Michael Donaldson – Beer Writer of the Year 2016

By BeertownNZ Wed, 07 Dec 2016 Auckland

It’s a case of history repeating.

When Jono Galuszka won the Brewers Guild Beer Writer Award last year, his Fairfax colleague Michael Donaldson accepted on Jono’s behalf.

This year Jono returned the favour, and accepted the award on behalf of Michael who won it for an unprecedented second stint.

“There seemed to be an unwritten rule that if you win it you don’t enter again, but I thought enough time had passed and I thought, ‘I still like what I do so I’m going to look for some more recognition!’,” Michael says.

“I pulled out examples of my Fairfax column that runs in Your Weekend magazine, I submitted the Big Book of Home Brew, stuff from Pursuit of Hoppiness and Toast magazine published during the entry period.”

During that period Michael also transformed Pursuit of Hoppiness from a volunteer effort by members of the not-for-profit Society of Beer Advocates, to a professional production by Auckland agency Pumpt Advertising.

“I’d met Dominic from Pumpt and we get along well. The redesign was the first step to making it more appealing. The Pumpt guys are experienced in selling more advertising and making it more efficient. The dream now is showing a profit and returning a dividend to SOBA to reinvest. The first year I did it for nothing, and when I quit Fairfax a year ago I asked to get paid which is probably minimum wage. I’d like to think it can grow to the point where the editor and the writers can be paid market rates.”

Since winning Beer Writer of the Year 2013 Michael has noticed some changes in the ways brewing is portrayed in New Zealand media.

“There’s a much broader understanding of the industry in the mainstream media area, and they write with more knowledge and expertise. With Moa floating on the share market and crowdfunding bringing investors in, there has to be a degree of public scrutiny. And the diehard passionate beer writers like myself, Geoff Griggs, Neil Miller, Phil Cook, and Jono Galuszka are still doing our thing.”

Michael’s current project is writing the second edition of his book Beer Nation. This overview of the industry was first published in 2012 and Michael say’s it’s due for an update.

“2012 was a really good time in beer – there was a lot happening – and we were just cracking into the era we’re currently in and the problems it presents. 

“We steadily sold about 3500 copies, which is pretty good by New Zealand standards, but Penguin weren’t interested in doing an update. Then a friend suggested doing it as a self-publishing enterprise. We looked at different options and in the end we went for crowdfunding.”

The PledgeMe campaign is running right now, with $5610 pledged towards its target of $21,722. 

“But regardless of what happens we will go ahead and do it anyway, so it is going to be published. I’m going to hone it down to a distilled version of history, and modern history at that. It will focus on the last five years and ask questions about where we go next. There are so many issues the industry has to grapple with, stuff like the tied taps debate that was had on Facebook, and what I call the new temperance movement. 

“That’s my summer project. I’ll still squeeze some golf in. I love my golf. I’m blessed that I have two passions that I’ve been able to do books around.”

You can contribute to Michael’s PledgeMe campaign here with options for one (“Sort Father’s Day for next year!”) or multiple (“Treat yourself AND Dad”) copies. Don’t dilly dally – it closes this Friday!

By BeertownNZ Wed, 07 Dec 2016 Auckland