I think it's fair to say that by the time we got to the end of EBBC2012, everyone was ready for a long sleep and a blood transfusion (well, all except Alessio Leone, who was to spend the Sunday night in various Leeds bars before getting an early flight back to Italy without any sleep at all - now that's hardcore). When I got home and was asked how the weekend was, I surprised myself by hearing myself talking about it while my voice cracked with emotion at some of the things I'd heard over the weekend. Not for the first time that weekend, I actually shed a few embarrassed tears. And here's why.
Having moved over the last decade from working part-time in a good beer shop, to managing an award-winning beer shop, to launching a beer-tasting events company, to being British Beer Writer of the Year 2008, to having a book published, to buying out the company that employed me has been a long and exhausting process. There have also been a bunch of people who have been at my side along the way, and who I see as contemporaries, partners-in-crime, whatever. But if you'll permit me the indulgence, I'd like to share with you two almost eidetic moments from the weekend.
The first was after the speed-blogging event, which itself was a whole heap of fun. I think it's fair to say that Rooster's Baby-Faced Assassin was the beer of the night, just pipping Marble's Earl Grey IPA by a small margin. Tom of Rooster's has very kindly acknowledged my indirect influence in the development of this beer - undeservedly so, as all I did was say "yeah, that might work" as Tom explained the idea behind it. As I chatted to him after the event, he casually mentioned that Doug Odell was coming to brew with them in a couple of weeks, largely on the back of having tried and enjoyed Baby-Faced Assassin. Such was my delight at this news that I couldn't help but get dewy-eyed. I guess I saw a lot of similarities between Tom's journey and mine, from amateur beer enthusiast to someone who was making a living doing something they loved, and having a great time doing it.
The second moment was on the Magic Rock visit, when I was talking to head brewer Stuart Ross. Having just toured the brewery, I thought back to a brew that we'd done a couple of years ago. Stuart is a guy who has learnt his craft and apprenticed under some of the best. And looking round at the American craft brewery he and Richard Burhouse have built in Huddersfield, I couldn't help but have an immense swell of pride for the pay-off for his years of hard work. I slapped him on the shoulder and told him this, and he looked me back in the eye, without blinking, and said "And well done you, for what you've done". That is as close to an emotional outpouring as you're likely to get from a Yorkshireman, and it meant the world.
Although I make a living buying and selling beer, I try and resist the idea that these beers are brands. When I look around the warehouse full of beer, each little bay of beers from a particular brewery isn't just beer, it's a lot of hard work, hopes, aspirations and stories, not just from the brewer, but as I mentioned in the last post, the result of an awful lot of work from an awful lot of people. That's why I get emotional when I think about the industry - it's not just beer, it's peoples' lives and peoples' stories that fill your glasses. If you can join me in that belief, not only will your understanding of the topic deepen, but I also believe your beer will taste all the better for it.