One of the sillier things I have seen pass across the internets lately came up as part of the anti-shaker campaign. You will recall that the function of that campaign is to convince you, the beer buyer, that an 8 oz serving of beer for “X” bucks is better than a 16 oz serving for “X” bucks by insinuating that you are not capable of sensing taste and smell in a drinking vessel without acute curves and a thin stem. Silly. But expensive. They hope you are are that sort of sucker. The silliest thing I have heard as part of this campaign is that shaker glasses are “old fashioned” – that they are a lingering legacy of the age of big macro, the age of industrialized adjunct corn lagers. Add your doom-laced adjectives to taste.
Like so many things that depress one about discussions of beery things, it’s not correct. I knew as much from my months of perusing newspaper and magazine ad images for the writing of the beer histories. But how to prove it to you? Ah, Jay Brooks to the rescue. See, Jay has been posting many things for a mighty long time over at his beer blog and one of the best is an accumulated archive of beer advertising from the golden age of pre-craft. As of the date of this post, Jay is up to ad #1354. If you scan through the ads you will not see any glassware that looks like a shaker. Or at least not many. You will see lots of tall narrow “pilsner” glasses. You will see squarish tumblers. And you will see goblets.
I love the goblet. I love this one in particular bought, as you might guess, in Maine. It has images of sailboats and lobsters and diving girls. Click on the image for the full fine detail. It has hefty dimples at the bottle of the bowl that help it fit the hand. It is thick and heavy and holds a full serving. It is ever so slightly tapered in at the top. It is built for a richly carbonated corn based lager circa 1966. And it does the job just fine. A pal whose friendship I deeply value was jealous when I spotted it at the second hand store before he did. He was right to feel that way.
As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, if you want to smell your beer, get your nose in there. One of the most irritating things about the snifter is how it (i) does not allow snifting until it is half empty thus lying to you for the first half of the drink and (ii) you often cannot get your nose in their so it lies to you for the second half. The goblet and the shaker and the nonic do not lie. You can be immersed in the full aromas if you wish to engage with the glassware. You can choose not to and avoid looking like the guy who relies on sandwich tongs when reaching for a hot dog.
Household hint. If you really want to open up the beer and add to your aroma experience, clean your glassware. Me, I use PBW powder when I am being a keener and wash a bunch of glasses before I am having a focused session. It’s the same stuff you ought to be using when you home brew. On everything. Everything the beer will touch should have this touch it first. That and Star San. Strip every bit of gunk off the glass and even the most basic good beer will have the best head ever, will give up all its scent potential, will tell you all it can.
Why is this not the main message promoted by folk telling you how to serve your beer? Well, there is no money in it for anyone. A supply of PBW and Star San might cost you about $12 a year. Any other reasons? Can’t think of any. It is, however, the best thing – and the cheapest thing – you can do for yourself and your beer.
That’s a new photo for me. It is from Halifax’s Victory in Europe Day parade in 1945 apparently before it became the VE Day Riot. Click for more of the photo. I have mentioned the Halifax riot of 1945 somewhere around here but can’t find the link. [Later: here it is.] If you don’t believe things got bad, here is an image of the spot later in the day when the jeweler had been hit by looters.
Why do I mention this? Because above is about 10,000 times how I felt when I saw Nickebrook’s Ontario Wet Hop Ale finally on my local LCBO shelves this morning. I say 10,000 times in the best sense as the guy is clearly ecstatic from the destruction of fascism, the coming years of peace along with the successful defense of freedom. I just found a beer in a store. It is, however, a very good beer. It pours a light greenish-gold. On the nose, a very attractive mix of spicy, bitter and sweet greens. Romaine lettuce, arugula and honey. In the mouth, a light crisp body. More honey with a nip of hoppy heat. Bitterness both on the roof of the mouth and under the tongue. A little lighter finish. Reminds me of one of those confident light white wines in the sense that it makes its case calmly.
Local in the sense of 100% Ontario grown ingredients. Ontario is rather big, however, so you will have to judge what local might mean accordingly. $7.95 for 750ml of 5.3% ale. Unduly tepid praise from the BAers. RBers have a little more sense. PS: a post I wrote in 2006 about wet hop beers.
“Ah!” That’s what I hear you all say… “aaaaaahhhh!” Feet go up. Glasses get adjusted and you tuck yourself in for another fabulous edition of the unscheduled beer news roundup. See, Stan may post a round up every Monday while Boak and Bailey do the same most Saturdays. But it’s that unscheduled aspect that brings that extra zest to these particular news items.
=> I am really bored with the anti-shaker glass stuff that is still going around. Strikes me as the next phase of some concerted effort towards the snobbification of beer rolled out to justify supplemental price hikes above inflation. In 2008, a strong argument was made for just sticking one’s nose in the glass rather than letting the glass do the work. I described the same thing over at Stan’s in 2012. Can’t handle a simple beer glass? Already pint-sized Nonic letting you down somehow? Boo hoo. What next? What’s it mean? First craft v crafty. Next, local is unreliable. Now, large measures for low prices are bad. Sooner or later beer drinkers are going to realize they can’t afford all these big craft demands.
=> The New York Times has jumped into the discussion with an editorial today which includes the assertion “the big brewers have used their clout to try to slow the growth of craft beer companies by offering distributors and retailers incentives not to carry smaller labels.” This is really interesting as last night in Massachusetts on Twitter… or is that Twitter broadcast from Massachusetts… Dan Paquette, the co-founder of Boston’s Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, a craft brewery, called out not only bars but other craft brewers who appeared to be offering retailers incentives to get placed ahead of craft brewers who didn’t pay to play: “The Mass Brewers Guild has no opinion on buying lines since they have many members who do it as a policy.” Jeese, I thought they were steamed over the whole “sandwich tongs” thing. So… if a lot of craft brewers are doing this… what was the NYT’s point saying it was a big beer thing? More here on Boston.
=> In case you were wondering, here in Ontario such things are also specifically against the provincial liquor law known as the Liquor License Act. See, section 21 of Regulation 719 states: “The holder of a licence shall not directly or indirectly request, demand or receive any financial or material benefit from a manufacturer of liquor or a representative or an employee of the manufacturer.” And section 2(1) of Regulation 720 states: “A manufacturer of liquor or an agent or employee of a manufacturer shall not directly or indirectly offer or give a financial or material inducement to a person who holds a licence or permit under the Act or to an agent or employee of the person for the purpose of increasing the sale or distribution of a brand of liquor.” Those two laws ban both sides of the “pay to play” cash for draught lines diddle that was complained about by Pretty Things last night. Ben’s already established it goes on in Toronto’s craft scene.
=> I never thought I would say it but I am with Paul Mangledorf. Who? The guy quoted at the outset of this piece by anthropologist John W. Arthur thinking out loud about the origins of grain growing being cause by brewing or baking. Why one or the other, says I! Why can’t it be both beer and bread concurrently? One interesting nugget noted by Ian S. Hornsey in Chapter 4 of Alcohol and its Role in the Evolution of Human Society, published by The Royal Society of Chemistry in 2012, is how wheat had long been considered the finest grain for the brewing of beer. Evidence of wheat brewing in the Celtic culture of Bavaria dates to 800 BC. It is described as being the basis for the finest beers well into the relatively recent Baroque era in Europe. In North America, wheat held sway until the early 1800s. Barley has been with us for as long as wheat has but, as the poorer foundation for bread, inherently poses a question about the reason for its co-existence. Maybe… just maybe… the two worked to create a range of options. Why wouldn’t they?
There. That’s likely more than you can handle on a Tuesday. Take it in small bites… or sips I suppose. Stick your nose in deep if you take my advice.