The winner of Australia’s first ever beer writing bursary has been announced.
The bursary has been awarded to Sam Fletcher from Sydney.
Bursary sponsor, Tim Lord from Hop Products Australia, said he was impressed with all of the entries and found it very hard to separate the top few.
“In the end Sam was a standout though, he communicated his passion for beer in an engaging way and his sense of humour really came through in his application,” Tim said.
Australian Brews News editor Matt Kirkegaard agreed, saying the process had turned up some excellent aspiring beer writers.
“It’s been very difficult trying to separate the entries and very good writers have missed out. The great thing is that the idea seems to have resonated not just with people who want to write about beer, but also within the corporate beer community and we have had significant interest in creating other bursaries,” Matt said.
“Hop Products Australia has given us the chance to start something that we hope will have very positive impact on the industry by giving many more writers the chance to develop their knowledge and understanding of the industry to go with their passion for beer.
In his application letter Sam said his love of beer began in his brother’s dingy apartment.
“We would hold blind beer tastings to determine what was the best cheap, readily-available Australian lager on the market.”
Now he says he is always looking for the newest thing on the market.
“And taking copious amounts of tasting notes for every beer I taste and homebrewing crazy experiments, those things that I want to exist but don’t.”
Sam said his interest in writing began when he was six years old.
“I composed an epic composition of seven A4 pages about the Gulf War and how Saddam Hussein was a bit of a prick,” he said.
From those controversial beginnings he worked his way through high school obtaining English honours at university before starting a copywriting career at Harvey Norman.
“I spent my days coming up with as many synonyms for ‘BIG COMPUTER SALE’ as was humanly possible,” Sam said.
“It gave me plenty of time to ponder and think about what I really wanted to do. In my home time, I would split my time fairly evenly between drinking beer, talking about beer, and writing beer reviews – and of course spending time with my beer widowed wife. But the natural thing about hobbies is they have a funny way of not paying you for doing them.”
Until now…at least a little.
Sam has been awarded a bursary of $1500, plus a trip to Tasmania to view the 2012 hop harvest, courtesy of Hop Products Australia. He will also contribute a weekly column to Australian Brews News.
Sam said that what he most hoped to gain is insider experience to access those parts of the brewing world he would only hear about as a consumer.
“To me, hops are small green pellets that come in a vacuum-packed foil bag, a beer distributor is a guy who puts labels saying ‘1.3 standard drinks’ on beer bottles, and a clogged tap line is something the wife nags me about fixing until I give up and call a plumber,” he said.
“I’m going on a journey of experience and would love the chance to chronicle the tales along the way.”
As part of the application process, writers submitted an article that started with the phrase, “The funny thing about beer is…” Sam’s essay is below.
Congratulations to Sam, and to all of the writers who applied, and thanks to Tim Lord and Hop Products Australia for supporting the bursary and making it posssible.
The funny thing about beer…
The funny thing about beer is you can never have it completely figured out.
You have some idea of the look, and a few different varieties; you may even have some notion of how it’s made, and yet there’s always something new and different waiting around the corner.
With wine, the craft is in perfecting a standard: it is well known for example that the best Cabernets come from Coonawarra; all other examples of this variety are critiqued against that yardstick. This is not just true of wine, but scotch, vodka, rum: the measure of a bottle’s quality lies in the depth, clarity and complexity of those classic varietal flavours.
While the most typical beer sits at around 5% ABV, is a pale amber colour, slightly fizzy and contains malt, water, hops and yeast, this starting block leads to an endless expanse of space for that typical example to grow and change.
It therefore baffles me slightly when someone says to me “I don’t like beer”. Of course everybody’s entitled to their opinion, but it necessitates my inevitable follow-up question: “how many beers have you tried?”
I find it hard to fathom that someone who has sampled the sweetest English stout, the most floral dry-hopped American IPA and the most puckering of Belgian lambics could still blithely write off ‘beer’, unless they simply mean that typical 5% amber liquid that comes cheap in pubs.
But even for me, having been exploring the different varieties and flavours of beer for years, it still holds a surprise in store. Take the beginning of 2011, when the beer world was abuzz about Rex Attitude, the world’s first “100% peat-smoked beer”. It was hyped as basically Islay whiskey in a beer, and there was much talk about its extreme flavour.
I believed that I could conquer the hype and play the objective critic when my turn came to try it. But it proved to be far more than hype could ever make me imagine: the first smell was a forest of smouldering oak, and sipping it was akin to nibbling a suckling spit-roast pig. It was extreme, intense, utterly idiosyncratic – and amazing. It polarises people like no other beer I know.
And the funny thing is that Rex Attitude is just 7% ABV; it’s a pale amber colour, slightly fizzy and contains malt, water, hops and yeast. It’s just beer.