It’s sort of too late for end of the year lists and they’re sort of boring anyway, but we decided we should let brewers know that we’ve been enjoying their drink. 2012 was a great year for beer, with a surge in independent craft brewing driving quality to new heights. Creativity and innovation have made London a much tastier place to drink in, and we’ve really enjoyed every sip. Here’s the rundown of the hits of the year.

Best London Brewery

Kernel Bottle Bag

There are plenty of contenders for this but The Kernel is just so good it has to claim top prize. The Kernel have been with us throughout our beer-education, printing hop varieties on their classy labels to help us learn. Masters of dark and pale, this is the brewery that always makes us happy and gets us day-pissed on Saturdays. We also love Redchurch, who have a much smaller range of beers, but each is pretty perfect.

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Best UK Brewery

Magic Rock

Hailing from beer holyland Huddersfield, Magic Rock brings all kinds of exciting beer to the table. From perfected classics to experimental barrel-aged treats, Magic Rock have made us plenty happy plenty of times. Yorkshire neighbours Summer Wine are also worth a mention here, as they’ve had us staggering with excitement over the year.

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Best Beer Festival

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Independent Manchester Beer Convention was a serious couple of days of drinking. We made new discoveries and exposed some of our mates to the excitement of getting pissed on things that actually taste nice. Read all about it here.

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Best Newcomer

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Howling Hops – Brewing in the basement of Hackey’s The Cock Tavern, head brewer Ed is doing amazing work in limited space. Howling Hops have an impressive range of pales, from refreshing session action to intricate, aggressively boozy ales. The darkness of Howling Hops is particularly impressive, with both their Chocolate and Victorian stouts being serious hits. Their new smoked porter is one to look out for, both in your local and in our food.

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Best IPA

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This was all too close to call, so we’re going for Pel’s all-time favourite IPA, the Belgian-style wonder Raging Bitch from Flying Dog. America has some incredible craft beer and Flying Dog are right up there. They also have their artwork done by Ralph Steadman, so they’re just born winners. More locally, we’ve really enjoyed the IPAs coming out of the Kernel, with their Simcoe Magnum hopped action being of real note.

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Best Brown/Barley Wine

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The Bearded Lady from Magic Rock is almost my favourite beer of the year. A formidable imperial brown ale, weighing in at a mighty 10.5%, this is a special beer. It has all the candy flavours I love about brown but then with a smokiness of stout. I’d bathe in it if I could. Also worth a mention is  Old Foghorn by Anchor Brewing, a huge barelywine style beer that made me really happy and got me very pissed at Indy Man Beer Con.

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Best Stout/Porter

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I can still remember my first gateway-Guinness which is such a distant memory in this world of incredible black booze. Old Ford Export Stout from Redchurch Brewery is the finest darkness I’ve sipped on this year. If I could get this in my local shop I’d never drink Guinness Nigerian Foreign Extra again. We need to take time to head into the Deep East and drink this on tap at the Redchurch bar, a place we’ve yet to get pissed in. The export Stout was pushed closest by the Hoxton Stout from the same brewery, and also by the Victorian stout from Howling Hops.

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Best Cask Aged/Flavoured Beer

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Magic 8 Ball Chardonay Barrel. Dark and deceptive, this black IPA is all kinds of fruity excitement. This is the kind of thing beer wankers are really going to hate, as if  a BLACK IPA isn’t already enough to have them getting tears on their leather gillets. We tried this at the Magic Rock tap takeover at the King William IV and Pel declared it her favourite on the night, which is a fair achievment given that there was Human Cannonball on tap. We should also give thanks for the amazing Calico Jack rum and ginger stout from Summer Wine. Tasting like all of my favourite things at once, this was almost the best thing I drank at IMBC. Almost.

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Beer of the Year

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The best thing we both tasted at IMBC was Mikkeller Big Worse – Red Wine Barrel Aged Edition. This beer is just so exciting; sweet barleywine laced with red wine spiciness. It’s also formidably strong (12%) which we really enjoy.

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Best Brewery Bar

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Other than staying in bed eating bacon and banging, The Kernel is the best place to spend a Saturday morning. You can be pissed and safely back in the house before all the weekend people start pissing about in the streets in their fake tan and ironic garms. Camden Town Brewery is also a great place to be. With some great beers, streetfood and a great atmosphere, it’s always worth popping down for a pint. The Ska Brewing Takeover at Camden was one of our favourite booze events of the year, mainly due to a too-drinkable 10% DIPA called Decadent.

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Best Pub

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The Southampton Arms has great beer and snacks and staff, the three minimum must-have crtieria. The place has a great feel; warm and welcoming whilst also being very traditional. They carry only great beer so you can’t really go wrong when finding something to wash down your pork pie with. Outside of London, Port Street Beer House and The Marble Arch, both in Manchester, are really great pubs that look great and stock incredible beers.

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Glass Of The Year

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Has to the IMBC 3rd-0f-a-pint sexiness. Designed small to encourage liberal tasting, these glasses not only saw a great crowd through a great beer festival, but they’re now helping people get great beer into their faces all over the place. We still use ours for most of our tastings, mainly because we can only afford one bottle of beer (to share) at a time. Props to Marble for their chunky half-pint goblets, which we refrained from stealing.

Marble Glasses

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Beer Meal of The Year

We cook with booze quite often and have had a couple of real hits. Heres a main and dessert made with fine craft beer:

Sierra Nevada Braised Venison

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Innis and Gunn Banoffee Pie

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Best Bar Snack

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Original Jerky Co. Cajun Jerky. Spicy and fruity and beefy; yes, yes and yes. We liked this so much we bought a bunch and took it to Manchester as part of our wedding food. My black pudding, pork and cider sausage roll was also the bollocks, but I can’t start awarding myself things.

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Barman of The Year

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Matt Smith of The Southampton Arms. Chatty, knowledgable and sound as fuck, he’ll get you the beer you need. Also tweets about the mental daytime regulars, which is very entertaining.

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Words By Craig Ballinger

Drinking By We Eat

Lead Image and Howling Hops Badge by Charlie Whatley

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