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Sort-of Golden Pints 2019 - Part 2: Breweries, Bars, Festivals and Media


The Friends & Family & Beer Festival


This has been even longer coming than anticipated but we cannot move properly into 2020 until it is complete. Plus, celebrating the positives happens but once a year (twice if you count the number of posts this has taken.)

Post number one is here and explained my break from traditional Golden Pints. I’ve tried to keep some of the details as brief as possible as it is a long list but here are my mentions for my favourite breweries, events, spaces and beer media from 2019.    

Breweries


Burning Sky  

It seems nearly unnecessary to mention Burning Sky in such accolades but I have somehow contrived to overlook them in previous years. Perhaps surprisingly best known for their 750ml mixed fermented specials, they have also had perfect cask offerings for years. That I chose to spend much of Indy Man drinking only their beers speaks volumes but also comes as little surprise. Unrivalled

Yonder Brewing & Blending



Perhaps I don’t write more about breweries that specialise in certain styles because there is a fear that I’m going to use the wrong terminology that older fans of the styles are more accustomed to. Now I know how beginner's to this culture feel. Even so, as mentioned in Part 1 of these Golden Pints, 2019 saw a huge shift in my beer drinking towards breweries specialising in (what I would describe as) Wild and Mixed Fermentation beers or Farmhouse brewing.

Whether I use the correct lexicon or not, Yonder quickly established themselves as my surprise love from the last 12 months. A few years ago, the descriptions of their styles alone wouldn’t have interested me, but in July I found myself venturing to Manchester two Saturdays in a row to drink through Yonder tap takeovers at Northern Monk MCR and Port Street Beer House respectively. If I saw them more frequently, Fermhouse Pale could become a regular favourite. I can’t wait to see how they continue to develop.


Wilderness Brewing


Wilderness pop-up at Beer Nouveau


It was the Independent Salford Beer Festival that first made me aware of this small Welsh farmhouse brewery. Again, their styles wouldn’t have appealed much to me long ago but now they are amongst some of my favourite beers. I was straight to Manchester when they brought a small pop up to Beer Nouveau in the middle of the year. James has a great story and I expect to hear them mentioned more and more through 2020.

Little Earth Project


“Everything I have had from Little Earth Project has been outstanding and yet I do not rush to buy their beers. I must rememdy that.” I tweeted this in the Spring of 2019 and did go about fixing this oversight through the rest of the year. In addition, they have helped me understand - and allow - the term terroir in reference to beer much more. One of the best in the land.

Verdant Brewing Co


Shock. Horror. I never thought I’d see the day. After plenty of indifference to Instagram’s favourite soup makers since their inception, 2019 was the year I finally *got* Verdant. The beers went from tasting unfinished to being the best examples of the hazy IPA style in the country. I rated a fair few of them quite highly – There's Always Tomorrow being a highlight. Interesting that I’ve seen a few of the Forum fools say that Verdant hadn’t been as good recently when they are miles better. *Insert Daenerys sceptical face here.*

North Riding Brewery




A mention for the north’s best cask beer producers, especially as I seem to have forgotten to laud them in previous years. They were even more important in 2019 as my local was going through a... let’s say transitional period where lots of the previously enjoyed Greater Manchester favourites have been forgotten for lesser variations. These days of disappointment have been punctuated by ones of joy when North Riding hits the bar and every single patron laps it up and stays for extra beer until the cask runs dry. I’ve always enjoyed North Riding but this year they have been a deity around my way. 

Moor Beer Co


I don't use Untappd religiously but I do try to keep as up-to-date as I can just because it helps to have a prompt and record of often forgotten facts. Moor are here because they should be, but also because that was apparent from my records on the much maligned app. When filtering my scores over 2019 down to 4.5 ratings and above, they were one of only three breweries to feature more than three times - for Nor'Hop, Hoppiness, Smoked Lager and Old Freddy Walker. Of course, three of those have been favourites of mine for some years but it was within the last 12 months that I was reminded of that. 

Pubs, Bars & Brewery Taps

 
The Harp (London)




The occasional issue with social media is that a place can be billed so highly prior to visiting that it leads to disappointing confusion on eventual visit. That happened to me on a couple of visits to a well thought of pub in Hackney that I simply felt no affinity towards. Perhaps it was over egged and that a blind visit would have turned up a different opinion.

Regardless, there are times when this disappointment is not apparent and this happened on my (shockingly) very first visit to The Harp in London. Some pubs instantly feel like home, as though this has been the local at the end of your street for all time. It may have helped that both visits occurred on a Sunday and Tuesday afternoon, when the bar area was a little quiter, but put it down as the very first pub from the capital to join the “must-visit” pile for every future trip to London.

City Arms (Manchester)


It has been a slow year for Manchester. Whilst the list of new venues I want to visit this year in Leeds continues to grow, I can’t think of anywhere beyond the new Brewdog Outpost to open on this side of the Pennines. We like to languish. So it was time to rely on some old haunts.

The City Arms has been relegated in recent years, by my own mentality, to pubs my dad liked, along with other old favourites such as The Castle or Rising Sun. Stupid really, when you consider how much I (supposedly) like old pubs. In 2019 though it became my go-to for a city centre pint and regularly has one of the best cask line-ups in the city. It is a regular stockist of Neptune Brewery, who I don’t see in Greater Manchester enough. I’ve probably had more Cloudwater on cask here than anywhere. Then there are the likes of Squawk or Torrside and the best kept Sonoma, all in a pub that has always been lovely to sit in. My favourite place in town now.

Beer Nouveau Brewery Tap (Manchester)




I believe I mention them each year but Beer Nouveau still have the best tap space in Manchester. It still retains that feeling of being in a pub and a strong connection to the brewery and the beers, something that other Manchester taps can lose. There is also a friendly welcome every time, something that other Manchester taps also lose. In addition this year there were also the brewery showcases on the spare bar in the brewery, including the afore-mentioned Wilderness, an enjoyable afternoon with Elusive Brewing ,amongst others.

Events

Peakender



It is strange that the opinions and questions from others can tar your own memories. I had to think whether this rearranged, muddy and difficult to navigate festival was enjoyable, due to the scepticism from others that mostly refer to the uncontrollable weather. The truth is that it was my favourite year yet and I had a wonderful time. Buy some wellies guys.

Friends & Family & Beer Festival


I held back on writing about the moment that somebody said "Connor is in the back of a police van" during this festival's inaugural year because I feel that has become the focus. In fact, at the moment somebody announced this to the group, there was a brief disbelieving giggle before we decided what beer to have next. It had no bearing on our evening.

So I don't want to give this particular event praise for, as it were, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat as that had no bearing on the session that I attended. Instead, I experienced an evening prior to all the brouhaha which had been well crafted, thought-out and executed. This wasn’t a good festival because it managed to go ahead; it was a brilliant festival regardless of the drama.

Torrside Brewery Tap Weekends / Smokefest




Yeah... I want to play it cool with Torrside but let us look at the facts. I've relaxed on the FOMO a lot in recent years, other than with every single Torrside release. I don't have a beer "stash” that I am ageing as such; more a large pile of Torrside beers I have yet to get around to drinking.

That has been apparent since they began, so I don't feel the need to place them in breweries of the year. But in a move that doesn't help me look any less like a screaming 60s Beatles fan, I didn't miss a single one of Torrside's monthly tap weekends in 2019. Whether hot, cold, windy, wet or being spat on from a local marina man, it is a space I can spend hours in perched on a picnic bench with dog at my feet.

As for Smokefest – that was all said here.

The Independent Salford Beer Festival


I once wrote of the beer list at Salford Good beer regardless of forum reputations, membership political party awards or review site hubris. If it is brewed well and tastes good then it makes the list. That remains the mantra of sorts. When it comes to a diverse range of outstandingly well made beer, I can’t think of a festival beer list that runs it close. The people are alright too.

Beer Media


Pellicle  


I really do love beer blogs and use an app to subscribe to every single one I'm aware of in this country, whether they are a frequent writer or not. It has died off slightly in recent years as some of my favourite bloggers have taken up other media, retired or moved on to more professional work. The latter is presented brilliantly in Pellicle.

Being the cynic that I have never denied being, I did wonder whether I could find too much enjoyment in less-personal-more-professional written work in this way but Pellicle has married the two perfectly. Much of my favourite written beer media from the last year came from here.

(As an aside - beer bloggers do not be discouraged - you are just as important.)

Podcasts (Variety)


2019 was definitely the year that I really bought into podcasts, subscribing to more than ever over several different subjects but listening to as many beer podcasts as I can. Out of the many, those that I listen to the majority  (if not all) episodes from are Beers Without Frontiers, Rhythm & Brews (currently on a small hiatus) Men Beerhaving Badly and, towards the end of the year, Sheffield Hopcast. I try and subscribe to any I hear of now and even toyed with the idea of starting one last year but timings just weren’t right. Maybe in 2020…

My favourite still remains the Hopinions podcast though. Again there is a certain rawness and personality to it, whilst presenting interesting talks and interviews, that more professional and paid podcasts are not currently providing and could never do as subjectively anyway.


That was 2019 then. You've made it through the list. Adjust to it because I think this will be my preferred format of Golden Pints for quite some years. Finally, I can move on to writing about current events. There are no big predictions, goals or wishes for the future because I’ll be happy if it provides as many highs in this industry as the previous year. Thank you all for reading and a Happy New Year. Again.


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