I wanted to at least get this post up in the correct year – but in the end didn’t quite manage it. Anyway, despite missing the boat by almost a week, these are my Golden Posts for 2014 – my contribution to a fantastic idea suggested by Chris Hall. Ever since reading this brilliant post by Leigh Linley in 2013, I’ve wanted to take part in a Golden Pints for blogging; Leigh’s visit to the Gunmaker’s in London is (as I commented at the time) a near-perfect piece of beer writing, as it leaves you thirsty once you’ve reached the end.
Even though that post is almost two years old, beer blogging is still in great shape. One of the main reasons for this is that, to me, it always seems new and interesting. The great thing about blogging is that although some you follow fade out or stop altogether, there’s always an undercurrent of new blogs, or blogs you didn’t know about (which is the same thing, of course) to replenish your list. Even now, when conversing on social media is that much more instant, taking the time to sit down and write something is still the best way to get your opinions across…and draw the opinions of others. So, without further ado;
Best History Blogpost
It’s not your father’s beer can – but is it yours? (Martyn Cornell)
If it’s history you want, Martyn Cornell’s where to go to find it (he won yet another Guild of Beer Writer’s tankard last month). His posts are hugely-well researched, in-depth, and – of course – brilliantly well written. This particular post isn’t that long, (or even actually that historic), but I loved it because Martyn first touches on the history of his subject – the humble beer can – and then brings it right up to date, before ending with the best final picture I’ve seen in a blog post for a long while.
And if it’s rants you want, look no further than Nate at Booze, Beats and Bites. But not anymore; in March he announced he was bored of beer, and then soon after that he was sick of being known as ‘that angry guy that drinks a lot of beer’. Not to me he isn’t – I mean, he still swears like an Albanian dockworker – but Nate’s mellowing has resulted in some truly great stuff this year – notably his fairly non-bored diatribe against pretentious tasting notes. But it was the post he wrote immediately before that one, about the dangers of ‘converting’ people into good beer, that really stood out. It’s more in the op-ed side of the rant/op-ed stables, and it’s a fantastic piece of writing.
This is 2014’s equivalent of Leigh’s visit to the Gunmakers; a near-perfect depiction of the unexpected joys of going to a pub, from a writer at the top of his game. In this case, the boozer in question is in Prague, and is a real pub. For anyone who has crossed the threshold of one that merely attempts to look old, or tries to seem legitimate (so, all of us then), places like this are true discoveries. And from great writing like this, even though you may never set foot inside the place yourself, on reading the post you know exactly what it would be like if you did. Oh, and Chris also reveals the fact of the year, right here: ‘Czechs believe the beer’s character dies the second its head recedes to expose the beer beneath to light (about twenty minutes), and would rather order another pint than sup the imperfect dregs’.
Another European pub-based post, John’s writing is always worth reading; boiled down into chunks of tasting notes as if you were there with him, knocking back the other of the two beers that always appear in his photos (which must belong to Mr Nut’s other half, I guess). As with Prague, Bamberg is another place I would love to go drinking in, but of course one can travel vicariously through other people’s keyboards. One of the main reasons I loved this post was the brilliant anecdote about why you should think twice about asking for a beer menu there, but the other reason was the way he worked through these mysterious German beers – such as Mahr’s Ungespundet (no, me neither) – and laid out succinctly perfect descriptions of each, as he does with every post he publishes. You can imagine, perfectly, what they taste like – and it makes you want to try them. Pure and simple.
No contest here – for me, the runaway winner was a series of posts written by Lars Garshol on the beer section of his blog. Based in Lillestrøm, Lars has a driving passion for historic Scandinavian beer, particularly the old farmhouse beers of Norway. And this is the great thing about beer blogging; in that I followed a link on Twitter to Lars’ writing (probably from Boak and Bailey) and then spent an entire hour learning about something that I never knew existed. The link above is the final post in his travels searching for the origins of Norwegian farmhouse beer, and features some fantastic photos of farmbrewer Harald Storli in action.
Also no contest – I’ve been loving Pete’s writing this year, and this post about having one for the rails is just fantastic. Although I don’t ever have to catch the last train home (well, unless I get lazy walking the length of Princes Street), it resonates with every night bus or – come to think of it – pub-heavy Edinburgh street I’ve weaved along on the way back to where I need to be. I can certainly empathise with observations like ‘People jamming fistfuls of soggy chips from grease pocked paper bags into their mealy mouths, hoping in vain for sobriety‘, that’s for sure.
If you know the Scottish beer scene, you’ll know Craig. And even if you don’t – chances are you’ll know of him. His bowler hat, coloured glasses and chilli obsession mark him out, even before his beer drinking is considered. Of course, it’s how he does his drinking that is of interest; the devotion to RateBeer, culminating in – at the moment – 15,250 beers rated. Craig takes a lot of flack on Twitter – for his single-mindedness (and for his spelling); he’s the go-to guy when RateBeer offends, and the answerer when the website is called out. So this year, it was fascinating to see him lay his rates on the line.
So many brewers take to Twitter to snipe at RateBeer reviews – and having read many, I don’t blame them – but in the spirit of offering a counterpoint, Craig drew a line and challenged brewers to rate his descriptions and judge his RateBeer scores. He gave them the opportunity to (anonymously) critique his opinions of their products, which would not only give him an idea of the accuracy of his reviews, but also give brewers the chance to become raters themselves. I don’t think many did, sadly, but turning the tables in this way was a really interesting idea, and proof that beer blogging can still find new avenues to explore.
Finally we have what, in my eyes, was the single best blog post of 2014. For starters, a nigh-perfect portrayal of a stag do – complete with downing hot sauce, stubborn doormen and blurred photos. It also featured the word ‘shambolarious’. But then, all of a sudden it ended with an utterly unexpected second part about the reason why Ruari almost didn’t attend the stag do in the first place. Wiping the smile off your face, it reminds you that there are many, many more important things in the world than beer blogging – nearly everything else in the world, come to think of it – but that the act of writing something down for others to read is actually, sometimes, one of the most important things of all.