Beer52 Awards 2019

Join us, as we celebrate this year's best breweries at Shortditch's Strongroom bar


It’s a scorching late-August afternoon in Shoreditch, and a few intrepid drinkers are already congregating under the expansive canopies of the Strongroom Bar’s beer garden, to sip at cold pints dripping with condensation. Inside is cooler, sure, but who would want to be anywhere other than in the sunshine on a day like this? So, it is with some regret that I head into the main bar to help set up the projector, put out buckets of cold beer and generally gird myself for the start of the inaugural Beer52 Awards.

The idea for the awards actually originated in the heady days of 2017, when we started inviting our members to score the beers in the box, for style, design and taste. The feature was even more popular than we expected, and quickly racked up over half a million ratings and reviews. As well as helping us pick the beers that would make you guys happy, these numbers also give us the opportunity to celebrate the beers and breweries that you’ve found most exciting over the past year or so.

So our data guru James duly crunched the numbers (see page 30), our illustrator Jay Wright spent days crafting ten beautiful wooden trophies (see page 12) and I went to a nice bar in the sunshine, to announce the results and generally play the big man. Sometimes life isn’t fair.

As well as the brewers themselves, we’ve invited our most loyal London members to come along, sample the winning beers and generally have a good time. The wait before the event is tense, and I may have turned to a dram of Balvenie from the bar’s excellent whisky selection around 30 minutes before people are due to turn up. To our collective relief though, we’re soon in the midst of around 100 laughing, drinking beer lovers, all excited to hear the outcome of the judging process.

First though, the Strongroom kindly lays on some food, including paprika chicken sliders and the frankly life-changing ‘lasagne cubes’; essentially squares of delicious lasagne, breaded and deep fried, these would cause a public health catastrophe if we ever brought them home to Scotland, so we vow to never speak of them again.

The awards ceremony itself is fun and raucous, with several surprises and more audience interaction than one might normally expect at a serious industry event. Memorably, the award for Best UK Brewery is taken home by a gentleman in the front row – on the basis that he is also from Leeds – because Northern Monk couldn’t make it along in person.

What comes through most strongly though is how much the audience cares about the breweries; when the name of one of their favourites appears on the projector, people go wild. The winning brewers are clapped on the back as they pass and the results are still being discussed an hour later. For us, it’s a great reminder that we’re not just working in a bubble; the members are just as invested in this shared adventure in craft beer as we are.

For every brewery we gave an award to, there were another ten that it killed us not to include. And, sure enough, a lot of the post-ceremony chat was along the lines of “how could you miss out so-and-so – they’ve had an amazing year”. It’s a cliché to say this demonstrates the strength of craft beer just now, but it’s also undeniably true.

We brought a lot of beer down with us. Some would say an excessive amount. Yet every bottle is drunk by 10pm, and the vast majority of our guests move on to exploring the Strongroom’s own taps and fridges, which feature a few beers I’ve never even seen in the UK before. Happy and perhaps a little tipsy we all agree it’s been a great success and vow to be back here with a fresh box of awards next year. Let the hangovers commence.

See all of this year's award winners here.

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