Despite running one of the best beer shops in the UK, I don't really write about retailing a lot. The reason for this is that I want to be seen as a beer writer rather than beer retailer. That might make me sound insecure about the trophies on the sideboard, but that's why I rarely mention Beer-Ritz on here.
But being so close to the action brings you some fantastic insights into the beer market. I thought I might share some of these observations, based on what people have been buying at the shop. This isn't necessarily meant to be extrapolated to the beer-drinking populace as a whole, but there are some interesting trends apparent.
British beer is on the up: this year, people bought more British beer than ever before, particularly at Christmas, when they were buying presents for others. And I don't mean just from the usual suspects (BrewDog, Marble, Thornbridge - although they sell very well), but also generically as a category, from Hook Norton Old Hooky to Ilkley Mary Jane. I think that this signals a turning point for British beer, and people are finally realising that it is simultaneously a great national and also a local product.
Belgian beer is on the wane: fifteen years ago, Belgian beer (and I'm talking all across the board, from Leffe to Trappist to Palm to De Dolle) was new and relatively undiscovered. Five years ago, interested peaked, and today, it's a declining sector. There are certain niches that defy this trend, but overall, there isn't any growth left in Belgian beer in the UK.
American beer is on the verge of going stellar: Sierra Nevada have doubled the volume of imports into the UK each year for the last four years. People like American 'craft' beer because it is largely tasty and uncomplicated. I'm not talking Lost Abbey, I'm talking Odells, Flying Dog, Brooklyn et al. American craft brewing is also showing its most profound influence yet on British brewing.
My Golden Pints for 2010
Best UK Draught Beer - Roosters Nectar
Best UK Bottled Beer - Kernel Citra IPA
Best Overseas Draught Beer - Dogfish Head / Birra del Borgo My Antonia
Best Overseas Bottled Beer - Surly Furious (canned)
Best Overall Beer - Surly Furious
Best Pumpclip or Label - any of Johanna Bashford's BrewDog labels (although Kernel's no-design aesthetics are superb too)
Best UK Brewery - Kernel
Best Overseas Brewery - Sierra Nevada still do a wider range of things better than so many other breweries
Pub/Bar of the Year - The Grove, Hudderfield
Beer Festival of the Year - GBBF
Supermarket of the Year - Waitrose
Independent Retailer of the Year - modesty forbids
Online Retailer of the Year - modesty forbids
Best Beer Book or Magazine - anything by Adrian Tierney-Jones
Best Beer Blog or Website - Stuart Howe's 'Brewing Reality'
Best Beer Twitterer - @simonhjohnson
Best Brewery Online - BrewDog
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year - pigeon crostini and Worthington White Shied
In 2011 I’d Most Like To - get another book commissioned and brew more beer
Biggest Red Herring - the "keg revolution" and confusing modes of dispense with styles of beer