Navel Gazing…

Yesterday I did a bit of blog/plugin/PHP hackery… as I wanted a sort of a recipe index for this site. (At the same time I created a food pairing index.) What this exercise revealed is that I really haven’t published enough recipes. So – for 2014 I think I want to focus more on the cooking and, to a lesser extent, food/beer pairing… I actually have an additional 10 recipe entries in draft stage (mostly incomplete due to lack of time). I’ve been writing up my foodie notes online for years now, pre-beeriness, and it has always been simply because doing so is great fun. Devising the Saison Char Sui(ish) Pork Belly recipe recently reminded me of my “roots”, as such.

Goal: for every non-foodie entry I write I MUST write TWO foodie entries.
Additional: for every non-recipe foodie entry I must write two recipe entries.

I do still want to record other experiences… and in 2013 there were some huge highlights such as doing the full-week bar training course at GBBF in August. Trip & event reports are great fun to write too, such as my recent Fremantle & Swan Valley write-ups. However I want to avoid “politics” posts… aka “blather” or “verbal diarrhoea“… there’s enough of it out there as it is, and it really isn’t particularly useful. I think I’ll avoid things like “The Session” too… while they’re sort of fun they’re also a off-topic for the most part.

A new thing that arose in 2013 was homebrew… I’m still not entirely sure where I stand with homebrew. So far I’ve had “acceptable” success with all but one beer out of five being quite pleasant… and the “one” bad one being “not all that bad” (it has an acetic flavour that I dislike, yet have found in other much-lauded beers).  It has an affinity with cooking, but is my heart really in it? I tend to leave most brews in primary or secondary far longer than I ought to… mainly because bottling is such a bloody chore. So will 2013 be the beginning and the END of homebrew for me? Or will I continue as I have… or will I move on to “proper” full-mash brewing? I really haven’t a clue at the moment. Oh, and I’d better bottle these damn stouts this week. Ho hum!

Not entirely on-topic but I do also want to get more cycling events in this year. I did a handful last year… but not enough. A painful highlight was the doing the London Revolution with Windsor & Eton folk… over 180 miles in two days… recovery took two months. Damn right knee. But it was excellent fun regardless. This year I have ALREADY embarked on a training plan that should lead me to a more successful London Revolution in 2014 – and hopefully have me looking a little less of a horrid tub of lard in my Republika jersey. There seems to be quite an intersection between cycling & the brewing world… especially mountain biking. Off-road is my personal preference and it has been far too long since I did some good singletrack on the hardtail. I’d love to do some MTB (meet-the-brewer) MTBing (mountainbiking) in 2014. It’d be a blast. This is also part of a general fitness goal… the last few years have been unkind as a result of self-neglect: too much beer, not enough exercise.

In 2014 I might even play with video a bit more… or perhaps the world doesn’t need to be subjected to such a horror. I’d need to clean the kitchen properly first anyway.

#EBBC13 – I’m no Beer Blogger

Beer Bloggers Conference - Edinburgh 2013 - ParticipantI am not a Beer Blogger, sure I have a blog – that much is clearly obvious. I do blog, therefore I am a blogger. However I believe there is a creature I’ll refer to as a capital-B-Blogger. I met many bloggers over the 12th and 13th of July – some whom, in my head, I’ve not honoured with a capital B, a handful of others I think may deserve a full on shout to the heavens of THOU ART BLOGGER! The lines are, as always, fuzzy – but here I loosely outline what I am on about.

I blog – I have blogged on and off since about 1999. Beer didn’t become a major theme of my haphazard writings until about 2009 and the advent of the BrewDog phenomenon and my acquisition of some of their shares. Prior to this cooking and coffee were as close as I had to a “theme” as well as being a general journal and travelogue. Your run-of-the-mill personal blog really. Beer started taking over and I created in 2011 to re-home my torrent of alcoholic musings. It has, as ever, been an on-and-off affair – with twists and turns as inspirations come and go. I don’t pay attention to my hits or stats, and SEO is just a dirty TLA to me. I write for a very small audience of family and friends – since we’re all so far-distributed. (My family in West Australia, Kat’s in Sydney, and a small collection of friends the globe-over from the Aussie tech diaspora.)

Beautiful venue at the Ghillie Dhu!Thanks to EBBC I have developed a picture of what a real Beer Blogger is. Firstly they’re bloggers who’d actually go to a European Beer Bloggers Conference - a conference for bloggers? Just odd. (I was not intending to fit it into my schedule, though I’ve been vaguely interested since hearing great beery things about the 1st one – then craziness happened.) Other features bubbled out fairly quickly. Bloggers care about their “reach” and pay close attention to their stats and work on their SEO. They leverage social media to drive traffic to their sites. They’re basically following two hobbies – beer writing and online marketing. Please note that I say this with no derogatory note at all! These folk are important beer champions – their marketing efforts are for a great cause: spreading the beery word.

BrewDog Sarah does Social MediaOddly enough there wasn’t actually a load of content geared to this side of the Blogger personality. One facts and figures round-up from the organisers, with some coverage of leveraging social media platforms. A talk from BrewDog Sarah focused on the use of social media to build audience – it can certainly be said that BrewDog have had a lot of success at getting attention through these mediums. Susanna Forbes’s gave an interesting talk about style and audience – useful to get tips from a real writing and editorial professional. I found them all this content thought provoking – but was glad it was a pretty light touch on these technicalities. To me it was just the right amount.

Beer & Cheese/Charcuterie matching.

The rest of the conference content was really just good solid beer fun. Much of both days involved sampling beer – but at the same time the sessions were informative. On Friday Garrett Oliver’s keynote was engaging, the Pilsner Urquell dinner was theatrical (though I’m not really sure about the cask Pilsner Urquell), and the Stewart Brewery trip a perfect “piss up in a brewery”. On Saturday Sophie Atherton’s introduction to being a beer sommelier was perfect for my own area of interest – as it’d be something I’d consider trying to become (just for fun?) The round-the-world global-blogging panel was an interesting window into the Polish, US, and Irish beer scenes. The manic speed-dating/blogging/drinking thing was a bit much for me I must admit – I don’t do speed. Saturday’s dinner was particularly good… note to self: and if I have time I will try to dredge my memory and write up a few notes about the foodie elements of the weekend. (It is my modus (h)operandi after all.)

So – what about the BLOGGERS? They have business cards! They’re semi-professional writers really and some even derive some income from their writing. These folk are one small step away from being journalists – or beer marketing professionals of some sort. Some have a huge passion for beer, and others seem to have more of a passion for self-promotion at times (important if they hope to make some income from their passion for beer). I’m not sure that this great fun vibrant beer conference served these power-bloggers as well as it might have. Though I doubt they’d complain given the constant stream of beer and food.

Saturday DinnerOutside of the truly great schedule – stupendous value for the £95 ticket price – the highlight for me was putting faces (and whole bodies) to many faceless Twitter-handles I interact with regularly. Twitter is a big part of the coming-together of the UK beer scene, I may not be a Blogger but I vomit forth tweets incessantly. Not promoting, rarely trying to “drive traffic”, mainly just because it is a fun community – but also, as a beer fest organiser, a finger on the pulse of what’s up in the beer world so I can get some great beers.

It was an excellent weekend – intense – and I could go on forever about it. The beers! (Toccalmatto! Wow!) People! Beer Stars! EDINBURGH! I fell in love with the city when I first visited a few years ago and with the weekend’s weather and beers it is now etched into my mind as paradise. Edinburgh’s craft beer and pub scene! I put it to you that it is a better craft beer capital than London – by a clear margin. I’m sure I can fit in a few more exclamation marks here… How about: The Hanging Bat! Chris Mair is one of my personal UK beer heroes – not in a creepy, stalky way I swear.

#EBBC14? I’ll give it serious consideration – and whether you are a mere blogger like me, or a serious Beer Blogger, I’d highly recommend you give it a chance as well. Especially for the amazing range of beer available and the brilliant people you will meet. I really hope the return on investment for the sponsors is good enough to keep this ball rolling. (Some of them had a tougher time than others… *ahem* clear glass *ahem*.)

Don’t take my vague word for it though. This was a conference full of bloggers of all varieties and it has been blogged to death. Check out the #EBBC13 hashtag on Twitter for a lot more.

Meanwhile – maybe if I pull the old finger out and write more, start playing with social media as promotional “platforms”, ogling my stats, and whatnot… perhaps I can graduate to being a Beer Blogger. I suspect I’ll have trouble taking it all seriously enough though. :)

Stewart Brewing


European Beer Bloggers Conference

Wow, OK, I’m going to be at this tomorrow — barring train shenanigans. I’m sitting on the 20:45 Cambridge to King’s Cross, to rendezvous with the 23:50 Caledonian Sleeper to Edinburgh. (Should give time to pop into Euston Tap, sneaky sneaky.) Hotel is booked. EBBC registration is in. This all happened within the last 4 hours.

I didn’t go to the EBBC in London last year. I do this blogging thing for a bit of a lark, what need do I have for some sort of conference about it? Then the tweets rolled in about the cool & crazy stuff going on there. And I envied. But oh well…

The chance for EBBC13 came along, but I looked at my rather full beer schedule and thought to myself: “Edinburgh, I love the place and want to go again, for for 2013 it is just one beery thing too far.” These things cost time & money. So with a sigh I passed it by.

Then yesterday this came along. Ohhh… £500 quid stipend to go to EBBC. So last minute. Just my style. Oh, what the heck… I commented.

This morning I had it on my mind. Packed some extra clothes & contacts, etc, in my work bag. Feeling foolish.

Queue about 3:30pm. An email arrives. Would I like to go to EBBC.

Wow… OK. Speechless, grinning like a nutter. (My colleagues are used to this sort of thing.) Booked tickets, hotel, got sorted for last minute day of leave (I’m pretty lucky here.)

On Skype Kat types to me: Where’s Colin? Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit! Queue a fast 9 mile pedal home, just for Colin. Taxi back to town, beer with friends, on a train.


Wow. I’m on the way to Edinburgh. Just wow. *grins* Mental.

This is all thanks to @LetThereBeBeer, I’m not really sure who or what they are. Haven’t had time to investigate, although I have heard some murmurings. Corporate body I hear, which would gel with their login-only Facebook page (so I can’t see it). And crazy “verify your age to follow us” twitter account. (So I’m not, stuff that!) But big business isn’t necessarily bad. So we shall see! I am highly thankful no matter what! (Until I get strapped into some corporate brainwash machine Total Recall style.)

See you there? :-D We have trainbeer to drink!

[First time I have ever blogged from a train, first time I have ever blogged with the Android app. It is a faff! Excuse typos.]


I’m not into “best of” lists, or “year in retrospect” types of things. Don’t read them, don’t write them. Perhaps it’s just laziness? I’m not even going to bother with highlights (oh, there were some though. There were indeed!)… instead I’ll look to the future.

Write More

I like writing, I’d like to write more, “practice makes perfect” they say. (Not that practice is any use without someone telling you off when you fuck up, but oh well.) Writing doesn’t come naturally to me alas and a single blog post can easily become an entire day’s work, sometimes two days. Over time my blogging (on various matters) waxes and wanes under pressures of time & work and droughts of enthusiasm & inspiration.

I suspect this is a common thread amongst blogging hobbyist’s NYE resolutions: generate more content. It’s fun and rewarding to do so because it’s just another way to explore your passion for something (it doesn’t really matter if nobody reads it either, though it is nice if they do of course). Writing clarifies your thoughts on a topic I find, writing down a recipe leads to repeatability and from there to tweaks and improvements. Writing about good experiences with beer or beery places sets them in your minds and acts as a humble thank-you in the direction of the objects of your worship. When I fail to write about something I’ve loved I actually feel bad about it, as if I’ve not shown it the appreciation it truly deserves. I’ve not properly committed to its celebration.

The rest of my points are basically about how to write more…

Cook More

OK, I probably cook A LOT more than your typical modern 1st-worlder. I’m lucky, my upbringing in restaurants seems to have bestowed on me some natural instinct in the kitchen — much that others find daunting I look at as being sort of simple (most things are, you just need to try them out…) By no means am I a chef, and I doubt I could cut the mustard as a commercial cook, but I have the abilities and confidence to be creative and run off-piste in the kitchen. Sometimes I think the results are stunning, sometimes pretty terrible, and from time to time I end up with something inedible (very rare, thankfully!)

I need to set myself some tasks and goals. The River Cottage “Three Good Things” challenge was great for forcing me to sit down and think about cooking with beer. The important added factor is the need to document the recipe properly in both words and pictures. A recipe per week for 5 weeks is a little on the heavy side, but I think coming up with some sort of “series” ideas with monthly deadlines could be a useful tool.

This blog is supposed to combine my love of cooking and my love of beer, this really should be the focus!

Drink Less

… wait, what?!

I think I drink a bit too much beer. I don’t think drinking is bad. However it is easy to fall into unhealthy habits and it is difficult to balance a having-a-drink-every-night lifestyle with an appropriate amount of exercise when you’re an office desk-jockey. Drinking does really slow down my ability to be creative too, after a couple of beers it is very easy to just say “fuck it, I can’t be arsed”. It is much easier to write with a clear head, and much easier to maintain a good schedule if you don’t go to bed past midnight, sleep like crap, and thus sleep in every morning. I used to get up at 6AM regularly, these days I’m lucky to be up by 8AM.

I do try repeatedly to drink less, but I always slip back into bad habits. I’ll keep trying, maybe I’ll eventually regain the necessary discipline.

On new year’s day I’m taping up all boxes of beer in my house and not opening them until February. January 2013 will be alcohol-free. I hope…

Get Out More

I’ve become too much of a home-drinker, I ought to travel around a bit more and appreciate different places. Simple as that. There are many place in the UK I haven’t visited, I need to start seeing new places and go back to familiar & comfortable ones a little less. Sheffield, Leeds, York – I’ve never drunk in any of these cities, all well known for their beer scenes. A trip or two outside of the UK could be nice too… Italy has growing “craft beer” credentials, we’ve still never visited Eastern Europe, and there is the US too.

This includes pushing the beer-and-food agenda too, I need to visit more restaurants and hassle them for having crap beer. Also fitting in a few high-end places would be fun (but in moderation due to the cost), our recent L’enclume dinner was an excellent experience and I managed to fit in some beer advocacy too. ;)


I’m too stressed out all the time, for no good reason. Time to relax and look to the future more, so I leave you with beer-related things I’m really looking forward to in 2013:

  • IndyManBeerCon 2013 — 2012 was amazing, 2013 has high standards to live up to! It is back in the same venue so it really ought to improve, building upon the 2012 experience.
  • Wild Beers — sours, lambics, saisons, farmhouse ales: whatever you call them the future looks interesting for these forms of beer in the UK. I love them and would love to see more “home grown” options in this sphere. From all I hear and echos in the industry it seems that 2013 may be the year the wilder side of the UK beer scene makes more of a showing. There is also, of course, the Wild Beer Co itself.
  • Craft Beer in Cambridge — c’mon, it’s gotta happen! Cambridge is small, but it is hipster and affluent. There must be a market here worthy of the likes of Craft, Tap, or BrewDog. If I had enough cash in the bank I’d do it myself because I’m sure it would be a business winner. I hope I’m not wrong.
  • Meeting more amazing people — after the beer the second best thing about the UK’s developing beer scene is the people. Sure, there are grumbles and disagreements from time to time and certainly some mildly opposing factions out there. However, nearly every individual beer nerd I’ve met, of all ages and factions, is a genuinely great person. I think it is probably difficult to find someone who has both the capacity to care and be passionate about beer and also be, as an individual, a total cock. (There are a few around who’re purely business with an interested in beer derived only from profit margins, mostly these people are total cocks. Profits are essential, and important of course … but are not everything.)

2013… bring it on.



Time, ticking away…

Since the “great hard drive fire of 2011” my blogging has been a bit slow… well, non-existent!

Mostly this is down to a lack of time. Anyway, I hope to get back into it this year. The little writing time I have at the moment goes towards CAMRA. Maintenance and creating content for the North Hertfordshire CAMRA website and Hertfordshire “Pints of View” newsletter have taken priority! Most recently this includes a huge amount of effort getting in the run-up to the Hitchin Beer Festivalcheck out our maps! They’re fun. Also check out our time-lapse videos of the festival. More fun! As fun as it all is it is also a heck of a lot of work hours I (and Kat too) have put into CAMRA in the last year and I’m wondering if I should focus a bit more on my own stuff.

My CAMRA branch has its AGM in a couple of weeks and I plan to back away from some of my commitment here (Pints of View) and perhaps this will let me write some more here instead. We’ll see!