Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Craft Beer: The 100 Best Breweries in the World

You know who your friends are when everything is turned upside down. More than that, you learn a lot about yourself.

Ominous words to introduce my plug for Craft Beer: The 100 Best Breweries in the World, I know, but my experience of writing the German side of this bookazine (along with some of the rest-of-world pieces, and some other stuff I’ll get into) is entwined with personal upheaval.

In December of 2013 Chris Hall asked me to join the team working on  Craft Beer: The 100 Best Breweries in the World, a publication for the now-defunct bookazine division of Future Publishing. Three days after I accepted the offer to join the squad my marriage fell apart.

It fucking sucked.

In the space of 72 hours the team, who had taken me on in the expectation of ice-cold, professional beer hackery, had on their hands a writer suddenly wrapped up in the dramatic, traumatic failure of a relationship. They had every right to replace me; it’s not like I had signed a contract at that point.

Craig Heap, Chris Hall, Matt Curtis and Leigh Linley resoundingly failed to cut me loose. I remember promising them that I was still good for the job, and with the cackling spectre of failure (grinning and holding a Burn Notice from the world of beer journalism) hanging over my shoulder I threw myself into my work. It turns out I’m pretty good under pressure because I brought home my end of the project on time and in style, despite the utter insanity that surrounds the sudden failure of a marriage.

I need to thank all of the team for believing me when I said I was going to get my part of the project in on time, and for trusting me when I asked for their trust.

Working on  Craft Beer: The 100 Best Breweries in the World was a carnival of weird. I wasn’t used to professional writing solo. My last professional work had been in the offices of the Sunday Sun in Newcastle. Cross-legged laptopping in board shorts on my living room sofa wasn’t going to cut it. I needed to somehow create a professional environment! I found a looped recording of ambient office sounds on YouTube and cranked it as I typed. On weekends I dragged my hungover carcass from my bed and crowbarred it into a suit, then sequestered myself in a poorly lit, small room for ten-hour stints. On weeknights I came back from my day job, changed suits and went straight back into an “office” that was quickly becoming a wasteland of empty beer bottles, cans of Power Horse, and pizza detritus.

Some nights I managed two hours of what could could generously be called “sleep” before somehow managing to drive to my day job without dying. I unsurprisingly developed tonsilitis, and a chest infection. In truth, my diet and lifestyle were so utterly diabolical at that point in my life that if I didn’t have tonsils, my body would have regrown them just so they could get all inflamed and gross.

I am aware that I’m painting a very sexy picture of freelance journalism right now.

The important thing is that I pulled it off, along with my great friends on the team, and you can buy and read the fruits of our labours NOW.

For my part I brought to the table profiles and histories of a load of German breweries, from old traditionalist outfits, some aged almost a thousand years, to new wunderkind operations that are blazing trails through the German beer scene.

There’s stuff in there about German glassware, and the history of the (in)famous German Beer Boot. There’s a guide to just a few of the many, MANY, bars in Berlin. There’s a bit about German beer history, and an article about the Oktoberfest that I remember getting really emotional about as I wrote it.

Aside from the stuff about Germany and her bierkultur I also profiled some British breweries, and some from the “rest-of-the-world”. The final article in the bookazine, a piece about abandoned breweries, is something I’m particularly proud of.

I could be a total dick and say that I really am “the last word in Craft Beer”, but I like having friends and not being slapped.

The final piece of copy I submitted for the bookazine, in a single-sitting rush to the finish line, was the three-word taste notes for every beer I commented on. Through this terminal sprint I had the company (not especially helpful company, I must clarify), of someone who has become very dear to me indeed, and whose pitched taste note of “really... very... shit?” did not make the final cut.

Without my friends on the team trusting me and without my mates in my hometown relentlessly texting me to “fucking smash it mate” and putting me to bed when I drank too much at premature deadline celebrations this bookazine would be lacking a Germany section.

Or it would have one, but put together by some terrible mutant the team had to drag mewling from a saloon somewhere.

Craft Beer: The 100 Best Breweries in the World is available to buy this red hot minute. When you’re buying it you’re investing in FRIENDSHIP, and also a cool-as-hell coffee table bookazine full of beer knowledge that’s been slathered in ace graphic design and spangly photography.

And there we have my blog post about  Craft Beer: The 100 Best Breweries in the World. The other guys wrote better ones but mine has love, loss, friendship and a punchup that had nothing to do with the bookazine so was omitted


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