I would say it's been a long twelve months but it only seems like last week that our motley crew assembled in Nottingham for the first time, to talk to last year's Champion Beer of Britain one month on from GBBF 2010.
That's when we began our series of 12 monthly video blogs over the course of the year, financed solely by Peter Amor of Wye Valley Brewery, who wanted to put something back into an industry he felt he'd done rather well out of.
Peter's brief was strictly to champion British real ale, and to address the lack of pride and attention we have for it. Regular readers will know I'm becoming increasingly frustrated by partisanship and the creation of false enemies within the beer world, no matter what side it's on. Single-minded real ale advocates have long been the worst for this, but craft beer snobs are making efforts to catch them up.
But wherever your own beliefs lie, no one can argue that British real ale, while not entirely unique, is one of the most special, individual, eccentric, flavoursome, well crafted beers in the world. It is the only style of beer that can pack in a flavour explosion at 3.8% (excepting beers that are so hop-imbalanced they're undrinkable - and I say that as a hophead). Belgian and American beers are just as wonderful on their day - but they only seem to start being so at around 5% ABV.
If real ale were French, it would no doubt be iron-clad in appellation controlees and EU Protected Designations of Origin. It would be as famous globally - and as celebrated in its homeland - as Bordeaux wine, French cheeses and foie gras. It is a peculiarly English trait to be indifferent or even negative about things we're good at. I've never met a single non-real ale drinker who nevertheless sees our brewing prowess as something to be proud of, and I've met many real ale drinkers who believe it is not.
So even though I get frustrated with Old CAMRA diehards and am personally at least as likely to enjoy an American craft beer or German lager as I am a pint of best bitter, I was proud to be asked to co-present these blogs. We've toured the country, seeing a year of beer first hand, trying many excellent ales and meeting people from brewers large and small who love their craft. Every pub we've drunk in has been of outstanding quality. We've hopefully shown that Britain really should be proud of its beer and its pubs.
This final blog is from GBBF 2011 - edited and finished in time for you to watch it and then go along and try both the beers and the atmosphere. We both use the occasion to make some points we've come to feel strongly about on the journey. And I get to taste some beers that we missed along the way, several of them among my all-time favourite real ales. We didn't get chance to get everywhere in the country, and I'll always regret missing out Yorkshire and, to a slightly lesser extent, Kent and Sussex. But maybe there will be chance of another series.
Anyway - hope you enjoy the blog:
Thanks to Eggy, Kaz and Dave, to Ian for channeling an exasperated primary school teacher as he tried to direct and produce us, and especially to Mr Amor for the funding, the cantankerousness, and most of all the hats and bow ties.