I’d like to apologise to anyone out there who actually reads this blog for pleasure – if you exist, I’ve been letting you down of late, with whole months passing between posts.
Thing is, I’ve been massively busy with stuff, including a lot of other writing – the old-fashioned kind that (just about) pays the mortgage. At one point a few weeks ago I did my To Do list on Monday morning and realised I had thirteen deadlines all theoretically due that week.
Anyway, I’ve cleared them all now, so I thought I might do a catch-up post to fill in any remaining readers on the bits of busy-ness you might be interested in.
My new book, Shakespeare’s Local, is all done bar the shouting. It’s coming out on 8th November as a selfless, humanitarian gesture to help you or those close to you make some tricky Christmas gift decisions much easier. With a hardback cover featuring a silver embossed design it certainly looks like a proper present. I’ve been trying out a few readings from it at the Latitude and Port Eliot festivals, and I’ll be working this into an audio-visual one hour talk that I’ll be doing at the Ilkley Literary festival on October 9th, and then a residency at the George Inn in Southwark, with one event a week from launch date till Christmas. Hopefully there will be many more events around the country too – several are currently in the planning stages.
I wrote here a few weeks ago about how I’ve been judging beer and cider in broader food and drink competitions, where it sits alongside everything else and is evaluated by people from across the spectrum of food and drink rather than just beer people.
I think there is room for both kinds of competitions – you want to be judged by your peers to establish and reward technical excellence and superior brewing craftsmanship, but these broader competitions allow beer to play on a wider stage and be recognised more broadly.
First up were the Great Taste Awards, which had categories for both bottled beer and bottled cider. Great Taste was set up as an antidote to supermarket ‘Finest’ and ‘Taste the Difference’ ranges, as an independent hallmark of great quality. Some great beers were recognised in these awards – so much so that the Great Taste people invited me and food writer (and ardent beer fan) Charles Campion to put together a showcase menu at London’s swanky Cadogan Hotel. The info on this website is in imminent need of updating, but on Tuesday 14th August our menu using an award-winning beer in every course, created with chef Oliver Lesnik, goes live for a media launch. I’ve matched beers with each dish, and there’s also going to be a beer and cheese matching menu in the afternoons. The menu will run in the Cadogan’s restaurant, at a very reasonable £28 for three courses, for a couple of months. I’ll write about how the press launch goes – if it goes well…
… AND FARMING
Next up is the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards. I’ve been asked to judge the drinks category along with wine writer Victoria Moore. The Beeb want to inject a bit of drama this year by pitching beer and cider against wine. Interestingly, a brewery has won the drinks category for the last two years, but this year English wine has finally started getting the international recognition it deserves – is it time for wine to strike back? I’ve seen the first lot of nominations and the brewers are certainly the most enthusiastic again – if there’s a drinks maker of any description you’d like to see entered, find out more at the link above. But hurry – nominations close on 12th August.
APPLES AND PAIRS
|One of Bill’s best cider images|
I’ve been hinting at various adventures in cider over the last year or so, and things have finally come to fruition (sorry) on that score. The whole Magner’s thing has led to revived interest in quality cider, and craft cider around the world at the moment is in a similar place to craft beer twenty years ago. I’m working on cider with Bill Bradshaw – ace photographer and cider fanatic. His beautifully shot cider blog is here. Together, Bill and I are currently hard at work on the Guide to Welsh Perry and Cider, for the Welsh Perry and Cider Society. This guidebook is going to be published in spring 2013 and maps for the first time the unsung hero of British cider (after Somerset and Herefordshire). It is ridiculously good fun to research.
|Mad Asturian bloke ‘throwing’ cider|
At the same time, we’ve just signed the deal on the first ever world guide to cider – provisionally entitled World’s Best Ciders. Hugh Johnson did it for wine, then Michel Jackson did it for beer. We’re enormously proud to be doing a smilar job for cider, from the established classic regions like Somerset and Normandy, to the explosion that’s now happening in the US, to the ice wines of Canada, the eccentricity and tradition in Asturiàs, northern Spain, and emerging scenes such as Australia and Japan. Sadly budget doesn’t allow us to travel to every single country, but we’ve already had various adventures, some of which will be in the book, some of which will emerge elsewhere.
Quite a few people have asked me if there’s going to be another Cask Report this year. The answer is yes, sort of, but not quite. We’re doing something called ‘Cask Matters’ instead this year, which is a monthly section in the Publican’s Morning Advertiser aiming to give more practical hands-on advice to publicans, and allow the flexibility to be topical. There have been three so far, that can all be downloaded as PDFs from the PMA’s website:
- June – the state of cask, how to run your own beer festival
- July – cask in summer? Absolutely
- August – the Great British Beer Festival and how it can benefit your pub
We will also be producing a much shorter annual summary report which will detail how cask is doing, who’s drinking it, why you should stock it and so on. This will be launched to coincide with Cask Ale Week at the end of September.
I’ve also been writing tons of columns and a few pieces for national press. You can see my regular Publican’s Morning Advertiser columns here; my stuff for London Loves Business here, and my stuff for Just Drinks (you may need a password) here. And here is a nice piece I got to do for Shortlist Magazine about the rise of craft beer.
Sorry this is such a busy, listy post – I’ve been meaning to write properly about all these things individually and ended up with a huge pile-up, which this post has now hopefully cleared. From now on I’ll try to post a bit more regularly again. On top of all the above I’ve been doing loads of travelling, and have some great stories about getting drunk in Ukraine, visiting hop farms in Slovenia, learning more about lager in Ceske Budejovice, and stacks more, so there’s so much to write about if I can find the time!
Thanks for reading.