Golden Pints 2014


It’s that time of year, people. Get the tinsel out, get a bit too merry, and have a good auld bitch about what beers you loved and hated over the past 12 months. Golden Pints doesn’t really have a ‘good auld bitching’ section, so we’ll keep this towards the ‘love’ end of the spectrum…


Best Irish Keg Beer

Galway Bay Brewery Via Maris. This is the beer we’ve been waiting for in Ireland. A fabulous mix of flavour, sessionability and value. Everything the Irish drinker was looking for in one 3.5% Table Beer. Pale, juicy, and keeping the drinker on their toes by constantly changing the nuance of its flavour with different hop profiles. And €4 per pint. All the time. I’ve drank more of this in the past few months than any other single beer – that’s a good sign.

Shout outs to: White Hag Black Boar and Eight Degrees Full Irish IPA.

Best Irish Bottled Beer

Only one winner here: Galway Bay 200 Fathoms. Back in February, this leapt onto the scene with all its whiskey-barrel-aged imperial stouty goodness and I fell in love. A truly accomplished piece of brewing with incredible depth and balance. Up there with the best Imperial Stouts I’ve had. Only 800 bottles were made…thank God I still have a couple.

Shout out to: Blacks of Kinsale Black IPA

Best Irish Cask Beer

Can I pass? Yeah, I’ll pass.

Best Overall Irish Beer:

Has to be Galway Bay’s Via Maris. I can’t rave enough about how good this is, or just how necessary getting a beer like this in the Irish scene was. Well done to the team.

Best Irish Brewery

Galway Bay. Obviously. Their quality would not be out of place anywhere in the global beer scene. And they’ve just released a dark sour ale, which is amazing. What can’t they do?

Best New Irish Brewery

The White Hag. Sligo’s new faces raced onto the scene in September, releasing a full line-up of their brews at once at the Irish beer festival in the RDS. Many of them are totally splendid. The have a masterful Imperial Stout (Black Boar), a great White IPA, and a very solid IPA. Looking forward to more great things from these guys in 2015, and to seeing how the US distro pans out.

Best Irish Beer Bar

Against the Grain, Dublin. Best selection, great service, very decent (and cheap) food. Plus it’s a Galway Bay pub, so you’re guaranteed quality even if you don’t fancy anything from the 20+ guest taps.

Shout out: Norseman, Temple Bar. A great craft beer pub – well priced and always a laugh.

Best Irish retailer

Drinkstore of Stoneybatter. Unparalleled selection and service (great online shop too).

Best Irish Importer

Praising the importer seems to be less common in Golden Pints posts, not sure why. This award goes to Grand Gru Beers. Wally, Phil and the team have had a storming year. Amazing diversity, real attention to pricing and to freshness, and plenty of end-consumer events to keep in touch with the punters. A class act all round.

International (including UK)

Best International Keg Beer

Amager/Grassroots Shadow Pictures (Skyggebilleder). A Double IPA that dreams are made of and a fantastic transatlantic collaboration. Drank at the newly opened Taphouse Copenhagen in an incredibly fresh state – juicy yet so crisp, with just enough spruce. The easiest drinking DIPA I’ve ever had. I want more.

Shout outs to:  Crooked Stave L’Brett d’Peach, Magic Rock Cannonball, Cellarmaker Christopher Riwakan.

Best International Cask Beer

Buxton Axe Edge. Had in a few locations around the country in 2014. Not many cask beers make me turn my eyes away from the keg fonts in bars, but this does. And I’m rarely disappointed.

Shout outs to: Hawkshead NZPA, Thornbridge Kipling.

Best International Bottled/Canned Beer

Beavertown/Naparbier Bone King. One of the best DIPAs I’ve ever tasted – a total revelation. Proud that this was brewed in my homeland. Indeed, this was my highest scoring brew on Ratebeer in 2014.

Shout outs to: Stone Enjoy By, Thornbridge Kipling, and Alchemist Heady Topper.

Best International Brewery

Cellarmaker, San Francisco. Holy lord this lot can brew. Open just over a year and nearly 100 different beers brewed. No bottles and only available at the Tap Room at 1150 Howard (growlers too) and a few select locations around the Bay. Some of the best beer experiences of my life have been with these guys. They’ve nailed everything from pale and hoppy to massive and chocolatey (and most stuff in between). Definitely one of the top IPA brewers in the world, zero doubt about that. A total privilege to have been able to drink here several times in 2014.

Shout outs to: Buxton (UK), The Kernel (UK), Jester King (Texas), and Brasserie Cantillon (Belgium)

Best International Bar

BierCaB, Barcelona. A total Mecca in a once good-beer-dry country. 30 great international taps, an impeccably curated bottle selection, and the best food I’ve ever eaten in a ‘proper’ beer bar. All at astonishingly reasonable prices.

Shout outs to: The Trappist, Oakland; Mikkeller and Friends, Copenhagen; Craft Beer Co, Leather Lane (London); The Free Trade Inn (Newcastle)

Best International Beer Festival

Copenhagen Beer Celebration. The best I’ve been to. Ever.

Shout out to: IndyManBeerCon, Manchester.

Miscellaneous Stuff

Best beer blogger

Aidan Sweeney, Brews International. I’m going to keep voting for him every year until people start reading his well-balanced and researched writing. He’s full of shit in real life, mind you.

Shout out to: Total Ales (Matt Curtis)

Best Beer Tweeter

@Dontdrinkbeer gives me a right laugh. In all honesty, I genuinely look forward to reading the 140 character rantings/ramblings of at least 30 of my fellow beer fans on Twitter every day. Well done all of you, pints on me.

Best of the best, of the best of the best:

Best Overall Beer of 2014 

Galway Bay Via Maris. They must’ve done something right if I’m giving this award to a 3.5% ABV table beer.

via maris

Here’s to a great 2015 – cheers to all of you!

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Keeping it fresh: Brown Paper Bag Project

Any reader of this blog will know I tend to whinge a fair bit about freshness in hop-forward beers. I bore myself with my whinging sometimes, but it’s for the best. Show me a brewer in the world who thinks their 6.5% IPA tastes better 7 months after packaging than it does after 7 days and I’ll pack this whole thing in and resign myself to a life on the shandies.

However, my whinging usually doesn’t take into account whether the hops used in the brewing-process-in-question were truly ‘fresh’. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter in my experience: totally fantastic (indeed, superior) aroma and flavour results in the world’s most lauded IPAs are more often than not driven by hop pellets or oast-house dried hops, rather than from the freshly-picked ‘wet’ hop brewing methods.

The major experience Irish consumers will have had of this latter type of ‘truly-fresh/wet’ hop ale, will be from the Sierra Nevada Southern/Northern Hemisphere Harvest brews. Tasty gear, but really, we’re all shooting ourselves in the kneecaps, as they’re being shipped thousands of miles and loitering in customs before getting into our glasses. In spite of how good the distro channels are these days, the beer you’re pouring into yourself will not be the beer the brewer intended it to be. Hence, the global lack of true ‘fresh hop’ ales (unless you’re a lucky git living close to a hop growing area, of course).

Well, if there’s one Irish brewery which has consistently shunned convention and messed around with lesser-known styles/methodology, it’s Dublin’s favourite gypsies, Brown Paper Bag Project. And yes, you’ve guessed it, they’ve gone and brewed a proper freshy.

But rather than pandering to the general palate of the modern hophead and looking to new(ish) power hops grown in the Pacific Northwest or down in the South Pacific, they’ve gone educational. They’ve gone…English.

Brown Paper Bag Project Lupe Garou

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Of course, trying to go and gypsy brew at-source with ‘wet’ hops in the South Pacific is probably more than a small Dublin brewing outfit can afford…but BPBP are still a savvy crowd. They’ve had an ongoing relationship with Ramsgate Brewery in Kent, so I suppose it didn’t take a geographical genius to realise that Ramsgate is right bang in the midst of the classic English hop growing regions. The home the globally acclaimed (but admittedly not too ‘fashionable’) East Kent Goldings hop.

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Lupe Garou comes out in a lovely bright golden hue with a wispy and lasting white head. There’s freshly-cut grass, white pepper, light lemon rind, and touch of dried cupboard-herbs on the nose, with an almost menthol character releasing itself as it warms. The taste gives wet spruce, white pepper, deeper lemon stuff, those fresh-cut-grassy notes again, and some slightly zingy spice. The malt base is simple and biscuity, with a little bit of sugary white bread dough; this is perfect as it allows the light and deeply nuanced fresh hop character to do its thing. There’s a decently spritzy medium body and no hint of the 6.5% ABV. Herby and citric bitterness to close out, while we have more of that white pepper and wet-morning-forest-stroll spruce lingering.

What a totally bloody interesting beer. I’m a guy who doesn’t give English hops the time of day for the most part…they’re just a piece of my boring-brown-bitter drinking past. But this brew makes me think.

BPBP have achieved something fantastic here: a light, summery, heavily nuanced beer that truly showcases one of the more traditional and less-celebrated hops in the world of brewing. Beers like this should be mandatory drinking for today’s crowd of self-proclaimed ‘Hop Heads’ who’ve been weaned solely on the passionfruity and piney goodness of the New World.

Lupe Garou is by no means ‘my thing’, but I like it and I find it super interesting. It’s a reminder about why I bloody love the beer scene: surprises and innovation lie in even the most traditional-seeming of places.

{I had this on keg dispense in Stoneybatter’s L. Mulligan Grocer; as far as I’m aware, this brew is draught only…so check out your local good-beer pub over the next week or two and hope it arrives}

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Buy local: Boundary Brewing

Everyone and their mother is harping on about ‘buying local’ nowadays. Thank Christ they are. Sustainable, affordable, and high-quality local produce should be at the heart of everyone’s monthly food and beverage outgoings.

It’s been a total delight to see the ‘buy local’ vibe taking hold in the industry I love in my adopted homeland over the past couple of years. Yep, the Irish artisan beer industry is going from strength to strength. Sure, it’s still tough as hell for the key stakeholders involved, but we’re getting to a point where some of our brewing talent can truly embark on long-term planning (Metalman’s new shiny canning line; Eight Degrees trying to ‘re-home’ a brewery from Mauritius; and Galway Bay moving to onehelluva bigger brewery are three examples of this in the last 6 months). Good for the punter, good for the distributors, good for the pub owners, good for bloody everyone. Class news.

Last week saw a real example of ‘buying local’ pop up from some enterprising brewing-businesspeople from Belfast. How much more local can you get than buying a stake in a brewing cooperative located on your (give-or-take a few miles) doorstep?

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 19.11.27

Matt and the team at Boundary Brewing have some fabulous plans to make some great beer and are looking for shareholders to join their coop.

These guys know their beer (both from a drinking and brewing point of view), with Matt spending the last year or so as the brewing-brain behind the brilliant-looking app-automated pico-brewery, Brewbot. Safe hands, I’d say.

Anyway, rather than me regurgitate their plans in my own words…


To hear it from the horse’s mouth/beard.

Buy-in starts at £100 and the guys are looking for £70,000 before the end of 2014 to kick it all off. At the time of writing (4th December), they are well over the halfway mark, in spite of the project going live only a couple of days ago. People seem to like the idea, and so they bloody should. They’re planning to launch their core range of three beers (session strength US pale ale, IPA, and an Export Stout) in March 2015 and have already announced a collaboration brew with the award winning Galway Bay Brewery. Sounds canny enough to me – go for it, I’d say.

Disclaimer: I’ve bought into the cooperative myself. So I’m probably biased. Who the hell cares, let’s get it up and running. 

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Long live the {Bone} King

Double IPAs. I like ’em. In my mind, when a DIPA is executed properly and is served to me in fresh enough condition, it takes some beating.

However, after doing a fair old bit of traveling and beering over the past few years, I know what I like and what I don’t within the style. Caramel booziness? No likey. Clean, crisp (some would say ‘unbalanced’ towards hop character)? Likey. I don’t care much for the much-lauded Dogfish Head 90 Minute, for example. But I’d bathe for days in Three Floyds Dreadnaught.

As I said, freshness is bloody key. So unless I’m over Stateside, I usually steer clear of American DIPAs. Thank the Lord, in that case, that the European brewing scene is getting to such a top standard that I now rarely yearn for the hoppy delights of the West Coast et al. The Kernel Double Citra, for example, is still [probably] the best ever DIPA I’ve tasted.

Sadly, Double Citra is very rarely brewed, but thankfully one of The Kernel’s London brewing peers have got in on the action (with a bit of Iberian assistance) and brewed something which is, for want of a better phrase, a totally-fucking-cracking Double India Pale Ale.

All hail the recent collaboration between Beavertown and Naparbier. All hail…

Bone King

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My assessment? In short, it’s world class.

In full: Bone King pours a hazy, murky gold – looks a little soupy. The aroma of this is astounding – peach, tangerine, mango all there in spades, with a little jazzy passionfruit. Some very lightly sticky pine in there, bit of bread dough and digestive biscuit. Taste doesn’t disappoint: loads of mango, melon, and passionfruit, deeper grapefruit citric tone to bitter it up; the OJ character is undeniable too. So bloody juicy, goodness. Pine sap rises a bit, and brings with it the light malt character – doughy stuff, light biccy notes, which frames the hops perfectly. The hop character is singing so beautifully. Insanely drinkable, no hint of booze strength (which clocks in at 8.5% ABV). Looks a bit shitty, so that’s really the only remnant of an issue I could have with it. Bit of centrifuge action would be cracking. Orange and grapefruit zest linger, nice sharp finish. Oh Lordy.

Look, this is worthy of the hype. If you like your DIPAs big, boozy and thick on the caramel or ‘balance’, then this isn’t for you. But for me, this is literally everything I want.

If Naparbier and Beavertown don’t make this a permanent fixture on their lists then I’m kicking up an almighty fuss.

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Knee Deep in Hops

There’s been a bit of a Beermack blogging lull recently; a combo of being mad busy and not having/doing anything that’s truly inspired me to crank out a blog post, I suppose.

A few things have had me on the cusp of picking up the proverbial pen…Sligo’s The White Hag Brewery making a stunning entrance to the Irish brewing scene and a trip to San Francisco’s new sour-haven The Rare Barrel, are two such examples. I’m sure I’ll get round to these at some point, as both are likely to carry on going from strength to strength.

This time, what has really got my juices flowing, is a California brewery who have been showing the world how to make 10%+ ABV hoppy beers properly. I mean properly. Fair play to you, Knee Deep Brewing Company, you’ve got me typing once again.

These guys have been going since 2010, are still pretty small (distro is only in 5 states), and know how to handle hops. To leverage lupulin. To…ah whatever, they’re doing good stuff, with these two total beauties especially:

Knee Deep Brewing Co. Simtra Triple IPA 


Simtra is a beast of a brew. An 11.25% ABV, self-branded ‘Triple” IPA. Is that a thing? Well, if it is, this should be the benchmark by which all other pretenders are judged. Such a clear light orange pour, no murkiness, no floaty crap, it looks legit. The aroma is, unsurprisingly, a serious hop-overload: loads of dark about-to-go-off (in a good way) mango, grapefruit and pineapple, bit of ganja, some sweeter tangerine and peaches and then shitloads of pine resin; there’s a little almost-chemically booze note in there. Just to remind you not to drink this while operating heavy machinery.

In a similar fashion, Simtra’s taste bashes you all over with hops: all that dank goodness matches up to the thick pine resin. Great pithy grapefruit adds some zest and then more of that overripe mango comes through as it warms. More resin and pine needles. A very light smattering of caramel-ish sweetness comes through to help keep things a little bit sensible; none of the janky caramel crap you’d usually expect from a 10%+ ABV IPA though, this is clean as you like. The finish gives pine needles and grapefruit and that extra little bit of pure booziness that once again reminds you to take the keys out of the ignition of your combine harvester.

Knee Deep Brewing Co. Hoparillo Triple IPA


Obviously, the folks at Knee Deep understood that brewing such strong beers all the time isn’t the best idea. So they’ve recently brought out what I’m calling a Session Triple IPA at just 11.1% ABV. Sure, you could plough the fields all day supping on this one.

Hoparillo bounds into your glass showcasing three incredible aroma hops: Amarillo, Mosaic, and Citra. This pours a couple of shades lighter than it’s (slightly) bigger brother, coming out as a bright clear gold. Again, no murk, no just looks so pure and clean. Stunning juicy mango and tangerine aroma (think of a delicious fruit cup), light floral notes in there and just a hint of that big ABV. The taste gives mango (not the dank sort, more the breakfast juicy kind), melon, tangerine and some bitter grapefruit juice. Interesting floral perfumey notes get in there and actually lighten things up. There’s the lightest touch of digestive biscuit malt as the backer; to be fair, the malt has such an impressively light presence and truly lets the hops sing. The big booze is well integrated (more so than in the Simtra, I think), you can tell it’s there but it isn’t harsh. A few pine needles come out towards the end, blending with the sweeter tropical notes which linger on the tongue. Simtra’s juicier, more tropical slightly-lighter brother. Top marks.

I was lucky to drink both of these beers within two weeks of bottling date, so I really got them at their best. As the Simtra bottle clearly states “do not age”. Just don’t, it would be daft. These aren’t going to get any better with a bit of dust on them.

I’m so pleasantly surprised and impressed that two legitimately huge beers have managed to forgo the usual “bang a load of caramel malt in there” tactic we so often see. I know lots of people are mad for the caramel balance, but I’m certainly bloody not.

Simtra and Hoparillo are two terrifyingly good hoppy beers, and I thoroughly encourage you to pull all the strings you possibly can to get hold of them. Fair play to you, Knee Deep Brewing Company.

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BierCaB: Barcelona Beer Mecca

Spain isn’t exactly world renowned for its beer scene. But before my recent trip to Barcelona, I’d heard whispers that things were looking up (in the Catalan capital, at least).

To be fair, these whispers weren’t too whispery at all…there’s been quite a social media fuss made about the bloody good quality of this year’s Barcelona Beer Festival and growing international acclaim afforded to Spanish indie brewers, such as Naparbier (who’ve brewed collaborations with the likes of Mikkeller, Lervig, and Birrificio Toccalmatto). It seems like the cat is out of the bag: the landscape of Spain’s metropolitan beer scene is starting to look ever more interesting.

This said, I was still remarkably surprised to stumble across what can only be described as a World Class Beer Bar during my stay in Barcelona. After a couple of visits to this fairly new beer mecca a few minutes walk from Plaça de Catalunya, I can safely say that it’s in my Top Five bars I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.  Take a bow, BierCaB.

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Tucked away ten minutes stroll around the corner from the tourist madness of Passeig de Gràcia and Plaça de Catalunya is this total gem of a bar. It’s still in its first year of operation; everything is clean, sparkling and well thought out – there are none of the signs of grubbiness or wear-and-tear that go hand-in-hand with a few of the city’s other decent beer locations.

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Well thought out seating and a totally nuts ceiling

Always nice to have Teku as the default glassware

Always nice to have Teku as the default glassware










The whole feel of BierCab is slick. These guys know what the hell they’re doing. It feels like one of those establishments that many a beer geek would go into and think “aye, if I had a few hundred grand going spare, I’d do something like this”. The utmost care has been taken in all aspects  of the business, from the decor to the tiny (but amazing) detail of having a real-time updating tap-list on their website. Of course, it would be wrong of me to review a bar and leave out the beer. So here we go…

The beer, the bloody great beer

I don’t know who imports beer into Catalunya, but whoever it is, they’ve got their shit together. BierCaB is blessed with 30 taps of immensely high quality from many of the biggest names in European craft brewing (and some more niche gear too). There’s a surprisingly heavy focus on UK beer, with real gems on tap from the likes of The Kernel, Siren, Magic Rock, and Beavertown amongst others. The gloriously fruity and slightly funky Farmhouse IPA collab from Magic Rock and Lervig was belting, while it’s always an absolute bloody pleasure to sup on The Kernel’s modern-day-classic Imperial Brown Stout.

Going away from my home-country beers, there was such a well chosen selection from elsewhere in Europe; from the giant Goliat Imperial Stout by the nutters at To Øl to modern and less-modern Belgian classics from Brasserie de la Senne and Oud Beersel respectively.

One critique (if you could call it that) was the relative lack of local beer on tap. I’m a big fan of ‘drinking fresh’, and you don’t get much fresher than local breweries kegging their beer, banging it straight in a van, and getting it direct to thirsty punters at the bar. Now, all the beers I had during my visits to BierCaB were in great condition (not a cardboardy hop in sight), but I was hoping for more than 4 locals out of 30. No matter, the locals they had were delicious. Especially beautiful was the Naparbier Pils – a true fresh, crisp, perfumed Noble hop delight – and a very juicy Double IPA from La Pirata. Quality, not quantity, of local gear is totally fine by me.

If the mighty 30 brews on tap don’t tickle your fancy, then why not open the bible-sized bottle menu. Jesus. It’s some menu. I can name fewer than five other bars I’ve been to with a better list than this, it’s that good. But what really sets it apart is the damn fairness of the pricing. There are some total gems here (shedloads of vintage Trappist brews and an even bigger selection of cellar aged gueuze and lambic) but they refrain from engaging in pricing the shit out of them. These are bottles intended to be cracked open, not to have on the menu to show off for years to come as no bugger can afford them (you know the places I’m talking about). I love this.

Hill Farmstead/The Blaugies collab farmhouse ale

Hill Farmstead/The Blaugies collab farmhouse ale

Drei Fonteinen Golden Doesjel - was even able to take it away!

Drei Fonteinen Golden Doesjel – was even able to take it away!










La Vermontoise (Hill Farmstead’s collab with the Belgian brewery, Blaugies), was a delight. Light, spritzy, with notes of white pepper, grapefruit and lemon peel. Plenty of delicious yeasty spice in the taste with a little bit of spelt bread roughness, followed by more grapefruit juice and citrus peel. Crisp, delicate, joyous. The Golden Doesjel from Drei Fonteinen was just the quality you’d expect. Surprisingly peach-led throughout, it still gives delicious citric and Granny Smith tartness, with some deep mustiness to boot. Another subtle, wonderfully put-together brew. Oh, and both of the above bottles together left me with change from twenty quid. BierCaB is the bloody Robin Hood of beer bars.

Here’s where my appraisals of beer specialist bars would normally cease, but wait, there’s more…

The food, oh God, the food

As a total foodie, I often feel a little let down by choices in some of the world’s best beer bars. Granted, I totally understand the mindset of doing one thing and one thing bloody well. Beer bars are for drinking – I get that. But in my mind, the truly world class ones pay attention to lining their patrons’ stomachs too.

Wagyu beef with hop chimichurri

Wagyu beef with hop chimichurri

Patatas Bravas. The care and effort is amazing.

Patatas Bravas. The care and effort is amazing.

Grilled Octopus

Grilled Octopus


Hopefully the above pictures provide a telling snapshot about how damn good the food menu is at BierCaB, so I don’t have to keep bending your ears about how much I’m in love with this place. Wagyu beef with hop chimichurri, man, HOP CHIMICHURRI. And the most delicate octopus I’ve ever eaten. A revelation. And all so affordable. Just yes.


In all, BierCaB rests comfortably in my personal top five beer bars in the world. Keeping good company with Mikkeller & Friends (DK), Mikkeller SF (USA), Moeder Lambic Fontainas (BE), Craft Beer Company, Clerkenwell (UK), and The Trappist, Oakland (USA). It knocked me off my feet completely – I just wasn’t expecting it.

Barcelona is one hell of a city in many ways, but if you’re a beer drinker, it’s now one hell of a lot better.

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Austin: Texan Beer Capital

“Austin ain’t Texas.”

If I had a quid for every sod who has said this to me…

But it’s true. Texas gets a bad rep from, well, nearly everyone who isn’t from Texas. Stereotypes abound, but none (or at least very few) of them can be seen in the Texan oasis of creativity, expression, and (as I found out recently) delicious beer that is the city of Austin.

The West Coast gets the lion’s share of the plaudits when people talk about the American beer scene. From clean, crisp hop dreams to wonderfully nuanced Imperial Stouts, the breweries of America’s West Coast can sate most people’s tastes. Indeed, when you look at the geographical origin of the US brews we see brought in to Ireland and the UK, you don’t need to have an OxBridge Geography degree to know that a significantly large percentage comes from the Pacific coast.

But, how delightfully surprised I was to discover on a recent trip down to deepest darkest (bloody boiling hottest) Texas, that there’s life in the Southern beer scene. Thriving, accomplished, world class brewing life. And a buzzing local beer community to match.

The following is a rundown of the highlights of my short trip there – I’d consider all of these unmissable if you’re in the area and want great beer…

Jester King Brewery

Jester King

Ok, when I suggested earlier that the Texas beer scene gets no recognition at all, I was bullshitting you. The team at Jester King in the Texan Hill Country (a 20min drive from downtown Austin) are globally renowned and brew some literally world-class beers.

Jester King is now an all-farmhouse brewery – only brewing wild and spontaneously fermented beer. A brave plan; they’ve even stopped producing their much-lauded IPA, Wytchmaker, in favour of pursuing the wilder side of life.

How’s that gone for them, you ask? Blimmin’ well, I tell you. Their diverse range of brews will satisfy even the most hardcore of IPA-heads, taking inspiration from (mostly) European brewing styles but with a significant nod to the new age of American sour/wild production. What am I talking about…these guys are at the very forefront of this new age, and have been for some time.

At their idilic brewery and taproom (only open on Fridays and the weekends – see their site for concrete times), I experienced one of my most enjoyable beer-afternoons ever.

Idilic Jester King

Idilic Jester King

Sure beats a Dublin industrial estate

Sure beats a Dublin industrial estate


Clearly the setting is second to none, but the beers on offer really were of the highest order. From their lemony, lightly herbaceous flagship farmhouse ale, Noble King, to their huge, oaky, chocolate-forward funked-up Imperial Stout, Black Metal, I was in a beer-lover’s paradise. Add into that the delicately floral and peach-led session sour, Das Wunderkind, and a cherrytastically tart Flanders Red, Ol’ Oi!, and I was set for one hell of an afternoon. There’s an indoor bar & bottle shop looking into the brewhouse and a couple of outdoor beer stations to shorten the walk of those lounging in the Texan sunshine. It’s busy, so expect queues. But, to be fair, a rushed trip to Jester King is a sin: take your time, spend a few hours trying stuff. It’s heaven.

Craft Pride

54 taps of Texan brewing, anyone?

54 taps of Texan brewing, anyone?

Back into central Austin now, and a fairly new player on the scene. Craft Pride is the true demonstration of how solid a beer culture Texas has cultivated over the past year: they never serve anything that doesn’t originate from the Lone Star State.

This is a little place down on the weird and wonderful Rainey Street (basically a rickety road of old Americana houses turned into trendy bars and eateries), that really does showcase the best of the local scene. Friendly staff and a cool little bottle shop out the back help to raise its game, but the beers on tap do their own talking. First up, Real Ale Brewing Company’s Lost Gold IPA gave a good fruity smack of dank Amarillo but then my breath was taken by what can only be described as an odd-ball of modern brewing: an Imperial Berliner Weisse(!) by Texian Brewing Co. Charlie Foxtrot is its name, and a crazy peach/orange-forward lemony lacto-sourness is its game. At 7.5% this creation (which looked like the dodgiest pint of Somerset Scrumpy Cider I’ve ever seen) was tough to get my head around. Christ knows what BJCP judges would say about it, but I thought it was bloody delicious. So there.

Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden

Plenty of taps to keep you keen

Plenty of taps to keep you keen

Staying down on the nutty Rainey Street, we have Banger’s – a near neighbour to Craft Pride. It satisfies similar beery urges but with a wider scope of brews on the taplist (and a few very tasty sausages thrown into the mix). I was lucky to get plenty of interesting gear from Firestone Walker pouring when I was in there; while not a Texas brewery, their stuff is sublime and I wasn’t going to turn my nose up at it.

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That said, there were plenty of local options too, with a friendly knowledgable staff and a giant outdoor terrace. You could quite happily spend an evening here and leave boozed up and full of sausage. Like a boss.

The Draught House

I had such a good time in here that I forgot to take photos...and had to pinch this from

I had such a good time in here that I forgot to take photos…and had to pinch this from

This is a pure English-style old-skool boozer with an added oddity of an electronically displayed(!) taplist of well over 50 beers. What sets it apart from the traditional English boozer is the oh-so-polite way the locals queue up to be served at the bar. In a long, snaking line. No bar scrum or money-waving here, folks, these are sensitive people. Adorable.

Anyway, after joining a well-ordered line, there’s a plethora of choices. From local goodies from Real Ale, Southern Star, and Austin Beerworks to more widely known brews from the likes of Green Flash, Firestone Walker and Odell. Indeed, from the latter, I had a very interesting Imperial Peach IPA…Tree Shaker. This was, unsurprisingly, peach-forward with a good bit of juiciness, offset by some more bitter spruce character and peppery stuff. Pretty boozy, but an interesting half pint to say the least.

Austin Beer Garden Brewery


Last but by no means least on this rundown is the fantastic Austin Beer Garden Brewery. Man, this place is class. As the above (booze-shaken) picture shows, there’s a cool little onsite brewery in an old hangar pretty close to downtown Austin.

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These guys really did brew the most complete, all-round-quality range of beers I’ve tasted from a brewpub in a long time. From lagers to stouts, via pale ales and IPAs, these guys nailed it. Their Hell Yes Helles (groan!) was fab: light in body, slight honey creaminess to the pale pale malt with a hint of lightly spicy hop character, it went down an absolute treat outside in the baking sun. The beer that really did blow my mind, though, was their house 5.5% ABV pale ale, Day Trip. A hazy light golden pour with a lovely white head. Gorgeous mango and lychee aroma – some pineapple and sweet mandarin orange too. Heady tropical fruits throughout. The taste is ever so juicy too: such a fresh hop whack of juicy Citra and dank Amarillo. Lots of mango and more bitter orange linger. Very clean and crisp malt backing – a touch of light digestive biscuit in there to give a little balance. Solid pine-tinged bitterness to finish, but nothing too resinous or sticky. This was truly first class. One of those brews you could quite happily sink forever more. Good job, ABGB.

So there we go, a round up of my beer experience in Austin, Texas. A couple more places didn’t get enough of a look-in for me to consider them, but believe me – there’s plenty more choice out there.  This list is by no means comprehensive and can no doubt be supplemented by the wonderful folks I met at the Austin Zealots homebrew club – such a great local beer crowd down there, who are more than open to welcoming visitors with open arms and chatting shit about beer; hit them up if you’re in town.

Oh, and don’t forget the BBQ. Not that you were going to…

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