I know that things here have been quiet over the last few months, with an average of 2 or 3 posts per month and usually just reprints at that. I’d like to say, with the burgeoning new year in mind, that the volume will likely increase here. I can’t. While I have certainly enjoyed covering topics that would otherwise elude popular press publication, for instance several rants on price increases (will be covered again in an upcoming issue of BeerAdvocate Magazine) and profiling great local beer makers, I have to admit that I still find “blogging” a little self-indulgent. Someone recently suggested to me that I consider opening a Twitter account so that readers could follow my beer travels. Beyond my firm belief that people could care less where someone else such as myself is at any given moment, I can’t quite get beyond the self-indulgence of it all. So until I figure out how to better monetize this whole operation, I have to remain firmly in the camps that the “only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it” and that tapping away here doesn’t pay the bills.
With that said, I expect 2009 will be a good year for beer writing and I have one large and a few small projects in the works for the new year that I look forward to completing.
I was reading my father’s copy of the Wall Street Journal this past week and it had a selection of famous and not-so-famous individuals giving their respective takes on their plans for the upcoming new year. In one of the blurbs, high wire artist Philippe Petit said something to the effect that his hopes, dreams, and wishes weren’t based on numbers on a calendar but about the fancy filling his heart on a particular day or even moment. While admirable, the end of the year offers people a rhythmic opportunity to routinely reflect on and reconsider their stations in life.
For the purposes of this site, I’ll keep my focus local on Boston and New England. I hope for the following things in the new year:
- -The opening of a new Boston area brewery focusing on smaller batch specialty beers of any variety. Having considered the efforts and successes of operations such as Surly Brewing in Minneapolis, I’m certain that this area is just begging for an upstart little brewery to come in and shake up the local scene. Just as there is plenty of room in Minnesota for both Summit and Surly to do business, and that any inclination on Summit’s part to rest on its laurels was chopped away by Surly’s emergence, the Harpoon Brewery could use some local competition to spice up and round out the local scene.
-A Belgian beer bar and gastropub to open in the Boston area. Having traveled to a dozen or more countries in the last five years, I’ve been amazed at just how far the Belgian beer phenomenon has grown. I’ve seen Belgian restaurants, complete with solid beer selections everywhere from Australia to Japan and placed in-between. And while Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York, and other major American cities have at least one solid offering, Boston does not (beyond the Publick House, which is not a Belgian gastropub in its essence). As food and imported beer friendly a city as Boston is, this is a glaring absence.
-For Paul Davis (formerly of Troutbrook/Thomas Hooker and Castle Springs) to finally get his damned lager brewery open in New Hampshire near his old stomping grounds at Castle Springs. I mean c’mon man, I’ve had to import cases of quality pils and dunkel from Pennsylvania to bide my time. I’m just hoping he hasn’t changed his concept to British session ales…
-For Redbones to rebalance the price of its portfolio of beers. While the staff exodus and purported growing pains that sent trembles of fear into longtime regulars has generally subsided and the selection has vastly improved over early this year, prices remain substantially out of whack. While consumers understand that some contributing factors certainly have led to increased prices, Bones’ prices have grown out of whack with other similar beer bars. We regulars would like to stop by twice a week not every other month and we definitely don’t want to have to check the menu before ordering, only to find out we selected a $6 or $7 pint.
-For local beer bars and brewpubs to offer more specialty events for smaller audiences. I’m also impressed with single varietal events elsewhere in America, from fresh hop fests to IPA and stout events to the barrel aged fest in Chicago. While I enjoy moderating panels at the BeerAdvocate events, the conviviality experienced at the smaller events, such as NERAX, is something I’d like to see more of.
-Speaking of NERAX…I’d like to see NERAX get a new home and a greater sense of organization and direction. While I respect the atmosphere the organizers have long tried to maintain, it’s been clear since about 2002 that NERAX has vastly outgrown the Dilboy. Add to that incredibly long lines and wildly late opening times and it’s a surprise consumers still come back (I tried on the first night and skipped the rest of the fest). The NERAX North event, from word of mouth, shows that the Dilboy is not some magical place where real ale comes to live out its glory days. I’m not saying you need to rent out the convention center but how about a place that can actually accommodate the 50-100 extra people who would like to visit each night?
Until these things happen (and I start posting with more regularity), I’d like to highlight two quality sites I spent some time with this year. Beernews.org is an attractive site that is replete with information every ticking beer geek, myself included sometimes, could ever pine for. In the opposite direction, Stan Hieronymus and his family, theslowtravelers.org, left the comforts of home behind to travel across the country and then the Atlantic to trek the world in their RV. Although I don’t believe that I’ve ever actually met Stan, I’ve enjoyed tagging along on his family’s follies from Anchorage to Croatia and back again.
A Happy New Year to you and cheers to good beer in 2009…