Friday, 18 December 2009

2009 a decent enough vintage

There seems to be a few pieces being written about the beer world in 2009, well I'm going to give my version of 2009. My reason for doing this is to try and spot things that I'm quite proud of and things that I hope to do better on in 2010, as I write I'm not entirely sure that I'm going to publish this post.
This isn't going to just be about beer & brewing, it's going to be a bit more personal so take from it what you will.
I guess the first real high point of 2009 came just after the first proper low point. The low point was having to get rid of one of the staff, for those of you that don't know about it, all you have to know is that despite my bravado, I don't enjoy sacking people, it's not nice and it only happens when a place has been reached that you can't come back from.
The high note came very soon after, almost exactly a month in fact, it was my first beer festival, one that I was given the idea for but was charged with the responsibility of organising and making sure it occurred smoothly. The Welsh Beer Festival at The Rake went off pretty much without a hitch, there were of course things that we learned but the beers we had on offer, the staff enthusiasm for something we'd never attempted before and the friends I've made since then have really stayed with me all year round. It was the first big event at The Rake, really the first time I'd got to gauge just how I was doing as a bar manager, just what sort of job was I doing? well...we had the busiest week since I joined on September 1st 2008 and the feedback was fantastic, I think it helped define me as a manager, proved to myself that I could do the job. Honourable mention for this has to go to the staff involved as well, they worked their arses off to help set it up and of course I couldn't have done it without them.
The next great thing to happen in my 2009 was my best mate getting married, totally personal thing but I was so proud to watch him get hitched.
Another personal highlight was the new Star Trek film - take it as you find it but I'm a Trek fan and I loved it.
Top 5 Beer highlights in no particular order...
1) Brewdog Tokyo* - Great launch at The Rake
2) Coney Island Albino Python
3) Motley Brew (beer tastes so much better when you brew it yourself).
4) Welsh beer Festival at The Rake
5) Rogue Imperial IPA
honourable mention goes to Tom's Lambic Festival at The Rake and surprisingly(for me anyway) St Peters Grapefruit beer (on cask) this beer is great I was truly shocked.

Top 5 beer lows, again, in no particular order...
1) Brewdog getting their own beer banned
2) Nanny State (Guys if you're going to make gimmick beers even McDonalds throw in a free toy!)
3) Almost constant blame on the beer trade for all health and social problems.
4) Once a year drinkers (again), I always look back and want to ask them why they feel it necessary to act like idiots.
5) Holsten Pils - read my last blog to find out why.
dishonourable discharge would have to go to (drum roll.....) do you know what? fuck it! it's Christmas, I didn't start blogging to bitch about people.

Business-wise, The Rake, like many pubs & bars has seen a huge increase in 'cask beer' sales, for most of the year the cask sales have outstripped my Veltins sales by about 2 pints to 1. I see this as a great sign for the industry, craft brewing in Britain is exploding and Brewers like Brewdog, Otley and Harviestoun are really leading the way with their innovation and I see my customers(and myself) relishing each new brew that these guys come up with and it makes me smile.
I introduced the 3rd of a pint as standard at The Rake, it's working well and I would encourage all pubs to at least have the option available.
The second festival we had at The Rake was Toms Lambic Festival in November, as far as we know it was the first time anywhere in the UK had done something like this, for a very challenging style the festival was successful and it's something he's going to do again.
One thing I really love about my job is the opportunities we get to showcase new beers we've had a few in the 16 months I've been at The Rake here are a few that have made their London debuts at The Rake...
Brewdog Rake Raspberry Imperial Stout
Brewdog Zephyr
Brewdog Tokyo*
Otley 06
Motley Brew
Otley 11/138
Yes there's only 2 breweries there and there are other beers on the list but frankly these are two of my favourite breweries and I've worked closely with both of them to make sure that their beers are presented to the public in the correct manner.
Another highlight has been working with my friend Melissa Cole on the Lovebeer side of the business, I've known Melissa since my days at the Jolly Gardners in Putney and she's someone I have a lot of time and respect for. The Lovebeer tastings have been, for me at least, eye opening, informative and a great way of gaining new friends and meeting various brewers from around the Britain and indeed the world!
There also has to be a mention for the Brewers wall, whenever we get a professional brewer come in, even for a quick beer, if they haven't signed the wall I give them a pen and tell them to write something.

So, looking forward to 2010 what can I see ahead and hope for? Well in the first week of March we once again have a Welsh Beer Festival, expect some really special brews. I'm hoping to get to the Extreme Beer Festival in Boston in February but not sure I'm going to make it now. On a personal note my other best mate is getting married on April 17th and May 22nd is the big date for Lucille and I.
I'm hoping to do more brewing in 2010 too, it was probably the hardest days work I've ever done but it was immensely enjoyable and I really want to 'keep my eye in'.
There is of course going to be the GBBF in august and the GABF in September, I know I'll be at the British one but I really want to go to the American version in Denver too. Couple more awards might be nice too! hehe!
I can't go into too much more detail about work but suffice to say it's going to be another great year for Utobeer, The Rake & Lovebeer, watch this space!


Sid Boggle said...

Any new initiatives to do with breakfast service? I have some pictorial guides to assist, if you think they'd help... ;-)

Mark Dredge said...

Nice sum up of the year - it's been a good one (although I totally agree on your top 2 worsts of the year!). Here's to 2010!

rabidbarfly said...

Sid - I already have ALL the pictoral guides for doing the 'Duvel Breakfast'.
Mark - Chin chin, I'll drink to that.

Rob Sterowski said...

Dear Mr Portman, I was appalled to find a free toy included with a bottle of beer in an open attempt to persuade children to drink alcohol, etc., etc.