You’re looking at the tankard for runner-up! #BGBW

 

A quick update to my rapidly posted photo from the Awards Dinner.

I’m chuffed, to say the least. I’m still feeling quite shell-shocked, but it’s official, the engraving on the tankard still reads:

The British Guild of Beer Writers
Brains SA Gold
Best Online Communication
Runner up 2010
Jerry Bartlett

Mark Dredge was the winner in this category and he is well worth it, because he is a very engaging writer, always has interesting topics, and uses social media very skillfully.
See Mark’s Pencil and Spoon blog.

I feel like I really ought to come up with a post today to justify my award, but it will have to wait. If you would like to read the entries I submitted for the competition, they start with Fullers Brewery Trip: A Blogger’s Tale, and end with the Carlsberg’s Dastardly Plot exposed post.

I’m off out to celebrate at the White Horse Old Ales Festival. Last night I had an Ardbeg Supernova 2010 when I got in, and then about 4 hours sleep. Time now to celebrate with a beer.


Sent using a Sony Ericsson mobile phone (and then updated at home).

British Beer Writers Guild annual awards dinner #BGBW Tonight!

The most exciting thing to happen as a result of this blog. I’m thrilled to be invited. I’ll be on the table hosted by John Roberts, MD of Fullers brewery. Last time I got this dressed up was to go to Number 10 with MaltCim.

Food is by Sriram Aylur of the Michelin starred Quilon restaurant. Beer and food matching should be something to watch.

Will keep you posted on Twitter.

Woking Beer Festival: The Return of the Native

A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time of, well, lunch, rather than twilight, as it had been in the opening line of Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native. And as I was seeing Woking Park embrown itself instead of Egden Heath, it could only mean I was on my way to the Woking Beer Festival.

Woking might not seem an obvious addition to a calendar of Around the Year in Beer Festivals that started in Stockholm, and I hope will go on to include Copenhagen, Manchester and Denver, but in my split-level existence, it is one that I can call local – the laziest travellog? Perhaps, but it’s hard to pass up a beer festival that you can walk home from, especially when it’s as good as this. Anyway, you need to know home culture before you can properly assess “abroad”.

It was the prospect of BrewDog 5 AM Saint that got me salivating as we walked to the venue: Woking Leisure Centre. I was priming MaltCim, Nathan and Tom on what to hunt down. In fact, so intent was I in getting to there I had forgotten to go to the cashpoint. Heroically, MaltCim offered to zip off to the ATM while we made sure the 5AM Saint was still on. “I’ll save you a sip.” I said, rather unheroically.

The remains of the BrewDog 5AM Saint, waiting for MaltCim at the Woking Beer Festival 2010

This was the second time the four of us had been to Woking beer festival, but it’s the 17th time it’s been held. The Leisure Centre is just across the road from Woking Football Club. If the town’s football is played in the lower echelons of the soccer hierarchy, the beer festival is grand enough and has a range of beers that might push it into the top division of festivals organised by CAMRA.

No hanging around finding starter beers; straight to the 5 AM Saint. I really liked the bottled version (from Morissons), but this cask is very special: incredibly aromatic with passion fruit, lychees, and pineapple. But if you think you’d be better off with a fruit salad in a Chinese restaurant, the taste leaves you in no doubt this is a beer: richly malty and bitter, with a fight between the exotic fruit and resiny bitterness as you swallow.

MaltCim shows up with the cash, and I have indeed saved her a sip. “What do you think of this?” we enthuse. “It’s tastes a bit soggy,” she says. Oh well, maybe these Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe hops aren’t for everybody. She goes instead for a Bottle Wreck, a porter style from Hammerpot in Sussex. MaltCim has long been an acolyte of the Dark Side.

I like the Woking fest because it is a very friendly, down-to-earth and local festival. It gives flavour of southern England outside London. Not quite Hardy-esque, I admit, but it’s the sort of festival you’d bring the Swedish side of your family to (which we did a couple of years back). And if the location is generic-looking, it makes up for it by having a real-live, old fashioned Wurlitzer cinema organ, which is used to full effect every session for a rousing sing-along.

It’s quite a big festival, by anyone’s standards, with 75 cask ales, some ciders and perries, a respectable “foreign” bar that mostly has Belgian bottled beers. There is a healthy proprotion of micros from London and the South East: Twickenham, Sambrook, Surrey Hills, Ascot… good marks for that. But what elevates the festival for me is the smattering of craft beer gems brought from around the country. As well as the BrewDog, there’s Thornbridge, Marble, and Saltaire.

The pick from Saltaire on show this time was the Blackberry Cascade. It might sound a bit gimmicky, but the addition of blackberry was subtle, and with the American Cascade hops and good juicy flavours from the malt made me wonder who has the ideas for these brews. Somebody at Saltaire has a real feel for flavour combination.

Saturday afternoon turns towards evening and before time is called for this session, there’s one last call to the Foreign stand for an exclusive carry-out or two, and out back across Woking park. I’ll be there again next November, and so should you; Woking is just 30 minutes from Waterloo Station. And maybe I’ll get around to reading past the first sentence of The Return of the Native.

Woking Beer Festival 2010 Beer List

Proper quotes from Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native

Monty Python’s Novel Writing Sketch (whence my intro)

Saltaire Brewery website

Twitter tasting of Balblair 1989 and 2000 vintages

Follow the twasting on Twitter by searching the hashtag #balblair

This is Euston Tap!

Well, here it is! Pre #zappafest drinks marble Pint and Thornbridge Wild Swan. Halves of course. Fellow customers who have stumbled upon seem equallly fascinated and mesmerised.

The Euston Tap: the opening of a landmark?

It’s Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes’ Night, call it what you will, but on the British craft beer scene, there is a wholly different cause for celebration. Tonight sees the opening of the “Euston Tap Craft Beer House”. I’ll avoid cliched references to fireworks and explosives; but I think it’s worth marking. 2009 Beer Writer of the year, Pete Brown says his blogspot post about the opening has generated huge amounts of traffic, relatively speaking. Great, but I really hope it is more than just a beer geek’s bar.

Euston_tap_building

The Euston Tap has been set up in the famous stone gatehouse of Euston Station. And, as a “craft beer house” it is not unprecedented. It is brought to us by the people who do the Sheffield Tap – a highly-acclaimed craft beer “house” in, you guessed it – Sheffield rail station. And there, for me, lies the significance.

So what’s all the fuss about and what is craft beer anyway? As I wrote about in the post about the Hampton Court beer festival “Cask jousts with keg”, the moral beer high ground in Britain of so-called real ale is under challenge from largely, small breweries in North America. These breweries – some not so small now, inspired by CAMRA and traditional beer styles from all over Europe have gone back to the artisinal as a reaction to the mass produced. Hence, craft beer. On top of this, they have stuffed in more and different exotic hops and malt types to produce their own new styles: double IPA, American pale ale, black IPA. It’s beer, Jim, but not as we know it.

Along with a growing number of people, it’s a movement that has made me change the way I think about drinking beer. I picked up on it in Sweden, where the Bishops Arms chain of pubs has championed craft beer for a number of years. It’s like an extreme free house – always something to keep me coming back to test what’s new.

I always missed the Bishops when I was back in the UK. Of course, I love the easy access to the fine cask ale (real ale) that we have in the UK, and pub chains such as Wetherspoons and Ember Inns often have a great and changing line-up of beers. But look at what the Euston Tap has to offer: 8 cask and 19 quality keg beers. I’m not talking about John Smiths Smooth or Stella, here, but real-deal, unpasteurized Czech lager and mammoth IPAs from the likes of Dogfish Head from Delaware. The cask ale promises to be stellar too, with at least three from Buxton’s Thornbridge and three from Manchester’s Marble.

So, back to the fuss… What excites me is this is the second “Tap” and the first in London. And being in London it’s likely to be seen by more people – meaning no disrespect to the wonderful city of Sheffield, and certainly no disrespect to The Rake at Borough Market or Leeds’ “legendary” North Bar. The South must be slow to catch on, but I’m hoping The Euston Tap has the clout and capacity to light the blue touchpaper (Damn! I nearly made it through the article without Guy Fawkes). It does look like the great use of a landmark building, but is it the landmark for craft beer in the UK I’m hoping for? Is this the UK’s Bishops Arms?

Tonight’s opening might be one of those times, like that first Sex Pistols gig in Manchester; if everybody who said they were there actually was, you’d have needed Wembley Arena.  I won’t be there, but I will be going on Saturday, and I will be taking my mates for a Christmas beer there. Are they ready for it? Are we ready for it? I really think so.

The Euston Tap Craft Beer House opens Friday, 5th November (Facebook Group)
The Bishops Arms (Swedish)
Thornbridge Brewery
Marble Brewery
Dogfish Head Brewery