Golden Posts 2014

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

 

It seems fitting after a week when beer bloggers Boak & Bailey won the British Guild of Beer Writers’ Golden Tankard to launch the inaugural Golden Posts: a celebration of the best in beer blogging this year. As the year draws to a close, it’s been astonishing to look back and see just how much has happened in the past twelve months.

In beer itself, certain trends continue to emerge, such as the buying of smaller breweries by the very largest ones, whilst others, such as the popularity of canned craft beer, are still growing apace. Most remarkably, 2014 has seen a number of established beer bloggers find professional roles in the industry they write about, confirming not just the importance of skilled, passionate writers in the beer industry, but also the industry itself recognising such writers’ potential.

Elsewhere, there has been a noticeable maturing of the beer blogging scene in the UK. Aside from the notable winning of awards by the likes of Boak and Bailey, Pip Sprake from It Comes In Pints and Mark Dredge, there has also been a noticeable increase in the number of bloggers taking a ‘journalistic’ approach; probing for answers, seeking transparency and uncovering some surprising stories.

There have also been a number of victories in social media, when bloggers have used their influence to tackle organisations large and small over issues like sexism in marketing and questionable business practices. Whilst some of these instances have been viewed by the cynics as the ‘outrage of the week’, they are really fantastic examples of what can be achieved by enough people with the right attitude.

Anyway, without further ado, here are my winners in the first ever Golden Posts:

 

Best History Post: ‘The Snug Bar Preservation Society’ by Boak & Bailey (with photography by Ten Inch Wheels)

Public campaigns to save pubs or aspects of beer culture are nothing new, and this is explained with rich detail by B&B in their fantastic long read from March. It’s a great taster of their style of writing and use of sources that makes Brew Britannia such a good read, and is enriched by some absolutely sublime photography from Ten Inch Wheels. As ever in B&B’s history articles, the most interesting characters are drawn out from the period, and surprisingly familiar opinions from ages past are appreciated in a new light.

Honourable mention:

‘How I nearly found a brewery on my doorstep’ by Martyn Cornell (Zythophile) – As someone who has read a couple of books about the Opium Wars, I found this comprehensive article about the beginning of beer brewing in Hong Kong particularly interesting.

 

Best Impassioned Rant/Op-Ed: Brewmeister – the shame of British brewing by Richard Taylor (The BeerCast)

A category with many contenders, and hardly surprising given the nature of beer blogging. Still, the winner for me had been clear for a long time. Rich’s masterfully-written takedown of Brewmeister was easily one of the most important pieces of beer writing done this year. Flawlessly structured, with every point backed up by hard evidence, it disassembled a widely-reviled brewery with the cool professionalism of a hardened investigative journalist. A fantastic article that went way beyond being a ‘rant’ and actually effected change. (NB: there has been an update in the ongoing Brewmeister saga that shows just how far this story went)

Honourable mentions:

‘The Brewery That Cried Hells’ by Matt Curtis (Total Ales) – A heartfelt but level-headed defence of Camden Town Brewery, in response to one of the year’s more explosive clashes between two UK breweries.

‘The British beer boom: quantity over quality?’ by Connor Murphy (Beer Battered)  – A well-constructed argument espousing the responsibility of brewers to improve craft beer’s quality as well as its availability.

‘CAMRA’s Sexist Young Members Leaflet’ by Rowan Molyneux – A fierce, emotive and rabble-rousing piece that quickly became the forum of discussion on this colossal gaff by CAMRA.

 

Best Pub Post: ‘Sam’s Speakeasy’ by Craig Heap

A ‘fictional account’? A pub that isn’t a pub? The mysteries of Craig’s piece about a nomadic, DIY speakeasy are only exceeded by the compelling narrative and characters, and the very idea itself. But is it really fiction, are the people in it really just characters? The purpose of the piece is to spread the idea at the heart of it, which is a brilliant one indeed, and Craig’s writing is as deft and sharp as ever.

Honourable mentions:

‘The Way the West was Won’ by Andrew Drinkwater – an unashamedly lengthy love letter to BrewDog Shepherd’s Bush, but one that makes its case compellingly and celebrates people and values that are always worth recognising.

‘Zlý Časy and beer help me slip the bonds of surly life’ by Adrian Tierney-Jones – Pure poetry as ever from ATJ, but this piece in particular evoked the sense of drinking along with him, and the final paragraph is glorious.

 

Best Palate Post: ‘Beers Of London Series 77. Dragonfly Brewery – 2 O’clock Ordinary 4.0%’ by Justin Mason

I could have picked from dozens of excellent beer reviews by Justin, who I must admit I always had in mind when creating this category. It was this post though that really stood out for me, about a beer that evoked in him so many personal memories, which sets up the actual tasting of the beer magnificently. A lot of personal truth went into this post, and it makes Justin’s assessment a hundred times more valuable than anything as dull and dry as to be termed ‘objective’.

Honourable mention:

‘So how do you like your beer?’ by Adrian Tierney-Jones – Whilst this piece dabbles with some multimedia sensory perception, it’s that first paragraph that really shines – an unrelenting unravelling of beer vocabulary that is so pleasing to read.

 (Observation: notably fewer posts about food and beer this year. Some about experiencing it, but hardly any about suggesting combinations, recipes, stories behind them)

 

Best Beer Travel Post: ‘Doctor Gonzo Visits The Coromandel’ by Matt Curtis (Total Ales)

This post by Matt Curtis is part of a series about his travels in New Zealand, which are all really worth reading. As a whole they are enormously transportive and also very personal. The framing device of this piece – an encounter with local police on the beach that prompts Matt to recall how he got there – makes it stand out as the pick of the bunch, and he does a great job of capturing Kiwi beer culture.

Honourable mentions:

‘Buxton Brewery Trip’ by Per Steinar at The Evening Brews – more than ‘just’ a brewery trip blog post, Per’s journey to Buxton, around the brewery, the town and its pubs, is just that: a journey. Packed with stories and retains a narrative feel to it.

A series of blog posts about Nuremberg and Bavaria by The Beer Nut – Best enjoyed in one sitting (accompanied by multiple glasses of German beer), this information-rich series of posts shows an impressive amount of note-taking fuelling TBN’s newspaper-quality travel writing.

 

Funniest Post: ‘The future of Craft beer? Be careful what you wish for’ by Richard Taylor (The BeerCast)

Projecting a dark future timeline where craft beer unravels the UK into an IngSoc society of craft beer totalitarianism, Richard perfectly skewers the the best and worst parts of beer culture in a piece that shows the author knows beer and dystopia inside out.

Honourable mention:

A return to Rapture, Cardiff’s first underwater bar by Craig Heap – One for the gaming beer geeks among us, this post (and the previous installment) is a pure nerdgasm crossover of the world of Bioshock and the world of craft beer. Would you kindly read it?

 

Open Category: ‘Pilsner Urquell tour: the men who invented lager’ by the Craft Beer Channel

Whilst I’ve been a fan of YouTube’s the Craft Beer Channel for about as long as it’s been going, I think this video from Jonny and Brad’s trip to the Czech Republic is easily one of their best. It has a great sense of narrative to it, entertaining hosts and great content from start to finish. It’s a sort of brighter, more humour-adept version of one of Michael Jackson’s The Beer Hunter programmes, which is no mean feat.

Honourable mentions:

‘The A to Z of Beer’ by Jamie Oliver’s Drinks Tube (featuring Jonny Garrett and Sarah Warman) – Also featuring Craft Beer Channel’s Jonny, this video from the Drinks Tube brand of the Jamie Oliver network of YouTube channels delivers a fun and accessible series of bite-sized bits of beer information with engaging presenters and a sense of humour.

‘The Vine Diaries’ by Matt Curtis (Total Ales) – A savage journey to the heart of the European Beer Bloggers Conference in Dublin, Matt’s video stitches together every Vine he made on the trip into a 12 minute film that is both magnificent and yet mildly harrowing (for those involved). Warning: contains drunk bloggers throughout.

Well, that’s it for this year. I’m looking forward to seeing what other blogs get recognised by you lot, and I’m hoping that whilst there is some crossover, we’ll all share some pieces that others have missed out on. Oh, and maybe I’ll come up with an actual logo for next year. Cheers!

If you want to take part, post your Golden Posts blog and tweet it at me (@ChrisHallBeer) and/or with the hashtag #GoldenPosts and I’ll include it in a round-up at a later date.

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!