Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Class of '09

We always say it, but it's true.  Hasn't it flown by?  This time last year we were still covered in builders' rubble after the reconstruction of our kitchen and bathroom and were incredibly stressed with last-minute unpacking of kitchen boxes, getting the industrial cleaners in and hiring the only vehicle left - a transit van - to pick my dad up from Victoria Coach Station.  

Exactly one year later, we've had an incredibly chilled run-up to the festive season which has been extra-magical thanks to the sprinkling of snow.  We've got a house full of delicious food and apparently there are a couple of cans of Fosters in the cellar if we run out of wine.  

The joy of having a relaxed Christmas will be offset by the deep sadness of missing my Dad, who passed away in February.  But the festive season isn't just about stuffing our faces and watching the Gavin & Stacey special.  It's time to reflect on Christmasses past, present and future (someone should use that as a story line, I think it might fly..) and we'll be doing just that, marking the first Christmas without Dad with a meal we couldn't have cooked when he was with us, stuffed with garlic ('ooh, not for me'), onions ('I love them but they don't love me'), spices ('I'd better not') and gravy ('it plays havoc').  

Mr PBBB is looking forward to what's already shaping up to be a busy, exciting and beery new year.  I've got a new project that I'm ridiculously excited about and which promises to keep me out of trouble for the foreseeable.

So with the fairy lights twinkling, Johnny Cash's Christmas Collection serenading me and a lunchtime Baileys by my side, I thought I'd join in the spurious-award-giving and bestow a couple of awards to people who've made the whole beer thing a little more bearable this year.

The Beer Delivery Award goes to our elderly next door neighbour who, frankly, is a lot stronger than she looks.  We regularly come home to find she's taken delivery of the latest box of beer and has lifted it in and out of her house and into ours.  She doesn't drink so she doesn't even have a vested interest. Together with the fact that she feeds the insatiable beast otherwise known as Fatbert the Cat (who, together with Mika, exists only to irritate Mr PBBB to the point of incandescence), this also nets her the Best Beer Neighbour of the Year Award.

Beer of the Year definitely goes to My New Favourite Beer which changes pretty much every week, but which this year has included Thornbridge Raven (for one night only, never to be repeated, thanks for asking), CrownBrewerStu's stonking 13% IPA that I think we're having for Christmas Dinner, Otley's Columb-O and the Flying Dog smoked beer which introduced me to smoked beer, winner of My New Favourite Style of Beer Award.

Brewer of the Year would have gone to Stuart Ross if he hadn't shouted 'Beer' every 5 minutes the morning after the Raven incident.  So it goes to Steve Wellington instead because he's responsible for the main ingredient of our Christmas pudding.  This is the same ingredient the Queen gets to use, so I'm bestowing upon myself the title of "Queen for the Day" which means Mr PBBB will have to act all Prince Phillip-ish and intermittently shout racist insults, which should go down well with the neighbours.

Beer writer and all-round good egg Jeff Pickthall gets the Best Beery House-Guest Ever Award.  Not only did he make his bed all tidy when he last came to stay, but he voluntarily loaded the dishwasher AND brought some Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding as a gift, thus ensuring free board in London for the rest of his natural born days.  Jeff, if you're reading this, you left 2 dodgy ties and your mobile phone charger in the spare room...

I'm giving 2 Best Pub Awards: the first to The White Hart in Stoke Newington, which combines great beer garden, excellent Sunday Lunch, shortest distance from home, dog-friendliness and suitably eclectic group of customers (a Peter Kay-as-pub-regular lookalike, some random celebs and the bloke who taught Angelina Jolie to rollerblade).  The 2nd award goes to The Charles Lamb in Islington, mainly because it's got the best pub dog in London.  Mascha (left) is an affectionate, slightly greedy 10-year old Staffie, who has special hand-painted signs dotted around the pub saying 'Please Do Not Feed Mascha'.   It's run by some really friendly people, the food is excellent and this year it was host to one of the best days of the year, a Hophead-fuelled riot of tall tales and side-aching laughing with Billy and Declan, stars of Three Sheets. 

Finally, 2009 wouldn't be complete without a Beer Husband of the Year Award.  This category, only having one eligible entry, wasn't the most hotly-contested of the bunch, it has to be said.  The only entrant didn't even complete his own application - I had to do it.  There were also a lot of points deducted from the overall score.  Points lopped off for endless yanging about neo-prohibitionism, Alistair Darling and supermarket pricing.  Lots of points lost for the moaning every time we've walked into a pub and there's only been one - or worse, no - handpull on the bar.  Several points hacked off for numerous trips in the car to the sorting office, only to find a parcel with a bottle of beer in it.  Another swathe of points gone for red pointy promotional beer hats with bells on, an overflow of promotional beer glasses in our otherwise stylish kitchen and Spitfire bottle-openers that scare the bejaysus out of me every time I use them (they make a noise like a, er, Spitfire which makes me duck).  

But despite all the deducted points, the entrant made up for it with his sincere  efforts to ensure that beer doesn't take over too much (that's 'sincere', not 'successful' by the way). For every beer event that I've been invited to and enjoyed, I had to add some points. The people I've met along the way who've become friends also ensured some extra points. And if I'm really honest, I have to acknowledge that the winning entrant has opened my eyes and taste buds to some beers that I now often choose over a glass of wine.  So for all of that, and the fact that on a good day, he's the cleverest, kindest and loveliest person I know, the Beer Husband of the Year Award goes to.... Mr PBBB.

And as the Awards come to a close, I'd just like to wish everyone a very splendid Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.  



  1. Consider me at the front of the queue if there's any leftover Christmas pud going begging ;o)