Vic… Let Me Tell You A Little Something About Me

Canadian Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews has found himself caught in a 1998 style flame war that would be the pride of usenet. As the Federation devolves, this is the sort of thing that entertains. Most fun is not the fact that it appears his nemesis is related to an opposition party but the surprise experienced by so many Canadians this evening that someone in the opposition has the gumption – I said it, gumption – to, you know, oppose:

An IP address connected to what is known as the Vikileaks30 Twitter account — which has been burning up the Twittersphere with claims about Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ personal life — originates within the House of Commons. In a bid to determine the origin of the account, which posted a string of tweets online offering alleged details relating to Toews’s divorce proceedings, the Ottawa Citizen undertook an investigation on Thursday. An email was sent to the writer of the Vikileaks30 Twitter account, containing a link to a website. The website was monitored by the Citizen and only the author of Vikileaks30 had the address of the website. About 15 minutes after sending the email, Vikileaks30 opened the link and visited the page, leaving behind an IP address that belongs to the House of Commons.

Sadly, the needy CBC hipster class of Canadian sees all and learns nothing, considering it “…lovable inclusiveness…a very Canadian kind of protest.” Mr. Taylor is really only upset that his gang did not think of it first.

Do New Beer Styles Just Reflect New Ways… And Stuff?

The other day I read one of the more interesting passages of beery thought that I had read in some time. It’s from a response to a post at Jeff’s Beervana about the wonky less than linear history of beer styles:

While it’s entirely possible that malt bills and hopping rates of many of craft brewing’s “new” styles might have had occurrences in the past for which records are poor, incomplete or just plain lost, historically brewers could NOT have brewed beers that we’d be able to directly compare to some of the popular craft brewing styles today. Why? Ingredients. There are simply varieties of malts and hops available to brewers today that are, in a word, new. These newer varieties are creating flavor profiles that weren’t really available to brewers of yore. Hell, the venerable Cascade hop only came into usage in the 1960’s I believe. Combinations of malt and hops in the way they are used today, but using instead the varieties (including malting techniques) of, say, a hundred years ago, would have yielded beers that are so dramatically different that we’d say that they were different styles. IPA is a simple example. One of the key characteristics of the “American IPA” is not just how much hops are used, but the fact that the bitterness, flavor and aromatic profile is centered around newer American varieties of hops.

I like this. It admits that the fashionable brewer is dependent on the new ideas of the maltster and the hop grower. And on new ways of doing things. But we know also the Albany Ale project has proven the opposite is quite true as well. Ingredients (aka stuff) which once were are no more. We have no idea what Cluster was like in 1838 any more than we know what hop will govern in 2038. We live on a river of time where the shock of the new is nothing compared to the disappearance of the past. And, if that all is true, are the style guidelines – like those updated as announced in a press release from the Brewers Association today – really as heinous as we might all quite comfortable suggest to each other? Or do they just express the today we happen to find ourselves facing? Put it this way – if new forms of ingredients and new ways of brewing should come into the market, why shouldn’t new names and concepts of classes be added to describe them as these are woven into our beer?

Let me illustrate the point.with an analogy to the strength of pale ales. The other day when I was doing my drinks free drinks dialogue I discussed how the range was both expanding and filling in. I suggested that I now needed a new word to be coined for me to describe US pale ales between 5.6%-ish and 7.4% or so. Something between a pale and an IPA that might itself be from 7.5% to about 8.5% where the double IPA may start to make merry up on up to 10% before they yield in turn to imperial IPAs. None of that really makes sense when compared to brewing heritage or even recent trendy trends… but if I am having a 6.5% brew, I have no illusions that I am in league with either a 4.9% or a 8%. I want to have words to describe this difference.

If that is the case, is difference based not on strength but on a change in methods or a novel ingredient so wrong? We all know that these style guides are not ultimately important let alone critical to understanding and appreciating beer. We admit that. But are they wrong? Consider the idea of “field beer” at page 30 of the new guidelines for example. Clearly deciding to disassociate itself from the downside of vegetable, it is a splintering off from fruit beer and herb beer. Fern ale might fit in here. Sure we would need someone to pick up and brew the style last described in 1668 but if it not only were brewed but then became the pervasive fashion totally replacing retro light lagers as the preferred drink for the hipsters of 2038 – why not describe it as its own separate style?

Can I Run A Beer Tasting Session Without Tasting?

Here’s the thing. I don’t like to drink all that much on Sunday and really like to avoid drinking on Monday. It’s not that I plan when I do but have always liked clear days. And, for other reasons, I have to stay clear anyway. But I was asked to present some IPAs to some good beery people tonight and, well, that’s usually too interesting to pass up. So, I am going to get thinking about the stink of beer. I was over in northern NY Friday, bought a bunch of strong if not stenchily aromatic IPAs and plan to do a few experiments in smell-o-logy. I hope to finally prove the speed of smell. I am planning to see if anyone shouts out the word “parsley!!!” without prompting. And I also plan to see if we can find out how long beer people can go without actually sipping.

Should be fun. More later when the results start coming in. Any other experiments you suggest I impose upon the lab rats?

Update: A fairly focused range of beers can still illustrate a wide range of concepts about beer. I brought Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale, Sixpoint Bengali Tiger, Stone Arrogant Bastard, Firestone Walker Double Jack, Anderson Valley Imperial IPA and Stoudt Double IPA. Beau’s poured its Beaver River I.P.Eh. So here is some of what we thought about:

♦ Brand theme. Stone was compared to Sixpoint. Both have very iconic imagery but Stone conveys all that gargoyle content while Sixpoint is much more subtle… not hard while you think of it. Both identify but only one irritates. But does it matter as long as it identifies? Anderson Valley looked like a 70s album cover but we were unclear on Zep or Yes.
♦ Price point. The Sixpoint was the cheapest beer (at $5.00 per litre) but stood out with the Firestone Walker (at $12 per litre) as the more tasty two of the set. This got is us into a conversation about who is the market for beer that go from $12 to $20 per litre and beyond.
♦ Regionalist tastes. Stoudt at 10% had a butter note that got us into diacetyl while the Anderson Valley gave us hard water. I suggested this might be an east coast v. west coast phenomenon. We talked about some of the earthy notes in Quebec beers that you don’t see elsewhere, too.
♦ Speed of smell. I clocked it at about 4 inches a second.
♦ Memory and taste. I wondered how much of taste and memory is the mind triggering taste associations as much as tastes and smell takes us back to a former place. I thought we unpack the mix of flavours in a given beer – and one that is very similar to the last and next beers – and our brain seeks to differentiate through distinguishing associations.

Finally, what I really learned is that you can lead a tasting without tasting. You get to ask questions and listen. I find that usually much more interesting than hearing what I think.

Your Weekend Bullets For Super Bowl Sunday

Friday was a bit of a write off. I couldn’t get bullety. I was over in northern NY to see Mookie Wilson and Bill Buckner at a charity dinner. A fun night of watching and talking ball and watching and talking about NNY. Then Saturday came and went. I was busy with errands, baking bread… and then not busy laying around. I watched 7 episodes of Doctor who from the early 70s and late 80s. I am not sure what this sort of weekend leads to. The Super Bowl of course. And seed catalogs. February is the New Brunswick of months, a stretch to get through.

♦ I think I find it more odd that most ancient writings passed down to us are not more like this.

Hockey boycott? I never heard of a hockey boycott over the game being too rough.

♦ I remember the Spicer Commission because I was there.

♦ While I am not one of those who believes there is an anti-booze conspiracy, it does seem like this sort of article depends much on magical thinking, great pains being taking to make a rational point where benefit is harmoniously maximized.

Big talk comes easy with low levels of responsibility. Like Ottawa leads the attack on the Iranian tyrant. But it would be kinda weird if we did.

There you go. Another week and another February. Think I will go for a walk. Feels like March out there.