The Scoopergen 2006 Awards !
Last Updated : 12/02/07
ell now. I've decided to become all pretentious and draw up a list of awards for the year past; these will include some obvious ones and some not so obvious, but rest assured they are all chosen from bitter experience! If you disagree, or even agree, then feel free to contact me. Some entries may appear in multiple categories, and these are usually my favourites so please excuse the blatant toadying. If anyone can think of other categories I should consider, then let me know!
Just for information, I've done approximately 25,000 miles on aircraft this year, comprising of 27 flights, and scooped 643 beers plus lots of tram systems all for the cause! Rest assured that I will be keeping up the workload during 2007 and hope to still be here this time next year to unleash another load of awards upon the global beer industry!
Scoopergen's beers of the year 2006
Pretty self-explanatory really; the best beer I sampled in 2006! I drank 643 "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...
Murray's IPA (7.3%), Murray's Cerveza Artesanal, Buenos Aires, Argentina. An absolute monster of a beer, but a well-behaved one; a full maltiness with masses of citrussy bitterness from cascades and a huge hop punch. Massive flavours but all in balance, something a lot of brewers could learn from! It's superb stuff, and in my opinion the best Argentine beer of the 78 I sampled; it certainly stands alongside the best beers I've tasted anywhere else in the world and is a lot better than several over-hyped beers I could name! Keep up the good work, Francisco, Martín and Luis !
Klüvers Doppelbock (8%), Klüvers Brauhaus, Neustadt-in-Holstein, Germany. With the character of a treacle toffee-soaked maltsack this brewery certainly doesn’t go along with the usual German predilection for safe, bland, overly polite beers! The aroma is rich, fruity and malty leading into an explosion of flavour on the tongue – malt, chocolate, treacle toffee, caramel and liquorice all make themselves known alongside some spirity notes. The finish is mellow and very long with alcohol and dryness becoming more prominent over the malty, chocolatey and toffeeish flavours - glorious stuff. Their Pilsener also came close to this list, being a classic North German hoppy pils.
Wrassler's XXXX Stout (5%), Porterhouse Brewing, Dublin, Eire. A huge, burnt, black beast of a brew with it’s massive bitter hoppiness and liquoricey, burnt grain character. This is my favourite Irish beer of all those I’ve tasted thus far and makes Guinness taste like the thin, chemically rubbish it is; Wrasslers isn't always available at Porterhouse, but when it is you're in for a treat.
Worst beers of the year 2006
My personal opinion, yes, but it matters to me! Feel free to try these beers and let me know what you think about them... if you're hard enough!
Gilde (InBev) Ratskeller (4.9%), Hanover, Germany. A very poor chemically-bitter fluid, very contrived in taste, like some kind of piss-take of beer, and a caustic metallic bitterness in the watery finish with a hint of malt-essence. Atrocious.
Cervecería San Carlos Otro Mundo (7.5%), San Carlos Sud, Santa Fe, Argentina. Well, there's me blathering on about how good Argentinean beers are, when I remember this one... a rancid, sickly, sweet toffee-ish excuse for beer, sickly and unpleasant, and inducing nausea after a few sips. This is NOT artesanal beer, this is industrial swill pretending to be artesanal beer! Avoid !
Okocim Palone (5.5%), Okocim (Carlsberg), Brzesko-Okocim, Poland. Ruby coloured, bland, nauseatingly sweet and pathetically flavoured liquid pretending to be beer - and surely it’s just Zagłoba with caramel in it? A prime example of why Capitalism and big business isn't good for beer !
Beer discovery of the year 2006
This can be a brewery, beer style, or something totally different - it's completely up to me!
The Microbrewers of Argentina, especially Buenos Aires, for their (mainly) excellently brewed and interesting beers - I was very impressed with the overall quality and adventurousness of the Argentine scene and hope to return in August 2007 for some more scooping of these interesting beers in a fascinating country.
Brewpubs of the year 2006
Again, reasonably self-explanatory! The only rider is that the pub must brew on the premises.
Cossab Cerveza Artesanal – Carlos Calvo 4199, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Not wishing to repeat what I've already said, but this place was a revelation; a brewplant in the back room turning out some of the best beers (probably THE best) in Argentina plus good snacks, a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere and a decent list of other Argentine micro and rest of the world beers and you might get the picture!
Klüvers Brauhaus, Schiffbrücke 2, Neustadt-in-Holstein, Germany. Fairly new brewpub (2004) with a lovely location smack on the waterside of this quiet little harbour yet only five minutes from the rail station or town centre. Modern and clean in design, with a stainless steel brewery much in evidence, this place produces some of the best German beers I’ve had with the pilsener being a classic of the North German style and the seasonal Doppelbock being a magnificent brew in my humble opinion. Also bottles it’s beer in swingtop 1-litre bottles or small kegs to take away! Very sociable staff and superb beer, what more could you possibly want?
Clockwork Beer Company, 1153-1155 Cathcart Road, Mount Florida, Glasgow, Scotland. The best pub in Glasgow for beer range with, usually, 8 of their own brews, around 5 or 6 guest beers, a Caley beer or two, a whole fridgeful of Belgian/German bottles (including some good ‘uns such as Cantillon) and a few other bits and bobs such as Budvar dark on draught makes this a Mecca for beer enthusiasts. The five-barrel kit is shoehorned in behind the glass panels to the right as you enter and you may see the brewer peeling bananas or suchlike to add to the next "hazy daze" beer! Decent (and cheap) food rounds up this classic place – don’t leave Glasgow without a visit!
Best brewery tap of the year 2006
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.
Herrenhauser Braustübchen, Markgrafstraße 1, Hanover, Germany. Brewery tap of the Herrenhauser brewery which looms over the pub, this cosy little place is an absolute gem! It's like stepping back into the 1960's with old blokes playing dominoes (or at least that's what I think they were doing!), beige decor and an older clientele strung along the tiny bar. The pils is the only draught beer and is hoppily excellent. Trams 4 and 5 stop at Herrenhauser Markt station 25 metres away.
Best new UK scooping pub 2006
A pretty clear-cut one, this; the Royal Oak in Bath is a run-away winner of the award with it's excellent (and scoop-filled) selection of up to 12 beers and sociable landlord. John and Becky are making a good go of this place, and if you've not been yet then I advise you to get over there and sample it for yourself; don't just believe me (not that anyone does). See here for my report of a recent (December 06) visit to Bath. Coming up a close second was the New Oxford in Salford which is making a good go of a difficult location.
Best bars of the year 2006
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!
Vaso de Oro, Carrer de Balboa 6, Barcelona. A gorgeous brewery tap with more character than is good for it, this pub is an absolute world classic and should be on everyone's itinerary! The beer isn't actually brewed on-site (I don't think) but it's a classic tapas bar with good beer - a major bonus in Spain!
Cossab Cerveza Artesanal, Carlos Calvo 4199, Buenos Aires. Excellent brewpub serving superb beers from themselves, Murray's brewery and many other small Argentine micros; one of the best bars in BsAs and I'd like it at the end of my road, thank you very much...
Bow Bar, 80 West Bow, Edinburgh. This little house is achingly traditional with no music, air founts atop the bar, long-closed brewery mirrors on the walls and loads of whisky on the gantry and I make no apologies for it still being my favourite bar in Auld Reekie!
Best place visited during 2006
This takes into account the beer choice, transport, brewpubs etc - unfortunately, some great cities would get nowhere owing to their lack of decent beer, Gdansk for example.
Buenos Aires, Argentina. A fascinating sprawling metropolis with many brewpubs (although a few have recently closed) and - if you know where to look - a huge array of micro-brewed beer for sale. Add to this great food, excellent public transport and a cheapness all round then you might see why I really enjoyed BsAs!
Riga, Latvia. The largest city in the Baltics with a mix of old-world charm and Soviet-era brutalism, Riga is a complex and rewarding city to explore. It has a great tram system (for saddos, unrefurbished Tatra T3's and Konstals) and some excellent bars, but it's great attraction, for me, was the energy and life of the city (well, that and beer for 35p a bottle in supermarkets!); highly recommended.
Barcelona, Spain. A surprise entry - it surprises me too - but, all things considered, Barcelona fully deserves it's accolade here; it has a very good transport system, has a wide range of bars and pubs including two brewpubs, and is an all-round interesting and enjoyable city to explore whether for beer, architecture or both.
Best public transport system of the year 2006
OK so it's not really about beer, but so what? It helps you get there...
Buenos Aires, Argentina. Okay, so I may be a little biased here, but a city with subways costing 12p a ride, a preserved tramline as well as a proper one, literally hundreds of buses, cheap taxis and some of the best (i.e. loudest!) trains you'll see anywhere gives BsAs a commanding lead. Put it this way; I visited most areas in the Capital Federal (central-ish area) and found a subway, train or bus would take me to within metres of where I wanted to go.
Best Hotel of the year 2006
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!
Karavella, 27 Katrīnas Dambis Iela, Riga, Latvia. A huge Communist-era monstrosity a couple of kilometres north of the centre amongst docks and railway yards, this is a cheap hotel and perfectly adequate if all you're going to do is to sleep there and maybe drink a few beers whilst watching awful Russian comedians dressed in Beige suits cracking gags about something or other. Tram 5 goes within 5 minutes at Katrīnas iela - simply walk up the road opposite the stop past the Maxim supermarket - and it's cheap, too. The breakfast is served in a small room on the 7th floor, is adequate, and is help yourself. The sounds of shunting in the railway yards continues 24/7 but is great if you like that sort of thing... we had a great view over the docks, river and railway and loved the contrast between the touristy centre and the industrial docks. This award is given more for the uniqueness and character of the place rather than it's comfort, but it was perfectly adequate for us.
Best pub food of the year 2006
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. For some reason, German bars always do very well in my lists of favourite food...
Worthmühle, Worthstraße 4, Goslar, Germany. Gorgeously rickety and haphazard old bar, once a mill (hence the name), right alongside the river in Goslar. They serve the local Goslar Bräuhaus Gose vom faß, which is one good reason to come here, but another is the superlative food which nods heavily in favour of local Harz specialities. A superb place, full of character, and very highly recommended.
Eagle & Child, Staveley, Cumbria. There's me saying how crap UK pubs are for food when I discover this beauty! Freshly made food, most of it locally-sourced, and some cracking cask beers make this pub a good visit at any time. The food (local cheeses and Staveley Cumberland sausage with mash) was excellent and 200% better than most other UK pubs I've eaten in - although that's not very many lately, admittedly!
Bräuhaus Schadt's, Marstall 2, Braunschweig, Germany. Not the best looking brewpub in the world, and certainly not the best beer, but the meal we had here was simply superb; fresh local Grünkohl (curly kale) with smoky Kasslaer ham and sausages stacked high with Bratkartoffeln... simply superb. A lot of bars in Germany do excellent food, but this was a cut above most others on our visit.
Also coming close was Chaper Arts Centre, Cardiff, which surprised me with a lovely pasta dish one evening and might even sneak in here next year as long as we don't go to Germany too often...
Best / Worst airports of the year 2006
My personal opinions of those I've visited during the last 12 months.
Best - Well, we've not been to that many good airports this year as, for one reason or another, most have been rather poor. The biggest improvement was Coventry's new portakabin waiting room (that's a big improvement, believe me) and, along with finding a good car parking option nearby, I therefore award Coventry with my airport of the year!
Worst - Believe me, there are plenty in this category, but the worst airport I've had the misfortune to spend time in this year was Paris CDG; a huge, sprawling mess with bad signposting, remote shoddy terminals and massive queues to buy a transport ticket into Paris - big airports suck, and Paris CDG sucks big time. East Midlands has also declined from what was a restful provincial gateway into a brash, modern consumerist abomination and I won't want to travel from there too much in the future...