Three years ago today – August 1, 2015 – I said goodbye to my then-home, New York City, and boarded a flight to London to try and make it in the beer industry.
Having spent much of my free-time in NYC getting geekier and geekier about beer, I wanted to see if could find a way to work in beer full time. I was conscious then that the beer industry in the States was quite developed and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to break into it while keeping the lifestyle I’d grown accustomed to from my 9-to-5. So, I opted for a fresh start.
I moved to London and literally started from the bottom (a fold-out mattress on my cousins’ floor – Megan and Lauren, I am eternally grateful!) and worked my way up.
Year 1: August 2015 – 2016
By the end of my first week in London, I’d landed a part-time bartending job at Mother Kelly’s and started writing for the (now-defunct) Belfast-based beer tech startup, Brewbot.
Shortly afterwards, I joined the Crafty Beer Girls monthly meet-ups in London and then my next adventure began. I was inspired to start my beer blog, Watson’s Corner, and I applied for a job at Duvel Moortgat UK (where I still am today!).
I also spent much of this time getting to know the beer scene in London and took my first UK-based beercation to Copenhagen. I had an absolute ball.
Year 2: August 2016 – 2017
In September 2016, I was accepted into the British Guild of Beer Writers thanks to my blog and my marketing work for Duvel.
Later that year, I started studying towards my Cicerone certification, which I achieved in January 2017. Then the following summer, I started hosting beery talks and tastings to bring my blog to life.
I also took some incredible beercations – to Portland, Antwerp, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Bamberg and NYC – putting the knowledge I learned about classic beer styles like kölsch, altbier and rauchbier to the test.
Year 3: August 2017 – 2018
After getting a practice round under my belt, I hosted my first ever beery talks and tastings during London Beer City, a week-long celebration of all things beer in London. The first was about the history of beer in the 1800s, followed by a detailed discussion of Duvel. From then, I was hooked and have hosted talks, tastings and trainings nearly every month.
The beercations continued, too – this time to Leipzig and Pilsen, then Belfast to speak at ABV Fest, followed by a cold and snowy Tallinn, Estonia, and the Christmas markets (and beer halls) in Munich.
In January 2018, I started working towards my Beer Sommelier accreditation, which I achieved in May. Then just two months later, I taught my first course at the Beer & Cider Academy (and can’t wait to get back to teach some more!).
In the meantime, I was interviewed for the Good Beer Hunting podcast all about what Duvel’s up to here in the UK, led a tasting of Belgian beers on Talk Radio, and will soon be featured on Fermentation Radio.
A real highlight this year was speaking to a room full of my peers and biggest supporters at the Ladies’ Big Beery Meet-up. I also had the opportunity to judge at the World Beer Awards and was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the British Guild of Beer Writers (I’ll find out more about what this actually entails at our first meeting next week!).
On top of all this, I spent most of my evenings and weekends in June and July working away on a secret little project… I’ve written and submitted a book proposal. (And, yes, it’s about beer.)
My dear friend, Jess Dennison (aka @foodjess), recently published her cookbook Salad Feasts and I was so inspired watching her follow her dreams.
I never thought I had a book in me, but the more I’ve learned about beer through studying for my exams and preparing scripts for my talks, I realized that there’s a beer book that hasn’t been written yet that I think would be incredibly engaging and informative. So I sat down to write the proposal before someone else beat me to it!
It’s currently out for review with publishers at the moment, so I don’t want to say too much more for now, but hopefully I’ll have some exciting news to share soon.
What’s next? Year 4: August 2018 – 2019
Looking ahead, there are a few more certifications I’m aiming for and I’ve got another fun project in the works.
In November, I’ll be sitting the Institute of Brewing & Distilling’s General Certificate in Brewing so I can then teach full range of courses at the Beer & Cider Academy.
Then I’m planning to go for the next level certification with the Cicerone Program – Advanced Cicerone – early 2019. I’ve been told it’s a big step up from the Certified Cicerone status I currently hold, so I’ve got plenty of studying ahead of me. But who knows… maybe that’s where I’ll find the inspiration for book number 2?!
As for the other fun project, my study buddies and I are currently making plans for a podcast! Earlier this year, we formed a monthly study group when we were all studying towards our Cicerone certification or Beer Sommelier assessments. Wishing there was a podcast to listen to to help prepare for these exams, but not finding any, we’ve decided to make one.
(Not that I’ve told them this yet… but in my head, I’ve already created the opening tune by tweaking the lyrics to the Bruno Mars bit in the song “Billionaire”. “I wana be a beer expert so frikkin’ bad, taste all of the styles I’ve never had…” Are you hearing it now? I’ve written more but am too embarrassed to type it here, so if you want to hear it, you’ll have to buy me a pint sometime )
Wana get involved? When I say early stages, I mean early stages, so come help us bring this thing to life.
I also plan to bring you more regular blog posts. I’ve got pictures from previous beercations haven’t yet seen the light of day, so you’ve got that to look forward to. I’m also hoping to book in a few more beercations (in the name of content creation, of course!) – back to Belgium and Estonia at a minimum.
Three years on, I feel so darn lucky to have made a life in beer work for me and to spend my time so drenched in something I’m so passionate about.
When I first made the move to beer, I knew I wanted to pursue my Cicerone certification, but I didn’t see much of the rest of this coming. Beer Sommelier was a totally new journey – as was teaching, joining the Guild, writing a book proposal, working on a podcast. I feel fortunate to have so many exciting new projects in the works, whether they’re with friends or of my own making, and I look forward to seeing what other opportunities pop up along the way.
It really felt like everything started to fall into place this past year, so if you’re newer to the beer world and are wondering when it all clicks, keep following that passion.
I also wanted to acknowledge that I do have a life outside of beer (we all do, don’t forget that!) and these last three years have seen plenty. Personally, I’ve moved countries, moved homes, met someone wonderful and fallen in love. I’ve watched friends and family get married (I’ve got a brother-in-law now, hi Jeff! ), new babies have joined us (welcome to the world Onnin, can’t wait to teach you all about beer), and dear family members have passed away (Nanny Mac, Uncle Sam, you are sorely missed).
Here we are, the first day of the 8th month of the year, and how many of us will today ask ourselves “where has the year gone?”. For me, I find so much value in taking a moment to pause and reflect – what’s happened to date and what do I have to look forward to ahead?
I encourage everyone to take some time today to think about your year so far – the cool experiences you’ve had, wonderful people you’ve met, progress you’ve made towards your goals or what new goals you might like to set.
If you ever want to chat about things over a beer, reach out. (Because if you’ve made it to this end of all this rambling, you deserve to be treated to a beer! )
Thanks, as always, for reading. And happy reflecting.
Here’s to many more years in beer.