In Britain, where beer has been taken far more seriously for far longer than it has on this side of the Atlantic, beer writing has long been an art form and Will Hawkes, a freelance journalist and author, now is considered Britain’s No. 1 practitioner of the art.
Last week, the British Guild of Beer Writers acclaimed Hawkes, author of “Craft Beer London,” a book and iPhone app devoted to the city’s burgeoning beer scene, as Beer Writer of the Year. The book, published by Vespertine Press, celebrates London’s brewing renaissance.
The Beer Writer of the Year is chosen from one of six category winners in the annual awards, which seek to find the very best of beer writing and journalism in the UK. As well as picking up the overall title Hawkes also won the Molson Coors Award for Writing in National Media.
“I was absolutely delighted to win,” Hawkes, who also has written for various newspapers, including The Independent, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Sydney Morning Herald and a host of others, told me in an email. “When you see the name Michael Jackson emblazoned on the tankard, you feel that it really means something.”
The award is named for Michael Jackson, a writer and author of several influential books on beer, who died in 2007. The Beer Writer of the Year award is the ultimate accolade for anyone communicating about Britain’s national drink. Entries for this year’s competition included press articles, books, radio shows, blogs and apps on a wide range of topics relating to beer.
Hawkes went on to tell me, “Craft Beer London” was created because the city’s beer landscape was changing fast and [app developer] Derek [Lamberton] and I thought there was a need for it. I hope it’s a fair reflection of what’s happening with beer and brewing in London, and a useful guide for those seeking a good glass of beer.”
A companion app “Craft Beer New York” Brooklyn based beer writer Josh Bernstein.
Last year’s Beer writer of the Year winner and chairman of the judges, Pete Brown said, “the judges were unanimous that Will Hawkes’ writing stood out for its breadth of subjects covered and its accessible, compulsively readable delivery. Will has made a significant contribution to spreading the word about beer to new places this year.
Brown added. “Beer writing too is in great shape, with more people communicating about more varied aspects of beer across traditional and new media. The judges were impressed by the high standards achieved by entrants and the range of beer-related topics covered.”
Other winners were:
Brewer of the Year: Derek Prentice, Fuller Smith & Turner
Greene King IPA Travel Bursary Winner: Martyn Cornell
Silver Award: Adrian Tierney-Jones
Shepherd Neame 1698 Award for Beer and Food Writing: Mark Dredge
Thwaites Award for Corporate Communications: British Beer & Pub Association
Brains SA Gold Award for Best Use of Online Media: Richard Taylor
Silver Award: Adrian Tierney-JonesAdnams Award for Best Writing in Regional Media: Gavin Aitchison
Silver Award: Leigh Linley
Fuller’s ESB Award for Writing for the Beer and Pub Trade: Roger Protz
Silver Award: Jeff Evans
Molson Coors Award for Writing in National Media: Will Hawkes
Silver Award: Sophie Atherton
Entrees are judged for passion, originality, clarity and readability by a minimum of four judges, who change every year. Traditionally, the Beer Writer of the Year from the previous year selects and chairs the judging panel, which includes a mix of brewers, other professionals from the drinks trade, beer writers, food and drink writers, and editors from national and trade publications.
In addition to Brown, judges this year were: Bill Dobson, head brewer at SA Brain; David Wilson, public affairs director at the British Beer & Pub Association; Karen Barnes, editor of Delicious magazine and Craig Woodhouse, political correspondent at The Sun and part of the team which spearheaded the newspaper’s successful campaign to abolish the beer duty escalator.
The British Guild of Beer Writers was established in 1988 to help spread the word about beer and brewing and improve standards of beer writing in general. Today the Guild has more than 150 members.