In March 2019 I travelled up to Liverpool to deliver the keynote speech at SIBA‘s Beer X conference.
We need to throw open the doors of our echo chamber and have conversations not only with people who do buy craft beer, but also with those people who might be persuaded to – the young people, the people who aren’t drinking so much, the women, the people who drink beer made by multinational, global brewers.
I spoke about the beer ‘echo chamber’. Despite the fact that those of us who inhabit the beer world share many of the same values with people who do not, we sometimes alienate or dismiss them, rather than welcoming them in. I also spoke about the strengths that many independent brewers have to attract new groups of drinkers. The beer world has changed. We need to make sure we are changed too.
Flagship February is an international project designed to celebrate those ‘beers that got us here’, the beers that can sometimes get lost in the constant stream of special releases. I was very honoured to be invited to contribute in the project’s inaugural year.
And now, on that same beach in Cornwall I stand with someone different. I step over the footprints I once left behind and make an entirely new path. My hands touch other hands, hands I hope to hold forever. And though the pub may be different, the beer is the same. Because a beer is not an ex-lover. It’s not unfaithful to return to it from time to time. And it will never, ever break your heart.
I chose to write about a beer that meant a lot to me, and was something of a game-changer in terms of British beer. You can read my essay on St Austell Brewery’s Proper Job right here.
It’s only when it breathes that I know for sure it’s going to live. Until then, I’m never quite convinced I’ve done enough. But the morning after brew day, as I walk downstairs and hear it wheezing into life, taking its first bubbling breaths through the airlock, I know. I wrap my arms around its belly to feel its warmth, and perhaps just the faint beginnings of a heartbeat, and right there, under the bright light of my kitchen, I know I have created life.
I was really pleased to be asked to contribute a piece for this year’s Sheffield Beer Week guide. As a founder of a beer week myself, I know the amount of work that goes into making these events happen, and just how much they can bring to a city in terms of raising it’s profile as a beer destination.
I met Jules Gray – the organiser of Sheffield Beer Week and owner of the award-winning Hop Hideout – back in October at the inaugural Beer Weeks Forum in Norwich. She shared her experience of running such a successful event and I was really taken with her enthusiasm and drive for making things happen.
Because art is about noticing. Noticing when the choices made by a brewer many weeks beforehand throw shadows forward through time. When she has trusted that the aroma will bloom, the bitterness will solidify, the malt sweetness will dance. When she has believed that the paint she has daubed will dry in precisely the way she imagined.
Given Sheffield’s place as a city of art as well as a city of beer, I drew the two together in my piece, ‘Noticing’. Because beer is nothing if it’s not also a work of art.
You can read the piece in its entirety right here.
I interviewed head brewer at Wild Card Brewery, Jaega Wise, for a profile in the Spring 2019 edition of CAMRA‘s Beer Magazine.
Jaega is a well-known figure in the British beer scene. Not only is she a talented brewer, she is also a chemical engineering graduate, singer, TV presenter, campaigner for diversity in the brewing industry and an elected director of SIBA.
“I’ve always said I’m a brewer before I’m a female brewer, before I’m a mixed-race brewer. But I will always do my part to support women, ethnic diversity, lots of different types of people getting into the brewing industry. The goal isn’t reached at all. We’re not even close. Equality is 50 per cent. Why should we be satisfied with anything less?” (Jaega Wise)
I was really pleased to be invited to be a part of Club Soda‘s Mindful Drinking Festival which took place at the Old Truman Brewery on Saturday 12 & Sunday 13 January 2019.
There were thirteen breweries represented at the festival, and some great beers. Low and no alcohol beers have moved on significantly in terms of both quality and range and I enjoyed showcasing a number of great examples in my festival beer tours and talk. Some of the standouts for me were Adnam’s Alcohol-Free Ghost Ship, which I’m really pleased to see is available on draft; Braxzz porter – apparently the world’s first alcohol-free porter; and the tasty low-alcohol alternatives from Small Beer Brew Co.
Like all Club Soda events, the Mindful Drinking Festival was friendly and welcoming, and full of a diverse, enthusiastic crowd, ready to explore some great alternatives to alcohol. I look forward to heading along to future festivals – after all, this scene can only get better!