Tag: Hops and Glory

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IPAs in (OK, near) Brighton this Saturday!

It’s my IPA event where Dark Star meets Hops and Glory tomorrow, in the Duke of Wellington pub, Shoreham on Sea, near Brighton, 4pm:

Here’s the list of IPAs and other beers (yes, I know a lot of them aren’t “proper” IPAs, but we’d all be comatose if they were) that will be on the bar:

Thornbridge, Jaipur IPA 5.9%
Nethergate, IPA 3.5%
Mighty Oak, IPA 3.5%
Rebellion, IPA 3.7%
Green Jack, Mahseer IPA 5%
Hopdaemon, Skrimshander 4.5%
RCH, Hewish IPA 3.6%
Stringers, Paint it Black IPA 5.5%

Boggarts, Rum Porter 4.6%
Crouch Vale, Blackwater Mild 3.7%
Whitstable, Oyster Stout 4.5%
Salopian, Ironbridge Stout 5%

To be confirmed:
Brewdog, Punk IPA 6.2%

And from Dark Star themselves:
IPA 6.2%
Six Hop 6.5%

Be there or be, well, sober I suppose.

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Come and drink some beer and buy my books!

Doing a few events this summer to promote the beer trilogy and generally have a nice time drinking beer and talking about my books. You should come along.

This Sunday, 20th June, I’m at the Cheltenham Food and Drink Festival, ostensibly talking around the theme ‘In Search of the World’s Best Beers. I’ll have beers including Otley O-Garden (last week voted Champion Beer of Wales), Harviestoun Ola Dubh and Goose Island IPA, and I’ll be reading passages from or talking about all three books. Talk starts at 1.30pm on Sunday, and if you fancy making a weekend of it you can listen to Ben McFarland talking about the world’s best beers on Saturday, and after me on Sunday afternoon Adrian Tierney-Jones talking about Cotswold beers to try before you die.

I’m spending next weekend in Brighton and surrounding areas, courtesy of the fine people at Dark Star. At 4pm on Saturday 26th we’ll be converging on the Duke of Wellington pub on Brighton Road in Shoreham for a talk about Hops and Glory and IPA.  What better excuse to tuck into a dazzling array of IPAs, both ‘genuine’ and ‘modern’?

There will be more events to be announced.  Another one already confirmed for later in the summer, I’m incredibly proud to have been asked to do the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  I’ll be there on Tuesday 24th August at 8.30pm.
Books beer and – hopefully – balmy sunshine.  Can life be any better?

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Books and that

It was a proud day for me yesterday when I found out these had arrived in the warehouse:

The paperback release of Hops and Glory is joined by re-releases of the other too, both with new covers from Neil Gower, the wonderful artist who broke the mould with the Hops and Glory design last year.
As far as text goes, H&G and Three Sheets are unaltered, but Man Walks into a Pub has been extensively rewritten and updated.  I’ll talk more about that in a few weeks – they’re officially released on June 4th.
But anyone living in the North West who wants a copy can be the very first people to get their hands on one!  I’m doing an event at the Southport Food and Drink Festival this Saturday.  Scarisbrick Hotel, Southport, 2pm, I’ll be doing a group tasting of some of the beers from the festival, and trying out a new talk about beer and my adventures through it, drawing from all three books.  I’ll be announcing more festival dates throughout the summer once I’ve got this talk right, but I will have the new books to sell as a special sneak preview.
In other literary news, fans of The Beer Widow may have noticed that she’s been a bit quiet of late.  That’s because she’s organising the first ever Stoke Newington Literary Festival, June 4th-6th, bringing the stars of the literary firmament to our corner of North East London (actually, a lot of them already live here, hence the idea for the event.  
I’m doing two events, each of which will be a little different for me:

Saturday, 2pm: “Eat Your Words”: Niki Segnit, Pete Brown, Alex Rushmer and Ian Kelly
The White Hart

There are only a handful of words that really describe taste and flavour, but collectively we have a seemingly limitless appetite for reading and writing about food and drink.  The author of The Flavour Thesaurus, Britain’s leading beer writer, a Masterchef finalist and the biographer of Anton Careme, the world’s first celebrity chef, discuss their struggle to pin flavour to the page.
Sunday, 3pm: “What’s so great about the Great British Pub?” Pete Brown, Paul Ewen and Tim Bradford
The White Hart
£4 (with free beer)

Beer Writer of the Year Pete Brown hosts an event in his local, The White Hart, getting the beers in and talking to one-man ‘Campaign for Surreal Ale’ Paul Ewen, and local writer and chronicler of small town England Tim Bradford, about what makes the pub such a unique and enduring cornerstone of British culture.  
Very excited about these – My mate Niki has written something that will be essential for anyone who enjoys cooking and wants to move beyond just following recipes, it’ll be cool to meet ‘Food Blogger Alex‘ from this year’s Masterchef, and Ian’s biographies look interesting.  The following day I’m fascinated to see what Paul Ewen is really like after enjoying his book a while back (I reviewed it here) and you’ve got to fall in love with Tim Bradford when you read the Amazon review he got from his mum!  Tickets should be available any second now from here, but in the meantime can be booked by phone (details on the festival website) or bought from the Stoke Newington Bookshop.  
We all take our place well down the running order behind people like Shappi Khorsandi, Phill Jupitus, Danny Kelly, John Hegley, Jeremy Hardy, AC Grayling, Stewart Lee and the legendary Tony Benn.  Come and make a weekend of it!  It promises to be fantastic.  
Check out the festival website for more details on the bill and how to book tickets, and follow @StokeyLitFest on Twitter and on Facebook for up to date news about the line up etc.  Liz has never organised anything like this before and the literary community is amazed at the quality of the line-up she’s managed to pull together for the first year.  But she’s having sleepless nights about the whole thing, so please buy tickets for stuff!

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Reasons to buy newspapers – or at least link to them

Tomorrow The Guardian travel section is running a selection of perfect pubs to visit between Christmas and New Year, that slow, out-of-time, strange week when you have no idea what day it is and can just sit by a pub fire with a book and the dog all day if you want to. They asked me for my suggestion, and it’s this pub below – check the newspaper tomorrow (Saturday) to find out where it is, and I’ll see you there lunch time on Boxing Day.

Also, today the Daily Express has a round-up of best drinks books of the year, in which they refer to Hops & Glory as “one of the drink books of the year” funnily enough. The value of those remaining copies continues to rise…

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The last drop of Calcutta

The world through a White Shield glass – what a lovely world it is. Thanks to BLTP for the photos.
Last Thursday, above the Rake, I finally reached the end of the road with Hops & Glory. A final reading, a few last book signings (sorry to everyone who just got ‘Cheers, Pete Brown’ – the well of inspiration has truly run dry) and a few very special beers.
The event was also unique in that Steve Wellington, brewer of my Calcutta IPA as well as the incomparable Worthington White Shield, and other rarer, even more wonderful beers, left off his eternal battle with his bloody bottling line and came all the way to London to share his perspective on our adventure and on IPAs generally – carrying with him the last ever pin of Calcutta IPA.
Me, Steve Wellington, and Jo Miller of Different World Drinks – who kindly lent us Steve for the evening.

We kicked off with the White Shield and Steve told us about the ageing of it, and how it develops over the years. Hot on the heels of John Keeling talking about this at the tenth anniversary of the Fuller’s Fine Ale Club the other week, it impressed upon me that ageing – not wood ageing/whisky ageing necessarily, but just letting beers get older – is a new (or rather rediscovered) frontier in making great beer, and it’s exciting to see master brewers exploring something that’s new even to them.

We moved on to Seaforth from Thornbridge. This is an all-English ingredients version of Jaipur, the most awarded beer at British beer festivals over the past few years. Seaforth is more of an authentic IPA than the very, very nice new-world influenced Jaipur. It’s darker and slightly maltier, balanced, but still with a definite hop kick. It’s is a limited edition beer, and my link to it is that Thornbridge very kindly asked me to come up with the name for it.
After reading out a bit more of the book, we moved on to Sheffield’s Hillsborough Hotel Crown Brewery IPA. CrownBrewerStu has built his profile in the online beer world quite significantly this year, and from a base of Sheffield’s hardcore tickers his beers are acquiring a deserved wider cult following. After reading Hops & Glory Stu invited me to brew a 7% traditional IPA with him. It was a hop monster – five kilos of Crown, Target and Chinook hops in a three barrel brew. Stu then stored the beer in a garage which hits temperatures of thirty degrees through the summer. When we tasted the new brew it was almost unbearably hoppy – I said almost. The four months ageing has already taken off the bitter edge but the resiny aroma is still present. It’s a beer for IPA lovers, reminiscent of what our next beer was like when first brewed.
Purists might argue that those Chinook hops prevent us from being able to call Crown IPA authentic. But in the 1870s, when IPA was at its peak, we had to import hops from North America, so to suggest that North American IPAs are different from traditional English ones is not necessarily true.
Finally, we moved onto the Calcutta. I didn’t know what to expect – the beer is now almost two and a half years old. Beers that didn’t go on the long sea voyage would be cellar-aged before being sold, and in the book I’d already postulated that the effects of cellar ageing on the beer were similar to the sea voyage – it just takes longer. The beer I had in India tasted different from beer from the same batch drunk in London at the same time.
Well, the stay-at-home beer has now surpassed the voyage beer in terms of changes to its character. It had a funky nose, a hint of spirit. On the palate it was quite flat. The hop character has gone, replaced by something that’s almost winey – the beer is sharp, fruity and a little dusty, with an edge of Lambic sourness around the sides. As we tasted it, the Raj’s descriptions of this as a ‘wine of malt’, and the accusation from one of my audience in Calcutta that this was “wine, not beer”, made perfect sense. It doesn’t taste like beer. For a few seconds, you’re not sure whether you like it or not. And then, suddenly, you adore it.
A few days after the event, I found out that Hops & Glory had sold out. This is an adventure that began exactly three years ago, in December 2006, and now, finally, I feel like it’s over. The book won me the top gong in my field and exceeded expectations in sales terms. It cost me thousands and put me in therapy for a year. And in therapy speak, in that room above the Rake, I got closure on it. It was a great night – a perfect end to the adventure. Thanks to everyone who came.
Thanks also to Glyn at the Rake and Melissa at LoveBeerAtBorough, who organised and staged the event, to all the above brewers for kindly donating their beers, and most of all to Steve for coming all the way to join me for the party, and for brewing this amazing beer.

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Hops & Glory sells out!

The perfect Christmas gift – if you can find it.
I’d like to urge you all to go to Amazon and buy Hops and Glory for Christmas. I’d like to urge you to do that, but I can’t. Because there are no copies left at Amazon. And I’ve just discovered there are no copies left at the publisher’s warehouse either.
Hops and Glory has sold out. Macmillan have sold 4550 copies, and there are no more left.
Of course, you might ask why they don’t simply do a reprint? The thing is, with the set-up costs for this, you’d have to print about 2000 to make it worthwhile. And with the paperback edition coming out in June 2010, bookshops simply would not take enough stock of the hardback to make such a reprint economically viable.
One the one hand I’m upset because we underestimated how many we needed, and are now forfeiting sales as a result – and some beer fans are going to be less happy on Christmas Day than they otherwise would be. On the other, this has happened because the book totally exceeded publisher’s expectations, which I’m delighted by.
There are still copies floating around – check out your local Waterstones or indie bookshop, and have a look on the new and used section at Amazon. I have a few copies left, which I’ll be using for competitions.
The paperback will be out in June – and that will be the edition that gets reprinted as long as there is demand for it.
Thanks to everyone who’s bought a copy! As it’s Be Nice Month, I’m choosing to revel in the positive side of this rather than wail and grind my teeth at the negative.

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Goodwill and good beer

Spent a very pleasant evening at the Hillsborough Hotel with the Beer Widow planning how to spend my year as Beer Writer of the Year (did I mention that?). I’m not going to broadcast my plans for world domination right here, but boy, I’m going to be busy.

Anyway. It starts right here, on this blog, which will be seeing some changes in the New Year.
But it’s nearly Christmas, and I’m very happy with my success last week, and for those two reasons, rather controversially, I’m declaring December “Let’s Be Nice On Pete Brown’s Beer Blog Month.”
So if anyone is logging on to see my thoughts on Brew Dog’s latest Portman spat, or to enjoy me ripping apart the Daily Mail’s latest risible bunch of bullshit and barefaced lying, I’m sorry. I’m biting my tongue till the New Year, and writing only nice things. December is a time of celebration, of recognising everything that’s great about the human spirit, and what better way of toasting that than with beer? The guns of common sense fall silent. The grenades of rhetoric and the tear gas of well chosen swearwords are held in check. Yep, it’s just like the Christmas armistice in the trenches during World War One. Only perhaps not quite as historically significant.
There will be some slight exceptions when I get to posting my review of the year. I had a great reaction when I did this last year and I’ve decided to make it a Christmas tradition. Rereading last year’s it’s amazing to realise what a busy year it’s been – it reads like it was written about five years ago. I’m enjoying compiling the new one, and will post just before Christmas.
But talking of celebration, here – at very short notice – is my announcement of one of the coolest things I’ve done all year. As regular readers will know, I spent most of the summer travelling up and down the UK promoting Hops and Glory in pubs, at beer festivals, food festivals, literary and music festivals. I finished in early October, and had always planned to do a final gig (I started calling them gigs after I performed at Latitude. Take the piss all you want, but my name is on the back of the t-shirt – quite far below Thom Yorke, Doves and Spiritualized and in significantly smaller type, it’s true – but I believe you’ll find that’s how I roll of late) at the Rake in London.
Anyway, this – ahem – end of tour gig was going to take place late October/early November, but I’m very disorganised and so are the chaps at the Rake. So it’s now happening this Thursday, 10th December. Yep, just two days from now.
But if you’re anywhere nearby, it’s worth trying to get along to, and here’s why, in no particular order of merit:
  • It’s going to be the last time I ever do my Hops and Glory reading presentation in the format I’ve done it this year. Next year I have all three books being reissued in paperback and will be writing a new talk/presentation/speech/routine/whatever you want to call it, about beer more generally. So it’s your last chance to hear about Barry the Barrel, William Hickey and Brazilian prostitutes.
  • I’ve got a cask of Seaforth – the special beer created this summer by Thornbridge which is basically Jaipur brewed with all-English ingredients, and which they asked me to name. So I did.
  • I’ve also got a cask of Crown Brewery Hillsborough IPA – the insanely hoppy brew created by Crown Brewer Stu, which I helped brew in the summer. It’s now been aged in a warm room for four months and should have started to gain some authentic IPA characteristics.
  • Finally on the beer front, we’ve got – get this – THE LAST EVER PIN OF CALCUTTA IPA!!! I thought we’d had the last one at my Burton book launch, but they found one last one at the brewery. It’s not been on the sea voyage, but traditional IPAs that did not go to India were aged for at least a year before being sold domestically. This one is now two years old and as such should be as close as possible to how IPA was when it was consumed in India (with one exception – we’d probably get punched if we served it authentically ice-cold).
  • And finally overall, I’m delighted, privileged and honoured to be sharing the room with legendary master brewer, Burton god, curator of Worthington White Shield and creator of Calcutta IPA, Mr Steve Wellington. Ask Steve about brewing traditional IPAs, keeping the Burton flame alive and generally being one of the greatest living brewers on the planet.
The room above the Rake is very small and tickets are extremely limited. They’re available from Utobeer or the Rake, by emailing melissa@love-beer.co.uk or phoning 020 7378 9461.
I’ll be selling all my books on the night at generous prices. They make perfect Christmas gifts.
In the words of the great Roger Protz, what more do you want, blood?
See you there.

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Not an overnight success

While I was the happiest person in the room on Thursday night, a few people will have gone home disappointed.

I know how they feel.
Three years ago I hoped I was going to be successful with Three Sheets to the Wind. I won the travel bursary and hoped I was going to win the overall thing. I didn’t.
But this proved to be the crucible from which Hops and Glory emerged, so I got there in the end. This is referenced briefly in the opening chapter to H&G. But in the first draft, there was a much longer account of the Beer Writers Awards 2006. This was one of the first things my editor cut, and he was right to do so. It was too self-indulgent and prevented us from getting to the real start of Hops and Glory as quickly as we needed to. It didn’t belong in the book, but it couldn’t go anywhere else either.
Now, I think I can offer it here as another deleted scene DVD extra. It is self-indulgent and will only really be of interest to other writers, but I hope it raises a smile and conveys that this is a game of agony as well as ecstasy:
It was the beer’s fault. It usually is. Although, when you consider that beer is the most popular drink in the world, consumed by billions on a daily basis, and not a single person among those billions has attempted to do what I was about to do in the name of beer, I have to shoulder at least some of the blame myself. I don’t mean that I got drunk and did something I regretted. I did get very drunk. And I did do something I would come to regret bitterly at several points over the following year. But one did not lead to the other: I did most of the damage while perfectly sober. What I mean is, this was one of the increasingly frequent occasions when I got carried away after spending too much time with the kind of people you meet when you let beer start to mean more to you than simply the best long drink in the world. Not for the first time, the ideas and associations that surround beer, what beer means, intoxicated me more effectively and more devastatingly than mere alcohol ever could. My voyage across the Atlantic on a century-old tall ship, and the larger quest of which it was merely part, began over dinner, ten months before I boarded Europa. Not just any old dinner though. Tonight, in the elegant surroundings of the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London’s fashionable Kensington, just before Christmas really started to get going, several people – not all of them bearded, pot-bellied, cardigan-clad or even necessarily male – were about to receive trophies and cash for writing about beer. Every single time I mention the British Guild of Beer Writers to people who don’t work around beer, they seem to find its very existence, the mere concept it, either hilarious or completely unbelievable. A few years ago I could still sort of remember why this was. But I wasn’t laughing tonight. Tonight, for the first time since I started writing about beer, I was one of the people hoping to climb on stage and shake the hand of TV Chef and Celebrity Yorkshireman Brian Turner, and collect an envelope from him as the great and good of the British beer industry bathed me in their applause. Beer had just got serious. As formal dinners go, it was probably one of the more unusual the harried hotel staff had catered. The India Pale Ale sorbet had been a triumph. The venison matched with brown ale had split opinion, and the double chocolate stout with the chocolate pudding had been judged a bit too obvious by my table. But the contented bickering indicated that, overall, the dinner had been a success. Brewers, beer writers, beer marketers and beer PR executives pushed back their chairs, ambled past tables where they paused to shake hands with colleagues and adversaries they hadn’t seen since this time last year, and made their steady (for now) way to the bars at the side of the big, palm tree-lined conservatory to choose a digesitif from the range of forty or so beers available. The cannier among them picked up more than one bottle, knowing that in a few minutes they’d be confined to their seats to wait patiently through the business part of the evening. When it comes to the mix of emotions within the audience, all awards ceremonies are the same. Whether we’re talking about the Oscars or school sports colours awards, most attendees are willing this part to be over as quickly as possible. The few attendees who believe they’re in with a chance of winning something do their best to project an attitude of good-natured, weary boredom, while their insides churn through hope, envy, bitterness and triumph and back to the start before the shiny envelopes have even appeared. I wondered briefly which end of that scale –Academy Awards or school colours– the British Guild of Beer Writers Annual Awards Dinner was closest to. I was always rubbish at sport, and so far nobody had tried to throw my bag on the roof, beat me with a rolled up wet towel, or take the piss out of my green flash trainers in front of forty other people before whipping my arse repeatedly with them.[1] And the idea of me winning something, anything, was something you could at least entertain without having to question the fundamental laws of reality. So tonight didn’t feel like my school sports award ceremony at all. On the other hand, Brian Turner was by far the most famous person in the room. As the PA system popped into life and the big screens lit up with the logos of our brewery sponsors, I joined the stomach-churners for the first time, practising the requisite benevolent smile for when the name that is read out is not yours, the smile that you will need to keep pasted to your face as you watch someone else walk in YOUR stead up to the stage and collect YOUR award and you can only think of how long it is before you can reasonably disappear to the toilet and punch the cubicle walls and question your whole direction in life and wonder at the futility of it all and hate yourself for even thinking for a second that you were in with a chance of winning anything. You know how it is. “And the winner is… Pete Brown!” As Brian Turner became the first person in history to utter those words in that order, my initial reaction was not jubilation, but profound relief. It wasn’t the main award, of course (I would need my fake smile after all, later in the evening, for that one) but it was the one I really, really had to win. The Budweiser Budvar Travel Bursary is awarded for beer writing that has an international scope. This is a good idea in a country where many beer acolytes start with the belief that the best beer in the world is brewed within a couple of hours’ drive of their front door, and work cautiously out from there. The 2006 prize was awarded for my second book, Three Sheets to the Wind, which is still available on Amazon at a bargain price. To write it, I’d travelled forty-five thousand miles around the world, visiting nearly five hundred pubs and bars in twenty-six towns and cities in thirteen countries on four continents. It had cost me one year and thousands of pounds to plan and execute the travel, a second, much lonelier, more frugal year to write a book about my journey that was far too long and self-indulgent, and then help my editor delete about a third of it and fashion what was left into something people might conceivably pay money to read. I was the only beer writer to have attempted anything on this global scale, at least in one go. If someone else had won the beer/travel prize for, say, a fifteen hundred word article in Beers of the World magazine about a day trip to a brewery in Bamberg that makes smoked beer, interesting as that would no doubt have been, I would have had to take it as a pretty heavy hint that I wasn’t really getting this beer writing lark right. I’d even included a glowing account of my visit to the Budweiser Budvar brewery in Ceske Budejovice, southern Bohemia, and their head of Public Relations was on the judging panel. I had no idea what I was setting in motion as I stood up and walked to the podium, shook TV Brian’s hand and relieved him of a ceramic tankard with painted figures on the outside and, even more attractively, a cheque for a thousand quid on the inside, underneath the heavy pewter lid. After that, everything happened so quickly it would be months before I came to terms with it. Relief turned to glowing satisfaction as I got back to the table, moved the cheque to my jacket pocket and filled the tankard with something dark and malty from somewhere in Belgium. The Budweiser Budvar Travel Bursary 2006 was the fourth prize I had ever won in my life.[2] Two of the previous three had been writing competitions: the first was for a story inspired by a poster in the school corridor when I was ten. My gripping yarn of mutated giant hornets ridden by evil goblins thrashed the living daylights out of the runner-up, and not just because he was eight years old and the only other entrant. My last victory was the Time Out short story competition in 1994. My delight at winning my first ever computer for a story about an eclipse over London, and having it printed in a magazine people actually read, was only slightly lessened by the fact that Time Out immediately abandoned the competition in their wake of my victory, and has never done anything to encourage people to write short stories since. As I returned to my table I was optimistic: sixteen years between the first two prizes. Only twelve between the second two. My writing career was gaining momentum.[3] I should have been very happy indeed. There was no other sane reaction to the kudos of having won a prize with my first entry into the competition, not to mention paying off another thousand quid of the debt the writing had accrued. But as Brian reeled off the names of the winners of the other categories I’d entered, doubt crept back in. Finally it was time for the overall prize: Beer Writer of the Year, chosen from the winners of all the categories, built up by a glowing eulogy from Alistair Gilmour, the previous year’s winner. “This guy could have won every category he entered…” Hey, I entered several categories! And I won one! “He’s very funny….” People always say they laughed at Three Sheets. “He brings a breath of fresh air to beer writing…” Me, me, me… “And I’d just like to finish by illustrating this with a short piece…” Yes? Which piece? The bit about the Hamburglar in Spain? The bloke who ran the bar in Portland Oregon for 25 years after signing the lease for a laugh while he was drunk? The bits with Billy and Declan in Galway? Which? “…about the time he tried to convert his older brother to the delights of real ale…” Bollocks. My only brother is three years younger than me and I’ve never tried to get him to drink real ale. Ben McFarland, the hardest working man in beer writing, rose to collect his second Beer Writer of the Year award in three years. I couldn’t begrudge him it. He’s a very good writer, and if I couldn’t win, he’s the person I’d want to. In fact, every category was won by someone I not only respected as a writer, but also enjoyed sharing a beer with. It was a good night. But they were still all bastards. Doubts started to crawl all over me like little ticks; ticks that could whisper in your ear instead of giving you a rash. They’d given me my award out of sympathy. Just because of the disturbing amount of effort I’d put in. And you couldn’t ignore the very curious wording of the award. As I drained my tankard, I started to think very carefully about that, oh yes. You see, if you read it closely (OK some might say too closely), The Budvar Travel Bursary is specifically not awarded to “the year’s best piece of beer-themed travel writing (or travel-themed beer writing)” at all. It was actually awarded to “the writer who the judges feel could most benefit” from the money. Technically, it wasn’t rewarding my writing. It was saying I needed more practice. Well, that was that. Three Sheets had taken two years of my life, cost me thousands, damaged my health and upset my wife. I wanted to write more books, but there was no way I could ever do anything else on such a scale. I had been trying to work on new ideas for six months, and come up with nothing. It had been my best shot. I was having trouble communicating this to the people around my table though. They weren’t sitting with the overall winner, but they were sitting with a winner, and they were very happy for me. “Congratulations, Pete. What are you going to spend the money on?” “You’ll be off on your travels again now then, eh?” “Where are you going to go next?” “I think Liz deserves a bit of a break from the whole beer thing,” I said. “I might spend most of it on some luxury health spa retreat for us both. And then… I might write a book about… I dunno, something else.” “No, but seriously, there’s loads of countries you didn’t go to last time aren’t there?” “It’s a travel bursary. You’ve got to travel.” “You could do a pub crawl across England. The longest pub crawl.” I grinned mirthlessly. “I was going to. But a man called Ian Marchant already did. And not only did he steal my idea before I’d thought of it, he wrote a better book about it than I would have done. It is in fact called The Longest Crawl. Funny eh? It came out a month after Three Sheets. I can recommend it.” “So where are you going to go then? What about going to the States again?” “I need to refill my rather splendid tankard, I’m afraid.” I was being churlish. Every person on my table was a beer-world mate, someone I was very happy to be dining with. And I’d won something. So later, after refilling my tankard too many times, disgracing myself, losing my cheque and phoning Budvar the next day to ask them to stop it and issue me with a new one, I thought about how I might satisfy the moral obligation to spend at least some of my prize money on a beery trip somewhere. I might return to Germany and visit some of the famous brewing towns I was forced to skip on my Three Sheets trip due to the Death Star-sized hangover and possible scurvy inflicted on me by Oktoberfest. Maybe write that article about the day trip to Bamberg and the smoked beers myself. Or perhaps I’d go to Finland and drink the very strong beer they still make there by fermenting wort with bread yeast inside a hollowed out spruce log before filtering it through pine needles. Either of these trips would make a nice article for one of the specialist beer magazines. I would enjoy the trip, learn something new, and the obligation would be fulfilled. These plans made me happy for about two weeks, before flying scared out of the window of a central London pub, chased away by the dangerous and stupid idea that was about to change my life.

[1] The games teachers at our school knew they had an important stereotype to conform to.
[2] Nobody ever actually said, “And the winner is… Pete Brown!” for the first three, unfortunately.
[3] The other prize I won was for painting some Citadel Miniatures TM Warhammer TM Chaos Warriors TM at a model making competition in Rotherham when I was thirteen. But that’s another story – one I have no intention of writing.

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The biggest thing in beer. Ever.

A few days ago, I figured out how to include the Wikio rankings badge on my blog, up there top-right. As I was number one, I was quite pleased with the result. I enjoyed looking at it. But only days later, I’m staring at a big fat number two. The Brew Dog Blog has overtaken me to become Britain’s most influential beer or wine blog. I wish I’d never suggested to Wikio that they include them, now. I don’t like this. I don’t like it at all. I want my top spot back. But how? I’ve been giving this some thought, and the answer is obvious. Brew Dog are experts at generating publicity, and this last month has seen their most ambitious scheme yet. They promised us they were going to change the world, trailed it weeks in advance. And while Equity for Punks may not have been the miracle it promised to be, it generated endless discussion online, with countless links to the Brew Dog blog, where it was hotly debated. That’s surely the reason Brew Dog succeeded on overtaking me. Well, two can play at that game. Soon – at a date I’ll think of in a minute – I’m going to announce something that’s better than changing the world forever. It will make changing the world forever look like changing your position slightly in a leather armchair to make yourself more comfortable, emitting a slight farting sound as you do so. What I am going to announce won’t just change the world. It will change the very laws of the universe. Time will run backwards. The speed of light will slow. Light itself will become liquid. Gravity will reverse. Dinosaurs shall walk the earth once more. Base metals shall turn into gold. You will believe a man can fly. Yea, New Order shall reform and even rediscover the ability to write a decent tune. Just you wait and see. I’m not kidding. I’m not exaggerating. (OK, maybe I am just a little with the New Order bit.) What I am about to announce – at 2am on 25th December, that’ll do – will rock the foundations of existence to their very core. In fact it’s so incredible, it can’t be held back. I can’t stop myself. I’m going to announce it right now. Right here. Brace yourself. What Brew Dog don’t understand is that Punk is now really old. It was 33 years ago, guys! Sid Vicious is dead. John Lydon is advertising butter on TV. Sham 69 are… well, I’m not sure what Sham 69 are doing. But equity for punks? That’s equity for blokes in their fifties with slightly waxy pallor after too many years hard living, who now mainly drink mineral water. Lame! Equity for Punks is also divisive – not everyone likes punk rock. It’s really noisy! They’re shouting, not singing. You can hardly hear the words. So here’s my universe changing idea: Equity For People With Interesting And Varied Mixes On Their iPods That Might Contain Some Punk And Alternative Stuff But There’s Probably A Bit Of Coldplay On There Too If You’re Honest. EFPWIAVMOTiTMCSPAASBTPABOCOTTIYH for short. Or maybe just Equ-i-Pod, thinking about it. Equ-i-pod gives you the chance to become part of Pete Brown’s Beer Blog. That’s right: I’m offering shares in what is currently – according to the judges of last year’s beer writers’ awards and now Wikio – Britain’s second-best beer blog. Equ-i-PodBlog then. No, Equ-i-PodBlogTM. That’s more like it. Equ-i-PodBlogTM will give you a 0.01% share in Pete Brown’s Beer Blog. As a shareholder, you’ll be able to leave comments on my posts – literally becoming part of the blog itself! You can even make suggestions for things you’d like me to write about if you like. Cynics may argue that because Pete Brown’s Beer Blog has no monetary value whatsoever then your shares are worthless. But don’t listen to them. That’s not what it’s really about. It’s more about being part of something exciting that’s got something to do with beer. And anyway, that’s not all you get. I’m also offering a lifetime discount on purchases of my books (conditional on you buying them through Amazon – it’s currently 40% off Hops & Glory I think). So: Equ-i-PodBlogTM is more up-to-date and inclusive than Equity for Punks. Equ-i-PodBlogTM gives you something even better than a genuine stake in an exciting, iconoclastic and rapidly expanding brewery. And thirdly, Equ-i-PodBlogTM is way, way cheaper than what Brew Dog are doing. I’m not going to ask you for £230 a share. I’m not going to ask you for £100 a share. I’m not even going to ask you for £50 a share. A tenner. Oh go on then, a fiver. A crisp fiver, and tell you what, I’ll give you three shares. You can’t say fairer than that. I’m robbing myself blind here. I’ll be having a pint to launch it at the Rake, probably, some time over the weekend. Tell your friends. Link to my blog by any means possible. Have a heated debate in the comments section. Twitter as if your life depended on it. Drive more traffic to my blog. Because now, it’s your blog too. And James and Martin – enjoy the view from up there at number one. Enjoy it while you still can, boys.