You may have noticed it in my footer. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you will have seen them pop up fairly regularly. But when I started doing quick beer reviews via Instagram I didn’t expect to still be going over a year – and 100 beers – later.
My wife was pregnant with our second child at the time, and being the responsible type, that meant no drinking for her. Being the supportive husband that I am I forwent the usual bottle(s) of wine we’d drink together … and used the opportunity to really get stuck in to some beers.
That’s where things started. I didn’t set out with any grand plan. I knew there were tons of great tasting, quality beers out there and I just wanted to keep track of the ones I had tasted. I know there are things like Untappd and Beer Ticker, but I’ve always found them a bit fiddly and Social. I wanted something quick, simple and straight forward. Basically just a photograph with a very quick note to say if it was any good.
All I needed was a short, catchy hashtag to keep track of them. Instagram fitted the bill perfectly. The #alelog was born.
The first beer on the list was Brakspear’s Oxford Gold. It didn’t have a review, or even have a proper brewer and title attributed to it, the caption simply read ‘Brakspear, would buy again #alelog’.
My idea at the start was to literally note down if I would bother buying the beer again, or not. It wasn’t until the fourth entry that the reviews started to take their current form. Coincidentally it was another Brakspear – ‘Brakspear Triple – sounds heavy and strong, but is surprisingly light. Very nice #alelog’
Even by then I’d got myself used to going through the process, and I had found what I was doing was quite useful. At least to me. It really took off when I went on holiday to the Lakes. There they have a great little chain of supermarkets called Booths that’s a bit like a northern Waitrose. They sell all sorts of locally sourced, high quality stuff. They also happened to be running a ‘beer festival’ at the time. I made the most of it.
That was when that the alelog style was set in stone. Picture of bottle label, with poured drink in glass peaking out from behind. The ‘review’ obviously has to be short and to the point to fit mostly in a tweet.
Dead simple, dead quick.
As time, and beer, rolled on I decided to try and do things a certain way. Basically I decided to keep the reviews bullshit free. Most reviews of beers you see go in to great detail about the various flavours, smells etc – which is fair enough, but it can get a bit … bullshitty. They can also get technical, talking about brewing processes and hops. Well I’m going to put my hand up here and say I don’t know enough about either to successfully talk about them.
In fact when I started I wasn’t even sure exactly which part of beers flavour was the hops. Sounds daft, but 100+ beers later I’m finally starting to get a handle on what’s what. But I still don’t want to start reviewing that sort of thing, I still reckon most people don’t care – they just want to know if the beer is any good.
I’m essentially reviewing for myself at the end of the day, and I hope other people find that useful. I want to avoid beer snobbery and bullshittery.
Though it does make writing reviews harder sometimes. Sometimes hops need to be discussed … but I still try to avoid them. It’s also gets harder to not just feel like I’m writing the same things over, and over again.
I still don’t know enough about brewing processes though. I’d love to find out more.
I have also, as much as possible,tried to keep things accessible to anyone who want to try them too. I have purposefully tried to buy beers from obtainable shops – generally major supermarkets. The big chains have really started to make an effort to tap into the microbrew-craft-beer market, and there is a lot of good stuff. And a lot of awful stuff.
I wouldn’t go as as far to call it all an ethos, but it’s something I would like to keep to.
The problem is that I’ve now pretty much dried up the supermarkets in the local area of new stuff. (I’ve discovered that every area does have different beers on offer in the big chains. The amount of really good Scottish breweries I found in the small Tesco in Aviemore was amazing.)
I am finally going to have to look elsewhere. It may well bankrupt me.
Then there is the next phase. An obvious one really. A website. I bought the domain about a year ago, but I just haven’t had the time. As a web designer I feel like I have to do it properly, and that makes time a massive issue. I want to keep my process the same, but have the option to get a bit more verbose about things, maybe add a scoring system, add a bit more information about breweries.
I have a design(ish), and an idea how to implement things(ish), while keeping a basic Instagram input method.
Give me a kick in six months when it’s still not done. It’s taken me four and half months to write this post!
It’s amazing I’ve still managed to keep it going. I like it, I’ve had a few nice comments that people appreciate it too. So hopefully there will be many, many more beers to come yet.
Just to round things off, here are five beers that have made the most impression on me so far:
Goose Island IPA – My first real taste of what the Americans have done for beer recently.
Innis & Gunn Rum Finish – the smell of this beer is incredible, the taste is pretty damn good too.
Windswept Tornado – from a tiny brewery in Scotland this has been one of the best I’ve tasted
Wold Top Headland Red – something that was genuinely different, and genuinely tasty
Hardknott Code Black – Really good dark IPA. Combining two of my favourite styles of beer turns out to be a winner.