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New York and London say it with beer

Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver was honored by the British Guild of Beer Writers at its annual dinner this month. Garrett's special award recognised, among his many achievements, his work on British beer-styles. No one who has tasted his East India Pale Ale or Monster Barley Wine would dissent.

As the big brewers become ever more international in their marketing, the best of the small ones are developing an international network based on a passion for beer. Garrett has been a tireless activist in this unofficial movement.

One of Garrett's occasional appearances as a guest brewer was at Brakspear's, renowned for its classically English ales. This long-established company, in Henley, near London, has been undergoing something of a renaissance under Jim Burrows, who was named Brewer of the Year at the Guild dinner.

London and New York stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the dinner. Guild Chairman Roger Protz, in his introductory remarks, recalled an emotional occasion: the beer festival, at which Garrett and I were the two speakers, in Manhattan, just after September 11.

Garrett was again in eloquent mood in London, seeming to re-live the experiences that have illuminated his work as a brewer. Not least of these was an encounter with the gigantic copper vessels, now retired, at Young's brewery, in London. The brews that had been created in those mighty crucibles, over many decades, had loosened tongues, led to passionate debates, ambitious schemes, love affairs, the birth of babies, he mused. Such was the sociability and universality of beer that surely no other drink was so influential.

Similar thoughts emerged among the criteria for the awards to writers. Last year's winner, Alastair Gilmour, of the Newcastle morning newspaper The Journal, proposed the following: "Does the writing explore areas, particularly unfamiliar ones, in an easily understandable manner? Does it arouse an interest in the subject, or add to the reader's knowledge? Does it amuse, sadden, or otherwise affect the emotions?" Affect the emotions? Falling in love again? In that case the final criterion, again courtesy of Alastair Gilmour, is the most telling: "Would the reader want to read further pieces by this writer?"

English and Scottish authors have been past winners of the Guild's Gold tankard, but this year it went to a Welsh writer, Jeff Evans, for his Good Bottled Beer Guide (published by the Campaign for Real Ale). The Silver was awarded to Canadian Larry Nelson, for his work in attracting lively writing to the London-based industry publication Brewers' Guardian. The names of Protz and Jackson were featured among the pewter tankards. The chairman of the awards, Rupert Ponsonby, spoke with the most English accent of the evening (fit for Masterpiece Theater?) as he gave readings from winning entries.

After beer soup, apparently flavored with a Bishop's Finger; duck breast with Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat; and a dessert made with two stouts (Mackeson and Young's Double Chocolate), guests were sufficiently fortified to hear, among other tales, my story "Life After Lager".

Published: DEC 10, 2001
In: Beer Hunter Online

- Beer Styles

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