Another year in the drink?

“… and for his Posterous blog, the Runner-up award for Best Online Communication goes to Maltjerry, otherwise known as Jerry Bartlett”. Pete Brown said these words. Not just any-old Pete Brown either. This one was the head judge in the Beer Writer of the Year competition for the  British Guild of Beer Writers, and outgoing Beer Writer of the Year 2009-10.

It was quite easily my favourite combinations of words spoken or written in the whole of 2010 – and Pete has had some really interesting things to say, this year. Not that I won the highest prize, but to come from nowhere to this recognition for my blog made me very happy. Allow me this small moment of indulgence, and I promise I won’t be Beer Witterer of 2011.

Lists of beers and whiskies of the year don’t hold the same fascination for me as lists of best films or CDs, so instead, here are some of my event highlights of 2010.

The Euston Tap opened in London (just outside Euston Station). This was the latest in a growing number of outlets dedicated to craft beers of different styles – not just traditional cask ales. I wrote when it opened that it represented a step forward for beer culture in the UK, because of the possible exposure to a non-beer-geek audience. I still think that is right, but it has a fair way to go to catch up with the excellent Rake Bar at Borough Market, or indeed the Bishops Arms chain in Sweden. Admittedly, it is not as bedded in.

I was at The Euston Tap on the afternoon the Arsenal vs. Blackpool match fell victim to the snow. The handful of football-deprived Arsenal fans, was just that – a handful for the the understaffed session. How would you answer requests for “a lager” when you have on offer of the finest examples of the style known to beerkind? But this presents an opportunity, which is exactly why the Euston Tap is such an important place for improving our beer culture (!) for the better.

The most satisfying beer moment for me occurred at Borough Market, but not at the Rake, but Brew Wharf, where I took a gang of my former Antarctic travelling companions. This pub and restaurant in the modern craft beer style, where the menu suggests a beer match for every item on the menu; yes, even desserts. Matching different beer styles to different foods really does engage the interest of people who might otherwise drink wine with a meal. Susanne, the 19 year-old daughter of Aussie friends provided me with my beer moment for 2010 by saying, “I had no idea that beer could be so flavourful or varied.” I will spend more time on the subject of beer with food in the coming year.

The Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival in September was probably the best yet. I was a jury member in the whisky competition for the 15th year, tasting a taste-bud-challenging number of whiskies – over 300, a number I hope will be reduced significantly next time out. We still had enough taste to pick a cracking bunch of winners. The festival itself was a triumph for Swedish microbreweries; their room was packed to the rafters almost every session.

Edinburgh provided my other whisky highlight. I was there with friends who share a love of the music of 70s progressive rock legends Gentle Giant. I took along a bottle of Talisker 1993 Distillers Edition to share in the hospitality suite. A total delight for me to be able to turn a fair few people on to the delights of malt whisky, including drummer John “Pugwash” Weathers. On our tour of Tullibardine distillery, it was Mr Weathers who thought his way through to the origins of the Irish word for moonshine: poteen.  

I’ll leave the post for what to expect in 2011 to another day. Meanwhile, here’s some links for you.

Pete Brown writes about Stella Black. This rant about a new beer from the makers of Stella Artois still makes me laugh.
The Rake Bar blog
The Beer Sweden blog has dinner with Garret Oliver, the foremost expert in matching beer with food.

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