By 1993, Boak & Bailey’s beer newsletter was no longer a few stapled sheets.
The December edition of that year was printed on glossy paper and contained features on the demise of Newquay Steam Beer; the meaning of the term ’boutique beer'; and a review of Barrie Pepper’s Bedside Book of Beer.
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UK Cask Beer
There’s no doubt that it’s been the year of the summer ale, fuelled in part by the post-Beer Orders demand for guest ales. Though some traditionalists deride them as a fad, these golden beauties have certainly made a change from boring brown bitters. Whitbread Summer Ale was a pleasant surprise, but Hop Back Summer Lightning is still the one to beat.
At the far extremes of the market, however, some serious experimentation is occurring. Both West Coast Brewing of Manchester and Sean Franklin’s new brewery Rooster’s have been experimenting with strange hop varieties. You might say that there’s an element of Emperor’s new clothes about the trendsetters supposed enjoyment of aromas of cat pee, blackcurrant and tangerines, but we for one can’t get enough of these mad-cap brews.
- 1st place: West Coast Yakima Grande Pale Ale
- 2nd place: Rooster’s Yankee
- 3rd place: Hop Back Summer Lightning
UK Keg Beer
For the first time in ages, we are not giving this award to the sublime Guinness. Though it sadly closed earlier this year, the Packhorse Brewery in Kent takes the prize this time with its German-style lager brewed to the Reinheitsgebot. Let’s hope we hear more from talented young brewer Alastair Hook in the future.
- 1st place: Packhorse Golden Pilsener
- 2nd place: Packhorse Viennese Amber
- 3rd place: Guinness
UK Bottled or Canned Beer
The emergence of a new class of PBAs (posh bottled ales) has made this category much more fun in recent years. Where once we might have travelled half a day to get a pint of Old Speckled Hen, we can now find it in most supermarkets. Once again, though, we must betray the beer freak’s traditional bias towards beers at the extremes of strength and flavour…
- 1st place: Young’s Old Nick barley wine
- 2nd place: Marston’s Export India Ale (not strong and hoppy enough to be really authentic, but good)
- 3rd place: Morland’s Old Speckled Hen
Overseas Draught Beer
We have worked our way through the six Belgian beers on offer at Belgo in North London and have fallen quite in love with…
- 1st place: Leffe Blonde
- 2nd place: Hoegaarden wheat beer
Overseas Bottled Beer
This has been the year of the wheat beer. Though we beer freaks have been raving about them for years, their sudden arrival in Tesco and Sainsbury’s, as well as behind the bars of pubs up and down the country, has been a revelation to many. Hazy beer that isn’t bad for you? Deliberately swirling in the yeast? Whether British drinkers will accept this in the long run remains to be seen.
- 1st place: Thurn & Taxis Weizen (Tesco)
- 2nd place: Franziskaner Weizen (Sainsbury’s)
It has to be the beer Mark Dorber brewed with Bass for his India Pale Ale symposium at the White Horse. Frankly, it was undrinkably hoppy, but he is keeping some back and hopes it might have mellowed by next summer.
The name is a simple, powerful statement of intent; the graphic design makes the best of modern desktop publishing software: the winner is Baz’s Bonce Blower from the Parish Brewery.
Pub/Bar of the Year
Three establishments that could hardly be more different – the sophisticated London restaurant with Belgian beer; the brewery tap from which we emerged to find that the tyres had been stolen from our tour bus; and the West London pub where we wore wax jackets as we supped Anchor Steam Beer and perfectly kept Bass Pale Ale among the City and yachting set.
- 1st place: Belgo, Chalk Farm, North London
- 2nd place: The King’s Arms, Chorlton-cum-Medlock, Manchester
- 3rd place: The White Horse, Parson’s Green, West London
As the only really big festival, it has to be, once again, the Great British Beer Festival at the Grand Hall, Olympia.
The Michael Jackson effect continues to be felt in the ever-more adventurous foreign beer stand — you’ll find stuff here that you won’t get anywhere else, including American beer. (Some of the US brewers who were hanging around called it ‘craft beer’ – a phrase we’ve also noticed Roger Protz use a few times. Will it catch on?)
We applauded a well-deserved Champion Beer of Britain win for Elland’s 1872 porter, which showed that the judges are far from conservative in their tastes.
And who can forget the magical performance from the Bruce Boardman Swingtet on Thursday evening?
With their range of Belgian speciality beers, Sainsbury’s win this hands down. Trappist dubbel in a stoneware jug? Check. Biere de Garde in a champagne style bottle? Check. Their bottle-conditioned porter – a remnant of the craze for such beers from a couple of years back – merely sweetens the deal.
Beer Book or Magazine
Apart from reprints of Michael Jackson’s New World Guide to Beer (now rather out of date) and the Durden Park Beer Circle’s Old British Beers and How to Make Them, it’s been a thin year for beer books. We have no choice, therefore, but to go for CAMRA Good Beer Guide 1994, edited very capably by Jeff Evans.
Beer Blog or Website
We don’t really understand the internet, but the discussion group alt.beer shows promise as a forum for beer enthusiasts around the world to engage in frank, friendly, open-minded discussion. (Though some recent conversations about the benefits of kegging over traditional cask-conditioning have become worryingly heated.)
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Note: this is, of course, a fiction, or perhaps more accurately, a wish-fulfilment fantasy. In 1993, we were at secondary school and not yet drinking (Bailey) or necking cheap vodka in Epping Forest (Boak). We also took the liberty of using one source from 1994 so a couple of details about supermarket beer might be a bit out.