The Year that was and the New Year ahead, Part 2

For many, this year has been strange but I have seen that it has allowed people to re-evaluate their work/home life balance to consider learning new skills or hobbies. For me being furloughed allowed me time to revisit some skills such as baking as well as sewing and during the second lockdown I found myself refreshing my beer knowledge by taking part in Virtual Beer School. As I look towards 2021 I’ve been thinking about where I would like to be next year and how this can be achieved.

First of all I look to my blog, which unfortunately has been a little neglected this year. With two lockdowns the pubs have been closed and many events have been cancelled so I have struggled for ideas to write about – kudos to those who have been producing regular content this year! This has made me think that I need to branch out for more topics to blog about. I’ve always enjoyed reading about the history of beer and breweries which did prompt me to start some research in the summer. I am hoping to work on this piece so that I can get it published soon as well as look into some other projects in the new year.

I have never really been the one to talk about beer politics and I feel no need to write negative posts, particularly during a time we should be showing our support for our local and independent breweries or bottle shops. As we move into 2021 I want to continue to champion this sector as well as support and be a voice for women in beer. I’ve sometimes found it hard to be confident with my opinions which I think is why I have shied away from certain subjects. Next year I’d like to take the time to read more blog posts and beer books as well as listen to more podcasts. Hopefully this will broaden my knowledge as well as give me more confidence in my writing.

As I have already mentioned I spent some of this year taking part in Virtual Beer School and although I didn’t originally plan to take the Certified Beer Server exam after by completing the course I was prompted to take my Beer Sommelier studies more seriously. The 12 week course helped me to refresh my existing knowledge on beer styles and has given me more of an idea of what to expect when I am ready to take the final exam. In the new year I would like to start brainstorming ideas for my portfolio and perhaps even start writing it as well as regularly challenge myself to some blind beer tastings. I doubt I will be ready to take the final exam in 2021 but I can certainly set aside some time to get a little bit closer to my goal.

I would love to hear from you if you have made some New Beer Resolutions or some goals that you would like to work towards in the new year. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year and fingers crossed for a more positive 2021!

For The Year that was and the New Year ahead, Part 1 Golden Pints Awards click here.

The Year that was and the New Year ahead, Part 1 Golden Pints Awards

This year has been a weird one and I have found it quite difficult to think about my Golden Pints Awards of 2020. When I look back at the categories I awarded in 2019 I found that almost half of them weren’t relevant this year. Despite this I still wanted to reflect on my last year of beer even if some of these are a little tongue in cheek!

Best Pub/Bar of the Year: The Shed

It goes without saying that this year I give this award to the one bar I have spent the most time in, The Shed. I’ve been very fortunate to have access to a garden Pub Shed and it has been the venue for lockdown birthdays, weekends watching football on TV and where I have taken online Zoom events. During lockdown we used the time to help make some improvements and over the course of a few months The Shed has had installation of a new fridge, bar top with coloured downlighting and a working hand pump which has helped give us the draught cask dispense experience whilst the pubs have been closed.

Best UK Bag in Box Beer: Stealth Brew Co. Hibernation American Pale Ale

With the addition of a newly installed hand pull for The Shed we have been able to connect it to bag in boxes which has helped ease the longing for a decent pint of cask ale. I have to award my Golden Pint for this category to Stealth Brew Co.’s Hibernation. It’s been quite difficult to pick just one beer from Stealth’s range as we were placing orders for delivery most weeks but this was the first new beer to be brewed during lockdown and one that The Shed had featured on tap many times over the last 9 months.

Honourable Mention: Cheshire Brewhouse Rockall DDH Oatmeal Pale

We’ve ordered a few different bag in box beers from Cheshire Brewhouse more recently but this one is definitely my favourite we’ve had on tap. I’m looking forward to discovering more Cheshire Brewhouse beers in the new year.

Best UK Mini Keg Beer: Lost and Grounded Keller Pils

During lockdown the mini keg really came into its own and because of the restrictions this year I haven’t been able to try much keg beer. I decided I would change this Golden Pints Award to celebrate my favourite Mini Keg which is being awarding to Lost and Grounded’s Keller Pils. With my local micropub shut during the summer I did miss being able to pop down to my local for a delicious cold and crisp Keller Pils so I was very excited when I saw Lost and Grounded had decided to put it into mini kegs to enjoy at home. Thankfully the weather was so glorious in the summer and I found myself lounging in a deck chair most days with a book in one hand and a pint of Keller Pils in the other.

Honourable Mention: Five Points Best

It was a very close call between the Keller Pils and Best so this is a worthy runner up. When your missing a good pint of Five Points Best, but the pubs are shut, the mini keg really does hit the spot!

Best Food & Beer Destination: The Kitchen

This year has seen me get more involved in kitchen, helping my partner Josh with preparing evening meals as well as rekindling my love of baking. We have cooked and paired many of our meals with beer which has really helped me with my beer sommelier studies. One of my favourite bakes was a vegan Guinness and chocolate cake that I made for Craft Beer Hour’s 4th Birthday. I have also been learning about sourdough bread and even managed to create a starter from scratch. I’d like to use this knowledge to experiment with beer bread in the near future!

Best Beer Festival: Shed Oktoberfest

Josh and I had hoped to go to Germany for our annual holiday this year and finally visit Munich’s Oktoberfest. For obvious reasons unfortunately we were unable to travel and the event was cancelled anyway. So as not to miss out Josh and I decided we would have our own Oktoberfest in The Shed for just the two of us. We ordered a box of German Festbier, donned our Oktoberfest lederhosen t-shirts and hats as well as decorated The Shed. We had German food including currywurst, pretzels and bratwurst with sauerkraut which reminded us of our Berlin trip a few years ago. We spent the day drinking lager and dancing to traditional oompah music until the early hours. Although it wasn’t quite the Oktoberfest we had planned we still had a great day and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

Honourable Mention: Bristol Craft Beer Festival

We weren’t sure if this would be able to take place this year after being postponed during the first lockdown but in September Bristol Craft Beer Festival opened its doors on a COVID-secure festival. Although it was different to previous Bristol CBFs it was very well organised and I felt completely safe to enjoy the beers and the festival. It was just what I needed after missing out on so many cancelled festivals during the year.

Best New Brewery Discovery: Neptune Brewery

This is my new category to highlight a brewery that I discovered for the first time this year during lockdown. Despite not being able to travel to make new beer discoveries it is now easier to have beer come to me particularly as independent breweries and bottle shops have set up home delivery services to overcome the lockdown restrictions. I am giving this award to Neptune Brewery as the beers I have tried so far from their range have been really enjoyable. Unfortunately we had to cancel our plans to visit Liverpool this year but Neptune’s tap room is on my growing list of places to go to as soon as we are able to.

Honourable Mentions: St Mars of the Desert and Utopian Brewing

The beers I’ve tried so far from both these breweries have been amazing. It’s really great to see Utopian championing British lager and recently I have enjoyed drinking St Mars of the Desert’s take on Abbey Ales as a tribute to traditional Belgian beer styles. I’m looking forward to discovering more about these two breweries in the New Year.

Best Virtual Beer Event – Lost and Grounded 4th Birthday Party

This year it has become the norm for breweries to hold events online and I have attended quite a few over the last 9 months but my favourite has to be Lost and Grounded’s 4th Birthday Party. After a tutored tasting from founders Alex and Annie we all had a great time chatting and appreciating great beer whilst listening to a live set streamed from The Green Man, Bristol. My highlight was dancing and singing along with everyone to the DJ set which was also streamed on Zoom. Although it was a very different way to celebrate this milestone for Lost and Grounded I think we all had a great time and very much enjoyed the event. Hopefully for their 5th Birthday we’ll be able to raise a glass together in the brewery tap room!

Honourable Mentions: Turning Point New Frontiers collaboration launch and Saturday Tasting Videos with Unity’s Jimmy and Liz.

Turning Point’s New Frontiers launch gets an honourable mention as it was the first event I took part in online in April. Little did I know that this would map out how other beery events would take place over the next 9 months. I also wanted to give a shout out to Unity’s Live Instagram Tasting videos with Jimmy and Liz which I enjoyed tuning in to each Saturday night during the summer.

Memorable Beery Moment: Nat’s Virtual Beer School

Another new category for the year and I wanted to reflect on my best accomplishment of the year. During the summer Natalya Watson held Lockdown Virtual Beer School where she and guest speakers discussed a different topic each week including vegan beers and pairing beer with food. Nat then went on to create Virtual Beer School to prepare students to take the Certified Cicerone Beer Servers qualification. When I originally enrolled in the course I didn’t intend to take the CBS exam but I wanted to help refresh my styles knowledge for my own Beer Sommelier studies. After the 12 week course and with the support of fellow students I took the plunge to take the exam. I was elated to find out I’d passed and that I can now say I am a Certified Beer Server. The experience has helped boost my confidence as well as encourage me to continue with my own studies. This year I learned new skills and improved on existing ones but the thing I am most proud of this year is gaining a beer qualification and being one step closer to my Beer Sommelier goal.

Honourable Mention: Hosting Craft Beer Hour

Another great honour for me this year was being asked to host Craft Beer Hour for the Shed & Garden Pubs week. I really enjoyed seeing everyone’s pictures of their home bars as well as sharing some photos and stories from The Shed. As I have regularly participated in Craft Beer Hour most weeks it was a very exciting opportunity to be a host.

Brewery of the Year: Unity Brewing Co.

This year there has been one brewery that has really stood out for me, Unity. I have placed quite a few online orders over the last 9 months and the fridge has always had a few Unity cans stacked in it. Their beers are consistently great and there are so many different styles to choose from. I’ve enjoyed drinking some old favourites from the core range as well as new and special releases over the year, including their 4th birthday collaboration project beers. Although I’ve not been able to visit the tap room as much as I’d like this year due to restrictions I’ve still been able to drink amazing Unity beer at home. I am also looking forward to watching Unity’s new side project, May Provisions, grow as they explore traditional beer styles.

That concludes my round up of 2020. Hopefully next year will see some normality return and we can all play our part in rebuilding our great beer community!

For The Year that was and the New Year ahead, Part 2 click here.

My Year in Beer 2019

The Big Day is has been and gone, all the presents have been opened and the cheese has all been eaten. As we make our way through the last of the Christmas left overs and with the new year looming it is a time to reflect on the last 12 months. Last week I had my annual notification from Untappd to view my ‘Year in Beer 2019’ which is always interesting to look back on to remember some great beery highlights over the past year. After some reminiscing I scrolled down the page to find I could look back at 2018’s statistics as well so thought I would do a comparison. To my surprise the number of unique beers I’d checked in for this year was 272, a number that was down from 2018 when I’d registered 401. I then began to wonder why my check in count had changed and on reflection I think that there had been a shift in my drinking habits over the last year.

Whilst before I would be on the hunt for new and unusual flavoured beers to check in, I’ve found that this year I have really been enjoying consistent flavoured beer. Since the opening of a micro pub in my home town (The Hiding Place) I’ve spent chilled out afternoons and fun evenings with friends drinking pint after pint of great tasting beers. Whether it be well conditioned cask ale from our local brewery Stealth or a crisp, cold pint of Lost and Grounded Keller Pils on a hot summer’s day, I’ve found I keep going back to the bar to order a repeat of my last order.

A few months ago I read Mark Johnson’s blog post about his feelings on reaching the end of the ‘beer journey’ and how he “just wants to drink Jarl”. At the time I felt saddened by the thought of my own journey ending one day and I began to worry that I may have already peaked when reviewing my ‘Year in Beer’ stats for 2019. I managed to quash these fears as I realised that I still get excited about trying new styles as well as discovering beer culture in other countries. I’ve attended quite a few festivals this year which is a great place to taste new and unusual beers as well as tried a couple of the collaborative project cases. I’ve come to realise that I don’t have to keep drinking new beers all the time and that, I too, can be content with easy drinking and consistently great tasting beers.

It is with this reflection that I’ve recognised I have turned down a new path in my beer journey. The one where I can sit back, relax and enjoy drinking the same beer, pint after pint, as well as still feel the excitement and hype around new beer trends. Cheers to the next part of the adventure.

Hoppy New Year!