So last night I had to hand over the title. It’s not fair – my year as Beer Writer of the Year passed very quickly – partly because it was only 51 weeks, with this year’s dinner being a week earlier than last year.
Part of winning meant I had to be chair of the judges this year. We were deluged by a record entry: 45 individuals entered work. On average, they each entered 2.3 of the available six categories, with between one and six pieces of work each time. My fellow judges and I read about 400 different pieces of beer writing, from 400 word columns to 1000 page books, and everything in between.
Last night, after a cracking beer and food dinner prepared by Michelin star chef Sriram Aylur, we revealed the winners. I’m too hungover to go into great detail about each one, and if you’ve read this far you probably just want to get a quick look at the names anyway. There are some familiar names and some new ones. If there’s anyone here who you’ve never read before, I urge you to check them out.
I’ll just say a bit about our overall winner, Beer Writer of the Year 2010, Simon Jenkins. Because he writes in a regional newspaper not many of us get to see his work, and he’s already being described as a ‘new face’ despite the fact that he’s about my age and has been writing pub reviews for years. It’s so good then, that we have a regional category that allows great writing to reach a wider audience. I’ve put a link at the bottom of this post to a random pub review he’s written for the Yorkshire Post, and I’d urge you to follow the links from that page to the other reviews listed down the side. I’ve also linked to all other winners’ work where I can.
There was an awful lot of writing to read while judging. But with some people we got to the end of their submission and were disappointed that there wasn’t any more to read. Simon exemplified this. That’s one reason he won.
Another reason is that pubs are going through hell at the moment, and anyone reading Simon’s review will be overcome by a desperate urge to go to the pub – any pub – by the time they’re halfway down the page. I said when presenting the award last night that one of the biggest challenges facing all beer writers is the struggle to reach a wider audience, to not just preach to the converted.
I really don’t want to sound ungrateful to any of the beer fans who read this blog, my books or any of the work produced by the writers below. But the aim of the Guild is to spread the appreciation of beer. We’re getting better at doing that, we’re more successful all the time, but we still struggle to bring in new people to the world of beer. With his pub reviews, the judges felt this is exactly what Simon excels at.
Brewer of the Year
Stefano Cossi, Thornbridge Brewery
Budweiser Budvar John White Travel Bursary
Winner: John Conen, Bamberg and Franconia – Germany’s Brewing Heartland
Bishop’s Finger Award for Beer and Food Writing
Winner: Will Beckett, Imbibe magazine
The Michael Jackson Gold Tankard Award – Beer Writer of the Year 2010
(This link takes you to one of Simon’s pub reviews in the Yorkshire Evening Post. There’s a list down the right hand side of more pub reviews – all Simon’s.)