Every year, we get together as a team to talk about the beers and breweries that stood out for us over the past twelve months and dish out some awards, in what we like to call ‘The Brewies’.
With all that’s gone on in the past year, we’re very grateful to be able to celebrate the world of independent brewing. Every indie brewer deserves a medal (as well as your continued support) for managing to keep going at a time where their businesses have been seriously impacted by restrictions and pub closures. Not only did the craft brewing industry manage to carry on, but there were also plenty of outstanding beers, campaigns and initiatives that managed to give everyone something to smile about, in spite of the difficult times.
Here’s just a sprinkling of the beers and breweries that helped to spread some joy among us and our customers. Hopefully, you’ll agree with us, but let us know on our socials what your highlights were.
The Brewies 2021: Award Winners
UK Independent Brewery of the Year: Verdant Brewing Co
The first of our awards voted for exclusively by HonestBrew Members, we weren’t surprised to see Verdant clinch the title of top UK brewery. Verdant kicked off the year by moving to a brand new brewing site and, despite teething issues and the chaos created by the pandemic, soon got into the groove of producing more beer than ever before.
Classic beers like ‘Headband’ and ‘Even Sharks Need Water’ emerged refreshed and revitalised, while their signature Double IPAs like ‘Allen’ delivered their career-best performances. As Verdant became more settled in their new surrounds, a steady stream of brand new beers began to flow, experimenting with different hops, products and techniques and, in Strata, Verdant found a hop almost tailor-made for their approach. With its immense tropical and dank aroma maximised by beers like ‘The Window’s Accusing…’ and ‘20 Watt Moon’, it felt as if we were witness to the start of a special relationship. Verdant also branched out into different styles, with porter and lager showing off the extra strings on their already-gilded bow. This dedication to perfecting their craft, and clear thirst for adventure easily demonstrates that Verdant are worthy winners of this title in The Brewies 2021.
International Independent Brewery of the Year: Whiplash
Also voted for by Members, it’s amazing to see how far Whiplash have come in just a year working from a permanent brewing site. Previously a well-reputed nomadic brewery, a now constant cycle of strong releases has meant they’ve truly been able to get their feet under the table and establish themselves as a top European outfit. Striking a balance between super-accessible pale ales like ‘Rollover’ and ‘Body Riddle’, and intense, geekier offerings such as ‘Surrender to the Void’ and ‘Let.It.End’, they’ve earned the adoration of both casual craft beer drinkers and hard-to-impress veterans.
This broad appeal is a result of a meticulous and explorative approach to brewing, with their Dublin brewery custom built and designed to spec in order for the team to constantly fine-tune their processes. It’s this blend between precision and passion, not to mention eye-catching and memorable design, that has meant that Whiplash rapidly became one of our bestselling breweries, and our member’s favourite international outfit in 2021.
Visual Excellence: Pressure Drop
Craft beer is such a vibrant and expressive scene that there are tonnes of breweries who are worthy of The Brewies’ Visual Excellence award, but this year, based on our criteria of originality, consistency, and identity, we agreed that Pressure Drop were well-deserving winners. Every Pressure Drop can possesses a memorable quality, whether it’s the Bauhaus aesthetic of ‘Podium’, the positive affirmations of ‘Welcome To The Internet’, or the Victorian instruction manual of ‘Understanding Whole Systems’. The beauty of the design is that you can identify your favourite by simply referring to the can, and everyone else will know exactly which beer you’re talking about.
Outside of the cans, there’s plenty more to love too. Their vibrant social feeds are packed with bold backgrounds, must-have merch and retro-inspired video launches, all of which convey the type of fun and tongue-in-cheek nature that we think that is so prevalent in the craft beer scene.
Breakthrough Independent Brewery: Browar Stu Mostów
Browar Stu Mostów have continued to establish themselves as one of our most popular breweries, and the past year has seen them show huge versatility. The arrival of a new Head Brewer helped the Wroclaw-based team explore their big ambitions, as they continued to expand the adventurous and modern ‘Salamander’ range, showcased their brewing heritage with the ‘WRCLW’ series, and unveiled their ‘WILD’ project; using mixed-fermentation and local ingredients to reveal a fresh side to Polish beer.
Their commitment to innovation, quality and variety means that they are poised to continue their championing of Polish craft on an even bigger stage. An upcoming collaboration series, which sees them teaming up with leading European and US breweries, is further evidence that Stu Mostów have truly arrived as a top-tier craft brewery and this years Brewies Breakthrough pick.
The People’s Choice: Verdant
For The Brewies’ now-infamous People’s Choice award, we ask our Members to vote for eight of their favourite breweries before pitting them against one another in a series of Twitter polls, open to the public. Verdant managed to squeeze through their semi-final despite a late attempt from Yorkshire-based voters to advance both Brew York and Northern Monk, and faced the former, Siren, and Polly’s in the final.
After two years of heartbreak in which they were narrowly pipped to the post, Verdant finally got their hands on this coveted crown. Their second win of the year, this double-helping of awards reflects Verdant’s hard work and love of their craft, qualities that have been clear for all to see over the past twelve months.
The Brewies 2021: Beers of the Year
It’s tricky to pick just one beer of the year, so for this year’s Brewies, we’ve decided to split it up into a few categories to help show the variety of great beer we’ve been enjoying. Of course, this barely skims the surface of all the amazing beers out there, but at least we could come to an agreement on some beers we wanted to give a shout out to.
The Moderator: The Kernel – Table Beer
‘The Moderator’ is a beer under 3.5% ABV that we’ve relied on for a weeknight-friendly tipple, and as low-alcohol beers go, The Kernel’s Table Beer is hard to beat.
Light on the alcohol, but big in flavour, it manages to balance a hoppy and fruity flavour with a zesty undercurrent for massive levels of refreshment. Arguably the ultimate food pairing, it’s versatile enough to go with a range of dishes, and is essential drinking for anyone who enjoys a glass of beer with their dinner.
The New Kid on the Block: Cervecera Península – Greetings From Madrid
With eagerly-anticipated returns of existing series often receiving the most hype in the craft beer world, we wanted to highlight a brand new beer that had a big impact on us.
Península went all out to shine a light on a surprisingly unsung beer scene in Madrid with this DDH DIPA, representing the vibrancy and innovation that can be found in Spain’s capital. This was achieved through the marriage of the sometimes divisive Sabro hops, and Kveik yeast, the two components working in harmony for a DIPA that stood out from the crowd. We loved it so much, that we ended up calling them up to encourage a sequel — our collab, ‘Madrid Al Cielo’.
The Everpresent: Pressure Drop – Pale Fire
While new releases get our pulses racing, you can’t always have a fridge exclusively filled with hype. We wanted to show our love for the beers that we find ourselves coming back to again and again, and ‘Pale Fire’ is exactly that kind of beer.
It’s a brew that’s turned many curious drinkers into craft converts, with a familiar yet fresh flavour that means it stands above many beers of a similar price point. A blissful blend of bitterness and fruity tropical flavour, as well as a session-friendly ABV, means that one can is rarely enough, and that it’s fairly common for portions of our team’s fridges to serve as a mini-shrine.
The Maltimate: Siren Craft Brew – Caribbean Chocolate Cake
The Maltimate is our chance to show some love to darker, malt-forward beers in The Brewies and, well, we’ve cheated a bit here and named four. Ultimately we couldn’t decide on what our favourite of Siren’s legendary series was, so we’ve decided to go with all of them.
This year saw the classic version of this beloved brew given Siren’s incredible nitro treatment for a super silky finish, as well as the arrival of a delicious, maple-tastic ‘Pancake Stack’ variant. What remains constant and makes ‘CCC’ one of our most avidly-awaited releases is the inclusion of amazing cacao nibs from Willie’s Cacao and Siren’s use of aromatic wood to create a remarkable balance of rich flavour and arresting aroma. With each beer whipped around in the infamous Siren ‘Spinbot’ these iconic additions impart their full flavour through the beer, making them some of the most satisfying stouts we’ve had the pleasure of drinking this year
The Heavyweight – Pühaste – Tumeaine Brazil Coffee Edition
When we were considering what our favourite beer over 8% was in the past year, we found ourselves leaning towards the stout side again. Pühaste are certainly masters of the dark arts and their Tumeaine coffee series is among the highlights of their fearsome repertoire.
A collab series with their local coffee roasters Kokomo, including other variations from El Salvador & Colombia; and Kenya, the Brazilian edition stood out due to its particular time and place. Arriving in during the first lockdown, where everything felt especially unusual and our beer senses were heightened, the aromas of rich, roasted coffee and the deftly disguised, decadent ABV were a treat that still brings a smile to our faces. Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with any of the variations on Pühaste’s dangerously drinkable and perfectly executed imperial stout series, so keep an eye out for future editions.
That’s all, folks!
And that concludes this year’s Brewies. Thanks to all who have been voting via email or on Twitter, and a round of applause for all independent breweries for their efforts in the past year. If you’d like to sample a collection of beers from this year’s winners, check out our Brewies award-winners case, featuring six beers from our fantastic champions.