An Update On The OCB And The Commentary Wiki

3014So, the forecast for the last four weeks over at the wiki that was set out in my Halloween post “And Quiet Flows the OCBeerCommentary Wiki” came to pass. This is going to be a longish process. But it advances. I just finished loading the Index of Articles by Author to the point Stan managed to get to, which was mid-“J”. I have gotten it to “L” and hope to fit in the rest before Christmas so we can cross reference commentary to the indexing. Oh, think of the data mining possibilities. Any volunteers want to load a letter or two? If you have email and a copy of the OCB, please let me know.

The biggest news related to The Oxford Companion to Beer is that it is hitting the top 50 on It is sitting at #44 right now but has been as high as #15 that I have seen. This is good for beer. Don’t be confused like the deeply afflicted Protz. The wiki displays the parasitic nature of the beer nerd in nicest sort way. The OCB is the Wildebeest while we are the Oxpecker. And it’s only $26 bucks right now. Buy it. Right now.

And what have we found? Well, a month ago, Clay Risen in The Atlantic saw only 40 entries and considered the commentary mainly about interpretation. While he was fairly incorrect on the last point, we are now up to 62 entries and many have multiple comments and corrections. Just look at the entries for “ale”, “ale house” and “ale pole.” More interesting to me, however, is that some of the entries are mainly elaborations of the topic, building upon what is there. So, we can now see that Canada‘s brewing experience was years and perhaps decades older. We can see that the US state of New York had a rich post-Prohibition hop growing experience. Neato.

62 entries? That’s 5.63% of the book. By Christmas, maybe it’s 9% or 12%. Who knows? What is good is how information gets fine tuned through the wiki – not the scorecard. Join up. If you have a copy now or get one for Christmas, let me know if you’d like to add any thoughts by emailing me at

Some Weekender Bullety Points For Yulesight

Yulesight. You can see the holidays coming but you are not quite connected emotionally yet. It was an interesting week. I was slagged in the British media. Beer magazine columnist with a chip on his tiny shoulders. Wrote a complaint to the publisher whose response was that they did not feel, that I in fact had been called a Nazi sympathizer. They did remove the article from the web but you can see it in Google cache all the same. Other than that, it snowed for the first time this winter.

Love the Starbucks coffee cup. We may not be the 1% but we do like 1% partly skimmed milk foam.

♦ The caribou were right where they were told they would be.

EU officials apparently had declared that you could not claim water helped with dehydration: “The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are: highly-paid, highly-pensioned officials worrying about the obvious qualities of water…”

♦ Sadly, more than enough bad to go around.

♦ Hey – there’s another bit of Canada’s national administration being dumped by the Feds – immigration policy: “While other provinces have fully embraced their provincial constitutional responsibility of selecting immigrants … Ontario has effectively abdicated its ability to engage in the immigration dossier in a serious way.”

There. Weekend. Scooby-Doo on the TV. Bailey’s in the coffee.


Book Review: The Economics Of Beer – Swinnen, ed.

oxeb1I bought this because Simon told me to. Simon said.

This book is a series of essays related to the 2009 conference of The Beeronomics Society. It says on its back cover that it “is the first economic analysis of the beer market and brewing industry” but that is just silly puffery. There have been loads of economic analysis of the beer market and brewing industry. Frankly we have been weighed down by them. Don’t make me review Tremblay and Trembaly again. Do you remember those graphs and tables?

This book is a lot like one of my favorite sets of essays, the papers from the “Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture.” It is also a lot like Beer and Philosophy, a set of essays which included one from me on the underlying philosophy of beer regulation in Canada. What they all have in common is that they are a collection of papers tackling aspects of a general topic from various points of view. In the TEOB you will find 18 papers from the 2009 conference organized under the four topics of history, consumption, industrial organization and the new beer markets. With any luck, as with the annual baseball conference but unlike Beer and Philosophy, the followup second conference of The Beeronomics Society will issue another volume of essays reflective of the topics covered in September 2011.

So is it worth getting? For a book nerd like me, sure. I was a little uneasy with the superficiality of the first essay “A Brief Economic History of Beer” given it covered so much of time and culture so quickly. However, when I saw that there was an essay by Richard Unger, everyone’s favorite beery medievalist and Renaissance man, I was won over. And the essay “Recent Economic Developments in the Import and Craft Segments of the US Brewing Industry” by the manical graph-huggers¹ T+T may serve as something of an update of their 2005 book. Best of all, each submission comes with its own bibliography alerting folk like me to other papers and texts that might be out there just waiting to be added to the book shelf.

Published, too, by Oxford University Press, this book is another sign that we fans of beer and brewing live in lucky times. If I have more intelligent comment after reading a bit more, I will add it in the comments. But at this point this, too, looks like a good buy for the serious beer nerd.

¹ There are seven graphs and four table in just 18 pages!!!

Book Review: Great British Pubs, Adrian Tierney-Jones

3076I have to say that this book is a bit of a shock. I never knew you could mix so much porn with this degree of authoritative statement. How does one react? I have learned things I will share… yet I have wallowed in the depths of my deepest private imagination. AJT is good. He’s like a pusher. He’s feeding me what I want in the way that I want it – and not necessarily in a way that suits my best interests. As I was reading this just now I was imagining how we might place the kids – the five kids – and just take off for a week to cross an ocean to hang out, you know, in British pubs.

What else can I say? The book is a collection of, say, six to 14 pubs arranged in “best of” themes. Best of heritage pubs. Best of seaside pubs. 22 or so categories. Reasonable layout and mapping as we saw with the Edinburgh guide. And then those descriptions. These pubs are either simply compelling in their own right or AJT makes them so in the brief entry that accompanies each entry. Consider the entry for The Bell at page 118 in Saffron Walden in Essex, included in the best just off the motorway category. The Elizabethan property includes several acres of walking space. That makes me want to go there – even if I am not on a long highway drive passing by. And what about The King’s Head in Laxfield, visited by our pal Paul back in 2007. Paul gave us a great picture in words and photos of the place including the open room in the back where you get the beer instead of anything like a bar. Adrian tells us what it is like to walk through the place looking for the beer room. Gorgeous. And there are so many more descriptions of the sorts of bars you want to sit in, soak in. Be in. There’s even Jeff and The Gunmakers there on page 69 (dude!) I miss Stonch. Have I mentioned that?

Summing up? Bought this myself. Not a review copy. It’s the Christmas pressie you want. Big time. Buy it.

“Oops”? – Can’t A Guy Get A Mulligan Or Two?

Is this really the worst thing a candidate can do in a debate?

“And I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone,” he said. “Commerce, education, and the — what’s the third one there? Let’s see …. OK. Commerce, education, and the —” He looked helplessly toward the elderly Ron Paul, standing next to him on the stage, who added helpfully: “The EPA?” Mr. Perry replied: “EPA, there you go.” The moderator pressed on, asking if, indeed, he was proposing to cut the Environmental Protection Agency. He said no, but admitted he could not name the third agency. “The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”

I haven’t seen the video but surely this was an opportunity to make a joke or at least a chance to give a guy a break for a brain fart. Nothing more. Or is it a case of kicking the candidate to make sure a dead campaign is really dead. Shouldn’t “oops” come with a little dignity, the waving of a small white flag? Otherwise, isn’t it a bit like kicking the dog that only did what a dog does? Shouldn’t recourse to “oops” mean witness ye all the human condition, judge not lest ye, too, be judged?

That Odd Tension: Wishing To Find Any Answer But Beer

That’s footnote 27 at page 134 of New Sweden in America which is exhibiting something between a quibble and a theme. It’s actually in a chapter in that book, “Lenape Maize Sales to the Swedish Colonists: Cultural Stability during the Early Colonial Period” by Marshall Joseph Becker in which there is a lot of very interesting stuff. For example, in 1654, there was an effort to expand trade products with the Lenape, the local nation, from mainly corn to hops as well. Like the colony, it was a flop but who knew the colonial Swedes were gathering hops in the mid-17th century Delaware. There’s more. In another document, the same Becker shows that New Sweden’s outpost at Tinicum Island had a brewhouse: warning pgf and elsewhere we read that

Swedish women in Delaware made beer not only from pompions (pumpkins) and corn but persimmons and watermelons.

So, with all that evidence that there was plenty of beer and brewing in colonial New Sweden during its existence from 1638 to 1660 why is there a suspicion that the brew kettle was being used for something other than producing beer? I haven’t cataloged it but, just like a Shakespeare play presented in Victorian accent, there seems to be a tension over time, in this case a presumption that beer was not as pervasive in northern western culture prior to a certain point in industrialization as we also seem to know it was. It may be that we don’t want to know or that we can’t take on just how much was drunk by how many. The more I read about these earlier points, however, the more I think I should be surprised to find a sober official, a dry town.

Toronto’s York Brewery And Playter’s Tavern 1801-05


I have been playing around with some passages on Toronto in the first years of the 19th century. Here is what I started with:

⇒ “A recent Fact will corroborate what I have said; A Brewer from Kingston removed to York lately and, on application to the Governor, obtained one of the King’s vessels to transport wheat and other Grain from Kingston and the Bay of Quintie, before beer coud be made – and almost all the Pork, Beer, Butter, Flour, Hams, Mutton, which are used at York are brought by water, from Kingston, Niagara, the Genesee Counttry, &c &c. – In short the Town is supported by the money which the Gentlemen who have Salaries from Government expend in Buildings & other Improvements; and that source begins to fail.“: Letter, Rev John Stuart to the Bishop of Nova Scotia, Kingston, September 14, 1801.

⇒ “Even in 1815, after the establishment of two neighbourhood breweries, Commissariat General Robinson was obliged to buy 8,347 gallons of beer and liquors from Kingston for the men at the cost of L8,800“: Bowering, page 9.

⇒ “York Brewery, southeast corner of Duchess and Sherbourne (Caroline) Streets, 1800-1805. Just when the first commercial brewery in York, and who the brewmaster was may never be known… This brewery may have been operated by Robert Henderson in a notice of sale dated 1809, Henderson advertised a milling plant, brewhouse, working tubs, coolers, two kilns for drying malt, two good wells or water, a stable,” two stills, a townhouse, slaughterhouse and three acres of land“: Bowering, page 91.

⇒ “1805 – Upper Canada – Robert Henderson establishes York’s (Toronto’s) first brewery. It closed 12 years later and the facility was leased by different brewers until 1853“: Sneath, page 329.

So you see there is some question as to when a brewery was first built in Toronto – or what was then York… but then I also remembered In Mixed Company by Roberts and how there was a chapter about an early tavern keeper who kept a diary. Turns out it was written in 1802-02 and turns out she gives the address for the tavern – the corner of King and Caroline Streets. Which made me look up above again and see that Bowering gave an address as well.

playtertor2011Over time Duchess is now Richmond and Caroline did become Sherbourne but that is enough to dip into the City of Toronto’s historical maps and atlases online collection and – voila. We have the information above. Which also means we can figure out where these spots are today which you will see if you click on that little thumbnail.

Roberts explains that the Toronto of Playter’s diary and the founding of its first brewery had 75 to 100 homes and about 320 inhabitants in town, about 420 in the surrounding country as well as about 240 in the military garrison to the west. Both establishments sit in what is even then called Old Town. It’s the administrative capital of the new colony of Upper Canada. Roberts also indicates that drinking in Playter’s included rum, “sling” and punch as well as whiskey, brandy and wine. No beer is mentioned that I see.

I would love to have a read of the diary but, if we think of that letter from Rev. Stuart above, we might quess that early York is something of a Brasilia, a constructed government town. The kind of place that you had wine over beer. Not Stuart’s sort of place. No, he was a beer man. One of the founders of my town, his beer tankard is now owned by the people of Canada. He may well have had many an ale from Albany in it. He was a personal pal of Sir William Johnson, both backwoods leaders in central New York before the Revolution, home of our loyalists, beer drinkers there and in what becomes Ontario a decade before the colonial softie government officials show up in York.

Was This The Earliest Brewing In English Canada?


Sneath, Pashley and Rubin all mention the 1600s brewers of New France – Hebert (1617), Ambroise (1646) and Talon (1670). But I just came across this reference in a footnote in the Minutes of the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1671-1674, published by Toronto’s Champlain Society in 1942, describing payments being made on 16 February 1674 for goods supplied to the ships of the Hudson Bay company:

John Raymond, “By Severall quantities of Ship Beere at 40s p. Tonn Strong beere at 12s, 9d a barrell & Harbor Beere at 6s 6d p. barrell with Malt & Hopps dd. Capt. Gillam, Morris and Cole”, £ 79.

A few months later, a committee of the Hudson Bay Company on 6 July 1674 directed payment to the same John Raymond £ 30 on account of “”Beer and Malt. dd. on board the Prince Rupert.” These items appear among a long list of payments for other necessary goods for taking aboard the ships Prince Rupert, Messenger and Employ. You will see in footnote 2 to this post on a blog by Norma Hall subtitled “Northern Arc: the Significance of Seafaring to Western Canadian History” that these three ships were sailing between England and Hudson Bay in the first half of the 1670s. The Prince Rupert and Messenger, at least, over wintered.

There are loads of interesting questions and observations from these passages from the Minutes of the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1671-1674 including why are they shipping malt and hops separate from barrels of beer. If these ships overwintered and carried malt and hops it is pretty obvious that they must have been brewing. We know the British brewed on ships in the Arctic in 1852 so why not in 1674? But also – what is “harbor beer”? It costs about half of “strong beer” and we know from Gate’s work on Kingston that in 1825 “small or ship beer” was being sold in Kingston. But most of all the question is this – was this the first brewing of beer in English Canada? Or did other earlier over wintering ships brew, too?

Book Review: The Art And Mystery Of Brewing in Ontario

boweringWhile I stand by my statement:

“…brewing history can be a tool or route to understanding for some but is ultimately unimportant if you do not need to tap into it…”

… I have to admit that I do like dabbling in it – as long as I stay within the reach of my own capabilities. I especially like dabbling in it care of a stack of bedside books when I am, like today, on the third day of the treatment for a blip of pneumonia. And good thing, too, as it’s not like the weeks of cough medications leading to this stage have left me longing for a tart gueuze. But, while we are at it, would it kill big pharmacy to make a expectorant that tastes like an imperial stout?

Anyway, one of the books recently added to the pile is 1988’s The Art And Mystery Of Brewing in Ontario by Ian Bowering. We suffer in Canada from a lack of understanding of ourselves and no where more than here in Ontario. Atlantic Canadians, Quebeckers and Western Canadians all are rightly proud of themselves even if it is largely based on how they have each been screwed in their own special way by that place to stand, place to grow, Ontar-i-ar-i-ar-i-o.

Bowering’s book helps with Ontario’s blandness. It sits in an important place with others on brewing in Canada and does one thing particularly well. It lists the breweries by town. Simple thing but it shows that brewing advanced across the province as the population advanced westerly from the early 1790s or before in eastern Kingston to the late 1890s in Rat Portage, over 2,000 km to the NW. It also shows that brewing was going on at a far larger scale, unexpected industrialization with far greater distribution earlier on than some might suggest. Brains Brewery in rural 1834 was producing 100 barrels a week. Lager was being made in Kitchener well before 1850 and even wee Huether Crystal Springs in little Neustadt delivered in a 70 km radius a few year later.

Information will advance and it is evident more information has come to light when we compare the listings for Kingston and compare them to the brand new book The Breweries of Kingston and The St. Lawrence Valley by Steve Gates which follows a similar structure. But as one wag recently stated:

…that there are others out there who will identify errata and offer corrections is something which will ultimately contribute to the further development and maturation of this particular field of study.

I might add that it is the only way it will further develop and mature. And not only through peer review and correction but building on the shoulders of others who have gone before. So Gates cites Bowering, Sneath cites Bowering, Mr. B cites Bowering, Pashley cites Mr. B and Sneath. It’s the way things work, the way we build the collective body of knowledge – if, that is, we are actually interested in presenting what actually was.