UPDATE: Golden Posts 2014

(‘Beer cans’ by Michelle Tribe, from Flickr, under Creative Commons)

You may or may not remember a post I wrote back in *adjusts spectacles, squints at screen* February, in which I proposed an end-of-year celebration of the best beer blogs and blogposts, The Golden Posts, in a similar fashion to The Golden Pints.

Whilst we all generally get along and say “good post!” and argue in each others’ comments feeds, there’s not that much actual feedback in the blogoshire, or indeed any formal celebration of particular blog posts. Bloggers can submit their work to the annual awards held by the British Guild of Beer Writers (whether they are members of the Guild or not), but I don’t think that this (currently) adequately caters for the diversity of beer blogging, or indeed the sheer number of us.

The other reason I want to do the Golden Posts this year is because I’m really interested in what everyone’s personal tastes are when it comes to beer blogs, and whether, year-on-year, any identifiable trends emerge. Each tired sigh from the crypt of “is beer blogging dead?” (accompanied by the rattling of chains, creaking of doors and so on) suggests to me a suffocating, numbing ignorance of just how many great beer blogs are out there, so I hope The Golden Posts could help people find new, great blogs.

My suggestions for categories were: Best History Post, Best Impassioned Rant, Best Pub Post, Best Palate Post, Best Beer Travel Post, Funniest Post and an Open Category.

Initial feedback was positive, though there were several requests for a video category. I’ve thought about this a bit and decided that whilst there’s a lot more video bloggers these days, I’m not sure there are really enough to compete against each other on a level playing field. Most are trying to be different to each other, or are hard to compare directly.

However, there are several that are still more than worthy of praise, so I’ve decided to make the Open Category even more open: it can now be ANYTHING posted online about beer that you think is worthy of everyone’s attention and praise. Abstract blog posts that don’t fit in the other categories, tweets, Vines and indeed videos of any kind. If loads of people pick different videos, I’ll take that as evidence to include a video category next time, or something.

I’ve also adjusted the descriptions and names of a couple. Impassioned Rant could also be a professionally written Op-Ed sort of piece that firmly nails the author’s colours to the mast on a specific issue, and the Best Palate Post can also be one that shows off some beer and food skills whether in recipe/pairing/description etc.

So, the Final Categories are:

  • Best History Post (a post that covers, explains, or unveils a fascinating bit of beer or pub-related history)
  • Best Impassioned Rant/Op-Ed (a post that has JUST ABOUT *HAD IT* with a particular issue, but makes some damn good points too)
  • Best Pub Post (a post that shines a light onto a particular pub, and makes us want to be there with the author)
  • Best Palate Post (a post that showcases the dazzling, laser-accurate palate of a gifted taster and bring the description of a beer or beers to life. This might also be a post that demonstrates a masterful food and beer pairing/recipe)
  • Best Beer Travel Post (a post that really takes you somewhere and gets well-refreshed/rowdy/locked up in a foreign jail to boot)
  • Funniest Post (a post that… *giggle*…I mean, the way it… it… *guffaws*… it’s just absolutely *sobs, falls off chair*)
  • Open Category (anything posted online about beer that impressed you – whether it’s a video, tweet, Vine or photo, or a beer blog post that inspired you, amazed you, had great photos, personal significance or otherwise is deserving of praise but doesn’t fit in any other category)

One winner per category, please, but feel free to note any honourable mentions/runners-up. Most importantly, tell us why that post is a winner, and what the blogger in question did right. Tell the world about your Golden Posts in a blog post around the end of the year, or by tweet/Facebook/series of Vines stitched together, and I’ll do some kind of round-up. Hashtag your tweets #GoldenPosts and/or send an email with a link to cshallwriter[at]gmail[dot]com.

But wait! some of you cry, I want to take part in the Golden Posts but I:

  1. didn’t know you’d suggested doing so;
  2. can’t think of any posts to give awards to; and/or
  3. saw you say something about this but totally forgot.

No problem. I’ve thought of some prompts to help you remember posts you might have particularly enjoyed this year to get you rolling. Make some notes on them, use apps like Pocket etc., or perhaps start a draft blog post now that you add to as the year goes on. Here are some little prompts:

  • What beer festivals/beer launches/dinners/tasting events have you been to this year, or really enjoyed reading about?
  • Which are your favourite blogs to read, and why?
  • Have you bought any books by beer writers this year, and do you like their blogs?
  • Did you read a blog this year that inspired you to write something yourself?
  • Did you read a blog this year that convinced you to try a new beer, or revisit one you don’t like?
  • Have you planned to go on a beery holiday or trip somewhere because of a great blog post you read?
  • Did you start following someone on Twitter/Facebook etc. on the strength of a post you read?

I hope those help. I’ll be doing my Golden Posts at some point in December, and I’ll try to remind everyone again closer to the time. I’m really looking forward to seeing what people pick this year, and thanks in advance to everyone who wants to participate. Cheers!

 

UPDATE (20/11/14): I’m planning to post my #GoldenPosts blog in the first week of December. Feel free to join me in the opening week, or wait and have a read to get the idea before taking the plunge.

 

Golden Posts 2014?

(‘Beer cans’ by Michelle Tribe, from Flickr, under Creative Commons)

At the British Guild of Beer Writers‘ Awards Dinner in December, Pete Brown, last year’s winner of the Golden Tankard, was on the judging panel and made some very astute comments on the state of beer writing, and particularly online.

Pete took charge of judging the Online Media category, where there were more submissions than in any other, and more than ever before. No longer are we as beer writers restricted to the written word. Podcasts, video reviews and more all make up part of the online beer landscape, and comparing them directly is particularly difficult. In the end though, those that took home prizes were all bloggers and writers, using the written word alone to further the cause of good beer.

Pete noted that many more online beer writers deserved awards than just Richard Taylor and Adrian Tierney-Jones, and I was dumbstruck to hear my own name given an honourable mention alongside previous Silver Award winner Jerry Bartlett. As well as being enormously proud just to hear my name said out loud by a man with a microphone, I was struck by the fact that online beer writing must surely now outweigh the conventional printed word.

I think the Guild does a great job of recognising those that deserve acclaim annually, but in the modern world of beer writing, that might not be enough. In fact, hell, it isn’t enough, okay? There are people (not me, admittedly) who bust their chops in the blogoshire every hop damn day, fighting The Good Fight.

Some do enormous, inspiring, epic pieces. Others write in a solid, unyielding crusade on a single issue. Others still have a voice that is just so compelling that anything they write becomes essential reading. So, in recognition of this, I’d like to start A New Thing to run alongside Mark Dredge and Andy Mogg ‘s Golden Pints: the Golden Posts. The Golden Pints have an award for best beer blog/website, but as a single award I don’t think it adequately reflects the breadth of online beer writing anymore, which is a Really Good Thing.

I think the categories can be flexible. Off the top of my head:

Best History Blogpost – a piece that uncovered something truly interesting from the history of beer and pubs, whether that’s something poignant, weird, academic, esoteric, important or frivolous.

Best Impassioned Rant – we’ve all been there. “THIS JUST ISN’T RIGHT!” The words come tumbling out, the language gets colourful, the issue gets red hot and everyone’s going on about it. These are the pieces that start riots, but they might also be deeply-felt, well-reasoned and just as convincing.

Best Pub Piece – Most likely a pub review, but not always. Maybe they just ended up at a pub, and described it perfectly. It’s most probably a piece that champions the pub, but there’s no reason it can’t be a This Pub is What Is Wrong With The Industry type thing. Maybe they found out a great story, or had a Herculean session, or became the stars of a great story as a result. Maybe the piece just gave you a warm, fuzzy feeling about how great pubs are.

Best Palate Post – We all read a lot of beer flavour descriptors now. Often, far too many. Sometimes, people are just listing fruits they can name. Not this blogger. Whether this person has had professional training or not, they seem to pick out the most inspired flavours, and you can tell they aren’t just making it up. Their palate is a finely-honed instrument, challenged by unusual beers but never bested by them. Pick a particular post that demonstrates this.

Best Beer Travel Post – This piece will have taken us somewhere exotic or familiar, but in any case it really took us there. Simply, the best beer-oriented travel piece you’ve read. It should make you want to go to that place immediately, or at least make you seriously consider it. Maybe they went to a brewery, or a city, or a city full of breweries, fifty pubs, then fell in a ditch. Someone write that.

Funniest Post – Think of pieces that took an irreverent or satirical look at an issue everyone has scrapped over. The kind of piece that cuts right to the quick, makes you laugh at the beer scene, or even yourself. Maybe it was controversial and close to the bone, perhaps it was just a warm-hearted jest with just the right amount of cheekiness. Laughing Out Loud at the very least.

Open Category – This could be anything. Maybe you want to award a particular blogpost for cheering you up on a particularly rough commute, or it introduced you to your new favourite brewery. Maybe the post just has fantastic photography, or has personal significance just to you. Beer writing should be evocative, so give this award to the post that deserves recognition but doesn’t fit in anywhere else.

How to go about collating all this, though? It’s hard enough remembering what our favourite beers are. I would suggest apps like Pocket if you read a lot of blogs on your phone or tablet as well as your computer. You could even just have a bookmarked folder you add particularly impressive posts to as you come across them.

I think the Golden Posts is worth a try. It’s more than just clapping each other on the back. There are tonnes of great bloggers out there who aren’t members of the Guild, or they are and their stuff isn’t getting the recognition it deserves. I’m going to do my damnedest to make a list of my favourites as the year goes along. Let me know if you have ideas for categories and ways of collating lists, or any thoughts on the idea at all, in the comments.

UPDATE: After a very positive response, I think the Golden Posts 2014 will be going ahead. A blog post later in the year will confirm the number and name of the categories. Until then, please continue to leave any ideas or suggestions in the comments. Cheers!

Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013

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For the third year running, the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt seeks to find the best beers from participating British brewers and give national distribution deals to the ones that sell best.

Members of the public and trade attend one of four regional events in April and May. The winning beers from each event are given immediate regional distribution (or go into an in-store competition – I know, it’s a bit confusing) and the top three beers from each region then compete in the final in London later this year. A champion and a runner-up are selected from the twelve finalists, both winning a six-month national distribution deal, bragging rights, and – presumably – a massive sales spike.

I attended the selection event for the East region at Vinopolis in London last weekend. It was the first time I have taken part in the Hunt, and I was impressed with the selection of beers. However, it is worth noting that this is a very different kind of competition to other beer competitions or awards. This is all about retail, production and distribution. This is not necessarily the Best Beer in Britain, but rather the Best Beer Made by Brewers Capable of Producing Enough Beer to Serve Every Sainsbury’s Store.

In the selection for the East Region, famous and popular brewers like Oakham, Meantime, St Peter’s and Bateman’s rub shoulders with smaller,  less well-known brewers like Ridgeway, Ole Slewfoot and City of Cambridge. The most striking thing about this is that the increasing number of highly-regarded small London brewers were classed out of the competition by economies of scale. Nevertheless, there were some great beers to try, and it was nice to taste some British beers from outside of London for a change.

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The way the judging worked was thus: each of us had a look at the beers available (all served from bottles of course, some bottle-conditioned and some not), chose eight we wanted to judge, collected them on a tray like some kind of incredible buffet, and selected our four favourites. We then numbered these from 1st to 4th place and submitted our voting card.

You’ll have to excuse my lack of info, here. Whilst I knew the beers were broadly listed by strength (not, to many beer geek’s disapproval, by colour AND strength), the strengths weren’t actually listed on the voting cards. Anyway, here are the transcripts of some beer-splotched tasting notes from my notepad to give you an idea of the beers in the competition:

1. City of Cambridge – Robert Oppenheimer

Underpowered marmalade pale ale. Dry finish, bit of astrigency, pleasant but not a thriller.

2. Ole Slewfoot – Dragon Hall Saison

Appley, sweet/sour biere de garde flavour and texture. Not bad but lacks life. May be due to being poured from a jug, not fresh bottle.

3. Hastings – Pale Ale

Okay fruity pale ale. Needs one or two more different hops to perk it up and provide roundness. Occupies the centre of a lager/pale ale Venn diagram.

4. Oakham – Scarlet Macaw

Lively Yakima-hopped red ale. Bursting with grapefruit, lychee and toffee. A real treat.

5. Bateman’s – Black Pepper Ale

Sweet, biscuity and malt-driven. Weirdly, not peppery enough, despite containing floating bits of black pepper.

6. Compass Brewery – Torp

A raisiny, boozy, pear droppy, biere de garde/ESB superbeer. Loads of character, fruit, punch and finish. Needs pork, stat.

7. Bateman’s – B Bok

Rich, caramel soaked doppelbock. Bitter, sharp, and oozing with class.

8. Ridgeway – Querkus

Oak aged, whisky malt smoked porter. Rounded, smoky and rich, yet smooth enough not to overpower. Perfect for beef.

You’ll probably be able to tell which ones I chose, but I won’t say just in case it breaks the Ancient Law on Supermarket Beer Competition Ballots and I’m banned from ever attending one again.

I’m very interested in seeing what makes it through to the next stage. Will the curious choose the weirder stuff, and will that be enough to displace the likes of Meantime and Bateman’s? A couple of pale ales and bitters will almost certainly make it through, but I hope something weird makes it to the store stage.

After the voting, we were encouraged to go through to the Meet the Brewer area, where you could bend the ear of most of the brewers whose beers you had just tasted, and taste some more if you wished. Oakham, Ole Slewfoot, St Peter’s and Bateman’s all made a great effort, and in fact everyone was very chatty and more than happy to talk at length about beer recipes and where else to find their range. All in all, a great little event, and one that I will look forward to next year. Now then, I just need to get onto that judging panel in the final…

(It’s taken me a week to get this post up, which is pretty poor for a blogger. It’s like I’m blogging via carrier pigeon in war-torn early 20th century Europe. The truth is that I’ve been busy drinking beer, which means there will be a flurry of posts in the next few days to make up for the drought. Huzzah etc.)