This is always a great time of year to be a beer geek. Beervana and its satellite events are like Woodstock meets Comic-Con meets some kind of secular-and-sudsy pilgrimage. But my week, hectic and exhausting as it undoubtedly was, took a turn for the surreal on Thursday night when I was sitting down at the Brewers’ Guild Awards dinner.
Formal proceedings of any kind aren’t usually My Thing — I don’t own a tie, any kind of proper grown-up clothes, or even a pair of shoes that aren’t my scuffed-and-trusty work boots. But I’ll make an exception for the weddings of friends, and for this. Beer People are My People, and Te Radar (our genuinely-excellent host) was right when he applauded the very real enthusiasm with which the whole room congratulated the individual who got the gong in each category.1 On its best days — which are mercifully in the majority — the craft beer community exemplifies that “rising tide lifts all boats” spirit, and the awards night demonstrated that.
Earlier in the year, the Brewers’ Guild had announced that they were adding a Beer Writer of the Year award to the lineup, and — on the suggestion of a few flatteringly-insistent people — I’d thrown my name in that proverbial hat. Halfway through the evening, my new colleagues at the Garage Project won an award, in what my unreliable memory has come to call the Flavoured And Mucked-About With category for ‘Dark Arts’ (a rather-lovely coffee bock, if I do say so), and I was admiring the surprisingly-functional trophy when James (from the Crafty Pint) began his spiel, quite-rightly praising the work of Alice Galletly (of the marathon and marvellous Beer for a Year blog) and Michael Donaldson (of the Sunday Star-Times, and author of the new Beer Nation book).
Then he mentioned that the possibly-somewhat-left-field winner’s work had entertained him with tales of Kegtris2 and I had a head-spinning realisation and much-appreciated few-moments’ notice before he read my name out. In something of daze, I recall making a few thanks on the night — there are photos of me, and I look like I’m rambling something appropriate, at least — but I’ll take the chance to repeat myself / elaborate:
We punch way above our weight, here in the Little Country. Our craft beer is better than it should be, and so are the things that surround it; the bars, the design work, and the writing. We’ve got a fantastic little-but-growing community of people who give a damn and comment on the scene in various ways. Geoff Griggs, Neil Miller, Kieran Haslett-Moore, Michael Donaldson and a growing collection of bloggers all keep me entertained and informed on a regular basis — and I want to give particular mention to Alice Galletly for her tremendously inspiring project and to Jed Soane for his fantastic photography and his work documenting all aspects of the beer industry; both of them encouraged me to always try to lift my game and always reminded me of the fun of this rather-weird hobby of ours. I desperately wanted to say that it was an “honour just to be nominated” in their company, but the awards were such that they required us to nominate ourselves, which was itself an indescribably weird experience.
Standing in a room full of them, I also wanted to thank all the brewers — whether I liked their beers, or not. Plenty of the latter were in attendance, but it would be quite-literally impossible to write about beer if no one was making it, and I’m well aware that there’s plenty of hard work in each day at a brewery even if things go awry somehow with the end product or if the marketing department go and do something stupid so as to fire up my twitchy rage gland. Special mention must absolutely go to Epic’s Luke Nicholas, Liberty’s Joseph Wood and Yeastie Boys’ Stu McKinlay; three who were particular sources of encouragement (and of web traffic) from the early days.
Then finally: not-habitual-enough thanks are owed to my family and friends; especially George — my podcast partner in crime (and producer extraordinaire), the purchaser of the original Beer Diary itself, and my friend since before I can properly remember3 — and the marvellously-distracting Emma — a spotter of many typos, and tutor in better camera technique, in addition to being a brilliant accomplice in many day off and holiday beers. Taking home that trophy was a genuinely surreal and appreciated moment; I’ll do my best to live up to it, as it looms and leers at me from my bookcase.
And welcome along, new readers! Grab a beer,4 have a flip through the back catalogue and dip into the podcast if you like. I’m sure it’ll take me a while to catch up — it always does —with Beervana, its related events and their beers.5 But there’s always something deliriously good, or grumble-inducingly bad, going on in this business; I’ve never struggled for material despite occasionally fighting to find time.
1: Especially when it was Liberty’s Joseph Wood, collecting a hugely-deserved trophy in the US Ale Styles category for Yakima Monster. He damn-near got a standing ovation, in a hotly-contested class, and accepted his award in his own style: having just swallowed a spoonful of murderous hot sauce.
2: A word I use a lot — and possibly even coined, such is my fondness for the activity itself.
3: Which might not sound like much, coming from me. But you get the idea.
4: Or a cup of tea, or whatever. I don’t only write this thing with a beer at hand, and though many are recommended, none are mandatory.
5: Not that there are terrifically many, when you’re working during these things, it turns out.