Feeling very benign about the world this morning after a cracking 21st birthday bash for the British Guild of Beer Writers last night.
And I don’t know if it’s just that this year we’re all twittered, blogged and facebooked to the gunnels, but I’m feeling a real buzz of excitement about GBBF that I’ve never felt before.
I say that as someone who first made my name as a beer writer by dissing CAMRA and GBBF. Seven or eight years ago, when I was writing Man Walks into a Pub, I was sickened by the fact that no one ever seemed to criticise CAMRA in print. Even back then I went to the GBBF every year. I obviously thought it was a worthwhile event. But I saw big problems with it that prevented it from becoming even better. Many of those problems have now disappeared. Some are still there.
I still criticise CAMRA today – in fact I do so in this week’s Publican – because no one in the world is above criticism. But I’ll be queuing outside when the doors open at twelve. I’ll be there with people who will complain throughout the afternoon about the acoustics, about the weird way it’s organised by region, about the grumble between regional brewers and micros – both of whom will feel under-represented and hard done by compared to the other – and about the freakish volunteers enjoying their day in the sun, their moment of power, as they get to boss us around.
But for all that – we’ll be there. And we’ll have been looking forward to it for weeks. And we’ll all try beers we’ve never seen before, and all rush to sample the winners before they run out, and we’ll all have the same conversations we had last year with people we haven’t seen since last year and we’ll all end the day rhapsodising at the bieres sans frontieres bar and unwisely consuming one too many American extreme mofos before making our way unsteadily back to the tube. And we’ll look back on it with fondness.
GBBF isn’t perfect – but it’s pretty damn special, and I’ll admit to loving it through gritted teeth if you will.
I’m signing copies of Hops & Glory on the bookstand at 5pm today and tomorrow.
See you there.