My Nova Scotia Home

I am quite proud to say I grew up in Nova Scotia as often it seems like it lives in another world where you can do things that just make sense:

Borrowing from a similar project started at the University of Toronto several years ago, the N.S. government wants its 10,000 employees to leave their desks at lunch — to eat, exercise, run errands, even power nap — in hopes of making people more productive in the afternoons. To drive the point home, the N.S. Public Service Commission sent out postcards proclaiming, “Take back the lunch break” with orders to “relax, refocus, refresh, re-energize.”

Pete Brown: The Interview

pbboI like my non-job here at A Good Beer Blog. One thing I get to do – other than never have a second beer of the same type – is meet interesting people involved with beer over the internet. Consider this exchange about beer and language between me and beer book author Pete Brown:

Pete: Hi Alan, What’s a dink?
Alan: Hmm. A dink? A dink is a minor league jerk. A child’s word for penis. Actually it has a beer angle as in the Nova Scotia of my youth a six-pack was called “a dink pack” now that I think if it. A dink is a bore who is also a newbie.

Wow. Gripping linguistic drama. More to the point was the more thoughful exchange Pete provided to questions put to him by both me and guest writer Knut of Norway. Pete (no relation to the lead singer of the illustrated Pete Brown and his Battered Ornaments) has recently published a great book on his global beer travels called Three Sheets to the Wind and Knut and I thought it would be great if we could have a few questions answered in a three-way North Atlantic quiz as part of our review of his new work. You will recall I reviewed his last beer book Man Walks Into A Pub back in July 2003. In that book Pete considered some of the trends and brewing history of Britain. In this year’s book, he takes a stab at getting a hold of the global beer culture. I will review the book separately in a few days but for now, here is the interview.


Alan: You speak quite strongly about CAMRA. We do not have an equivalent in Canada though there are outposts. In “Three Sheets to the Wind” you visit Portland Oregon and experienced an expression of the North American real ale culture and appeared to love it. How would you compare the two?

Pete: I was so surprised by the US approach to craft beer – they’re really passionate about it, and the key thing is they want you to be passionate about it as well. The thing I always say about Portland is that if I was talking to a brewer about his beers and how much I liked them, he’d tell me six other beers from “competitive” brewers that I should also try. When I go to CAMRA events, I always get the sense that if you don’t already know what you like, there’s very little effort made to draw you in and help you. This is starting to change now, but there’s still an attitude about “I know more than you.” In North America, it’s more like, “I want you to know as much as me.”

Knut: Do you think CAMRA still could be used as a platform to fight for good beer, or have they painted themselves too much into a corner? Could an alternative be to start anew, based on a support for new and coming micro breweries instead of focusing on the techicalities of brewing?

Pete: Of the two alternatives, the one I’d like to see is that CAMRA reform themselves. They’ve got a terrible image problem, but they have so much stock in terms of public awareness, I still think they’re very powerful. As I’ve hung around the beer scene longer I’ve got to know more people. There are a great many executives within CAMRA who have exactly the right ideas, who know they need to reform in order to move forward – and they’re really nice people. But policy is dictated by committee and volunteers, and a lot of these guys are just professional activists – it’s not enough to be for something, you also have to be against something. I believe a lot of these guys couldn’t give a shit about getting more people into great-tasting beer; they simply enjoy the process of arguing about technicalities and being pissed off for a living. I’d like to believe the more sensible factions will eventually win the day, and we’re seeing some signs of CAMRA taking steps into the twenty first century, but there’s still a long way to go. The biggest problem is that CAMRA hardliners interpret any criticism of CAMRA as a criticism of cask ale, which is not only wrong, it’s breathtakingly arrogant, and kind of stops any really useful constructive debate from emerging.

Knut: After travelling the world, where do you see the best potential for beer tourism? I know Ireland has managed to do this based on one beer (!), and you have the mass hordes descending on Munich. But how about bicycling holidays in Bamberg and Denmark, micro breweries offering bed, breakfast and rare cask ales etc?

Pete: I’d love to see that in loads of countries. What I’m discovering now is that you can stick a pin in a map, and there’ll be interesting, often new, breweries not very far away. But I think in terms of holidays, you’d start with Belgium. I’ve been back a few times now since I went there for Three Sheets, and you can go from village to village, each with its own brewery, trying amazing beers, and it’s beautiful country – at least when the sun is shining!

Knut: Carlsberg is responding to the challenge of craft beers by a) trying to control the Danish import market and b) by setting up a micro of their own, putting a lot of prestige in it and linking it up with their brewery tours. Is this the way to go for the other big European brewers?

Pete: I think so. Big corporations in any market tend to play to the lowest common denominator with consumer tastes. You forget that to get a job as a brewer in a really big brewery, you have to be at the top of your game – the people who brew Budweiser are some of the best brewers in the world! What Carlsberg have done is give their brewers a bit of creative freedom and – surprise surprise – people can’t get enough of it. In the US, Anheuser Busch are responding to the growth of craft beers by launching some of their own, and much as I hate to say it, some of them are very good – they would be. The only thing that worries me is when big corporations react by simply trying to strangle interesting small breweries, denying them distribution and so on. This is very idealistic of me, but I wish brewers would simply let their beer do the talking – produce the best beer you can and try to sell more than your smaller competitors without resorting to dirty, underhand tactics.

Alan: I have been trying to figure out how you would approach Canadian beer culture. For me, so much about beer is centered on the kitchen party, the garage fridge or the cottage/camp as opposed to the pub or bar. In his book “Travels with Barley”, Ken Wells notes that bar bought beer in the US has gone from 75% of all sales to 25% over the last 20 years. This is a startling figure. Do you see this as a global trend? Do you also see that these sorts of home-based drinking is something that you ought to include if you extend you study to a “Son of Three Sheets to the Wind”?

Pete: That would be a great idea! An excuse to go and do the whole trip again. What we see now across the world is a consistent set of trends in markets that are “mature”, where beer has been around for ages, and a different pattern in new and emerging markets, such as Asia and Russia. In mature markets there’s a general thing about “staying in is the new going out” – we spend a greater portion of our money on interior design, big screen TVs, Playstations, cookbooks and so on – we invite friends over more than arranging to meet up with them. I think the pub or bar will always be the gold standard – you’re getting a whole experience, not just a beer. But we will all increasingly be doing more of our drinking at home.

Alan: Your references to cultures with respect for or even celebration of the three-beer buzz is really interesting to me. How, though, can an industry promote the idea that what I might call “getting a jag on” rather than “getting loaded” is the point of beer and one that we should all embrace? Doesn’t english-speaking puritanism somewhat snooker that opportunity leaving beer prone to being effectively represented as something you take to enter a fantasty land of TV advertised sports, pals and bikini-clad teens?

Pete: The reason people drink beer is to help social interaction – and you’re not allowed to say this, or even hint at it, in any promotion or advertising for beer – it’s one category where you are not allowed to tell the truth about the main product benefit. But I’ve done quite a bit of work in the UK on this subject. Many brewers now are pushing these “please drink responsibly” messages, which is fine, but a lot of people are drinking precisely because they want a break from behaving responsibly all the time. We need people to show that moderate drinking can actually be fun, rather than simply telling people not to drink as much. There’s a new campaign in the UK by Amstel that does a half-decent job of this. It ties the beer back to the laid-back attitude of the Dutch, and has lines like “drinking is just something we do between talking”, and “why rush your beer? The bar is open all night.” I think there’s a lot more that could be done along these lines. I’d like to see campaigns focusing on sentiments like “surely the best nights out are the ones you can remember.”

Again with the “Wow!” It is amazing no one is pouring big advertising money down upon my head with quality stuff like this. We remain open to offers.A big thanks to Pete for both his book and his time as well as to Knut who is one of the guys who make this beer writing stuff fun. As I said, a proper review of Three Sheets to the Wind will be up in a few days.

Week Four With Brendan Carney

OK, I have to admit I missed the game on TV as I was at the concert. And then I never got around to figuring out how Brendan did in the 34-14 win over Miami of Ohio. Our man does not appear in any of the reports I can find even though his performance was a notch above of last week. Most of the focus is on the loss of the surprisingly good Taj Smith. There was this exchange in the Syracuse Post’s sports mailbag:

[Comment]…Finally, say what you want about Brendan Carney – he rarely delivers the big kick when you need it most – that will keep him out of the NFL….

[Answer]…As for Brendan Carney, I exchange emails with one fan that absolutely hates him. But consider this – Miami had one of the top punt returners in the nation in Ryne Robinson. Did you know Robinson did not have a single return in the game? Carney either got hang time to force a fair catch or kicked them away from Robinson. – DW

Attaboy. Carney is doing everything that is asked of him and puts the “N” in orange as far as I am concerned. Here are his numbers for 23 September:


In 20

My eldest brother was telling me to mix up the photos in this series and I said no. Then I read that Sophomore Patrick Shadle for SU was named Big East Special Teams Player of the Week after popping two field goals to average 1.5 a game. And who holds the ball? Mr Unsung Hero, Number 47.

Next week, we are live at the Carrier Dome for the Wyoming game. Woot. If you want to say hi, I will be the guy in the orange t-shirt in the cheap seats.

More Brendan Carney here.

Cheese 2020

Just so we are clear, I am pro-cheese. I use these little observational techniques like what if it was like this and then – voom – nothing but emails from cheesemakers. But do they hold Cheese 2020 think tank get togethers, too?

The internet will be a thriving, low-cost network of billions of devices by 2020, says a major survey of leading technology thinkers… More than half of respondents had a positive vision of the net’s future but 46% had serious reservations. Almost 60% said that a counter culture of Luddites would emerge, some resorting to violence.

That is odd. Seeing as the persent lot of luddites who would terrorize us back into the medieval rely largely upon the internet to discuss this way and that way to remove rights though violence, why would they attack the internet? Where can this foolisness being coming from?

“Today’s eco-terrorists are the harbingers of this likely trend,” wrote Ed Lyell, an expert on the internet and education. “Every age has a small percentage that cling to an overrated past of low technology, low energy, lifestyle.”

“Of course there will be more Unabombers,” wrote Cory Doctorow of blog BoingBoing. Some commentators felt that the violence would either be tied to the effects of technology, rather than the technology itself, or possibly civil action around issues such as privacy.

Oh. My. God. Cory figured out a new one. And soon Dave Winer will take credit for it. [Ed.: rimshot! Yawn.] Of course there will be more. How else to get on conference speaker lists? There really should be a 20% of a year’s income deposit for these sorts of statements. If only because they should be pulled out and made accountable. And you should have to make six- and eighteen-month predictions along with the long term ones so we can judge the actual skills of the foreshadowing futurist. And for the creation and neato-sourcing of an idea like “the Unabomber of the Internet” so that 27 jerks can now start day dreaming about it.


We really ought to be scientific about it. All we need to do is address what is wrong with the day and respond directly to that. Then we would be relieved of both the moany groanings of pop tunes about having to get up yet we would want to get up.

Whatever it is, whatever the condition, it gets worse as autumn comes. Mybe it is the cloud formations. Coming back down 416 and the 401 – as only the 401 should get the “the” – there were ribbons of cloud running north-west to south-east insterspering rain with blue sky every five miles. Disconcerting it was all that structure in the sky. They cared nothing for my cares.

Beer Shop: Marché Jovi, Gatineau, Quebec

A run to Ottawa to see the Billy Bragg show on Saturday meant the opportunity to do a Sunday morning run to one of the better shops in Western Quebec for craft beer, Marché Jovi in Gatineau, Quebec. The shop is handy for anyone near Ottawa’s Island Park Drive and the bridge to the other side and sits near the gate of Gatineau Park.

Inside you are met with one of the tidiest depanneurs I have ever come across. I asked if I was able to take some pictures and, one bien sur later, was being escorted around the place by a very friendly guy in a dapper white grocer’s jacket. He was proud to show of the selection, let me know that there was new stock coming in and took particular pride in noting the selection of glassware – quite the thing for what you would think was a corner store – and the fact that the regular customers were quite knowledgable in their correct use. I also picked up a copy of the autumn issue of Le Sous-Verre: L’actuality de la biere!, a free craft beer newspaper out of Montreal…a review of which Google has butchered in translation here.





As Blork noted almost two years ago now, buying beer in Quebec is similar to much of the States. You can get your beer and your corn flakes and your milk all in one stop. Usually this means one large stack of macro brew – as it does most place in the states – but where the owners have imagination and the knowledge, you can create a small oasis like you find at the Galeville Grocery near Syracuse or in pretty much any place in Portland Maine. Usually it also means a walk in cooler.





Most of the stock was Quebec products including macrobrews (inlcuding Labatt Porter) but also many craft beer from breweries like Unibroue, Saint-Arnould, Les Brasseurs RJ, Ferme-Brasserie Schoune. Blork has already reviewed the white beer made by each of the last three. I picked up mixes sixes from Saint-Arnould and Schoune for ten bucks each as well as a couple of large format imports from Saint Sylvestre of France (on special for $5.79) as well as a 330 ml Floreffe dubble from Belgium. Interesting to note that Blonde d’Achouffe is being brewed by license by Les Brasseurs RJ and was included in their six pack.

I would definitely go again, especially with the indication that there were going to be additions to the stock on a regular basis. Clean and helpful with a good selection and good price. What ele could you want from a corner store?

Billy Bragg, Ottawa Concert

So we went to see Billy Bragg in Ottawa last night, eighteen years since the last time when I got the t-shirt and taught Bill suffleboard during a break in a sound check as I held the best table in the place all afternoon. I actually turned down free Sloan tickets a few days earlier as I learned my lesson about the ringing of ears from three years ago. It was a good move as the setting for the Bragg show was great. We got there a bit early and I saw everyone heading for the balcony and the stage I look around and, as God is my witness, there was a sofa and an armchair at the back.

So there I am at the back of the crowd in an armchair. Everytime I feel like having a peek, there is Bill about a hundred feet or so on the stage of the smallish venue and seeing that he is still in a red shirt with a guitar I can sit back down again. My neighbours were similarly comforted by the sofa. A little farther away we were at first slagged for our lack of rocking out effort but then, due to out firm plan to stay comfortable, we got all our cred back and more. Best of all was this honking great big table thing that kept the mob largely from us so that we were not forced into the “my space / your space” argument. Towards the end others were telling me what was going on, who had a lighter up, what Billy was doing with his hands. Very comfy and not unlike if he and 500 people had come over to my house for a concert.

It was all good plenty of early stuff like “New England” and World Turned Upside Down”. It got very sing-along music hall after a while with good story telling and a bit of yap back with the crowd. The theme of goat pee moved through the stories and, during the encore, he sort of lost it when “Sexuality” became “Beastiality” as he giggled and had to stop. Very chummy, though the last sentence probably means you had to be there for that bit. He mixed up the lyrics up dating political tunes with current facts. He also did a mix on “England, Half English” to the tune of and with the first verse of the traditional English song “John Barleycorn“. Perhaps odd to see that I was likely in the middle of the crowd in terms of age. Most photos too shakey. Good two-hour set. The ears do not ring.

One last thing that I found interesting is how he made good fun of bloggers who would be doing what I was doing here but then was on and on about YouTube. Hampsters eating a cookie and animals that talk got about an eight minute monologue. YouTube is killing blogs because it is easier and offers value for less effort.

My New KSPC Hat




It came in the mail today. My 7-1/2 hand made wool 1950s Kansas City hat. This is one serious hat. Leather rim on the inside. Warm real wool on my head. All organic, it’s like having something alive on your head, settling in and finding its place as it learns your real needs.

This is a fine fine hat for the Kingston Society for Playing Catch to consider as its model for this year, not far off this suggestion. A fine hat to listen to Darcey’s Friday night Blues and Beer or NCPR’s The Folk Show under. Well made by the Cooperstown Ballcap Co. Their Keokuk Colonels 1960 cap would make another fine selection as a KSPC hat.

Friday: Chat. Pleeeeeeeeeeese.

Is it summer or fall? I have no idea. I put the furnace on last evening as much to deal with the damp from the rain. It worked. It worked without making a clang, a thump or a low grinding noise of any sort.

  • This will likely be the news of the day as reported in the Times of India:

    Islamabad’s delicate ties with the United States is threatening to come apart at the seams after it was revealed Thursday that the Bush administration threatened to bomb Pakistan into the ”stone age” if it did not cooperate in the war on terror after 9/11.

    If it actually was said, one has to admire what can only be a Frintstones reference working its way into global politics. Given that the government of Pakistan has now signed a cease-fire deal with Taliban militants in North Waziristan, one should pay attention to Pakistan’s military ruler Pervez Musharraf a little more closely than we may have been.

  • Last night, the Red Sox played the game that they wished they had played all year, beating Minnesota six to nuttin’. Big Papi got two homers and Josh Beckett was incredibly sharp for an eight-inning shutout performance. Beckett had the string on the ball thing happening, pulling inside fastballs back to just nick the plate.
  • I want my roll-up computer monitor. Life will be better with a roll-up computer monitor.
  • I think Steve did a good job:

    The Prime Minister made the remarks yesterday during his maiden UN speech, which he also used to reinforce the challenges faced in rebuilding Afghanistan and rooting out the Taliban. He said the world community must stay united, lest division make the mission harder for Canada, which has 2,300 troops in the country and will soon have 2,500. “We have no illusions about the difficulties that still lie before us,” Mr. Harper said. “Difficulties don’t daunt us. But lack of common purpose and will in this body would.”

    Interesting to note the demand that everyone seems to have all of a sudden to make the UN work. So much for rejection of world order. Conversly, I had an Ezra Levant article imposed upon me in on of those legal trade magazines yesterday going on dopey-wise about how the supposedly successful Isreali battle in Lebanon this summer showed how international law and action is a fraud – no one told the nation apparently. I guess there was some delay between writing and publishing or maybe just a delay between brain and keyboard. But I suppose when you can come up with great junior-high phrases like “moral ghoulishness” and then build a political theory around it, you have to be given newspaper and magazine column space…right? This one is gold: “Are you a September 10th person or a September 11th person?” By this he clearly means do you agree with me or disagree with me but loads the latter with a truck load of moral superiority that cannot be questioned. Go ahead and question…and watch out for people who award themselves the moral gold star in any discussion.

  • Somewhere there is a scientist saying “why do magnets always get the rap? This had nothing to do with magnets yet there it is: Magnetic train crashes in Germany“. Time we spoke out against the thin veneer that rests over the anti-magnetism we all share but speak not of.

That’s it – gotta go to work now.