Keeping it real … Real Ale
In the middle of November during the peak of #BadgeQuest2016 my blog turned 4. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was writing about my 3rd year of blogging. We all know what a c bomb of a year 2016 has been, but there have been some good things happening too.
There are two things I am incredibly proud of since the last anniversary, the first one is #BadgeQuest2016. Most will know that last year as part of Beer O’clock Show Steve Bentall’s Big Beery Night to raise money for Macmillian I said I would give a pound fine for every Untappd badge I unlocked. I had others join in and we made over £300 just from badge fines. This year we knocked it out the park, over 40 people joined in and we made an incredible £1271, James Elliot winning this year’s #BadgeQuest2016 with an astonishing 94 badges. I can’t wait to see what happens next year!
The second thing I am hugely proud of is Leyton Orient Supporters Club winning East London and City CAMRA Club of the year and going forward to the finalist of the national club of the year. The award still hasn’t been decided and will be announced in February but regardless if we win or not I am over the moon that we have taken the title back from The Orpington Liberal Club. We may have a wall of awards but this is the first big one that we have won since I have been more involved on the beer side of things. I have been involved in some great events at Orient this year, the best being the Pig & Porter Brewing Co tap take over and meet the brewer evening. The night was the busiest I can remember us doing, the guys from Pig & Porter were brilliant and it was the first time we have been able to put a key keg beer on the beer menu, and not any old key keg beer but a 8.4% double IPA. I was apprehensive how it would be received by some of the more traditional CAMRA locals but it sold out in about half hour, I think that might say it all!
This year has been crazy busy for me. I think there has been a lot of focus on bloggers this year, which has meant a wider invite list to different events and I have been lucky enough to be invited to a few (and try to get as many other beer friends in too!). It took a while to get used to it and to work out certain PR companies but they are a friendly lot and have been a pleasure to work with. Identifying the origin of certain new beer releases can be a nightmare and this year there has been loads of new rebranding and brewery craft offshoots, which I think we will be seeing more of next year.
I haven’t been able to travel much this year, in fact I have only been overseas for 24 hours when I visited the Czech Republic with Pilsner Urquell. When I was invited over I questioned if I should go or not, they are a huge brewery and I wasn’t sure if I was selling out. Luckily the advice I was given from a few close friends was along the lines of “What the fuck are you thinking… go!” was spot on. Standing in the cellars of the brewery drinking fresh unfiltered Pilsner Urquell from the wooden barrels is one of the top beer experiences I have ever had, all the fears I questioned prior to travel were gone. It was great to see a brewery the size of Pilsner Urquell stick to their guns and not change their brewing recipe when taken over. I want to change the travel situation though and hopefully in 2017 I will be able to visit a few new places, Poland being top of the list.
2016 was the year that the UK’s top beer podcast ended (as we know it), The Beer O’clock Show recorded its final episode at Hops Burns and Black. Sadly I wasn’t there to see it live but it was a great show. It was announced that from that night Hopinions would be the new show with previous presenter Steve Bentall joining forces with beer blogger Martin Oates for a different format. Martin has taken to podcasting like a duck to water and I really enjoy the show (I even think I am quicker to listen to an episode than I was with the Beer O’clock show… Sorry Mark). I was actually honoured when I was invited on as the first guest of Hopinions. Originally planned to be recorded in my bar (beer shed) in my back garden but due to a fatality on the tracks we had to improvise and record at Brewdog in Shoreditch. They were great and let us record downstairs. I was lucky enough to record a show with The Beer O’clock Show before it ended, I was pretty nervous and although I think it came out alright I enjoyed the recording of the Hopinions show more. All the people featuring on the show recording in the same place really gives the podcast a great feel and I can’t wait to see how much further the show grows going forward.
Once a month, fellow beer geeks in Essex meet up for a bottle share, this has been going on for nearly 2 years now. It is the highlight of my month and not only are we SX Bottleshare attendees but we are now all really good friends (aawww beer friends!). Rarely do we miss it and I think that 24 SX Bottleshares in a row without one being cancelled is some achievement. The venue of the Alehouse has now become my first proper local and even though sadly our friend Alex has hung up his managerial boots and moved back to his birth place of Australia, he has left it in safe hands. We have had many new faces turn up over the year and I think it is a testament to the personalities around the table that people return. Wednesday morning hangovers were never a thing 24 months ago but I am happy to have them in my life now.
For the first time ever I collaborated on two different beers this year, first was the Sorachi Screwface Sour I brewed with Ben at 40FT. It was a small batch beer that we released as part of the Vinyl Gravity Series and I was really happy with it, the beer did what we said and we had a really good night spinning some of the finest UK Hip Hop known to mankind! The second beer was on a much larger scale, I joined forces with Brentwood Brewing Co’s branch off Elephant School Brewing Co and Solvay Society to brew Cheru Kol, an inverted Belgian Single. It is available in bottles, key keg and cask and it is really interesting to see the difference between them. It was so cool to see the beer available at the Brewers Market last week and it was on fine form on key keg.
Slowly but surely Essex seems to be getting the craft bug. My first year living in Chelmsford has already seen new places pop up, Adnams have a pop up shop for Christmas which I hope leads to them dipping their toes in Chelmsford more, Masters of Alcohol has brought even more bottled beer selection to Chelmsford, Bottle Bereua gives Chelmsford a slightly more posher beer experience, Byron Burger, The United Brethren has been updated in a crafty kind of way and we now have many new restaurants that have opened which seem to be giving a better beer selection than ever before. I feel like Chelmsford is about two things away from becoming a beery destination, like Norwich. I would LOVE to see a brewpub come to Chelmsford, I think it is screaming out for one. Also I think we are ready for a Brewdog, I even know the perfect spot so BD if you are listening hit me up. Next year is exciting times for Essex, I think we will see even more development to add to our already rich traditional country pub county, I would like to be involved more and without saying too much I think it is a bout time someone celebrated an updated Essex…
Turning 30… It was my big 3-0 this year. Some friends have had mini break downs in the lead up to this milestone but I just embraced it for what it was. I was moved to be able to spend my birthday party with family and friends at the Leyton Orient Supporters Club, it was a great turn out and I got to see lots of smiling faces that I haven’t seen in a while. I documented all the beers I drank in that momentous week, setting the challenge of 30 different beers to celebrate 30, turns out SX Bottleshare, my party and a trip to York meant I doubled that, if this is a good stat or not I am unsure but it is safe to say I brought in getting old in with style!
I feel like I need to go big for my 5th year of blogging, more blogging, maybe more events at LOSC, I certainly need to focus more on being a better Brewery Liaison Officer for CAMRA and Signature Brew and put more work into a little something I have planned with a couple of other bloggers this year… but I will leave that a secret for now…