a retro brand which could have been played for novelty value but which actually turned out to be a pretty decent, smooth bitter and did much to change my opinion on the virtues and merits of home-consumption kegs.
a very pleasant macro premium lager from Molson Coors which slotted in nicely in the gap vacated by Guinness HopHouse 13
ABC - Jerry's
was one of many beers to capitalise on the 2021 trend of throwing orange at, in or on anything; an was one of the few beers in recent times to get orange as an adjunct right.
Skinner's - Chapel Rock
One of several IPAs which helped change my mind further about IPAs in general; this crowdfunding reward was perfect for St Piran's Day
Northern Monk - Seabrook's Cheese & Onion Lager
This supposedly novelty beer had an unforgettable, unique umami quality to it though I hated myself for liking it. Unfortunately, given some of the stories that emerged this summer, it's likely to be one of the last NM beers I enjoy for a while.
Wild Beer - Oak Aged Millionaire was a genuine example of how you can genuinely iterate on an already well-established, well-loved beer without resorting to amping it up to insane ABV levels.
Now on to the
Top 10 Proper
Lost & Grounded
A late but strong entry. I finally stole away across the Channel last weekend to try out the L&G taproom; ostensibly to get a pint of draught "Autumn Protagonist" and of course to get Keller Pils direct from the keller. But the most noteworthy half of the day in the vast metal hutch was their new oatmeal stout, Starsky, which was everything an oatmeal stout should be - smooth, subtle and silky.
If you're going to do a Dryanuary or a Stoptober, Big Drop have to be part of your stash. The Woodcutter was perfect for October; warming and fulfilling. AF Beer as it should be.
Lost & Grounded
All The Cool Cats
There is no shortage of excellent lagers from craft brewers around nowadays, and All The Cool Cats is no exception. So what made this one stand out from the field. The artwork, the label, the name. Generally, folk would have you believe what is inside the can is more important than what is on the outside. But I like cats just as much as I like beer, so this was definitely one for me.
Having long been a fan of dark lagers, from Budvar Reserve to Schlenkerla Märzen, picking up a few of these excellent Exeter examples was a no brainer. Some may want a Dark IPA comeback; I want more dark lagers like this. There's definitely one of these in the Christmas stash for this year.
Big Smoke Welsh Honey Smoked Porter
We are lucky enough in Newport to have a venue - The Pod - which serves fresh draught Budvar (at a very reasonable price too.) That same venue is on one of my cycling routes and, when I began practicing Sober Sunday over the summer, ensured it remained a pitstop by offering a NA version of the legendary Czech lager which is every bit as flavourful and enjoyable as the real thing; so much so that I got a crate of 24 delivered for Stoptober.
Scottish sourmeisters Vault City established a reputation in 2021 for what seemed like infinitely interesting and intriguing interpretations of their chosen style. Not only was this lemonade the highlight of the bunch, they also forced bemused barfolk up and down the land to google what a "cloudberry" was.
Tooth & Claw
Cameron's little brewery on the side - Tooth & Claw - have provided some amazing beers over the years - the Nordic Ale and the Chocolate and Orange from winter 2019 being particular highlights. But, as mentioned above, when you come across a great lager, you sit up and take notice just that little bit more. This is definitely one of those, so much so that it is now a permanent fixture at the Head of Steam in Cardiff, fighting tooth and nail with Brooklyn, Sagres and San Miguel.
Mine's A Dark
Something truly amazing happened in Newport this autumn. Three new venues opened. THREE! Firstly the Alexandra, a new pub serving Rhymney Ales, which were a favourite of my late grandfather, took over a closed bank on the high street. A new pool and sports bar opened a stones throw from the much missed Riley's. And to top it all off, Newport gained a third brewery, Weird Dad, with its very own tap room, the Filling Station, named after the nearby Shell garage. They debuted with a strong line up of IPAs and darks, the best of which was their "Mine's A Dark" mild, a beer which I unashamedly described as "orgasmic" when I first tried it. They've since done a canning run and two examples from the first batch went straight into my Christmas stash
Neon Raptor / Vault City
Dinosaur Tea Party
Well yes. This may be cheating slightly as Dinosaur Tea Party is actually two beers with one name. I was fortunate enough to sample the different variants in the one day on a recent trip to Cardiff. Firstly the keg version - the lemon ice tea sour - at Bub's which came in at just over 4%, before cracking open a can of the 6.8% turbo charged DIPA version up at Pop N Hops
Objectively the best beer of the year? Maybe not. But I'm not an objective beer wanker. Was it the most memorable? Did it make the biggest impression? Have I ensured I've got one ready for Christmas Day? Oh yes. Yes indeedy.
Venue of the year