What Korea Is Teaching China About Beer On TV

We live on a big planet. So big that that there is no reason to expect to understand why this is happening:

In “My Love From the Star,” a romantic comedy about a Korean actress and her extraterritorial boyfriend, the show’s main character (played by Korean A-lister Jun Ji-hyun) is crazy for chimek—“chi” is short for chicken and “mek” for “mekju,” the Korean word for beer. She specifically likes to partake in a meal of chimek to celebrate the year’s first snowfall. That on-the-screen tradition is playing out in real-life fried chicken joints across China as fans of the show get their chimek fix. “These days when my friends and I get together, we order fried chicken with beer,” said Ada He, who works for a real-estate company in Beijing and is a self-professed Korean drama lover.

We are further told that more “than 3.7 million posts related to the Chinese term for chimek have been published on Weibo over the past few weeks.” Korean fried chicken is fried twice but it all looks a lot like, you know, chicken. Some guy in Melbourne ate it with 4 litres of beer and left a review on the web this very day. The fad showed up in NYC in 2007. Apparently, one must get some fried chicken delivered to your picnic spot near the Han River.

Is the beer any good? Or is it only the goodness of the chicken that suits the beer? Not sure.

Quebec Beer-Drinkers Cardiomyopathy?

This article at the CBC.ca website answers a question about a major event in Quebec’s brewing history:

One of the first published reports on cobalt intoxication was in 1967. Called “Quebec beer drinkers’ cardiomyopathy,” doctors described 44 men in their 40s to 60s who were heavy drinkers who died unexpectedly. “There was a suspense element to the story,” recalled cardiologist Dr. Yves Morin of Quebec City. “It took a lot of time and effort to find a cause of the disease.” It turned out the men all drank beer made at the Dow brewery in Quebec City. The brewery had added cobalt to stabilize the beer’s foam.

Here is the actual medical journal from the 1960s on the outbreak. I had heard more about that the brewery had denied responsibility and dumped its inventory in the river than they were putting cobalt in the beer. Cobalt. Yum.

Is There Anything Sadder Than The Law Not In Force?

monkey4Despite having two law degrees as well as 20 years under my belt in practice, the law can still confuse me. Consider this:

Note: On a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor, section 62.1 is repealed by the Statutes of Ontario, 2006, chapter 32, Schedule D, subsection 7 (2) and the following substituted…

62.1 (1) A municipality may pass by-laws extending the hours of sale of liquor in all or part of the municipality by the holders of a licence and a by-law may authorize a specified officer or employee of the municipality to extend the hours of sale during events of municipal, provincial, national or international significance. 2006, c. 32, Sched. D, s. 7 (2).

That is a cut and paste job of a section of Ontario’s Liquor Licensing Act and it follows a provision that currently reads “The City of Toronto may pass by-laws extending the hours of sale of liquor in all or part of the City…” Notice the difference? The current law only applies to that city at the other end of the lake. The portion I quoted from above is a pending amendment to the law. Pending. Pending as the law has already passed the legislature, The decision has been made by the law makers. We are just waiting for the proclamation. We are waiting for the paperwork. Excellent.

Excellent? See, there is a big game tomorrow morning at 7 am in which the national pride of Canada is on the line. The gold medal game in men’s Olympic hockey. It’s our World Cup final and we hope to beat the Swedes. People are excited. Churches will be empty. Some provinces are allowing early morning tavern openings and some are not. Which is fine as it is up to each Province to make up its mind in these matters under the division of powers under our constitution. But in Ontario, Toronto has been granted the power to make local decisions but every other municipality is prohibited. The results are obvious. Confusion and a bit of annoyance. The City of Kawartha Lakes council thought it was within its rights and passed a special bylaw last Wednesday only to be advised by the bureaucracy that the action was void. Because someone forgot to proclaim the amendment. How’s that for a salute to democracy?

Personally, I am not missing out on anything. Even in Ontario’s tightest period of alcohol control in the early 1920s, we were subject to a form of regulated temperance which allowed home drinking and even home brewing. So, if I want a drink that early in the morning nothing is stopping me. But – solely because someone forgot to proclaim the amendment – only if I was in Toronto could I go out and have a beer at 7 am like normal people elsewhere do all the time. Most irritating is having to read Josh’s tips for drinking in Toronto tomorrow morning. Nice to know, however, that the general rule that you can be wrong when drinking beer has reared its head. Me? If I can have unsweetened grapefruit juice along with hot sauce on my eggs, I think I might be able to handle an IPA in the morning, Mr. B. If I was allowed.

Ontario: A New Craft Brewery Is Not Quite Born

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Good news to the west end of the lake as Left Field Brewery moves from “brewing” to “brewery” by opening up an actual plant soon to get me that oatmeal brown of theirs on a more regular basis. There is an open house this Saturday at the nearly open site which I can’t attend but I was really pleased to see this part of the notice under the plain and simple heading “Don’t Drive”:

Since you’re presumably coming to drink beer, please walk, take the TTC or grab a cab. If you or someone in your group must drive, you should know these three things; 1) Limited parking can be found along Greenwood Ave. and some other neighbouring residential streets, 2) We are the new kids on the block and would hate to peeve off our new neighbours by having guests parked in or blocking their driveways. Please only park in designated areas. And by far the most important, 3) Please do not drink and drive.

It has been some time since I launched Beer Bloggers Against Drunk Driving to a decidedly chilly response that included an email suggesting one should not discuss things that do not “promote craft beer.” A recent thread over at the BAers place took a more honest position, offering a range of views but largely admitting that good beer is not always a positive in every context. So, good to see that Left Field is starting out in its own bricks and mortar stage of life on the right foot and telling people to leave the car elsewhere as part of their prime marketing message. Stuff like that gives one reason to pay attention in a more and more crowded market.

Perhaps The Best Way Craft Beer Dies Off

With all the talk of bubbles and schisms, it is good to be reminded that the path to success for any good brewer is normalcy. If a brewery is accepted and its beers stand along taps and bottles of well accepted beers and bought along with them does anyone care what those other beers are?

That is what I saw at the Loose Moose in Toronto last night. Local craft brewers lined up again macros and imports. Local beer drinkers having whatever they liked without a sneer either way. People were paying attention to the game, the food and their friends without any concern for appearances. Loud music but not too loud for the smallest kid. Uncle Jordan picked a good spot. Not a snifter was in sight, thank the Lord. I had an Eephus by Left Field as well as Nicklebrook’s Headstock with my burger. Two of my favourite Ontario craft brews. I could have had a Coor Light, too, which is or is close to Ontario’s best selling beer. Peaceful coexistence. The food was good sport pub fare and the prices reasonable for the city.

So, if good beer is absorbed without being assimilated, if it takes its place without insisting others leave… isn’t that victory?

Fuzzy Photos Of Drinking Things From A Museum

rom1A few hours on the fourth floor of the Royal Ontario Museum Saturday found me looking for beer stuff in the exhibits. Just a game. You think of how pervasive beer has been in western culture and how places like museums like to not discuss it all that much and it starts to be a fun game to play for a tired mind after a long night in a noisy hotel. Fun? Time passing maybe. Temper maintaining perhaps. Anyway, there was some fairly interesting stuff to be found.

Like that friend of Bertie Wooster who passes time when walking through London by imagining golf shots, I think about the beers I would have from these museum pieces. Not hard when the drinking vessel in question is a 1750s Silesian glass tankard but what about a fourth century Sudanese clay drinking cup. Clay asks for something like thin boozy porridge but there’s not much of that going around these day in this civilization. Chip shot into the Shaftesbury Memorial pool at Piccadilly.

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Then I think about the techniques the curators are using to get the beer stuff into the displays but not really mentioning. In one room of the exhibit, two Georgian silver tankards are in the back placed on bookshelves along with other curios as if they were not really used for drinking beer at all. In another display, pewter pots are lined up in a row to describe weights and measures as opposed to the uses to which they were put. The weighted and measured. Odd. No pottle. The fifteenth century mead drinking jug made of spruce sits next to the leather canteen in a daring juxtaposition of old things, weirdly shaped and made out of strange stuff. Two iron glanced off Shakespeare’s forehead neatly carries on down Charing Cross Road. Kids are getting tired feet. Me, too.

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We took the subway back to the hotel, three stops south to Osgoode the TTC car as empty but for us as the sidewalks had been on the way north earlier. The kids said that Toronto was nice but it was no Montreal. I knew what they meant but it was not a bad Toronto, either. University Avenue looked like the MIT area of Cambridge if the MIT area of Cambridge had stopped being built in 1973 or so.

Ontario: 1600’s Hudson Bay Company Arctic Ale

image_thumb83So, we are working through the final draft of the history of beer in Ontario and I realize something has been staring me right in the face for quite a while now. Here is the passage in question:

The early ships’ crews considered its beer of great importance and even survival. In 1668-69, the crew of the Nonesuch over wintered on the James Bay coast and reported upon their return:

…they were environed with ice about 6 monethes first halting theire ketch on shore, and building them a house. They carried provisions on shore and brewd Ale and beere and provided against the cold which was their work…

See what I missed that was sitting right before my eyeballs? They brewed ale and beer. The news was reported in issue 408 of The London Gazette, too. Not that they made both ale and beer but that they survived a winter in the Canadian Arctic. The Nonesuch was small and tough, custom picked to both survive the trip to the edge of the known world and be hauled out of the water to avoid the crush of ice. Only 53 feet long, a replica can be found in a museum in Manitoba. Manitoba? Yes, well, after the British Parliament’s Canada (Ontario Boundary) Act of 1889 introduced a boundary that divided the former Rupert’s Land that included the watershed of the big bay, including much of what became Ontario’s north.

Got it? Wonderful. But let’s get back to the point. They made two things to drink. Two fermented beverages. Why? You are stuck in a situation that may as well be the dark side of the moon, you have cleverly brought a survival space pod as well as sufficient supplies (think food in tubes) to make it though the six months of frozen horror… and you make two types of booze? Why the heck do you do that? Well, just a century and a generation before the voyage, the benefits of ale was described in 1542 by the physician Andrew Boorde in his book A Dyetary of Helth. The key was conveniently referenced by Martyn this week: “Ale for an Englysshman is a naturall drynke.” Yet he is also the man who wrote:

If it do come by an hurt in the head, there is no remedy but pacience of all partes. If it do come by debilite of the brayne & head, drynke in the mornynge a dyshe of mylke, vse a Sirupe named Sh’upus acetosus de prunis, and vse laxatiue meates, and purgacions, if nede do requyre, and beware of superuflous drynkynge, specially of wyne and stronge ale and beere, and if anye man do perceuye that he is dronke, let hym take a vomite with water and oyle, or with a fether…

….so it is hard to know what to believe. Especially if you remember what Pepys said folk on ships got up to when they were on the ale on April 30th, 1660:

After that on board the Nazeby, where we found my Lord at supper, so I sat down and very pleasant my Lord was with Mr. Creed and Sheply, who he puzzled about finding out the meaning of the three notes which my Lord had cut over the chrystal of his watch. After supper some musique. Then Mr. Sheply, W. Howe and I up to the Lieutenant’s cabin, where we drank, and I and W. Howe were very merry, and among other frolics he pulls out the spigot of the little vessel of ale that was there in the cabin and drew some into his mounteere, and after he had drank, I endeavouring to dash it in his face, he got my velvet studying cap and drew some into mine too, that we made ourselves a great deal of mirth, but spoiled my clothes with the ale that we dashed up and down. After that to bed very late with drink enough in my head.

Is that what they were doing with that ale up there in the Arctic in 1668? My heavens.

Another Milestone In Writing Ontario’s Beer History

Milestone? Ramming over 400 years of history into the form of one book tends to make you forget milestones. Too many fly by. Jordan and I are coming to a final point with all the text placed in one spot with a real beginning, middle and end. With still a few weeks to go and without spilling too many beans… what have I learned?

=> An iPad mini is not unlike a shovel. Years ago, I kept an acre vegetable garden and dug it and turned it every year with just a shovel. One Saturday morning I said “to hell with this” to the sky and bought myself a bright red $1000 Toro rototiller that could be started on turf and, before moving forward, would straight drop down turning the ground to gorgeous fertile soil. I called it “Lil’ Shiva” for obvious reasons. Two days ago I bought the 15.6 inch laptop on sale that I am typing on now. Not squinting as much all of a sudden.

=> I am glad I shared in the writing of The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer with Max first. It got a lot of mental content out of the way but also got me in the habit of sitting down and pounding out 400 or 800 words not as a stand alone thing like these paragraphs but as part of a bigger statement. I’ve started its sequel.

=> Ontario’s general history is far more interesting than folk would tell you. Huge chunks of the social and political story can’t fit into the narrative solely for reasons of scale. It is sad that there is no well known book simply called The History of Ontario as there are similar works in other, more self-aware jurisdictions. The story of the provinces brewing gives some hints as to why that book might not be on a bookshelf near you. You will have to wait, however, until June to see what I mean.

=> I have far more interest and even affection for big institutions like the Hudson’s Bay Company and big people like E.P. Taylor. Rather than being the massive faceless corporate monoliths they might be taken for today, they each were cutting empires out of the hinterlands in their way. Consolidation was inevitable in the brewing industry in its day just as much as it was in the automotive industry. Today, we don’t expect to buy cars made in our own local communities. Why would Ontarians of 1890 or 1949 care any more whether their beer was local? PS: Labatt > Carling even if it was smaller until their last competitive decades.

=> How about the beer? If Labatt were to bottle its Export IPA circa 1900, it might well blow more than half of the craft beers brewed today out of the water. The beer I would really like to try most, however, is early 1800s ship’s beer. Simply brewed with few ingredients and low alcohol, it is one of the lost brews that would have been an utterly common place thing in a shore town like mine two hundred years ago. Common as Kleenex or coffee in a paper cup.

So, there you go. An update or sorts. Still plenty of writing and editing to come but the end is near. Then another book. And maybe another if things work out.