2017 was filled with incredible independent beer! Following the success of last year’s awards, we once again decided to celebrate the breweries out there crafting truly brilliant brews for beer lovers’ drinking pleasure with the 2nd HonestBrew Independent Beer Awards. Find out all the winners below and prepare to cast you vote in the People’s Choice Award.
Fancy a selection of beers from all the award-winning breweries? Treat yourself or the beer lover in your lover in your life to a brilliant 12 beer Award Winners Mixed Case, available in the online bottleshop now.
People’s Choice Award: Wylam Brewery
After two rounds of voting, Wylam topped our poll with 28% of the hotly contested four way vote. The Newcastle-based brewery retained their title of HonestBrew Independent Beer Awards People’s Champs after last year’s win, highlighting the true extent of their passionate local following in the process.
Best UK Brewery: Northern Monk
The competition in this category was especially fierce this time round. As independent UK breweries continue to push the boundaries of contemporary brewing and craft some of the world’s most exciting and quality-driven beers, selecting a single brewery as “the best” is an increasingly difficult task. Irrespective of who won this award, it’s beer lovers across the UK and Ireland that are the true winners. Nevertheless, and without further ado, Leeds’ Northern Monk take the top spot in the category of Best British & Irish Brewery.
The brewery’s refinement of their core range, multiple seasonal and special releases, and an action-packed events schedule propelled them to the very top – ensuring their beers were an essential fridge addition throughout 2017. Their ongoing Patrons Projects celebrated and thrived upon collaboration. The Monks brewed alongside some of the world’s most revered breweries. They worked with talented and passionate artists, photographers and athletes, and by doing so ensured their evocatively labelled releases transcended the world of craft beer, giving us an insight into intriguing and captivating new worlds and subcultures.
Admittedly, not every can was received with the same degree of acclaim, but ultimately each and every release felt unmissable and had to be tasted – no matter what the style. They double-dry-hopped saisons, somehow brewed an undeniably delicious interpretation of Neapolitan Ice Cream… twice, teased our taste buds with tantalising fruit adjuncts, dreamt up a plethora of dark delights and continued to improve upon an already outstanding core range. They even finished the year by celebrating the three pillars of beer, hops, malt and yeast, in spectacular fashion.
Hop City and Dark City brought incredible beers from the US and Europe to the north of England and celebrated both ends of the beer spectrum. Throughout 2017 Northern Monk displayed both style and substance, they cemented Leeds’ status as a craft beer destination, and don’t get us started on the Mango Lassi.
Cheers to Northern Monk and their incredible year of beer.
Beer Of The Year: Verdant – Further DIPA
Very few homegrown breweries captured the spirit of true independent craft beer in 2017 in the same manner as Verdant. The Falmouth-based juice purveyors served up a dizzying myriad of hazy delights. Pales, IPAs, and of course, DIPAs – all felt vital. Pulp, Putty, Even Sharks Need Water and our own collaboration with the brewery, We’ve Lost The Manifest, were all outstanding, especially given that Verdant only began life back in 2016. Nevertheless, and irrespective of your personal favourite, Further seemed to capture the attention and admiration of beer lovers like no other release. Incredibly juicy and beautifully balanced largely thanks to the trio of Mosaic, Denali and Azacca. Hops may well fade fast, but Further will live on in the minds of those lucky enough to have enjoyed it.
Best International Brewery: Amundsen
The surface appearances of Amundsen’s strikingly colourful cans hint at the flavourful concoctions that await inside. The Norwegian brewery landed on UK shores with a myriad of styles, a selection of appetite whetting collaborations, and beers that displayed an intention to deviate from the norm while remaining focused on a top quality final product. Easy-drinking pils, lip-smacking sours, and hype-inducing hop bombs placed our taste buds on high alert, and judging by the rate at which they sold out, yours too!
Breakthrough Brewery of the Year: Whiplash
2018 surely holds big things for Whiplash, and hopefully big bags of lovely white cans for us. The Irish brewery grabbed the attention of beer lovers last year with a series of acclaimed releases throughout 2017 and thankfully the trend looks set to continue. What was once a “really intense, anxiety ridden, hardcore labour side-project” recently became a full-time gig for Alex Lawes and Alan Wolfe (formerly of Rye River Brewing Company). With bold recipes that exhibit both a willingness to experiment and a deep understanding of brewing classic styles, the beer speaks for itself; Alex also regularly speaks for it, often putting a big smile on our faces when he does. Whiplash have pieced together a colourful collage in which every element of their output remains distinct, irreverent and exciting.
Innovation Award: Siren
Last year Siren took the prize of “Top British Brewery”. We cited their role in facilitating the Rainbow Project, a wonderfully diverse range of beers, and the manner in which they represented British brewing to the world as major factors behind the win. The Berkshire-based brewery undoubtedly carried the same ambassadorial values into 2017, and while this year’s top prize has been passed on to Northern Monk, Siren’s commitment to continuing to push the boundaries undoubtedly deserves recognition. A plethora of monstrously good barrel-aged delights (including the latest edition of their Maiden blend), hop-forward festivals of juice, numerous delicious collabs, the invigorating “Project Barista”, a delectable range of dark beers (Bourbon Milkshake anyone?) and a core range that remains packed with quality and diversity – all highlight Siren’s innovative and enchanting approach to modern beer.
Spirit of Collaboration Award: Cloudwater/Lost & Grounded/Verdant – Loral & Ardi
An exceedingly drinkable Tripel produced by three breweries whose beers dominated our drinking habits throughout 2017, Loral & Ardi was a three way dance of flavour, imagination and collaboration. We drank it on keg during the Lost & Grounded Summer Brewhouse Session with Verdant, we sipped it from the can while perched outside The Pilcrow on a rainy Manchester afternoon, we drank it on balmy August weekends and grabbed the last remaining few from the surprisingly well stocked corner shop on the walk home – each and every time was as enjoyable as the last! Hazy, hoppy, juicy, spicy and bitter – a collaboration that certainly lived up to the hype.
Visual Excellence Award: Boundary
Ever since we first lay eyes upon Boundary Brewing’s beautifully labelled beers we’ve been enamoured with the painterly works of artist John Robinson. Robinson draws upon the characteristics of the beers brewed by head brewer Matthew Dick and creates a visual representation of the beer which lay inside the bottle. Take Boundary’s Chipotle & Bird’s eye chilli porter for example, the artist’s impenetrable brush strokes of black only interrupted by the surfacing shades of warming brown and red – a fitting feast for the eyes to accompany the bold flavours of the beer. The collaboration between Boundary and Robinson is a harmonious and visually arresting one which takes incredible beer and turns it into a unmissable experience with its own untold narrative. You can even grab your very own Boundary print at the brewery’s online merch shop here.
Best Festival: Hagstravaganza
Being one of the most Westerly craft breweries in Europe has never held back White Hag from reaching out and making themselves friends and fans far and wide. Travelling West with a group of excited and curious brewers for their Hagstravaganza festival felt like a real adventure and bonding experience for all involved. The quality and variety of brewers speaks for itself; Lervig, Beavertown, Stone Brewing and many more were in attendance at the fest, but it was the international ‘bon ami’ that felt truly remarkable. Brewers from Basqueland, Italy’s Brewfist, and France’s Azzimut all experiencing the best in Irish hospitality together with beer fans from across Europe.
There was always a member of the team on hand to chat with the brewers and guests and the festival was largely based around enjoying beers with good company and music rather than a queuing and ticking sense that sometimes overwhelms a festival. Because of the great community that supports White Hag in their local hub of Sligo it felt like the entire town had been turned into a beer festival. They also rented a train, of which the entertainment value cannot be understated.
Beer Icon Award: Beavertown
When it comes contemporary British craft beer there are few breweries that have been as impactful and inspiring as Beavertown. The Tottenham-based brewery that began life in Logan Plant’s kitchen back in 2011 is now one of the UK’s most recognisable and celebrated modern beer icons. Over seven years the brewery have established a delicious and diverse lineup of core beers – their Gamma Ray American Pale Ale an undeniable modern classic. Creative Director Nick Dwyer has gradually established an instantly identifiable, subversive and wonderfully engaging skeletal aesthetic that has transcended the cans and bottles of delicious beer his artwork typically adorns. Back to those cans, Beavertown led the way when it came to introducing top-quality canned beer to the UK market – altering perceptions about what sits inside shiny metal shells. 2017 Found the brewery celebrating their journey to the pinnacle of British craft with the inaugural Beavertown Extravaganza: a festival of epic proportions, a celebration of just how good homegrown independent beer has become, and proof of its ability to go toe-to-toe with the world’s best. Several collaborations with overseas guests, a somber but necessary goodbye to Dukes Brew & Que, and exciting announcements of future plans for the brewery, its beer, and beyond would follow.
Beavertown are the recipients of our first ever Craft Icon Award for all of the above and so much more, but ultimately, we can’t imagine what the craft beer landscape would look like without them.
The People’s Choice Award
Last year’s People’s Choice Award saw Newcastle’s Wylam Brewery romp through two legs of voting and straight to victory thanks to a passionate and loyal local following. This year we’ve added a few new contenders to the vote, namely, Mancunian beer legends Marble, Hackney beer heroes The Five Points Brewing Company, and inimitable Kiwis, Yeastie Boys. Two groups of four, the top two from each group progress to the final in which four breweries face-off for the ultimate prize of People’s Choice Winner.
Voting will be underway from 2pm Thur 16th January. Head to our Twitter profile to cast your vote for your favourite brewery of 2017!