to help sustain the smaller beer related companies, or has the craft ship sailed already? Why do we even need to define something that holds so many genres? I suspect as a form of protection for independents from the bigger breweries. With independents willing to sell their brand to the highest bidder and still remain carrying the craft label, is there any point? I am sure 2017 will be focused on this; with smaller breweries expanding, the big companies will surely be keeping an eye out on the movement of the market and how they can protect themselves.
Unfortunately, 2016 has seen the end of many things. Breweries that we knew and loved stopped trading. Some downsized, some even moved their product into smaller bottles. It was also the last year for a few beer festivals, whilst it was beginning or growth of others. We saw Off Beat brewery scale down, Waen brewery change to gypsy brewing and Otley brewery cease to exist. Tiny Rebel outlined their plans for a huge new premises including a taproom. Breweries like Cloudwater, Wylam, Magic Rock and Six Degrees North cemented their place in the UK brewing industry by showing that you don’t need to be in London to attract crowds to taprooms and bars, while making great beers appealing to all taste buds in the UK and beyond. More and more breweries are focusing on using dedicated taprooms for revenue; a model that London breweries have proved over and over again works. New breweries have made an impact also. Lost and Grounded have appeared with their foot firmly on the accelerator with a shiny brewery and talented brewers, all while being super friendly: they can’t really put a foot wrong. Though 2016 has been big for them already, I can tell that 2017 already has their name on it. Little Earth Project started life as Mill Green Brewery in 2008 but changed their name this year. With the name change came a change in brewing techniques, focusing on sustainability. Their brew house is heated by solar panels and a wood burner. If 2017 goes the opposite way to this year’s overly hopped beers, these 2 breweries will need to be on the front of your list for 2017.
This year also gave us some of the best beer festivals the UK has offered. Unfortunately, for one of these beer festivals it was it’s last. For the past 3 years it was my privilege to attend a small beer festival in a community centre in Salford, Manchester. Every year the organizer (Jim) and helpers have been excellent; the beer selection superb. Manchester has a thriving brewing scene and this beer festival is the perfect example of how good local beer can be. No brewery too big or small; every year it has provided a massive selection of old and new breweries: a ticker’s dream. This year, however, had a twist: EVERY (and I mean EVERY) beer was unique, each one made specially for this festival. This just added to the charm of it for me. I really could go on and on about Salford beer fest but I’ll spare you for now. Luckily for me, I was one of many to experience the final fest, as it won’t be back. Leeds beer festival was absolutely huge as well, this year being my first time attending. I was shocked and stunned as to why I’d never even thought about going before. Thanks has to go to the people at Raynville Superstore for pushing me into going and Maria for making that decision for me, it was one that I never regretted. I met old friends and tasted A LOT of really good breweries’ beer. The rooms were well thought out and themed, it wasn’t too cramped with people like at other festivals either. If you are going to go to one beer festival next year, make sure it is this one! That being said, beer festivals can only be a good thing to promote new breweries and to be the first place to get an honest opinion about the beer from the heart of the brewery itself: the people who make it.
From a professional perspective, I have been very busy. At the start of the year I made the choice to join the Twisted Barrel Ale team: one that I have not regretted. Not only have I managed to brew beers that I enjoy brewing and tasting, I have also had my eyes opened to new ways of brewing and adapting styles, which in my eyes is invaluable. On top of that I work with the friendliest bunch of people I can think of. Working here has transformed me: igniting the flame, the passion I have for creating a product for everyone (well, most people) to enjoy. It’s made me understand that not all people have a hidden agenda. It’s taken me to meeting up with Steve (@beeroclockshow) again, getting an even closer relationship to local breweries like Fixed Wheel, Sacre Brew, Green Duck, Rock n Roll, Frameworks and Burning Soul. All while being able to brew with people who I never thought I would be brewing with, like Abbeydale Brewery. With Abbeydale’s help we have taken our first step into barrel aging: something I am really excited about. We also had some visitors pop in – Dan Mayer from @UKbeermaps and Guy (@guy_latimer) – both of whom I’ve since become really good friends with. So while this year has been exciting, I am sure 2017 will be even more so. I am really excited about it and I hope you enjoy me ranting about it. Thank you all for making my 2016 the best year in my professional career of brewing so far. I do appreciate it all: good, bad and the abstract comments. They are what make the brewing and beer scene one of the best environments to work in. Thank you to everyone I have spoken to in person and through social media. You have all contributed to making me who I am at the end of 2016!
SEE YOU IN 2017!