The sixth-best beer writer in Britain …

Big cheers to Alastair Gilmour, who has now pulled off the unique feat of winning four Beer Writer of the Year gold tankards at the Zythographers’ Union annual awards bash in London – nice man, fine writer.

This does mean, however, that the UK’s top beer writing trophy has been won by only 10 different people in its 20 years of existence, with just three – Alastair (four times), the late and much missed Michael Jackson (three times) and Roger Protz (three times) – sharing half the gold tankards between them.

Indeed, while nearly 70 different people have won awards at the BWOTY bashes over the two decades since it started, the table below (based on five points for being BWOTY, three for a silver/category winner, one for a runner up and two points for the Budvar trophy) shows how much the big guns have dominated.

Alastair’s two gold tankard wins in the past three years have catapulted him out of the pack and in sight of the leaders, but Protzie and Jacko are still comfortably in front and uncatchable for at least a couple of years, given that, as this year’s gold tankard winner, Alastair will be chairing the judges for 2008’s awards and thus ineligible to enter.

BWOTY league table 1988-2007

1 Michael Jackson 29 points
2 Roger Protz 27 points
3 Alastair Gilmour 23 points
4 Allan McLean 16 points
5 Brian Glover 15 points
6= Martyn Cornell 10 points
6= Andrew Jefford 10 points
6= Ben McFarland 10 points
6= Barrie Pepper 10 points
10= Arthur Taylor 8 points
10= Jeff Evans 8 points

I’d put my money on Ali topping the all-time table within the next few years, however: table two, below, covering the past 10 years of BWOTY, shows he has completely dominated the results in the past decade, a terrific achievement for a writer whose base is in regional journalism, on the Newcastle Journal:

BWOTY league table 1998-2007

1 Alastair Gilmour 22 points
2= Martyn Cornell 10 points
2= Ben McFarland 10 points
2= Barrie Pepper 10 points
5 Michael Jackson 9 points
6= Roger Protz 8 points
6= Jeff Evans 8 points
8= Mike Chappell 7 points
8= Arthur Taylor 7 points
10= Graham Holter 6 points
10= Jonathan Ray 6 points
10= Adam Withrington 6 points

Table two, however, apart from indicating how scandalously ignored Jeff Evans has been by the BWOTY judges (it’s a disgrace he doesn’t have more awards on his shelves, frankly) also shows there are several young writers who will make it tough for Mr Gilmour to pick up another clutch of gold tankards in the next ten years.

Jonathan Ray, this year’s trophy winner for national media, who writes on beer for the Daily Telegraph, should be moving up the field in the next couple of competitions. Similarly Adam Withrington, drinks writer of the trade paper Publican, who rode off with the trade writer title for the second year running, will be back again. And Pete Brown, another writer shamefully under-represented on the BWOTY trophy board, will get his proper recognition soon.

But that’s enough stats. What about the awards dinner, held for the second year amid the palms of the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in Kensington, with grub by chef Brian Turner? This is, with the pre-GBBF gathering, one of the two big beer writers’ events of the year, and thus a chance to talk to people you haven’t seen since, oooh, the GBBF, but with 170 people there you’d have to be a Bill Clinton-level schmoozer to get round everybody you might want to speak to in the hour between the bar opening and the food arriving on the table. However, there was the rare chance to contrast and compare Shepherd Neame porter and Budvar dark lager, both almost equally fine beers, but the Budvar, drier and sharper, just nudged it.

I was a guest of Fuller’s this year – thanks, chaps, much appreciated – which gave me a chance to talk again to Derek Prentice, once a brewer with Truman’s in Brick Lane, then when that closed at Young’s in Wandsworth, and now, since Young’s departed, at the Griffin Brewery. My mission was to try to persuade him that Fuller’s ought to revive its Old Burton Extra, the super-strong brew  that was dropped for what was to become ESB. Derek revived Burton Ale, in the form of a stronger, slightly tweaked version of Winter Warmer, as a one-off special at Young’s in 2005, so fingers crossed …

And Mr Turner’s food? The scallop mousse served with Palm Special shot by without making an impression, the Deus sorbet, made from and served with the appallingly expensive Deus Brut des Flandres (it’s a lovely, complex beer, but at £12 to £14 a bottle in off-licences, and up to £35 in central London restaurants, I dunno …) was very fine, however.

The spiced loin of beef was excellent, beautifully rare, thickly sliced beef lightly coriander-and-cardamomed, with curly kale (always one of my favourite greens) and braised potatoes, though the Jaipur IPA – I try hard to like it, but it’s entirely not hopped the way I think an IPA ought to be.

Adnams Broadside with a hard sheep’s milk cheese, Lord of the Hundreds, from Sussex, was a winning combination. The gingerbread with nutmeg ice-cream, however, suffered badly from too much nutmeg, which even Innis & Gunn’s oaky flavours couldn’t wrestle with – personally I’d have chosen a vanilla and honey ice-cream to go with the beer, or perhaps even better, vanilla and whisky …

Maybe next year, Brian …

0 thoughts on “The sixth-best beer writer in Britain …

  1. I wish you had introduced me to Derek Prentice. There are loads of questions I could have asked him . . .

    I’m not keen on Jaipur either. Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad beer, just not to my taste. I can’t stand grapefruit.

  2. For me the best beer on offer was Budvar Dark (a not-so-old favourite), with Shep’s Porter and Deus tying for second.

    I’ve just commented on my own blog that I thought the Innis & Gunn Rum Cask was hopeless.

    My one regret (and Ron’s too, when we saw the empty bottles of Double Bock at the end) was that I didn’t tuck into any of the Cain’s beers.

    It was good to meet you Martyn, however briefly.


  3. Cain’s Double Bock? Bugger – didn’t spot that myself. Sorry you didn’t meet Derek, Ron, that’s the trouble with the ZU dinner, it’s actually rather too big now to meet everyone you want. Nice to put a face to you too, Stonch. As for Martyn Cornell in the BWOTY awards – bah, the old git’s past it …

  4. Took half a dozen Bocks home with me, two still reside in the cellar. On the writers theme, good writers like Tim Webb and Mike Chappell (at the Liverpool Daily Post, who for me is as good as Ali G at times) are outside the top ten.

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