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.
‘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)
‘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.
‘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’.
‘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.
‘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.
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.
‘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.