|Vinspire's Christmas party last weekend|
You may be able to tell that we are somewhat excited (and probably quite a bit merry) already about the next few days' festivities. We've bought the booze that will see us through to New Year and we're snuggled up in our dreadful Christmas jumpers and ready to party hard with our nearest and dearest.
2014 has been a cracker of a year for us, and we're thrilled with some of our drinks discoveries. So we thought we'd fill our last post of the year with our 2014 drinks highlights:
Where do I start? For me, I'd say the highlight has been finding such a nice bunch of brilliant, new total drinks geeks to make friends with thanks to this very blog. We've welcome several new writers this year - including the wonderful Adam and Lucienne, and the lovely Tim joined us as a full-time contributor (at last!) - and they've taught me (and hopefully you!) so much with their informative, enthusiastic and original blog posts.
Thanks to Tim, we had our first ever Wine Secret Santa, and it was awesome! We can't wait to do it again next year. He also made me discover wine shop Theatre of Wine, who champion weird and wonderful finds like this red wine from Crete, which was one of our most popular wine posts of the year. Seeing these less fashionable but exquisite wines finally get the popularity they deserve is ace.
Similarly, the kick-arse Lucienne introduced us to orange wine (oh yes - and it's from a supermarket!) and also taught me about amazing new stuff like Smith & Sinclair's cocktail sweets and Bath gin - which has a cheeky Jane Austen on the label! She also gave me recipes for whisky maple French toast and cachaca-marinated steak = <3
Adam was a total recipe whizz too - I particularly love making his sausage and pale ale frittata! - and his easy sangria recipes were just amazing. And his two-part Beer Lovers Guide to Bruge travel guide was enough to make anyone book Eurostar tickets straight away.
I've got to admit, making my first ever cocktail how-to video for the Sun and Tonic was a personal highlight, too.
It's been an amazing year - I can't wait to see Vinspire grow even more in 2015.
Friday cocktails are a regular occurrence in my house, so Laura’s experiments with The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters were right up my street; gorgeous recipes and gorgeous photos to boot. Yes, yes, yes. I should also give her a special mention for doing Vinspire’s first how-to video. That Sun & Tonic is DELICIOUS; gin, elderflower, grapefruit and orange blossom... She’s a girl after my own heart.
I guess I’ve been on a bit of a wine voyage of discovery this year. I don’t have a lot of confidence in my grape knowledge, so I don’t tend to write about wines very often, but after going to a Greywacke tasting in October, I had to share my experience. THAT Chardonnay – what a treat! I even bought a bottle to take to our Vinspire Christmas Party!
But if we’re talking tastings, then Tim’s the guy to go to. He’s always making me green with envy with his epic posts. I did love his ‘Extreme Wine Tasting’; I kind of imagined him abseiling down a cliff, wine glass in hand, trying to jot down some notes with 100mph wind blasting at him from every direction... Just me?
Ok, I know these aren't drinks, but they're frickin' awesome recipes... I've bookmarked this badass G&T Can Chicken that Adam teased us with. Once I've clambered out of the dark depths of winter and require something that isn't laced with port or mixed spice, then this is sure to brighten up any of my post Christmas blues. Jo’s Tequila Glazed Ribs are a must too; pass me the Margaritas! And I'm DEFINITELY making this Whisky Maple French Toast again over the holidays. You could even whack some ice cream on it and it'd be fit for a dessert. Oh, and what I failed to mention last time is that any leftover whisky-maple syrup helps make the most amazing whisky sour cocktail. YUM.
Finally, this has been making me laugh since July; How I Think I Look When I Sabre A Champagne Bottle Vs How I Actually Look. My chap’s determined to give it a go this Christmas... I’ll let you know how it goes!
The end of the year always feels like a good time to take stock of what's happened over the last year and start laying down plans for the next one.
I've been to some incredible tastings during the year, although none quite as dramatic as Lucienne imagined...! My highlights from the year were: the Donnhoff tasting at Theatre of Wine, the J.J.Prum tasting from West London Wine School (just, wow!), Wine Car Boot Number 4 (even if I did miss my train station a spectacular three times afterwards, long story...), a Port tasting at Churchill's Port House as part of London Wine Week and a couple of wine holidays to Italy and Germany. Wow, it's a wonder I remember anything of 2014!
I'm also really proud that we're making Wine Secret Santa happen this year. My wine has arrived and I can't wait to open it on Christmas Day! If you've missed out this year then worry not, we will be running it again next year.
This has been my first full year on the Vinspire Team and I have had a blast. I've got loads of great ideas for posts in 2015 and can't wait to share them all with you. Having met the team now, I can assure you that they are not just fantastic writers, but they are also really, seriously lovely people.
I had a great year of boozy discoveries and whilst I'm am laid low with a bit of the lurgey and am off the sauce there are still loads of different spirits that I feel are worth reminiscing about.
Whilst not a particular spirit, beer or wine I have to say that my trip to Bordeaux with Matthew was a real high point, this opened my eyes to the wines that are available and has prompted me to explore more old world wines that I hadn't bothered with for being under-ripe and overly-expensive.
One of the first things I think of looking back at the year in terms of the bottles on my shelf are the amazing rums from El Dorado, the range is just brimming with quality and is fairly reasonable too. I am planning on picking up my own bottle of the 15yr old in the New Year when the financial strain of Christmas is over.
Another recent favourite is the rhubarb gin from Warner Edwards which was just released a couple of months ago. I loved the spicy sweetness of this gin with such a full body, this was like the perfect sloe gin for me with lots of depth and perfect for the winter time.
Now, onto the whisky... I have been drinking a whole lot more recently covering the Whisky advent Calendar, it's a job and someone's got to do it. There have been some great drams in there, but a few more still to come that I expect will knock my socks off. One of my faves for the year was the Ardbeg Uigeadail, this is heavy and complex with great body and perfect balance between the peat and the sherry notes. Another Islay whisky features amongst my top spots, Bunnahabhain. Whilst this is very classic Islay with full-on campfire smoke and peaty goodness, I really enjoyed it as a unique dram amongst all the other smoke monsters that are available from Islay.
Finally, the Glendronach 15yr revival really has to take my top spot for whiskies - I really loved this dram and am just now coming to the end of my bottle. It is still fantastic and worth every penny, I truly suggest that any dram fan who hasn't tried this to get one ordered straight away.
Those are my top booze picks for the year, goodnight and god bless.
Well, what a year I've had. From a humble pub landlord to self-professed internet blogger sensation, 2015 has been the culmination of years of hard work, with a main highlight winning the Let There Be Beer 'Britain's Best Pub Landlord' competition.
I've also tried more stuff - loads more stuff in fact. I discovered my favourite beer (La Socarrada, brewed in Spain with Rosemary Honey & Rosemary), my favourite rum (Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva), and my favourite cocktail - The Vesa at The Hippodrome Casino, with Hendricks, Cucumber, Kiwi & Elderflower.
I also 'found myself' during beer pilgrimages to Dublin & Bruges, where I consumed an enormous amount of Belgian beer, and visited De Halve Maan Brewery, all in the company of my favourite person in the world, Adele.
In addition to all that, I infused my own gin, set into motion brewing my own beer (next year now), home-brewed loads of Cider, wrote lots of recipes, incredible recipes (even if I do say so myself) for things like Stout-Battered Smoked Haddock & Chips, and my Coffee, Beer & Chocolate Chilli.
There's loads of things planned for next year, and I can't wait to share them with all of you, but finally, I'm incredibly humbled to be part of such a great writing team, and am truly thankful for everyone putting up with my terrible grammar. I'm so happy that people enjoy what I have to say, and that I can stand up next to such talented people as Laura, Hugo, Tim & Lucienne. I wish them, and YOU the very best Christmas and a brilliant 2015.
I have enjoyed possibly the best boozy year ever (and that even includes my first year at university)! I furthered my career in the wine industry and achieved a piece of paper that pretty much authorises me to give wine advice. It's been a year of so many new discoveries and with more and more breweries and distilleries opening their doors I can't wait to see what 2015 serves up.
While there have been many highlights, 2014 really has been a year for the beer. My love affair with US beer hit an almost inappropriate level with the main protagonist being Goose Island IPA, which also featured in my Top 5 US beers.
There was a particularly awesome Icelandic number in the Einstok White Ale, a must try for any beer enthusiast. I found a new love affair in porter which just so happened to feature at the aforementioned Icelandic brewery and the beautiful Anchor Brewery.
It's also been an absolute blinder for brewers on the home front. With the great folk over at Best of British Beer officially winning my website of the year award (trophy's in the post chaps), they've opened my eyes to so many great brews that I never knew were right on my doorstep. From Meantime (thank you Matthew), Ticketybrew and Camden Brewery it's been a great year for us Brits.
I'm torn for top spot between possibly my two favourite breweries of the year. On the one hand there's the lip smackingly good Wiper and True or the mind bending awesomeness from The Celt Experience. For now, I'll just raise a glass to them both and say that I cannot wait to see what they bring to the table in the new year.
Most of all, here's to all of you for showing an interest in what is essentially the ramblings of a half cut man with a love of beer. Cheers!