27/04/2015

Finally getting decent beer in Belfast

I've been a bit lax with posting recently and this blog is perhaps a month past when it should have been posted, better late than never they say! A lot going on beer wise in NI at the mo, hopefully do a few posts in coming weeks to catch up a bit, not least on new breweries and beer venues in our capital.

Perhaps helped by the appearance of some craft-styled breweries in the North and the resurgence of good beer on the island of Ireland as a whole Belfast will host a new beer festival this Spring bank holiday (May 22nd-23rd). Set 6months apart and serving mostly from keg and bottle this will be a completely different affair to the November CAMRA cask festival held in the Ulster hall.


The listed and atmospheric Titanic Drawing Offices
ABVFest (for that is its name) has been organised by four disparate beer enthusiasts who have come together to bring decent beer to our shores.
Darren met Felicia at a beer tasting event at the National last year and she began to distribute his (Pokertree) beers through her business (Prohibition NI). Whilst they both love the Ulster Hall festival it doesn't reflect where good beer is in Ireland right now and wanted to run an event focussing on quality of beer, regardless of format where a group of enthusiasts could come together and enjoy beers in a more relaxed environment. When Boundary's Matt and Michael came along it turned out they were planning a festival on similar lines; so four people came together with the idea of putting on something a bit different in Belfast, modelled on the likes of Indy Man beer con. This is not least reflected in the choice of venue, wrangled somehow by Matt and Michael is the use of the formerly bustling now decrepit Titanic Drawing Offices. The festival will be the final event there before it becomes a boutique hotel. Of course this does mean if the event is successful they'll need a new venue next year, which is all part of the ethos says Darren!

All four are from different backgrounds and each contributed their own take on what they want from a festival, it really will be a reflection on four people's tastes. Michael's creative eye (he's a photographer by trade) has helped design the style of the festival and as the only non-beer-trade organiser he acts as a proxy for all 1200 attendees to ensure the festival caters for the geeks as well as the brewers!

A Boundary and Galway Collab Brewday
Photo courtesy of Tom Delaney
Each session will be fairly small with 400 people, allowing for conviviality rather than hubbub sometimes seenthe attendees reading like a who's who of the best our islands (and the worldwide brewing community) have to offer. Felicia's extensive list of contacts and good will built among brewers in the few short years Prohibition has been operating has resulted in an astonishing array of beers, the like of which have never before been seen on our shores including a number of festival specials and one-offs (currently held tightly underwraps) plus the official launch of newest Belfast brewery Boundary with their AGM being held on Saturday morning. It will also serve as a showcase for Northern Ireland brewers; all were invited and most were excited to attend, though Darren was at pains to stress that this is not "The Good Food show NI for beer" its a celebration of beer first and foremost, with of course a chance for enthusiasts to put the faces to the brewsters and brewers whose wares they so enjoy. Felicia said "we wanted to create an experience and not just a drinking session,  a festival that could allow people to taste some of the best beers that are available." In that respect ABV will be completely different to anything seen in Northern Ireland to date


And there will be a number of those purveyors of beers present at the event, behind the bar chatting all things beer, ably assisted by a posse of volunteers (including yours truly; who has volunteered to manage a bar for all three sessions). Most of these beers will be served on keg, 40 at one time across two bars, supplemented by a fistful of bottles. A lot will be a single keg only, meaning you'll have to make do with what's on during your session, but working out what's on is all part of the fun! There will also be some ciders for those of the fermented apple beverage persuasion and of course with decent drink must come decent food and a number of proper street food trucks will be in attendance.

Michael said "We've planned a festival that we know we'd love ourselves and I can't wait to enjoy it." He's particularly looking forward to a few "dark beasts" with more details to be released in the coming weeks @ABVFest.Felicia is also looking forward to seeing others getting pleasure from the beers, finding out "how fun and interesting beer can be, trying beers they have maybe never tried before and having a bit of craic." This sharing aspect will be cultured by some special tastings on the day.

Could this vial hold a clue?
I'm most looking forward to trying the Boundary Beers on draught (including some of those aforementioned collaborations)* and meeting a lot of those people who help keep our beer community lubricated plus of course catching up with old friends from around the UK. And for the team behind the festival its all a bit overwhelming but of course very exciting, "it's amazing how many hundreds of people have been so quick to buy tickets and support our efforts to do something different". The Friday, Saturday evening and weekend passes had already sold out one month before hand; so you'll need to act fast to get one of the last tickets for a Saturday lunchtime session (12-5)  and the final Saturday day session tickets sold out shortly afterwards. There is a waiting list, so try your luck on the website, hope to see you there!

*I'll hopefully bring you an update of these as soon as I hear about them!

26/04/2015

First collaborations

A comment on using ingredients for no real reason
from the excellent (sadly defunct) Trouble Brewing


A mark of a maturing beer scene is brewers reaching out to each other to collaborate on a brew together. Some commentators dismiss this as a cynical attempt to generate beer sales (often at a premium) without necessarily bringing anything new to the table; often characterised by bunging ingredients in with no real thought about the process. Whilst this is sometimes the case I don't see an issue with trying to make more money from selling a beer; its up to the consumer to decide whether or not to part with their cash. In my opinion, when done well a collaboration can create a beer better than the sum of its parts, or with a difference to a breweries usual output.

Collaborations have only just begun to emerge on the island of Ireland, with Carlow collaborating with Pinta on a stout (Lublin to Dublin) and Eight Degrees with By The Horns on a Belgian white (Horn8's nest) last year. They were both amongst my top-rated beers last year and show that Ireland's beer scene is beginning to coming of age. There was also a limited collaboration special (North & South of the River) between Donegal and Inishmacsaint for the Wild Atlantic Way festival last year (missed it, unfortunately). However there were no intra-country collaborations to be found - until now that is.

Yes, Gordy from the aforementioned Inishmacsaint teamed up with the redoubtable Darren from Pokertree after meeting at the very beer festival Gordy's other collaboration was released. They decided to produce a Christmas beer together, christened Crann, a "Saints & Sinners" collaboration. Being rural breweries in Fermanagh and Tyrone respectively they wanted to reflect their environment and the historic practices of foraging for ingredients (of which Gordy already has some form, having previously produced a bog myrtle beer).
Crann is Irish for tree, which fit in well with the planned use of spruce tips, a trip to the local An Creagan bog also yielded wild cranberries, which added a double-meaning to the name. Rounded out with raisins (not local obviously!) and a Belgian yeast resulted in a 6.6% biere de garde. Brewed on Darren's kit in Carrickmore (its a bigger set-up) and released in 750ml bottles to add an element of theatre to a beer designed for the Christmas dinner table.

I thought I'd missed the boat on this however as it was released before Christmas. Luckily when I was in Belfast earlier this month The Vineyard had just received a second shipment; so was able to snag a bottle for sampling. 

As you can see it pours an attractive pale amber with a fluffy beige head. On the nose are the typical spicey yeast esters you'd expect from a Belgian yeast, alongside a herbal, slightly tart nose. Medium body with creamy wheat spices, its very soft and easy drinking. Flavour wise its fruity, peppery, touch of banana ester, tart citric light finish with long esters. It's very much redolent of a German weissebier, with additional herb/spice complexities and very much enjoyed. I wasn't overly able to taste the influence of the fruit though it probably added to the overal complexity. It did remind me somewhat of William's Brothers excellent Nollaig, though of course with more emphasis on spice than hops. There may still be bottles available from the usual suspects if you're quick (there's only 1500 bottles!)

Darren seems particularly pleased with how well the beers sold, given the typically conservative palate of the province and fully intends to rebrew the beer for next Christmas. Darren and Gordy fully intend to team up for further collaborative efforts later this year (Crann did have a #1 on the label after all!), and, though he refused to be pinned down on specifics, gorse, elderflower and cherries have all been mooted. These are likely to be in 500ml bottles as people may be less willing to stump up the cash for a big bottle when not for a specific occasion. As Darren and Gordy both enjoy Belgian ales and with such a wide range of examples to draw from they're all likely to be Belgian inspired. In fact there should be something new mashed in on Monday...
Darren has also recently collaborated with Marble in Little Barney to celebrate the newest addition to his family; there may be a few bottles left in circulation. They have since been joined in the list of collaboration-friendly brewers by Boundary who recently collaborated on a sour ale with Galway Bay. There are also a number of collaborations happening south of the border, but that's a story for another day, I look forward to tracking down and trying them all!

What are your thoughts on collaborations within the beer community and are there any you have particularly enjoyed?

*For those who didn't work it out the Saint refers to Inishmacsaint and Sinners to the story behind Pokertree

23/04/2015

Around Belgium in 50 beers

Its already late April and I haven't yet posted about this year's annual beer blogging event, renamed this year to better reflect the participants as "The Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference". Slots are filling up nicely but there's still time to register to join us on August Bank holiday weekend. This years conference will be in Belgium (if you hadn't guessed from the title), more specifically Brussels and the organisers seem to have gone all out in organising an agenda befitting of an event in its fifth year.

Diepensteyn Castle, now owned by Palm
For the first time in the European conference history there will be an optional pre-conference excursion taking in three breweries (and a castle!) including première Saison proponents Dupont, fruit and lambic beer purveyors Lindemans and the oldest brewery in Wallonia Dubuissons. All this and meals plus transport for only 20Euro (so about fifteen quid for us Brits!)

The above excursion and conference proper this year are sponsored by Belgian Family Brewers so expect to sample beers from brewers Bosteels through Verhaege via De Konninck and St Bernard, there will be a veritable smorgasbord of beers to choose from.  There's also a tantalising hint of a big announcement with a press conference to be hosted on day two discussing a new direction for the family brewers. Could this be a move to protect more traditional styles from overseas interference as with Gueuzes or could it perhaps be railing against contract brewers and providers thereof? We'll have to wait and see but it will certainly be interesting.

Interior at BelgaQueen
I'm really looking forward to the talk on sour beers by Petrus and the history of Belgian brewing - how does it tie in with our perception in the UK? There are also the usual conference events including obligatory wordpress session, tales from the shires as we get a round-up of the state of blogging around the Globe and the ever-popular brewery speed-dating. We're spoiled for food this year too as alongside the usual Pilsner Urquel Feast we have an evening meal in Belga Queen which looks like it could be a highlight as well as lunch provided on both days, all for the measly sum of 120Euro!

The grand entrance hall to marivaux
The conference venue looks fantastic in the converted cinema that is Hotel Marivaux and there's an exceptional conference rate of 95Euro for a double room (helped by the fact Brussels is quieter in the summer). To get to Brussels you can fly directly or via Amsterdam or Paris. There's also the more relaxed method of Eurostar, which may be a better bet if you're planning on bringing bottles back!

Foeders at Rodenbach
The fun doesn't end there though as there are three* post-conference excursionsorganised by Visit Flanders. There's a one-day trip for wild ale fans around the Pajottenland including to my first Gueuzerie visit Boon as well as the lambic museum and beer festival. The second option is a trip to Leuven (now extended to two days) with visits to small microbreweries like De Triest and global behemoths like Stella Artois. The third option (which myself and Daisy are choosing) takes in the hop fields of Poperinge, six breweries over two days including crazy experimenteers de struisse, Saint Sixtus Trappist Abbey (producers of long-time World Number One Beer on Ratebeer (currently #2!) Westvleteren XII) and Flemish Red experts Rodenbach plus a  day pottering about Bruges including the Beer Museum. Crazily all of these trips are also 20Euro per person including overnight stays!
choice of not one, not two but

I can definitely recommend attending, all in for five days pretty much full board and transport once you get to Brussels with basically unlimited beer  you're looking at about £300 per person . Can't really beat that anywhere in the UK, let alone in one of the most expensive cities in the world so what are you waiting for? Hope to see you there!

*Though you've missed out on one of the two day-excursions already

16/01/2015

Can you dig it?


Logan Plant of Beavertown proud
with his newly canned Gamma Ray
Canned beers have long been associated with mass-market, "stack-em high, sell 'em cheap" beers and often have connotations of low quality, metallic tasting beverages for cheap home drinking only. Yet 2014 saw the installation of canning lines at some of the UK's foremost craft brewers (Camden Town, Fourpure and Beavertown) with Roosters online in 2015 and Magic Rock Following hot on their heels with a line ordered for the new brewery. Brewdog are also moving their canning in house. So what's changed people's perceptions?

Craft beer in America has seen the can treatment for more than decade, with Oskar Blues leading the charge in 2002 and many other breweries following suit in the years since. The confusingly named Cask Brewing Systems (the supplier of most of the new UK systems) started off supplying brew kits to customers in Canada. They saw an opportunity to help brewers in the US differentiate themselves from competitors in the oversupply crisis of the late 90s and came up with the canning solution:
"These brewers were looking for creative and economical ways to increase sales“and we’ve always prided ourselves in finding solutions for our customers.  We knew that consumers were ready for cans if someone would just provide that option. So our solution for struggling brewers was to help them utilize the aluminum[sic ;)] can.” Peter Love, Founder

Cask have been there since the beginning and have done a lot of the ground work (along with the brave breweries who took the canning plunge!) debunking the canning myths and much hostility from established brewers who offered only bottled product. In the first year, Oskar Blues' (later at cask) employee in charge of can promotion (Marty Jones) even received a letter stating “I look forward to the day your company fails for attempting such a ridiculous idea.” charming!

Once these myths were put to bed however; any rational person could see that canned beer had numerous advantages over bottled beer and often preferable to draught dispense methods.The obvious one is that obviously cans are lighter than bottles; so not only easier to lug around once you've bought them, but cheaper to transport from brewery to stores. This also makes them more environmentally friendly and the life-cycle of aluminium from ground through smelting to finished product and numerous recyclings is less carbon intensive than glass manufacture.
Once you've got the can's home its easier to get them in the fridge and they cool more quickly. Its easier to drink them surreptitiously and you can take them to places where glass is banned (sports events and festivals).
In addition to this the beer actually tastes better, well all know about light strike, the process by which UV light reacts with hop compounds in bottled beers to produce a "skunky" aroma and taste. Yes, brown bottles slow down the process but canned beers eliminate this completely. Another less well appreciated issue is oxygen pick-up in the packaging process, often lead to a stale or papery tasting beer. Oxygen can also get in through bottle-caps but again cans are impervious. Modern canning lines can limit oxygen pickup to as little as 15-20ppb (that's parts per billion!). (For comparison purposes Brewdog's dissolved oxygen with all of their fancy kit is usually in the range 25-40ppb)*
Aesthetically cans look better too; giving the brewers more space to play with for eye catching visuals and they stack well creating a pleasing display in shops.

But I didn't start the post to expound the benefits of canning, I'm sure most of you know them already. No, today's post is to bring you news that the first Irish canning line has now been installed and will soon be producing beer with all of the above benefits for us to buy in the shops! From their inauspicious start Cask have gone on to work with hundreds of breweries and canned beer sales have grown in the US by >80% in the past year (whilst bottle sales grew by a mere 16%); no wonder the Irish breweries want a piece of the action!

"So who is it?!" I hear you cry; well those who have been paying attention to the Twitter sphere will already know but those of you who haven't the brewery is Metalman. As first adopters they'll have their work cut out but there are plenty of decent off-licences in the country that will stock them. Indeed the last few months of 2014 saw the arrival of some of the aforementioned UK brewers' products for sale over here. Look out for Camden Town IHL, Beavertown Gamma Ray and Fourpure Pils for three must-stock Fridge Beers

Cans being printed
 The fact that they produce decent beer (and unavailable until now in takeaway packaging) will of course see them through without any teething problems. As I type this Gráinne, Tim and the team are seeing their can designs produced in Wakefield ready to fill in to at the end of the month.



For those of the more geeky inclination, the ACS model Metalman have chosen can can 30 cans per minute. That's 1800 an hour, or the best part of 5000litres in an 8 hour day; so there should be plenty to go around if they already stretched brewery capacity can keep up! Until recently Metalman brewed on the rescued kit of one of the early microbrewing pioneers in Ireland, Biddy Early, who unfortunately were ahead of their time. This investment should help Metalman to remain a fixture in the Irish beer scene for a long time yet. Their machine also has a small footprint meaning its not eating into space required for an expanding battalion of fermenters!
(L2R:Dave Fitzgerald, Grainne Walsh, Wayne Jacques,
Tim Barber, Adam Doyle, Jacqui Kelleher.)
The first beers will be shipped on February 1st,  I for one am looking forward to buying a case!

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*In itself a massive improvement on their 100ppb plus dissolved oxygen content at their previous brew house.

14/01/2015

Time to reflect

January is typically a time for reflection looking back on the previous year and looking forward to the year to come. That is after all why the month was named after the Roman god with two faces, Janus!
And what an apt post to do it on too, number 300 - I don't think I even dreamed I'd hit 300 posts when I started this blog 3 1/2 years ago! 2014 saw a slowdown in the number of posts due to the usual excuses (lethargy, apathy and procrastination) but will endeavour to be a little more frequent in 2015.
Despite the lack of blogging the beer sampling has still continued apace with over 1100 (new to me) beers sampled. I made great headway with sampling the wide array of beer Ireland has to offer, we may not yet have the depth and breadth of the UK but we have a bigger proportion of exciting brewers with even more planned for 2015. See my roundup of new openings and my Irish Golden Pints plus Irish beers to look out for posts.
The UK too has been no slouch, with so many decent brewers now available, I'm largely content to just drink our own countries' outputs rather than searching further afield. After all its usually fresher, cheaper and more interesting than most of the US stuff we can get over here. That's not going to stop me sampling stuff when I see it on keg, or coveting other people's beers when they're travelling but the UK can now proudly offer up brews to compete with the best of the US (as my Golden pints should attest).
So enough looking back, what does 2015 have in store? Well plenty more brewery openings of course, both here and across the UK as a whole will mean even more beers to sample with some other established breweries pushing into the limelight. Hopefully this will be the year that I finally get to Indy Man Brew Con and I'd love to go back and work at GBBF after a number of years off. I of course fully intend to get to the Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival again too.
One of the highlights of the year will without a doubt be the Beer Bloggers Conference (which is in Brussels this year). With a number of pre and post conference excursions the weekend will be extended to almost a full week of beery education and frivolities. There's still time to book, hopefully see you there! Whilst on the subject of beery excursions Zephyr (The team behind the beer bloggers conference) are now also organising taste vacations, if you like good food, good drinks and travelling (and lets face it who doesn't?!) you can book a bespoke tour with them. Dislaimer: if you book through my affiliate link I get some monies!
300 posts in is also an excellent point to refocus the blog on beer and cider, especially on the island of Ireland which leads on to the launch of Our new blog (yes, Daisy is going to be writing too!)...drumroll please...DRINKS WE'VE KNOWN. Original eh? So expect to find whisky, rum, cocktails and perhaps even non-alcoholic beverage goings on at the other place. I'll try not to cross post too much, but if these things interest you please give us a follow.
That's all for now folks, thanks for sticking with me in 2014, all the best for 2015 and hope to see you all soon.

05/01/2015

Ones to Watch 2015

From Commence
So how did my predictions made at the start of the year fare?
Partizan is now well established on the Bermondsey mile and continues to pump out beers apace including some more interesting variants. Pressure Drop too continue to produce solid beers, but seem to have been less visible this year. One brewery that has been growing is Brew By Numbers, who (with the support of Brewdog) have increased their capacity, begun releasing barrel aged beers and featuring in many people's Golden Pints this year.

Wiper and True have continued to impress and are beginning to be seen out and about but are still relatively small. Tiny Rebel and Celt between them are now the best regarded brewers in Wales, with Celt continuing to produce plenty of interesting collaborations.

Top Out are another brewery who are continuing solidly but (aside from featuring in a Beers 52 selection box) have been fairly quiet. The Hanging Bat certainly seem to be producing some beers, with a slew of collaborations appearing but no facilities built as far as I'm aware!

Kinsale and Brown Paper Bag both continued to excel this year and I look forward to more from them. Farmageddon make interesting beers but some have been affected at the packaging stage. The Gold on cask at Belfast Beer Festival was excellent however. Red Hand has been fairly quiet, struggling on with their pilot kit and hopefully scaling up over the next year or so.

So that's the review of 2014 predictions (a mixed bag perhaps?) "What are your tips for 2015?!" (aside from Golden Pints) I hear you ask, well read on dear readers!

If you've been paying attention you'll know I expect big things from Boundary (I am now a part-owner after all!) with plenty of collaborations and specials already on the cards. I'm also looking forward to Belfast Brewing, helmed by the North's only Brewster,Alex (Hilden excepted, which Ann has been Brewstering at since the start, though I think Owen now does most of the day to day brewing!) Alex's beers impressed in the samples I picked up earlier this year; so look forward to seeing how they pan out when made on a bigger scale!

Moving south of the border Chris at Galway Bay has had a fantastic 2014 so expect 2015 to be the year they finally break out of Ireland and perhaps set up a bar in Belfast (please?!) and have some spare beer to send to thirsty beer drinkers across the water (either direction!). Metalman have just installed a canning line (the first in Ireland!) so looking forward to trying their excellent pale in this format. (previously only available on draught).

 See also my Irish Golden Pints, Brews to watch out for and summary of 2014 brewery openings

Moving across to the mainland Burning Sky is another brewery that has had an excellent year (sneaking into my top five at the last minute with the tasty saison l'Ete). Mark formerly brewed at Dark Star and was recognised by the British Guild of Beer Writers this year; so grab the beer when you get a chance! I'm yet to find one I've not enjoyed.

Northern Alchemy really impressed on a recent trip to Newcastle, bringing interesting ingredient additions to conventional styles, the beers are solid and interesting, good stuff! Look out for their chocolate and mint saison plus their excellent hopped pilsner.

Elusive brewing should hopefully hit its stride in 2015. Helmed by Andy Parker (@tabamatu) (winner of 2014 Craft Beer Co home brew competition) you can expect lots of hop forward pales, Belgian ales and experimental weirdness if his previous releases and home brew blogs are anything to go by!

Aside from those above pretty much anything from Buxton, Siren, Wild Beer Co, Beavertown, Partizan, Brew By Numbers, Marble, Hawkshead, Magic Rock, Tiny Rebel, Wiper & True, Redchurch, Pressure Drop & The Kernel will see you in good stead.

No suggestions for Scotland this year I'm afraid, I've not had a chance to visit since January but Stewart, Fyne, Tempest and Pilot all continue to impress, seek them out!

31/12/2014

Golden Pints 2014

Its mid December (12th) so about time I began my Golden pints post. As usual I won't be publishing until the 31st because there's still a chance that things could change before then. This year I've done a duplicate set of answers specifically for the island of Ireland as things have come on leaps and bounds since last year See Also: my beers to look out for in Ireland and look out for my "ones to Watch" post later this week.




UK&RoW
Best UK Cask Beer very few drunk this year, though I'll drink Buxton SPA whenever I see it.

Best UK Keg Beer Buxton Double Axe was superb

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer BBNo IPA 05/05 (Simcoe and Chinook), Redchurch Hoxton Stout and Siren shattered dream were my top rated UK bottled beers. Canned: Fourpure Pils really stood out and impressed.

Best Overseas Draught again, very few tried been happy with UK & Ireland stuff.





Best Overseas Bottled Great Divide Impressed as usual with both Old Ruffian and chocolate Yeti tried for the first time this year. Mikeller Amarillo IIPA also very juicy.
 
Best collaboration brew Wild Beer/ Beavertown Rubus Maximus, Tiny Rebel/ Dark Star Rebel Alliance and Hawkshead/ Lervig Green Juniper & Hemp DIPA

Best Overall Beer Wiper & True Pale Ale the Summer (but any Pale ale from W&T equally worthy of trying!)

Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label Bad Seed, single colour, basic type and parcel tags.

Best UK Brewery Wiper and True probably my top UK brewer right now Runners Up:Brew By Numbers & Buxton

Best Overseas Brewery Still Great Divide based on what I've had this year!

Best New Brewery Opening 2014 Anspach and Hobday impressed on their launch with both Porter and Smoked Brown...look forward to visiting again in 2015.

Pub/Bar of the Year Not got to very many, Famous Royal Navy Volunteer in Bristol

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2014 was Small Bar this year? Edit ah they were tail end of 2013, but as I didn't visit until this year they still win it!

Best beer and food pairing Cheese and Beer ;)

Beer Festival of the Year N/a

Supermarket of the Year N/a

Independent Retailer of the Year Alesela for keeping me topped up with Scottish stuff and for keeping me entertained for an evening in Glasgow. Ales By Mail are also still fantastic of course.
From B&B's blog

Online Retailer of the Year Eebria is a fantastic new service, good selection boxes but ordering direct from brewers is a great idea...just waiting on a Beermondsey box now!

Best Beer Book or Magazine Boak & Bailey have won this hands down though there have been many excellent books this year. Hot Rum Cow still best drinks mag.

Best Beer Blog or Website Its still The BeerCast, Zythophile and Boak & Bailey I read most these days. Special mention to Larsblog for his fantastic series on Norweigan Farmhouse Ales.

Best Beer App Ratebeer

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer Matthew Curtis (despite regularly making me jealous!)