The house is quiet, my coffee is warm and whilst there’s still a layer of frost outside I’m reminded that we’re headed toward the end of another year. I honestly don’t know how it’s December already; this year had been a whirlwind and I’ve spent most of it being either overwhelmed, exhausted or a combination of the two. I gave birth to a beautiful, cheeky little boy back in July, five weeks early and with many of the typical problems that premature babies go through. I wasn’t in my best shape after the birth either but we’re both doing so much better now and whilst the tiredness still lingers on, things aren’t as overwhelming as they were initially and we’re getting into our own little stride. Needless to say beer hasn’t been my main focus this year but it has featured and in various guises too; there was the exploration of alcohol free beers, the beer fan art, a successful dabble in homebrew and, perhaps most importantly, a refocusing of the beer radar.
When I was busy brewing a baby my taste for beers pretty much disappeared. The craze for haze and juicy New England IPAs kicked in and I didn’t feel as if I was missing out at all, limited releases and beers that received high praise among the community may once have got me seeking out a sip but I didn’t play host to any FOMO. Instead, any taste I did get for a brew was when I wanted that crisp and bright refreshment from a lager on a hot day or a pint of classic bitter when out at the pub or dining with family. The bitter was a loss but the taste for lager was met by Heineken 0% whilst the play on words zero abv beer Innis & None also quenched a thirst. These beers aren’t going to be on most people’s wish list anytime soon but for those who want to drink beer but can’t imbibe alcohol these were two of the better brands on the market, easy to get a hold of and worth trying, particularly if you get given the role of designated driver over the festive season.
I don’t have much time to sit and drink beer these days and when I do it’s not likely to be a session, just a one off pint or a bottle or can at home. I don’t have time for bad or bland beers and I don’t have the time to work my way through a lineup of beers to get to the good stuff or make sure that I’m not missing out on anything. That FOMO hasn’t returned either, I’m really not inclined to chase beers that have found their way onto the hype train. Of course there’s an initial interest if I hear of something that sounds particularly awesome but if I don’t get a chance to try it then that’s ok. I thought I’d be gasping for a pint of new wave ipa after nine months off but no, it was classic trad pales and bitters that I had a taste for and when I had the chance it was Harvey’s Sussex Best that proved to be just what I was after, and just as exceptional as ever. Surrey Hills Ranmore also made its way onto my short list of ‘go to’ beers; a beautiful golden cask pint that always carries a full body of flavour and quenches the thirst for a ‘proper’ pint. Since going back to the pub it is the cask beers that have caught my eye over their kegged cousins and the local scene in particular seems to be in good health, whilst local breweries are springing up across the county and boosting the range of beer styles and dispense methods I really believe that cask remains on top.
In the end though Sussex offers a wealth of quality across the scene and I’m looking forward to seeing what the county’s producers offer up next year. I’ve been able to try some new Sussex brews in the last few months and I honestly have them rated as some of the best beers I’ve tried in a long time; C.O.W by the new Brolly Brewing of Wisborough Green demanded that I go back for more, and it’s rare these days that I repeat an order. Arundel Brewery Uptown NE IPA is another beer that really shone as being something a bit special; it was juicy with only a very mild bitterness that saw me gulp rather sip. The branding that Arundel brewery has taken on this year also deserves a mention as it finally matches the quality of the beer within. Chapeau brewery also deserve a mention having launched in Horsham at the latter end of this year with a lineup of core beers that will have me order a pint whenever I can, especially the flavourful session strength bitter that drinks above its modest abv. It’s the plethora of new breweries and quality of beers both they and the well established names are putting out at the minute that has me excited to see what’s in store for the year ahead. I hear Chapeau are brewing up a white stout, whilst Brolly are brewing a NE IPA, Abyss down in Lewes have a Mango Milk IPA in the works, Top Notch & Unbarred are working on a collaborative detox beer; this is just a small taste of what’s ahead as a selection of the beers being produced for Tryanuary. There’s so much going on in the Sussex beer scene in January alone and I’ll be taking over the official Tryanuary campaign social media channels to help promote it all as best I can.
After January though, who knows? On a personal level I fully intend to keep flying the flag for Sussex beers and I’ll also help promote other aspects of the UK scene as much as I can, but with a little boy who’ll be changing and growing at a rapid pace he will always, always come first. Besides, his smiles and playfulness will distract me from pretty much anything; “there’s a zebra doing handstands in the middle of the street?!” not interested; my boy just chuckled at me. I do hope I can find time for some more home brewing though because after a couple of successful brews i’m inspired to keep going. Likewise with the beer inspired art that I started, I fully intend to get something started on Etsy, so watch this space for updates. Casting the net further afield though and I think we’ll be seeing more taprooms and micropubs opening, more festivals will pop up too and whilst we may see a few breweries succumb to overheads vs limited production space I think there’ll be plenty waiting to take their place, this, coupled with the new taprooms and micropubs will combine to make more regions compete as potential destinations for the beer fan. There’s an element of Twitter and Insta that only seems to shine a spotlight on perceived ‘trendy’ beers, breweries and places of interest and I’d like to see more people shout and holler about their local brewers and pubs because if the quality is there then we need to hear about it regardless of their trendiness. One last prediction is that of coffee; the worlds of artisan coffee and beer will continue to merge and this will result in more coffee infused beer collaborations, festivals and events. On that note, my coffee has gone cold whilst the frost has melted and my boy is starting to stir, it’s time to end this final blog post of 2017 and get back to reality. I’ll see you on the other side, thanks for reading, sharing, liking and commenting on my social media content even though it has been few and far between. Have a great festive break and let’s drink to a healthy New Year. Cheers all.