Thanks to everyone who entered the competition. I can honestly say that I enjoyed reading each and every entry, from the poetic, to the prosaic, to the illustrative. Honourable mentions must go Neil Walker for his oblique (and, now I go to write it, unlikely-sounding) fusion of Bob Dylan and John Betjeman, and to Chris Cutting for the cartoon (you have to admire anyone who accompanies such a submission with the explanation “I know it doesn't comply to any of the requirements - please bear in mind I've recently taken on a job with a much longer train journey of late and have time on my hands.”)
However, like Highlander, there can be only one, and that one is Jeff Alworth. Jeff's entry was posted after the deadline, and so his win is sure to upset a few people, not least Matt Lovatt who submitted his entry 4 minutes before the competition deadline. To add further insult to injury, Jeff didn't even email me to tell me about his contribution, it just popped up in a Google alert (come on, we all have Google alerts on our names don't we?). You can read it here.
What I liked about Jeff's entry was the way that it made the story of beer seem like a long ribbon, simultaneously spooling into the past but also winding in from the future. It made me feel that each time we prise the cap off a bottle of beer, we make an imprint on history. And then because I got up to tend to our squalling child in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep, my mind ran riot with that idea: the ribbon of time capped into each bottle, a story released with each hiss of carbon dioxide.
Each beer we drink may be a quasi-political act, determining which breweries will prosper, and who will perish. What styles will stand the test of time, and what sort of a Pandora's bottle are we opening when we release a double IPA onto the unsuspecting drinking public of the UK? Life may be too short to drink bad beer, but what kind of eugenics are we practising if we define our drinking habits too narrowly?
Like I said, my mind ran riot. So, it was nice to read every entry, and they all made me think, but Jeff's entry really blew my mind. Thanks everyone for entering, thanks to Greene King for the fascinating brewery visit and the bottle in the first place, and here's to more beer writing – may it continue to grow in stature, range and quality.