It's the annual awards dinner of the British Guild of Beer Writers this week, which for me is increasingly becoming an anchor point in the year, perhaps more so in beery terms than Christmas, birthday or New Year. The picture above was taken in the Euston Tap almost a year ago, the day after I won the Molson Coors-sponsored National Journalism category. I was having a beer, staring off into space, and wasn't aware of the photo being taken. That picture has also recently appeared in the online and print editions of The Economist. Leaving aside the tiresome cliché of beer making you fat (the caption to the picture prompted fellow blogger Nick Mitchell to point out that "1.4m influential businessmen, professionals, economists and thought leaders now think you're fat.") and the questionable fact that fancy beer has any snob value at all outside of a very small circle of people, it's a pretty decent summary of the situation.
That things are changing in the beer world isn't in doubt. What is surprising is the potential for growth that the niche end of the market is providing - indeed, it's where ALL the growth is at the moment. In a year that's seen me invest roughly two thirds of the value of my home in a warehouse full of beer, my senses have become acutely tuned to business side of what's happening at the bar (or more commonly, at the off licence), as well as what simply tastes good. I'm happy to report that it's not just a lot of noisome bloggers creating an illusion of a scene, it is actually going on in real life too. Of course, you knew that, because you're part of it, but the view from the other side of the fence, the bit that needs to pay the bills in order to feed the interest, is happy to confirm it: Call it what you want - craft beer, really good beer, beer - it's not just a bubble, or a phenomenon, or the flavour of the month. Sure it's niche, sure it's small, but at a time when the media is focusing on the bad (neatly summed up here), there's a part of the economy that is in growth, and that needs to be celebrated. Perhaps with a beer.
Image from The Euston Tap's website