A BEER writer has won the prestigious Fortnum and Mason Drinks Writer of the Year award for the first time in the competition’s history.
Will Hawkes, the British Guild of Beer Writers’ Writer of the Year in 2013, was recognised at the Royal Exchange in London last Thursday. Previous winners have included wine writers such as Nina Caplan and Victoria Moore, and whisky experts such as 2020’s champion, Dave Broom.
The drinks writer prize is one of 15 awarded by Fortnum and Mason as part of its Food and Drink Awards, which began in 2013. Beer writers have previously triumphed in other categories: Pete Brown is a double winner of Drink Book of the Year, Henry Jeffreys’ 2017 book Empire of Booze won Debut Drink Book, and Boak & Bailey won Online Drinks Writer(s) of the Year in 2016.
This year’s awards were judged by a panel chaired by chef Angela Hartnett that included Asma Khan, Olly Smith, Rosie Birkett and Sandrae Lawrence. Other winners include Grace Dent, The Guardian’s restaurant critic, whose Hungry won the Debut Food Book prize, Tom Kerridge, recognised for his TV show Saving Britain’s Pubs, and Ruby Tandoh, winner of the Food Writer gong.
The event is one of the most lavish in London’s food and drink calendar, with awards handed out by Claudia Winkleman, host of Strictly Come Dancing. Guests including Stanley Tucci and Jay Rayner enjoyed canapes – such as quails’ egg scotch eggs and smoked salmon blinis – washed down with Fortnum and Mason’s house champagne.
Hawkes was recognised for work in The Tonic, a travel and drink print magazine launched last year, and Pellicle, an online drinks-focused magazine which began in 2019. “Publications like these are transforming drinks writing by allowing great stories that couldn’t find a way into heritage publications to be told,” said Hawkes, 42. “I’m so delighted for the founders of Tonic and Pellicle. It takes a lot of courage to do what they’ve done.”
He toasted his success with Fortnum and Mason’s English Pilsner, brewed by Westerham in his home county of Kent. “I hope to see other beer writers winning in the years to come,” he said. “The standard has never been higher, and there are plenty whose work deserves a larger audience.”
Press release from Will Hawkes