The All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group is a group of MPs that does what it says in the title – MPs without any party agenda cooperate to promote and celebrate British beer. Every year they have an annual shindig, one of the highlights of which is they name the person they think has done the most for beer in the preceeding year, and award them the honour of “Beer Drinker of the Year”.
Previous winners include Kenneth Clarke MP and Prince Charles, and this year’s winner was Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux, who deserved it after introducing beer lists to complement the wine selection in restaurants like le Gavroche and Aubergine, spurring people to think about beer in a completely different light.
But the runner up to Monsieur Roux was… me! Of course, this being the beer industry – which we love for its ramshackle charm, don’t we – this year, like every other year, I wasn’t actually invited to the dinner and had no idea it was happening. So it was a surreal birthday morning (it’s my birthday today – I’m thirty-bastard-nine) when I started getting e-mails and phone calls congratulating me on something I had no idea I’d done.
I’m told by those present that John Grogan MP, the chair of the group, read out a lengthy extract from Three Sheets, some of the stuff I wrote about how to enjoy beer properly, getting the buzz rather than getting wankered, and how the way to encourage it is to promote the virtues of this lovely middle state between sobriety and drunkenness rather than just telling people not to drink as much.
I’m absolutely delighted about this. It means a lot when people say they found the book funny, but the idea that people as influential as this are reading the serious message within the book and taking it on board makes me happy beyond words. It makes the abject misery of having to go around the world drinking beer seem worthwhile (Oh, alright – it makes the £20,000 cost, the two stone extra weight and the two years of writing seem worthwhile).
And I’m very chuffed about being the second best beer drinker in Britain. If I’d won I’d have felt like a bit of a cock telling people I was Beer Drinker of the Year. It’s a bit like ‘Rear of the Year’ or something. Being second best beer drinker in Britain – now that’s cool. I can put that on the bottom of e-mails and stuff.
I’ll have to see if I can get Michel to buy me a pint.