Beer of the year, 2015

This is different from brewery (outlet) of the year. This is about the best beer that I sampled in 2015. This doesn’t necessarily mean it was some special beer that was only brewed in 2015 (although I’ve had a few of those). It’s just my favourite beer of the year, taking into account all of the “beers of the month” from 2015.

January 2015 was a good month for beer sampling. I’m usually lucky enough to get a nice selection of different beers for Xmas (you get what you give, after all), and the first few days were spent in Cumbrian pubs, seeing in the New Year with a few more walks before returning to work.

The winner for January 2015 was one of those Xmas present beers, Russian Imperial Stout from the Flipside Brewery, a small brewery in Colwick, just outside Nottingham. It won the Midlands Region SIBA competition for cask Premium Strong beers for two years running and early in 2014 it won a National Bronze award in that category. It also won a Gold Award for the SIBA Midlands Region in the Bottled Porters, Milds, Old Ales and Stouts category. It is a cracking beer, with hints of chocolate and coffee and roasty and malty flavours. Very tasty and a worthy beer of the month.

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February 2015‘s winner was an import, from the Goose Island brewery in Chicago (sadly now another subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, although this does mean that there’s more chance of being able to find it in the UK). A predictable choice for a hophead like me, but there you go.

Goose Island IPA “recalls a time when ales shipped from England to India were highly hopped to preserve their distinct taste during the long journey.” Apparently, the result is “a hop lover’s dream with a fruity aroma, set off by a dry malt middle, and long hop finish.” As marketing bumph goes, it’s pretty spot on. It’s not really pale enough for my liking (I have a thing about pale ales that aren’t pale enough) but it does have nice levels of hoppiness. And as we all know, hoppiness=happiness.

March 2015 was an emotional choice, because it was the most emotional month. My dad passed away towards the start of the month, so beer was one of the furthest things from my mind. However, just a week later it was Mrs MOFAD’s 40th birthday, so we took a short break from events to return to our own home and celebrate as best as we could. The support of family and friends were the key to March. Part of this involved a trip to town for a “day before the birthday” Thai meal with friends. Afterwards the two of us retired to the pub next door (The Swan in the Rushes, a long time MOFAD favourite which appears on the map) for a quiet pint and some quiet contemplation.

This pint just happened to be the possibly aptly named Salvation, by the recently opened Charnwood Brewery (our newest and most local brewery). A nice, hoppy golden ale, and just the thing that I was looking for.

April 2015 was a month with so much beer to choose from. A week away, 4 visits to a beer festival,three pub quizzes, a couple of comedy nights, and much more. Around 40 candidates this month, but we travel to Spain (figuratively, since the beer travelled from Spain, via Ales by Mail, to my house) for the winner.

Napar Pale Ale from Spanish brewer Naparbier was April’s winner. Like most American pale ales, it is not pale, instead more golden in hue. Looks don’t really matter at the end of the day, what matters is that it is hoppy, fruity and very good. Spanish craft ale? Whatever next?

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May 2015 saw more tough competition for beer of the month. Two camping trips, one of which included a polypin of Shardlow Cavendish Gold and a polypin of cider, another 50 beers across the month, a trip to a brewery, the fantastic Buxton Tap House and the Blenheim Palace food fair (lots of ales from Two Cocks brewery). So, there were a lot to choose from, and right up until the last day of the month, a Buxton brew was going to be the winner.

However, after a visit to The Wainwright, I had no choice. The Belgium Salted Dark Ale from Fell Brewery was fantastic, complementing my game pie perfectly. Malty, roasted, chocolatey, a touch of sweetness, a touch of saltiness, a great balance. A very unusual yet very drinkable beer. In fact, all three of the Fell Brewery ales on that day were great (YOLO and Progressive Pale being the other two).

June 2015 was an even more competitive month (70 different beers and ciders sampled), as we were on holiday for the first week, which usually ensures a good few pub trips. And this holiday was near a Booths, which is the best supermarket, particularly when it comes to beer. We’d also been camping twice, enjoying a tasty ale or two around the campfire, as well as a trip to a local cider festival. I managed to pay a visit to a few London pubs too.

However, in amongst all of this, there was a clear winner, and that was a 330ml bottle of Rhetoric Edition I by Hardknott brewery, found at Tebay services (told you they had good beer). Malty. Plummy. Raisiny. A hint of anise and some spiciness. A truly awesome beer. Strong and powerful, and one for savouring rather than a gentle session ale.

July 2015 was probably only going to ever have one winner, Cocoa Wonderland from Thornbridge, sampled in the sunshine at the Thornbridge beer festival – it was an explosion of chocolately loveliness. As with some of the other winners, this would make a brilliant Xmas ale, full of flavours of the season. A worthy winner, especially against all of the other hoppy beasts that were tasted during July.

August 2015 was perhaps a slightly odd choice for a summer month, but the Scotch Ale from Black Isle brewery was dark and delicious. Very heavy roasted flavours and very very nice. Oh, and it’s all organic too.

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September 2015 also saw something darker take the prize, 1698 from Shepherd Neame, an excellent “old ale”, full of hops, mixed in with malty and caramel flavours. Apart from the “Classic Collection IPA”, this was the best Shepherd Neame beer that I’d ever had.

October 2015 was also an easy choice. Cwtch from Tiny Rebel. As soon as I saw this in the fridge at the Fox & Hounds in Lyndhurst, I had a feeling that Cwtch by Tiny Rebel would be this month’s victor. Hoppy redness, just fantastic.

November 2015 saw West Coast Pale Ale from Renegade Brewery take the crown. A super hop hammer hit on this one #hophammertime – definitely one for hop heads (like me) and a worthy winner!

December 2015 also saw another hoppy winner, in the shape of Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale by Flying Dog Brewery, full of hoppiness and happiness.

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So, those are the contenders. On to the winners…

Taking the Bronze medal, we have Rhetoric Edition I by Hardknott brewery from June 2015:-

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The Silver medal goes to Cocoa Wonderland from Thornbridge in July 2015:-

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There was only ever going to be one Gold medal winner. It is Cwtch from Tiny Rebel from October 2015, so much hoppy happiness:-

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It’s not hard to see why this was champion beer of Britain this year. It was my champion too.

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