At the dying embers of 2011, it's time to not only look forward to the New Year ahead of us but also to pause and take a few moments to reflect on the year that's coming to a close.
As someone who enjoys beer and writing the odd blogpost about the stuff, 2011 has been a fine vintage that's delivered a feast aplenty of great beer, new breweries and the wider choice and opportunity to experience and enjoy, what I believe is, the world's greatest beverage.
So, on the last day of the year, let me review the year in beer as witnessed from not just my own personal experience but also through the eyes of other beer bloggers.
January started the way December had finished; in some pub or other having a beer. This time, I was in The Bon Accord in Glasgow for the cask launch of two BrewDog beers; their Alice Porter and their new 'improved' 5.4% abv Punk IPA. It was the last time that I was to have BrewDog cask. Haven't seen it since, won't see it again as they have announced that it is cask no more from the Fraserburgh brewing upstarts turned 'national treasures'. Which is a shame as they used to make such nice beers.
What ever happened to BrewDog?
Are they still on the go?
In other news, two thirds of a pint beer glasses, known as schooners, become legal for use in British pubs. In a tasteless PR stunt, BrewDog (remember them?) stick a four foot five inch dwarf in safety pinned combats and a mohawk outside the Houses of Parliament and try and claim some, belated, credit for the law change.
Elsewhere, Mr RabidBarfly kept a note of his daily intake of booze during the month of January. It made for excruciatingly painful reading. Here's hoping he doesn't repeat it again in 2012.
There's nothing quite like a trip on the train in the pursuit of lovely pints of well made beer to banish the mid winter blues. So when February offered up the opportunity of a trip to York to meet thirty other like minded beery souls for a Twissup, I jumped at the chance. York is a wonderful place for a beer weekend. It's got charm, history and antiquity in equal measure and some fantastic pubs too. Highly recommended.
Elsewhere in the beer world, Molson Coors spend a Sharp £20 million buying some Cornish beer. It seems to have paid off judging by this article. InBev and Stella attempt to enter the fermented apple market by launching Cidre just as Cider sales take a nose dive. And this blogger has a pop at 'Kevin' from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) while the debates over Keg versus Cask and the use of the words 'Craft Beer' rolls on and on.......
March was Budget time and brewers, landlords and beer drinkers felt a hammer blow as a 7.2% rise in beer duty was announced by the Chancellor. Also introduced was a new additional duty on any beer over 7.5%. The pubs industry were up in arms citing that these increases could lead to 10,000 jobs being lost and would increase the rate of pub closures across the UK. The increase meant that beer duty in the UK is 8 times higher than France and 12 times higher than Germany.
Yet again, the Chancellor chose to see beer drinkers and the price of a pint as easy targets and convenient cash cows. You would have expected brewers, publicans and drinkers to be fundamentally opposed to this increase. They were. With one exception.
BrewDog, "wholeheartedly" backed the Chancellor's proposals saying they were "a blessing for Craft Beer" and that "increases in duty can only help to get more people to drink better quality beer". With beer friends like these, who needs enemies.
The month begins with a flurry of April Foolery as spoof beer blogs appear that chuckle and amuse. This hilarity is shortlived when a heavily hyperbolic and passionate blog post fires off a clusterfuck of anti-Camra invective that fanned the flames of a debate that burned bright but not necessarily with much heat.
The Tories in power, record levels of unemployment, recession, angry and disaffected youth on the streets and an increased sense of hopelessness and disillussionment across the country can only mean one thing;
a Royal wedding and an extra day off work. I spent my day off work arranging the tables, sorting out the bunting and making cheese, pineapple and pickled onion hedgehogs for our much anticipated street party.
No. I. Didn't.
I spent it at The Paisley Beer Festival, pulling pints and helping the punters drink the foreign bar dry. Many saw the day off as an excuse for an extra days drinking, away from the deferential sychophancy fest that was the blanket TV coverage on Royal Wedding Friday. Paisley Beer Festival was Camra's Big Society in action and hats off to Alesela for saving the day.
It all goes a bit 'radio rental' in May when Camra chairman, Colin Valentine, in a keynote speech at the organisation's AGM, has a pop at the beer 'bloggerati' for having the cheek and temerity of talking up beer and encouraging others to try something new and different.
Unfortunately for Colin, someone records it and posts it on YouTube.
The comments go down like a pork pie buffet at a vegan convention and a few people get all twisty knickered over it.
Remember Beerleaks?? The website set up to expose the dodgy dealings and beer myths of the brewing multinationals and get you drinking more 'craft' beer', only to disappear a couple of days after it launched when it was pointed out that a certain Fraserburgh brewer had previously used clear glass bottles. Half cocked, kneekerk, clueless and ultimately, very embarassing for all involved.
In other parts of the beer world, Reluctant Scooper sings us a song, Pete Brown vents his spleen and Mr RabidBarfly goes to Manchester.
With summer just around the corner, my thoughts turn to lovely, golden hoppy beers and June was the month that I first came in to contact with a brewery that makes superbly hoppy and flavour packed beers, The Tempest Brewing Co. My first pint of Tempest was in June at The Scottish Real Ale Festival when I had a pint or two of their Rye PA. I was to later immerse myself in a night of nothing but Tempest at their Tap Takeover event at Edinburgh's Bow Bar.
Finally, to finish off Part One of A Year in Beer, I'll leave you with a nice little parody of 'Craft' brewing.
Part two tomorrow.