2012 – A Beery Year Indeed

Just over a year ago I wrote my first proper post on this ‘ere website. I doubt anyone read it which is lucky because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Most beer sites tend to do a review of the year gone by but, in my case, it seemed particularly pertinent given it’s my first year in beer.  Immersed in it? Pickled, perhaps.

My 2012 Ego

Let’s get the egotistical gubbins out of the way first. In December 2011, I didn’t really have a clue what BlueGiantBeer was. All I knew was I liked beer and I fancied doing a bit of writing.

According to WordPress, since then I’ve written 43 posts that have been viewed over 9,000 times in total by readers from 51 different countries. An average total compared to prolific beer bloggers, I’m sure, but not a bad start. My most popular post was, unsurprisingly, about the infinitesimal argument between cask and keg and gained 305 views in one day.

According to Untappd, which I joined in February 2012, I’ve sampled 420 unique beers and 678 in total. I know this to be approximately 80% accurate with the other 20% lost forever in a mix of drunkenness and/or apathy and as a result of being told off for persistently getting my iPhone out at the pub/bar/restaurant table.

I’ve attended a one day beer course with the Beer Academy, which taught me that the recognised stereotype of a real ale lover was a load of old bollox. A three day course with BrewLab made me realise I’m probably never going to be a brewer (you’ll see that’s not as negative as it sounds if you read the post).

Education, education, education, drinking

I’ve spent a day at Bristol Beer Factory and helped brew a batch of Independence and travelled to Belgium on a pilgrimage to the Orval monastery.

Old Skool Orval

I’ve had two articles published in print and I’ve put together a beer menu for a micro-chain of awesome restaurants in Bristol. I’ve met the founders of Magic Rock and BrewDog, interviewed the eminent Pete Brown and chatted nonsense to many other impressive beery folk along the way.

Friska Beer Menu

Probably most important of all is the 600 odd friends I’ve made on Twitter. Without these friends and contacts, I wouldn’t have had half the opportunities I have had to further my beer knowledge. The friendliness within the beer industry is unlike anything else I have ever experienced and I hope to spend 2013 meeting many more beery twitter folk in person.

So, all in all, not a bad one.

My 2012 Beers

Of the 500 odd beers I’ve drunk this year, many have been good enough to receive a 5 star rating. Some, however, have been truly remarkable – real eye-openers in terms of what can actually be achieved with a simple mix of malt, water, hops and yeast.

Here is a list of 20 beers which have made my eyes bulge (in no particular order):

Bristol Beer Factory – Southville Hop
Magic Rock – Cannonball
Thornbridge – Jaipur
Arbor – Impy Stout
Orval – Orval
Kernel – SCCANS
BrewDog – Hops Kill?
Nogne O – Two Captains
Baird – Suruga Bay IPA
Evil Twin – Yang
De Molen – Vuur Vlam
Mikkeller / BD – I Hardcore You
Brasserie DuPont – Saison DuPont
Tiny Rebel – Urban IPA
Hardknott – Queboid
Dark Star – 6 Hop
Summer Wine – Rouge Hop
Moor – Hoppiness
Oakham – Green Devil
Schlenkerla – Rauchbier

Out of this lot, if I had to choose only one beer to drink for the rest of eternity, it would be Southville Hop, an absolute rocket launcher of an IPA with exactly the right balance between mouth puckering bitterness, malty roundness and new world totally tropical taste. The UK brewery that has most impressed me this year with its overall output is Magic Rock, it was an absolute pleasure to meet main man Richard Burhouse towards the end of the year, an extremely passionate guy dedicated to moving the UK beer industry forward. My favourite new brewery who I am certain will be huge in 2013 (they’re doing alright already to be fair) are Newport based Tiny Rebel.

Nice Knees

My 2012 Regrets

I missed a few beer events this year – through a mixture of time, money and a little bit of laziness – that I really regretted afterwards.  I will make a big effort to attend them this year. In particular, the Indy Man Beer Conference in Manchester looked to be setting a benchmark in terms of what beer festivals should be. Panels of the most influential people in the craft beer world, secret releases, demonstrations and amazing food all set the tone and 2013 is a must attend.

Having signed up as a BrewDog shareholder at the beginning of the year, I had the chance to travel up to Aberdeen to attend the Annual General Meeting – basically a massive piss up in a brewery. I decided not to travel up on my own and have regretted it ever since. Time to see the new brewery this year I think.

Finally, the CAMRA Great British Beer Festival was dismissed by some for being too engrained in the old school.  I must admit I fell foul of the same predjudices.  But on the day, the list of good beers being drunk was too long to mention. It’s in mainstream events like this that we hope to see real changes in the outlook towards beer so it is important that we all attend in order to change joe public’s perceptions.

My 2012 Bars

2012 seems to have been the year of the beer bar – an establishment with a major emphasis on the quality and range of beer available. I visited many excellent places but special mentions should go to:

The Euston Tap, for providing me with a perfect stop off on the way back from Arsenal games, a marvellous people watching base, superlative beer and possibly the most ridiculous toilet space I’ve ever seen.

– All the bars and pubs in the Craft Beer Company portfolio for sheer, overwhelming selection and maintaining the British tradition of pump clips, which many places seem to be overlooking lately.

Pump Clips

– All the BrewDog bars for creating a winning formula and being the first to roll it out on an international basis.

– And finally, the Free Trade Inn in Newcastle for offering the most amazing beer, with the best atmosphere, in seemingly the most unlikely of places – this also fits under my regrets because I only had time for two drinks but this will be rectified in 2013!

Free Trade for all

My 2013

Back in March, I wrote an article about the potential to run a nano brewery on a commercial scale whilst continuing to work a 9-5 job (all be it on a 4 day week basis).  Nearly a year later I am perhaps one or two steps closer to this goal, all be it in a slightly evolved state.  I hope to shortly become a more compact office worker and a more expansive beer man.  2013 will hopefully be spent working towards achieving a somelier level accreditation, gaining some marketing skills and qualifications and working with some local breweries to help them get off the ground and make a real impact on the UK beer scene.  I hope to start homebrewing as well, mainly so I can better understand the fundamentals of beer.  Hopefully I will have further opportunities to be a published wrtier and, who knows, I might even work out how to get paid for writing about beer. There are one or two other really exciting things on the horizon but as they are only bubbling away I will hold on to them for the time being.

My goal for the end of 2013 is to have a very clear idea of a strategy for 2014 and how to consilidate everything I have learned into some kind of money making business.  It looks to be an exciting year and I very much look forward to telling everyone about it.

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