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Awards galore! Your chance for glory

Whatever drink you make or market, here’s your chance to shine.

I seem to have found myself judging rather more awards schemes at one time than is good for a chap. Each one is fantastic, and the number and scale of them is testament to how healthy and vibrant our drinks scene is. Everything is kicking off right now, so see what takes your fancy below.

Beer Marketing Awards
This is one I helped set up. We launched last November to plug a gap – there are, rightly, many awards celebrating brewing, but none pointing the way in terms of good marketing. There’s never been a better time to celebrate what’s good, whether that’s a big TV ad from a global brewer, brilliant use of social media form a small brewer or a good label design from anyone. Open to any brewer marketing a beer in the UK or any of their agencies, entries close at the end of the month but our special early bird rate of £100 + VAT per entry is on until the end of this week, Friday 16th January. Entry forms are here. Sponsorship opportunities and tickets to the awards dinner on 14th April are also available.

BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards
I’m delighted to be one of the judges in the Best Drinks category for the third year. This cuts across beer, cider, wine, spirits and soft drinks. We want to find British producers who are doing something amazing. Not just producing a wonderful drink – though of course that’s essential – but also creating something original, or telling a great story. Last year two of the three finalists were brewers, and the winner was Thornbridge. The year before, cider maker Once Upon a Tree triumphed. Producers can enter themselves into this award, but most entries come from Radio 4 listeners. If you’re a drinker and a huge fan of a brewer, distiller, cider maker or whatever, this is your chance to nominate them for greatness. Entry forms are here. Entries close at midnight on 26th January so it’s a short window to get your nominations in. I’ll be talking more about it on the Shaun Keaveny show on BBC 6 Music on Thursday morning around 9am. (Other awards categories are also available.)

International Cider Challenge
I’m honoured to have been asked to chair this international cider competition. Any cider maker anywhere in the world can enter, and we just tweaked the categories to reflect the huge diversity of cider styles now getting established around the globe. When I’ve judged this one before, I’ve been surprised by who hasn’t entered. The competition judges ciders blind, side by side, and it’s a fascinating opportunity to compare craft and mainstream cider without knowing what you’re drinking. Entry forms are here, and entries close on 6th March.

Good luck!




What about the UK National Home Brewing Awards?!

Home brewers are people too, you know.


Point of the post was a call for entries. Entries for Homebrewers Awards had closed by the time I was writing this blog. I was judging them yesterday.


Probably 100% off-topic, but…
Does anyone else think Guinness hasn't tasted right recently?
A recent bottle of FES lacked that 'barnyard' character, and a bottle of Original didn't have the 'staleness' it used to.
Something gone awry in the ageing plant? Or is it just me?


Any award that charges people to enter is a non-award. It's a pay-to-win clusterwank, and quite frankly, no decent brewer should be that desperate for publicity in 2015.

It's even more embarrassing when it's "I deserve an award because my marketing is better than yours".

Sir, your books are truly great, but I honestly think you need to think long and hard about how much you have left to contribute to the beer community.


I guess you won't be entering the 'best use of social media' category then Simon?

The awards cost money to enter because this is an independent start-up, unfunded, with no direct links to any big corporation. That makes it a rare entity. To do it properly, it costs more to stage than I earn most years, and that's assuming the organisers take no fee for the time we put into making it happen.

So why on earth would we do it?

Because we don't believe that beer marketing is 'embarrassing'. We believe it is vital.

It is not more important than the quality and integrity of the beer in the glass, and many other awards exist to celebrate that. Rightly so.

But you aren't going to sell much beer if it comes with a really badly designed bottle or pumpclip that doesn't stand out on the bar, and with nearly 1400 brewers in the UK now, no one is going to buy it if they don't know about it. A few rare beers spread by genuine word of mouth alone, but even they need some people to start talking about it in the first place.

There are lots of people who believe marketing is intrinsically bad. It isn't. It can certainly be done badly, and a lot of the time it is. It can lie and deceive people, it can insult and patronise people. It can attempt to hit you over the head repeatedly with a massive budget with the aim that you will eventually just surrender and buy the product. It can put a pair of tits on a pump clip and say 'It's a bit of a laugh'. It can do really stupid juvenile shit in the mistaken belief that "all publicity is good publicity."

All those things are shit. And there are too many of them in the beer world. We believe we need these awards to celebrate good examples of marketing, whether that be an ad, a bottle design or a genuine and sincere engagement with social media that rewards and interests drinkers.

If there's a platform that celebrates good marketing, the idea is that if we publicise examples of the really good stuff that works and gets more people to buy more beer and keeps the breweries you love going, then we'll see more of that and less of the crap stuff that sometimes makes me embarrassed not only to have worked in marketing myself, but to be involved in the beer world now.

So I guess we disagree about whether that is a contribution to the beer community. But rest assured that whether this works or not, I'll continue to try and contribute in a variety of other ways too, including more great books, which are due next year.


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