5 December 2019

The Crossroads

I have always labelled myself a beer shamateur or beer wanker. I don't do this to be glib or self-effacing - I literally am an overly casual infrequent imbiber, forever destined to be stuck on the periphery of both worlds in the great Venn Diagram of Beer Drinkers. I am too curious to be ignorant and too ignorant to be an aficionado. I am too exploratory to be predictable and too predictable to be a connoisseur. I am too enthusiastic to be boring and too boring to be interesting.

I will admit to predictably, regularly and somewhat shamelessly exhibiting many of the behaviours most expected - and reviled - of amateur fickle fairweather beer enthusiasts. I fight FOMO by sampling as much as possible under the sun (within my own narrow tastes). I collect all manner of ephemera and merchandise to desperately show off to the wide world that I like beer. In short, I tend to overcompensate for my deficiencies and do silly things like trying to maintain a beer blog despite having all the writing skill of an arthritic panda, trying to make YouTube videos that wouldn't even get on You've Been Framed, and getting regularly involved in Twitter spats that have absolutely nothing to do with me.

I also try to tell myself that this is all normal, that it's my way of demonstrating an unabashed and unfettered enthusiasm for an activity which brings me pleasure, and in a way it does, and I shouldn't feel any guilt or shame for the way in which I conduct myself. I tell myself there are no hard or fast rules for how I should approach beer, the beer world, the beer sphere or the beer community. Yet in everything I do, I feel like I've brought a plastic spoon to a knife fight. Surrounding, influencing, guiding and inspiring me is a wonderful group of talented, engaging, knowledgeable, confident, friendly and open-minded individuals. I tell myself to not judge my self against people who have years of experience, who have gifts for storytelling way beyond anything I could aspire to, who have tongues and palates able to distinguish and identify the merest hint of an adjunct.

But inadequacy and inferiority are the  loud and convincing devils sitting on my shoulders and, in a hobby where due to its nature, there is a danger that emotions can be heightened, stimulated and driven to extreme by its very pursuit, those feelings can manifest themselves all too readily and frequently.

I have twice come close to closing myself off from the hobby and by shutting down the various outlets and tools I invoke to maintain and drive the hobby. But I could never be just another beer drinker after experiencing the sense of community, welcoming and sharing I have found in the Beer World. I could never not check in, phot, tweet or blog.

But at the same time, sometimes I wonder if it's worth it, especially when I don't fit into a particular category. I am not a pure craft/indy drinker, I am not purely a macro drinker. I don't shun keg and I don't worship cask. I sip out of bottles and decant cans. I collect lids and labels and mats... but it is an uncurated, unremarkable collection.

Tribalism is a disease which has infected our whole society and which is amplified by our internet-driven world. Suddenly it's Team A vs Team B, blue v red, black v white. As someone who very definitely sits in the middle ground in so much in my life, I find this disturbing. I am not a vegan but I like Quorn. I am liberal politically but I favour harsh punishment for crimes. I am a traditionalist who embraces technology. I am a walking talking contradiction. I cannot pigeonhole myself.

I have begun to notice that tribalism is ever more loud and annoying in the Beer World. I touched on this in my article Cask v Craft, Two Sides Of The Same Coin and also Magic Rock Haywire -- in the former I argued that the negative behavioural traits of stereotypical Cask Ale Defenders and Indy Craft Proponents were just as distasteful as each other; in the latter I reflected somewhat bemusedly at the independent beer lovers who were outraged that it was now much more convenient for them to pick up their favourite brews in a big supermarket. I just don't get such blinkered and obstinate behaviour.

I have absolutely no time for either absolutism, prescriptivism, objectivism or unrealistic idealism. I am forever fed up with people inferring what is and what isn't beer, what is or what isn't craft or macro, what is or what isn't big or indy beer, what is or what isn't in vogue. I will never complete my beer journey, I will never rack up a high score on Untappd, I will never take the opinions of beer judges over my own.

So this is it - I am at my crossroads. I am walking away from all of that negativity and conflict. My beer journey has never been about what is right or wrong in beer, it's always been about what's right or wrong *for me*. I will continue to enjoy big beers and not be made to feel ashamed for it. I will continue to drink experimental small here-today-gone-tomorrow beers and not be made to feel pretentious for it. I will continue to tweet and blog and write and discuss and impart opinion, but I don't really care who listens.

I would still like people to read my blog though, and read the articles. The less personally self-indulgent ones that is.

4 December 2019

Winning

The annual British Guild of Beer Writers Awards took place last night (full list of winners here : https://www.beerguild.co.uk/news/best-of-beer-writing-recognised-in-annual-awards-2/)

The big winner of the night was Jonny Garrett of YouTube's Craft Beer Channel who took away four awards included the coveted Beer Writer Of The Year. There were also awards for Katie Maher, Lily Waite, Matthew Curtis, Eoghan Walsh, Will Hawkes, Adrian Tierney-Jones and Clare Bullen - all folks I follow on Twitter and whose writing I read and appreciate greatly.

These fine exponents of the craft can lead one as a humble part-time rambling blogger feeling a little overwhelmed. How is it they seem able to deftly and effortlessly turn out engaging, varied, entertaining and informative content so regularly and consistently?

The truth is that it takes hard graft, continuous refinement of the art, and most of all persistence. It takes years to reach the level that they have, but it is attainable and it is within reach, for even the most ham-fisted of keyboard basher.

If you ever want to stand on that podium one day receiving your own golden tankard, don't give up at the first hurdle. Don't compare your initial stumbling efforts to the beer writing equivalent of Van Gogh's Sunflowers or Beethoven's 9th. Don't think that the skills exhibited by the roll of honour above are unobtainable. But at the same time, don't try to artificially speed up the process.

Turn your envy of their success into energy to drive you to your own.

Turn your admiration of their skills into aspiration to hone yours.

Turn any doubt you have in your abilities into a pig-headed defiance of the negative voices in your head.

Turn your awe of others into your own awesomeness.