Is There Anyone More Interesting Than Simon H Johnson?

simon1I like helping people. Say what you like, I am a people person at heart. I helped people today. I have been helping people so much this week, I have snapped at an old pal in my business life and been living on five hour sleeps. I made a lamb sausage curry tonight, too. So it is with some discomfort but for more giggles that I read Simon’s post today entitled “Reluctant Scooper regrets that…” about his regrets over not being able to respond to all the demands made of him including regrets that he can’t:

– read your blog just because you tweeted me to do so in BLOCK CAPITALS
– write 500 words for free in the next two hours for your magazine because the writer you usually pay to do it has got delayed at an airport with no wifi / is face-down in a vat of custard / has caught VD
– recycle your press release into an “innovative yet commanding” blogpost
– do any kind of RT / Like / +1. Even if you say ‘please’. Even if you didn’t ask in Comic Sans. Because you asked for it
– attend your bar opening which is three hundred miles away. On a Tuesday night. With 24 hours notice. Because all the proper beer journos have got gastroenteritis. Or a better offer…

It does remind me of my latest policy update. It appears that Simon has a lawn, too, but he is able to sum up the point of beer blogging succinctly with a “[i]f it isn’t for shits & giggles, what to we do it for?” Perfect. Exactly. This week I have been working through Shakespeare’s Local by Pete, perhaps his real breakthrough book. I have assisted with comments on the draft of another book. I got 16 beers worth of samples dropped off. I helped a household of seven stay sane. I thought a lot about Albany, NY in the 1600’s and how it is just possible they were exporting beer out into the larger Dutch West Indies colonies. I drove to Ottawa and back Thursday night. I worked at my job, too. I was told there was “a bunch of young beer people who follow you questioning your relevance to your face” and knew how important it was to not give a rat’s ass in any way whatsoever.

There is so much fun in all of this. So many shits and giggles. Why bother with the rest?

An Apology And Thoughts About My Lawn

It was with relief and pleasure that I was able to share emails with Jason Fisher of Indie Alehouse in Toronto today after our strong disagreement over the weekend. Others have suggested that, on one hand, I was well out of line and, conversely, entirely in the right but it still was not a good thing for me to do… calling him a jerk. So, I am sorry. I told him so in an email last night and slipped a note in the comments this morning. An apology is a good short cut to getting to where you want to be – especially if you have never met someone you owe an apology.

That being said, and as I told Jason, I am not sure that resolves our disagreement even if it civilizes it. See, there was enough brain imploding stuff in the message for me that I not only disagree with where he was going but was also left wondering if someone gave out a vital message about my blog and blogging in general that I missed. It comes from these lines of Jason’s:

I’m not sure why bloggers at the same time feel like journalists but also refuse to do any basic fact checking or follow up. Did you contact anyone to clarify anything before writing? It appears you didn’t even fully read the article… .. Keep the standards high and please feel free to reach out with questions to the subjects you write about. You would be surprised how much help you will get if you are open about your intentions and honest in your writings. Thoughtful criticism is amazing, but get’s muted when others just spew hate or nonsense.

You will note the potential to read this statement to suggest that I am like a journalist – not to mention a spewer of hate or nonsense. I am not a journalist. True, I like to write about good beer and journalism and enjoy my many conversations that follow posts about that such as this recent one. But asking questions about journalism as applied to good beer doesn’t make me a journalist. I have written and sold articles but, frankly, being shocked at the pittance the path offered by way of reward have since declined further offers. You poor bastards, I think whenever I read an article.

In my 2008 review of Michael Jackson’s last edition of Great Beers Of Belgium, I got as close to where I think I have ever got to expressing how many different sorts of writing can be applied to good beer. And of those sorts of writing I’ve decided that what I do is write personal essays about my relationship with beer presented to the public through this medium. The post I wrote that triggered Jason’s strong response was no different. And I even considered it supportive. Still do. Not boot-licky but certainly supportive. I was in particular interested in the complex environment of microbes sitting on a grape monoculture and discussed that quite briefly in a very brief post. I did also reiterate that I hoped the resulting beer from the wild yeast project was not sold for twenty bucks a glass and continue to have that strong hope even if it was a source of unhappiness. What was most missed, however, in that welling up of emotion were three statements that I also continue to keep close to my heart. The project in question is a great idea, I hope the beer will be yummy and also, just to drive home the point, I hope it is tasty, too. Hardly, Mr. Hate-y McHate-ster.

So? Why is this continuing post of confession of iniquities worthy or at least driving into another paragraph? Because some anonymous wit tweetedWow… talk about get off my lawn syndrome” which is odd because this is, in fact, my lawn. I write my own stuff here, don’t expect anyone takes much from it, like having interesting conversations but do pretty much what I want. See, this is also my lawn. I explore suburban food gardening out there. Here I explore ideas about beer in here. I don’t write with ambition. I don’t write for readers. I don’t certainly write articles. And I really don’t care much for anyone’s opinion as I don’t owe strangers, even you reading this now, anything through my writing any more than I owe the neighbours lettuce because it falls within their view. Don’t confuse me for a booster. Or a ready or implicit PR source for your interests of business. Or someone needy for a relationship with a brewer. Or a ready object for your judgement. Or someone with an agenda that needs to be parsed from tone when the express words don’t suit yours. Or even part of your scene or community or industry. I am just a guy writing. Because I like writing. Like I like green beans and raspberry plants.

Where does that leave us? Stan put it well when he set the rule that it is only beer. But another person I have never met even on -line may have put it better when he interjected in the flow that the best beer is a shared buddy beer, a great reminder of the proper point of the entire hobby – because this is all a big hobby, right. Assuming someone is needing pointed interjection is a pastime of the congenitally misguided as well as the nicest sort of folk you may encounter. Finding malice where none exists is such a waste. Don’t bother. Not on my lawn at least. So you can believe me when I repeat that I am sorry, Jason. But believe me also when I write I think the project of wild yeast inoculation is a good idea. Because I do.

But Which Spenser Would Not Be The Fool?

Jordan posted an excellent taking up of the exploration of ideas around junkets last evening. Earlier in the day he and I had a very good exchange on the topic and I assured him that the point was that this was very much that – an exploration. It interests me because in my other areas of life, there is no question that accepting side b$enefits from those I am dealing with would be greatly challenging to say the least. But Jordan’s review captures many of the differences that may make the situation distinct. He concludes his piece with this:

I suspect that the fact that Alan’s blog post needled at me at 6:30 AM in an environment where most people would be content to listen to a light jazz soundtrack and punish the continental breakfast buffet speaks to the fact that I have an active moral compass when it comes to representing my activities as they relate to writing about beer. There is also the other fact, which some folks might not be willing to admit to. While I’m certainly compensated well for writing (be it books or newspaper columns), a trip like this would typically be beyond my financial means. Given the circumstance, if someone invites you to go to Boston, meet Jim Koch and eat a bunch of really good seafood while drinking a selection of beer on their dime, the response is predictable. As Spenser would say, “We’d be fools not to.”

Being the proud holder of a degree in English Lit before the LLB and LLM, I immediately assumed we were talking about the author of The Faerie Queene, itself an exploration of virtue – but I was unclear how that would attach to a beery jaunt in Massachusetts, to Winthrop’s very City upon the Hill. Then I thought it might be reference to the Victorian thinker Herbert Spencer who was, perhaps like Jordan, a utilitarian in matters such as these. But this Spenser’s ethics are a distasteful pre-Randian whackjob un-virtuous sort of utilitarianism, the sort that allows wikipedia to summarize his thoughts as including “anything that interfered with the ‘natural’ relationship of conduct and consequence was to be resisted and this included the use of the coercive power of the state to relieve poverty, to provide public education, or to require compulsory vaccination.” Screw you, too, Herb. Turns out Jordan was actually referring to the character Spenser in the novels of Robert B. Parker. This Spenser is also Bostonian so a junket there would make no sense. Not sure how his ethics play out but seeing as he is a detective one assumes they are somewhat reality-based.

Some years ago now, there were bloggy posts about the ethics of beer writing that went in circles before settling neatly on a high shelf where it sits well within reach, getting brushed off now and again. The Junket Registry is nothing more than the same ideas turned around, like looking at another side of an unsorted Rubik’s cube. I never gained the obsession that others did when it first came out so I don’t know how many paths it offers towards its own resolution. Within Spencers and Spensers alone the range of options is quite remarkable, too.

Can You Make Wild Beer In A Vineous Mono-culture?


Like most things, Canadians are about half a decade behind so it is no surprise that a group of Ontario brewers have decided to take a kick at wild beer or that some in the Canadian media reacted to the invitation as if they had no idea what was going on in the wider world of good beer. Which is nothing against those directly involved. It’s a great idea. Hope it is yummy and not sold for twenty bucks a glass. Experiment on your own dime, brewers.

Wild indigenous wine yeasts are one of the current things. Like Citra hops. Craze that might be a fad. Here today and gone tomorrow. Yet the yeast is itself. From the photo up top from the Macleans magazine article, you can see the brewing is done in a vineyard, an agricultural monoculture. But is it a monoculture of yeast even if the plants are all clones? Apparently not. We learn that our mutual friend Saccharomyces cerevisiae is certainly on the grapes but only on about 1 in 1,000 berries. What else is in there? The beer will tell. Could be tasty. Hopefully.

PS: get a coolship, wouldja? Wild inoculation via narrow topped vessels might be less than optimum if the history of beer before a hundred or so years ago is anything to go by.