Who Are The “We” In The Good Beer Community?

Martyn, the wise Zythophile, made an observation yesterday that includes a per-supposition that I am not sure has been explored:

It’s not said often enough in this argument: we drink because we enjoy it, and the overall happiness that brings to society, I would suggest, vastly outweighs any disbenefits.

Because I do not know who “we” are in this sentence, I do not know if I agree wholeheartedly or disagree completely. If “we” are all drinkers, I cannot accept this at all. I have known people who died because of drunk driving and, way back in high school 30 years ago, escaped being smoked on the highway myself likely more than once when the driver in the car had had as much as the rest of us. The fact that society as a whole has a good time on Friday night does not comfort me when I think of the six kids, including a client of mine, who died back in the mid-90s when two cars hit each other on a rural Ontario road in the night. But if the word “we” means those who do not cause harm or commit crimes, who do not anesthetize ourselves to erase or excuse behavior – who do not misuse but rather use for the convivial pleasures the good beer brings – well, I can see that perhaps but only if that distinction and speaking about that distinction is part of the culture of good beer and a core principle of the passion for good beer.

I know many beer writers enjoy their connections with the great people who brew the beer beer and I am sure the experience is rich and rewarding. Due to my location it really isn’t possible except in a small way. We simply do not have a thriving local brewing scene within a few hours drive from here, though there are glowing lights in the darkness. But we do have people who sell the beer beer whether in the hospitality trade or in retail. And they are liable for over serving and have to decide whether to sell to the inebriated and the long term alcoholic. For the most part, they take the question seriously. They do so knowing the marketplace includes reputation in the community, the “we” of the community.

The risk-reward analogy to mountain climbing or sky diving or bungee jumping is not apt. While it is true – even without the steroid issue – that elite athletes burn the candle faster trading off bad joints for glory now, for the most part the bystanders in the lives of athletes are not affected by these sorts of risks. The participants consent. The risks inherent with alcohol are not all consensual. So, while it is true that we can describe moderate use of good beer a health food, its healthiness is defined by that moderation and the context of increased concern for safety necessitated by the increased risks associated with alcohol and the realization that it is not inherently or universally healthy.

We should take an interest in ourselves whatever we do – increasing the benefits and reducing the harm. If we are thinking about good beer we should also take an interesting in increasing and sharing the benefits while reducing easily identifiable harm – including those harms short of full bore alcoholism. When I think about this blog writing and the thousand of you who I am told read my posts every day I sometime wonder if I have encouraged anyone into a habit that is harmful rather than convivial. I am not satisfied to think of the statistics, that “on average” I may have helped in my small way to highlight the benefits of good beer, that more of you have taken pleasure from my explorations if some few have gone the other way. You are the “we” as well as those around you. And, like the good shopkeeper, “we” need to be aware of that context and advocate for healthy and safe enjoyment as much as we advocate for broader interest in great, tasty, healthy, local or exotic, exciting good beer.

CNY Roadtrip To Stock The Stash

Back. I made it back. I hit four beer stores over around 500 km and nine and a half hours. Now, whereas Pretty Things was just a one time bottle that I passed in the night, now I have seven bottles representing three of their brews and any number of batches. Those canny little cap labels are mighty handy. Plenty of other good stuff, too.








I hit a Wegmans in Cicero, Party Source on Erie Blvd., Galeville Grocery in Liverpool and then headed north via C’s Farm Market in Owsego. What did I learn? I had a good old chat with the guy who runs Party Source and finally met Bernie, the owner of Galeville Grocery. As is usually the case, talk is about other stuff as much as beer when they find out that I am from north of the border – health care and lucky Canada they say, taxes and unlucky Canada they say. The shops were all giving each other a run for the money with Party Source showing off its new siding less neon blue and green siding (as so poorly illustrated) as well as growler pours including a Rooster Fish. The other three were as packed with new and interesting beer as I have ever seen them.

Prices? I noticed that The LCBO sells Orval for about 60% of what it costs in Syracuse and that Rogue Yellow Snow is about a buck more there than here. Great deals… if you can find those beers on shelves in Ontario. Funny thing about a monopoly. But the real difference is selection. Over 90% of the beers are unavailable up here and are at prices that make a Canadian beer lover weep. Wegans grocery store wanted just $15.99 for a Great Lakes variety 12 pack and $9.49 for Brooklyn 1. Wegmans even had 750 ml bottles of Saison Dupont for 9.19 and St. Bernie Abt. for $10. 95. At the grocery. Made me think of Mel in Braveheartshouting “Freedom!”. Then it didn’t. Then I paid my duties and taxes at the border. Then I went home.

Friday Bullets for 01 22 10

I missed yesterday. I can’t be tied to your incessant demands for content yet when was the last time I missed a Thursday post. Remember when I posted more than once a day? Remember when I had 12,000 readers a day? We have to face facts: blogging has become like home recording on 8 track tapes. I am off on a shopping exploration of Syracuse. Need me a Jets hat. Kids need multi-coloured goldfish crackers. Why can’t Canadians get multi-coloured goldfish crackers? Why is that the cultural divide?

  • More A. A. Gill goodness.
  • Are US conservative Tea Party types expressing a coherent political point of view? Interesting to hear new Republican darling Scott Brown saying after his election (and riding their wave) that they need to work within the party – and presumably mind their betters. Far too much can be read into anything.
  • Nice to see the NYTs point out what a car crash Conan has become: “…it turns out that the cliché that comics are angry, bitter people deep down is true.” Odd that it is the top headline on the web version of the paper today.
  • I have an Omega 3 drip. Have for years. Soon I will be 17 again.
  • Class speaks to cheater pants: “Ferguson Jenkins says Mark McGwire owes an apology to all those pitchers who gave up his home runs.” Amen.
  • Joel from NCPR just sent me this link to a northern NY folk music project. Where are the traditional folk music and folk tales of my town? Were we not folk?

Is that enough? Is that not enough? Off to find a Wegmans.


Massachusetts: Jack D’Or, Pretty Things, Holyoke

If you have read this blog for a while you will appreciate that I like saison. A few years back I wondered out loud if it was going to ever be the next big thing and I may have had my wish granted to some degree as they are out there even if they haven’t exactly bumped macro pilsner off the shelf. Pretty Things, which calls itself a beer and ale project, says this is simple table beer but they are being coy. A sensible $5.99 paid for a bomber belies the quality here. A while back, I inhaled upon one of their Saint Botolph’s Town rustic dark ales. It happened so fast, without a moment to type notes. I have high hopes for this one.

It pours yellowed straw ale under a fine white head. The aroma is lightly citrus with herbals. I once grew lemon verbena and which I can’t say it reminds me of that it did remind me that I once grew lemon verbena. There is also a creamed sweet maltiness. In the mouth, there is pith and white pepper, twiggy minty notes as well as a cream soft malty underbelly, smoothed from the oats. A bit of pear juice but also a nod to cox orange pippin apple as well as a mid-mouth astringency. Apparently no spices whatsoever if the brewer is to be believed (who’s calling them liars? you??) so it coaxes all the herbal notes from hops. And yeast strains. Why don’t we argue more about having more interesting yeast strains? But no spices. Sorta like those early Queen albums proclaimed in the liner notes that no synthesizers were used now that I think of it. In fact it goes rather well with 1974’s Queen II now that I think of it. I don’t know if it would be Zepworthy for, perhaps, even Houses of the Holy, a record I might rather pair with Fantome but still it does remind you that these earthier manorial beers like certain aspects of the 1970s overly dramatic folk tale art rock playbook, even for their pre-democratic roots, are far more than table beer.

I would like to try it against Hennepin. I am thinking this is a bit bigger and maybe more complex but shares the moreishness. Like all saisons, primal. I particularly like the use of the cap security label to tell me that this is a representative of their April 2009 Third Batch. We are in this for the data after all. BAers are in love.

Has An Unacceptable Level Of Drinking Been Described?

Pete Brown has run a series of posts this week and last that delve into stats being issued by various government agencies and health lobby groups in the UK. It is important work that Pete is doing as there is no stat worse than the unexamined stat. Today’s post was called “More Hilarity with Statistics” which examined claims about the level of drinking in Scotland. I made a comment over there but did some more rooting around to make sure I agreed with what I was seeing and, to avoid looking like a totally rude idiot being all finger pointy in the comments, thought I would set it out here instead. I also got thinking because even if a stat can be discredited it does not mean that the underlying facts necessarily do not exists, only that they are not well described. But, as I said in the comments, I am really bad at math so I am happy to be corrected.

The BBC story Pete began with was titled “Scots ‘Drink 46 Bottles of Vodka‘” by which they mean per person per year on average. Pete suggested that this was not particularly well researched as tourism trade taking the booze away was not figured in – but then when I ran the numbers I saw this pattern:

  • Scotland has about 8% of the UK population
  • total UK booze sales in 2007 were worth over 41 billion pounds
  • and therefore, Scotland’s booze sales can be approximated at around 4 billion pounds.

I took the numbers from this soul suckingly slow .pdf source. I read them to meaning that if every penny of the 25 million pounds spent at distillery shops was non-Scots resident alcohol sales, removing it entirely from Scottish consumption, it only represents well under 1% of total Scottish sales? If that is the case, the variation is under a bottle of vodka a year. I said that even if I was off by a whole decimal point and the distillery sales represent 10% of sales isn’t it still a little bit alarming that every Scots adult averages 41 or 42 bottles of vodka a year? By which I mean I had a gut feeling it was in fact pretty high. But is it?

A little more looking around further, found information stating that 30% of Scots adults say they do not drink – which means the drinking Scot averages 58 or so bottle a year working off the conservative 41 bottles a week stat. It is more like 65 a year if you go by the BBC’s number of 46. I got the “did not drink” percentage from this pdf. So you have 30% of Scots not drinking, 35% drinking up to the average and 35% drinking over the average.

What does that mean? 58 bottles a year on average means 1.12 x 700 ml bottles a week at 40% that means 313 ml of pure alcohol a week. By comparison, a standard Canadian 12 oz 5% beer has 341 ml. Which means that average Scots drinker’s booze consumption is the equivalent of 19 standard 5% Canadian beers a week. Sounds like a bit more than you might think is a good idea, week after week day after day. But not fatal. It’s maybe what we expect the average healthy working Joe would drink in a week. Similarly, a US 22 oz bomber has 650 ml. At 8% that is 65 ml of pure alcohol. Which means that the Scot’s drinker’s booze consumption is the equivalent of 4.8 bombers of 8% US craft beer a week. Is that going to scare off a craft beer fan? Hardly.

But it is an average and that is what I think is the real concern. It means 35% of Scots drinkers adults drink more… because 65% drinkers there drink less including the 30% who abstain. I think those numbers are troubling. They may well be wrong so please do your own a arithmetic. But if they are not wrong – is there not a valid public health concern where 35% of your population is doing that level of drinking. I don’t really care if you think there is no such thing as a public health concern from a libertarian point of view as that is not the point here. Nor does someone called “Alan Campbell McLeod” care if you think this is only a Scottish problem. I think we can all agree that there is a point beyond which alcohol is unhealthy. Is that point been identified by the BBC report?

Book Review: A Life On The Hop, Roger Protz

I bought a copy of this book after looking around and only finding Knut’s observations from last summer on the difference between its marketing and that of Pete Brown’s Hops and Glory. There was a press release by its publisher CAMRA, a nibbly bit by the NUJ, a smidge from his editorial assistant but I couldn’t seem to come up with a review other than the one that Knut found in The Westmorland Gazette:

A Life on the Hop is an amusing romp around the beer world and is devoid of beery jargon. It will be enjoyed not only by beer lovers but also by those who enjoy travel writing.

Magic. I’ll miss print journalism when it dies.

There has been much sport made of Mr. Protz but it is not something that I really understood as he is not a often discussed writer in this part of the world. So, being the good boy that I am, I thought I would have a read of his autobiography to learn a bit more to either join in the slag-fest or, more fairly, get a bit of perspective. I was in for a little shock.

The book is subtitled “Memoirs of a Career in Beer” and the key word is “memoirs” – as this really isn’t an autobiography but a series of anecdotes arranged in themes based largely but not solely on geography. I learned this in the first chapter when I thought I would learn about his childhood but where I learned about pubs he liked in around his first London newspaper work in Fleet Street – the Cheese, Punch, Old Bell, Old King Lub, Black Friar and the Globe. I didn’t know what to make of it – not much Roger, lots of tavern. Then you are quickly into chapters take you through the Czech Republic, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium Germany, Mexico and the USA as if someone were gleaning through one’s old note books in search of favorite and perhaps not too often repeated yarns of a wag. About a hundred pages in, I started turning down page corners after I read errors vaguely Canuckois like:

a. Fraunce’s Tavern in New York dates from 1790 “when New York was still under British rule” [p.107] The British left in 1783 (some moving to help found my town) and the building dates from 1719.

b. the Yakima Valley of Oregon was once part of “French Canada” [p.124] even though the French speaking part of Canada was far to the east and I think that the Yakima was south of the part of the area of the British claim.

I folded down more corners until I stopped around page 167. I didn’t really care that I doubted his explanation of the genesis of the term steam beer [p. 117] or that lambic is the oldest beer style known to mankind, being close to beer dating back to Egypt, Babylon and Mesopotamia [p. 129]. Did it really matter that Babylon was a city state within Mesopotamia? Was I missing the point?

I didn’t miss that there is something of a cranky, indiscreet tone to these travels. Targets include Tories who put him up for the night, corporations and two older ladies encountered in Prague having a private conversation:

I was crossing the square with Graham Lees, a CAMRA founding member with an acerbic turn of phrase, when we passed two elderly American women who were eyeing the fabulous architecture of the area. “Y’know,” one of them said to her friend, “it’s nothing like Poughkeepsie.” Lees went red in the face, chased after them and snarled: “Of course it’s nothing like fucking Poughkeepsie. It’s been here for several fucking centuries.” It was his finest hour.

That’s the finest hour for an arsehole, perhaps. It’s that kind of small coarse tone that you hear in a far too graphic and entirely gratuitous of an account of the suicide of a brewer in an early chapter and the tragic affect on the family or, later, the naming of names of fellow beer tourists who may have broken marital vows at Oktoberfest. You may come away wondering what sort of person would make that part of a book.

Yet he is obsessed with beer. And has spent a life following it – a life that I realize the more I write about beer sometimes can mean hard scrabble and closed doors. It’s a little bittersweet when despite all the years he is not able to arrange for proper accommodations on an invite to the US and back on a liner. It’s a little poignant when he thinks that when someone isn’t able to meet with him because Roger is going to reveal the truth about a merger when it is likely the guy was just too busy. It is a tough old road and a long one. It’s likely one that he takes pride in taking – a road not often taken when he started out. That pride and hard effort comes out as well.

One beer writer chastised me for an unkind comment by email a few months ago, saying: “anybody who started writing about beer since 1995 (just picked that year out of the air – maybe it should be 2000… should pause. If it weren’t for people like Roger they might not be able to be doing what they do.” He also said that he wouldn’t use him as a source but the point is still a good one. When it wasn’t easy, when it didn’t pay well and no one could roll out of bed and blog their thoughts within 17 minutes, Roger was out there writing about beer. He probably got you from one stage of interest to another at some point. And that is what the book is really about. You will get irritated, you will not find out the information you might have thought you would find and you will turn down corners when you find another error – but you will get a sense with the man.

So, buy the book and share your thoughts. Just don’t go on a beer tour with him and give him any reason to think you went off for the evening with the buxom lonely lush. You may read about it later.

Why Does That Word “Pairing” Make My Temples Ache?

monkey4This has bugged me for a while. And that it bugs me bugs others, too. Here is what I know. Someone somewhere in the last few years decided we needed to “pair” beer with food. Prior to that, people just drank beer with their food and were generally happy with the many ways that great beer goes with good food. But one of the greatest turns of a consultants’ art is taking the obvious and often done, repackaging it and selling it back to you. That is what I suspect is going on with this “pairing” idea. Not that I have any issue with people being sold what they already own. It’s just not something I like to have done to myself. So, I worried when I read the very worthwhile Mark Dredge at the very interesting Pencil and Spoonwrite this over the weekend:

Today’s post is about pairing beer and food and is a simple overview of the tricks which beer can play that makes it a great companion to your lunch.

To which I asked “as opposed to the centuries of simply eating and drinking that have happily served mankind?” and to which Mark responded “Yes. Exactly opposed to that.” I have no idea what that means. What is the opposite of eating good food with good beer that still includes eating good food with good beer? When hasn’t beer been “a great companion to your lunch”?

Me, I’ve been happily eating food for almost my whole life. You should see my baby pictures. And since I was in the later end of high school, I have been drinking beer and pretty much as early as I could get away with it, I have been enjoying the consumption of good food with well made beer. I was lucky growing up in a seafood producing area of Atlantic Canada as my 1980s college days, among other things, were filled with regional beers with mussels in taverns as well as lobsters boils and early efforts craft beer. On UK trips and into the 90s, I liked plowman’s lunches with English style pale ales of brewers I could find to like those at Kingston Brew Pub or The Granite Brewery or Rogues Roost. As I moved on, moved out and got mortgaged, I baked breads with beer in it as well as New England baked beans and Texas chili. As access to good beer increased along with my interest in beer, I was quite happy to pull out old cheddars, blue cheese and even things that came out of a goat and try them with any number of brews. They all went pretty well… as did most roasts, most seafoody things and a lot of other things. In fact, I have now established that gueuze goes with everything and if it doesn’t, well, that thing is out of my life as long as the gueuze is in view. Get me in a room with a bunch of pals, a bunch of great beers and a pot luck of any types of food and I am happy to explore.

But I would never, you know, pair. I’d never get into that monogamous mindset where “this matches that” because we all should be aware that “these really go with those” and, if we are honest “all this pretty much is great with all that.” Did anyone really not know this? I have had the occasion to point out to food professionals that real hefeweizen goes really well with eggs and bacon and that flavours stouts created, among other things, to go with chocolate do actually go with chocolate – but it’s hardly the deepest thing I’ve picked up about beer. So, if it is not difficult information and it is something I’ve known for yoinks and most I know who like good beer have known for yoinks – what is all the interest in “pairing” based on?

Scotland: Chaos Theory and Its Prototype, BrewDog

1739I heard the news today. Chaos Theory was being delisted. Discontinued. One of the sure signs of a brewery moving into a next stage is rationalization and we have seen a bit of that with BrewDog. They have new staff and a new range for their experimental beer ideas. But once upon a time they were not rationalizing. They were a wee bit irrational, in fact, as they used to send me samples… including samples of prototypes. These two beers have been in the stash for at least a year. I think I got them in November 2008 along with a following email from James actually saying “sorry it took me so long to send them” even though it was free beer and I was Canadian. They have held up well. The prototype shows some crown cap rusting but the proper labeled version is quite clean. At over 7%, there’s no issue as to condition with the best before being over six months from now. Let’s have a go.

The two beers appear roughly the same – medium amber orange with a swell white froth and foam. On the sniff, the prototype is a bit richer but both are raisin tart with prototype leaning towards a really gorgeously complex set of orange peel, allspice, baked raisin edgings. In the mouth, the prototype suffers a tiny bit from a drabness – even with the swirl of malt richness – which could be time but also tastes like a bit of cardamom. There is a bit of a husky quality to it that butts heads with the fruit richness, too, the aroma’s promise. A little bitter and even mineral in the finish even with the barley candy playing out. Still, big and fine and I’d have bought it if it ever made the shelves.

Theory put into practice is a notch finer. The note of the finishing hops stands out more clearly – tangerine peel, candy cane and even maybe a hint of coffee bean. In the mouth, there’s a little less to work with than the prototype but there’s more control even with all the bitterness. Softer water with weedy hops over peppermint and peppery hops over rich cream malt. Pear in the malt. Also big, pretty brash but not off kilter. A very well made beer that the BAers gave big respect.

BrewDog has been doing all things for (and to) all people including taking a brash, cheeky culturally appropriate stance that I love more than even each of their beers. But like childhood’s end, it’s no longer all about adding. Sometimes there is subtracting in life.

Allsopp’s Arctic Ale And Arctic Homebrew In 1852

aaa1There is a bit of beery backroom buzz about plans to make a movie about the Allsopp’s Arctic Ale, the beer which accompanied a British navy expedition in the Canadian high Arctic in the mid-eighteenth century. The film maker’s website is not up yet but there is a Facebook page which reports:

Sir Edward Belcher failed on his journey, abandoned four of the five ships in the ice, and returned to England to be court-marshalled (some thanks… huh?). A few of the bottles of Allsopp’s Ale came back to England, where in 2007 a bottle came up on EBay, and reportedly sold for $503,000 (this is what caught my interest). To my knowledge, there are only two bottles left in the world from the 1852 expedition. I have researched this ale in the deepest of all journals and records, both here and abroad. I now have a recipe for this Ale and intend to brew it near the Belcher Islands of the Hudson Bay in the Canadian Arctic.

There is more information hanging about the internets about this stuff and not just pictures of that eBay bottle. Available Arcticky data includes the passage below from the book The Last of The Arctic Voyages by Captain Sir Edward Belcher, C.B. about the failed search for the expedition of Sir John Franklin from 1852 to 1854. The book can be found in its entirety at Google books. Belcher was a bit of a tool in an old school way but, as a fellow Nova Scotian, one has to give him some props but we can leave it at that as far as the admiration goes. He did have a thing for the beer apparently – at least when stuck in the ice – as he noted on 21 December 1852 after the presentation of a pantomime on board his firmly frozen ship: “Allsopp. That name will live for ages in the recollection of all Polars.”

It seems that in addition to filling the hull with Allsopp’s Arctic Ale, Belcher also brought along a home brewing system. Here is the report of the production of beer on board starting around page 339:

Brewing from essence of malt and hops had been practised as early as the 6th of August last season, but the general adoption of our “home-brewed” did not fairly commence until the end of October; with what success I shall leave my readers to judge from the following report of the officer who superintended. It was much esteemed, and at times mixed to dilute the excellent beer supplied by Messrs. Allsopp.

“Her Majesty’s Skip ‘Assistance,’ Wellington Channel,
October 31, 1853.

“1. In compliance with your directions, I have the honour to report upon the beer brewed from the essence of malt and of hops on board this ship during the winter 1852-1853, as follows, viz.:—

“2. An experiment was made on the 6th of August, 1852, to brew with the proportions prescribed by the makers (Hudson and Co.). Eighty pounds of malt and three pounds of hops were mixed with boiling water, and then started into a fifty-six gallon cask (filling it), placed by the side of the galley-fire: when the temperature had fallen to 90° there was added half a pound of yeast, in a state of fermentation, made by mixing dried yeast, sugar, and flour, in hot water; but although signs of fermentation were occasionally apparent at the bunghole during the day, yet, from the low temperature that prevailed at night (consequent upon the absence of the galley-fire), it could not be got to work satisfactorily. The beer produced, although palatable and drunk by the ship’s company, was so weak, from the inadequacy of the quantity of ingredients used, and so flat, in consequence of the inability to raise sufficient fermentation, that it was scarcely equal to the smallest table beer.

“3. On the 23rd of October, 1852, the ship being fixed in winter quarters, and the Sylvester warming apparatus at work, maintaining a constant equal temperature, brewing operations were commenced, with the view of keeping up a periodical supply for the ship’s company.

“4. The proportions used were,—essence of malt, 120 lbs., and of hops 4 lbs., to fifty-four gallons of water: these were boiled together for two hours in the ship’s coppers, and then put into a fifty-six gallon cask, which was placed (for the purpose of obtaining the highest temperature in the ship, steady at about 70°) by the side of the funnel of the Sylvester warming apparatus. In about eighteen hours after, the temperature of the mixture had fallen to 90°, when yeast was added, and generally in a few minutes produced vigorous fermentation, which was maintained for seven or eight days, the froth being thrown off at the bung-hole and received from a leather spout, nailed on the side of the cask, into a tub placed on the deck, from which the cask was kept filled as it became necessary, for the first two days almost every hour, and afterwards at longer intervals, as fermentation slackened. As soon as it had ceased to work, the cask was bunged up and removed, to settle and fine for a fortnight; it was then broached for issue.

“5. The beer thus produced was highly prized, and I think I may venture to state that, both for strength and flavour, it was all that could be desired.

“6. From this time (October 23rd) until the end of the following April, a constant supply of this beer was maintained, at the rate of one pint for each person twice, and sometimes three times, a week, besides other occasional extra issues; for which purpose it was necessary to appropriate three fifty-six gallon casks,—one to issue from, the next to settle and fine, and the third in a state of fermentation.

“7. The total quantities of the essences consumed during this time were—of malt, 1620lbs.; hops, 44lbs.; and the beer produced was 702 gallons.

“8. Although the beer thus necessarily issued a fortnight after being brewed was of good quality, yet I would beg leave to remark, that had it been practicable to have allowed it to stand for a longer period (a3 in the case of beer brewed in England), there is good reason to suppose that it would have become scarcely inferior to English porter of the first quality.

“9. There now remain for brewing (to be commenced, in pursuance of your directions, as soon as the hold is cleared), essence of malt, 780lbs.; hops, 40lbs.

“I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most obedient, humble servant,
James Lewis,
Clerk in charge.”

Captain Sir Edward Belcher, Kt., C.B.,
Her Majesty’s Ship ‘ Assistance,’ and Commanding
Arctic Searching Squadron.

Note Belcher actually calls it home brew. Other than that, I will leave interpretation and further explorations of the explorer’s libations to others who are, you know, cleverer than me. Suffice it to say thank God for what beer these poor bastards could get their hands on 158 years ago, two or three thousand miles to my north.

Trends 2010: Is There Really Simplicity In Beer?

I wrote this in the year end review but I am not sure I know what I mean or even if I mean it:

…bigger craft brewers and even some regionals are making interesting beers which are not bombs. Lew recently noted both Magic Hat Odd Notion Fall ’09 and Narragansett Porter both of which I also found to be stunning for their value as well as their elegance. Yesterday, Andy was thankful for well crafted simplicity. Expect 2009 to be remembered for how we learned that cacophony in glass is not a brewers or a drinker’s “go to” brew.

I think by I mean the opposite of a big bomb. When I used to home brew, I was well aware that it was far easier to make a bigger porter with about 6 sorts of dark malt and a few extra dark sugars than to make a good brew with only one or two pale malts. Bombastic was an entry level approach to tasty beer. Lots of interesting stuff going on. But simplicity should also not mean boring. It should mean balanced where are one or two showpiece ingredients. McAuslen’s smooth oatmeal stout. The bread crust graininess of a Hook Norton Haymaker. The white pepper in Fantome saison. I am having a Margriet by Het Anker right now and I’d call that simple – quenching, lemony, peppery, herbal and creamy but also simple without being basic. Maybe that is pushing it, however.

Simplicity should mean easier, too. You don’t need to pair even if you can eat and drink. You should also not be sent on a quest. An interesting discussion has broken out at Zak Avery’s place. In which I am supporting the validity of good beer at home. Beer should not only be simple but having beer should be simple. Is that too much to ask?