Tonight Is The Night To Drink Like A Finn!

finnHave I ever told you my Finnish joke? I heard it years ago on a BBC World Service show on the cultural nature of Finns. The joke goes like this. Two Finns go to a cabin in the woods for a week of drinking. On the second day one Finn says to the other “shouldn’t we have something to eat?” to which he received the reply “did we come here to drink or to talk?”


I’ve been fascinated by Finland ever since I read all those John Le Carre spy novels about people crossing, hiding near or being shot at the Soviet Finnish border. When I was a backpacking kid in the 1980s, my Parisian hotelier upon hearing we were disembarking for Luxembourg suggested we might as well go to Finland if we were intent on finding a true absence of anything interesting. Yet we learn today that it is “Vapunaatto” or “Walpurgis Night.” I think I have heard of the latter but I have apparently been operating under the assumption that former was a Micronesian island state.


Well it turns out that I was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see as now I know that today in Finland as well as eastern Scandinavia and Germany, this is party night. Plenty more details are here and here and here and here but essentially you have to wear a student cap on your head (as illustrated), put on your old style spyfrack or “vomit frock” and head out into the pasty crowd for some good old gorging on sima, a homemade mead carbonated with yeast. The BBC reports:

The students use the festival as an opportunity to get blind drunk, and in the capital, Helsinki, tradition sees the “capping” of the statue of the mermaid Havis Amanda (the “darling of the sea”) spraying her with champagne and adding soap to the fountain at her feet to signal start of the party!

What good fun! It appears to be May Eve or the beginning of spring…or the end of college…or the “hey is that sima!” festival.

Group Project: Do We Love Biofuels Or Hate Them?

Finally. A new crop farmers can grow – even in the third world – that the industrialized nations a desperate to get their hands on. But all is not well with biofuels. We should have heeded the warning of The House Martins from twenty years ago:

Me and the farmer get on fine,
Through stormy weather and bottles of wine,
If I pull my weight he’ll treat me well
But if I’m late he’ll give me hell.

And though it’s all hard work no play,
Farmer is a happy crook,
Jesus hates him everyday,
‘Cause Jesus gave and farmer took.

Actually, I have no idea what that song means except it’s the only theologically anti-farmer song I know.

The pinch is being felt in the land of beer where prices are rising as there has been a shift from planting barley to malt to other crops to turn into automobile fodder. There has been some indication that there may be an increase in general planting as the marketplace adjusts in response but the effect on food crops has caused the UN to warn a year ago and now scramble to find enough for people to eat at an affordable price. And our Canadian House of Commons is grappling with how last year’s darling has so quickly turned into this year’s curse:

When the legislation was briefly debated in the House on Monday, NDP MPs were overwhelmingly negative toward the government’s approach, expressing concern that biofuels could trigger “a global food catastrophe.” The Bloc is supporting the government bill, but that party’s environment critic literally squirmed this week when asked whether he supports his party’s position. “We have a party line. The vote will be in a few days. I don’t support corn-based ethanol,” said Bernard Bigras. Asked whether he was uncomfortable with his party’s position, he offered a polite “no comment” and left.

A tragic if stunning dynamic is noting how a “green” and “sustainable” principle has caused harm to the poor, thus causing a clash on the left – where 100% of Canada’s public debate is occurring.

So what to do? In the new price range and future expectations nuke, hydro and wind power fueling electric cars (like the forbidden Toronto one) are looking better and better. Maybe also regulations requiring expanded crop production for biofuels is matched by expanded crop production for food. Babbitts and Randian nutjobs will say it is none of government’s business, that if people starve – well, that’s the market! What do you want to burn in your tank? Do you care?

Germany: Vitus, Weihenstephaner, Freising, Bavaria

Troy has the story today about who Weihenstephaner is coming to Ontario for a seasonal release. The importer, Beer Barons, is new on the scene but (t)he(y) was good enough at the end of last year allowing the panel here at A Good Beer Blog study both the weisse and the dunkel carefully. We were very pleased.

In celebration, I thought I would pop the brewer’s weizenbock even though it says “Brewed Under The Purity Law Of 1516” as opposed to “Brewed Under The Purity Law Of 1516 As Amended Over And Over Thus Allowing Rather Than Banning Wheat Beer“.¹ Other weizenbocks I have tried include Aventinus and…errr…that’s about it. Though I’ve had the knock-out punch of the 12% Aventinus Eisbock as well.

This brew unexpectedly pours just a notch of gold darker than a hefeweizen, its weaker cousin. Nothing like the darker nutmeggy figgy pudding of a beer that is Aventinus, though I am still unclear on the gradations of these things…maybe Aventinus is a doppelweizenbock. Cloudy and actively carbonated, the white rocky head gives off loads of banana and clove. In the mouth it is very cream banana-ish with herbal notes as well as spice. A nice grainy profile with a biscuity or even sponge cake thing happening. I really like this 7.7% hefty brew. Great BAer respect.

¹…and a law which Unger at page 109 of Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance notes was more for tax efficiency than purity while Hornsey points out at pages 320-321 that it only applied to town or commercial brewers and was more about reserving other cereals for other purposes. And Ron says it’s old bollocks. Now, back to what you were doing.

Monday Morning Quarter Back: Red Sox On Top Edition

Already, we hit the third edition of the Monday Morning Quarterback. I’m not that sure the theme has holding power but at least it gives some meaning, however meager, to my half-hearted obsession with sports.

  • The confusion within the Blue Jays has already hit a new level of panic even though it is only April:

    Frank Thomas’ time as a Toronto Blue Jay ended quietly this morning after a closed-door meeting with team GM J.P. Ricciardi. The future hall of famer, who was mired in an early season slump, will be paid the $8 million (U.S.) owed on his two year deal. He is now free to sign with another team….The move came a day after Thomas was told that his role would be drastically reduced. Thus far this season, he was hitting .167 with 3 home runs and 11 RBIs. In turn, Thomas blasted the club through reporters. “I’m angry. I know I can help this team. My career isn’t going to end like this,” Thomas said on Saturday.

    Note to sad Jays fans: Ortiz has a lower average. Don’t expect him to be drifted, however, as a team with some pride wouldn’t do that. Expect a panicky Jays trade soon.

  • On more tartaned news, there is hope! Morton won Saturday to slip ahead of Clyde and out of the relegation zone with one game left. As I understand it, if Morton wins next week and scores more than Clyde, Morton stays up even if Clyde beats lowly Stirling. Pray. Please pray.
  • The Ottawa Senators have confirmed they don’t deserve access to the coat tails they’ve been riding for a few years. By being swept in the first round sweep was their worst playoff appearance since 1998-99 when they scored only three goals.
  • The Red Sox are playing some of the most exciting baseball I have ever seen with late inning dramatics day after day. The Orioles are the real surprise in the AL East with the other teams floundering as they should given the state of their rosters.

Frankly, I have been pretty good, not wallowing before the blue screen that much. I thought not once of the CFL – well, except to say that if I ever do go to the Grey Cup I am hanging out wit the Baltimore fans. I watched no NBA, no NASCAR and not even any hockey to speak of – and not much of anything else. The weather was too nice. I did catch a bit of Yankees on the radio as we drove around this afternoon, the Jays even having abandoned the Kingston market for its AM broadcasts even though this is the natural place for growing a fan base. We speculated whether this sort of thing wasn’t a step on the same slippery path that found the Montreal Expos playing in Washington DC under another name. Can you say “The Omaha Blue Jays of 2017”?

Friday Bullets For Me, Me, Me!

Because it’s my birthday! Imagine – me, forty-five. Boy am I old. So old I bought black Doc Marten boots yesterday which I now consider my first mid-life crisis purchase. And it’s gonna be sunny and warm today plus through the weekend. And it’s Friday. And portland’s showing for the weekend. And stuff. Excellent.

  • Crazy dictator update: This is just nutty: “Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe bitterly attacked former colonial ruler Britain on Friday in his first major speech since disputed elections, saying London was paying the population to turn against him.”  What about the Irish…or the Peruvians, for that matter. And the mice. They’ve been whispering, too. Who else is against you?
  • If you consider the Olympics a fascist vestige that lines the pockets of a boys club of the corrupt…is this such a bad thing? Is this?
  • Get a map.
  • Aren’t people are interesting how they have long memories.
  • Apparently someone did think a 15 year old brought into a fight by his fanatic father might be an issue.
  • Things are settling out nicely already.
  • Our blog-pal and comment maker Jay has brought a human rights complaint over a hateful cartoon that appeared in a Quebec publication but he has brought the complaint in part to highlight his disagreement with the process whereby you can complain about publication of hateful things. I am confused but expect to be entertained. I think all this whining over human rights processes by fringy right-wing bloggers is nuts but our non-fringy right-wing neighbours are ofter the best arbitors of this stuff given their distaste for the fringe.
  • And, if only as a gift to me, today’s “haha-PEI is funny place” note – apparently Blue Rodeo rock too much. You know, the band that is older than me.

There. Done. I am 45. Don’t you wish you were 45, too? Of course you do. Of course you do.

Rock Stars? Enough With The Analogies Already!

So…you guys got any good beer in there? Some Saison Dupont maybe?

Earlier today, Stonch pointed out the somewhat strained tone of this press release floating around for a beer event half a day’s drive to my south in which one is promised that we may “[m]eet the luminaries of the craft beer world…[v]ery few events offer the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with the “rock stars” of the craft beer world.” To be fair, I am not overly concerned with the world of PR and calling the fine brewers who will be there luminariesis a perfectly fine way to describe those in the forefront of any endeavor. But rock stars? Here is my trademarked immediate and rash comment:

This is the sort of marketing that led me to ask last year whether we love the beer or the brewer. “Celebrity” in itself only detracts given the immediacy of beer and the need to manage our understanding of their work and their ideas about beer – much of which is interesting and important but is utterly undermined by the characterization of “rock star.”

Besides, I like my rocks stars to be rocks stars and I expect them to point out – with all the outrage of the outcast (if they really be rockers) – all the bullshit around us. So, you may ask yourself, what would Joe Strummer or John Lennon or Johnny Cash have thought of this press release? Is this the Elvis of 1955 or the Elvis of 1972? Where do you place each name?

Rock star…I know what I think. I think they could as easily be called the “game show hosts” of brewing or even “the Beckhams” of beer – seeking fame now that they perhaps are not even the best on the pitch anymore. “Rock star” is so sold out as a term that it should be considered something of a backhanded compliment. Is that what they want to have thought of them. I doubt it. I say this is bad PR.

I suppose that was a bit harsh, a bit over the top with the whole fat Elvis thing¹…but when I think rock star I also think of The Darkness or even Spinal Tap which leads me to wonder which brewer so dubbed has turned it up to eleven? Or that line from Road Warrior about the guy known as “The Ayatollah of Rock-and-Roll-ah” as illustrated above. And really…is “rock star” enough? Are they not as much the Jedi Knights of brewing? Isn’t that, you know, just as stunned? Maybe some Old Testament imagery would help me understand who these brewers are?

How far can such dislocated hyperbole take us? As we continue our collective search for good beer and an understanding the place of craft beer, of its value and its appreciation, there are these uncomfortable moments of description popping up. Descriptions that have shades of elitist puffery as well as clumsy grasping for the right – but definitely earnest – word. I don’t know but is it too much to ask to ask for a little humour? Say what you like about borgy forums but I take the slightly metal-esque presentation of the Alströms as a bit camp. Maybe its because I am that novice masters shot putting metal and punk fan with the lifetime Ben Grimm Fan Club membership but I associate my association with beer a bit like they do – with a bit of self-effacing humour…they are being self-effacing, right? As with the unfortunate and often unwarranted eureka moments from some writers on brewing, I don’t think of all this stuff as some sort of rare and precious gift, a prize for the mantelpiece or something linked with celebrity. For me, this feeling of mine is informed by Knut’s label ølhund [aka “beer dog”] or Lew’s preference for the simple “beer fan“, the egalitarian joyful celebration of how were’re all in this together, we happy band, we cheery lot. Just enjoy yourselves.

I know. It’s a lot to extrapolate from one slightly unfortunate reference. But it’s beer we are talking about, right? Right?

¹[Ed.: ie. “Elvis: to young to die, too fat to live…”]

America’s Mood Lifts By 7.8

I have no idea what this means, what the 7.8 expresses or even what the units are but apparently things are looking up:

Americans are feeling slightly more optimistic this month as they come to grips with a struggling economy and an uncertain future, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday. The Reuters/Zogby Index, which measures the mood of the country, rose sharply to 95.5, up from 87.7 in March, as all 10 measures of public opinion used in the Index climbed. Concerns about personal finances, job security and the direction of the country eased at least slightly, and positive ratings climbed for President George W. Bush, the U.S. Congress and economic and foreign policy.

Apparently 13% believed their squeeky shoes squeeked a little less, too, up from 21.

But why not. It’s spring. Well, spring lasts just until Friday when it will hit 20C which, for a Maritimer, means it’s summer. That’s the thing. What really makes you happy? Warmth. A drink maybe. A little baseball on the radio. Snowdrifts finally disappearing just last week. A collapsing pork market that will allow you to BBQ like a badly conceived cartoon character on Saturday. Spring is short around here. Time to get a low grade sunburn, baby.

Monday Morning Quarterback: I Watch TV A Lot

Not just TV, but I listen to the radio, too. I listened to golf on the radio at about 7 pm yesterday. 620 AM out of Syracuse had the end of the Masters going. Golf on the radio is hard to follow. Apparently there is a tradition and a guy playing lounge piano involved.

  • A guy from South Africa won the Masters. Good for him. He broke his major duck. Sadly, it was all nice-nice. Long gone are the days of Tom Kite blaming all around him for the failings of his game. That always was fun watching his thin veneer fade as things went wonky. No sniping from the crowd either like when Woosey won in 1991.
  • The Sox took 2 of 3 with Wang beating them on a four pitch complete game Friday. Big Papi is having a hard time of it. Pray for Big Papi.
  • Curling is over for another year. Thanks God. Now I can get some work done at the office. Curling this. Curling that.
  • The Morton have not yet made their big move to get out of the relegation zone. Arsenal lost, too, with our correspondent noting both Man U goals coming off cheesy set pieces.
  • I watched twelve minutes of NASCAR and learned of its proud moonshine connections.
  • I didn’t watch much hockey. The correct teams seem to be winning. I want a Montreal v. Rangers series and a Detroit victory over the Rangers in the finals and that seems to be on track. Ottawa is looking like it will be four losses and then summer. Did I pick Calgary in the pool? No I didn’t.

There you have it. MMQB edition #2 is over. The tradition continues.

The Anonymous Brewers Speak: Rating The Raters

anonbrew2aFrom Alan: Recently I was contacted by a brewer who wondered if he, too, could write for A Good Beer Blog. Sure, no problem I thought. If Knut and Travis can, why not a craft brewer? But the brewer wanted to do it under the cloak of anonymity. I wavered. I wondered. I let it go for a while. Brewers usually stay silent like the one to the right. Then, quite a while later, unbeknownst to the first, I got a message from another brewer a world away asking for exactly the same thing. I knew then that there was a venue needed. A way for brewers to share what they really felt. So, from time to time they, too, can post here and share their thoughts. This is the first, a message from someone I will call Brewer A.¹ Please feel free to comment as you would in response to any post.

Well, how to get started? Sites like R(H) are a thorn in the side for many brewers. They are dominated by a handful of posters that don’t reflect the opinion of the general public. As with most critics they go off half cocked and I think often fully pickled. They pretend to know grain and hop varieties that they feel were used in a certain beer. I have seen the same poster rate the same beer twice in the same day and give it very different reviews. Hiding behind the mask of anonymity (like I am now) instills false bravery into these fellas (mostly boys but not all.) I have witnessed raters backing up a certain opinion to follow later in the same paragraph with “but I have not tried it yet.”

These raters looking to increase their numbers will will gather at fests to collect single mouthfuls of a new beer in the same way they once collected mint condition action figures. No need to engage the brewer or enjoy the beer for the sake of it – just get “Han Solo in the original packaging” and never open it up.

This involves further discussion. Maybe nine RateBeer guys and I could split a six pack and talk.

¹Stan’s point is excellently made: it’s Secret Brewer XJ17 from now on.

My Last 24 Hours

I was within a couple hundred yards of highway 400 and highway 7 for around 18 hours not counting the drive to and from Toronto. It was very much like spending 18 hours within a couple hundred yards of highway 400 and highway 7. The oddest thing was getting out of the hotel room to go to where I was speaking to the conference only to learn that the conference was at another hotel. I know the strip malls and industrial parks of the area within more than a couple hundred yards of highway 400 and highway 7 very well now. I am enriched.