It has been a good year both inside and outside that beery part of my life. It is hard to measure what that means in some ways as If I was reporting to higher authority, I can state that I have put good beer in the hands and glasses of more of the uninitiated than in earlier years. It is a good thing to do but I am not reporting to any higher authority, just noting for myself and those of you that care about what I have seen and enjoyed in 2009:
- Best Beer Books. This has been a phenomenal year for books on beer. I name three of the best. Pete Brown's Hops and Glory, supposedly an examination of the route IPA took in the early years of its travels from Britain to India, is actually a book about Pete. Ben McFarland's World's Best Beers has updated the bazillion beer review format and breathed new life into what had become a bit of a musty concept. Beaumont and Morin in The Beerbistro Cookbook have given us the best book on beer and food which, while suggesting recommendations, has saved us from the shackles of overly specific "pairings" instead encouraging us all not only to explore beer but to explore with a sense of one's own taste.
- Best Beer Trend: It has to be the setting of the sun on the tyranny of extreme. Finally, beer is learning what everyone but skate boarding thirty-year olds know: extreme may be more than a gimmick but not very much more. Few beer fans are really begging for even more hops and booze and barrels in 2010. Conversely, bigger craft brewers and even some regionals are making interesting beers which are not bombs. Lew recently noted both Magic Hat Odd Notion Fall '09 and Narragansett Porter both of which I also found to be stunning for their value as well as their elegance. Yesterday, Andy was thankful for well crafted simplicity. Expect 2009 to be remembered for how we learned that cacophony in glass is not a brewers or a drinker's "go to" brew.
- Best Beer News. What is beer news that isn't brewery PR, advocacy group paranoia or corner store failed robbery? Not much really but that does not make it a waste of time. The biggest beer news was Obama having a brew courtside last March. Best saucy beer news was the announcement that BrewDog complained on itself to the shadowy Portman Group, aka the competition. Other than that, it's all about naked drunk frosh being caught on security cameras at corner stores in Kansas. Jay has a better list of big news stories of 2009 - though I have to admit that Beer Wars is more likely to turn out to be the Ishtar of beer documentaries. It was news because of the irritating PR.
- Best Bodyslam Of Beer Pros By Beer Bloggers. This is a new category for 2009. First we had the ridiculous lecture from small market western Massachusetts beer columnist George Lenker whose pomposity triggered a response that Stan anointed as "The Beer Link of the Month (or Maybe 2009)" which made me get all verklempt... seriously... but which saw George drowning in his attempts to explain while sorta still insulting people. Then, we had Roger Protz, one of at least the top 20 beer authorities on the planet, freaking out over Brewdog and then get all superior and "begone you plebs" over bloggers correctly pointing out how little he understood the topic at hand. Then, just this week, we hear that there is some guy called Alan Brewer going all "pro" on poor old Max the Pivní Filosof alleging that, by hiring Max a mere a beer blogger, a Spanish beer magazine has "allowed the fox into the hen-house" and says that "if the hiring standards of the magazine have fallen so low, he could recommend a homeless man he knows, who is an expert in strong canned beers of less than a dollar."
Sounds like a call for a good rumble of rock, paper, scissors between paper based semi-pros and web based semi-pros. Cherry belly time. Because let's be frank. There are about 12 people in the world who really make a real living from writing about beer. The rest have other business interests in the hospitality world, a separate professional career or sources of other family income and patience. And there is that other thing: the Internet is not going anywhere. It's a good thing, too, because anyone who says that the quantity and quality of beer writing on the web is not a good thing is a fool. A rising tide raises all ships and the more good discourse about good beer the better.
I'll leave it at there for now. I think I have picked a beer of the year and a beer photo of the year for more than half a decade now and who am I to break the rules of convention even when it is my own.