“Long before I dance under those lights”

September 2nd, 2015

In a few weeks, after lengthy debate and analysis, representatives of the Brewers Guild of New Zealand will announce the grand champion of the of the most hotly contested, the most highly coveted, and the most revered category in the New Zealand Beer Awards: Beer Writer of the Year.

I’m sure the organisers of the New Zealand Craft Beer Calendar chose August as the month to feature beer writers especially to coincide with this momentous announcement… What’s that you say? The Brewers Guild moved the awards to September? And the Champion Brewery is the most important award? Well damn, we definitely needed some writers on the inside to craft a better ending to this story.

Beer writing is one of the world’s most competitive blood sports so it was only natural to pose the writers in a contrasting setting, the sedate environs of the boxing ring. Eight of Wellington’s best beer writers gathered at Gloves Boxing Gym and took turns pummelling each other with puns, punching with palindromes, sparring with spoonerisms, counter-punching with counterpoints, sucker punching with similes, parrying with portmanteaus, fighting with foreshadowing, left hooks with deft books, and low blows of litotes. The setting lent itself to plenty of drama, at least it appears that way in the few shots where none of the writers are laughing.

And the contenders were:

In the black corner, winner of the inaugural Beer Writer of the Year award, representing the intersection of beer lovers and critical thinkers, Phil Cook, writer of The Beer Diary.

In the white corner, beer writer for Fishhead magazine, writer of the article that marked the Genesis of The Beer Project, Hadyn Green.

The referee: if beer writing ever loses its appeal to Denise Garland then the array of fantastic poses she pulled for this shoot indicate acting could be a good option. Check out her blog A Girl and Her Pint. I have also just realised that she is mentioned as a “journalism student” in Hadyn’s piece above.

The sparring partner: bar manager extraordinaire and writer of the fabulously witty, sometimes scathing, and always entertaining The Bottleneck, Dylan Jauslin.

The bookie: the almost-ex-beer-writer-because-now-he’s-busy-setting-up-a-brewery, writer of Beer From the Motherland (last updated in 2013) an now the writer of the North End brewery blog, Kieran Haslett-Moore.

The gambler and the journalist: the beer writers who have the unfair advantage of being actual trained journalists, Michael Forbes and Shane Cowlishaw, writers of the Beerhive Blog

The trainer: The perfect straight man to Phil Cook on their Beer Diary Podcast, George Langlands. Does he write? Well, he definitely tweets a bit, sometimes about beer, but the best bits are the daily photos of his puppy, Zola.

Good luck to all of the writers who have entered for the Beer Writer of the Year Award. It feels that, much like the beer itself, the overall standard of beer writing in New Zealand is on the rise. Long may you all fight on.

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses—behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” – Muhammad Ali

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