How critics and educators are working during coronavirus lockdown

An online book club from author and Beer Masters judge Natalya Watson

Beer Sommelier Natalya Watson recently achieved her Advanced Cicerone certification, making her Britain’s most qualified woman in beer. Watson released her new book, Beer: Taste the Evolution in 50 Styles, on 19 March, just days before the UK government imposed new lockdown measures, which has meant that plugging the work through events and face-to-face masterclasses is no longer possible.

But Google Hangout has come to the rescue. Watson launched her first ever virtual book club last week to share her research with fellow beer fans, and has already had some keen followers, with 22 people tuning into her first live-stream on Thursday 2 April.

“I’m covering a different chapter of my new book each week,” she told db.

“In the chat, I gave a ‘director’s cut’ version of the chapter, so told them a few stories I had to cut out for space reasons and referenced a few of my sources to give a bit of a deeper dive into the stories in the chapter. Then we did a Q&A.”

Though the first session was nerve-wracking, Watson has received positive feedback from her book club, and now plans to run it every Thursday from 6:30pm GMT. You can find out how to join her book club here.


Other projects

Meanwhile, Watson is still working with brands she has partnered with on masterclasses in the past, and forging new partnerships along the way. Tomorrow evening (7 April,), she is hosting an online tasting session for the staff at London beer shop group Mother Kelly’s “as a way to bring them together over a beer and do a bit of beer education”, and next week, she is due to host another beer tasting for Belgian brewer Duvel via Instagram Live.

Watson said adjusting to the “new normal” has made her realise how important relationships are in the drinks industry.

“I’ve been chatting with family and friends a lot more, but didn’t realise how much I missed catching up with industry colleagues, especially now as so many of us are in the same boat with work simply ‘evaporating’.”

She’s also keen to start her own bespoke tastings for smaller groups, inspired by the work of US wine educator Dini Rao.

“She’s been offering online wine tastings for years and I actually had a call with her in January to pick her brain about doing something similar for beer… so now might be the time!”

Virtual Book Club – the details

When: Thursdays at 6:30pm GMT

Length: 30 minutes

Sign up: here

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