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7th December 2023

Chair’s feedback from Guild Awards

The dust has just about settled from another great British Guild of Beer Writers Annual Dinner and Awards, and we’re collating feedback from everybody about how they found the new venue and approach. I’m delighted to say it was the bestselling event we’ve ever had for the guild, and I think reflected the modern and increasingly diverse industry we communicate about really well. If you agree or disagree please do let me know – you can email me on

The awards themselves were a triumph – not necessarily from my point of view because I kept forgetting to change the slides, but from the organisation of Tipple and the sheer quality of the entries, shortlists and nominations. Something I’ve heard every year since I joined the board, however, is that there’s not been enough feedback from judges in the aftermath. So while things are still relatively fresh in our memories I thought I’d write a short piece about what the amazing team of judges saw and thought. I also thought it would be a great opportunity to champion some of the winning work, something we’ve never done effectively before. So after the general feedback for everyone who entered you’ll find a list of all the Gold and Silver winners with my favourite piece of work from the category they won in.

We’re offering every shortlisted candidate proper feedback on their work, whether you won or not, so if you’re looking for that please email me. But more generally there were a few things that really stood out from judging across all the categories. The positive things were the wealth of different people, from all walks of life, writing about beer. Compared to my time judging in 2019 there was so much more work I hadn’t seen before, so many more breweries, pubs and people I’d never heard of before, and some absolutely brilliant – often heartbreaking – angles taken to highlight the thing I found most remarkable about this year’s entries: the humanity.

Unless it’s a technical piece, when we write about beer we are mostly writing about people, and I think this year communicators really embraced that. So many of the entries introduced us to remarkable folk, doing unique and tireless work, and told us beautifully what it was like to be them.  I think it’s really important that beer writing folds these stories in, because often what makes a beer unique is the people who made it – especially in a world where breweries have the same suppliers for their yeasts, hops and malts. It’s also fair to say that beer writers have never been more educated about the technical and cultural aspects of beer production, and this underpinned these more intangible stories well. Those that won the most competitive categories – self-published, commissioned, travel and podcasts – were the ones that combined these two elements of good beer writing together best.

Perhaps it is a symptom of having so much to read through, or perhaps it is a positive sign of the depth we want to go into and the space editors are allowing us, but a lot of pieces did suffer a little from being overlong.  I’d suggest editors check their dwell times on pages to ensure people are fully investing, and also urge writers to be brutal with their prose and focus on making every paragraph force the reader to keep going. This was most true in the podcast category, where only so much can be done to edit down an interview and keep them on track. Our winner was, not by accident, the best at editorialising and making a story where he could have simply done straight interviews. The same went for the video category as well – as a topic close to my heart I know average watch times on Youtube are around 7 minutes, so if you’re going over that you really have to make it worthwhile for the viewer. I’m well aware most of my videos weigh in over 20 and I could learn this lesson as much as anyone who entered this year!

Something else that came up a few times through the judging process was a lack of balance in some pieces. Beer writing is still maturing, it’s a pretty young game and I know as well as anyone the fierce internal battle that rages whenever you have to criticise a brewery, person or system in the industry. It feels like we are being part of the problem in an industry that’s struggling for growth. But we always need to ensure that, if we’re presenting a piece of writing or broadcasting as factual, claims need to be backed and the other side needs to be approached, consulted and potentially quoted. Even when writing an opinion piece, it’s vital to explain other people’s views – if only to give you a foil to counter with.

The final thing that came up a lot in the judging discussions was about uniqueness. With so much beer being made and so much being written and broadcast about it, being a strong, balanced but unique voice is exceptionally difficult. But so many great pieces either missed out on awards or shortlists by being too similar to something else and not doing the job quite as well. It’s worth considering every time you make a piece of content whether it has been said or seen before; or whether you are the best person to say it. I was taught during my journalism masters that if you’d ever read a sentence before, you have to strike it out. Finding our voices, treading a niche, and standing out isn’t just the best way to get work as a communicator, it’s also the best way to win awards and I think I’m right in saying that not only were this year’s winners clearly the best in their categories, they were also the most individual.

Obviously these are my reflections, and the other judges might well have their own thoughts on the work. But I hope it will help others both improve their work and pick the right ones for the awards next year. If you’re looking for more inspiration, here are my favourite pieces of work from the winners and silvers of each category.

Best Corporate Beer Communication, sponsored by the Guild

Gold: CAMRA Learn & Discover

Highly Commended: Tom Fozard (Rooster’s Brewing Co Brochure, physical copies only)


Best Beer Business Communicator, sponsored by Krombacher

Gold: Jessica Mason

Silver: Pete Brown


Best Communication about No and Low Alcohol Beer, sponsored by Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I

Gold: Will Hawkes

Silver: Hollie Stephens Buzz Killers, Ferment Magazine (physical only)


Best Communication about Sustainability in Beer and Pubs, sponsored by Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company

Gold: Lucy Corne

Silver: Mark Dredge


Best Video Beer Communication, sponsored by St Austell Brewery

Gold: Mark Dredge, Sunday Brunch

Silver: Tim Webb & Bill Bradshaw


Best Audio Beer Communication, sponsored by Asahi UK

Gold: Eoghan Walsh

Silver: Nick Law

Highly Commended: Breandán Kearney


Best Beer Communicator, Regional Media, sponsored by the Guild

Gold: Clifford Lucas

Highly Commended: Ashley Joanna


Best Communication about Cider, sponsored by Aspall

Gold: Adam Wells

Silver: James Finch


Best Citizen Beer Communicator, sponsored by Harvey’s Tom Paine

Gold: Joey Leskin

Silver: Andy Ketley  (Book)


Best Newcomer to Beer Communication, sponsored by Fuller, Smith & Turner

Gold: Emmie Harrison-West

Silver: Anaïs Lecoq


Best Self-Published Beer Writing, sponsored by Outland Beers

Gold: Eoghan Walsh

Silver: David Jesudason


Best Communication about Diversity in Beer, sponsored by the Guild

Gold: Emmie Harrison-West

Highly Commended: David Jesudason


Best Communication about Beer and Travel, sponsored by VISITFLANDERS

Gold: Lucy Corne

Silver: Will Hawkes


Best Communication about Pubs, sponsored by Shepherd Neame

Gold: David Jesudason

Silver: Rachel Hendry

Highly Commended: Jane Stuart


Best Commissioned Beer Writing, sponsored by Greene King

Gold: Lily Waite

Silver: Rachel Hendry

Highly Commended: David Jesudason (subscriber only)


Best Book about Beer or Pubs, sponsored by Heineken

Gold: David Jesudason

Silver: Des de Moor