All the beer bloggers are doing it, I really don't feel that I can miss out, I'll have to do some sort of seasonal review of how I saw the year. It's not a bad idea really, it's the first full calendar year that I've been writing this blog so it's reasonable to have a go at summarising the year as I see it. It's certainly been an interesting year. Mind you, I could say that about every one of the 44 years I've been around, but not all of them I could look back on with quite the same sense of achievement.
I did consider using Mark's template, but to choose the very best proved to be quite difficult. I don't really like choosing my "best of" anything. I'd have to take it far too seriously as I'd be afraid of missing a real gem. Also, things are different, not necessarily better or worse. I hate missing anything out that is good, and the same is true of people. For this reason I am not even going to try and highlight my favourite blogger or twitterer or the best beer or brewery, you are all very special to me. I feel especially guilty due to the mentions I've had in several other blogs this year, so all I can do is apologise for not joining in with that little game.
This time last year I was in Oregon, USA, staying with my friend Ted Sobel. He's not featured much on here for a while, but I believe his Anglo-American brew pub concept is doing well. Ted is a lover of cask beer and there is very little of it out in his part of the world. Apparently I'm partly to blame for his mad idea of setting up a brewpub in some remote town called Oakridge in the Willamette Valley. Apart from it being great to see what Ted had created out there, it was also the first time in five years we'd been away from our own place for more than a week. The whole experience and ability to relax is one thing that has kept me going for the last 12 months. I know I've only scratched the surface of the area when it comes to beer. I will be returning, but probably not next year.
This time last year I had only met a few people from the beer writing world. A couple of bloggers, a couple of professional writers and a handful of industry people. I didn't know last Christmas where this blogging thing was going, or what I'd carry on writing about, if I'd run out of ideas or who on earth would be interested in what I wrote. Throughout the year the base readership has grown, I've met many people including other bloggers, many more beer writers from other antiquated media, a few celebrities and a whole load of brewers and other trade people. I worry that I'll lose interest at some time, as I've seen it happen to others, or that more pressing issues will take me away from the keyboard, but I'll keep blogging until that seems to happen.
During the year I've seen new bloggers come and I've seen one or two drop away. The overall beer blogging scene seems to be going from strength to strength. I'm still excited that this medium, that anybody can join, is growing into something which attracts the attention of a wide audience and although beer bloggers haven't yet struck a mass media worthy mention, other bloggers have and it's only a matter of time. I've also now got many friends in the beer blogging world, the comradeship is delightful and I hope I can continue to improve my contribution to that. I'd mention some here but I think it would be completely unfair to miss anybody. I don't get to read as many of the blogs as I'd like to, there are so many. Keep it going guys.
Of course there is the Award I achieved with the Guild of Beer Writers for this blog, I'm still very pleased about that. I have to consider what to do next now that I feel I have at least proved my writing has some sort of provenance. I want to continue in this medium but also I want to explore the possibility of printed media. I have to work out what to do there as I know I have to do the legwork. I have some projects in embryonic stages of planning, but I need to look more carefully at the next stage.
Beers, well, I choose not to do any sort of listing of my years best beers. I don't keep notes on beers and although I'd class myself as a ticker in some ways, I'd much prefer to enjoy my beer drinking experience than make substantial notes on every beer. I have drunk many more different beers this year than perhaps at any other time in my life. I have been introduced to beers that break out from the normal pub style session beers. Not that I don't like the session beer anymore and the vast majority of beer that I drink still comes into that category. I have fallen in love with more styles of beer, that's all. I hope to continue to explore the beer world in this way. Perhaps then I will look out for next years winners during the course of the coming 12 months.
My own brewing is getting better. I've got lots still to learn and I don't think that'll ever stop. I need to perfect the bottling of my beers; I'm not happy with that yet. I want to explore different styles of beers and possibly look at producing some interesting beers by developing my experimental brews of this year. I need to think about how the brewing is going to evolve and how I can fit that in with everything else I do, but I'd like to look at increasing capacity at some point in time.
Our time in the pub seems to be maturing. For the first time we seem to be capable of getting through the winter without exceeding normal credit limits. We seem to have made the place at least a little bit profitable. Takings are up a little and we're more efficient by cutting out some of the none profitable services. To do that in a year when the overall economic situation seems dire we must be doing something right.
Finally, I must thank a few people. Quite apart from the hospitality extended by beer friends everywhere, be they brewers, publicans, writers or just beer drinkers, there are some people who connect with my day to day world of this pub. There are the pub staff team during the year, this years team have been very helpful and loyal.
Jeff Pickthall deserves a special mention for encouraging my writing and for persuading me to get my arse to the GBBF and the Guild dinner along with pointing out several must try beers and pushing my brewing in interesting directions.
Without customers I would not have a business. I'm very grateful to the building customer base that understands what we are trying to do here. It's interesting developing a concept which is unusual and defies some base cultural doctrine that surrounds the pub industry. It was a punt going in the direction we've gone and it's starting to pay off. It would never happen without customers. Some special mentions are worthy in this respect. Lucinda and James drive over from County Durham just to have a drink and a meal, that's dedication. Rex and Jackie refuse to be barred, I tried, but they keep coming back. The Sheriff has worn out at least one tankard since we came here, although I hasten to add not just in our pub. Ivan and Chris are regular visitors and we have to make sure there is a stock of matured Blue Bore Bombs especially for them. Our dragon fly photographer and Mildly Complex lover is always a joy to have stay. Reuben, wife and friends helped us to stay sane when our lovably eccentric Washy visited and drank me dry of Zippy Red and allowed Lucy to adulterate Tokyo* with lemonade.
None of this would be possible without my patient partner Ann. She puts up with my inability to think about anything else when I'm writing this blog. She drives me home from various beer explorations normally without very much complaint and even manages to stay awake in the pub occasionally whilst I'm researching the beer.
It leaves me to thank all the readers of my blog. Without you popping in, there would be no point in me writing this. I used to write technical documents that were put in a file, just in case. I detest writing for nobody. There are plenty of activities I could do for my own enjoyment, writing is not one of them, it only makes sense to me as a way of communicating my thoughts to other people. Thank you for sticking with me this year and I hope you had a good Christmas and that next year brings you much success in whatever you choose to do.
Most of all I hope you enjoy lots of beer this New Years Eve, where ever you are, and remember to enjoy it all responsibly, until the point you fall over that is.