Best brews of 2012

18:17, Jan 07 2013

Before we get too far into 2013, it's time to think back on 2012. Which, to be honest, was a bloody good year for me. I both brewed and drank everything from sour stouts to beers with added ambergris. I've been shocked, disgusted, confused and impressed in equal measures by all sorts of beers. But there were some highlights, which is why I've put together my Beery Best of 2012.

Most Drunk Beer: 
Not to be confused for the best beer, this is the one I've consumed the most. If there is one beer which could only come from New Zealand, it's Mussel Inn Captain Cooker. Based on the first ever beer brewed here - by Captain James Cook in the 1700s - it combines a sorta-red ale with aromatic manuka tips. The manuka tips make this beer one of those things which just tastes like the place it comes from; it's fresh but solid, interesting but quaffable, totally dependable yet never boring. It's been my Lawnmower Beer, my After Work Pint and my With Dinner Drink plenty of times, and is sure to be this year as well. I'm especially glad it comes in 1.3L flagons from Liquorland Albert St. Speaking of which... 

Best Bottle Shop:
Coming from Wellington - where every new beer release is available from nearly anywhere - to Palmerston North, I was afraid I would be stuck driving back to the capital every now and then to stock up the beer pantry. So thank you Adrian and Leonie at Liquorland Albert St for taking such good care of me this year. From letting me know when new products are in stock to talking me into buying random Russian ales, I really do owe you both a beer or two.

Best Beer Festival: 
Beervana was great, the Great Pacific Beer Expo was glorious, but Octoberfest in Palmerston North's Regent Arcade takes the cake. While I had already tried most of the beers there, it was great to see people trying some different things. And all in the city I live in! Hopefully it will be the start of bigger and better things for the beer scene here. 

Best Pub: 
I hate bars. You know, those places which seem like a cosy pub at first but morph into some wannabe-party-bar when the clock approaches midnight. I once heard that a true pub is somewhere you can take a book and feel comfortable reading it, spending an hour or two soaking in the atmosphere while sipping your way slowly through a pint. If that's the case, then The Celtic Inn is the only true pub for me in Palmerston North. I can sit outside with a pint of London Pride, flick through a book and relax for a few minutes without feeling awkward. I've even done a bit of blog writing there, with nothing but the sound of good conversation and music cutting through the keyboard chatter. The only thing which could make the place better would be more craft brews on tap (hint hint).

An honourable mention has to go to Village Inn Kitchen on the other end of Albert St from Liquorland. Owner, chef and all-around great guy Nigel has the best beer fridge in town, is great for a yarn and wants to see more people drinking different beer. 

Most Confusing Beer: 
Beer is weird. You think you've got it figured out when BLAM you drink something which makes no sense at all. It's the brewing equivalent of putting Tabasco on your eggs for the first time; it's different, it's weird, but you can't help but have more and more until you know it makes sense. I still have that exact same feeling with banoffee pie and, recently, Townshend Flemish Stout. Taking a traditional strong stout and blend it with a sour ale sounds a bit mad, but I think English ex-pat brewer Martin Townshend has nailed something here. At least, I think he has. I'm still as confused as ever as to if I like the beer or not.

Most Improved Beer:

I don't know if it was moving the brewery or my tastebuds, but Tuatara Pilsner has never tasted better than it has this year. I could drink the stuff by the pint at the bar I worked at in Wellington and never really thought much of it. But it has never failed to blow me away this year with its huge hop aroma and sweet taste which slowly moves into a fruity bitterness which just never gets old.  

Best Beer:
The hardest one to pick. There were some brilliant brews released - Liberty's awesome hop-bomb Yakima Monster, Yeastie Boys' earl grey tea-infused Gunnamatta and anything from Garage Project - but my personal favourite is something which has been around for a while. Three Boy's Oyster Stout is my beer of 2012. Dark as tar and thick as paint, you look like you have a pint of espresso in front of you after it is poured. It's got a brilliant sweetness, balanced by a slow hop bite and a hint of salty brine from the Bluff oysters used in the brewing process. It was great in 2011, but the 2012 batch was - and still is - something else. I'm putting that down to the season's oysters.

So did you enjoy drinking in 2012? Anything you hated? Or have I got the list wrong, and something else should be topping any of the categories?

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