Dear Reader / Bend when you can / Snap when you have to / Dear Reader / You don't have to answer just 'cause they asked you
My beer stash still mostly lives in the shed. In 2022 it was subjected to varying temperatures across 50°C.
The argument about beer storage has always been one that I have longed to debunk. Whilst temperature control is beneficial to the beer, it also stands alongside the myth of "Drink Fresh" in its importance. I had a couple of beers over Christmas that have lived through July's 39°C and December's -11°C and lived to tell the tale. Not just lived but enjoyed themselves.
In beer terms, that was all I could remember from 2022; aggressively tapping my foot at my work desk as I wondered whether my beer at home had evaporated or frozen. Then I went to the pub after work and didn't drink any of it anyway.
The previous 12 months were supposed to be the year that we came out of a post-lockdown, post-quarantine Britain into the new neighbourly daylight; a world that Percy the Park Keeper would love. Business would thrive. People would be charitable. The future would be brighter. People were optimists, which was incredibly foolish.
Still, we are here for the positives and so I will reflect on some of my beer highlights of the year, to try and remember that there's some good in this world (and it is worth fighting for, Mr Frodo.)
|Southampton Arms, London
You would break your back to make me break a smile / You know how much I hate that everybody just expects me to bounce back
Trips this year were fairly limited. There are a host of reasons for this - pandemic unease and financial anxiety being just a couple. The largest though was the arrival of somebody into our lives in May. He took over. He controlled day-to-day social opportunities. He put an end to many a Saturday outing. And I couldn't care less. If he couldn't come with me then I didn't really want to go.
Pub trips had occurred before May though and featured heavily in my posts about football or "The Ten Pubs That Made Me" series, though none of the bars from there really stuck with me.
Unlike The Southampton Arms in London. A predictable mention perhaps, as a place that many are familiar with, but one that I hadn't loved until May 2022. It is ... perfect. A pub by my design. From the Poets Corner to the most perfect cask line-up I'd ever seen. Those Twitter threads that you see every few months of people designing their perfect bar line-up - they've done it here.
Also added to the list of Top Ten Pubs in the country in 2022 is The Blue Bell in York. Another that I'd been to in previous years but caught at too busy times to appreciate. However, an hour on a week day in November was enough to cement it in my heart. I was instantly at home here with a pint of the Brass Castle brewed house beer and a cosy corner that filled quickly. I didn't want to leave.
|North Riding Hotel, Scarborough
Some journeys though are worth the wait. Some places are worth the admission price alone. Long had I waited to visit North Riding Hotel and Brew Pub in Scarbrough, to visit the spiritual home of one of my favourite breweries, and the time finally came in April. It didn't disappoint. It is a beer luminary in the body of a traditional pub. It was more than I hoped and is now one of my favourite places. Annual returns may be required.
A quick word on other places of note. A first trip to Birmingham presented me with The Wellington as a great pub and The Colmore Tap as my favourite Thornbridge bar I've visited. Amity Brew Co in Farsley on the outskirts of Leeds became one of my favourite "taps" or "taprooms." And the Bundobust Brewery site in Manchester was one of my most visited city centre spaces, especially in the period that Gobi Toast was on the menu. They'd be foolish not to bring that back.
|Bundobust Brewery goodies including Gobi Toast
Cause there were pages turned with the bridges burned / Everything you lose is a step you take
Festivals and events returned in earnest without the fuss and hassle of the last couple of years. My early trips out were still full of trepidation and I found myself uncomfortable for too long in crowded spaces.
However, as Summer arrived, I relaxed a little. Peakender was a joy; a dry joy as far as the weather was concerned. Despite the haybale Karens trying their best to ruin it, I loved my time with my favourites and some added special guests. Although being stopped every few yards so somebody could receive attention made it the least boozy Peakender yet.
I almost didn't buy Indy Man Beer Con tickets, as I still didn't feel ready for festivals when they went on sale, but I took a punt on a Friday afternoon session. It proved worthwhile. More than worthwhile. It was one of my favourite sessions in all the years. Perhaps it was best confined to the "wishing I had bought more tickets" element: longing that made the heart grow fonder.
Potential returning Beer Event of the year though was scuppered by the ongoing rail disputes and issues. Smokefest '22 was one I was looking forward to the most but had to be rearranged and cancelled twice before two Smokefest Lite events were set up instead.
This was a small blessing in disguise. I love Torrside's Brewery Tap weekends but they were so darn popular this year that they could be a little overwhelming for people with bad ankles and knees or boys whose ears were still bigger than their abdomen.
Smokefest Lite provided the opportunity to enjoy the space, the beers, the people and the dogs with a little breathing space. And Keith's cheeseboard will remain the stuff of legend.
Solidarity with the strikers always.
So I wander through these nights / I prefer hiding in plain sight / My fourth drink in my hand...
At first I couldn't recall many beers clearly enough to form a picture of whether I'd enjoyed anything that much this year. My lackadaisical approach to a certain Beer recording App also meant that I had an uneven record to look back upon. However, my beer enjoyment can be split into two distinct categories: Smoked Beers and Beers that Elusive Brewing were involved in. Snappy.
In the Smoked Beer Category, there needs to be acknowledgement of the superb Otherworld Brewing Scottish Smoked Lager, Red Willow's Smoked Lager (especially enjoyed their Lager and Sausage Fest) and Simple Things Fermentations and Thornbridge's Collaboration Rauchbier - which was delicious in can but also the best beer I had at IMBC'22. Saint Mars of the Desert's Stahlwold Rauchybock was also incredible.
As I've said directly to the brewers themselves though, I *almost* wish that I had no involvement in the double whammy of a Smoked ESB - Persist and Resist - and a Triple Smoked Barleywine - Burned The Disco Down with Torrside Brewing. I say *almost* because brewing a beer with them, which was all entirely their own skill, was not just a highlight of the year but my beer drinking life. However, I wish I could heap more praise on those two beers without sounding biased because MY GOD they were both exactly what I want to be drinking. For now and forever. Every bottle of them that I have had I have paid for and I keep doing so wherever I see them available.
In the "Beers that Elusive Brewing were involved in" we have honourable mentions for the first beer I had after my 2 week beer break at the start of the year - Superuser, a Red IPA collaboration with Thornbridge. There was Overdive Lap 27 which was a perfect American Pale Ale. There was a first try of the Pastel de Nada Mexicake Stout. There was The Lost Stars, with a can so beautiful it may have helped me enjoy it to a different level. And there was the Double Oregon Trail that successfully lived up to the "hype."
Above all, though, was a collaboration West Coast DIPA with Disruption IS Brewing named The Man Who Wasn’t There. A beer that truly provided one of my patented Stop. Put the can down. Do a slight shoulder judder. Then stare at the beer in the glass in respect. Outstanding stuff. Some name references still won't stick though. Despite discussing it at length on the Christmas Special of Beerlonging, I still had to look up the beer name whilst writing this. And I'll have forgotten it again by the time this review is published.
Talk you talk and go viral, I just want this love spiral. Get it off your chest. Get it off my desk.
That coincides nicely with the biggest shift in my beer approach this year. After toying with the idea for a couple of years with a couple of different friends, I agreed to become one of the co-hosts of a new podcast form Beer O'clock Show. Beerlonging is attempting to combine the enjoyment of drinking and discussing beer as one would do in the pub with chats on some of the more important issues facing those with very different experiences to us.
I'm really pleased with what we have put out so far, and the Reverbeerations sections is an audible form of the sort of topics that I would write here. But it is important to me that this blog is my first choice of media. This is who I am. The podcast will keep improving in 2023 and I hope you will give it a chance if you haven't already. I discuss some of my choices here in the Christmas Special as well as my 2023 predictions in Episode 04, which I will not be adding here so find them there.
And the voices that implore "You should be doing more" / ... I can admit that I'm just too soft for all of it
right that I don't return to what others deem as the negative aspects of the
beer industry. Small businesses in any sector are facing their toughest
financial time in my working life. Pubs, breweries and shops are going to
suffer and fall.
Part of me didn't want to highlight my favourite moments of last year in light of that but happiness is something that we should be allowed to focus on, at least for the moment. However, we cannot ignore the issues that working people in this industry are facing and it isn’t enough to lament businesses when they are gone.
At the same time, I do not think that beer writers, especially those of us who do this as a free hobby, are mandated to research and write about what you think they should be covering. Blogging is still about writing about what you want or at the very least feel comfortable doing. If you want certain topics discussed - start that conversation your bloody self and stop blaming others for talking about *shrugs* anything else that they want. If you want paid writers to cover it then create that publication and get those stories commissioned. You have the power. You just want others to do the work.
This remains a personal account, hence the hideous asthetic that I haven't changed due to my own busy schedule. I have nothing else to say about 2022 because it was dominated by one figure and I will share them on my own platform as much as I want. 2021 showed us that loved ones are not here forever. If you want to share their story and share those moments then do it whenever you can. They are yours to share.
I hope that you enjoy those moments for yourself in this new year. The forecast isn't always positive but it doesn't do to endlessly dwell on the negatives. Even for somebody as grumpy as I. Happy New Year to everybody and thanks for reading as always x