Things didn’t kick off in the most auspicious way; I began the year with a layoff from a job I was very much enjoying, so the semi-regular trips to Denmark quickly came to an end. Fortunately, I ended up in a new position with relative speed, (after a whirlwind trip with the smaller child to LA for Gallifrey One – an actual TARDIS would have made it an easier journey, but hey ho) and swapped sorties to the office in Odense for one in London. While that meant fewer Scandinavian beers, it did mean more opportunities for theatre and cask ale, so, really, not at all a downgrade. Indeed, cask seemed to be a theme this year with all my beer travels, both here in Ireland and abroad. And while it was infrequently the method of dispensation, nearly all of my favourites this year would have been great served that way (granted, I am guessing on the cold IPA, but we’ll go with it).
Before we get on to that list, a few other highlights: we very much enjoyed doing a live Beer Ladies Podcast, hosted by our friends at Rascals, as part of their Nollaig na mBan week – it was fantastic to meet some fans in person, and it was nice to know we aren’t just speaking into the void! There were also some wonderful events, both formal and informal, with the Craic Beer Community folk, but the trip to Ballykilcavan was a standout. Even if you’re not in Ireland, you should be following Ballykilcavan on all the socials for the beautiful farm (and dog) and beer pictures; more about the beer again shortly. Hagstravaganza was the only large beer festival I made it to this year, but it was good fun, and I had an equally good time with a more ad-hoc gathering of beer nerds at a Sierra Nevada event at the Underdog – it was very much a throwback to those early-2000s tap takeovers some may recall from that time. In between those was the recently-mentioned small cask ale festival – again, small but mighty seems to be something of a theme.
And so, without further ado, my ten favourite beers of 2023:
10. Hope Beer Horizon Dark Mild, 3.8% – A collaboration with Craic Beer Community, this was a great way to kick off January of 2023 – start as you mean to carry on!
9. Whiplash Bowsie Brown Ale, 4.5% – I am not in the least bit angry that this seems to pop up on tap (well, nitro) almost every time I go to Fidelity – it’s a wonderful beer.
8. Bagby Beer Company King of the Britons Bitter, 4.4% – My own personal Best of the Fest from Hagastravaganza was – yes – a 4.4% bitter from California. Loved it.
7. Torrside/Swift Run Pace Setter Table Beer, 3.4% – I love a good table beer, especially one that’s a collaboration with a running friend – I was thrilled to find a bottle at UTOBeer at Borough Market.
6. Harvey’s Brewery Dark Mild, 3.5% – Some things are classics for a reason. It turns out the Royal Oak in Borough is not far from my office, and while there are plenty of lovely things on the Bermondsey Beer Mile, it’s also nice to enjoy a cask mild or two in the relative calm of a cozy pub.
5. Third Barrel Brewing Afternoon Delight Stout, 6.5% – One from the Irish cask festival, and an absolute standout. Dark but hoppy, perfectly balanced and warming for a chilly day.
4. Ballykilcavan Brewery Cobblers Castle IPA, 4.8% – As mentioned, we were lucky to visit Ballykilcavan earlier in the year, and we got to try this before its general release. It’s such a welcome taste – a relatively low-key but absolutely old-school IPA; hazebois be gone.
3. Marble Mild, 4.1% – Yes, another dark mild. No, not remotely sorry. Cheers to the Euston Tap!
2. Galway Bay Brewing Company I Hear You Like IPA Cold IPA, 6.9% – You’d think I would be curmudgeonly about cold IPAs. Instead, I think they are rather wonderful, especially this one. I’ve had to have it again every time I’ve seen it on tap.
1. Ballykilcavan Brewery Endurance Dark Mild, 4.2% – If you know me, you knew this was coming. It’s practically my platonic ideal of a beer, and very much reminds me of Yards Brawler; the challenge for 2024 is to find it on cask.
So, there you have it – the high-level year in review. I left out the gigs (The Divine Comedy, Fra Fee, David Devant & his Spirit Wife, Mandy Patinkin), the theatre (Old Friends, Peter Pan, etc) and some other travels (oh, Vienna!), but some of that is covered here in previous posts – search away.
For 2024, I hope to get in more Weirdo Dublin Pubs, so stay tuned for those after the holidays; we have a lot in store for the Beer Ladies Podcast, and I’m sure you’re all going to be waiting with baited breath for my live reporting from Eurovision…see you in the new year.