Thursday, 30 December 2010
Amongst the language I learnt as a kid was the phrase 'scabby git' which, if directed at you, meant only one thing, that you'd been lucky. Perhaps you'd pulled off that tabletop without getting hurt, passed a French test or been given some tickets for the Pleasure Beach. Either way, you were a 'scabby git' in our book and we'd let you know, just in case you thought personal skill or charm played any part in your good fortune.
Well, in 1994, 6 months after starting my brewing apprenticeship, I was one scabby git. A great, big, fat, hairy one with nobs on: I won a bronze medal at the International Brewing Industry Awards. A cask of 'Firkin Dogbolter' I brewed at the Ferret in Lotts Road, Chelsea, was judged to be the third best strong cask ale in the World. Well, not including the many that didn't enter, but including the 62 that did.
Obviously I was pretty pleased with myself, and thankfully there were no Blackpudlians to point out that it was luck, not skill, what won it. But a couple of years later the senior brewer, Nick the Hat, confessed that he'd doctored my beer - he'd opened up the cask, didn't think much of the contents so put a handful of Styrian Goldings (hops) in for good measure. So afraid was he that I'd blame him for only getting a bronze (silver and gold were both taken by Shepherd Neame with Bishop's Finger and Spitfire respectively, incidentally) that he kept quiet about his genius little tinkering for two years, until, twisted by a guilty conscience and 8 pints of Dogbolter, he 'fessed up one night, spewing his adulterous little tale to me between sobs.
Now I know only too well that it was his intervention that stunned the judges and forced them, for the first time in the competition's then 109 year history, to award an award to a micro-brewery. And that forced our director to put his hand in his pocket and pay for a table of us to attend the awards ceremony, where beer and food were free and Firkin brewers made the most of them. I duly presented myself on stage at the appointed moment to rapturous applause and cheering from an audience that really, really loved seeing a little guy win.
Now I've lost the medal they gave me, and the certificate, but I'll never ever forget being one scabby git.
The IBIA is back this year and we're entering West Coast IPA. Fingers crossed for a gold this time.