My 2013 200 beer challenge – and a Top 40

Beer pumps at the GBBF

Last year I started using the Untappd (drink socially) app to track the beers I drank. I covered most of the familiar, usual brews that I drank so for 2013 set myself a new challenge – to try 200 new beers in the year.

Unlike many (all) of the other New Year resolutions that I’ve ever made, this one I stuck to! I drank my 200th beer on 6 December in The Crown and Shuttle – Red Ale from the London Fields Brewery. Final total for the year was 219 – ending the year celebrating my 40th birthday in Dublin drinking a Brewdog 5am Saint. Tidy.

Even in the short space of the two years I’ve been systematically recording my beer hunting it’s getting easier by the week with more specialist beer bars and shops opening all the time. Perhaps the most encouraging thing is the increased range now being stocked in most hight street pubs, restaurants and hotels, often from local breweries. More and more it’s no longer the norm to be presented with Carling/Strongbow/Guinness as the only ‘choice’ at the bar.

I also spent a brilliant week up in Sunderland in February doing the Brewlab ‘start up brewing’ course – I’m determined to make 2014 the year I start brewing my own.

Here’s a round-up of whose, where and what from 2013 and in traditional charts-style, my Top 40.

Breweries

breweries

Having the Brains Craft Brewery on the doorstep has meant a big increase in the choice available at many of Cardiff’s pubs and beer shops. They’ve had a prolific year and many of these beers are in my Top 40. Looking forward to seeing what they have planned for 2014.

Tiny Rebel’s arrival in Cardiff was welcome news for the city’s beer drinkers and their Urban Taphouse has become a firm favourite. With the City Arms, Zero Degrees and a rumoured Brewdog bar all on the same street it’s only a matter of time before the council is having ‘Beer Quarter’ banners printed…

The Waen Brewery has been a real find for me (I’ve followed them for ages, but thanks to the Bottle Shop have had easy access to the beers this year) and I’m looking forward to their planned bar/shop opening in February.

I was lucky enough to visit Australia and Ireland – I naively assumed I’d struggle to find good beer in both places and was very pleasantly surprised. I found great craft beers all over Australia and was given some great tips on twitter to hunt down the best that Dublin had to offer.

Venues

venues

The nearest pub to my house was perhaps unsurprisingly top – the Pear Tree stocks the Brains Craft range. The Pen and Wig has had a facelift and is almost halfway between work and home – usually at least half a dozen guest/local ales on tap and a really relaxed after work/student mix.

The two Porterhouse venues in Dublin offered 6 x 1/3 pint tasting boards which was a great way to work our way through a wide range of porters and stouts. All of which were superb. We kept going back for more.

The annual trip to GBBF (my 18th!) and a couple of 40th celebrations have provided an excuse to check out some of London’s craft beer bars – I was quite surprised not to see the Mad Bishop and Bear on the list so I’ll give it a special mention. I’ve missed several trains while I sample their range of Fullers and guest beers at Paddington – at least I now know they sell take-out.

Styles

styles

I’m still a bitter boy at heart then (taking bitter and golden/blonde ale together). Although the IPAs are catching up – guess that probably reflects where the craft beer market is at right now. I’m rather proud of getting the milds in so high up the list.

One little niggle directed at Untappd – many of the ‘English’ bitters and milds were in fact Welsh! So, for English read British.

Top 40

Last year I gave over 50 beers the full 5/5 – but I was still logging many of my faves then. This year it was, by sheer luck, 40 that got full marks from me.

Difficult to pick out ones to highlight – certainly the Berne, Steph Weiss, Boilermaker, Milk Stout, Greenwich Red Ale, Plain Porter and Urban IPA were all memorable. But to be honest, I’d happily fill the fridge with any of them – it does seem to be a predominately bottled list. Guess I need to get out more 😉

It’s all a matter of taste, of course – I’d be interested to know if anyone agrees/disagrees with my list.

Cheers!

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  1. My year in beer – top beers of 2014 to | easyteas - January 10, 2015

    […] was my third year of challenging myself to try 200 new (to me) beers. In 2013 I managed to get to a total of 216 and thought that 2014 was going to be much more difficult as […]

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