2016 and beer

I posted my ‘Golden Pints’ for the first time last year and I was sure it would be an annual event. However, this year my heart’s not in it, which I attribute to nothing more than than the undulating landscape of mood/humour. Enthusiasm ebbs and flows like the tide, and contributing to my waning enthusiasm is the fact that social media is now so awash with beer awards (albeit commercial ones) that I’ve grown weary of them (I also wonder how long until we see the first corporate hijacking of the Golden Pints concept).

This may be down to me being in a funk and there’s every chance that, like a true hypocrite, I’ll post my 2017 Golden Pints with ardour. However, over the last year I have felt less inclined to overanalyse beer – I just want to enjoy it, or rather enjoy the moment in which I’m drinking it. I barely use Untappd anymore (although I’ve yet to delete my account thanks to a reluctance to let go); I’ve actually reverted to written notes, but rarely put pen to paper. I’m seldom on Twitter beyond working hours, which means I’ve missed out on the likes of Craft Beer Hour, and my Instagram use has similarly dwindled. God knows, I’ve also frequently bored people by voicing my ambivalence about this blog, plagued as I am by questions as to its purpose and value.

All of which is not to say I have nothing to remark about beer this past year, the most pleasing aspect of which has been the new friendships that I’ve made (most notably at the Brewdog AGM and IndyMan), and those existing bonds, also formed through beer, which have continued to strengthen. Which brings me to new brewery openings (I’ve not completely given up on the awards format) and Andy Parker of Elusive Brewing. While we only happen to occupy the same space occasionally, I regard Andy as a friend, and I’m so pleased to see his success (the beers speak for themselves). I also met the guys from new Tottenham brewery Affinity Brew Co. this month, and I wish them every success – I’ll definitely make it to the taproom next year. Regarding existing breweries, Northern Monk continues to impress, and closer to home beers by Brew by Numbers, Hammerton and Five Points are those I drink the most. That said, if I had to chose a beer of the year it would be Orkney’s Dark Island Special Reserve – it’s sublime.

Regarding drinking establishments, the Duke’s Head in Highgate is my everything. I turned 40 this month and when it came to choosing a venue it was only ever going to be Duke’s. The team behind it have opened another pub, The Prince in Bounds Green, which is soon to have its own brewery, and I look forward to spending a lot more time there in 2017. The Old Fountain remains my work local, despite the Draft House Old Street opening practically next door. Both pubs have their merits, but The Old Fountain’s vibe and diverse clientele means it’s my go-to for a post-work pint (to be clear, when I say diverse I’m referring to social class rather than ethnicity – this is an issue the beer world has yet to confront). As for bottle shops, I almost exclusively go to Caps and Taps nowadays given its proximity to my home and work, and am such a regular customer that I felt guilty when visiting Clapton Craft to spend gift vouchers I got for my birthday…

When it comes to reading about beer I regard Good Beer Hunting as the apex of professional/commercial beer writing. Mark Johnson (one of those friends I made at the Brewdog AGM) gave me a shout out in his Golden Pint awards, but this isn’t hollow reciprocation – far from it. Writing at Beer Compurgation, his honesty is searing and his writing compelling. Like Mark, I too am gradually getting over the fear of missing out (fomo); in my case it’s down to a recalibration of priorities and renewed sense of perspective. As for Twitter, @beerdoodles brings a smile to my face (I must get that commission I’ve been pondering someday), as does @msswiggy, whose humorous tweets defy categorisation.

I’ll leave it there as I realise this is in fact turning into my Golden Pints. My personal goals for the new year involve enhancing my knowledge of Belgian and German beer, but then again I’ve been saying this for years. Regardless, thanks to world events it’s going to be a challenging year, so despite this post’s sombre tone, I’m genuinely thankful for the ever-growing number of breweries making an ever wider variety of beer styles here and beyond. We’ll need them.

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