Did Michael Jackson Actually Invent Our Beer “Styles”?

This week, I received Brewery History, No. 139, in the mail. A freebie. It was gratefully received as so few packets and packages come my way these days. Time was the mail brought cheques for ads, couriered samples of beer, love letters, job offers. It’s been too quiet lately. More mail would be good. But, ripping open the UK postmarked brown paper envelope, I had a sense that other things had arrived – ideas. No. 139 is the special issue of Brewery History dedicated to Michael Jackson. “Yow-za!” thought I. “This’ll be good.” And, as Hemingway and the God of the Old Testament have told us before, it was good.

Yet, something twigged. That bit of priggery I hate yet carry like a fault of DNA. That little desire to ask “is that really correct?” and, worse, to ask it out loud. Here is my problem:

…certain classical examples within each group, and some of them have given rise to generally accepted styles… If a brewer specifically has the intention of reproducing a classical beer, then he is working within a style. If his beer merely bears a general similarity to others, then it may be regarded as being of their type.

That is a quotation of Michael Jackson’s included in Martyn Cornell’s article “Michael Jackson and beer styles” found at pages 12 to 18 of good old No 139. The associated footnote states: “15. Jackson, M. (ed.)(1977) The World Guide to Beer. London: Mitchell Beazley, p. 14.” I have that book. You know, I don’t have all the books but I do have that one… albeit a Canadian first edition. Here is the whole quotation to a section of the book entitled “The classical beer-styles” (note that hyphen):

Beer fall into three broad categories: those which are top-fermented; those which are brewed with some wheat content (they are also top-fermented); and those which are bottom-fermented. There are certain classical examples within each group, and some of these have given rise to generally-accepted styles, whether regional or international. If a brewer specifically has the intention of reproducing a classical beer, then he is working within a style. If his beer merely bears a general similarity to others, then it may be regarded as being of their type. Such distinctions can never be definitive internationally, since the understandings of terminology varies between different parts of the world.

Now, let’s be clear. I am not suggesting Martyn has done something wrong. I am also really not saying that Jackson did not describe styles. I just think he has actually done something more than we have noticed. He has defined at least three classes: categories, styles andtypes. And, then, he organizes those classes. On pages 14 and 15 of his second book, Jackson goes on to describe 23 styles of beer under those three classes up there. Yet, has he really done what he says he has done? As far as I can see, he has not described “classical examples within each group, and some of them have given rise to generally-accepted styles.” He offers no examples. In fact, because he adds that fourth classifying word “group” out of which these “examples” come, well, it is not clear what he has done. And he includes definitions like “Ur-, Urtyp” that are not of the same class of concept (whether “type” or “style”) as the others. It’s all a bit of a mix.

It’s now thirty four years since Jackson’s paragraph was published. What it really represents, as Martyn’s article points out, is the beginning of a concept that he and others used to go on to define how we beer nerds think about beer. Yet, as far as I can tell, what we now call “styles” were really, in 1977, “types” to him. Consider this: these days the general convention is that 100% of beer brands need to fall into one style or another. There is no room left over for un-styled beer. Back then, by contrast, styles were not all the wedges on a pie graph. They were classic examples arising from groups. And groups related to types. For Jackson, at the outset, “styles” were still something of a hybrid idea somewhere between “type” and a further fifth category which he went on to call “classics” – which is an idea, from my reading, which leaned heavily towards the singular rather than the class. Perhaps archetypes. Or maybe just best beers ever. All very good ideas in itself to be sure. But ideas that were not yet fully formed.


Day 33: OK, Maybe It’s Not Quite So Over

Apparently I was channeling Paul Wells on Monday. Like him, I am now amazed:

Just about all the trends have changed. Nanos now has the Conservative top-line national vote down to essentially where it was in 2008; other national polls put that vote lower. In Ontario, Nanos has the NDP vote above its 2008 level on an upward trend. Other polls I’ve seen put Conservative vote in that province lower than Nanos does. The NDP vote is entering territory where it starts to endanger Conservatives in some place, where before it mostly helped them by splitting the anti-Conservative vote with the Liberals.

Who is to blame? Harper’s campaign advisors. As Ben frets, I noted that I have a lot of like for Harper but don’t get his presentation of himself. Backing asbestos exports? As I wrote in January, Canada’s role in this poison is disgusting, but as a campaign message it’s insane. The 2010 black quilted Canada jacket? Yawn. Put on a hockey jersey, you dope. The “just happen to be jamming in the living room” stuff. The kids will flock to that CCR stuff. Sure they will.

As a result, so far Harper is failing, Iggy is really failing and Gilles is failing big big time. But it call can change. And it can all turn on three-way splits. Who am I gonna vote for?


Wicked Beer Fan Related Finger Pointy Gossip Action!

I have to say I have no idea these sorts of things went on but, even though it is Easter and I should be nicer especially having attended an excellent morning service, I just can’t stop reading the comments after the post that contains this:

…I have had to explain, and apologize, for certain “Toronto beer celebrities” as if they are actualy goddamn relatives of mine, for their obnoxious, entitled behaviour in bars I have only been two once – like it’s my non-existent brother we’re talking about… I doubt if this gets through to anyone in particular, but PLEASE, do not ruin any more places in Ontario or upstate New York for me – I am tired of having to explain that “no, I am NOT associated with that dickhead” to servers, bartenders and pub/restaurant owners from central Ontario to south of Buffalo. I have tried to be nice, but frankly enough is enough.

Never have I been happier to have created the idea of Easlakia… OK, once but that was really really personal. But where in the world does the idea of “Toronto beer celebrities” (sic) come from?? I mean even the idea of “Toronto celebrities” alone bends the space time continuum a bit, right? No, this is weird. Yet honest. Yet a car crash. And makes me wonder what stamp collectors say behind each others backs.

I live in a bubble out here. If this is what beer nerds are, I don’t know. I am taking another good hard look at Miller High Life. Just saying. Add a slice of lime, it’s a Mill-rona. It works.

Day 25: New Tory Nationalism = Making Stuff Up?

An odd piece in the Globe this morning about the alleged Tory strategy to create a new nationalism:

If you wonder what that new nationalism is and where to find it, the Conservatives will point you to Canada’s belligerent domination of the Vancouver’s Winter Olympics; to the new generation of immigrants, most of them from Asia, who have never heard of Louis Riel or the Crow rate, and who will never be made to care; to the intense new pride in the accomplishments of the armed forces from Afghanistan to Haiti. And they’ll point to the North… Only the tiniest fraction of Canadians will ever visit the Canadian Arctic, let alone live there, but many will be attracted to the Conservative agenda of economic development, military reinforcement and aggressive assertions of sovereignty.

Oh dear. If that were true – and I don’t really think it is – Mr. Harper is Mr. Parizeau’s best pal, both believing that Canada is not a real nation. First, no one really cares about the Vancouver Olympics now. If there was any real opposition, Harper pulling on that souvenir zip up sweat shirt from the games would be a bit of a giggle. Be honest – “we” won (and blew tax dollars of) medals for sports no other nation else cares about and some few in ours do – golds in curling, short track speed skating, skeleton and, yes, hockey are of little interest in the global sports brag up. Wake me when we win downhill skiing or cross country consistently… not to mention soccer, baseball or rugby.

Second, building a history-ish heritage based on the needs of those “who have never heard of Louis Riel or the Crow rate, and who will never be made to care” is bizarre. If that is the case, why bother with French Canada repelling the American revolution, the creation of Ontario by the Loyalists, Joe Howe and responsible government or even Vimy Ridge? None of these things are really understood by most Canadians let alone new Canadians but to discard them in favour of politically expedient fantasy only reinforces that Canada is a stop on the way to a real nation worth investing in for the long haul. Not a nation of new comers. A nation of transients.

Third, the Arctic? Well, if there is any left to celebrate in a few years there might be a point. But, let’s be honest – to pull off this theme of the rustic frontier it might be better if the leadership of the party did not look like the Chess Club Reunion of 1978. Say what you like about Trudeau, he made the canoe cool to people who’d never encountered a black fly. Could you imagine the creams and inhalers most Tory Cabinet ministers would have to haul along with them for a weekend tenting trip into a Provincial Park let alone the actual Arctic?

Fortunately, the article is a silly stretch, making something out of a political campaign pamphlet. Tories have no more capacity to rearrange the available facts and factoids to create a new history than Canadians have a capacity to understand their actual history. 905 only needs to know where the Tims is and when the next Argos, Leafs or Jays loss is on TV. The path to glory runs the suburbs and there are no founding myths to be found there. In fact, if anything is to be taken from the article, maybe it’s that line about those “who will never be made to care.” Isn’t that true of all Canadians? The new motto might be “je me vais oublier.”


Friday Bullets For Day 20… 21… Or So

The debates. Harper still is just on the good side of smug with is plastic grin. Iggy learned a lot but still looked a bit contrived. Jack was very good and Gilles had little or no worries. I wonder if there’s going to be exactly the same number of seats per party at the end of all this. Kingston is up for grabs and given the flattenning of the three way votes the country seems to be as well. The daily Nanos continues to show a long slow slide for the Tories that no one mentions. Because the Grits are not getting the benefit… except in Ontario. Weird how that is not getting noticed.

  • Uncomfortable Family Photos Update: Is this the photo of the 2011 Federal campaign?
  • Guilty Admission Update: New Brunswick now admits it was coerced into Confederation. Too ashamed to confess to its shame until now.
  • This is fun from my old stomping grounds. I once actually was a plant to block Chretien momentarily in a crowd as he passed through a doorway separating him from his heavies so someone could shove a Hec Clouthier, Independent Liberal, pamphlet into his hands. Renfrew Co. politics are fun.
  • Still not sure why pork barreling does not stick to the Tories. Maybe Canadians do want a tang of corruption in their national politicians and they are just accepting the fact.
  • There are plenty of ways to get at a pot of money. This situation calls for a constructive trust, I’d say.
  • I have no idea what happened in Guelph
  • El Tigre was at the ethnic outfit event but has yet to report. No word on the manly unbifurcated garment ratio.

That is it for now. Two weeks and still the election is up in the air. Who knew? And don’t forget to read your Batter Chatter. The Red Sox may suck but the game is fine.


Socialists In Quebec Particularly Support Beer


I’ve told you no politician in Canada denies beer. Jacques Boissinot‘s photo for the Canadian Press above of NDP leader Jack Layton taken in a bar during the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins playoff game on April 14 proves it. It looks a lot like the one of our Prime Minister pouring a brew in Halifax earlier in the campaign, except he’s not as awkward. Jack awkward? Heck, the second night of the debates got moved to make sure there was no conflict with this game and Jack Layton made sure he let voters know where his heart lay last night – a sports bar in Montreal, La Cage aux Sports. And unlike Harper, he looks like he actually knows how to down one. More here.

Day 17: Thank Heavens The Word “Illegal” Was Removed

Yesterday watching Twitter election 2011 flow by was one of the most bizarre things I have ever witnessed in politics.

Idle yapping about Iggy’s wife citizenship suddenly breaks for the announcement that a confidential draft of the Auditor General’s report on the G8 has been leaked and is out there and, apparently, Sheila Fraser says the Government “misled” Parliament and did “illegal” stuff. Journalists freak. After lunch, Tory pointy-shouty man John Baird comes out and says he has a later draft and misled and illegal aren’t in there so it’s all OK…. and the Liberals are evil [… even though the Grits have nothing to do with anything… OK, he never said the Liberals were evil.] Then, astoundingly, the super secret report draft is handed over by Baird to the press… and the Toronto Sun publishes it including this:

2.20 – For example, we looked for selection documentation for the Huntsville G8 Centre (Community Recreation Complex $16.7 million) and expansion (Facility for Waterloo University $9.75 million), which were constructed for the Summit but, ultimately, not used as announcedc The Centre was intended to be a facility to coordinate overall logistics for the event and serve as an’ accreditation hub to vet thousands of people attending the event. We found that when the announcement for this project was made in February 2009, DFAIT had determined the centre would not be suitable because it was not expected to be completed in time. …

2.22 – In our view, the manner in which the G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund was presented did not make clear to Parliament the full nature of the request. By including the request under the item “Funding for the Border Infrastructure Fund relating to investments in infrastructure to reduce border congestion” government did not clearly or transparently identify the nature of the request for funding, that is, G8 infrastructure project spending.

So, the riding of a member of Cabinet gets a multi-million dollar G8 facility known at the time to not be needed for the purpose of the G8, Parliament is told its a project which is part of the reduction of border congestion and the fact that Fraser comes out and tells people not to draw conclusions based on a draft makes all the journalists shake their heads at each other and tell themselves they rushed to judgment? Then it turns out the Tories twisted her words in another report and the news flow moves on…

That has got to be the weirdest thing I have ever seen in Canadian politics. Tories still 8.5% up on Grits and the debates start tonight. Oh, and I got offered to blog for the rest of the election for a major national news outlet just like back in 2005/06. But I was supposed to do it without pay. I trust you are proud of me turning it down.