Pause, listen and reflect

After the recent, successful completion of the Year in Beer challenge I found myself in a bit of a quandary. For the first time in a year, I was without a challenge. Without an official challenge, that is. Some days just getting out of the front door in one piece is a challenge in itself.

Before I dive unheeded into a new challenge, I felt that it would be sensible to step back and consider what worked, and what didn’t, about A Year in Beer. What lessons could I apply to a new challenge, to build on the best bits of the last year and, also, to take me in a new direction?

I pulled out my marker pens and set to work…

Pros and consMy first discovery? It’s pretty much impossible to draw right hands if you’re right-handed. Left hands are a lot easier.

The second thing I noticed, and I was very pleased about, is that the pros were more numerous than the cons. However, it is important to consider the lessons that I can learn from the cons and a short period of quiet contemplation led me to the following conclusions:

Next steps 1Thank you, I don’t disagree. I will be back in a minute. With a beer.

Next steps 2

One thing that I really enjoyed about the challenge was finding out about breweries from all around the country and trying a number of beers that I had not heard of before, or would not have been likely to come across if I wasn’t undertaking the challenge.

However, it did pose its own problems. There were some beers that I had a great deal of trouble getting my hands on (a fact that regular readers will be very aware of) and I am also aware that several of them travelled quite a few miles before they reached my glass. I would like my next challenge to be something local: it reduces my food miles (or beer miles) and should make it easier to complete the challenge.

Next steps 3

I am also conscious that the stated aim of this blog is to… checks what it actually says on the About page… “see whether it is possible to stay fit, keep healthy and eat well”. I class A Year in Beer firmly under the “eat well” heading but I am also conscious that it was very beer-centric. As you would expect.

There are only so many words that you can use to describe beer, despite its many and varied characteristics, and I had to describe 50 of them over the last twelve months. And for you, dear reader, if you don’t like beer then the regular updates about what I had been drinking may have left you somewhat underwhelmed. So I think that the next challenge should introduce some variety: a little bit of beer, some food, perhaps some other drinks.

Variety is key.

Next steps 4

In the same way that there are only so many words to describe beer, there are also only so many ways of describing the act of drinking a beer whilst sitting in your kitchen. Mrs RB and I were lucky enough to see the beer writer Pete Brown give a talk recently and one thing that he mentioned was that context is really important. Where you drink a beer, who you were with, what the weather was like. All of these things are a key part of the “story” that go around the beer that you are drinking. Equally, all of these things help to make a blog post about that experience a little more interesting.

If I can find the context to go with the food or drink I am sampling then it gives me more to write about and will hopefully make for more interesting blog posts.

Next steps 5And finally, there has to be something educational in the challenge. I learnt a lot about beer through A Year in Beer and I want the next challenge to offer more opportunities to learn.

So what is the new challenge?

I want to do something that focuses on the food and drink that is available in Devon, the county where I live. We are lucky enough to live somewhere that has a huge range of food and drink producers and this feels like something that I should explore. It’s local, is broad enough to cover a range of food and drink, will allow me to learn more about the variety of products available in Devon and will hopefully give me opportunities to get out and about and to put some context around the things I’m trying.

Beyond that, I haven’t yet managed to focus the aim down to something more succinct. More manageable. That will hopefully come with time.

If you have any suggestions for a core focus for the challenge then please leave a comment below. Equally, if you have any suggestions for particular food and drink producer that you think I ought to try then please let me know. And most importantly, if you come up with a snappy name for the challenge then all suggestions are welcome.

Here’s to the next challenge.


3 thoughts on “Pause, listen and reflect

  1. My friends brother owns a brewery called “Silver Gulch,” in Fox, AK. I don’t know if they ship alcohol, but it would be neat if you tried their beer even though it is too late for your year in beer. No snappy challenge ideas at the moment, sorry!

    • Thanks for the tip. I’ve just had a look at their website and it looks as though they don’t sell online directly, however I’ve seen lots of US beers popping up on UK-based sites (they must import them and then sell on within the UK) so I’ll keep a look out for their beers.

      I’ve read a few things about Alaskan brewing and it sounds as though they have it harder than most, just in terms of getting hold of some of the ingredients they need. It makes their efforts even more impressive!

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