Another weird year comes to an end but some things don’t change. As is the norm for this time of year, pandemic or not, the Quare Swally Northern Ireland Golden Pints make an appearance to celebrate the best brews from our wee corner of the world. I thank every single brewer, packer, distributor, publican, bottle shop owner and everyone else who’s involved in making beer available in our bars and off licences.
Once again this year, a disclaimer that I haven’t had every single beer produced but I have had a fair few, so don’t be gurning if your favourite isn’t named here.
NI NEW BEER OF THE YEAR: LACADA – Herring Pond
Following the installation of new tanks and changing from bottle to canning their beers, the co-operative brewery in Portrush began a very popular run of New England IPAs. Brewed using Sabro hops alongside Citra and Mosaic, Herring Pond was a delicious assault of refreshing juicy pineapple and sweet coconut in a beer glass.
* MOURNE MOUNTAINS – Sweet As, Brew (NZ IPA)
* MODEST – Oatmeal Stout
* ARDS – Bushmills Irish Whiskey BA Stout
* BEERHUT – Snowball (Imperial stout)
* BOUNDARY – A Practical Guide To (Imperial coffee stout) & If We Can Live Through This Then What Comes Next Will Be Marvellous (Barleywine)
NI COLLABORATION BEER OF THE YEAR: LACADA/MODEST – Tidal Streams
A double scoop for the North Antrim brewing team, they paired up with Holywood’s Modest Beer to create a highly impressive 3.0% ABV table beer. In August my notes said “light satsuma and passion fruit dunked into a bunch of daisies.” Seems fair enough.
NI BREWERY OF THE YEAR: LACADA
A full hat-trick for Lacada this year and deservedly so. Their game was upped immeasurably in 2021. Having said that, so many breweries also raised their bar this year. It really was so tight between a good few breweries as to which one would claim this title. Breweries opening taprooms despite archaic laws, brewers lobbying politicians in order to change those laws, breweries moving premises, so much has happened in 2021. It’s incredible to think how much better many breweries have become in the past couple of years, especially with the distribution/licensing/Covid/Brexit hardships they’ve had to face.
Well done to you all.
NI BEER LABEL OF THE YEAR: BULLHOUSE – Craft Beer Is Too Strong
Not many words needed for this one. Such a great label to complement a superb beer name. If you know, you know.
IRISH BUT NOT NORTHERN IRISH BEER OF THE YEAR: THE WHITE HAG – Festa Nuda
My notes from April said “Fantastic BA stout. Whiskey, brown sugar, coffee and vanilla all enveloped in a deep, rich and lusciously smooth stout. I’m buying more.”
I did. Then I did again. You should too if you see it.
* LARKINS – Drench (IPA)
* LAND & LABOUR – Screaming Trees (Sour ale)
* BREHON – Red Right Hand (Barleywine)
* GALWAY BAY – 200 Fathoms Double Barrel Aged Reserve x Calendar Coffee (Imperial stout)
GB BEER OF THE YEAR: OVERTONE – Sabrosa (DIPA)
Yeah, Sabro hops are my current darling, winning both the NI and GB awards. Many good things come out of Glasgow and Overtone Brewery beers have mostly been hitting the spot. I first discovered them while motorbiking around Scotland last year and instantly fell in love, their beers need to be more widely available on this side of the North Channel. Sabrosa was a cracker with big coconut, pineapple and orange elements right to the fore.
* BREW YORK – The Ghost Dimension (Imperial chilli stout)
* SIREN CRAFT – Project Barista: Mucha Mocha (Imperial coffee stout), Hard Pour Broken Dream (Oatmeal stout) & Granola Coaster (Brown ale)
* VERDANT – Allen (DIPA), Putty (DIPA) Don’t Tell Gus (DIPA) & 20 Watt Moon (IPA)
* OVERTONE – Twisted Sense (BA Imperial Stout)
* VOCATION – Imperial Kirsch (Imperial stout)
NI INDEPENDENT RETAILER OF THE YEAR: DC Wines, Belfast
There are plenty of excellent independent off licences dotted around Northern Ireland, providing us good beer lovers with our much needed fix of superb beer from NI, Ireland, GB, Europe and the rest of the world. I applaud all shop owners during this tough year but in the end, there can be only one winner of this category and once again it’s DC Wines on the Boucher Road in Belfast. Dave and Curtis provide a quality service, always with a welcoming smile and friendly chat. The wealth of NI beer in the shop helped get the award too.
I hope you have a good year ahead. May you stay healthy, enjoy plenty of great beers and best of luck to all breweries, good beer pubs and independent stores in 2022.