My Best Beer Photo of 2006
Though the 2006 contest was a bust with no one trying for that ship, 2006 was a great year in beer. It was a year that I had a couple of hundred new beers. It was a year that I got to beer hunt from near Lake Huron to the coast of Maine. It was a year of new writing and advertising revenue and the resulting means to push the stash to new levels allowing me to try those new beers and go on those beer hunts. It started with my first Old Engine Oil from the Harviestoun Brewery of Scotland and ended with my first beer from Avery, their Czar Imperial Stout. In between I made a lot of notes, took many photos, met a lot of beer lovers and took a lot of sips while watching the traffic around here more than double from under 45,000 visits a month at the end of 2005 to 93,000 for last month. And for all the posts and all the comments, just like last year, a few things have stood out:
- Best Pub: Last year's winner was the Adirondack Brew Pub in Lake George New York. This year I would think it is fair to say that I was in fewer pubs than in 2005 and the only new ones were in Toronto: Volo, BeerBistro! and Mill Street. This year I am recollecting a bar and the evening I watched the All-Star game last July at the Spring Point Tavern in South Portland, Maine. Here is a story about the bar in The Bollard, a local web rag. [I do not know if South Portland is called SoPo but I just did.] Why this small working class neighbourhood bar? First, because it is a small working class neighbourhood bar with a feel like anything could go sideways, especially what with that lady in the corner who looked like Anne of Green Gables but in the alternate universe where she never got adopted. Plus, it is neat and tidy with an owner who, after the game, had a good chat about his plans for the place, a place that people walk to, can hang out with friends and get a beer for $1.75. Then, there is the beer - sure plenty of macro-crap but also the local craft beers, at least Allagash White and Geary Pale Ale on tap as well as maybe others by the bottle. A good lesson in what needs to be brought into this real ale world - good fun and sociability. That can start with the sort of pervasive ground level support for the local product you find in places like Portland, Maine and Syracuse, NY in a good neighbourhood bar.
- Best Beer Photo: Thousand Islands Pale Ale, above.
- Best Book on Beer: Without a doubt, the best book on beer published in 2006 is Pete Brown's Three Sheets to the Wind. I enjoyed it so much, I didn't even review it - preferring instead to interview him along with Knut. What I liked most about his book was the legitimacy he brought to the idea of enjoying yourself as you enjoy a beer. it is not about being correct or being trendy. It is not about the exoticism of travel though he travels all over the globe in search of beer culture. If you buy one new beer book, buy this one.
- Best Beer Blog Post: I think it would be less than humble to consider one of my own posts for my own best list but thankfully the other authors here save me from that vain embarrassment. In particular I would like to thank Knut, Paul and Donavan for taking us along with their trips. This is not to leave out Gary but when he goes on beer trips, I tend to go along - though his use of the shoe cam was brilliant. Of all the trips and all the posts, I think that Knut's trip to Italy and his visit to the Panil Brewery near Parma sticks out for me as the best post of 2006. Who thought I would have a Norwegian traveling though Italy to report on a craft brew?
- Best Beer Shop: This one is a toss up between Tully's of York Maine, which I visited twice and Finger Lake Beverages, my favorite shop that I try to hit as often as I can. But I am going to pick and go with Finger Lake Beverages - if one must be picked - because it is within a workday's return drive, has great stock rotation, good prices good and knowledgeable staff. All of which Tully's has, too, but it takes too long to get there.
- Best Beer: Last year I picked Smuttynose's Big A IPA. Even though I could happily pick Colorado's Old Chub in a can, Doggie Claws in a loosely capped bottle or RCH's Ale Mary, this year I keep going back to a bottle that was first picked up for me by a beer newbie by fluke, which I have shared and enjoyed again twice more since - Goliath Triple from Brasserie des Geants of Belgium. Big and hot, cream and white pepper. My note says it all: "pear juice, candi sugar, heat, French bread crust, sweet biscuit, some twiggy hop, maybe licorice, maybe apricot, maybe white pepper". Fabulous.