The Scoopergen Awards 2008 !
Last Updated : 01/01/09
ere we go again... yes, it's time for another round of worthless awards that no-one cares about! You know the format by now; the categories are the same as last year's awards (or 2006) and so, without further ado, hey-ho here we go... Feel free to contact me if there's anything you want to slag me off for, contradict me with, correct me in or otherwise lambaste my piss-poor judgement; thank you in advance.
Obviously all opinions are my own, and I reserve the right to give my opinions on the beers I've sampled during the year for better or worse. If you don't agree then go and try them for yourself and then, if you still disagree, let me know. If you brew any of these beers and wish to kick me/buy me a pint, likewise email me, but if I've slagged your beer off and you don't agree then just remember - it's all about personal opinions!
2008's vital statistics
|Flight sectors flown :||19|
|Aircraft miles flown :||19,148 (or thereabouts)|
|New beers scooped :||1,101 (716 UK / 385 Rest of the World)|
|Countries Visited :||8 (Italy, Czech Republic (twice!), Portugal, Croatia, USA, Sweden, Poland, France)|
Scoopergen's beers of the year 2008
Pretty self-explanatory really; the best beer I sampled in 2008! I drank over a thousand "new" beers during the year (as well as hundreds I've tried before) and had some rather good ones to choose from - although there were also some horrible ones I'd rather not remember... It's hard to decide a true winner as it's always the situation which adds an extra 0.5 to a particular beer, or maybe the tastebuds were just firing perfectly during that session? Saying that, I've eventually decided on the top five;
Green Flash IPA - A total hop-monster of a beer (95 IBUs) yet brewed in such a way that the hops integrate seamlessly and dance to the same tune; this is brewing as an artform at it's best and, if you like hoppy beers, then you just have to try this one! It's not a "proper" West Coast IPA though, despite the name, as the sticky crystal malt is much less than in most other similar beers and I'd go as far as to say it's almost UK in it's malt bill - although not in it's hop makeup! A unique and style-defining beer with the freshest, juiciest hop aroma I've ever smelt in my life.
Del Borgo ReAle Extra - Very American in style and, were this made in the USA, then I predict there would be ratebeerians creaming themselves over it but, being from Italy, it's still an unknown beer from an adventurous and reliable brewery but one which shows brewing skill at it's utmost; a classic of Europe if you like hops.
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA - Yet another American hop-beast but this is a single hop one using, as the name suggests, the sublime Simcoe and what a stunner it is, all pine, raspberry pips, resin and deep mellow bitterness. A delight to drink and way more easy-going, subtle and nuanced than it's high ABV suggests... this is a beautifully made beer with layers of flavours.
Pivovarský Dům Štěpán světlý ležák - For it's sheer drinkability, it's ability to put a smile on my face every time I drink it and it's pure class this beer is another of my European must-try recommendations. Citrussy, leafy and fairly bitter hops allied to a crunchy maltiness makes for a delicious, complex and supremely boshable beer; I love it!
Pictish Sauvin Blanc - Given that Pictish have been my highest-scoring brewery of the year overall there just had to be one in here! It was hard to pick a favourite but I think my love of the Nelson Sauvin hop edges this gooseberryish, tangy beauty into the top five; if you want to taste Nelson Sauvin, just try this - you needn't go anywhere else.
Plus, here's some more which almost made it...
UK : Elgood's liquoricey dark mild Black Dog, Oakham's zesty Nelson Sauvin-stuffed Haka, their rosepetally Asylum and supremely quaffable and grapefruity Endless Summer, Goose Eye amazed us all with their hop-bomb Chinook, Pictish were consistently excellent with a sappy, bitter Centennial, fruity and characterful Susan and simply superb Riwaka, Phoenix did their usual stuff with the hops and I was glad to see White Monk is still as good as ever, Little Ale Cart continue to improve with Findaussi the pick of their standard beers and Sorachi Stupid a wonderful one-off, Harviestoun came up trumps with the bitter and tasty Game Burd, Windsor Castle continue to produce classic Black Country beers with Mild being particularly good, Acorn's Chinook IPA was a veritable hop monster, Alehouse did it for me with their zestily limey Sauvin so Good, Hornbeam consistently brewed good, hoppy beers, Brewdog impressed with their IPA's and, finally, Thornbridge continue to make some excellent ales although their recent ones have been slightly disappointing.
Abroad : Kácov Hubertus 12° was a classic Czech kvasnicové, Birrificio Italiano Tipopils a lovely, fresh, bitter North German style beer, Drie Fonteinen Doesjel (6%) a simply stunning "flat" lambic possessing that delicious Maderia-like mellowness with a lot of Girardin Black Label character, Midnight Sun Mars a massive hop-bomb with finesse, U Medvídků Old Gott a very credible Flemish Red brewed in Prague, Lagunitas IPA a lesson in how to use plenty of hops, Chelsea Hop Angel was by far the best beer of their range, Panil Barriquée (sour version) had so much character it almost hurt, North Coast Old Rasputin a sublime imperial stout and Arcadia Hop Rocket IPA had all the zesty, hoppy pizzazz you'd expect from the USA.
So, roll on next year... and, once again, I'll say "can it get any better?". Full details and tasting notes for these beers and more can be found on my "Beer of the Month" page here.
Worst beers of the year 2008
My personal opinion, yes, but it matters to me! Feel free to try these beers and let me know what you think about them... or just take my opinion and leave them well alone!
Fischer Adelscott - Scottish beer? More like burnt plastic and perished rubber dissolved in sugar if you ask me; utterly vile and undrinkable.
Fortuna Ciemne - I'm not sure if their beers are all supposed to taste like cola, but they do and this on comes out of it worst... beer and cola mixed is simply not nice.
Hanby Autumn Honey - this just shows why Hanby went bust; an infected, green apple-tasting thin, dry fluid with little beer character anywhere.
Plus : Corvedale still can't brew anything worth drinking, Bazens have developed a horrible phenolic twang, Highgate are as thin and chemically as ever, Blue Bear astound me with their blandness, Magic Hat No.9 showed that not all American beers are good, Jihlava Grand likewise for the Czech Republic, Coral Pils why multinationals shouldn't make beer and finally Spendrups Porter was a lesson in how to cock up a dark lager.
Beer discovery of the year 2008
This can be a brewery, beer style, or something totally different - it's completely up to me!
Without a doubt, it's got to be New Zealand hops and, in particular, the singularly unique and gorgeous Nelson Sauvin. It's one of the world's most distinctive hops with it's pungent gooseberry, lime, cat's piss and kiwi fruit flavours and, despite being pungent enough to drown out any other hop it's used with, when used right the results can be superb.
Brewpubs of the year 2008
Again, reasonably self-explanatory! The only rider is that the pub must brew on the premises.
Richter, Prague - Out in the Northern suburbs sits this lovely back-street pub, all wood and copper inside, with excellent food and adventurous, interesting beers; this would be my first recommendation for a Prague visit.
Pivovarský Dům, Prague - If you ignore the silly flavoured brews and stick with the classics you're made for the night, plus the food is delicious and it's far enough away from the centre to not be full of tourists although getting a seat is notoriously difficult.
Brovaria, Poznań - A sprawling brewpub with several areas including a modern front bar, German-style beer hall and cellar bar but, what stands out in Poland, is that the beers are very good too!
Best bars of the year 2008
This award is for the best bar - be it brewpub, tap or just bar - and is based on the venue's ambience, beer selection, staff, food and a myriad of other things. Bars may appear in here even if they've been in (or won) other categories!
Ma che siete venuti a fŕ (Football Pub), Rome - Simply one of the most enthusiastic beer pubs I've ever been to! Manuele stocks a bewildering array of beers including Italian cask beer, tap beer from Italy, Belgium, Denmark and wherever else he can get plus bottles from all the great brewing nations. Add this to Bir&Fud across the road with eight more draught beers and you have the makings of beery nirvana.
Blind Tiger, NYC - Okay, so it's a bit of a tourist attraction and always busy plus it hasn't always been where it is, but that's just distraction from a classic bar which does everything right; 30 or so draught beers including several on cask, some rare bottles, excellent food and an all-round welcoming atmosphere makes this a must-visit bar when in NYC.
New Oxford, Salford - Admittedly Salford can't compete with Rome or New York for looks but with this pub alone it has a stake for worldwide beery recognition. At least eight and up to sixteen cask ales, plenty of interesting bottled beers plus filling food makes this formerly neglected Vaux pub a mecca for beer lovers in Manchester and beyond.
Others : The East Village Tavern in New York was a superb little bar with an intelligent beer range (there were too many good bars in NYC to name!), Pivovarský Klub in Prague continues to show the way for guest beers in the Czech capital although newcomer Zlý Časy is coming up fast and the surreal První Pivní Tramway has also increased it's beer range. Back in the UK, the Crown in Stockport still delivers the goods, the Harlequin continues to be the best scooping pub in Sheffield and in Worcester the Dragon still has the best range for miles around with plenty of pale, hoppy beers on sale. Brasserie 4:20 in Rome was a great modern bar (in a viaduct, which I always like!), Vinologia in Porto is probably the world's best port scooping bar, Medvedgrad in Zagreb is well worth a look as is the Zagrebačka brewery tap, Pannrummet in Gothenburg was strange in a good way and we also liked Delirium, Haket and The Rover.
Best beer shop of the year 2008
I'll list my favourite shops worthy of Bacchanalian praise below.
Bierkraft, Brooklyn - Is there anything this place doesn't do? A simply huge range of American craft beer, some rare Belgian stuff I've never seen before plus other countries' beer, up to 15 micro-brewed beers on tap to take away plus artisan crisps, chocolate, cheese, coffee... the list goes on! Let's just say beer shops don't get much better than this one.
Johnny's off-License, Rome - Small shop packed with quality beer; the lambic selection alone is better than most Belgian shops! What you'll probably go for, however, is the Italian craft beer range which is both wide and well chosen with some excellent breweries featured. Beers can be bought either chilled or ambient; an all-round great shop!
Pivní Galerie, Prague - Still as good as it's been for the last ten years, this unique shop (in Czech, at least) sells around 200 beers plus glassware and, as a bonus, two guest beers on tap in the little room to the side. If you want bottled beers in Praha, come here.
Close : Bacchanalia, Cambridge is, for the UK, a superb shop with cask ale, well over 100 bottled beers and a good wine range too. Conveniently situated for the various pubs around Mill Road, this is a place to visit if you're after some slightly unusual brews from all around the world.
Best brewery tap of the year 2008
Pretty self-explanatory... a pub close to a (usually) larger brewery which functions as the official tap for that brewery; a dying breed these days with the closure of many medium-sized brewers.
No winner this year as, although I still like Zagrebačka's brewery tap as it's one of the rare places to serve Tomislav (AmBev's best beer by miles) on tap in Croatia, it's not really "beery" enough to deserve a gong!
Best UK scooping pub 2008
Although it's not new, the resurgence at Sheffield's Harlequin has been nothing short of amazing during the past 12 months. From an average pub that was worth a look if you had time it's become the must-visit for scoopers in what is already the best beer city in the UK which is no mean achievement. An ever-changing range of beers from all over the country is showcased here to an appreciative audience and the food is just what you need so, obviously, it's fame is spreading. It opens at 11:30, making it an ideal "base camp"; if you've not yet been, why not?
Best places visited during 2008
This takes into account the beer choice, transport, brewpubs etc - unfortunately, some great cities get nowhere owing to their lack of decent beer, Gdańsk for example.
New York - After years of scepticism about American beer (too hoppy, too strong, too everything) I finally took the plunge after Alex Hall kindly offered to put me up and show me the gen! Well, all I can say is I'm glad I did... New York is an amazing city, very European in places, with far too many craft beer venues that is good for a place - if only London had this range of bars and shops!!! An all-round great city with some of the best beer I've ever tasted, some of the best bars I've ever been in and some great people too! I'll be back...
Prague - My tenth visit to this city that has everything finds it in better shape beer-wise than it's ever been (or I suspect as much!). With eight brewpubs, several breweries, an ever-increasing guest beer culture, more atmospheric bars than you can shake a koleno at, filling and beery food, a fantastic transport system plus a growing appreciation of kvasnicové beer and craft beer in general makes Praha a must-visit place. Also, when you tire of beer, it's one of the world's most beautiful cities.
Rome - I wasn't expecting to like Rome but I did; not as dirty, loud and dangerous as I heard from several people, more bustling and frenetic, this is a city where you can trace Europe's civilisation over a few thousand years in a couple of minutes' walking plus it's a major force in the huge Italian beer revival fronted by the incredible Manuele Colonna.
Best public transport system of the year 2008
OK so it's not really about beer, but so what? It helps you get there...
Prague's public transport system is superb - there's only one word for it. Yes, it's expensive for the locals these days (prices have risen over 100% in the last 4 years) but they get one of the most integrated, frequent and comprehensive systems in the world for their money. All the city's brewpubs and bars are accessible by either tram, metro or bus and using them is as easy as stamping a ticket. There are also some excellent rides available such as through Malostranská and up Chotkova.
Best Hotel of the year 2008
You need hotels when scooping, so this matters - I don't go as much for 5-star comfort as for location, sociability and the provision of public transport nearby, and a load of character adds many points too!
Hotel Da Vinci, Prague. Okay, so it's beside a very busy road, but the rooms are well soundproofed, the breakfast is good for Czech, the room rates can be very good and it's a mere couple of minutes from I P Pavlova tram and metro station plus, more importantly, only five minutes' walk from Pivovarský Dům! All in all, a great choice when in Praha.
Runner up : Scandic Crown, Gothenburg, for it's comfy rooms, amusing electric sunshades and amazing breakfast buffet!
Best pub food of the year 2008
Fuel for scooping! Pub food is an overlooked but very important issue for the serious scooper, and these pubs provide great beer as well as food.
Richter, Prague - When you're out scooping in Praha you need food that's filling and tasty. Luckily most Czech pub food is decent, but this brewpub comes up trumps with cheap, high quality staples that are a perfect match to the great beers brewed here. Some of the best pub food in Praha and, even better, you won't be eating with tourists or at tourist prices!
Pivnica Medvedgrad, Zagreb - Not as atmospheric as the old brewpub was (this is now Zlatno Pivo and, to be honest, not a lot has changed and it's still good) but the new home of Medvedgrad still serves up the best beer in Zagreb plus a wide range of gut-busting and delicious food making for an enjoyable evening out.
Bir&Fud, Rome - Across the road (and in the same ownership) from one of the world's best beer bars, Ma che siete venuti a fŕ, this pizza restaurant is unique in that it doesn't serve wine but a choice of eight craft brews to go with the home-made crisps and thin-base pizzas made on-site.
Other mentions : Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff is still turning out excellent food - some of the best pub food in the UK - whilst back in Czech Pivovarský Klub in Prague (and it's sister brewpub Pivovarský Dům) have delicious hearty Czech grub which goes excellently with the beers and just out of the capital in Průhonice the U Bezoušků brewpub turned out two great plates of food for us to go with some cracking beer. The Blind Tiger in New York does some amazing bar snacks, particularly the spicy chicken, and I also like the honest British pub food in the Harlequin, Sheffield, plus the Kelham Island Tavern isn't half bad either.
Best / Worst airports of the year 2008
My personal opinions of those I've visited during the last 12 months.
Best : Porto for it's quiet, airy halls, lack of shambles (apart from not being able to buy a rover ticket on a Sunday!) and very easy transfer into the city via the new tram system. Despite being one of the world's biggest airports, JFK was surprisingly good; between leaving the plane and getting onto the shuttle into town was a mere 20 minutes!
Worst : Rome Ciampino for it's hectic check-in and departures plus the totally uninformative bus transport to the metro. It's not that it was bad, but let's say if you had no gen prior to arrival you'd probably be taking a taxi!
The "Services to Scooping" award 2008
This category recognises people - could be scoopers or non-scoopers - anywhere in the world who have done a lot to increase the public's perception of the hobby and/or craft beer appreciation as a whole. A rather nebulous category, agreed, but there you go, that's Scoopergen...
Manuele Colonna of Ma che siete venuti a fŕ (Football Pub), Rome, for his amazing generosity to visiting beer lovers and pure passion for everything remotely connected to beer; he really is one of the most knowledgeable landlords I've ever met and there are precious few like him anywhere in the world. If you've not yet had the pleasure of discovering Italian craft beer, just get yourself to Rome and let Manuele teach you all about it; Salute, Manuele!
© Gazza 01/01/2009.