Questions and answers

Who suggests to me the beers that I drink? 
Well, I'm more receptive to suggestion now than I ever was. It's been a wave; when I was a newbie to beer I listened to anyone who shouted loud enough. When I thought I knew what I was doing, I'd ignore most people and go with what I knew. Now, I'm broadminded - letting folks on Twitter and Facebook decide which beers I should drink whilst at the Nottingham Beer Festival this year was a real eye-opener. I tried beers by brewers to whom I wouldn't normally give a second glance.

Who do I ignore? Why?
Any beer or brewer that makes just too much noise. When half a dozen bloggers regurgitate the same press release, when the Facebook album is loved by people I know cannot have tried the new beer, I steer clear.

Where don’t I go to drink beer? Why?
I'd become rather beer-snobbish. To the extent of not visiting High Street, national chain bars lest they offered nothing of quality and passion. To the extent of not visiting some of my local pubs, where I've eaten and drank for ten years, because the cask offering was unlikely to be a show-stopping dry-hopped bonanza. Then I realised how I'd been missing out on a great, fresh pint of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at All Bar One. How a well-kept Pedigree or Bass can be flinty and sulphourous and pretty damn good with fish & chips.

What styles do I avoid? Why?
It's repetition of style that I'm avoiding now. There were times at beer festivals, desperate to scoop new breweries, when I would drink nothing but brown best bitter. Because that's invariably what debut brewers brewed. And most were average but some were tasty. Step forward six years and the lists are now chock full of pale, pale ales. And many of them are tasty... put it this way: I like Metallica. I think the track 'Master Of Puppets' is one of the most kick-ass tracks of all time. But I couldn't listen to the intro over and over and over again. The chords may begin to bore me. I'd know what to expect. I'd be satiated, but not quite as excited. But after I've been away and listened to a stack of Mahler, the DAH! DAH-DAAH-DAHHH!! of 'Puppets' sounds claw-your-face-off fresh.

How does method of dispense make a difference? Why?
The difference is everything and nothing. Nothing beats the flavour, aroma and mouthfeel that you get from a pint of hoppy pale cask ale that's been poured from gravity, allowing the gentle flavours to linger longer throughout the glass.. Except for a pint of nutty, toffee cask ale handpulled through a sparkler, giving a creamy head that helps the flavours stick. Or.. a pint of kegged unfiltered lager which stays cool and crisp and refreshing. Or... a bottle of carefully conditioned ale that's developed a level of complexity that even sherry dare not dream of. The only difference that dispense makes is when beer drinkers get too hung-up about it and miss out on great opportunities.

When did I last drink my‘epiphany’ beer, the one that proved to you that beer can be not-sucky? Why?
About three weeks ago. Why? Because it's gorgeous. Because no other beer looks so damn tasty in its own branded glass. Because when I drink it, I'm transported back to Brugge and the bar of the Oude Burg hotel and I remember what it was like to be on the cusp of discovering a world of beer which, until that moment, I had been blissfully ignorant of. And so I'll be having another bottle of Duvel this weekend. You've gotta love non-sucky beer.