There’s more to say – but let’s say it in my utterly arbitrary and totally totalitarian category awards.
BEST THING THAT HAPPENED IN BEER THIS YEAR
BEST THING THAT HAPPENED IN BEER THIS YEARRunner-up: The online beer community comes of age.I don’t want this to sound self-serving and insular, so apologies, but this will prove very beneficial for beer in the long run. Blogging has become a true medium in its own right, and with the addition of Twitter, online and social media have created a spontaneous beery community that swaps ideas, views – even physical beers. I know some people have been blogging about beer for years, but this is the first time I started to perceive a real community with legs in the outside world. There was a palpable sense of excitement at the Great British Beer Festival this year when many online friends met up – or twet up? – for the first time. The industry is now looking online for its ideas – and when brewers and other organisations ask my advice, I tell them that’s the best thing they can do. Brew Dog had already built their brand through this medium before most of us old timers had really woken up to what was going on. They’re going to have some stiff competition in this regard next year. (Come back tomorrow for my blogger of the year).
BEST THING THAT HAPPENED IN BEER THIS YEARHonourable mentions:I’d hoped to include cask ale week here – I can’t, because it wasn’t quite good enough. But it was the first one and it will be happening again, and will hopefully get even better – from what I’ve seen so far it definitely will.The Great British Beer Festival was the best I’ve been to, but the usual wranglings around cask ale festivals and lager, filtered and pasteurised craft beers etc show the need for a different kind of beer festival to run alongside CAMRA-organised events. Beer Exposed promised to be that in 2008, but the organizers decided not to do a second year. That’s a crying shame.
WORST THING THAT HAPPENED IN BEER THIS YEARWinner: The beer and pub industry’s increasingly childish infighting
The British beer and pub industry, 2009 – aka the People’s Popular Front of Judea Suicide Squad.It almost made me want to give all this up. Yes, everyone has different agendas, yes sometimes the aims of different groups conflict. But the broader issues facing the industry will cause for more damage to beer and pubs if we don’t put less significant quarrels to one side and take them on.Just a couple of weeks ago, CAMRA declined to support the BBPA’s manifesto for the survival of the pub, promising to bring out their own instead. AAAARGGHHH!!!!!!! What is the POINT of that? Why duplicate valuable time and resources? Why DELIBERATELY create the impression of a fragmented, bickering industry among the people you’re trying to win over to your point of view? I’m not singling CAMRA out – they’re merely the latest in a long line of breweries and industry bodies indulging in cretinous behaviour that does a disservice to their members.I get so passionate about this issue because history tells us this is what screws people over: whether it’s the American drinks industry in the run-up to Prohibition, communists and anarchists in the face of fascism in the Spanish Civil War, or left wing parties generally and the Life of Brian sketch that satirized them, precedent proves that when you can win a struggle, internal bickering snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.The childish behaviour has to stop.
WORST THING THAT HAPPENED IN BEER THIS YEARRunner-up: Tax, Tax, Tax. Again.
MY PERSONAL BEERY HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEARWinner: Well, it’s got to be winning Beer Writer of the Year.No need to go on about it much more than I already have. To many, beer writing is a hobby – which is not meant as disrespect or trivialization. But to me it is now how I pay my bills, having all but given up my former day job as a freelance ad man in 2009. If I’m going to make a living from it, this is going to help no end.
MY PERSONAL BEERY LOW POINT OF THE YEARRunner-up: The Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards This is going to sound like sour grapes and there’s no way around that, but it’s a reminder that despite beer’s increasing profile and the vibrancy of the blogging world, there’s still a lot of work to do. The prestigious Andre Simon awards give out an annual gong for best drinks book. With its strong sales, good critical reaction and success at the Beer Writers Guild Awards, I thought Hops and Glory stood a good chance. Then, I saw the criteria the judges were specifically looking for this year: new primary research, educational value, writing that was engaging and interesting, and a book that looked great, and I thought they’d basically described Hops and Glory. I submitted it. It didn’t even make the shortlist. Every single book on the shortlist is a book about wine. In 31 years a wine book has won this award 24 times. A beer book has won once. I didn’t expect to win, but I did hope to make the shortlist. It’s the swings and roundabouts of awards I guess, but when the awards website uses the words ‘drinks books’ and ‘wine books’ interchangeably, I can’t help thinking that the broader perception of beer’s inferiority to wine might still have something to do with it.
Don’t miss Part Two tomorrow – with my nods for Brewer of the Year, Beer of the Year, Beer Blogger of the Year, and the dreaded (but quite predictable) Slop Bucket of the Year! And if I have time, some predictions for 2010.