There was a time when I might have found a personal surmising of my own last 12 months a little self-indulgent. It is negativity within me that I am trying to shake off, but we will get to that later on in this seemingly endless ramble.
2013 was a year that can lend itself to the old cliché of being full of highs and lows; positives and negatives. Though I could be truly narcissistic and talk of my personal life at this point, I rather refer to my life within the beer world and my time as a blogger.
In drinking and sampling terms I’ve supped some truly memorable beverages. I never came around to writing my own Golden Pints for the year, partly for I was too busy writing a Beer Advent Calendar post each day, partly because I fear I could open my “beer of the year” at 11.59pm 31st December and partly because I find it too difficult to complete every category. Luckily, when it comes to remembering beers, I’ve got a blog for reference. Easily the two best beers I drank last year were the Mikkeller/3 Floyd’s collaboration Hvedegoop and Clown Shoes’ Vampire Slayer – each meriting blog posts about them. Closer to home, though I might not have singled these breweries out initially from the top of my head, after much memory mining I recall how I was always impressed by both Moor Brewing and Beavertown. Moor’s Hoppiness and Beavertown’s Black Betty were two of the beery highlights of the year and I was surprised just how much I enjoyed their collaboration beer RYPA.
The drinking lows, or at least disappointments, came with the interminable stream of sour beer releases. Yes my taste preferences make this one of my least favourite styles of beer but I can still appreciate it when it’s done well. Unfortunately, aside from Magic Rock’s Salty Kiss, I never tasted anything that came close in quality to the classic Cantillon Lambics, the unbeaten Duchesse de Bourgogne or the Brett-strained Orval. I was continually disappointed when hearing of a brewery’s new release to find that it was a Raspberry Sour or Pineapple Goze. I really hope we’re done with this fad.
The beer festival and beer events scene was a little quiet for me this year. My only Meet the Brewer was with Toby at Red Willow at the Grove, Huddersfield. Besides that and a Christmas meal at BrewDog Manchester, I can’t recall attending much. Even beer festival attendance was lower this year, despite the bigger array on offer, with Indy Man Beer Con being the outstanding highlight after we said goodbye to Manchester’s NWAF in January. I really must make more of an effort to attend these events this year. I’ve still never attended the Great British Beer Festival. I also missed out on such Twitter raved events as Birmingham Cubed, Liverpool Craft Beer Expo and Leeds International Beer Festival much to my consternation. I guess it’s partly due to having company. Though I attended Indy Man with a seven strong team, they were all Mancs who were not, if I can be so bold, experts and will not travel further afield with me. I need to find me some beery companions (or start dragging the missus along.)
For this blog it was an unusual year, if not a tricky second season. Finding time to blog in the early months wasn’t always easy. My inner doubts and turmoil meant that, once more, numerous posts went written but unpublished. I used this blog to get personal on a close subject for the first time and appreciated the social media feedback. However, in general, though my blog views were five times what they were in its first year, I felt the comments and feedback weren’t as consistent, aside from an astronomical post about Brewdog in March. Popular Google searches for posts regarding Indy Man Beer Con, Liverpool Craft Beer Bars and Transpennine Ale Trail still get consistent views each week.
Sometime around the middle of this year I became a little disillusioned with the internet beer scene. There was a lot of change that I didn’t like. A couple of blogs I’d previously enjoyed started to become a little less subjective and a little less critical. Why would this bother me? Well, because I soon realised it was due to the amount of free booze they were receiving. The older bloggers have always offered transparency on such transactions but for some of the newcomers, perhaps still too starry eyed about receiving free gifts, they are quick to offer rave reviews to anything that’s free, possibly in the hope of receiving more. I didn’t like it, I took a step back, tweeted less, posted less controversial posts in the fear I’d start offending these offenders. In doing so I became a little anonymous on social media again. People I’d tweeted previously would stop replying to my tweets as if I wasn’t worth the time. Everything felt a little clique.
But it’s time to stop worrying about such things and look forward once more. I’ve stopped thinking bad of others and concentrated on who I am. I don’t have the same amount of time or devotion to focus on Twitter or Facebook or even this blog as much as I need to make something of it, but that isn’t the fault of anybody else. I hope I can become more involved this year, attend more events, write more interesting posts visit the pub more often, but I have to do those things myself. The pub – there’s an important issue. I visited my favourite local only around 5 or 6 times over the calendar year missing out on plenty of great beer and plenty of great socialising. Gone are the days when there were drawings of me behind the bar and I was friends with everyone; now the landlord barely gives me an acknowledgement. Sure, 122 check-ins on Untappd to Stalybridge Buffet Bar suggests there is still a pub I visit frequently, but it isn’t MY pub. I need to work on that this year.
The year will start with the usual drying out period. Just the ten days this time as Huddersfield Town are at home on the 11th and I’m not going to a match without visiting the Grove. It’s still a necessity for many at this time of year, whether you refer to it as Dryathlon or something else and should not be ridiculed or discouraged. I did two weeks last January and felt much better in myself, especially when I had my first deserved beer of the year in the Font Bar.
From a drinking perspective, there are a few things I want to focus on this year. The first is returning to beers. I’ve already mentioned just how good Moor’s Hoppiness was – but the fact is I haven’t rushed back to buy it despite how excellent it is. I have a huge focus on trying every beer available to me, rather than drinking what I’ve enjoyed. I need to change that. The second has already started and that is to return to the German and Belgian beers. These were the beers that first developed my palate, yet they have been forgotten in favour of the newer British and American “craft” brewing scene. A visit to Belgium in November reminded me just how much I love Belgian beers – and just how many I haven’t tried yet. You know, it occurred to me the other day that I’ve never had a Malheur beer. Disgraceful. I even had a disappointing moment this year when I bought all the hop reserve/select versions of beers like Duvel, Kasteel and Hopus and then realised I’d never had regular Hopus and hadn’t sat and enjoyed a Duvel in years. I must change this.
I’d like to start home brewing one day but whether 2014 will be the year I do not know. I’d only do it on a small, informal basis anyway. I am waiting to be in a new home to start and hopefully that will be before the year is through.
It’s the year to be a little friendlier, a little more optimistic and a little more relaxed. After all this isn’t my profession, career or what pays the bills. It’s a hobby and one I enjoy very much. I hope to love it even more this year. I hope to meet some more of my kin. I hope it never becomes a chore. Happy new year to you all.