Ten days to Christmas. Upstairs, the children are fighting and the cookies for a workplace sweet treats swap are burning unattended. Me, I should be packing up presents and signing cards for distant family members and old friends. But no. Me, I sit in my easy chair contemplating the weeks past that have seen a short circuited wall oven needing replacing, snow tires needing buying, ball joints for the family van needing installing, the dishwasher needing fixing while the furnace and the gas stove each needed a good visit from the maintenance man. Contemplating. That's the word. So I could do with a bit of distracting.
Fortunately, a combination of Boak and Bailey as well as Stan today got me thinking. B+B revealed their take on the Golden Pint Awards while Stan tweeted a reminder to give up our annual annualism and consider a longer timeline. Can the two be combined? Can we consider the improvements of 2014 and also acknowledge the venerable record holders? Let's see. And just in case this does not work, I will post Mr. Thinking Chimp as a reminder of the passing of all things... or something like that.
Best Beer To Date: I am not sure any beer took me into place another hadn't before. I finally had that Timothy Taylor I'd been wanting for years. It was very nice. Like so many others. If I was being honest, my greatest new experience may well have been that one bottle of Oliver's Herefordshire Perry from last January. If anything, 2014 was the year I day dreamed a lot about perry. But I would be a very happy man if I had a case of the 1955 Double Brown by Ron and Dan and Martha. Beer of my year? Could well be.
Best Bar To Date: I did have some excellent days out this year, didn't I. An hour or two at Bellwoods in Toronto at the end of a night with beer nerds. The Holyrood 9A in Edinburgh with the family was a great find on a cold damp August lunchtime. Liked the Alechemy Rye on Rye with a venison burger. And I liked my visits to the Lionheart in Albany, too. Frankly, I like bars, taverns and pubs. The worst beat the hell out of a day at the office. The best beer spot news, however, was the reopening of the Finborough Arms in London. I'll be there four weeks tonight.
Best Book To Date: The more I think of it, I believe that the writing of encyclopedic beer books peaked some years ago with Garrett Oliver's ever excellent The Brewmaster's Table. When I compare it to the OCB, I am reminded of the game when I won the best play prize for a 35 yard field goal as well as the goat of the day award for the punt that landed five yards away... behind me. Everyone of the last few years has seen an effort to rationally contextual all of beer one way or another in between two covers for newbies and the select. None have come up to the level of The Brewmaster's Table.
Best Beer Blog To Date: None have replace or even entered the orbit of Simon H Johnson. I can't think of his sad passing in 2013 without pausing. He was funny, clever, serious and irreverent. He was daring and a slacker. He wrote "The Craft Beer Manifesto" which I am eternally grateful to Boak and Bailey for reprinting in full in Brew Britannia. Go and read the archives of his still readable body of work because the answer to the question remains no.
Best Beer Experience To Date: Co-writing the three beer books with Max then Jordan then Craig. A few years back, Maureen Ogle said in passing how irritating it was to read book reviews from folk who had not taken on the task themselves. I disagreed but now I can disagree from an informed perspective. I had no idea that I would enjoy the organized long writing - whether of history or drunk punk sci-fi - as much as I did. It was so compelling I needed a break. But I may get back into it soon. Beer and Brewing in North America Before 1700 isn't going to write itself.
Best Beer Social Media Voice To Date: None. I participate in both Twitter and Facebook for the propagation of thoughts about beer but find it depressing. I think it is the worst thing that has happened to hearing others since the demise of RSBS almost five years ago. Discussion has been replaced by proclamation just as surely as ambition has made damaging inroads on consideration.
Best Really Old Beer Thing: A model of a brewing and baking operation from the tomb of MentuhotepII, Deir el-Bahri, western Thebes, Middle Kingston, c.2010 BC. As seen at the Royal Ontario Museum. Not 2000 BC. 2010 BC. Got it?
Best New Thing in Beer: Even with the excellent beers being made by my new local craft brewery, Stone City Ales, I have seldom have been as excited about a brewery of my near neighbour MacKinnon Brothers Brewing. In the next golden age - after we overthrow our hop obsessed personalized taste hybridizing overlords and their sweet sauced saison allies - in that era of peace and plenty malt shall rule again. The way forward may be defined by those who not only brew with fine malt but those who have also grown it for centuries. Once again, beer may start tasting like beer again.
There. That's my version of the Golden Pints. Like an Old Testament minor prophet shouting into the storm before being swept away and forgotten, I tell you to grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed. Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Or just dive back into that next pint of 10% Christmas ale and never mind. It's all the same. Year after year. Just like the #YuletideChristmasHanukahHogmanayKwanzaFestivusBeeryPhotoContest2014.