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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Wednesday, 17 February 2010

I remember when it were all fields round here

Wading through mud at the moment trying to finish off the rewrites for the new edition of Man Walks into a Pub, due out 4th June with a spanking new cover from the fella who did Hops & Glory. Making up the trilogy with the H&G paperback will be a newly covered Three Sheets, which isn't changing apart from that cover, but it's lovely to see them all together looking like a set - my beer trilogy. It makes me feel like a proper grown-up writer.

I had lunch yesterday with someone I knew from the beer world before I'd had a single word published, and it made me think how rapidly everything has changed - when we knew each other I was working full-time in an ad agency, Stella Artois was widely respected as a quality beer and in double digit growth, Progressive Beer Duty didn't exist so, therefore, neither did the British craft brewing revolution. Cask ale was in terminal decline and seemingly drunk by no one under 50. CAMRA had half the membership it does now and the mere thought of them as an organisation and the terrible image they were giving beer at the time made me seethe with rage and frustration - as did the fact that not a single beer writer seemed to criticise them in print.

Google was new, and most of us accessed it via a dial-up modem. Around the time I finally finished my first manuscript of MWIAP, I was in a meeting with someone who had a laptop on his desk that wasn't plugged into anything. Nevertheless, at one point he said "I'll just print that" and pressed some buttons. Christ, I thought, he's pretending to print something. Why would he do that?

It was only when he returned with the printed document that I realised I'd just seen wireless networking for the first time. This was 2002. 18 months before, I'd read a cyberpunk thriller centred around the (fictitious, impossible) idea.

Christ, I sound like an old fart. But this is my point - it only seems like five minutes ago really. I still think of myself most of the time as a new kid on the beer writing block. It's disorientating when I get a brief glimpse of self-awareness that I might be one of the old guard.

Do I feel like an old fart?

Well, today I had a quick look at Twitter and my blog roll - I'm trying to ration myself while I get this bloody book finished - and in the middle of overhauling some very outdated text I was struck by the sheer scale of what's happening in beer now, loving it and at the same time feeling slightly panicked by the fact that, as Beer Writer of the Year, I should be somehow attempting to keep on top of everything and have a comment on everything, and that is utterly impossible now.

So I'm surprised to find that I have no view one way or the other on the wisdom of Brew Dog's latest venture: I'd like to taste a 41% IPA and think it's a fresh departure for super-strong beers, but I still had to roll my eyes when it was announced. I think Sink the Bismarck is a shit and self-indulgent name for the beer, but at the same time I really struggle to work up any moral outrage at making fun of the Germans and referencing the war.

I fins myself applauding Cooking Lager's lout ticking post, but have no new comment to make on the whole ticking issue.

And on the neoprohibition stuff, I'm delighted to see Phil Mellows continuing to bring some excellent new findings and developments to light, but have to curtail myself from spending another entire month digging into the issue.

There are so many people writing about these things now, and they're all worthy of coverage. So I'm not complaining - I'm just a bit overwhelmed at how much the collision of craft beer passion and new media has generated and wondering - both from a beer worlds and a personal point of view - where do we go next?

In the short term - back to revising chapter ten - the one that slagged off CAMRA...

12 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

Can't we stay here? I haven't been served yet.

Cooking Lager said...

Where do we go next? I like the beer nuts idea of fashion blogging. It's the future.

Greig McGill said...

rewrites for the new edition of Man Walks into a Pub

Oi! You're as bad as those bands who re-master albums, forcing those sad sacks among us with completionist tendencies to buy the re-released stuff. I'm on to you mister! :)

Woolpack Dave said...

I find it difficult to look at everyone's blog too; there are so many.

Rob Nicholson said...

>In the short term - back to revising chapter ten - the one that slagged off CAMRA...

Okay, so I haven't read it... what was the executive summary of this slagging off?

Cheers, Rob.

Pete Brown said...

Greig, I know you're only joshing but just to reassure you before you part with more hard-earned cash, MWIAP covers the history of beer from the dawn of civilisation to around mid-2002. An awful lot has happened since then and the book feels way out of date as it stands. New additions cover the craft beer revolution and the rise of neoprohibitionism, and there are some great snippets here and there throughout the text that I've embellished, added or tidied up - I've got the history of both porter and IPA written far more comprehensively and accurately than they were before, and some new stuff on the origins of beer that I haven't seen in too many places before now. I've also got rid of the REALLY cringeworthy footnotes and replaced them with some random off-beam rants. And quietly cleared up a few complete inaccuracies. Your completist ire will be much more riled by Three Sheets - brand new cover, no changes inside!

Rob - when I was first published, no one else slagged off CAMRA in print now - my, how that's changed! I started off by saying that by rejecting the notion that image has anything to do with beer choice, CAMRA actively gives real ale a nerdy, geeky image that puts off the very people it should be attracting. Then I attacked the GBBF at some length as the clearest manifestation of this. I was quite scathing. The thing is, CAMRA, GBBF, the image of cask ale and me have all changed in the last 8 years, so without compromising my initial attack - because that's how it was at the time - I need to bring it up to date now.

Thomas said...

Pete, meet me at the Rake at 17:20 on Friday. In the evening there will be a chance to sample this IPA. I will be chatting to Glyn again by the side of the bar. I'm the guy whom bought you Goose Island IPA which we shared just before Christmas at the Rake.

DJ said...

I have read all of your books within the last eight months and only recently discovered your blog. I have seen eight years of your writing career condensed into eight months. The craft beer scene has changed alot in that time but so have you Pete. At the beginning you were a well researched and talented writer but a bit of a lagerboy and slightly blinkered by your association with Stella. You are now one of the most informed and knowledgable voices on the scene and have a much more balanced view of the whole industry. Were do we go next? you ask. I think a united front against the neo's, the government and the big industry is what is needed. As others have said before I really think you could be at the forefront of another movement but you need others on board from different segments of the industry. Any offers?

Eddie86 said...

DJ - I've been wondering that myself regarding another industry body, led by someone like Pete with good knowledge, presence and diction. But I'm concerned that we already have so many trade bodies, none of which seem to actually represent me, and what I consider the biggest threat (the neos). 1 more may just be ignored by those that feel deserted by the BII/IPC/ALMR/LVA/CamRA/BBPA.....

Rob Nicholson said...

>Rob - when I was first published, no one else slagged off CAMRA in print now - my, how that's changed! I started off

Thanks for that. As a pretty active member of CAMRA, I hope I'm also open to *constructive* criticism. Heck, we're rattling enough boats at some levels.

One should never rest on ones laurels for too long.

I think CAMRA still has the vestiges of that image and has a way to go to make it a modern organisation IMO. Then again, somebody once said to me that real ale is something that comes to people in middle age, like receeding hair. Bit of truth in there...

Cheers, Rob.

Rob Nicholson said...

>Heck, we're rattling enough boats
at some levels.

Boats!! That's too much Storm Brewing beer for you. Cages is obviously what I meant to say...

Cheers, Rob.

DJ said...

Eddie, I get your point about there being so many bodies but I think that backs up my argument that we should have one that represents all. we need to speak with a united voice.