Thursday. Beer. News.

News? You want news? Let’s get into this right away. Is this the worst thing ever done to beer? According to a stranger to me*, this is a pint of Guinness and Sprite, half and half sold in Seattle USA. It wasn’t his drink but someone else’s down the bar who explained  “it’s very English.” Yik. Good photo. Bad drink.

Lars is my hero:

A few years ago I put together a description of how to brew keptinis based on ethnographic sources. Martin Warren followed my instructions, but ended up with just black, unfermentable water. So when Simonas invited me to come to Lithuania to see keptinis being brewed, he didn’t need to ask twice.

Keptinis! 

Into the bucket ran what looked like porridge. The pressure in the keg was so high that what came out was pure foam…

Keptinis! Keptinis!!

A small controversy was set off in Ontario by new branding released by Steam Whistle – as noted by Jordan. The brewery announced its branding in this way:

While nutritional labels are not required on beer in Canada, Director of Marketing Tim McLaughlin says that Steam Whistle is “proud of what goes in our beer, and almost more importantly what doesn’t go into our beer.” The labels follow federal standards and display the beer’s ingredients – “pure spring water, select Canadian malt, European hops, Brewer’s yeast” – as well as calories, vitamin content, and other nutritional statistics.

The implication that Jordan sees is the one hidden in the phrase “what doesn’t go into our beer” – suggesting as it does that others may put other things in their beer. In fact, Jordan received a pestering email from the brewery “suggesting that I use the hashtag to discuss the relatively purity of Steam Whistle.” You know, many brewers do put other things in their beer. And many recognize that us of only water, malt, hops and yeast is just one approach to beer. In other news, I had a Steam Whistle Pilsner in 2005.

Modern Toss on modern beer. And BBC Archives on British Beer in Germany in 1974.** While I am no sure I can fully subscribe to the holistic romance of Jeff’s post on a purposeful meaning of “craft” (mainly because beer is functional) that last link makes a strong argument in favour of the argument.

In the “Worst Idea Ever, Worse Than Guinness and Sprite Even…” a line of wines has been produced, the branding based on The Handmaid’s Tale:

The product descriptions for the wines, dedicated to Offred, Ofglen and Serena Joy, are about as ill-conceived as the idea itself, a real achievement when taking into account the fact that wine matters as much to The Handmaid’s Tale as women (and gay people) do to Gilead. Yes, the show goes down easier with a healthy pour. But maybe not one memorialized with the white bonnet and “Of-insert-husband’s-name” formulations that viewers associate with torture and tyranny. 

Who would possibly think this was a good idea? Stupid thoughtless people, that’s who.

Interesting news from the courts. Most interesting because Beau’s did not participate in the trademark litigation brought against it. For those who would argue that beer and wine are different markets, this is a helpful and clear statement from the ruling:

…the parties’ goods would likely be sold in the same stores and restaurants in various provinces. For example, in 2015 and 2016, the LCBO sold both products. In addition, both products would be considered to be in the premium category given their prices; Steelbird’s wine is sold for $34 or $35, and Beau’s Kissmeyer beer is priced at $6.45 per bottle.

Speaking of rulings, one of those dumb marketing schemes rolled out by BrewDog was help to be inappropriate by the shadowy Portman Group, as The Morning Advertiser reported. Stung, one representative of the brewery’s Department of Poor Ideas suggested folk missed the nuance. Lesson: if you have to explain or even use the word “nuance” in a response, it likely never was nuanced.

Fourpure? Don’t care. Except could someone tell craft brewers that they can skip this stuff and admit it is about scale, wealth and ambition?

They see Fourpure and our beer as a primary focus here in the UK and as their sole production brewing facility we will benefit from all the time, expertise and investment required to succeed, and that means that everything around the brewery will be a little bit easier and a little bit better.

Life as a rich person usually is a a wee bit easier, little bit better yes.

I hope you’ve been enriched. More of the same next week. Don’t forget to catch up with all the beer news on the weekend with Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then find out what happened in good beer and a few other things over the weekend with Stan next Monday.

*Ross Maghielse, Manager of audience development at Philadelphia Inquirer.
**Note the driving gloves. Fabulous.

Session 137: In 2005, I Had Seven Hefeweizens

One of the great things about the internet is the Wayback Machine. When I had to do some fancy footwork in 2016 to move the content of 13 years of two blogs in a matter of weeks, I spent hours and hours determining what I needed to save before the deadline hit and the server was unplugged. Months later I learned that it had all been saved, warts and all, care of the Wayback Machine, part of the Internet Archive project.

Which makes this entry for this month’s edition of The Session – ably hosted by Roger’s Beers – a few things: (1) a reminder that internet beer writing did not start in 2013 or so, (2) a celebration of non-fruit filled or gak-laced adulteration of a style and (3) a reminder that a fairly broad range of the style was available to Ontarians 13 years ago. Wow. Look at those photos. I really cared. Wow. Look at those spelling mistakes I just fixed. I really didn’t care all that much.

++++++++++

A real surprise was in store when I hit the LCBO the other day preparing for a dinner party on a stinking hot summer Saturday. They had actually brought in a bunch of extra hefeweizens, southern German wheat ales with a measure of yeast left in.

Rogue Half-E-Weizen: a loose rich white head falls to a white skim leaving generous lace over a slightly cloudly yellow straw body. Coriander and hops balance well, their bittering leaving some astringency while the lightly creamy yeast with its presence of banana intercedes. A medium light version of the style without the German commitment to full bore clovey creamy goodness. $5.05 for a 22 oz bottle.

Erdinger Weizen: I am a little unsure if this is a real hefeweizen as the labeling is “weissen” but the little neck sash says “mit feiner hefe in der flasche gerfeift” which in my hack German I take as “with fine yeast left in the bottle”. Even with that the nature of this beer still leaves me wondering a bit. White foam over cloudy yellow leaving no lacing. Light body without the phenol of banana or spice that indicate the style. A clean cream yeast without complexity but very refreshing.

Schneider Weisse: This is the business. One of my favorite beers that for some reason screams “lunch” with a cold cut sandwich. How many things scream that in life? It is rich and creamy good with lots of cloves and banana. A fine white head over medium brown with almost a greyish tinge. As befits the style, very moreish and heat-wave cutting.

Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen: this hefeweizen pours a tall egg white meringue over cloudy straw ale. A layer of hop astringency cuts and to a degree hides the yeasty phenol of banana and clovey nutmeg. Not as rich as others from Germany in the style though richer than the American cousins here. Lemony grapefruit in the finish.

Edelweiss Weissbier Hefetrüb: white foam over dark yellow or light brown cloudy ale. Simply lovely. Lighter than the Schneider Weisse with a lemony brightness it does not share. Clove aroma and banana-clove in the mouth. The brewery has had only 530 years to get it right. Clean finish with a nice drying hop astringency.

Saranac Hefeweizen:I am quite surprised by the quality of this beer. Not as creamy a yeast strain as the others but much truer than the other US version of the style from Rogue above and Harpoon’s version tasted in April. It would be worth comparing to Paper City’s Cabot Street. White fine rocky head over cloudy straw coloured beer. Quite pronounced clove over banana. Worthy yet the label says limited edition.

Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse: The last of this set, perfect on a summer warm evening with a game from Fenway on the tubes, soothing to aches and pains from old timers soccer. Neither lemony or particularly creamy, this is quite a grainy rendition of the style with both banana and clove as supporting class. Massive rich white head over cloudy dark straw beer verging on orangey. There is something savory as well in the palate, making me thing of soaking a pork roast in this one. Of the selection above, most like the Rogue with that beer’s untraditional use of coriander but the notes of spice here are in the yeast. Another amazing expression and, for what it is worth, one of the best logos in all of commercial trade.

What an enjoyable inquiry. Hefeweizens are, what, the Rieslings of ale? Like Rieslings with their minerally edge, hefes take a little time to learn about but they are a world unto themselves. And they both go with sausage and sauerkraut – a beer for both summer and fall.

Your Early July, Stinkin’ Hot, Off For The Week, World Cup Round o’16 Thursday Beer News

I tried to avoid the internet on the afternoon of Tuesday, 3 July, given every English beer blogger was (i) drunk and (ii) getting a little jingo-tastic. Not to mention getting ripped off. Good to see they didn’t choke… again. I’ll have the Saltire, the Lion Rampant as well as the blue and yellow Nordic Cross for their next game, Saturday.  If I can get out to the yard to set up the flag poles. It’s supposed to be well into the 30s Celsius today, over 40 C with the humidex.* That’s well past beer weather in my books. Pint o’ club soda with a splash of gin weather. Maybe.

The funniest thing of the week was when the BA “liked” this tweet from me about the BA wasting its lobbying resources efforts on personality politics.

Speaking of bad BA decisions, the idea of partnering  with a classic big macro, fast food chain at the Great American Beer Festival has boggled minds.  Nothing says “craft” like shopping mall food court quality chicken wings. If you read the book,** you would understand that the goal of the transition from micro to craft in the mid-2000s was using discourse control for the great cause of money. So, the idea that big craft could pass on an opportunity to team up with a firm like Buffalo Wild Wings is what we call a poor idea. There’s a lot of SNPA to sell in them there parking lot restaurant. Actual small craft might have many questions. My question is (i) did they put the opportunity out to the market?; and (ii) what did Applebee’s bid? OK, two questions.

Update: Of two minds. On the one hand, struggling to be pleasant while in a bit of a tight spot. On the other, marbles lost but quite likely for good reason.

Better news. Love the campaign. Need the change. Not sure about the accreditation. Who are the scrutineers? How many will be on the ground? What does accreditation cost a pub? If it does cost something (and how can’t it if it is to be done properly) who heads the scrutineers, oversees the standards and hears appeals to determine if allegations are valid. Who gets sued when the process goes wrong? Like when a pub, falsely rebuked, left with its reputation harmed? Does this overlap with a Human Rights Commission mandate?*** Managing this important process well is as important if not more to the integrity of the cause as raising the issue in the first place.

Better still. The Morning Advertiser published James Beeson’s strong argument for the one proper use of the term terroir in relation to beer:

In Tongham, Surrey, Hogs Back Brewery grows 15% of the hops used in its beer on the farm site – including an historic local variety not grown anywhere else in Europe – and sources a further 50% from within three miles of the brewery.

Fabulous. Fortunately, as the keen eyed might have noted, I live usefully close to one of the best examples of local focused brewing, MacKinnon Brothers. Best? They grow the barley, too. Best.  Wonderful. Makes me spend my money. How do you set yourself apart as a local brewer? The sort of brewer that doesn’t partner with BWW? Grow your own damn barley.****

Reminder: #TheSession is this Friday and the subject is German Wheat Beers. That is tomorrow. Tomorrow, folks…

Hmm… How to sell beer to anyone? Just like with the example of the Buffalo Wild Wings deal, the restructuring of good beer culture and concurrent redirection of focus from consumer protection to trade advocacy is almost complete. The latest NAGBW newsletter asks us to “spot great industry coverage” and the BGBW has only one category left for “Citizen Communicator” – whatever that is. I will have to have a word with Pete. Andy noted this sort of creeping problem as far back as 2008. In 2010, the BGBW goal was “to reward the very best beer writing, irrespective of where it comes from or where it’s going.” In 2011, there was only one BGBW award category with the focus on “the excellent work to promote beer which is produced by or on behalf of brewers, pub companies and other related organisations.” Not sure that is the case now.

Why do I care to have, you know, an opinion? Primarily because it all leaves the impression that good beer writing requires you to quit your job, chase the dough and either find a position in the brewing trade or at least go freelance which inevitably requires the junket to tell the naturally compromised junket’s tale. Original independent consumer-oriented personal interest writing is far more… interesting, no? Who are the best? Who needs to be celebrated a bit more? Not me. I can’t even get my Holls and Halls straight.

Conversely and for equal time, “why draw lines in the sand?” asks Matt. Isn’t the answer now and forever “Buffalo Wild Wings”?

Speaking of praising fabulous things, I think this is one of The Beer Nut’s***** finest posts, even though I am sure I say that every seven months. There are only two reasons that one should not post beer reviews on line: (i) you have read The Beer Nut and know you are never going to come close and (ii) you are a ‘fraidy cat who thinks “hmm… maybe I need to quit my job, chase the dough and either find a position in the brewing trade or at least go freelance…” Fat chance that sort of mindset is going to ever come up with this sort of sweet honesty:

The mere 4.6% ABV is further evidence of inauthenticity, but it really kicks in from the aroma: sweet and sticky like a lemon meringue pie. The flavour is pretty much the same, adding a touch of banana foam sweets. The whole thing is weird and artificial. Contrived; and bound to upset any Germans who come to Bar Rua looking for a weissbier. This experiment didn’t work out.******

Oh, that image up there? Best. Of. All. Elephants being fed buckets of Bass ale in 1931. What is not to love about the image of elephants being fed buckets of ale in the mid-war era? Whenever and wherever there is a schism in the good beer world I shall be on the side of images of elephants being fed buckets of ale!

What a week! I wonder if there will be any more soccer coming up on the TV… I wonder if Neymar has another limb to get amputated mid-match. Remember: you can catch up with the news on the weekend with Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then find out what happened over the weekend with Stan on Monday.

*Hey, that’s Canadian!
**Or read this blog… ever…
***Our human rights laws in Ontario protect against discrimination in the provision of services and provide a cheap, professional and transparent process to bring a claim of discriminatory treatment in a retail business setting like the drinks trade. Employment situations, too, as with this example.
****Isn’t it time to pick sides in the craft schism? Isn’t it?
*****Surely one of Ireland’s greatest fluids-based pleasure writers. Anti-Jacksonian.
******Conversely, see the knots that can get tied over calling something “fine.”

Book Review: Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out, Josh Noel

My copy of Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch, and How Craft Beer Became Big Business came in the mail from Amazon this week and I happily started into it while watching preteen softball on a June mid-week evening. The book, as the cover image to the right explains, is a history of Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company, creator of the barrel aged stout and most infamous of the craft brewers to cash-out.

The book covers the span of over three decades, tracing an arc from brewpub making English style ales to regional production microbrewery to big craft reject to brand asset within the portfolio of an international global conglomerate. It’s quite a remarkable thing.  Before I knew it I was 120 pages in. It is clear that author Josh Noel, a journalist with the Chicago Tribune covering a broad mandate, benefits from his skill as an investigative reporter but also as a native of that fair city. The beer and book both convey a sense of place as well as event.

It also, refreshingly, paints realistic portraits of the key players, warts and all – without the slightest bit of an unseemly tone. My first impression from the book, in fact, was that none of the players behind the rise and fall and then rise and fall of Goose Island were all that attractive. As Noel tells it, brewery founder John Hall comes across as a bit of an angry nutcase who came up through the corporate rat race, starting out as a cardboard box salesman. We read at page 79 that as early as 1996 Hall is described as planning to sell out to big beer. But he’s also someone who took a change with his accumulated wealth on a reasonable if calculated risk so the attitude makes sense.

Less sensible is the image created of John’s son Greg: drifter turned alcoholic brewer turned egotist face of the business.  To the mid-2000s, he frankly comes off as a poor little rich kid, even if politely described. Even Michael Jackson is given an cameo and a slag at page 30:

Jackson was a good message guy. He wouldn’t hesitate to criticize Big Beer. But when a small brewery released a flawed beer, no one knew it from Michael Jackson.

The point of these observations is not to be just unkind. As a result of such honesty – rare among craft narratives – the reader is provided with a basis for trust in Noel’s work.  That trust is bolstered by Noel’s deft description of the factors behind the mid-2000s shift from micro-brewing to craft brewing as the US gospel of good beer.  While Noel does unfortunately buy into the back dating of “craft”* to an earlier point when it was not either the ethos or in general use, he does explain how the first efforts of the Brewers Association starting with its formation in 2005 were aimed at control of the discourse through control of the language. Noel suggests it needed to do this for internal reasons:

By the early 2000s, craft beer was splintering into identities. It was cool, it was hip, it was counter culture, it was “you’re not worthy”…

Not to mention it was when brewers and society at large were uncomfortably witnessing the weird 2002 tale of the “Sex For Sam” sponsored by Samuel Adams Beer in which “prizes were awarded to people who had sex in unlikely public places.” Yik. Noel unpacks the tone of the times, unpacks the tension which existed between cottage industry “craft” and what the founders of the Brewers Association were really after and later accomplished: the creation of a single story of large efficient breweries where quality and consistency are the hallmarks. Thus the creation of heterogeneous and hegemonic big craft as an act of sheer control.

Tied to the BA’s interest in market control, efficiency and scale – a goal would have made E.P. Taylor glow with pride – are Noel’s observations on profit and wealth as a fundamental underlying goal. Be clear on this point. All beer has this as its goal and it applies to macro, old school micro, big craft as well as today’s  tiny taprooms. So we read that Goose Island’s 312 beer is a hit as much for the retro black telephone tap handle as the taste.  And that Matilda was pushed as it had twice the profit margin of 312! And you thought it was all about homage to the great brewers of Belgium. Chumps.

I am enjoying this book greatly. I may even post another follow up as I have in the past when faced with a book on beer that sits so far above the rest. If you have not bought this, skip a couple of six packs and get your copy now. Like right now. Now.

*Not to mention perpetuates the tooth-achingly saccharine phrase “cast of industry all-stars” at page 124 thus, likely unintentionally, appearing to trip over the line from keen observer to fan-boy-ish insider.

If This Is Thursday That Must Be Columbia… Or Tunisia… Or The Beer News!

Big day around these parts as the lad graduates from high school today. Victory! Burn the text books!!! He’s outta there!!! Speaking of ceremonies, let’s just jump into the good news this week with that fabulous photo of a Great Lakes Beer* delivery to a wedding party last weekend. You ever notice the breweries you really like are, you know, really likable? Great customer service.

Speaking of fabulous, M. Lawrenson issued a fabulous edition of “News in Brief” last Friday and coined a classic: “Bud Gear Hunting“! I giggled all weekend over that one.  It is a wonderful thing to watch one man battle the humourlessness that good beer has fallen into. You know how people keep having to say “remember – beer is supposed to be fun!“? That sorta thing is needed to be said because it isn’t always much fun. And if you label this or that cynical, well,  you really need to get a fish.

Speaking of needing to get a fish, this vacuous response to a well placed query about shelf life QC was stunning… or stunned. Apparently (1) it is up to consumers to monitor the problem of stale dated beer on behalf of big craft (ie the ones with money enough) and (ii) the proper response to queries about why big craft can’t manage shelf life QC is:

And speaking of Collabs, that’s something we’ve been doing since 2004 or 2005. We’ve helped some awesome small breweries get attention they deserve, and have worked with some of the best in the biz. Super stoked to think about all the fun and great beer we’ve had over the years.

Now, that’s a wee bit cynical. Almost as cynical as attempting a pile-on while blurbering incoherently about “being indie” as if anyone cares. Folk should just try for likable more often. Who cares about “indie”? Better ti be likable. It is nice to be nice. Did you know Great Lakes Beer takes care of their own shelf stock to make sure that it’s fresh? Plenty of local brewers do. Because they can. That’s nice of them, isn’t it.

Refreshingly, there are actually clear headed people out there getting to the point of what makes for a great moment out in a pub and having a beer, people who are able to tell you what it is we really love about this whole obsession:

The result was a beer that warmed and lost its head too fast and by the end tasted like something that had been left on the bar for two hours. Of course, this poor bloke was alone and incredibly busy so he could be excused. Bollocks! No, I was the only client inside that pub and there were only two or three people outside.

Speaking of nice, the Drunk Polkaroo has been tweeting poetry.  “Open. Pour. Drink. Repeat.” is amongst his finest works. Ah, beer poetry. Beer Haiku Daily was a favourite of mine. Remember that? That was great. When people enjoyed just clean beer fun.

Here is an inordinately detailed discussion of Untappd that unpacks that craft-specific phenomenon of reluctance to acknowledge customer opinion. I’ve never bothered with Untappd but if you had you might want to have a look.

I am with Jason. As I said last week, it takes a bit of craft-quality amnesia to not understand that the microbrewers and then the craft brewers from the late 1970s to the early years of this decade were largely cloning the styles of Europe including, largely, the ales of Britain. So, while Matt is correct to suggest auslanders are reluctant to embrace UK craft, the diagnosis is not as suggested.  UK cask is one of the foundations of US craft and, frankly, UK craft has taken on wee too much cloning to stand that much apart. And hyperventilating. A bit of that, too. Not unrelated, there now is a Trappist brewery in England.

Serious but strong thoughts from Dr. Jackson-Beckham.

Finally, an actual serious story about the passing in Atlanta of Minnesotan Todd Keeling, a beer dispense system inventor, that Tom brought to my attention:

A fast-talking tinkerer and father of four was at SunTrust Park to install his beer tap invention when he died, his family told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday… Kuchta said her nephew was excited to learn that another MLB stadium wanted his beer tap technology, Draftwell, which was going to cut down pour times at SunTrust from a 14-second average to five seconds.

We engage in health and safety considerations throughout all the construction work I am involved with and we are always aware how dangerous familiar workplaces can. That is as true in all aspects brewing as any other industry. Very sad.

I will leave you on that note for this week. Remember to check out Boak and Bailey with the news on Saturday as well as Stan on Mondays.

 

*The one with the Great Lake being Lake Ontario and the location being Etobicoke and not the one with the Great Lake being Lake Erie and the location being Cleveland.

A Thought About The Proposed Changes To Canada’s Law Of Beer

Gary threw his two cents in and I hooked my pal Jordan up with my other pal Jordan who wrote a “Jordan quotes Jordan” article on the proposed changes to Canada’s federal government’s regulation on the nature of beer. As Jordan the journalist (“JTJ”) pointed out there is one aspect of the proposed changes which appear sensible but, at least for me, are a critical problem:

No longer would beer be required to “possess the aroma, taste and character commonly attributed to beer” or be categorized into different styles or types like ale, stout, porter and malt liquor. Instead, officials are proposing to set limits on sugar content and simplify language around the use of additives that would define what is a beer.

Now, as might be argued a rarity, the actual Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement to my mind actually states the intention a bit more clearly:

In addition, the current requirement to “possess the aroma, taste and character commonly attributed to beer” would be removed in recognition that different beer styles or types have different attributes. This element is proposed to be replaced in part by a limit in the percentage by weight of residual sugar in final products. This change would maintain the integrity of beer and provide a more objective measurement.

Sadly, this proposed change is based on a misunderstanding of the use of the word “commonly” in the regulation. See, it can be taken to mean that (i) the attributes have to be common to all beer but I read the line to mean that (ii) people commonly understand that the attributes of the beverage before them are included in the concept of beer.  Consider this twitter exchange this morning between Jeff Alworth and John Holl. Holl had posted a photo of a glass of something he described in this way:

…the strawberry rhubarb wheat topped with the same beer (plus extra strawberries) pumped through a slushy machine.

Jeff asked in response whether in “…a blind tasting, could you have identified it as a beer?” and John’s response was interesting:

Yes. There is enough hop content, and the aromatics are on point. The finish is bone dry. There’s a lot of runway to play with this style and from social media posts there’s a lot of breweries joining the fold each day.

Rather than chastising Jeff for being a luddite and not being hip with the cool kids’ juice, John took the observation seriously and set out some attributes that he would commonly associate with beer: “enough hop content” and on point aromatics. Fabulous. He entirely understood the point being made.

The current wording of the regulation also understands the point. Just this week in my lawyering day job I solved a rather large problem by determining whether something was a “significant” deviation from “normal” – not all that different from the idea of establishing what “commonly” means.  I had no difficulty as it required me to review real life examples and explain degrees of things as well as expectations of things. Easy.  Words like this pose no problem to understanding.

Further, words like this are not locked in. By this I mean the law can reflect reasonable expectations in the future as long as the legal drafts-person does not attempt to tie down the wording to an understanding that exists in the present.  As John Holl noted, there’s “a lot of runway to play with this style.” His only fault is defaulting back to the until recently relevant concept of style which has only realistic application to the beers from perhaps the late 1980s to perhaps 2014-15 at the latest. Too many walls have been broken down since then to force the square peg of style into the round hole of beer.

What John might better have said was there is a lot of play within beer. Beer is in fact great like that. And people can be trusted to know what is and what is not a beverage we can commonly include in the concept of beer. As soon as you lay down more specific attributes you exclude anything which does not have those attributes.  One of the things that ended the concept of style – in addition to the insane exponential expansion of style categories – was the ever tightening nose of attribute allocated to each of those dizzying styles. The current regulation wording avoids that nightmare. The proposed wording runs towards it, arms wide open. JTJ actually quoted Jordan the Beer Writer (JTBW) on an associated point:

The most important thing you could do if you’re a craft brewer would be to get a handle on how to add ingredients these lists,” said Jordan St. John, co-author of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide. “The labelling component and making sure people understand what they’re getting — that’s really beneficial for the consumer. It’s just that getting there is going to be a bit of a pain.

Jordan is saying to brewers if your favorite ingredient is not on the list, it is out.  My argument is that if there is a kitchen sink clause allowing for beer to be what is commonly understood as beer  – not exclusively or even primarily – then the beer is in fact beer. That is good law.

This will be the gist of  my comment back to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). You can make comments, too, by following the instructions on the CFIA website here. Go ahead. Participate in democracy. About beer. Do it.

 

The First Thursday’s Beer New For World Cup 2018

I have to admit, few of my teams made it. I think sports allegiance needs a personal or familial connection. Land of my birth, Canada? Never had a chance. Land of my fathers and mothers, Scotland? Squandered any chance they had. Hmm… I worked in the Netherlands in 1986… but they didn’t make it. So POLAND! Aka “land of love” where me and herself met in 1991. That’ll do. Right? Except… it’s now slipping deeper under a super-simmering nationalist movement. Hmm. Gotta think about this theory of mine.

Note: Moscow might not have enough beer for the World Cup. Nizjnij Novgorod doesn’t either. The lads above might be less happy soon. Related: Beavertown Brewery is dependent on an dwindling artificial CO2 supply. Other craft brewers, too.  I love these unknown traditional aspects of craffy beer. Let them drink cask!

Elsewhere, supplies are abundant. Jeff triggered a fulsome discussion on Twitter on Monday on the word “godesgood” and whether it was used all that often. Like the mythical “no one drank water before public health” line, there are many familiar fibs that are rightly challenged. My contribution was in favour of barm, including this quote from a 1430s text:

For, whan the ale was as fayr standyng undyr berm as any man mygth se, sodenly the berm wold fallyn down that alle the ale was lost every brewyng aftyr other, that hir servawntys weryn aschamyd and wold not dwellyn wyth hir.

Almost 600 years ago. Nothing to be ashamed about this year’s British #NationalBeerDay, which unlike the 217 other national beer days every year, gave us at least this great photo set of the first four actors to play Doctor Who having a beer.

Apparently, according to the brewers the only way to return to cheap beer in Ontario is to lower taxes. Except, even if you do that, Ontario brewers are not interested in making cheap beer.

Warning: this article in The Guardian on the US starting to embrace British ale brewing requires readers to be completely unaware of the brewing of good beer by microbrewers and craft brewers from the late 1970s to the early years of this decade during which years the craft beer movement was largely driving by cloning the styles of Europe including, largely, the ales of Britain.  Example: Clark’s… oh, and hundreds of other places.

Ugly news from what had been one of my favourite local wineries – and an apology in response with some details about the greater response. Reaction. Reaction.

Far less seriously, these two tweets by very thoughtful people remind me again how – like “pairing” – I could not care less about beer label design other than (seriously again) to get rid of all the sexist, racist and otherwise bigoted content one finds on them. Honestly, I have a very hard time thinking of a label that gives any sort of Pavlovian effect, triggering the memory of a flavour one might find within the container. But I only speak of me. I judge no one. I suppose that comes with me being of an age when there were fifty brands and one flavour of beer. I find artsy labels just force me to squint more to figure out what is actually on offer. They are the Flash animation laced intro web pages of the beer world. Still – more signal, less noise please.

Lastly but somewhat related, Andy has spotted a wee trend that I can’t figure out whether it is signal or noise. Brewers are ditching “born on” dating for “best before” due to obsessives looking for only the very newest batches – even if it means engaging in style infanticide.

There you have it. A shorter post for a bit of a quieter week – some interesting news, some tough news. But mainly a week of international kicky ball, drinky beer. More will be revealed in the coming days. Especially if you take to time to catch up with Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday.

Who Was Ben Kenton And How Good Was His Porter?

Hunting for references to the 1700s hops trade, I came upon this notice in the Independent Journal of New York from 1 March 1784. What was remarkable was how, within a year of the end of the American Revolution, trade was being undertaken with the former motherland.  What was also remarkable “Ben Kenton’s Porter” – who was he? Two and a half years ago, I mentioned Hibbert’s London Porter being sold in New York in 1798 but have yet to see this Kenton follow mentioned. Now off on a new hunt, I found the following in a book from 1787 entitled Adventures of Jonathan Corncob, Loyal American Refugee:

A few minutes after a gentleman came up to me, and asked me if my name was not Corncob; I answered in the affirmative, but said I had not the honour of-recollecting him. “I wonder at that,” said he, “for we were fellow prisoners at Boston, and made our escape together from gaol.” We immediately began to congratulate and compliment each other…  On taking leave he invited me to dine with him the following day, at his plantation, where I was regaled in a most luxurious manner; the turtle was superior to any ever served on a lord mayor’s table; the’oranges and pine-apples were of the highest flavour; Ben Kenton’s porter sparkled like champaign, and excellent claret and Madeira crowned the feast. At the end of the dinner I caught myself unbuttoning my waistcoat, and crying out, ’tis d–d hard that there should be hurricanes in this country.

Then, my curiosity piqued by mention of the quality, I found this passage in the diary Of Joseph Farington, R.A. from September 1803:

September 4. Dance called. He spoke of the great changes which happen in some men’s fortunes. He dined the other day with Claude Scott, the corn merchant at His House near Bromley where He lives splendidly. The late Ben Kenton ; Porter Seller & Wine merchant told Dance that when he kept the Magpye ale house in Whitechapel, Claude Scott, abt. 30 years ago, applied to him offering to keep his books, being then seeking for employment. Kenton died possessed of a great fortune, & Scott is supposed to be worth 300,000. His Son married the only daughter of a Mr. Armstrong who is said to be worth half a million.

Greedy Georgians. It’s all money, money, money with them. Kenton was described in one account as “a typical East End lad made good; his mother was said to have sold cabbages on a stall in Whitechapel Field Gate.” Kenton himself apparently started out as a waiter in a tavern. In The Annual Register, Or, A View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1800, Kenton’s passing was recorded in this entry for 25 May:

In Gower-street, in his eighty-third year, Benjamin Kenton, esq. From an obscure origin, and an education in a charity-school, he obtained, by frugality, industry, and integrity, with an irreproachable character, a more than princely fortune. For some years, he kept the Crown and Magpye tavern, in Whitechapel; and afterwards, becoming wine-merchant in the Minories,* He went very largely into the trade of exporting porter. His property, in the different public funds, exceeds 300,000l. and at the present market prices, is worth 272,000l. his landed estates 680l. a year. And he has bestowed it in a manner that reflects honour to his memory.

Kenton’s portrait hangs in Vintners’ Hall in London. He was “one of the most of distinguished members” of the Vintners’ Company was one of the beneficiaries under his will. His obituary goes on to list all the charities to which he left considerable sums – “the hospitals of Christ, St. Bartholomew, and Bethlehem, 5000l each; to the charity for the blind, 20,000l” as well as one Mr. Smith, his grandson, and only immediate descendant, “who was, unfortunately, not much in his favour 800l a year.” Don’t shed a tear as that is the equivalent of 87,000 pounds a year now. The vast residue of the estate is left to his daughter’s man friend, survivor of a bit of a tragic tale. **Anyway, so it appears Kenton was a self made man with buckets of money. Made from selling wine and Porter.

Before he was a disgruntled schismist, Anglophile George Washington bought Kenton’s porter as part of a large general shipment of fine British goods in 1760.*** Here is a 1766 invoice for a shipment sent by Kenton to the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers.

 

 

 

 

To the left is an advertisement from the Maryland Gazette of 28 July 1763 offering “Ben Kenton’s Porter in bottles.” From the same publication, in the middle there is a notice from 19 May 1774 which includes among the offerings “a few dozen of Ben Kenton’s porter.” To the right is word of a sale in the 12 March 1784 Morning Post of New York with 40 barrels and hogsheads of porter which was not from Ben Kenton but direct from the brewer Phelix Calworth “who had the preference of supplying the great Ben Kenton.” Which points out that Kenton made his zillions not from making the porter but from distributing it. Kenton’s middleman role is similar to the one played by the merchants Hugh & Alexander Wallace in 1772 intra-provincially as shippers of Lispenard’s beer to William Johnson, the man who could have stopped Washington had he lived.

Detail on his rise to wealth and how it occurred is set out in an 1893 guide to London street signs:

In the year 1719 a boy was born of humble parentage in Whitechapel, who, as Benjamin Kenton, vintner and philanthropist, achieved a considerable reputation. He was educated at the charity school of the parish, and in his fifteenth year apprenticed to the landlord of the Angel and Crown in Goulston Street, Whitechapel. Having served his time, he became waiter and drawer at the Crown and Magpie in Aldgate High Street, not long since pulled down. The sign was a Crown of stone and a Magpie carved in pear-tree wood, and the house was frequented by sea captains. Kenton’s master is said to have been among the first who possessed the art of bottling beer for warm climates. He, without reason, changed the sign to the Crown; his custom fell off; he died, and the concern came into the hands of Kenton, who restored the Magpie to its former position, and so increased the bottled-beer business, that in 1765 he gave up the tavern and removed to more commodious quarters which he built in the Minories.

Hmm: “…among the first who possessed the art of bottling beer for warm climates.”  It is noted in the guide Cylindrical English Wine and Beer Bottles 1735-1850 that Kenton took care to select the design of his glassware, preferring champagne style glass. Kenton shipped bottled porter to India, too.

The bottles were good enough to steal, in fact. In the records from the Old Bailey, there is a prosecution of William Sinkey for the 1780 theft of three baskets of empty bottles owned by Kenton. The finding of “not guilty” was based on Sinkey’s argument that the thief had been hired by someone to carry the basket he was found with. Seems a bit light to be let off if you ask me. By contrast, in 1771 William Grimsby – a cooper by trade – was found rolling away a hogshead owned by Kenton just 40 yards down the road from where it was left. He was not so lucky in his pleas to the court, was convicted and transported. The thief was likely sent to America, the main repository before the Revolution and before convicts were sent to Australia.

More than just biography makes this all of interest. It reminds me of the 1700s hop rulings I wrote about a few years ago that indicates how much value was in that element of the brewing industry. Scale. The economic power that brewing generates never fails to impress. I am also very intrigued by the reference to the “art of bottling beer for warm climates.”****We see again and again how common trans-oceanic shipments of porter, ales and beer were. That the skill was perfected by a wine and porter merchant perhaps should have been obvious in hindsight. Have to keep seeing what I can find out about what that skill was…

*His business address in 1760 was No. 152, the Minories, Aldgate according to a note to this record of Washington’s purchase. This blog post has an image of the street from not long after Kenton’s passing.
**Who, in turn, appears to be uncle to the painter Constable.
***He bought from Kenton regularly in the 1760s. His taste for porter extended past the Revolution.
****Note => “He… became possessed of a secret which made his fortune, that of bottling ale so that it could pass through the changes of climate on the voyage to India round the Cape, without the cork flying out of the bottle.”

The Mid-June Edition Of Thursday Beer News

June. The middle of June. Or, as we called it as children, the miggle. I am in the middle of a “very important thing” in my “real job” so my attention has been solidly on the hobby news.  Jordan said the nicest thing the other day when I mentioned I bought a pair of p’raps 1970s casual trousers* which used to be owned by the late financial manager of the Rolling Stones:

Alan, the cool thing about you is that beer is not even in your top five strangest hobbies

So true. Except I am not cool. I have teens so I am clear on that point. Yet… beer and drinks is a hobby to me. As it should be. A sauce upon a hobby. Life’s drizzled sauce upon an idle hour. No more. June. June lets you know that’s true. Hours and hours of idle are waiting for you in June. You can sit out in the yard and see five species of bee in June. If you know what you are looking for. As you sip on a beer. I have books about bees. And a pair of casual trousers which used to be owned by the late financial manager of the Rolling Stones. Life is good.

The big news around here (meaning on this planet) is how the wee Donnie T totalitarian love fest found the great big orange thing attacking Canada for acting like an actual nation state. “Boycott!” is being chanted in the streets. High school and undergrad soccer team pal o’mine, political journalist Steve Maher suggested a boycott of US drinks. It’s an easy matter these days given the excellent craft beer we brew not to mention our own Ontario wines.  I’ve probably been boycotting for weeks without noticing. I do have a bottle of bourbon in the wee cabinet – but it gives me a wicked headache, frankly. Five months until mid-term elections. Just five months.

Anthony Bourdain’s loss was deeply felt among good beer fans even though he summed up the state of craft beer with characteristically vicious wit when he coined the phrase “Mumford and Sons IPA” a couple of years ago. Let us remember that and use those words wisely with gratitude. Lesley Chesterman wrote a wonderful remembrance in the Montreal Gazette on Bourdain and her city. This set of thoughts illustrates how, for a certain set within a certain generation, Bourdain may have been as influential as Michael Jackson was for another certain set within another certain generation; the younger swapping the elder’s illusive (and now known insufficient) dream of establishing a unified theory for all beer, perhaps, for the illusion of the meaningful visceral peripatetic existence.** Each offering a route to being somebody. I say illusion, which you may take as deeply unkind, but I am also deeply mindful of the thoughts shared by chef David McMillan who actually knew him and saw the corrosive effects of his addictions:

“Sure, it all looks so glamorous when you see it as a one-hour TV show. But the one hour we did in Newfoundland took 15 days to shoot. We spent countless hours sitting in cars and planes, or just waiting in a tent in the rain. And we’re drinking every day — which is a constant state of the ingestion of depressants, and you can slowly get yourself into a depressive state.” McMillan knows from what he speaks. He did a stint in rehab and gave up drinking five months ago. “I was going down the same road as Tony,” he says. “I got to a point where I had really dark thoughts about five times a day. I used to think about it once a week, then once a day. Then five times. I decided that was enough. I was drinking like a Viking, every day of the year. I have three daughters. I wasn’t being a great father. I had to change. I’m 47. I want to be around for my daughters.

Which gives one an uneasy feeling when you read: “it was seeing those same qualities in Anthony Bourdain that gave me some hope for myself.” Or even seeing this.*** McMillan called Bourdain the captain of his pirate ship: “we were all the pirates … drug addicts, alcoholics, a motley crew of humanity from all quarters, especially those of us marginal kitchen workers.” Which makes you wonder whether we should really care about the price of beer around the world if you have to give up so much to actually need to know. Regardless, a sad loss. But be careful out there. The hobby sauce can make you dream.

Illusion. Chris Conway, a gift from Newfoundland to Toronto now seemingly re-gifted in return, considered a can of craft-brewed Milkshake IPA as one sat on an eastern Liquor Commission shelf and saw a possible perhaps unwelcome future:

Seeing this next to the mudslides and hard lemonade at the NLC makes me wonder if the destiny for Milkshake IPA is malt based alcohol juice/puree or a gateway to beers that taste of malt, hops, yeast, or water in any way. Can Molson make a Milkshake cooler that tastes like this?

I think Chris’s thought illustrates why this consideration of myth and wine (equally applicable to good beer) is hooey: “…the fact that propaganda doesn’t really matter: the stories add value to the experience beyond their demonstrable truth.” Consultant types might like you to believe this is true but, for me, there are enough fabulous facts about good wine and beer that we can confidently ditch the romantic tales. You have to wonder if it is the alcohol that makes the desire for myth?****

This, now, is an actual real thing. You see this in the TV sports highlights every week or so. The baby not dropped to catch the ball all while clasping the plastic cup of beer in ones teeth. The guy who chested the foul with a beer in one hand and a plastic tray of nachos in the other as he protected the young family, spilling nothing. Someone will no doubt note that she chose a darker ale. Craft lady baseball foul beer catcher. That is my nickname for her.

In your “somewhere it is 2004 now” update… hmm… a brewers’ advocacy group that meets a whopping two times a year in a tiny wee jurisdiction of 135,000 or so souls smacks of nothing so much as the need to spend a government grant. The timely reporting of the group’s first meeting is particularly sweet.

Boak and Bailey published a fabulous, extended and entirely interesting interview titled “Davey Jones, the Man Behind the Real Ale Twats” in which they explored a cartoon strip in Britain’s satirical magazine Viz. Jones described how he thought up the lead character:

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in pubs and the characters are sort of composites of types that I encountered. There was a bloke who used to come into my local in Newcastle who had a big beard and a beret and always seemed to be carrying several shoulder bags. He may not even have been a real ale enthusiast – I don’t think I ever heard him speak – but he had the right look, so I drew him. Probably very unfairly.

Probably accurately, too. Or at least characteristically… which is what you really want in a character. Did someone say character? I have a bit of that. And the trousers of the man who knew Mick’s money.  Lucky lucky me.

That’s it! Remember, if you find this lacking or even offensive, there is more weekly beer news to be enjoyed for the firm of the firm of Boak & Bailey each and almost every Saturday as well as my candidate for the Stan with the finest Renaissance-era Low Country last name each and less than every Monday. I might see him this fall.

Be safe. Be happy. But if you can’t, be safe. Laters.

*Troooo-saaaahhhssss!!!
**Congratulations. You have navigated to the end of that sentence. My grade 8 English teacher will be receiving comment cards for the next 30 days.
***Never quite sure who plays Christ in this analogy.
****Hobby sauce! Hobby sauce!!!

When Did The United States First Export Hops?

Above is a table published in The Republican Watch Tower of New York on 4 July 1804.  I went looking for this sort of thing after reading Martyn’s excellent post of this week “How Long Have UK Brewers Been Using American Hops? 200 Years, You Say…” Initially, I was interested in the Hesperus, the ship that brought the hops in question to New York to Belfast in 1818. I found notices in the New York newspapers for the same ship bringing Irish linens to the American market on its return voyage. I love ships.

But then I wondered when the first exports of hops from the young United States occurred.  And I say “United States” as there is no reason to believe there might not have been colonial exports here and there but I would suggest that is another story. That being said, if the table above is to be believed, hop exports would have begun at least in 1797. But where did they go? One often reprinted 1802 article under the title “To The People of the United States” authored under the  name Franklin originally in The Aurora on early US export prospects – the one to the right quoted from The Bee of Hudson, NY –  specifically addressed the hop trade and gave a sense of the realities and goes on to conclude:

The profits of raising hops are such that the great brewing countries of Europe impose heavy duties on their importation from America or elsewhere.

So, soon into the new century US hops were needed at home and subject to European protectionist tariffs. The hop trade to Europe was subject to a prohibition. Which means it had been happening and then was stopped. Which makes one wonder where all those pounds of hops were going, the ones shown in the 1804 table from The Republican Watch Tower. Hmm.

It is clear that there is a market for hops at the time. The internal inter-state beer trade was certainly robust between New York and New England. Here is a notice that includes 35 sacks of hops on sale in NYC in 1795. In this notice to the right in the New York Gazette of 27 August 1805, 20 bags of hops are on offer. If they are 50 pound bags, that is the same volume of hops listed as the entire export from the nation in 1797.  In this edition of Ming’s Price Guide* from New York in August 1810, there are prices for both American and English hops. Still, the international market for commodities like hops has to be understood in the context of tariffs and even international relations during the Napoleonic Wars and at this time we have to be reasonably aware of the Jay Treaty of 1795 opening up trade from the US to Britain and the Embargo Act of 1807 shutting it down again. So if we are looking for an export of hops to Britain from the United States we should keep those dates in mind.

The other thing to remember is that hops are not only native to New York but also grew prodigiously. To the right is a notice for the sale of certain lands in central New York. It was placed in the New York Gazette on 3 May 1805 and notes that “the soil is rich and fertile to produce any species of grain, hemp, etc. – the climate moderate (testified by the abundant growth of vine and hops); the water is good, the salmon and other fisheries great…” So while Craig may be correct in relation to the dates of commercial growing and selling of New York hops, their pre-existing natural abundance was an obvious characteristic of the state. It is also worth noting that when he and I were putting together Upper Hudson Valley Beer, I came across a record from the first decade of the 1700s of Mohawks selling hops to Albany brewer, Evert Wendell.

And hops were not just picked wild at the time. In
The New and Complete American Encyclopedia, 1808 edition, there is an extensive section on the propagation and selling of hops including information taken, it is cited from a document published by the Agricultural Society of New York… no, the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures, instituted in the State of New York.** The cultivation in New York is especially encouraged:

The cultivators of land in this state have every inducement which policy or inducement can afford, to enter, in spirit, into the cultivation of hops. We shall therefore be enabled to supply our own demand, and export this article; instead of sending abroad for all we use; and no crop that can possibly be put on land will yield an equal profit…

Were the hops loaded on the Herperus in 1818 destined for a Belfast brewery the first hops sold into the British market? It’s quite unlikely given the abundance of native hops, the records of an export trade, public marketplace pricing and the general regular European trade in many commodities going back a couple of centuries. Was there a Caribbean market for hops along with the wheat and biscuit shipments we see bound to supply an aspect of the slave trade? Could be but southern brewing of beer was a very dodgy thing.

It’s also likely that it was a little remarked upon activity, like the export of casks of beer from Albany and New York City. Likely modest supplies of infilled cargo rounding out a vessel’s hold. As usual, we are at the whim of the vendor from the time – was there enough demand to spend the money to place the notice in the newspaper? Without someone making that decision then it is difficult to know now what they were particularly up to. But such is life, the record of the activity never being proof of the fact of the activity.

Still, there is likely more to be found out there – especially in relation to activities such as Strictland’s study in the years after the end of the Revolution when interest in trade between the newly independent nation and the home of its often Loyalist heart in the old country seemed to tick up before the laws came down. So let’s consider this an introduction to the idea.

*aka Dickinson’s (Formerly) Ming’s New-York Price-Current, Ming and Young’s New-York Price-Current, Ming’s New-York Price-Current, Oram’s New-York Price-Current, Oram’s New-York Price-Current, and Marine Register, The New-York Prices Current.
**The NY Agricultural Society as it exists today only comes into being in 1832… which seems a bit late given the county ag fairs start up years earlier.