Category: British Guild of Beer Writers

| Beer Writing, British Guild of Beer Writers, Writing

How the Guild of Beer Writers judges its annual awards

Last week, as Chair of Judges at this year’s Beer Writers’ Awards, I presented Johnny Garrett with the award for Beer Writer of the Year for 2022. There’s always discussion and speculation about these awards online, which occasionally reveals that people don’t really know how they work. So here’s a full and frank account of how the awards happen.

About the Guild and the Awards

The British Guild of Beer Writers was formed in 1988 with the following objectives:

  • To promote excellence in beer, cider, and pub communications
  • To support beer and cider communicators in their professional and skills development
  • To help educate, inform and inspire people about beer, cider, and pubs
  • The Guild is formed as a non-political body to pursue these aims

The annual awards seek to reward beer writers with both recognition and cash awards. They change continually over time to reflect developments in beer communications. The scope and number of categories is reviewed on a continual basis.

The Guild is run by a Board of Directors, elected by members every year at the AGM. Of these directors, the Chair receives a small stipend, and in addition there is a paid, part-time secretary who works two days a week. The Treasurer also receives a small stipend. Everyone else on the Board donates their time on a voluntary basis. Directors must retire after three years by rotation, and seek re-election if they wan’t to continue on the Board.

The Awards and Dinner are a huge amount of work. While the Board oversees and approves any key decisions about the organisation of the Awards, such as recommended changes to categories, it has no direct involvement in the running of the Awards. This is outsourced to a paid, independent person or organisation who:

  • Finds and books the venue for the dinner
  • Recruits the judges
  • Advertises the awards and coordinates entries being received and distributed to the judges
  • Oversees the judging process

This means that the actual judging of the awards has no direct involvement from the Board (with one occasional exception – see “judges” below.) The Board, including the Chair, find out the results of the awards at the same time as everyone else in the room on the night, and have no decision making power.


The Guild looks for sponsors for the awards to (a) help pay for the dinner (the price of individual dinner tickets is kept below cost for Guild members) and (b) enable us to pay cash prizes to our winners. The Guild awards a cheque of £1000 for Gold tankard winners and £500 for silver tankard winners. This year the Guild awarded winners a prize pot totalling a record £19,500.

Anyone can sponsor award, but obviously, big brewers are more likely to be able to afford to sponsor. Some people are unhappy that large scale brewers have a presence at the awards. As stated above, the Guild is apolitical and as an organisation expresses no view on industry issues – though it works to support and amplify the right of any Guild member to make their own feelings known.

It’s perhaps understandable that people may worry about the potential for these sponsors in some way to compromise the independence of the Awards. The Guild takes steps to ensure that this cannot happen. The judging process has absolutely no input from sponsor organisations. Like the Guild Board, sponsors find out who the winners are on the night, at the same time as everyone else. Sponsors may ask to see the winning work that has been entered in their category after the event. As that work is already in the public domain, the Guild supplies it on request.

The Guild puts no pressure on any individual to not criticise a company just because they happen to be a sponsor. Often, sponsors are criticised by people entering the awards, maybe even people they are writing cheques to. Mostly, they accept this. If they don’t, they are free to withdraw their support from the awards. This has happened in the past.


Some comments that are critical of the awards talk of a clique of writers slapping each other on the back. Perhaps some of this comes from the fact that when someone wins Beer Writer of the Year, they are expected (though there’s no way of forcing anyone) to be Chair of Judges the following year. (The exception referred to above – this person may be a Board member, as I was when I won last year.I’ve won Beer Writer of the Year four times in total, so I have now chaired the judging four times.) This is actually intended to ensure that the same person can’t win year after year – you can’t win and then enter the awards the following year. There’s also an informal convention that the Chair of the Guild doesn’t enter the awards. (After winning Beer Writer of the Year in 2016, I judged the Awards in 2017 and then didn’t enter 2018-2021 as I was Chair of the Guild.)

So the Awards presentation may be given by familiar faces. But it’s a very different picture behind the scenes. The process of finding judges starts around April. Out of ten judges, very few are beer writers. Apart from the Chair, we look for a brewer who can read for technical accuracy, a journalist from outside the industry who’s lack of beer knowledge leaves them free to spot a good story, someone from the broader publishing world – a cross-section of different talents. Each year most of the judges doing this have never judged the awards before.

This year the awards were judged by me, a publican from York, a committee member of the British Institute of Innkeeping, a magazine editor, a brewer, a beer importer, two freelance journalists (an unusually high number) a book publisher, and a cheesemonger. Hardly beer writers slapping each other’s backs.

Many of these judges have never before seen the work of the communicators they are judging, and in some cases have never heard of the person submitting the work (none of us in this game is as well-known as we’d like to believe.) The judges can only make their decisions based purely on the work in front of them.

First Round Judging

We usually have 13-14 categories, and this year there were a total of 190 different entries. That’s far too much for any one judge to read, so judges are paired up and given a few categories each. These two judges read everything in the categories they are given, and from that prepare a shortlist of up to six finalists. They are also asked to give their opinion of who the winner and runner-up in that category should be. Each pair of judges selects their own shortlist and no one else’s. So no one person gets to go “This person should have five shortlist places, that person shouldn’t have any.” If you go shortlisted in four of five different categories, it means four or five different sets of judges have thought your work was good enough to go through without discussing it with each other.

Second Round Judging

The shortlists from each category are then shared with all the judges, so everyone reads each other’s once they are finalised. At the final judging meeting, each judge presents their shortlist and argues the case for their category winners. These decisions are debated, challenged and often overturned by their fellow judges. Often there’s consensus. This year many categories went to a vote, which was often very tight.

Once all the category winners are chosen, the Beer Writer of the Year is chosen from them. This is not just a process of maths – who’s won the most categories – through it often ends up going that way. But it’s never just nodded through.

An important point – once the judging is finished, then and only then are the shortlists made public. By the time the shortlist is published, the judges already know who the winners are. This means there is no space for lobbying that x or y should or shouldn’t win. By the time the shortlist is revealed, the judges know who the Beer Writer of the Year is, but no one outside the judging room (apart from the people who engrave the trophies and the AV guy who does the slides) knows who the winners are.

Bias and agenda

So to address some the criticism that is aimed at the Awards on social media after each year’s event, this exhaustive – and exhausting – process means “The Guild” has no say over who gets to win any award. It means very few people judge more than once, or in consecutive years, so there is no long-term agenda around who should or shouldn’t win. Each year has to be taken on its own merit because it’s a different set of judges and maybe even a different set of categories than the year before.

No one can guarantee that there definitely isn’t be someone on the judging committee who has either a grudge against or a bias towards any given entrant – there’s no extreme vetting process for judges before they are invited. But if such a situation did exist, that person would (a) Only be able to influence first round voting in two or three categories, and would (b) need to convince nine or ten other people in the room for second round judging to vote with their prejudice rather than with the other judges’ views on the work before them. It’s statistically possible that there might be more than one person in the room with the same grudge. But a majority? Year after year? The odds would have to be astronomical.

“The same old faces”

In 2021, we gave a total of 29 tankards or highly commended mentions. Eleven of these – more than a third – were to people who had never won a Guild award before. Best Newcomer and Best Citizen actually have it written into their descriptions that these awards cannot be for the same old faces. And of that sounds like some kind of patronising consolation – in 2015 the winner of the Best Newcomer Award (then called Best Young Beer Writer) swept several categories and won Beer Writer of the Year.

Seven awards last year were given to women: maybe that’s not enough, but it’s seven more than there were ten or fifteen years ago. In 2014, our Beer Writers of the Year were a male-female couple. In 2018, the Beer Writer of the Year was a woman in her own right for the first time. Two years later, the award was again won by a woman – who was only in her mid-twenties at the time.

This year, a further nine people were recognised in these awards for the first time.

No one can deny that there are cliques in the beer scene. But the Guild has worked extremely hard to ensure that doesn’t transfer to the judging of the Awards.

If you’re reading this and thinking “Hang on, that bit sounds like it might be open to abuse” or “That doesn’t seem fair,” please let me know and I’ll pass it on to next year’s judging team as part of my feedback from this year. Otherwise, I hope this reassures anyone reading that the awards judging process is fair and unbiased.

| Beer, Beer Writing, British Guild of Beer Writers, Writing

Write (or tweet, or Instagram, or podcast) about beer? If so, what can we do to help?

Calling fellow beer communicators – what, if anything, would you like the British Guild of Beer Writers to be doing?


Like, for instance, should we change this logo, or does it still work?


I’ve sent a version of this post by email to all Guild members this morning. Now I’m posting it here to reach people who communicate about beer who may not be members of the Guild.

Last month I was elected Chair of the British Guild of Beer Writers, succeeding Tim Hampson who steps down after twelve very successful years during which he dragged the Guild into the twenty-first century, overseeing a growth in membership to record levels, a significant improvement in what the Guild offers its members, and a transformation in how fun and successful events such as the annual dinner and summer party are. 
I have some big shoes to fill.

We say it an awful lot, but twenty years after starting work on my first book I really believe it: this is the best time there’s ever been to be drinking and writing about beer. 
But at the same time, there’s arguably never been a worse time in recent memory for people seeking to make a living from writing. Print titles are struggling, and word rates and book advances are going down. For those of us who spend most of our time doing this, I doubt there’s a single one of us who hasn’t been asked to do what we do for free, or rather, for that precious currency, ‘exposure’. Of course, if you’re doing this as a hobby, maybe that’s OK – it’s easier than ever to get your thoughts, opinions and stories in front of people if you’re not expecting anything in return. And the Guild must represent your views too.    
The nature of beer communication is evolving so rapidly I doubt there’s a single one of us who can keep track of the full scope of what we all do and how we do it. 
The Guild exists to help its membership communicate about beer. To do that well, your board needs to know what you want from us. We’re working on loads of different projects and over recent years the Guild has greatly expanded the services it offers members. 
But there’s more that we could be doing. To work out what that should be, I’d like to make the board a bit more transparent and encourage you to engage with us more.  
The board meets approximately once every two months. We’ll post the dates of these meetings well in advance, so that if there’s anything you would like bringing up or would like discussing at a board meeting we can make that happen. 
Pretty soon we’ll be setting up a ‘members only’ section. of the Guild website where, if you’re interested, you’ll be able to see key documents such as minutes of board meetings. 
We’re also considering having meetings in different parts of the country. This would mean an increase in expenses, but if members outside London would be interested in meeting and chatting to the board where you’re based then that may be a good investment. (If that doesn’t appeal to anyone, we’ll save the money!)
And I’d like to ask you now: if you have any thoughts, ideas, opinions, inspiration, complaints, concerns, or bounteous praise (especially that last one) about the Guild and how the board is running it, please share them with me below. Anything I can deal with myself, I will. Anything that needs taking to a board meeting, I’ll make sure it’s on the agenda.
If you’re based in the UK and you communicate about beer but you’ve decided for whatever reason that you don’t want to be a member of the Guild, I’d love to hear if there’s anything we could be doing that would make you consider (re)joining. Should we be doing more to represent podcasters? Do you want to see more training? Do you want us to organise brewery visits? Could or should we be doing more to improve access to brewers? I’m open to all suggestions.

If you can make it next week, I look forward to sharing a pint with you there.

| Beer Books, Beer Writing, British Guild of Beer Writers, Events, Miracle Brew, Pubs, Radio, Writing

So Farewell Then, 2017

I don’t really do Golden Pints. But here are some reflections on the year that just sped past without anyone noticing while we were all gazing at our smartphones. First there’s a personal look back at what 2017 meant to me, followed by a transcript of a speech I gave at the annual Beer Writers’ Dinner on 29th November, which touches on some broader themes. It’s a bit long overall, so you might just want to read one part or the other, but if you’ve got this far, you’re probably feeling bored and it should fill a few minutes before you hit the pub again. 

My weight-limit-busting haul from the Hill Farmstead brewery, Vermont, October.

The personal bit

I feel increasingly guilty that, as the rest of the world goes to shit, with all the best people dying, and hatred, intolerance and wilful ignorance given free rein, I’m doing OK, thanks! 2016 was the worst year I could remember in world terms but was great for me professionally, and 2017 has been a similar follow-up. My year has been dominated by books: the paperback release of 2016’s The Apple Orchard,  the hardback release of Miracle Brew (my first straightforward beer book since 2009), extensive touring in the UK and North America to support that book, and the research and writing of my follow-up to The Apple Orchard, my ninth, as-yet-untitled book, now overdue, and the project that will be claiming every waking minute of January 2018. The Apple Orchard was shortlisted for many awards but didn’t quite win any, whereas The Pub: A Cultural Institution, also released in 2016, was named Fortnum & Mason Drinks Book of the Year. Reader, we partied.

(Along with some of the other winners from last year I’m judging these awards this year. Find out more and enter your work here.)

I also joined the editorial line-up of of Original Gravity magazine and had great fun helping shape the direction of the UK’s only independent beer magazine. Exciting times ahead on that. We ran the Beer and Cider Marketing Awards for the third time (first time with cider included), for which I chaired the judging, as I did for this year’s Guild of Beer Writers Awards after being named Beer Writer of the Year in 2016. I was delighted that Adrian Tierney-Jones won. (I was also delighted that, with Adrian being a friend, I didn’t express my preference until every other member of the judging panel had had their say, and they all said ‘Adrian’.)

Between all that I managed to fit in quite a few trips to breweries. A few days in Belgium in March included tours and chats with Rodenbach and new Flemish brewery Verzet.

The massive barrel-ageing hall at Rodenbach, producing the sharp, tangy beer Michael Jackson once called ‘the most refreshing beer in the world’.

… and the more modest barrel ageing room at Verdett, where each barrel is named after one of the brewers’ favourite rock stars.

In June a group of us did a whirlwind tour around Bristol, organised by people who were keen to convince us that the city was one of the most exciting beer destinations in. the UK. They succeeded in their task.

The illustrations on Bristol brewer Lost & Grounded’s beers all fit together into one big picture and magical set of characters. It’s clever, warm, funny, and strangely moving. Oh, and the beer inside is pretty amazing too.

In July I was invited back to speak at Beer Boot Camp in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The brewing scene there is developing at a ferocious rate. It’s madly exciting. And within seconds of arriving at their beautiful brewery, the Aegir Project became one of my favourite breweries in the world.

Wonderful, imaginative beers brewed and drunk in a location you’ll never want to leave.

October saw my North American tour, during which I got to visit Hill Farmstead, one of the most interesting and talked about breweries in the world. I found a balance in my views on New England IPA, possibly the most divisive topic I’ve seen in my time as a beer writer. (Apart from cask breathers. And the definition of craft beer. And brewery buy-outs. And a whole bunch of other stuff.)

Hill Farmstead – the most talked about brewery in the world? When we were there, people were queuing up for growler refills two hours before the doors were due too open. And it’s a two-hour drive from pretty much anywhere else.

The breweries that have impressed me most this year are Wiper & True, especially for their English saison; Lost & Grounded for their creativity, rigour and flawless Belgian Tripel; Verzet, for their overall vision and their Flemish brown; and Siren, for consistently combining experimentation with class to create beers I’m excited to drink. There have been many more doing great stuff too, but that’s my top four.

I’ve done scores of events and met loads of brilliant people. The highlight has to be presenting my Beer and Music Matching show to over a thousand people at the Green Man Festival in August. I still regularly do events where only three people turn up. That keeps you humble. But this one was at the other end of a very wide scale.

Thank You, Green Man.

Pub-wise, I was lucky enough to have Gracelands – a small pub company that runs some of the best beer pubs in London, including there King’s Arms in Bethnal Green – open a new site, The Axe, just five minutes walk from my house. The effect on my bank balance and liver has been alarming, but not only do they get hold of really good beers, they also curate them really well – the right balance is always on at the right time – and while they’re expensive, they don’t overcharge. If you’re ever in Stoke Newington, it’s unmissable.

The year ended with Miracle Brew receiving the best review I’ve ever been given, by no lesser august publication than the New York Times. That’s one to keep me going whenever the self-doubt kicks in – which is often. The same day the review appeared, I was on the Christmas edition of BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme, providing festive drinks for a dinner hosted by Sheila Dillon and cooked by and eaten with guests including Giorgio Locatelli, Yotam Ottolenghi and Angela Hartnett.

Merry foodie Christmas!

I have no idea how I got to be in a position where things like this happen to me. But I do know none of it would happen if people didn’t read what I write, or didn’t like it when they did. I know I don’t please everyone with what I do, and I’m absolutely fine with that. But if you do take some enjoyment from or interest in my writing, thank you so much for your continued patronage. If a particular idea or passage of writing, a recommendation of a beer or cider or pub, or a pairing of a beer with a particular dish or tune gives you pleasure, then I’m doing something worthwhile, no matter how small.


The review/reflection bit

It’s been a tumultuous, dramatic, fascinating year in beer. I did a short intro speech before I presented the awards at the annual Beer Writer’s Dinner on 29th November, in which I commented on some aspects of it, with a particular focus on where beer writing is going. A few people asked if they could get a copy of the speech, so here’s an edited version. 

What a year it’s been! Another year of dramatic developments in beer with so much to write about.

People say it can’t carry on, but we’ve had yet another year of declining numbers of pubs, declining beer volume overall, coupled with a dramatic increase in the number of breweries brewing and beers available to drink.

As the pressure and competition grows, we’re seeing the sustained trend of takeovers of craft breweries by bigger corporates – sorry – I meant to say ‘partnering with like-minded business colleagues among the brewing fraternity’ apparently.

And like those proverbial Japanese soldiers lost on a desert island who don’t realise the war is over, some of us are still lost in the woods trying to find a technical definition of craft beer.

If do you want a precise technical definition, be careful what you wish for.

CAMRA of course, have a very tight and precise definition of real ale, which is precisely why they’ve spent the last two years trying to revitalise now we’re in a globalised world of excellent beer, wondering if they’re about cask ale, good quality beer more generally, saving pubs, or acting as a sales promotion agency for Wetherspoons.

In 2017, beer writing has been characterised by discussions – robust discussions – OK, arguments – fierce arguments – OK fights – about all these issues, and more.

Given that we proudly call ourselves one of the friendliest, most sociable industries in the world – and I genuinely believe we are – it’s amazing how much we can find to argue about!

Cask ale for example. Is it good enough? Is it expensive enough? Is it cheap enough?

After dipping my toe in this issue back in January, I’d like to say now on the record, categorically, that cask ale is great and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It has always been great, it is always great now, and it always will be great, and Paul Nunny, could you please just give me some proof that my wife and dog are safe and well, and will be released soon like you promised. Thank you.

More recently we’ve had very public spats about New England IPA, a beer style that’s created civil war among craft beer fans. On one side there are those who think this is an absolute joke of a style, an affront to brewing tradition, a product of Instagram culture and the first solid evidence that craft beer might be getting too faddy for its own good.

And on the other side, I suppose there are some people who must disagree with that for some reason.

Just this week, we’ve seen an online spat between people on one side, who think beers using sexist imagery to sell themselves should be banned for beer competitions, and people on the other side, who are dicks.

And then there’s a seemingly intensifying spat about the ethics of beer writing.

If a beer writer gets sent beer for free, can their opinion on that beer be trusted?

If a beer writer gets invited on a trip – a junket, sorry – to a brewery and is entertained, can any of their opinions be regarded as valid?

If a beer writer falls down in a bar and there’s no one there to hear it, do they make a sound? Or do they just Instagram it instead?

But these arguments, these spats, are important, at least up to the point where social media amplifies them and twists them into something nastier.

The role of the Guild is ‘to extend the public knowledge and appreciation of beer and pubs and to raise the standard of beer communication’.

Much of the time, that means celebrating beer, educating our readers about it, finding the good stuff and getting it to a wider audience.

But that doesn’t mean the guild is some provisional wing of the beer industry’s PR machine, providing gushing coverage of whatever that industry decides to do, in the terms the industry wants. We shouldn’t just be cheerleaders, breathlessly parroting the industry’s agenda.

Like any other industry or interest, beer needs to be scrutinised, analysed and occasionally held to account.

And so do we, as writers.

Beer writing has expanded so much in the last twenty years, and we as writers must now think carefully about what role we want to perform.

Not a single one of us can be an expert in every single aspect of it. You can’t be a newshound, and a flavour expert, and have an academic knowledge of the history of brewing, and be an industry analyst, and have a perspective on alcohol policy, and an in-depth knowledge of global beer styles, and be an effective campaigning voice for cask ale, all at the same time. It’s not possible.

And that’s great! There’s room for specialisation in all those things, and the totality of beer writing is so much bigger and richer as a result.

The social media revolution has made us all communicators about beer, and while I personally believe writing will always be the most important and effective part of that, the broader landscape is hugely exciting. Even if we want to write, we have to start thinking about photography. We may find out voices are more effective, or get a different side to them, on podcasts or radio, or even in person, at live events.

But there are risks in this brave new world.

Social media has the potential to make narcissists of us all. Badly-lit bottle shots and a hundred hash tags on an Instagram post do not extend the public knowledge and appreciation of beer. Self-indulgent blog posts describing in detail about how you swapped a bottle of Cantillon Geuze with someone in Vermont for a bottle of Hill Farmstead’s Society and Solitude #10 making you the only person in Britain to have a bottle don’t represent a raising of the standard of beer communication.

(And anyway, I’ve got a bottle in my fridge at home that I bought when I visited the brewery last month so screw you, you ticker.)

Whatever channel you’re communicating in, the basic rules of old-fashioned journalism still apply. As your reader or viewer, make me care. Take me somewhere. Tell me a story.

All tonight’s winners have succeeded in this mission, have told compelling stories about their subjects in fresh ways that engage readers, listeners and viewers.

Each judge on the panel is an expert of some kind, but probably not in what the entrant is writing about. They probably don’t know the entrant, and may never have read their work before, and next year their places will be taken by someone new.

So if you think it’s always the same old names being shortlisted in the same categories year after year, this is not because judging is some kind of cosy old boy’s network. It’s because those people’s work appeals fresh, every year, to a different set of judges who may not have read them before.

Conversely, if you’re someone who has entered several different categories with work you’re really proud of, and you haven’t been as successful in getting shortlisted as you hoped – this is not a referendum on your worth as a beer writer. At no point have the judges sat down together and decided to shun you this year. Your work in each category has been judged independently of every other category. Believe me, we all have years where we feel like some of our best work has been overlooked, and next year might be completely different.

You can see the full list of winners here. Go check out some of their work. 2017 was a great year for beer, and a great year for beer writing. Let’s have it again in 2018.


| Beer, Beer Books, Beer Writing, Books, British Guild of Beer Writers, Journalism, The Pub: A Cultural Institution

Beer Writer of the Year

On Thursday night the British Guild of Beer Writers named me their Beer Writer of the Year, for the third time.


I even bought a suit.

It caps an incredible year for me and I’m obviously delighted. But I still wouldn’t recommend three simultaneous book contracts to anyone, and won’t be repeating this trick any time soon.

I won two categories before picking up the overall award. First was Best Writing in Trade Media, for my columns in the Morning Advertiser. Luck always plays a big part in any success, and I think this year I was particularly lucky to have some great stories fall into my lap. The rediscovery by Carlsberg of the earliest generation of modern brewing yeast, and their successful attempt to ‘re-brew’ with it, was a unique event. And my chance to interview the man who invented nitro dispense – the technology that makes Guinness so distinctive and is now being explored by forward-thinking craft brewers – just weeks before his passing was something I’ll always remember. The research for my forthcoming book on beer ingredients also led me to some stories that I could write up as columns without taking anything away from the book.

In case you’re interested, here are links to the pieces wot won it:


I also won Best Writing in National Media mainly, I think, for my new book The Pub: A Cultural Institution (which is currently being sold insanely cheaply on Amazon), but I also entered pieces I’ve written for Ferment and Belgian Beer and Food magazines. I’m not the only decent writer in these excellent magazines – if you haven’t done so already, you should do yourself a favour and check them out.

As I said on the night, I owe the success of The Pub to Jo Copestick, a long-standing editor and publisher who specialise in food and drink and design, who has worked with and encouraged most good beer writers out there. We first spoke about the idea for The Pub ten years ago. She plays the long game, and she made this book finally happen. Even though it’s my name on the front I’m only a third of the team. People’s first reaction to it is that it’s a very beautiful book, and that is nothing to do with me and everything to do with Jo and designer Paul Palmer-Edwards at Grade Design. Sitting around the table with these two and being perfectionist about layout after layout was a wonderful working experience.

Having won these two categories, the judges then decided that overall, I was their Beer Writer of the Year.

It’s a trick of the order in which these awards are presented that my two awards were near the end of the evening. Earlier, it had looked like Mark Dredge was going to walk away with the big gong after sweeping Best Food and Drink Writing for his book, Cooking With Beer, and Best Beer and Travel Writing for his book The Best Beer in the World. I really hope this isn’t the start of a trend of publishing multiple books in a year because that way madness lies, but hearty congratulations to Mark for running me so close, and to the winners and runners-up in all the other categories.

Some of the stuff you hear around all awards ceremonies gets so repetitive it sounds platitudinous, but when you’re in the thick of it, phrases like ‘the standard was really high this year’ and ‘the quality of entries continues to improve’ get repeated because they are true. Having won this year, I’ll be chair of the judges next year. I’ve done this twice before. It’s always an interesting task, but the quality of work, often from writers I’ve never previously come across, scares me even as it delights me. No doubt this time next year, I’ll be here writing ‘the standard of entries was very high this year’ and ‘the judge’s decision was an extremely difficult one.’

I already know this will be true. As beer continues to excite greater numbers of people in all walks of life, many who fall in love with beer want to communicate their passion, and more and more of them are very good at it.

For a full list of winners in all categories, and comments from the judges, see the full press release here.