Beer And Trans-Atlantic English Explorations Of The Later 1400s

That passage above is from the The Voyage Made by M. John Hawkins Esquire, 1565. According to the wisdom of Wikipedia, Hawkins was the chief architect of the Elizabethan navy, the first English trader to profit from the Triangle Trade and Treasurer of the Navy from 1577 to 1595. Its from a part of his journal that records French colonial efforts in Florida at their short lived Fort Caroline. While the colony had only been settled in 1564, they had already turned local grapes into wine, apparently the first in North America.

It’s not the earliest record of alcohol use in North America – even if it might be the earliest of production. We have seen before how the French were drinking cider as they worked the Newfoundland shore in the 1520s. But what is interesting to me is that the French in Florida had their choice of products, given the ample source of good bread making grain, but made wine. Which is reasonable as wine is simpler to make than beer, given there is no intermediary stages like malting or mashing.

A few years ago now, I discussed the  provisioning of Martyn Frobisher’s 1578 voyage to mine iron ore on Baffin Island in Canada’s Arctic. The post was based on my luck find of the victualing records. Have a look by clicking on the image to the right. You can see how much biscuit, meal, beer, wine and pork was loaded on board. Note: beer, not malt. He was not brewing beer up on Baffin that year. I’ve discussed late 1500s trans-Atlantic ships’ provisions of malt before, too.

I have been a bit fruitlessly looking for more of those sorts of records, feeling a bit like Manilov in Dead Souls, not getting very deep into things.  I want to turn the clock back further, back past Cartier in the mid-1530s. I have been primarily thinking about what was down in the hold of John Cabot‘s ships on his 1490s voyages to eastern Canada. Until I got into the Cabot era, I had no idea how lucky I was finding the record for Frobisher. An actual victualing bill from the 1570s. Lucky also that the scholarship on that adventurer was not as quirky and proprietary as was the case (perhaps until recently) with Cabot. That has recently broken somewhat in recent years. In 2012, The New York Times reported:

In 2010, an international team of scholars working together in what is called the Cabot Project came upon a set of 514-year-old Italian ledgers that Dr. Ruddock had found decades earlier but which had disappeared from view. They showed that in the spring of 1496, Cabot received seed money for his voyages from the London branch of a Florentine banking house called the Bardi.

Plenty has come out related to the new Cabot findings that has given me a bit more hope. We know that Henry the VII gave notice in 1496 that Cabot was authorized to buy victuals for his first voyage and also authorized the second voyage in 1498. We also know that in 1499, a Bristol merchant named William Weston sailed to Newfoundland.* Cabot also might have settled friars at Carbonear, Newfoundland on his third voyage. But there is that problem of the vulnerability of scholarship… ie, people who I can poach from. That hoarders of ideas Cabot scholar Ruddock died in 2005 and Peter Pope who wrote wonderfully about the early Newfoundland trade died in 2017. So I am left to my own wits.

Which means I have to come up with rules for my own research. What do we know? Well, we do know that Bristol was the gateway for English expeditions to the west just as London and other eastern facing ports served, generally speaking, the North and Baltic Seas. In particular, Bristol had a flourishing wine trade in the 1400s. The quantities involved were significant – between 1,000 and 2,500 tons of wine a year through the 1400s, depending on the politics. We have to recall that the English held Gascony from the 1200s until the 1450s. Gascony is know for wine, even including the Bordeaux region. Bristol was where that wine was received for English consumption. So, it is reasonable to expect provisioning of vessels leaving Bristol in the 1400s to have a supply of wine.

Additionally, to find trans-Atlantic provisioning records you need to find trans-Atlantic voyages. Where were the merchant adventurers of Bristol during the English Renaissance sailing towards? First, we have to remember that the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance ratified at the Treaty of Windsor in 1386 is arguably the oldest alliance in the world. The Portuguese were also makers of wine for the English market as well as explorers. And that wine landed at Bristol. So they were sailing back and forth from there. Voyages, trade links and colonization out into the Atlantic was not a particularly wide-spread European habit before the 1400s. The Canary Islands, populated by a semi-Stone Age people, the Guanches, were only taken by Spain in 1402. Yet trade links with Iceland were developed by Bristol’s merchants by the mid-1400s which included a:

diversity in food [which] increased as the English… imported large quantities of beer and wine, salt and pepper, malt, wheat, sugar and honey.

Which means if the Bristol merchants are shipping beer to Iceland… there is beer on Bristol ships heading north. And, fabulously, malt. And other targets for the adventurous traders of Bristol were developed like the voyage of the Trinity in 1480-81 seeking out opportunity in North Africa. Was there beer in that hull, too?  It’s not unreasonable to think so. We do know that the well-armed naval merchants of the Baltic-based Hanseatic League did not themselves get out into the Atlantic but they did bring hopped beer to England as early as the mid-1200s.  Remember the cargo of beer brought on the Elyn of 1401. Which means that you have the conditions to have hopped beer moving out of England, too, as a transferred on trade good. Quite a bit early than I had thought.

I will illustrate my working date with some fairly common understanding of dates. Professor Unger identified “about 1520” as the time when the English mastered the new technology of brewing beer with hops. That is backed up by the records showing written references to “hops” or “hoppes” were not so common until about that same time. Yet, if you dig around the records a bit, that date starts to look a bit late. In records (“alien subsidies”) of foreign merchants for Bristol in the mid-1400s we read that:

…the returns to the 1449 and 1453 alien subsidies, which in some cases give either occupational descriptions or surnames that suggest an occupation: there are two beer-brewers, two tailors, a pinner, pointmaker (maker of laces for securing clothing), shearman, bellmaker, leatherworker, goldsmith, smith and, possibly, heardsman…

Which means that there were two immigrant beer brewers in Bristol well before Cabot and about the time of the Icelandic trade. Which means the beer heading north could well have been English beer and even made close to the port.  Further, in the 2014 PhD dissertation by  John R. Krenzke of Loyola University in Chicago, “Change Is Brewing: The Industrialization of the London Beer-Brewing Trade, 1400-1750” we read, at page 42, that a similar timeline is at play in London:

Ale brewers were successful in 1484 in having the City of London lay down the ingredients that could be used in ale brewing—“only liquor (heated water), malt, and yeast”—to limit the competition that ale brewers faced from beer brewers. In response the beer brewers of London were able to obtain a charter to become their own guild in 1493. The two groups were to remain apart and in direct competition to each other until 1556 when they were merged.

The “stranger” beer brewers were allowed to sell beer freely in London in 1477 and were not as unwelcome at all as we read on page 7:

…at first, beer remained primarily a beverage brewed by foreigners, known as strangers to their English hosts, for themselves and, because of its stability, for English soldiers. Stranger beer brewers found the Crown to be an ally throughout the fifteenth century because of their ability to supply beer to the military.

Nothing like government demand to validate new technology. And we need to recall in all this that Henry VIII himself created great state-owned naval brewing capacity at Portsmouth in 1515, producing 500 barrels per day to supply his military ambitions. Just before Unger’s date of 1520. The question, then, is how large the capacity of the privately operating beer brewers of Bristol was half a century earlier and did it supply the merchant adventurer ships heading west to Canada in the 1490s. That is the question I need to dig at. All the conditions are present: confident merchant adventurers, established beer brewing and thirst. All we need is a record or two.

*Much more here on the scale of the oceanic Bristol trade missions in “The Men of Bristol and the Atlantic Discovery Voyages of the Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Centuries,” the MA Thesis of Annabel Peacock from 2007.

 

The Government-Shutdown No-Deal-Brexit Why-Kids-Don’t-Drink Version Of Thursday Beer Notes

Woot!!! Holding up the roof since 1693!!!!

So… two weeks and a bit until #FlagshipFebruary* begins… meaning the inevitable rebound to #TrendyMarchMania will see some of the dry,  those off the sours for almost nine weeks hitting the bottle extra hard. You know, we really need to full year calendar to keep all this stuff straight – given we also have #MildMay and #DecemberIsForAmataurs, too.

As I mentioned a few updates ago, the US government shutdown has caused all approvals required by brewers from the  Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. I clucked at the time that at least this halted the manic pace of biere nouveau but – and with a hefty h/t to @beerinator – it appears that the permitting process is far more intrusive that that:

In a suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in D.C., Atlas notes that the government has approved labels for its cans of The Precious One, an apricot IPA, but not the labels for its kegs, known as “keg collars” before the shutdown began. Those kegs can’t be shipped out for sales outside of D.C. without label approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau: Doing so would violate federal law.

Who knew that “permitting” included such minor matters?***1/2

Next but disconnectedly so, here is an excellent primer for buying wine for a crowded restaurant table. Note the following statements:

I simply order what I most fancy eating and what I’d most like to drink, that’s what gives me most pleasure — even if the combination may seem bizarre to the sommelier… Do you worry about which cheeses to pick off a cheeseboard? I’m sure you don’t, so don’t worry about the wine…

Fabulous advice. Applies to beer, too.**

Unrelatedly, wonderful views (see above) of a +335 year old pub structure in Dublin, Ireland. Here is some backstory from 2016 on the efforts to save the structure:

“The astonishing skeletal grid of ceiling beams and joists is still intact on the ground floor, as well as early brick walls with ancient embedded timbers… With all of the modern partitions and ceilings now removed, the ground-floor shop retains all the grand scale one would expect of a public inn of the post-medieval period, complete with typical corner chimney stacks…”

Not connected at all, good to see some wonderful news of Young’s in England taking a stand on saving its affected staff from the fallout caused by Brexit. More here on the business reasons behind this sensible move:

The boss of pubs firm Young’s on Thursday cheered higher sales, but warned that hiring staff is tougher. Patrick Dardis said around 38% of his 5000-strong workforce are EU nationals, and added: “More workers [from Europe] are leaving here than coming. The recruitment and the retention of top talent is increasingly difficult.

Whiplashedly, ScienceDirect published this so it must be right. It’s a research paper entitled “Why are young people drinking less than earlier? Identifying and specifying social mechanisms with a pragmatist approach” which sets out a number of reasons why my children are apparently smarter than I was as a kid:

Recent analyses of surveys of youth drinking in Sweden have found a strong decrease both in rates of abstinence and in levels of drinking among drinkers. For instance, alcohol consumption among 15- to 16-year-olds has fallen more than 50% between 2000 and 2012. At the same time, the abstention rates among boys and girls have increased from about 30% to more than 50% . Moreover, heavy episodic drinking has decreased from 34% to 18% among boys (ibid.)…  Similar declining trends of alcohol consumption among young people have been identified in other European countries, North America and Australia…

Virtigo inducingly, the Tand himself has posted about how craft sees cask and it’s good enough to have a whole month dedicated to the #MarchOnCraftFibs campaign. It starts fabulously thusly:****

Yesterday there was a Twitter post that caught my attention. It referred to an opinion piece in Imbibe Magazine by Jessica Mason in which she claims that “We’re on the precipice of a cask revival”. The article goes on to explain her thinking which can be summed up – more or less – that cask can revived – wait for it – by modern brewers adopting Golden Ales. Well I exaggerate, but I hardly agree either with the way the article says “cask is becoming ever more exciting, flavoursome and stylistically broad” as if we’ve all been drinking flavourless crud for all these years and can only be saved by innovative craft brewers rescuing us from our own stupidity. 

And utterly conversely, I finally figured out what I don’t get about GBH writing style. This piece by Roth is pretty good even if it needs editing down to get some control of the subject. It’s like there is a need to give each source equal space.  And the obvious extra access to New Belgium, an acknowledged sponsor, is there, too. But those are the problems with the subject matter presentation. That’s normal middly stuff. No, it’s the fact that the letters “GBH ” actually appear 22 times within the text of the story. Twenty-two! Breakout the flashing neon font. Enough already. One is enough. Three is cloying. But referencing your own publication 22 times in a story is weird. Needy. And too bad. It’s an important story and would have been much better if it was just cleaned up with a lashing of confidence.

One last thing: stunning stats on pub waste.

That’s enough for now. My neck hurts. Odd. Mid-January is quiet time. I actually typed all this while balled up in family quilts watching VCR recordings of cooking shows from the 1990s. Seriously. Who has time for -26C, Sunday’s promised nighttime high?  I want it over. You want it over. Like Brexit, we know the next few weeks are just going to be ugly and we need to get them out of the way. Need relief along the way? Check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday for a well earned break.

*Hmm. Now not thrilled with the hinted need to seek to attach a big old lumbering craft revenue stream to what is basically a hashtag.
***1/2Not sure what this footnote is for… it’s even out of order.
**Have another cold Big Mac, you big carrot-headed lardass! [Note: as a distant cousin of Mr. President, I reserve the right to call him a big carrot-headed lardass.]
***So much of wine pairing advice these days is based on relaxing and not worrying while beer pairing advice is so anxious.
****We really do need to acknowledge what a clear focused writer the Tandy One is.

A Guide To Maxing Out Your Upcoming #FlagFeb Experience

While I suggested in the last Thursday update that I cannot find much drive within myself to take on the call to celebrate the flagship beers of yore in February I am not being a grump. As you can clearly see to the right, both the shed and I like flags. And I recognize that Master Polk and Mistress Polk, for example, appear to be positively enchanted. The Fuggled folk are all a’giggle. So, it is perhaps useful for me to see what I can do to assist even if I do not jump on the bandwagon. Let’s start with a clarification of terms. Mr. B. wrote this about #FlagshipFebruary on Facebook deep down on a thread:

Flagships are, I think, the beer that formed the foundation of the brewery… not necessarily its current best-seller. I’m sure there are brands that outsell Central City’s Red Racer Pale, for example, but I would certainly list that as the brewery’s flagship. Ditto Deschutes Black Butte.

There are a few things to unpack there. It’s not a beer that founded craft era so much as the brand for each brewery. So the brewery, practically, has to be old and its given candidate brand needs to be something of a survivor. And its not necessarily the most loved today which means you may need to do a little sleuthing unless you are going to stop at Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Sam Adams Boston Lager. So how are you going to do that?

Act like a historian. One handy resource that you can start with are the Past Winners’ records for the Great American Beer Festival. So, if you look at the first awards list you see that in 1983 SNPA was the overall winner while SABL won top dog in ’85 and ’86.  Fine. But look at 1984.  Yakima Brewing won first and second place for an imperial stout and a Scottish ale. Hmm. Now, look at 1987 where SABL won as best “Continental Pilsner” as opposed to “Continental Amber Labers” – really.

The brief study of these records raises a few more questions. Is the brand’s recipe or even branding sufficiently similar now as it was then when it served as a foundation? Were those really the hops they use back then? Are you really experiencing the same thing? Does it even exist? Also, do these flagships actually represent the brewery’s foundation or are they just the lucky ones that now have survived the obstacle course of time, those whims of a succession of a beer fads and trends. Does its current status actually reflect its actual history or is it, like the beak of the finch, the one which by luck could accommodate unforeseen future? Figuring out that might take a little work.

My thoughts? Not that this initiative is any sort of minefield that we will fail at but that this is a great opportunity to consider the relationship between the micro brewing phase of approximately 1983-2003 and the craft phase from 2003 to the present. How much of craft’s history is made up and heavily laced with retrospective rosy coloured glassware? Plenty, I’d say. How much is even based on the lessening status of the great old white male brewery owner? Maybe a bit? So… if you really want to celebrate the actual foundation of the good beer movement, look at the structure of the early medal categories and go get yourself some stout, an amber or a porter. Find a Fuggle.

Use #FlagshipFebruary. Use it to explore and enrich your own understanding. Sours, fruit beer, barrel aging and even heavy hopping are developments largely from later in the second half of the history of your hobby. You may need to accept that what is actually the old and foundational is actually new and novel to you. Which is good. So do it.

 

 

The Thursday Beer News For Seven Weeks To March… Just Seven Weeks To March…

These are the cruel weeks. I’ve shared my dislike of the bleak mid-winter, haven’t I? I’m a bad Canadian in this respect. I have krazy karpets, skates, cross-country skis and even snowshoes but they all stay at home, down in the space under the basement stairs. We sorta even fear the toboggan. I don’t remember ever liking the coldest part of the year and I suspect I caught it from my mother whose town in Scotland has palm trees growing on the front. One thing I am not planning to do is wallow in strong ale, a traditional remedy or perhaps just response. Another reason #Dryanuary, in part or whole, makes a bit of sense and saves one from a shock.

I saw this chart (to the right) the other day and it gave me pause. See, it basically states that the top US macro brands added up to around $20 billion US in sales revenue in 2018. But here is the thing: if those top 10 are worth around $20b in sales and all of US craft is worth about $26b… what is the other 55-60% of the value of the US beer market made up these days? All of which illustrates either: (i) why I have issues with any numbers get thrown about in the triumphalist discourse or (ii) how easily I might miss perhaps obvious things. Help in the form of an explanation appreciated.

Here’s an interesting story, illustrating the conflicts that can arise among progressive constituencies and the need for serving staff to be extremely aware of complex matters of identity:

… the barwoman informed her she was banned because of the clothing item, which was considered as ‘transphobic and not inclusive’… The 34-year-old backs the feminist group Fair Play For Women, which opposed a Government consultation to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA)… [a]  member of staff… told her she could not stay at the pub as she had been upsetting other customers… [one] took to Twitter to speak of his distress. He posted: “When you’re trying to relax in your fave pub and there is a TERF [trans exclusionary radical feminist] wearing an anti-trans T-shirt… it’s disgusting and I’m so upset by it…”

Next, I like this article on craft and fad by Matt C a lot but, as I noted to him via tweet,  I was not sure that I agreed. Consider this passage:

“NEIPAs were waiting to happen,” McMeekin says. “Take the West Coast IPA, an amazing hoppy style of beer; soften it, plump it up, give it a unique hazy look and you’ve arrived somewhere that’s different, just as good, and still approachable.” Like Brut IPA, it’s a style many brewers have been falling over themselves to replicate, and yet it feels as though NEIPA has been around long enough to transcend mere trend and become something more meaningful.

See, for me none of this has been waiting to happen. It’s not natural. There has been nothing as intentional as the ramping up of US craft style fad over the last few years. As I recall, Craft Brewing Conference side seminars on barrel aging and newer and newer hop varieties beginning around a decade ago might have been the start of it all. A profitable route forward for all. Reasonable dream as dreams go, I suppose. Now, however, I see it as a dangerous game to present more and more rapidly shifting fashions to a well trained public. Dangerous given the level of investment required of small brewers to keep up with the chase.

Not unrelated, one last 2018 retrospective from Jacob Berg,* if only for this observation:

I saw a local brewery charge $65 for a bottle of stout at a pop-up event in the city. Not for a case of stout, but for one 500ml bottle. Do what you want with your money, but that’s foolish.

Jeff has posted a very good post on three themes, including the plight of writers. I agree and entirely sympathize with his point of view except that he references writers “augmenting their income with the kind of work… that journalistic ethics once forbade.” My quibble is only this: that ethical construct still forbids them. It reminded me of the slightly cringe inducing line in the latest NAGBW newsletter:

Like our work as journalists, there are always ways we can improve what we do.

“Our”? I get it but a long time ago when we discussed these things, it was pretty clear actual beer journalism was a rare bird. But, like “expert,” it is an attractive and compelling form of calling card inflation that gets trotted out from time to time. Remember only this: it is good** to be a beer writer as that includes many wonderful categories: historian, novelist, PR, essayist, commentator, poet and journalist amongst many others.  Many folk undertake more than one style of writing and, yes, many do take on journalism from time to time. But it is still a relatively rare bird compared  to the overall scene. If we accept that, then we can release ourselves from the ethical quagmire and relish the prospect of spending time with Evan Rail like he tweeted about this very week:

I just gave a fun Prague tour to a lovely American couple. And last month I spoke about Czech beer to 20 US & Canadian brewers on behalf of the Foreign Ministry. If you’d like me to talk to your group, host a tasting or take you on a tour, please get in touch. We’ll have a blast.

Beer journalist Josh Noel has shared news of a Goose Island brewery contest in response to the hometown Bears gut wrenching loss on a missed field goal on Sunday:

The brewery announced on social media Monday night that it would do its part to help fans understand the difficulty of nailing a 43-yard field goal. The prize? A free case of beer each week for a year for anyone who makes the kick.

I tweeted how this was something exactly up my alley, being a fat middle-aged 1970s field goal kicking survivor myself. Interestingly, two tweets on the question of journalism are more to the point than my glory days dreaming. First, there was a direct discussion between the Michael K or the social media intern at GBH which was more than a little clumsy and ham-fisted leading to the wonderful response: “[w]hatever else you do, please keep calling me Joel.” And then  less directly we had this slightly cryptic comment ending with “[b]ut that’s JOURNALISM for you“*** which I am sure I am too young to understand fully. My point (again) is only this. It is one thing among others. It is by far not the only thing and perhaps the thing you do not want to aspire to with your writing.

Enough!!! A few short items to close with:

 – Science: by 1967, someone had created a beer can tab opening resistance testing machine.

 – Predictions for 2019 are now coming in, like this one from BeerCrunchers2.0 blog suggesting the death of certain things, like high lactose beers, is either certain or, like Brut IPA, certified too soon. See, too, this wish list from @beerwithnat.

 – ATJ wrote a wonderfully lyrical vignette for the Telegraph of London on a pub named The Barley Mow.

 – The BBC Culture has provided us all with a bit on the Green Man, explaining the name behind many pubs.

 – One last look at the best of 2018 from Retired Martin with some extraordinarily Dadaesque photos.

 – A h/t to Merryn for “Botanical evidence of malt for beer production in fifth–seventh century Uppåkra, Sweden“!

 – I cannot find much drive within myself to take on Mr. B’s call to celebrate the flagship in February (given I am pretty sure we started giving them up for a reason) but your mileage may differ. Master Polk, for example, is positively enchanted.

There you have it. Busy. Another week on and soon it will be mid-month. Get your garden seeds now. In a couple of weeks it will be too late to start your asparagus patch for 2022 harvesting. You know how long they take to establish, right? Meantime, check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday.

*Librarian.  co-editor.
**And, frankly, good enough.
***And the story (more essay than journalism) itself is quite good although we perhaps still suffer from the GBH two sides (“…You can have no issues with burlesque. It’s feminist expression, that’s fine…“) even when we are talking pretty obvious sexist piggery. It all reminds me of CBC 2015 at Portland where sexism seemed to be cool and apologists were many.

The First Thursday Beer News, Resolutions And Gnawing Regrets For 2019

One eye on the beer, one eye on you!

Wasn’t that fun? New Year’s Eve = The Worst Holiday Eh Ver. I had promised myself I would be nicer again this year* but I honestly found this holiday more boring than usual. Was it because it was on a Monday? Because it rained? I was holiday-ed out? You decide. I did drink a wee bit but we stayed in. I sipped on an insanely** cheap Belgian beer throughout the day and shared a swell bottle of Ontario Riesling in the evening.  Defrosted grocery store pastries shared about the family room. Wooo!!!

Anyway, here we are: 2019. Big news so far? The Trump shutdown of the US Federal government has halted the breakneck manic approval of more and more, newer and newer transient ephemeral brands of craft beer, the amnesiac mainstay of the trade over the last few years. So he can’t be all bad. Not unrelated, David Frum also linked Trump to craft crusaders this week. Slightly related, U.S. Sen. and potential Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren appears to have done herself a beer-related injury.

I am absolutely gutted that I did not follow the DrinkablongwithRon 2018. What sort of animal have I become? I even had string. I did notice that noted British beer writer Jeff Evans announced he is pulling the plug on his website:

A short message re Inside Beer. After ten years, I’ve decided to close the Inside Beer website, due to other pressing commitments. The site will stay live for a few more weeks but will not be updated. This Twitter account remains open. Thanks to everyone for their support. HNY!

I note this not only for the update but to capture Martyn’s keen observation: the move is related to Jeff getting a more attractive opportunity. No doubt more to come on what that turns out to be.

One thing I did do in 2018 was avoiding Brut IPA altogether… along with glitter beer, that one month flashpoint. Never had nuttin’ of neither. I’m still coping with kettle sours. The New York Times, being generally more useful, has provided us with a helpful if brief study of its local BeePah action:

It’s taken a little over a year for Brut I.P.A., a new style of India Pale Ale, to sweep through the craft-brewing community. The name is a reference to brut, a dry Champagne. By all accounts, it was created by Kim Sturdavant, the brewmaster of Social Kitchen and Brewery in San Francisco, who used amyloglucosidase, or AMG, to remove the sugars in an I.P.A. AMG is an enzyme usually added to make light beers and to balance big beers like imperial stouts.

More of the best of the new? Ed posted the most honest Golden Pints ever. Mashtun and Meow’s were filled with fun and gratitude. More GP18 here. In other beer writing news and opinion, Matt is laying off the sauce. Crystal is off the sauce, too. BeerAdvocate reminded each of us to ask ourselves… why not lay off the sauce?  And Tandy Man asked about another sort of laying things aside:

It has been a very quiet year for the blog for many reasons. I have had the passing of my mother to contend with, been very busy with beery things here in Rochdale, Oldham and Bury and latterly in Manchester for Manchester Beer and Cider Festival. But I don’t think it the main reason. I just couldn’t be bothered. Little inspired me frankly.  Some things interested me, but overall, just all a bit flat. Like a London pint.

I suppose it’s been obvious that creative beer writing has not been quite as interesting over the last couple of years as it was in its hay day (given all the jostling to be Bernstein and Wordward, pretendy or otherwise) but it’s important to be OK… be just OK, like the man above,† with the idea that one can be neither a craft PR type pushing for greater collective boosterism or sitting looking in the mirror, finding yourself admitting you are are cutting back for health reasons. While Stan may be right, that beer reading has been rather spare the last couple of weeks, there is still that great big middle ground to write about and it is full of interesting things worth exploring and sharing your ideas. So while I won’t be confused anytime soon for a #beerpositive**** supporter, Polk is on the right track.

Say – speaking about drinking and health, this is an excellent article worth considering because it’s written by a wine writer and judge who is also a liver disorder specialist. He poses the question this way:

I believe advice that everyone should have at least two alcohol free days a week is a well-intentioned effort to combat the enormous adverse impact that alcohol has on some individuals’ health and well-being. The question, of course, is whether that strategy will be effective in reducing the well-known damages of excessive drinking to individuals and society: liver disease, neurologic problems, socially unacceptable behaviour, and driving under the influence, to name just a few.

See that? “Well-known”… which means if you don’t believe it you are participating in something like climate change denial.***

New booze laws for 2019? That’s what you showed up for, right? I left it for last. Big news is how the crowds at the next World Cup will face plumped up booze taxes:

In an effort to make their country healthier, authorities in Qatar have introduced new taxes. But with the World Cup just round the corner, fans around the world will be raising their eyebrows almost as high as the new prices for booze. That’s because the Gulf state has added 100% to the cost of alcohol – seeing a crate of 24 beers now retail for £82 and a bottle of gin set you back and astonishing £73.

Other new laws include unintelligible changes to craft distiller operations in California, relaxed retailer rules in Tennessee and Colorado, tougher drink driving laws in Ontario, and a booze crackdown in Turkmenistan.

Well, that’s enough for now. Can’t give away all the good stuff on the first Thursday. Predictions? What will happen in 2019 otherwise? Ask me in 12 months. What’s happening Friday and on the weekend? Go ask Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Friday.

Don’t be looking for the linked connection down here…
*I don’t mean that I will be even nicer, just that again I promise… only to fail.
**I have no idea how this gets shipped to Canada for such a low price. Does it come by tramp steamer with no guaranteed delivery date?
***And for God’s sake stop taking about a J-curve. You just look silly.
****#beerrealism is much more interesting. #ThinkingAboutDrinking, too. And I need to get my own butt in gear. Frankly, more than anything, I blame me.
*****Ben predicts on three topics, and does so rather well. On the most interesting topic, DME, the main question I have is not one really asked yet except in discussions on the QT. Something is afoot – as the story so far is not right. The other question I have I will ask: how much of the deposit money was borrowed and how much was actual saved cash. If the former, the ripples will spread much more widely. Who will lend for such equipment now? If the latter, perhaps spare me a full throttle application of the broke craft owner motif next time we meet. But, as Ben’s gathered threads ask by implication, think on the fate of Texas’s Big Bend Brewing Co., now closed due to $1 million lost to DME and the others who may soon follow. 

The Last Thursday Beery News Updates For 2018

Not the last updates, just the last Thursday updates.* Don’t hope for much. But, given this my weekly function, is dependent on the efforts of others, well, I blame you. Me, I’ve been getting my calories elsewhere – roastie totties soaked in herby olive oil, fruit cakes and cookies.  And actual pheasant gravy made by me which I am now adding to my diet on a regular basis.** I trust you had your sprouts. Photo of the week, above, is from Old Mudgie of the cat awaiting its sprouts. By the way, I hope you are enjoying your holidays if you are having holidays. And enjoying them more than this sad lad who wrote a letter to The Telegraph.

Matty C in NZ posted his best or favorite of 2018, including beers. Which crystallized a concern of mine. Or at least a question. Like 99% of you, I had no access to most of these drinks. Reviews, as a result, are fairly useless to me practically speaking. I thought about how most pop culture events are defined by mass participation. Being a fan of a musician or a addict for a certain sports team – even a minor league one – means you have something in common with others. Not quite so with good beer. Yet, beer has not quite fragmented into the natural local scene and discourse. There’s a thought for  2019.

Roger Protz shared some wonderful news this week. Black Sheep Brewery of Yorkshire has saved its neighbour the York Brewery by taking it over:

The acquisition, which was facilitated by joint Administrators, Steven Muncaster and Sarah Bell of Duff & Phelps Ltd, builds on a positive year for Black Sheep, which returned to profit in 2018. Andy Slee, chairman of Black Sheep… says: “This acquisition fits perfectly with our strategy of developing our presence in our Yorkshire heartland and owning pubs. 

Black Sheep not only used to show up at the LCBO but it featured on a fabulous episode of the Two Fat Ladies twenty years ago – and I own a York Brewery necktie. So my joy is utterly natural.

Andy Crouch, whose word I generally take, praises a beer podcast of all things. Joe Stange, whose word I generally take, is involvedOne More Road For The Beer focuses on one beer locale at a time and promises not to be about drive-by slightly appropriative beery tourism by people who do not live in the locale.

So much for the eternal revolution:

Police in Greater Manchester have told a pub to take down its picture of Che Guevara, a landlord has alleged. Geoff Oliver, who owns The Sportsman in Hyde, claimed at the weekend that he may face a criminal investigation for displaying a photo of the revolutionary in his pub window.

Apparently complaints had been made about the displaying of an image of a terrorist. Who amongst us have not admired someone that is labeled by another? I assume there are Che Guevara themed pubs hidden up allies and behind trees world wide. And Maggie Thatcher ones, too. I was once a parade spectator in nearby northern NY and witnessed a children’s parade led by someone dressed as Napoleon leading the whole thing! No one got my suggested comparisons to similarly inappropriate 20th century military dictators.

No you don’t, not in Nigeria’s Kano State:

The Kano State government’s Hisbah Board has seized and destroyed more than 30 trailer loads of beer. The board’s Public Relations Officer, Malam Adamu Yahaya, disclosed this in a statement in Kano yesterday. Yahaya said that the cartons of beer were destroyed on Monday evening after interception at Kalebawa on Danbata Road in Dawakin Tofa area.

I might point out that 30 trailer loads is a lot of beer but I think you might have noticed that already. Perhaps related.

Like 87% of the planet, I have been following The Times of London reporter Katie Glass tweeting her travels from Moscow to Beijing which started Christmas Eve as I stuff my gob with fruit cake and sherry. While all her “wows!” over the Siberian landscape only make me ask the question of why this person has never visited northern New Brunswick, I was particularly taken by her photos from a shop at one minor train station stop east of Novosibirsk and the blend of international and national  beer brands in the fridge. Because, I suppose, while I do not care for drive-by slightly appropriative beery tourism by people who do not live in the locale I must like train-by slightly appropriative beery tourism by people who do not live in the locale.

Ontario’s LCBO and The Beer Store have branches open this Boxing Day. I hate this idea. Boxing Day is for panicked scrounging as we lock down all commercial and even community activity. Time was no money exchanged hands from 3 pm on the 24th to 9 am on the 27th. I assumed the dry vermouth industry was behind it, given that was all the liquor that was left by late on the 26th.

As viewed from the outside, US craft stands in existential crisis at year end:

If you needed any further proof of the difficult straits in which the craft beer industry finds itself, look no further than the latest change to the Brewers Association’s definition of craft beer. No longer must a brewery use the traditional ingredients that have laid at the heart of brewing for so long — now it just needs to make beer in some quantity. Otherwise pretty much anything goes.

Exactly: “…just needs to make beer in some quantity…” Sort of a twin, a bookend for the news that regulatory near beer has ended in Colorado.

Bonus Update: pub bans “saboteurs or vegans” and then receives the grief from vegans. No word from saboteurs.

And, well, that is where the year ends for me.  Have a Happy Hogmanay! I hope you don’t get too loaded and embarrassing this New Year’s Eve. Be good instead. I personally expect to be in bed by ten, scarred as I have been, ever since the 12:00:01 AM 1 January 1999 live version of “Auld Land Syne” by Gordon Lightfoot on CBC TV.  The horror…

*Check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on New Year’s Eve.
**One frozen $20 bird seems to have made a big contribution to three meals.

Merry Christmas Beer News Updates Everyone!

This is going to be great. A weekly news update laced with the holiday spirit. Everything is going to be wonderful and swell. The one and only problem seems to be that I seem to have some sort of new sys admin tool on the bloggy app of mine so bear with me if this all ends up looking like a dog’s dinner* or… thinking of this season of Yule… the day after Christmas dinner with distant cousins!  Footnotes and embedded images seems to be a hassle. Fabulous.**

Anyway, the first gift I offer is the photo of the week above, found on Twitter under the heading “Matchbox Covers Depicting Drunk Cats by Artists Arna Miller and Ravi Zupa.” Cats have always struck me as a struggling species. You can find more images of beer loving hardly coping cats with serious drinking issues by Miller and Zupe here.

Next up, the new government of Ontario has its own gift for us all – a plan to distract us all from the important business of the day to ask us how liquor retailing should be changed! Wow!! The survey even comes with a dumb name, “Alcohol choice and convenience for the people”… which has everyone wondering when the same survey is going to be rolled out for, you know, squirrels and chipmunks.  Or drunken barely coping cats. Fill it out if you like. Even you! Apparently  they are interested in views from beyond Ontario, given that is one of the possible responses. Thanks for skewing the responses to my detriment.

I like this video of Garrett Oliver plunked on YouTube by Epicurious magazine. He demonstrates a wonderful ease with explaining beer. It is unfortunately presented in a way that suggests it’s macro v. micro. I’d prefer some crap craft bashing. He also talks about relative value – but presents some some odd arguments. No, a craft IPA does not cost $4 rather than $1 because of the hops. And a good German malty beer is not double the price of a poor one due to the cost of the malt. There is much more to price and, yes,  not all as easy to explain – but his general argument that good costs more is there and welcomingly well presented. 

Jeff has unpacked how Beervana pays its way:

A little less than two years ago, I began running an experiment here when I took on Guinness as a sponsor. In July, we signed a contract for a third year of sponsorship, which will run through June 2019. This is a slightly different model than the subscriptions Josh describes, but the upshot is the same: the idea was to find a partner who saw value in the site and wanted to reach my very specific, engaged readers.

This is good. Open and honest. And we few remaining actual bloggers need to support each other, knowing how hard it is to make a buck writing one of these things… or just finding the time or accessing the resources you want for the research you want to do. Not unrelated: self-inflicted expertise extrapolation? Heavens to Betsy! Let the man think out loud.

Speaking of supporting our fellow bloggers, Robin ran into Canada’s newest jam blogger in the market the other day. He’s very keen on new content creation

The British Guild of Beer Writers has published a list of the best beer books of 2018. The trouble is it seems to be a list of all the beer books published by guild members from 2018. There’s twenty-six books listed, some of which were published years ago – even under other titles. Decisive selection. The best book of the year is not included. 

Conversely, Max in a single not necessarily beautiful image posted on Facebook has told a thousand words… and then added a few words: “…’twas good. ’twas very good, and the second one too. Pivovar Clock Hector at Pivni Zastavka…” The only thing that defies scientific knowledge is how the glass shows multiple lacy rings, each matching a gulp while we all expect that he downed it in one go.

It is an important observation on how useless the US Brewers Association’s definition of “craft brewer” has gotten that it acts as filler for the weekly update only after I have hit 750 words. Jeff notes how it is now entirely related to accommodating one non-craft brewer. Wag that I am, I retorted *** that it no longer requires a brewer to actually brew very much beer.  There. That’s all it means. 

Related: an honest man in Trumps new America or the root of the problem?

This week, Merryn (i) learned not to want to be a medieval farmer and (ii) linked to a 2013 web-based data presentation about Viking brew houses which I am linking to here for future Newfoundland reference but it’s totally today…  so there you go.

Finally, how about some law? This speaks nothing to the people or the business involved but I have no idea how I might determining whether to consider sending string-free cash to a cause like this one:

We know that the decision to invest your hard-earned money is not to be taken lightly, no matter how big or small your contribution may be. We would gratefully use the funds to assist with legal fees, as we continue to protect ourselves, our name, our businesses, and our team. We are looking for and in need of building a legal fund that will provide for our past, present and future legal demands, as a rapidly growing grassroots craft beer franchise system. 

The legal issue appears to be mainly legal dispute with their franchiees. I have no idea who is right and who is wrong. Craft makes it extra blurry. Having advised upon franchise agreements in my past private practice, I would not want to suggest where the right sits. Often in the middle.

Relatedly perhaps, Lew asked about unionization and proper wages for craft brewery workers and got an ear full on Facebook.

Well, on that cheery legal note, I will leave you for now with Jay Brooks description of how “T’was The Night Before Christmas” is really about beer. And, please dip into the archives to remind yourselves of Christmas Photo Contests past. Ah, beer blogging. Remember how fun that was? Until then, Boak and Bailey have more news on Saturday and, the Great Old Elf himself, Stan has more news on Christmas Eve. Ho. Ho. Ho. 

*where is the basic HMTL editor I knew and loved? I can’t even indent this footnote or make the asterisk a larger font than the text. What sort of animals are running WordPress??? Hmm…
**There. Killed if all by installing a “classic editor” widget.
***Yes, retorted.

My Own Golden Pints For 2018

Spurred on by the demise of The Session, I have this suspicion that beer blogging needs to be a wee bit more intentional about adhering to its own traditions. Like The Session, the Golden Pints were born in the UK during the golden age of beer blogging before anyone had a book contract and no one could sell an article to the press if their life depended on it.  I am pretty sure that I would find a version of my Golden Pints from years past if I hunted through the Wayback Machine (where much of the incidental archives of this blog sits) but Boak and Bailey have restated the format in their thoughts for 2018 so I am going to just poach and adapt their structure and see what I come up with. 

Best English… err… Local Spot. I have to admit that I have a new darling but it is not so much a pub as what really is a gastro pub: Red House West. Inventive food, a great selection of beers with a heaping measure of eastern Ontario craft, a bustling sometimes loud tone, $13 Eggs Benedict on Sundays and its in our end of town. And Labatt 50 always on tap just in case.

Best Establishment Further Afield. Like 2017, I actually did not leave the country this year. Work and college kids have their implications. I have, however traveled and was extremely pleased with Brothers Beer Bistro in Ottawa earlier this month. While not quite Quebecois in its embrace of less traditional ingredients, their two rabbit dishes I tried were fabulous and the beer selection was shockingly good.  

Best New Beer of 2018: Hmm… with so much fad and sideshow with the glitter and the brut and the haze, it really has not been a year with a lot to recommend it in terms of the new entries.  If I were to report on any change to my buying habits it’s the wave of new simple vernacular Ontario ciders made from just Ontario apple juice. Like Forbidden Dry Cider by Coffin Ridge near Owen Sound. And amongst those Millennials I actually know, a far more common preference than anything beer glittery, hazy or sour.

Best Beer Value of 2018: While at Brothers Beer Bistro, I landed first on a $9 CND Rochfort 8, a fantastic price for when one is out. We get this beer brought in by our state monopoly for wines, spirits and most imported beer for under $4 CND (under $3 USA) and is about as fine a value as you are going to find in beer. I would also give honourable mention to Napanee Brewing‘s Blacklist.

Best Blog or Internet Publication: Boak and Bailey. No real challengers. Earnest places like Beer Advocate or GBH might suggest themselves as a supply of beer journalism but never reaches the level the B+B offer seemingly from their kitchen table. Plus they provide the weekly round up, the wit, the history, observational vignettes and many other forms of writing. I suspect these two are actually about seven people backed by some shadowy investment consortium. 

Best Beer Book: There is only one this year, Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out by Josh Noel. Important beer business journalism expressed in very long form without a hint of agenda or interest. Here is my review from July. And it is thoroughly devoid of food pairing suggestions, style guide parroting or three or four figure numbers ending in “1” in the title. 

Best Beer Twitter: It’s a bit boring saying, ho-hum, @thebeernut but he’s really that fun to follow. So, that being said, I am going with Katie of @shinybiscuit – especially for her tweets about Tom. And her ever changing hair colour.

Biggest Brewing News: I think it might be the collapse of North American brewing equipment manufacturer DME if only because (1) they have sold their gear so widely, (2) there is an aspect of the role of Chinese steel in the market that needs greater understanding and (3) I have a suspicion that there is more to the story – something perhaps salacious even – than the early somewhat formulaic explorations at a distance seem to suggest.  As I noted, I know a number of those involved in the circle around the issue but there are some significant gaps still needing to be explained like why was there no provincial business development intervention… and where did all that cash go?

Best Work Done In The Cause Of Good Beer: Lars Garshol. If Boak and Bailey seem to pull of all they do from the kitchen table, Lars never seem to be home. He has discovered and described the entire works of traditional northern European kveik brewing. He is so central to the entire topic that I created #TheLawOfLars and, surprisingly, it almost made sense!

Other comments on 2018: I can’t recommend a magazine or other publication as there seems to have been a definite slump in that area. A bit of a relapse into trade PR for my tastes, no out reasonably due to those involved being constantly on survival mode. Interestingly, there has been a concurrent set changes such as magazines folding, columnists being let go, personal departures from trying to write for pay, personal writing for health reasons. A certain realism struck after years of somewhat irrational exuberance. Yet, still sad for those stuck in the middle of the problem.  

So, there you are my thoughts and, to other beer bloggers, a gauntlet drop. Let’s see what others think about the year gone by.

Your Days Dwindling Down To A Precious Few Beery News Notes

Well, it sure is getting quiet out there. I put off gathering together my thoughts until Wednesday night and, still, it felt like I’d only posted the last weekly update the day before. Christmas is a-comin’. Right off, however, I need to show you the photo of the week. To the right, tweeted out by Joe of @whatjoewrote after he wrote “making a sacred pilgrimage to a golden place today.” I love a lot about the image but probably the best is that Orval font.

Next up, Stan is finally back. Free loader Stan. Stan the travelin’ man. Stan the guy who drifts into work at 10:45 am saying wide-eyed “what? whataaa?!?” to the questioning stares.  His final roundup for The Session begs the question of why we don’t have one mega-blog and pay him to edit. Why?

Quere: if two contract brewers merge in the forest, does anybody hear?

Nothing says Yuletide like bankruptcy law news. Turns out DME, the eastern Canadian brewing equipment manufacturer, is now confirmed to be $27 million in debt of which $18 million is owed to the Royal Bank of Canada:

The entire list names more than 700 creditors between DME’s operations in Charlottetown and Abbotsford, B.C. The creditors list includes companies from around the world, along with individuals and government agencies. More than 50 of the companies owed money are on P.E.I., along with approximately 140 people with Island addresses… Around $1 million of that is listed as being owed to P.E.I. companies. However, nearly half of the companies and individuals named in the creditors document don’t have dollar amounts listed. Those numbers still have to be determined. The final amount DME owes could change.

So far, as I mentioned last week, these are old stomping grounds and I know the receiver’s lawyer and the judge, now have fed the press backstage and even recommended counsel to international interests. And I am not even involved. Here is the list of the additional unsecured creditors. Their own lawyers are owed around $435,000. Wow. Note that the Indie Alehouse deposit is there but without a noted value. The Toronto Star reported it as being worth $800,000. Many other breweries with deposits are all there but also without a noted value. Sift the clues. Go ahead.

Responding to the news from two weeks ago that Norm was  moving away from beer, Jason Notte has posted a thread of tweets that shares his views on the affect of alcohol on the health of writers, including this one:

A few years ago, the great told me something I wasn’t ready to hear: Craft beer isn’t a trend story and beer consumption isn’t just an industry. When you see rising beer consumption and “drunkest states” listicles, there’s some hurt behind those numbers.

It’s true. You might not like it but it is true. Along those lines, perhaps in miniature, Boak and Bailey recorded a brief conversation overheard in a UK pub:

“My plan is to get back to the office after lunch absolutely hammered.”
“Blimey, careful, mate.”
“Nah, it’s fine — it’s December!”

Yikes. Yik even. To make us all feel as we should – distracted – Mark Dredge has posted some fabulous photos from Vietnam. Fabulous.

A bit less fabulously, I don’t particularly have that particular hate on for “listicles” that those never asked to write one have but this one works for me, 25 from Fortune magazine. It expressly contextualizes the selection well and also notes price. Happy to see that the Ontario’s price for #2 is 50% of what is suggested by the list. I will have my fill over the next few weeks. Ha ha! Sucks to sucks if you don’t live here.

If your brain is like mine, you might like this. Issue #163 of Brewery History has been released from behind its paywall for everyone to enjoy. The article on 15th century brewing in England is of particular interest to me but there are a range of articles to explore.

I came upon this article, no doubt funded by shadowy interests*, that argues that US tariffs on aluminum have led to an increase in reliance on US made beer cans:

President Donald Trump’s aluminum tariff won’t make beer taste better, but it’s succeeded in boosting the economy, according to a report published on Dec. 11 by the Economic Policy Institute. The research argues that tariffs imposed on aluminum and steel have led to increases in U.S. employment, production and investment.

Finally, in his big comeback** Stan did note something I myself should also address:

Boak & Bailey recently explained how they choose what to put in their Saturday lineup. In the interest of transparency, my rules are pretty arbitrary. I include links here to stories I think you should enjoy reading, either because the writing is terrific or the ideas within merit thinking about, or both. I also include links to stories I simply want to comment on.

Me?  I don’t really think of you. I think of the news as something that develops and needs tracking. Beer news needs its own aggregation. So I keep graphs. I make tables. I smoke a pack and then smoke another as Wednesday night turns into Thursday morning. I am even thinking about how Putin and Xi have minions and how once one maybe stumbled across my social medial presence. I know I am being watched. Help! No?  Look, I realize this is mid-December filler but if you think about it from my perspective, well, maybe it will make a little sense. Just a little?

That being said, there is only one more roundup before Christmas and two before this year is dead. Dead dead dead. Let’s think about that a bit before we get pounded at lunch, shall we?  A good time to reflect on things. Things like pasting together a weekly charade of a commentary on the brewing industry. Things like concerning myself more with the roasts to come rather than the giving one ought to give.

Enough from me! B+B on Saturday and Stan next Monday.

*Note: “The EPI advocates for policies favorable for low- to moderate-income families in the United States.
**What? You want every footnote to mean something?

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.