Last night I was named Beer Writer of the Year at the British Guild of Beer Writers Awards. Hops and Glory was awarded the Budweiser Budvar John White Travel Bursary, and this – with a nod to my writing in other fields – put me through for the top gong.
The fact that, for the first year, the award was renamed in honour of Michael Jackson, makes winning it doubly special to me.
I started writing about beer about six or seven years ago. I rant a lot, get frustrated, bore people sometimes. Well quite a lot, actually. I sometimes ask myself why I stepped off an executive career ladder – a ladder I was climbing reasonably quickly – to do this. I earn a fraction of what I used to, and an even tinier fraction of what I’d now be earning if I’d stayed on that ladder. But you might also ask why – when we read about binge drinking media shite, closing pubs, neo-prohibitionism, industry in-fighting, political wankery and all that – why so many people are picking up a pen or sitting down at a keyboard and deciding they want to write about beer – often in return for no money at all.
I fucking love beer. I love the taste and appreciation of it. I love the society and culture that surrounds it, and the way it influences society and culture more broadly. I love the history of it, and what that history tells us about ourselves. I love the way it’s an international standard, a universal signifier of unpretentious sociability. I love the fact that I’ve made scores of genuine new friends through it – many of whom I’ve yet to meet physically. I love the way it inspires and intoxicates me – both in a physiological sense and an intellectual one.
I never, ever regret giving up a career in advertising – which, if you do it well, makes people a little less happy with what they currently have as part of making them want something shinier and newer – for a career in beer – which, in the vast, vast majority of lives it touches, makes those lives warmer, richer and smilier.
The rule last night was that nobody wins more than one category, so once Hops and Glory won, I was out of the running for stuff like blogging and trade press. Maybe if things were different I’d have picked up an award for this blog, and maybe I wouldn’t. It’s irrelevant. What did happen is that Woolpack Dave was runner up in the online category, and Young Dredge won it for Pencil and Spoon. I’m absolutely delighted for both of them. Mark Dredge emailed me out of the blue about eighteen months ago and said he wanted to be a writer and did I have any advice. I gave him some advice and he took it. And then he attacked his task with astonishing energy and dedication, and grew as a writer incredibly quickly, and did some new things no one has done before, and made electronic media his own. Mark and Woolpack Dave started blogging on the same day as each other, a little over a year ago. Now they’re recognised asthe leaders in their field. The world of beer writing can never again be complacent or self-satisfied – something it was accused of regularly when I was new to the game. (Every now and again I still think of myself as a newcomer to this. But increasingly, six years feels like several lifetimes in beer writing years).
It’s a privilege to be able to write about what I fucking love and have people read it – whether that’s in a book, a magazine or newspaper or on a blog. I love the interplay of different media and the way I have to change my writing style between them. Blogging makes me a better book writer, which makes me a better journalist, which makes me a better blogger – or maybe it’s the other way round or back to front.
Today I’m going to write my final column of the year for the Publican and then I’m going to a beer festival and/or a bar and I’m going to exceed the recommended daily guidelines of alcohol unit intake. I’m going to get drunk. I’m going to get shitfaced, sozzled, pissed, bladdered, cunted, wankered, soused, and most of the other 1346 words for inebriation I’ve collected over the years. I’m going to have a good time doing it, and the people who are with me are going to have a good time too – a better time than they would if they stayed in and watched the telly. And when I come home with The Beer Widow and a few mates, I’m going to share with them a bottle of Bass Kings Ale, brewed in 1902, which cost me over a hundred quid, and I’m going to marvel at the miracle of beer all over again.
Have a bibulous weekend.