I had lunch yesterday with someone I knew from the beer world before I'd had a single word published, and it made me think how rapidly everything has changed - when we knew each other I was working full-time in an ad agency, Stella Artois was widely respected as a quality beer and in double digit growth, Progressive Beer Duty didn't exist so, therefore, neither did the British craft brewing revolution. Cask ale was in terminal decline and seemingly drunk by no one under 50. CAMRA had half the membership it does now and the mere thought of them as an organisation and the terrible image they were giving beer at the time made me seethe with rage and frustration - as did the fact that not a single beer writer seemed to criticise them in print.
Google was new, and most of us accessed it via a dial-up modem. Around the time I finally finished my first manuscript of MWIAP, I was in a meeting with someone who had a laptop on his desk that wasn't plugged into anything. Nevertheless, at one point he said "I'll just print that" and pressed some buttons. Christ, I thought, he's pretending to print something. Why would he do that?
It was only when he returned with the printed document that I realised I'd just seen wireless networking for the first time. This was 2002. 18 months before, I'd read a cyberpunk thriller centred around the (fictitious, impossible) idea.
Christ, I sound like an old fart. But this is my point - it only seems like five minutes ago really. I still think of myself most of the time as a new kid on the beer writing block. It's disorientating when I get a brief glimpse of self-awareness that I might be one of the old guard.
Do I feel like an old fart?
Well, today I had a quick look at Twitter and my blog roll - I'm trying to ration myself while I get this bloody book finished - and in the middle of overhauling some very outdated text I was struck by the sheer scale of what's happening in beer now, loving it and at the same time feeling slightly panicked by the fact that, as Beer Writer of the Year, I should be somehow attempting to keep on top of everything and have a comment on everything, and that is utterly impossible now.
So I'm surprised to find that I have no view one way or the other on the wisdom of Brew Dog's latest venture: I'd like to taste a 41% IPA and think it's a fresh departure for super-strong beers, but I still had to roll my eyes when it was announced. I think Sink the Bismarck is a shit and self-indulgent name for the beer, but at the same time I really struggle to work up any moral outrage at making fun of the Germans and referencing the war.
I fins myself applauding Cooking Lager's lout ticking post, but have no new comment to make on the whole ticking issue.
And on the neoprohibition stuff, I'm delighted to see Phil Mellows continuing to bring some excellent new findings and developments to light, but have to curtail myself from spending another entire month digging into the issue.
There are so many people writing about these things now, and they're all worthy of coverage. So I'm not complaining - I'm just a bit overwhelmed at how much the collision of craft beer passion and new media has generated and wondering - both from a beer worlds and a personal point of view - where do we go next?
In the short term - back to revising chapter ten - the one that slagged off CAMRA...