28 Dec 2012

Samuel Adams Noble Pils and Golden Pints 2012

The beer

Clean, archetypal pilsner colour – a good sign.

Minimal head. Yet appealing, lingering lacing.

Samuel Adams Noble Pils smells like Boston Lager. Unexpected. Suggests that this is going to be on the sweet side.

The distinct Boston Lager flavour is there as a base, but where that beer can get a bit sticky and syrupy, this is light and crisp.

However, it lacks a little of the Saaz snap I would hope for in a beer like this, but I guess that could be blamed on the fact that it’s been imported from America via Sweden and has probably sat on a shelf for at least a couple of months.

The year in review

Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer
The latest iteration of Camden Town Pale Ale. So fruity it tastes like E numbers.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Thornbridge Kipling. Ultimate showcase of Nelson Sauvin.

Best Overseas Draught Beer
Has to be the 3 Floyds Zombie Dust. Shivers run down my spine just thinking about it.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Just before I flew to Finland to play a gig last month (yes, you’re right, I am pretty cool). I had a can of Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA on the train to the airport. That was about as good as life gets.

Best Overall Beer
Again, has to be the 3 Floyds Zombie Dust.

Best Pumpclip or Label
Epic Brewing’s Exponetial Series. Muted, textured, subtle brilliance. Screams quality and sophistication.

Best UK Brewery
I tend not to write about them for reasons of impartiality, but it has to be Camden Town. I can’t think of anyone who has produced better in terms of quality, consistency and creativity in this country this year, particularly in the latter half.

Best Overseas Brewery
AleSmith – the far-too-infrequent opportunities I’ve had to pour their beer into my mouth have filled me with awe.

Pub/Bar of the Year
My new work local and haven is The Cleveland Arms. An absolute escape from the horrors of everyday existence. And they serve a great pint of Harvey’s Best.

Beer Festival of the Year
Copenhagen Beer Celebration 2012. Kinda gutted I haven’t sorted out 2013. Is it sold out? I’m out of the loop...

Supermarket of the Year
Thought it would be Waitrose, but their range seems to have contracted recently, so Sainsbury’s it is again.

Independent Retailer of the Year
Ølbutikken was probably the coolest place I bought beer from this year.

Best Beer Book or Magazine
Beer in the Beehive. Fascinating history about a really interesting place. One I am unlikely ever to visit again.

Best Beer Blog or Website
I’m struggling here. I’ve barely been able to maintain my own over the last couple of months, let alone read anyone else’s. Recommendations please!

And the winner of the 2011 Award for Best Beer and Life Match 2011 is...
La Trappe Isid’or and Ancient VVisdom @ Roadburn 2012. Stumbling across a great beer bar in a town I thought lacked one, combined with watching a great band do their thing, cannot be topped. As I said at the time. Cough.

Seems a long time ago now...

The match

I’m fairly ambivalent about this Sam Adams product, but it’s got enough going for it to help me gather my thoughts about 2012.

Last year I said this exercise was therapeutic.

It doesn’t feel quite like that this time around.

Good beer has undoubtedly got more popular over the course of the last 12 months. This is economically positive for the brewing industry.

Unfortunately, this has an unwelcome effect on quality.

It impacts the volume of quality beer on the market. As the size of the market opportunity increases, so does the number of advertising executives who think it is viable for them to have a go at brewing.

This result (in the UK anyway) in a load of shit ‘craft’ beer flooding the market, with retailers, few of whom have any fucking clue (though clearly there is a stand out few who do), stacking their shelves with ‘artisan, locally-brewed beer’ that tastes like ear wax.

This would not necessarily be a problem were it not compounded by the fact that as the market grows, it attracts people who lack any sort of quality control (in many aspects of their lives) and think everything is great, including any old liquidised turd in a bottle labelled ‘craft’, thereby creating an abhorrent, artificial pool of demand for this pish.

I’m pretty sure I feel exactly like Cobain did when the jocks started turning up at Nirvana shows.

In fact, if I hear another person stating that they are ‘passionate about craft beer’ I’ll be sending Dylan Carlson (who I actually spoke to face-to-face this year, yah, yah I did) off to get me a shotgun.

I know I sound like a prick. That’s because I am a bit of a one.

As is the way of things, I believe (hope) the market will naturally contract and only the truly dedicated will remain once the dead wood has fallen away.

But I think this state of affairs has impacted my enthusiasm for beer.

You’ll see my posts have tailed off towards the end of 2012, despite some absolutely incredible experiences in spring of this year that I feel should have been some kind of life-changing tipping point for me and beer.

Maybe I’m just burnt out because of the intensity of those experiences – I’m a habitual cultural locust you see, and consume my interests at an intense rate, leaving behind a desolate experiential wasteland once I’ve reached some kind of apex.

I also frequently feel like a complete fraud when it comes to beer: I don’t brew; therefore my opinion is of no consequence.

Ithink I am in a trough of disillusionment when it comes to the beer ‘scene’.

More likely, however, is that this feeling is due to me having a really fucking intense year that has made me feel like I have less time for self indulgence than ever before.

Poor little me.

Real life – i.e. work – has been brutal, with frequent periods of mind-melting stress and soul-destroying international business travel.

I got married. This is the best thing I have ever done without a shadow of a doubt.

The event itself involved a great deal of organisation though. Or so my wife tells me; I didn’t actually do a lot.

I have rekindled my relationship with music creation, as I now recognise how important this is to my mental health. Given I have so little free time these days, it’s inevitable that this would squeeze out other interests.

Etc etc. Really interesting for the three people that read this I’m sure.

Does all this mean I’m going to stop appreciating and writing about beer?

Nah, there’s too much great beer out there and experiences to be had for that to happen.

I guess ‘cathartic’, rather than ‘therapeutic’, is more appropriate this year.