Session 142: The End Is Over And Now There’s Nuttin’

So, here we are. The end. Stan has asked for one last kick at the can and asks us to consider:

Pick a beer for the end of a life, an end of a meal, an end of a day, an end of a relationship. So happy or sad, or something between. Write about the beer. Write about the aroma, the flavor, and write about what you feel when it is gone.

Beer for an ending? What about the end of beer? Or maybe just the end of a beer. I was never fully convinced by Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting or rather Bernie’s lyrics, the wanting to rock, the wanting to get a belly full of beer:

A couple of the sound that I really like
Are the sounds of a switchblade and a motorbike
I’m a juvenile product of the working class
Whose best friend floats in the bottom of a glass…

It seemed a bit 1970s comfy rec room faux dystopian. But I remember it every time I look down at the dregs. Now often sated, even with a little relief. When I was young maybe a bit of tension. Tastes like another but wondering if I could afford a next… and a next. Goodbye to all that? To my surprise, over 15 years of this beer blogging seen many endings. The long goodbye. Endings I had not anticipated. People coming into view and then some time later departing, stage left. Switching to PR, quitting writing, quitting beer, moving along, falling apart, passing away.

A beer for all that? Clearly Orval. Simon H. Johnson‘s passing was over five and a half years ago now. He loved his Orval. And he had one Derby Bimble before he left. Amazingly, his blog is still all there. It’s hard to describe how influential he was, how his cheery insistent popping of each and every balloon was what we, what I wanted to read. If I could find a bottle of Orval I would have it now, before morning coffee. But this is Canada so I can’t just get one when I want it. Oh, sorry… this is a beer blog. There. Wonder what’s at the bottom.

The First Week Of December Finds Every Child’s Mind Drifting To Beery News Notes

This week’s big news saw me and mine on the road. I was up in the nation’s capital over Saturday and Sunday and took part in my kind of beer tourism. By that I mean actually doing normal things while noting beer around me and having one when the more important things in life were not imposed upon. We took in an hour at the National Gallery of Canada and spent time in the Canadian exhibits, where I came across this painting, Manitoba Party, from 1964. Cheery and folk artsy, right away I noticed the kegs and beer distribution smack dab in the middle. More detail below.

 

 

 

 

Speaking of Canada, Frank Zappa once said that you can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. Canada obsesses about such things, often when there is little in the news other than, you know, affirmations. Mr. B has picked up the theme:

I’ve no idea what Canada’s national beer style might ultimately be, whether it will be hop-focused or yeast-based or feature some ingredient that it true to the Canadian spirit. 

Not sure that is a big worry of mine. Zappa went on to that that it also “helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.” We have our own form of football. And, really, the good neighbour has enough of those bombs. Art, however. That works for me.

Looking back on the rest of my week, I find I have to take something back* from last week’s news notes. I wrote that we would have to spend a “happy early December without an edition of #TheSession” but Stan is giving us one last kick at the can with the topic “One More For The Road” in which we are asked to:

Pick a beer for the end of a life, an end of a meal, an end of a day, an end of a relationship. So happy or sad, or something between. Write about the beer. Write about the aroma, the flavor, and write about what you feel when it is gone.

Not particularly Yule-drenched but there will be a few weeks afterwards to get oneself back in the spirit. With any luck, the responses will give J. Wilson some cheer, given his tweet this week which is about as broadly grim as one might get:

Sometimes I worry about the future of beer since so many beer lovers today don’t even like the taste of beer.

Me, I am more hopeful than that – especially given how beer and brewing has survived any number of false gods and dead ends over the centuries.  December is actually an excellent time to get back in touch with the classics and leave the NEIPAs and other alcopops to the amateur drinkers. Alistair of Fuggled fame has offered us one route to set things back in their proper order:

…it seems that Craft Beer™ Advent Calendars have been all the rage in recent years and I thought I’d jump on the old bandwagon. Only one minor issue, I have an aversion to having stuff curated for me, I much prefer to survey what’s available and make my own decisions, yes I can be something of a contrarian, I know. The plan as it currently stands is to buy 24 bottles of seasonal beers, drink one each day of Advent, and then write a blog post about it…

Wonderful. A blog plan. Nate has also offered us a route forward for his beer blogging for 2019 and beyond:

…I gave up on the Beats element about music years ago as I stopped listening to so much music, and frankly, my music reviews weren’t very good at all. So, I needed to replace Beats with something and given my love for professional wrestling, why not change it to Beatdowns and write about wrestling since I watch so much of it? So, from now on, this blog will be known as Booze, Beatdowns and Bites.

There was a university radio show near me that I liked a decade ago named something like “Hardcore Grooves and Wrestlin’ Moves” so this should work for me.

Here’s an interesting twist on the recreation of one historic brand of beer – the rights to brew Syracuse NY’s Congress beer were acquired by the local historical society!

In more real news, BarMas that objectified human point of fascination of mine – for his superhuman chore doing and vernacular booze production skills – has posted about his new orchard:

Originally, the ends of every row had cherry trees, which our current plot is missing, so we will gain, I think, 5 very large cherry trees. Inside the cherry trees, each row then had a few pear trees, and this is repeated a thee ends of the rows we are purchasing. Mostly they seem to be conference, mirroring the ends of the current rows, but there are a few other varieties, like Bürgermeisterbirne/Köstliche aus Charneux, and I hope some perry pear trees and more Williams Christ.

Wow.  Riddled. Jealousy.

The serious news in the business of beer as it affects Canada and beyond has been reported upon by my pal Josh Rubin in the Toronto Star:

DME, a P.E.I.-based equipment manufacturer with facilities in B.C. and South Carolina, was in receivership, with more than $18 million owed to RBC and an unspecified amount to other creditors, including the company’s own 250 employees. The company’s directors have all resigned, and a B.C.-based receiver has been appointed to explore either a liquidation or sale of the company, with offers due by Jan. 7.

Big news. And a bit strange news. First, though, gotta tell you. I know folk involved, the lawyer bringing the receivership and even the judge granting it,** and have no doubt as to the realities but the effect is going to be widespread. Josh*** got Jason Fisher**** on the record to explore what losing a $800,000 deposit means to him and his brewery. What gets me is that the required cash injection was allegedly only $5,000,000 which seems like a paltry sum in the face of 250 jobs – that’s just $20,000 a job  – and especially given the work they were getting including being a supplier to the new Guinness brewery in Baltimore. Where is the ACOA money? Where was Wade… who I also know… former law school prof. Also, before you buy brewing equipment, here is some reasonable advice on securing your deposit.

There. By next week will be another one gone and one closer to Yule. I am more of a Dec 15th to Jan 10th sorta holiday season person. Other versions exist. Many are US Thanksgiving to Dec 25th holiday-ers, immediately stripping the house of tree and tinsel thereafter and, presumably, getting a bit drunk on New Years Eve then staring out the window waiting for spring.  Not me. I want to realize that the sun has made at least three weeks worth of its way back to equinox before I come around to reality.  Then, I want be out in the winter woodland to hear the chickadees calling out for mates and, well, we all know about chickadees, right?

I am sure there still will be beer news throughout. Just like Boak and Bailey know and report out on each Saturday.  Feel nostalgic? Go check out some Xmas contest entries from Yuletides past. Link to the right…

No, not what caused this weird blurt… which looked like a 1.3 violation with perhaps a 1.2 twist.
** I practiced law in PEI from 1998 to 2003. Respectively (i) co-associate pal and (ii) respected partner of another firm and colleague of my counterpart respectively.
*** Who I know in the fellow beer writer sense.
*** Who I don’t know but think I had a brief flame war with once.

“For Drink”: Searching For Something Requires Knowing Something About That Something

Just a bit of a note on how annoying it can be realizing that if you want to find out something you need to know something about the thing you need to find out more about. Not unlike my problems with records or, say, the adjectives of the past.

For example, from time to time I have a habit of hunting through the digital mess of Google Books looking for references to “malt” in lists of ships’ provisions for some sort of expedition or another to see what I can find. I have learned that I have to include a search for “mault” or other variations in the spelling. This is how as I found out about Frobisher’s provisions for his 1577 Arctic expedition by searching for “biere” rather than “beer.”  In that same way, I realized recently that I should also be hunting just for not multiple spellings but also phrases – as the phrase “for drink” in these examples show.

1557: in Tusser‘s domestic text set in verse, Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry we read in the section on morning work,

Let some to peel hemp, or else rushes to twine
To spin or to card or to seething in brine.
Grind malt for drink,
See meat do not stink.

1585: in Volume 2 of Calendar of the Carew Manuscripts at document #591, we can read in the requirements for setting up English plantations in Munster, Ireland that a farmer requires six quarters of “oats for drink” while a copyholder needs four and a cottager just two.

1597: in the Calendar of the State Papers Relating to Ireland, perhaps due to the failure of the previous plan noted above, we see that the military need to receive better supplies instead of just beef, including:

…cheese and salted fish, and with some malt for drink for the soldiers, who I see daily to perish for want thereof, against the rule of Christian compassion…

1623: in the records of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, we can read a note by Sir John Coke, a listing of provisions which includes “malt of barley for drink” and “malt of oats for drink.”

1624: a book on Puritan settlers of America indicate in quotations that their preparations need to include “meal for bread, malt for drink” as they should not expect to “meet neither with taverns nor alehouses.”

1688: in a summary sort of document recording aspects of Communications of the Board of Agriculture, a summary sort of acreage chart entitled Quantity of land necessary to subsist 8,000,000 of people in England, according to the present mode of living:

Bread corn – –  – – – – – – –  – – 3,000,000
Barley, for drink – – – – – – – – -1,500,000
Potatoes –  – – – – – – – – — – – -500,000
Grass land, for butcher’s meat – 12,000,000
Grass land dairy – – – – – – – – -4,000,000
                                                    ————-
                                                              21,000,000

Nothing too profound about it all. Just worth noting that you… that I… have to be open to understanding that the short forms or cliches of others in the past are not the shorts forms of today. All very irritating. Except that you notice that over 7% of all English acreage in the late 1600s was used for beer making and then you think that, hey, that is sorta cool.

A Very Busy Beery News Notes Thursday For The End Of November

To be honest, its been quite for a while there. Too quiet. I would have been questioning the value of my time put into this weekly round up but, fortunately, I am far less self-aware than that. My plunking together of this thing every seven days takes about as much effort and thought as scraping a razor across my face each morning. That being said, what a week it has been in the world of thinking about beer and brewing. Cats and dogs! We’ll unpack that a bit but before we do, just as a reminder that no one should have hard feelings, I offer this photo of Monty, the Hook Norton Brewery horse who retired this week. Nice horsey. See? That’s so nice. Not like a huge cow at all. OK, enough of that. Settle in. On to the mud slinging!

First, I am so proud of Norm for writing about his issues with beer and his big decision. He and I have never met but when we do I hope to see much less of him for a good many years.

Next, this piece on opening a restaurant in Toronto and then failing at it was extremely instructive for anyone still considering the foolish route of following one’s passion:

Out of desperation, Dorothy invited her mother to the restaurant for dinner, where we sheepishly explained our problem. A sensible woman, my mother-in-law was always convinced that my restaurant was a stupid idea. We were handily making her case. Nevertheless, she agreed to lend us a few thousand dollars to cover payroll. But her loan was eaten up so quickly that by the next payday, I was short again.

Drag. Conversely, Katie of @Shinybiscuit fame has written a wonderfully positive thing about how beer writing has contributed to her 2018:

There are so many people who’ve lifted me up this year, and believe me, I’m a neurotic mess, I need a lot of lifting. If you have ever told me you liked reading a blog post I wrote, or sent me some constructive feedback, or left a comment that caused me to think differently about something I’d written, or met up with me for a pint and a chat, or sent a Ko-Fi tip my way, or DMed me to see how I was, or allowed me to awkwardly hug you at a beer festival, or asked me to read something of yours, it means the world to me. Not because of what happened last week, but because this year I finally started doing something I’ve always wanted to do.

Fabulous. Again and much more conversely, the massive self-inflicted botch Boston’s Trillium is undergoing has been instructive in a number of ways including (i) how not to seek to correct a story, (ii) what can be found in the public record – and, not the least of which, (iii) how it filtered and organized beer writers into camps of sorts.  Crystal Luxmore appeared to put the whole thing down to a “disgruntled employee” in her tweet upon the matter. But then wrote of outrage. Bryan Roth subtly hinted at something of  seeming pro-ownership view in GBH: (i) allowing that working for crap wages in a “prestige” business (a term he included, left laying there but never really explained in the context of a 5000 brewery universe) while also (ii) including this fabulously and maybe telling wee nugget:

As these back-and-forth public spats tend to do, there’s no winner in a series of “he said,” rebuttals.

It’s a way of discrediting the complaint, isn’t it. And to what end? There is a risk of turning business ethics and employment standards into a matter of personality, framing the “disgruntled” as having “spats” is a conscious choice that a writer makes, leaving doubt as to purposes. Jeff Alworth (like Jason and Craig) saw things far differently in a piece (as well as follow ups) that he introduced by tweet in this way:

A Trillium worker revealed that his pay had been cut from $8 to $5 an hour. That was only the start of the brewery’s trouble. How owner JC Tetreault responded was a case study in bad crisis management. 

Jeff backed that up in the comments by way of a response to his own piece:

I’m assuming that Trillium was making enough money to continue to pay their employees $8/hr. Trillium is wildly successful, and has been under constant expansion for years. Pay cuts look bad and result in disasters like this for the darlings of beer. Unfair? I don’t think so.

To be clear, all these writers are excellent but they may come to the discussion with a view and sometimes interests. I certainly do. This is normal. It’s the marketplace of ideas – in both the senses of ideas fighting for their place and also the voices fighting for… let’s just say their own place. Very normal. Except… it is not much discussed in the great big fiction that is the unified, harmonized, sanitized beer community. Fabulous organic clannishness hot takes all.

Speak of which and perhaps conversely, right after that Pete Brown announced that the British Guild of Beer Writers has issued a Code of Conduct! Heavens to Betsy! This is the sort of thing that filled a beer bloggers mind in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. And 2011.  You can read the Code here for yourself. A few questions immediately jumped out for me:

1. the document speaks of members of the Guild as professional [s.1.1] and that a disagreement between members should be
dealt with in an appropriate business-like manner [s.1.3]. This is the deathknell* of the Guild to the degree it might want to present an organization which might be considered to speak as or for consumers not because of the standards that are being set but due to the reasons stated for setting the standards. This is especially odd give many if not most Guild members are not professionals in either the sense of (i) being solely a beer writer or (ii) supporting oneself with writing. Many tinker. Many others write and earn in a wider context of revenue streams as we saw last week.

2. the prohibition of endorsing “any commercial product or
service save for the promotion of her/his own work or the medium in which it appears” [s.2.2.1] is going to be very problematic for those members, perhaps most of them, who spend most of the time promoting the commercial product known as beer.

3. Good luck having anyone involved abide by the requirement to “give full disclosure if reporting on a press trip or other visit or significant hospitality that has been paid for by the brand or company being written about, or their agencies” [s.2.2.3] if by full disclosure we mean full disclosure. Too often all we can expect is the “trust me” or assertion (and one quite correctly asserted) that writing does not pay well enough not to take all… err… the support one can.

I do not point these things out to be unkind but to state that the undertaking of such a thing as a Code of Conduct is a minefield. Unlike others, I congratulate the BGBW for trying to take on the role of diffusion technician.

Now, to conclude, some shorter news items…

Note: Eoghan warns not to read to much into a loose organization acting as a loose organization as members leave the shadowy HORAL.

Remember: There are other sorts of bad employer practices in craft brewing.

Warning: the cheese has been always been high at GBH but this piece is extraordinary. It’s like a 1970s Coke ad or a dreamy John Denver song.

Affirmed: IPA is meaningless.

Also affirmed: stories too good to be true often aren’t.

Fabulous: Stan reports upon lambic exports in the 1830s.

Even more fabulous: excellent and extended research reported out on the demise of All About Beer Magazine.

Isn’t that enough for all you all? The good. The bad. And the ugly. Can’t I lay down my head now and have a well deserved nap? I think I shall. I think I will do just that. Happy early December without an edition of #TheSession. Pause and reflect as we move towards that quieter Friday. In the meantime, remember to check out Boak and Bailey for their news nuggets most Saturdays.

*Fine. Yes, “partial deathknells” are a silly idea… but I got your attention.

The “I HATE YOUR THANKSGIVING!!!!” Edition Of Thursday Beery News Notes

I am the sad Canadian. I hate the week when Thanksgiving comes around late every November. It is the one holiday Canadians don’t get to participate in any way, even through analogy. Face it. Our early October Thanksgiving  is the least fun combo that vague residual churchiness and storage squash could muster up. And, yes, we have bonus days off like Boxing Day and Easter Monday – but what do we do with them as a culture? Nothing. Today to the south, Americans seem to plan to get hammered to cope with dodgy distant cousins while setting off exploding turkeys launched from vats of hot oil.  And not one of them in any way took seriously the advice on what beer to pair with their family festive feasts. I want a US Thanksgiving, too. Until that day, I am a sad Canadian.

That being said, Josh the Owner of Spearhead has spoken of one of the few things we have… or rather should have… that Americans can’t have…  but, in fact, he ain’t getting his hands on it at all:

Hey it’s been over a month since you opened. I made an order @ 6:45 AM on October 17. Still has not arrived. How do you ever expect to shut down an illegal market with such poor customer service?

You know what they say: Hayters gonna hayte.*

Early afternoon update: How did I miss this? Look at this fabulously transparent statement from the Beer Sisters on what working in what they call the beer sommelier gig looks like. No dubious claims to being independent and certainly not journalists. An excellent measure against which others should be measured.

While the US has had a truly horrible run of natural and man-made disasters to cope with, this call from Sierra Nevada to respond to the wildfires in its part of California stresses the need to respond to crisis by supporting the actual neighbourhood as you can:

“Although Chico and the Sierra Nevada brewery were spared, the Camp Fire has devastated neighboring communities where many of our friends, families and employees live,” said Sierra Nevada founder and owner, Ken Grossman. “This community has supported us for 38 years and we’re going to do everything we can to support them back.”

Speaking of fire, the maltsters Muntons tweeted out informative information about a fire at their premises that should be trotted out and thrown at anyone lost for words who blames Twitter as a communications platform:

Local Fire Services arrived quickly at the scene with 8 Fire appliances and a high-level access platform… Muntons have a robust Business Continuity system in place that has been tested annually and proven very effective… For further information please contact: Nigel Davies, Technical and Sustainability Director…

Speaking of the simplicity of malting barley for drink, I’ve been reading a bit in the southern media about the horrible prospect of jacked up prices for craft beer but up here in the true north strong and free that all adds up to good news according to the Western Producer:

Looking ahead to 2020, Watts showed data forecasting relatively steady beer production in the United States compared to 2015, with craft beer rising from 29.1 million hectolitres to 39.0 million, while non-craft beer declines from 194.5 million to 183.9 million hectolitres. However, due to the increased malt usage in craft beer production, the total U.S. malt demand will grow from 2.014 million tonnes in 2015 to 2.211 million tonnes in 2020.

Money, money, money. Speaking of prices getting all jacked up, one should note that GIBCS 2018 is not for keeping… apparently:

…a fellow beer writer who tasted this beer with me, said he wishes there was more of the soft, Tootsie Roll-esque flavors that have characterized past versions. Again, this is total nitpicking. This beer is better than 90 percent of the bourbon barrel-aged stouts other breweries are putting out.

Hmm. Spot the suspicious things with that assertion. Speaking of which, Gary Gilman places the singular success of Belgian beer this week in the lap of the now long late Mr J:

Stella Artois is of course today a growing force in the premium international lager segment, so Unibex was right in a sense, but that growth came in the wake of the romance Jackson created for Belgian beer. Without that groundwork, Belgium would be one of a number of European countries vying for sales internationally and likely well behind Germany, Denmark, and Holland with no cachet, moreover, attached to its beers.

I can’t buy it. Aside from the fact of the continuation duration of his particular death, the general fiction of the few founders in the micro/craft tale – and the necessity of the GWH – is how we would have to believe that no one else would have noticed… whatever. In this case, it requires us to believe that no one would have noticed the indigenous beer culture at any time during the 40 years since Belgium’s brewing.** Not happening. Romance? Nope – it’s been big beer driven, moolah motivated and, frankly, much of the export expansion came just far too late along the timeline for the Jacksonian touch of the hem: “…exports to the USA have risen tremendously from a mere 2 million litres in 2005 to over 130 million litres in 2009.” Stella! Stella!!!

I love this speedy 1983 BBC guide to speedy home brewing.  Notice how it ends with a simple “yum”?  It gave me nostalgic pause. And there was an interesting juxtaposition with that to be observed, drawing both from this ying to this other yang. I don’t know why in particular it struck me other than the first being the small mutual affirmation pool while the other was a powerful personal kick against construct. Which persuades you more? And do either give more pleasure than the happy man of 1983 enjoyed?

Finally, as the next few weeks drag on, each day shortening before the winter equinox, remember to lay off the sauce – as at least one Scottish medical man recommends:

He said: “We now have new evidence that the weather, and in particular the temperature and amount of sunlight that we are exposed to, has a strong influence on how much alcohol we consume. Furthermore this weather-related alcohol consumption is directly linked to our chances of developing the most dangerous form of liver disease – cirrhosis – which can ultimately end in liver failure and death.”

Death! I understand that is even worse than Stella.

Another week has passed. Soon it will be December – but before then we get to gather as a nation and watch the Grey Cup this Sunday. Bet just knowing there is three-down football to the north ruins many a US Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t let it. Be yourselves. And check out Boak and Bailey this Saturday where no doubt they will have an update on the UK’s plans for Grey Cup celebrations.

*For years I have wandered this earth waiting for the right moment to use that particular Dad joke. Notice I did not write “Hayter’s gonna hayte” as that would be rude.
**Whatever that in fact means.

 

If Mid-November Were More Exciting Would You Be So Happy With Your Thursday Beer News?

So. Here we are again. This is a bad week. Traveling around central Canada. Long meetings. Hotel rooms. Fortunately, I am working on my Korean food skills as part of this road show. My newly increased obsession, kimchi is… well… it’s like a hipster Scot would have invented if Korea hadn’t done it first. Peace food. Other than that, its all hotel breakfast buffets and minivans fully of cheery engineers. Bounding down the highway balanced on a buffer of spicy exotic cabbage.

First off, I was alerted by someone no doubt more attentive that I am, given my kimchi induced food coma, that there has been a shock wave hammering those writing about the history of saison. You see,  has shared his thoughts of a fact-checking mission he undertook on the “2004 book Farmhouse ales, and especially the contribution it includes by Belgian brewer Yvan De Baets” and YdB is not too thrilled but sadly fell back on what looks like a status based defense in his extensive comments offered in response:

This is your website. By definition you will have the last word on it. Cool. I will not start a debate here anyway. I have more to say about some of your claims but I don’t have nor the time nor the desire to do it: not only I strongly dislike the ego battles, but more importantly the first tanks of our new brewery are arriving in a few weeks and I have to prepare them a nice nest.

Remember: watch out for expertise transposition. Few brewers are actually all that acquainted with the means and methods of the historian. Its not in the nature of the gig. Likewise, vice versa. Dig it? For me, however, I think the real problem is assuming anything written in 2004 is going to represent an exhaustive examination of a topic involving beer. A decade and a half is a long time for research to advance – especially when that decade and a half saw the explosion of the digitized historical records. That being the case, taking a strong stance either in favour or against such stale dated research is likely a mug’s game.

More convivially, Eric Asimov of The New York Times (who I like a lot) wrote a piece about the ciders of the Hudson Valley (which I like a lot):

All share a deep-seated desire to understand the traditions, nuances and complexities of apples and ciders. They are the latest wave of a great cider revival in the Northeast, reaching through New England, out to the Finger Lakes in western New York, and down through the Appalachians. For anyone used to most commercial ciders, which are often made from concentrate, sweetened and sometimes flavored, these serious ciders are a revelation. They are mostly bone dry, with the flavors of apples and of the region. Apples, too, it turns out, express a sense of place, what wine lovers call terroir.

Less authentically, apparently what was a contract brewery is now an app that the deal did not include. Figure out that one if you will… and this one for that matter:

Drinking at taprooms isn’t just en vogue, it’s a permanent part of today’s industry that now drives about 10% of Brewers Association-defined volume.

Permanent? You misspelled “today’s top fad” darling. Not unconnectedly, Matthew Curtis announced his retirement from the collective blog Good Beer Hunting. One never know what is behind “effective immediately” but one hopes its nothing too drastic. I line it up in my mind with the tweets about breweries hiring passionate beer comms for their passionate beer comms needs. All in all, a very tough row to hoe but hiring Rebecca would be a smart move, for example:

Hi guys! I’ll be looking for some freelance/ad hoc work after this month. I’m an accredited Beer Sommelier and was even nominated as Best Young Beer Writer this year by the (!).’

You know, Pete Brown used to be a beer comms guy but he is no longer working for this sort of work. He is working on being a better Pete* – which is great – but once in a while loses his marbles most wonderfully:

Oh fuck off. I’m sorry (I’m trying to rein in the bad language and anger and be more professional) but fuck the fuck off. Even the most cursory reading of the history of pale ale/IPA shows this simply isn’t true.

Like others, I don’t really even care what he was writing about when he got so deliciously rude… but in case you are curious it was about a disappointing relaunch of Bass Ale.

Czech beer drinking in a slump.

Tandleman has an opinion on the four Cloudwater cask offerings pending according to a tweet – as well as a very nice new profile photo of himself as you can see. He must have a good social media consultant.  I wonder what social media consultants like that cost…

These days, calling anything “one of the most important beers in modern American brewing” is a bit silly but the Chicago Tribune found cause to so publish in relation to Allagash Brewing’s Coolship Resurgam. I remember about a decade ago getting in a handbags match over someone claiming one US brewery or another was the first to do something to which I replied something something about the Allagash coolship – which Ron will correct correctly as being a “cooler” in English. These things get heated. Fortunately, even the shock of the new is past us now given we live in hyperspace and no one really cares, knowing that next week’s new thing will in turn be stale by the following weekend. Just hope the Allagash beer is tasty.

As noted last week, readbeer.com is up and running. We now can see the output of 63 different sources of online beer writing. That will grow and with it the decentralized, leveled goodness of blogs will return. One of the great things about the former RSBS was how access to ideas was not being filtered through the gauze of self-proclaimed expertise or assertions of journalism. Access was immediate and it was up to the reader to sift clues.  Soon there will be 630 feeds. Best to keep up.

Well, that is enough for now. I am closer to home for most of next week so maybe this will be more considered. Maybe something big will happen that will fill the thousand words with one long observation. Maybe I will sit and count the days to first Christmas and then Spring Training.  That’s more like it. In the meantime, check in with Boak and Bailey for the regular Saturday update.

* Fab.

Session 141: The King Is Dead! Long Live The King!!

My reaction was immediate when I heard the news:

At first I was afraid, I was petrified…
Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side…

In fact, I was so strongly moved by the idea of shutting down the sentence that I tweeted out my congratulations to Stan and Jay on their retirement, as opposed to that of The Session – the monthly collective writing exercise that has been a constant in the last 7/8th of the history of beer blogging. But then Stan and Jay wrote to tell me it really was time to let go. I wonder if they are right. They might be.

My problem is not that beer blogging is one type of writing in a broad range of formats.  It’s the only one that provides for long form creative writing on anything that strikes the author’s fancy, without concern for pay or editorial intrusion. The Session was one way that the fellow minded stayed in touch with each other. Interestingly, Jonathon Surratt is reviving another old tool – the very former RSBS – with the same goal through his new beer aggregator, readbeer.com.

I think there is a place for such things. Folk new to writing need encouragement. Folk with opinions need a venue when their writing is more personal or quirky than editors will pay for. Despite more ways for more people to express their thoughts about beer, there is an unfortunate drive to homogeneity driven by the unreasonable hope of some day making some sort of living from beer writing. Wasn’t likely when The Session was new. Likely less likely now. It’s a side gig for 98% of us. A fun gig, sure. But that is sorta it.

There is nothing wrong with this. Writing is a pleasure. Sharing your writing is a way to make that experience richer. Maybe Jay’s work on The Session will continue in another form. Maybe not. Either way link you writing to readbeer.com so as many people as possible can find it. If you have enough interest in writing you should have interest enough in putting in it front of a few more eyeballs. Sign up.

The US Mid-Terms Of Thursday Beery News Notes

Did anything really important happen this week? The USA slid a bit to the left on Tuesday. But only a bit. Me, I slid to the west and the north, taking time to visit two breweries over the last seven days. MacKinnon Brothers of Bath, Ontario and Brassiers du Temp of Gatineau, Quebec. Each had a harvest ale. MacKinnon’s is its third edition and is called Harvest Ale 2018 while BDT’s is Obwandiyag.* Each was all about local ingredients. Plaid as well as toques were seen in each tap room.

One other thing that happened, as reported in the Watertown Daily Times of mighty and nearby Watertown, New York was the delivery by sea and seaway of “vats” for an unnamed central New York brewery. I assume this means fermenting and aging tanks for FX Matt but I could be wrong.

Annoyingly, this image of London Bridge from 1632 flew by on Twitter this week. Annoyingly, I say, as the painter seems to have framed the left of the image on the eastern property line with that proto-German trade mission called the Steelyard, the likely location of the first hopped beer consumed in England no doubt by Hanseatic sailors perhaps as early as the thirteenth century.  It does, however, wonderfully set the immediate scene.

As a man who has high hopes to get much much older, I found this discussion of  the role of the UK pub in addressing adult male loneliness fab:

As the UK population ages, the number of older people at risk of social isolation and loneliness is on the rise, which can have a detrimental impact on physical and mental health outcomes for older adults. Evidence for ‘what works’ in reducing loneliness and social isolation among older people is limited, especially for men. Hence, we turned our focus on the role of pubs and their potential to reduce loneliness and social isolation for older men.

Speaking of old men with high hopes, I thoroughly enjoyed this interesting post from Mudgie and a vibrant conversation in the comments – all on the way changes have caused his well loved local to go off track:

None of these are in themselves showstoppers, except when United or City are on the telly, but added together they make it a pub that I find much less congenial than it once was. If I was showing someone around the area, I’d take them in there for a pint, not least to show them the largely unspoilt interior, but I don’t personally care to drink in there. 

Conviviality. Is that what we want? That and little more, I’d say. Certainly not being chained to a pub. This week… relatedly… perhaps… somewhere… I saw a link to a chestnut of Pete‘s from an OG recent past and I was a bit shocked to see this:

Beer helps us express ourselves and mould our identities. It doesn’t need dancing bears and croaking frogs to do that.

Oh, dear God. No. If beer is shaping your identity you may be a entirely earnest struggling** beer bubble beer writer… or an alky [… or both!] Isn’t even loneliness better than that? But I would hope that you, like me, think of beer like maybe having a cheesecake or perhaps going to see a movie once a week. Or getting, like Jeff, engaged politically. Beer? A momentary escape perhaps but certainly not something core to identity. Life is too short for that.

Dear God, no #2: non-bubbly spiked ‘seltzer’!

Pura Still is a malt-based beverage, like beer but without the color or the hops. It contains a “splash of coconut water” and hints of fruit flavors. It will launch next month in three flavors: Mango, Blackberry and Mandarin Orange.

Western civilization just out-suckered Sucker Juice!! Somewhere some wannabe influencer is trying to figure out how to be the leading authority on non-bubbly spiked seltzer. While they still can, guidance officers really need to help our high school drop outs so that they don’t end up doing that sort of thing. Best of all, given it is malt based and non-traditional, it now qualifies as craft beer!

Update: Beer news item of the week. From the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times:

A Ribble Valley beer writer and BBC Radio Lancashire beer enthusiast has been shortlisted for the British Guild of Beer Writers Young Writer of the Year award. Clitheroe-based beer writer Katie Taylor has reached the shortlist of the prestigious awards, alongside highly-regarded writers from across the industry.

While the use of ripe adjectives is a well-known hallmark of the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times, the extended copy explaining Katie Taylor’s particular interest is fabulous and also unpacks a bit more about the process than the BGBW has. I particularly appreciate the use of “entrants” by ATJ rather than “nominee” given that the process is based on submitting one’s own name. Well done @Shinybiscuit !

There is no doubt as to the photo of the week as shared by BlogTO. Both infuriating and comical, it perfectly captures an aspect of Canadian life – the desire to be correct tied to an abiding interest in not actually being all that concern with being correct. The scene is Ontario’s liquor control commission, the LCBO, and the object is a mass produced sales promotion flier. Now, I can’t say for sure that the LCBO produced the promo-product but it would have had to pass through the hands of about 16 bureaucratic conception, design and approval committees on its way to the retail floor. Oh… Canada.

A bit of a shorter post today. I’ve been on the road as I mentioned and it’s the week of our 26th so, you know, I have been away having my identity moulded by things other than intoxicating liquors. Remember – Boak and Bailey put me to shame most Saturdays with their weekly news nuggets.

*aka the great Pontiac of whom another particular hero of mine, Major Robert Rogers, met and wrote in 1765 : “I had several conferences with him, in which he discovered great strength of judgment, and a thirst after knowledge.
** This, the better sort of GBH thingie, comes to mind.

Your First Thursday Beery News Notes For November

Does anyone love November? The World Series has been won, the leaf lettuce took a hard frost and all the Halloween candy was handed out last night. What was left of the evening has shrunk into the afternoon now that the clocks have been changed in the UK and will change again in North America over the coming weekend. The end of October is really the end of the year. The next two months should be their own season. Good winter. Purgatorial autumn. Like driving through New Brunswick, you just want get past November even if it’s 1/12th of your life. Just look at that slightly out of focus photo of my salad from my eastern Ontario garden, picked just a few days ago. Now everything on the plate is dead – except the kale.* Kale, the salad green of death. Bringer of children’s tears. Can the news in beer turn us all away from thoughts of kale and the grave? Let’s see.

First, one can go out like and when one wants to go out through preemptive liquidation:

Honestly my heart hasn’t been in it since the premises move, we expanded to the wrong size, and Gaz’s creativity has been missed.

Speaking of the heart not being in it, the US Brewers Association is apparently going to change the definition of “craft” again (as if they control the concept) by ditching “traditional” as a formal requirement. Keeping in mind that the one thing that divides “craft” from earlier “micro” is the practical abandonment of traditional practices, this is not a big change but, still, this is pretty sad:

According to the BA’s current definition, which has changed three times since 2007, a craft brewer must be small (less than 6 million barrels), independent (less than 25 percent owned by a non-craft brewer), and traditional (a majority of its total volume must be derived from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients). It’s the last pillar, traditional, that is under review, in part because an increasing number of craft brewers are already experimenting with non-traditional beer offerings such as flavored malt beverages and hard seltzers. A growing number of BA members have also expressed interest in creating beverages infused with THC and CBD, Wallace wrote.

So, in response to the BA, it should be clear there is now room for, you know, a traditional brewers association that actually has an interest in beer and not just profiteering from a collective brand. Just don’t call it anything related to craft. That’s for factory beer now. The reasons for doing this are, frankly, less than honourable and so personal reactions seemed to divide into two groups:

(i) those who consider craft beer to be made of craft brewery owners – these folk who then love this because they seem to get a vicarious joy from seeing these brewery owners get richer;** and

(ii) those who consider craft beer to be made of… beer.  These folk laugh at bulk ciders and soda pop being called “craft” anything but know why it’s being done.***

Conversely, I have been cheered by the Beer Nut’s notes on his fluid fueled travels  at the end of the summer throughout Ontario and Quebec, the very parts of Canada most nearest me and myself. He posted about a side trip to Quebec City during which he was caught breaking the law and otherwise up to no good:

Two mouthfuls in, our friendly Via Rail conductor came by to tell me to chug it. Turns out train beer, or at least drinking your own beer on board, is illegal in Canada. Yes it said that on my ticket so yes I should have known, but it’s still downright barbarous. No wonder passenger rail is underused. What’s the point if you can’t have train beer?

Ha ha!!! Other than his response to regulatory infractions, I am quite interested in his thoughts on the local beers I am quite familiar with: “…certainly like an IPA from the olden days“… “I approve. Isn’t it good to know that “unfiltered” doesn’t have to mean mucky?“… “Overall an absolutely benchmark modern IPA.” The entire set of quite independent reviews is his gift to the nation… err, nations…

Speaking of Ontario, Ben wrote an excellent piece on a side project highlighting the process breweries can follow when pestered by bars who illegally demand freebies in return for access to their taps.

The system of graft for tap lines is so ingrained in the hospitality industry, fighting it sometimes feels futile… And so, inspired mostly by all the emails I was getting, I launched a website that allows people to post anonymously and share the emails from bar owners they were previously sending me. It’s called Dirty Lines and it does still get some occasional action. I take no responsibility for the content there, incidentally. I don’t investigate any claims. I don’t vet submissions. It just lives there as a mechanism to vent, essentially.

Speaking of the End Times, I love this lyrical new rule of craft beer:

Efficiency in the managing of seasonal product requires an integrated approach to bring uniformity to how seasonal items are identified so that all contributors in the supply chain reap the benefits.

This lengthy tale by a fellow Oldie Olson might bemoan something things but as it is TL;DR you will have to figure out if that is the case.  I would note one thing: if you label yourself as “cool” either (i) you are really not at all or (ii) you are Miles Davis. And he’s dead.****

Digging around in the past, Geoff Latham has uncovered a description of an English spiced ale from 1554. There is a great conversation in the responses to his tweet from people who know that there is nothing that can’t be explored usefully in that concise shared medium. Speaking of digging around in the past, Nicola the mudlark of the Thames found a wonderful clay pipe at low tide marked with the sign of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes  – and shared that it may well have been a pub freebie of centuries past. Fabulous.

A few legal notes to finish with. Beer retail franchisor Craft Beer Cellar was in a law suit with an employment review website over negative employee reviews but the claims appear to have been recently thrown out. See here and here:

The plaintiff argued that Glassdoor created/developed the reviews because it removed a review and then allowed it to return. The court disagreed: “Glassdoor’s decisions to remove the ‘review,’ and to permit an updated version to be re-posted, constituted the exercise of a traditional editorial function. Without more, Glassdoor cannot be deemed responsible for creating or developing the content.”

And Brendan P over at FB has posted an FYI which was a bit on the QT so I am acting PDQ:

Did you know that you can get every cent you pay in NYS excise tax on your beer back as a production credit against taxes owed? For example, let’s say you sell 2,000 BBL in 2018. At NY’s excise tax rate of $0.14 per gallon, that’s $8,680 in taxes. Just fill out form CT-636 or IT-636 and you can get the full $8,680 as a credit against your taxes…

DO IT! LISTEN TO BRENDAN AND DO IT!!!

Well, that is it for now. I am up to over 1345 words! Every one a gem. I am off to dig into the one youngest child’s trick or treat candy before she wakes. It’s what I like to call “me time” but I expect you all approve. Remember to check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday to see what has happened since I cut and pasted this all together. Perhaps Stan will even post another teaser for the new month. Until next week, as the Beer Nut said to his train beer plans – au revoir!

*Miraculously, the red lead lettuce sprang back up after the frost and was completely unharmed. Fabulous. I know you would have wanted to know.
** See Messrs B.Roth and J.Notte.
*** See Messrs J.St.John and A.Crouch.
**** Unlike my leaf lettuce.

Your Beery News For A Thursday Now That The Cardigan Is Finally On

It’s World Series time. When I started putting these notes together, the first game hadn’t been played. By the time it is posted, two games will be in the books. [Ed.: Oh, the Sox won game one!] I hope the idle Stan has time to catch a game or two… not a certainty given his global gallivanting seems to be continuing. This week, he sent us all this wonderful holiday post card of a photo (above) from Crosby Hops of Oregon. Respect beer. Keep the chain oiled, but respect beer.

Wine drinkers unfairly punished by UK taxes” says wine writer Jancis Robinson responding to a discussion on the implications of Brexit. Has anyone been writing about the implications to the UK beer trade? My hope is that a currency crash and tariff increases might bring on a golden age for Fuggles. There is this point, however:

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) has warned that exiting the EU without finalising an Irish border solution is expected to cost €364m worth of drinks trade between Ireland and the UK. The outcome would restrict an estimated 23,000 cross-border truck movements and attract additional new tariffs on supply chains.

To be fair, it’s not like the €364m worth of drinks will not be bought and drunk. It will just be domestic bevvies from each side of the border. Does Guinness rebuild its UK operations? Probably. [Ed.: Wait – that’s not what a good blogger does.] DEFINITELY! Diageo to return to the United Kingdom by Q3 2019.  You heard it here first.

Speaking of wine, look at the size of those servings! Wee lassie sniff-a-wine is pre-gaming for the twentieth century, I’d say.

Are we actually concerned that there are too many references to cannabis in craft beer branding? I hadn’t really noticed it but now that weed is legalized in Canada, I have not been too sharp on the ball. It’s all like a hot box here, the entire country. Have you ever seen a moose in the woods smile dreamily? You can now.

It’s been an interesting week for comments about writing about beer for magazine money. Boak and Bailey in their monthly newsletter (which you really should sign up for) shared that they are done with it for the foreseeable for  very reasonable reasons including frustrations of pitching pointlessly, frustrations with not getting paid, and frustrations when articles are not published. I’ve avoided the crutch of pop beer mag writing for the most part but was quite disheartened when MASH mag went under without publishing my third article on early Canadian brewing… as in early 1600s brewing. BB’s comment – “Can you make it more appealing to Americans?” has worn us down rather – is telling, too. A variant on the too often seen editorial theme of dumbing down. The wonderful @Shineybiscuit shared another curse of the gig:*

Months of pitching a national about the great pubs in my area has resulted in a TV food critic getting to write the piece instead. Love my job.

Yikes! I hope Boak and Bailey still spare a thought for Original Gravity which, while it tends to work “the romance of beer that everyone feels on their fourth pint” as editorial stance, still offers great value for money. And it’s made it to the 20th issue which is worth celebrating in itself.** Very few do, usually with good reason. You can read it here for free.

A fabulous bio of Carol Stoudt got a Lew link and I link on. I love this paragraph:

As the craft beer industry blossomed around her, Carol smelled the roses — and detected the need “to deepen the trenches” in her home state, she says. “As more local breweries pop up, there’s no need for me to be in those markets.” She pulled back distribution around 2015 to bring her beer closer to home. “I never wanted a factory,” she says. “I like small. It’s kind of my philosophy.”

That’s captures what I have been trying to say for about a decade. If you can’t say “I never wanted a factory”, well, I’m not all that interested in what you are brewing. “Factory-made beer” is a wonderful slag against all pretenders of all label levels.

Jordan posted an interesting essay on his experiences returning to England after five year, following up on his piece [… which I have linked to somewhere around here…] what was it called… “Belgium Sucks More Than They Tell You“?… no, couldn’t have been that. Anyway, I liked this point in particular:

Here are some changes that happened when I was away: St. Austell Proper Job in cans. Apparently this is a 2018 development and six packs are available through TESCO. You know how the LCBO changed the market in Ontario by demanding 473ml cans? Well, this is a similar development and something of a standardizing influence between young startups and larger regional legacy brewers. The retailer isn’t quite king, but the 500ml bottles do look a little dated and the deep bottle discounts for multiple purchases do influence the consumer. Cans at least move volume without sacrificing the perception of value.

What is not often noted in the hack writing about “crushable” and the art on cans is their actual benefit as a flexible friend: lower investment, more control, and still that sense of value. Jordan’s other comment about Beavertown Gamma Ray – “there are a couple of dozen better American Pale Ales brewed in Ontario” – was also welcome. It is not, after all, about the quality of the beer, just the quality of the blessed “experience“… which a pop beer mag can tell you all about in a sentence and a half at the rate of about 17 cents a word.

Don C of CNY has penned an interesting article on the return of the (tiny) NY Prohibition Party:

The state’s “pro-alcohol policies are making New York sicker, poorer, and more highly taxed,” the Prohibition Party leaders  said. “Those in state government should come to their senses and end state support for the alcohol industry, or the people should vote to replace them with public servants who will.”

“Should” is the dumbest word in the language. Makes people think what isn’t is what ought to be. No “should” with Pete as he continues his considerations on cask in the UK again and in particular he discusses price. Let me ruin his ending for you:

Price is a thorny topic to get to the bottom of. As a cash-strapped drinker, of course I don’t want the price of beer to go up. But as an adviser to brewers and pubs, I’d say there’s a lot more potential margin in cask if you want it – and if the quality is good. 

The important thing to note is that a lower price is what is being offered and what is being paid. The market is what the market says it is. Which means if folk are happy with lower-price lower-quality cask, well, that might well be the product they want. Hard to capture that as a PR consultancy message*** but it might well be why what is… is what is.

Well, that is it for me for this week. The lettuce patch has not yet suffered a killing frost even if the last green tomatoes have been brought in to ripen on the window sill. The furnace doesn’t run all night but it sure gets turned on before I make the coffee. Winter is coming – but it ain’t here yet. Weekend readings? Day dreaming again, wishing that Saturday was as fun as a Thursday? Fret not. Find your next beer news fix at Boak and Bailey.

*Then removed with well-worthy self-asserted defiance! Fight!!!
**Not the Canadian… err… Toronto edition of OG which seems to have gotten stuck at issue #1.
***Though I am quite fond of my new open source media campaign on the topic “Cask: Reliably Highly Unreliable at a Reliable Low Price!”