What? More Monday Links? Why? Why Oh Why?

Not that I wanted to start up paying attention to the news about beer for this century again… but the time it takes to get one of these early modern posts out sorta leads me to wanting to provide some in-fill. I mean it is exciting stuff but how many tales of hegemonic Euro-explorer types getting scurvy half way across the Atlantic can you take? So…. here is some more Monday in-fill!

First, note that “Grainews is written for farmers, and often by farmers” and late last week they published a fairly detailed article on hop growing in Canada’s easterly and fairly northern province  of Quebec. An interesting and practical introduction to growing at the edge of viability. Note: “Craft brewers want good quality, but are not worried about consistency year to year…” Somewhat self-evident but interesting to see it confirmed at the farmyard stage.

News this morning has come that two huge Canadian conglomerates have swapped dozens of local and regional papers… and then promptly shut down many of them. And with those papers go a large number of columns including the excellent one on good beer in southwestern Ontario published bi-weekly by Ben. Sad to see but, as you can see from the list, this is a bigger shift hitting a wide range of communities, not just beer geeks.

I trust that no one cares about this.

Whenever I read about how awful UK beer prices are I stop and think how wonderful it would be to be pay what they pay for beer in the UK. We seem to have over 50% higher prices for decent beer and, given we tip, that prices is likely pushing 75% over the course of an evening out.

Prepare ye for the new style “sub-session” if this proto-fad gets traction:

With session beer having taken off in the US and the low-alcohol sector on the rise, Grundy and James hope that their new beer, with a lower ABV than is traditionally associated with session beer, will deliver in flavour what it lacks in alcohol. The pair are launching two new lager beers into the UK market: a Pilsner-style lager made with British malt and Saaz hops (2.1% ABV) and a dark lager (1% ABV) described as having “dark berry fruit on the nose” and a “coffee-like palate and smoky finish”.

Hmm. I fully expect this will be gak but, as we have learned from certain things named New England, selling gak with a backstory seems to be suddenly compelling to a significant sector of the beer drinking public.  My advice? If you want something with a coffee-like palate and smoky finish go to a diner that still has a few old guys sitting in the smoking section and have some joe.

Finally, the continuing testiness over who should write what about good beer has led to this fairly incoherent tweet from an other wise semi-reliable largely sensible source. Belief-based expertise extrapolation is a dangerous thing. But this sorta stuff breaks out regularly. Consider this from 2009 as well as this along with this from 2016. I sense we are in a slightly counter-reformation moment in which a retrenching is occurring, a rejection of a wide range of opinion is being played out. These are tight times. The other day, I responded to a known name over a spat involving another known name and my first observation was that I presumed one of the parties was stone broke. S/he was. Remember that and take it into account when these things flair. For all the niceness of good beer, the lack of the overall trade’s generosity to the thoughtful and independent writer is a bit astounding.

Well, that is it for now. Maybe I will do this again next Monday, too. Might the foray lose its rarity? Who knows?

Your Monday’s Thoughts On The Latest Beer News

Ah, Monday. And a Monday after a quiet weekend on the beer blogging scene hovering just at the cusp of the holiday season. Dreams of Victorian veteran carvers are starting to dance in the head.* Nothing from 1600s or 1700s brewing history is nibbling at my brain at the moment. So, I turn to that other older thing I did on the blog and give a few news items less attention than they deserve. I think something picked up as Stan’s summer intern might be to blame. Enough! Too much self examination leads to bad things like supposing one might need an editor or running off chasing another hobby. No need of that. Here’s the news.

First, Martyn has posted his findings related to a trip to Norway in search of the meaning of kveik. I initially thought this a bit odd given the voluminous obsession with the subject that has been the last few year’s work of Lars Garshol including this post from just a few weeks ago entitled “‘Kveik’ – what does it mean?” But I quickly understood what what going on – a helpful summary and transposition of sorts: kveik for dummies… like me.  Once you read Martyn’s piece, I recommend you set aside a few evenings to go back through the research results posted by Lars. The idea that a third branch of brewing yeast has been quietly living on in rural settings to the north and east of the Baltic is fascinating.

On a far smaller scale, over the weekend I tweeted a tweet:

Thoughts on a can of GK Abbot Ale. Incongruous messages about cold black tea, caramel, whisky malt, potters clay in a body with oddly flat fishy stickiness. Still… relatively cheap.

That got me thinking about how consequential each beer one pours in a glass must be. The beer in question cost $2.30 which translates to £1.38 or $ 1.80 US. If I had not been paying intentional attention, it would have passed by my mind without much comment. That weird little nod to clay would not have raised itself to my consciousness. Yet just 50 cents more would have bought me a fine example of the low end of excellent regional craft. Can we still care at all for bulk imports?

Imagine – taking money to offer a favourable opinion on a beer.  Who saw that coming?

Next up, I have one itchy thought about the whole – let’s be honest – kerfuffle going on in Portland, Oregon between a brewery and the City over the use of a leaping stag logo which has appeared on a beloved landmark sign for decades. Jeff has described the issue from the perspective of one side of the debate, which is a very important one given the small brewery actually is the party that has held the trademark since 2012. But before the trademark, there was copyright. The classes of intellectual property are distinct. The craft brewery did not create the image. The sign permit was acquired in 1940 and, as authorship immediately creates copyright, someone created the image then. So, someone must own or owned the copyright in the design of the stag which is separate from and prior to the trademark. Can one trademark someone else’s design? Apparently so – but does that extinguish the copyright? These sorts of things can vary, but if (according to Wikipedia) the sign was built and owned by Ramsey Signs from the 1940s to 2009 when the City bought the sign from them, did the underlying copyright to the sign design not also pass to the City? Dunno. I once represented a man who argued he owned 25% of Times New Roman font as he owned one of the original sets of hand made typeface. Not everyone agreed but I recall he said he did receive royalty cheques. So, who first drew the leaping stag?

I think following Ypres Castle Inn means you are of a certain age.

Finally, I do tire of references to temperance as code for everything one does not like in beer regulation. It’s up there with anxieties over lack of wine world respect. Face it – public health is a key foundation of modern western civilization. Who would chose to go back to the pre-temperence society? Even when the do gooder sociologists in their laboratories get it wrong no one in their right mind wants them stopping doing their work. Give the church its gruitgeld!!!

PS: boring big craft pretending that it’s pretty much the same as taking outside investor money and the attached strings. Somehow related.

Struggling Again With 1600s Derbyshire Strong Ale (Part 2… the Son of…)

Building on part one of this struggle, let’s consider the passage above again for a minute. It is from volume 7 of The Reliquary, by John Russell Smith, 1867. It looks a lot like the passage by Mott from 1965 that I quoted (poaching as I noted from the Martyn of 2009) in my previous part of this consideration of 1600s Derby ale. If we unpack it we see a number of things at the outset: small scale decentralize industry, great fame… and two products. Both ale and malt. But what made Derby ale… Derby ale? Let’s start from the last bit.

i. Two Commodities

Both ale and malt. It’s a common theme. In Magna Britannia: Volume 5, Derbyshire by Cadell and Davies published in 1817 we find another similar statement like the one made by J.R. Smith above:

The chief trade of Derby, about a century ago, consisted in malting and brewing ale, which was in great request, and sent in considerable quantities to London; in corn dealing also, and baking of bread for the supply of the northern parts of the county

And again, in The History of the County of Derby by Glover from 1829 is is stated:

About two centuries ago, according to Camden, the chief trade consisted in malting and brewing ale; which he spake of as being in great request, and much celebrated in London, to which city large quantities were sent.

Camden is William Camden who, conveniently for our purposes, dies in 1623 after writing a survey of Britain but well before coke. In his chapter of “Darbyshire”* in the late 1500s Camden wrote:

…all the name and credit that it hath ariseth of the Assises there kept for the whole shire, and by the best nappie ale that is brewed there, a drink so called of the Danish word “oela” somewhat wrested, and not of alica, as Ruellius deriveth it. The Britans termed it by an old word “kwrw” , in steede whereof curmi is read amisse in Dioscorides, where hee saith that the Hiberi (perchance he would have said Hiberni , that is, The Irishmen ) in lieu of wine use curmi , a kind of drinke made of Barly. For this is that Barly-wine of ours which Julian the Emperor, that Apostata , calleth merrily in an Epigramme πυρογενῆ μᾶλλον καὶ βρόμον, οὐ Βρόμιον. This is the ancient and peculiar drinke of the Englishmen and Britans, yea and the same very wholsome, howsoever Henrie of Aurenches the Norman, Arch-poet to King Henrie Third, did in his pleasant wit merrily jest upon it in these verses:

Of this strange drinke, so like to Stygian Lake
(Most tearme it Ale), I wote not what to make.
Folke drinke it thicke, and pisse it passing thin:
Much dregges therefore must needs remain within.

The next paragraph is even more interesting:

Howbeit, Turnebus that most learned Frenchman maketh no doubt but that men using to drinke heereof, if they could avoid surfetting, would live longer than those that drinke wine, and that from hence it is that many of us drinking Ale live an hundred yeeres. And yet Asclepiades in Plutarch ascribeth this long life to the coldnesse of the aire, which keepeth in and preserveth the naturall heat of bodies, when he made report that the Britans lived untill they were an hundred and twenty yeeres old. But the wealth of this towne consisteth much of buying of corne and selling it againe to the mountaines, for all the inhabitants be as it were a kind of hucksters or badgers [salesmen].

Dealers. In grain. Fabulous. Brewers of beer and dealers in grain. Look at that passage from Mott (quoted in part one) again:

Much malt was carried to the ferry on the river Trent, five miles away, whence it could go by water to London; 300 pack-horse loads (each of 6 bushels which each contained 40lb) or 32 tons were taken weekly into Lancashire and Cheshire.”

The trade in malt is not the trade in ale and it’s not the trade in barley. We see the malt from Derbyshire referenced as late as in the mid-1700s. Pamela Sambrook in her 1996 book Country House Brewing in England, 1500-1900 wrote:

Particularly prized among midland brews houses in the early eighteenth century was ‘Darby’ malt. It is mentioned repeatedly by William Anson in his notebooks as the basis of the best-quality strong brews at Shugborough. Derby malt was also used by the Jervis household near Stone and the Farington household of Worden in Lancashire in the 1740s.

The export of Derby malt also pre-dated the generally accepted 1640s application of invention of coke to the malting process. And it was worth taking a risk over. Dorothy Bentley Smith in Past Times of Macclesfield, Volume 3 describes the laying of malt related charges:

On December 1629, James Pickford (former Mayor of Macclesfield 1626/27) a tanner by trade of Pickford Hall on Parsonage (Park) Green together with tow accomplices, George Johnson and Roger Toft, appeared in Court in Chester. Their crime: They had erected a handmill or quern in Wildboarclouggh to the detriment of the three Macclesfield mills. Pickford had family connections in Derby and admitted supplying the inhabitants of Macclesfield with Derby malt “as others had done” Malting was the principle trade in Derby, from here supplies were sent to the greater part of Cheshire, Straffordshire and Lancashire, with a considerable portion taken to London by which many good estates have been raised” (a comment written by a historian, Mr Woolley, in 1712).

So, it’s pretty clear that well before coke, Derby malt was a thing and a desired thing. Moved by massive pack horse trains, by water as discussed in the first post or by subterfuge as the Pickfords of Macclesfield illustrate. Folks wanted their hands on it.

ii. Top quality selected barley

What made Derby malt so popular? Was there a singular characteristic like the particularly sulfurous waters in Staffordshire where in the 1680s a satantic ale was brewed at the Brimstone Alehouse that later may well have been tamed to become the hallmark of Burton ale a quarter century later?

Just as the function of pre-coke straw kilning played a role as discussed in the previous episode of this head scratching tale, so too was the sort of barley being malted important. Houghton in his book on husbandry recites a reference from one of his earlier writing’s from 1682, as you can see above. Note that states that it is made of “sprat or battledore” barley. Careful readers will recall that Battledore was one of the identified varieties of barley in the 1700s.** It was also known as Spratt or Sprat and as such was a parent to that darling of English brewing before mid-1900s Maris Otter, Spratt-Archer.  And it was in a way, selected and treated as an improved variety well before Chevalier was introduced in 1823. Consider this passage from The Modern Husbandman, Vol II at page 9 and 10 written by William Ellis from 1750 where Battledore is described by another of its common names – Fulham barley:

…the Hertfordshire Farmers, several several of them, send for Fulham Barley-seed above thirty Miles an End, and all by Land carriage. Now, though we have sandy, chalky, and gravelly Lands just by Home, yet, we at Little-Gaddesden chuse to be at the extraordinary Charge of sending for this Fulham Barley-seed, though we live Thirty-four Miles from it, and find our Account in so doing for as we sow it in our stiff Loams, from off a fandy short Loam, it returns us a very early Crop, with a Kernel much bigger than that we sowed, and is so natural for making true Malt, that it is commonly sold for two Shillings a Quarter more than our common Barley…

Ellis goes on to list other reasons for “Fulham Barley seed before all others.” You can grow a turnip crop  or rape-seed or wheat in a cycle with it. it is so early, it gets a good air drying. It has a shorter season making it useful in northern plantings. It is also available as seed grain by water transportation. Plus we know it made excellent straw which mean not only could it withstand a storm but it provided one means, other than sun drying, before coke to make pale malt by flash kilning the barley with clean fuel. So, the use of Battledore – by one of its many names – was the use of the choicest barley known to the England of the 1600s.

iii. Growing and Integrated but Decentralized Barley Production

And it was not just the quality of the barley. It was the quantity of the quality. Access to lots of top quality barley was also important.  You are not building a pre-industrial hive of… industry without a fair bit of the raw resources. In volume 16 of the Derbyshire Miscellany, there is a wonderful study of the inventories and wills of farmers in the parish of Barrow-upon-Tweed to the south of Derby. What it describes are many farms growing barley at the time in question. At page 24 there is a very helpful table that shows how from the early 1500s to the late 1600s the percentage of farmers growing barley rose from 18% to 45%. Interestingly, mention is made of not only barley but big barley as a distinct crop sometimes stored separately. The sophistication in separating and blending grains is evident. Farmers also store malt and some even have separate well appointed brew houses. In Elizabethan Barrow-upon-Trent one farmer posessed eight steepfatts, aka steeping vats or mash tuns.

But local barley feeding in to the Derbyshire machine was not enough. In 2016’s Farmers, Consumers, Innovators by Dyer and Jones, there is a description of how the demand for Derby malt was so great that barley was brought in from neighbouring districts. They state that similar probate inventories indicated that large quantities of barley were being grown in neighbouring Nottinghamshire and that Derby maltsters depended on it and other sources:

…it seems that the inhabitants of Derbyshore were keen to make up any shortfall they might have had in the barley output of their own county by buying in barley and malt from elsewhere. Derby was famed as a centre for malting; according to Camden its trade was “to buy corn [grain], and having turned it into malt, to sell it again to the highland counties.”

Which tells us a few additional things. At a time when many grains were grown and stored both separately and blended in mixes, Derby malt was focused on barley and, as seen above, top quality barley.  And then it was made into a regional trade named product, aggregated in the storage barns by the river described in part one or by the 300 weekly loads by pack-cart and sold on to markets.  The aggregation of the trade is similar to the one in hops we saw in the mid-1700s court ruling discussed two and a half years ago where the purchasing agent went rogue on his boss, the hop dealer:

London-based James Hunter is described as being “one of the one of the most considerable dealers in hops in England.” His agent, named Rye, worked in the Cantebury area for years had been well known as Hunter’s man. But in 1764… there was another good year with hops bearing top price. Rye set out to make deals as an independent – without telling Hunter or anyone else.

So, the many maltsters in derby 1690 Houghton were a part of the same sort of supply chain well before control of all stages in an industrial output was considered. The key spot in that chain which Derby places itself is important, too. Malt was by far a premium priced bulk product over unmalted barley. William Ellis above noted in the mid-1700s that malt was worth two shillings more a quarter compared to barley. And as Broadberry, Campbell, Klein, Overton and van Leeuwen show in their 2015 text British Economic Growth, 1270–1870 (as summarized in the remarkable and remarkably clickable table to the right) that premium coincided with a general jump in barley production in the 1600s:

The output of barley increased markedly in line with demand for better-quality ale and beer brewed from the best barley malt.

So, the folk of Derby build the name for their malt and sell it to the country just as ale quality is peaking in general demand.

iv. Speculative Conclusion

All of which leads me to a question. As Jordan and I saw in our research that went into our cult classic history Ontario Beer, the cost of transportation was a great issue in the colonial boom of 1800s before 1867 and national Confederation. Beer was heavy and the roads were poor. Which meant whisky was carted inland and beer was for the lakeside towns. Above, we see that discussion by William Ellis on around 1750 describing the extraordinary costs being paid to move Fulham barley seed just thirty-odd miles. Yet, Derby malt is shipped out by pack horse and cart from county to county and Derby ale is prized in London. Why is it worth it?

What if Derby malt was so singular that ale made with it anywhere carried the mark? What if the malt was thicker, stronger, paler and so clear of smoke that even a London brewer could make identifiable Derby ale that matched what was brewed in its home county and stood above the competition? Was that what Pepys was drinking? I don’t know. So I will leave it there for now to see if I can find more about the shipment of malt into London from Derbyshire in the 1600s. I need to learn more about who was receiving what was being shipped out of the county.

*Note again the plague that is foisted upon the pure hearted digital document scanning historian.
**Pete B in his Miracle Brew suggests at page 30 that barley prior to the cultivation of Chevallier in 1823 was simply a landrace. Use of “landrace” as it comes to hops, say, in NY State in the early 1800s can be code for “an inability to go back farther in records” sometimes unfortunately laced with a dash of “I could not be bothered looking for more information.” My inclination was to consider this not correct as this 1790s discussion – let alone Houghton in 1682 – confirms. There were clearly species of barley known and made subject to husbandry before 1832 in England. But then consider this: “[a] landrace represents the equilibrium… within… a crop… under a given set of climactic, soil and husbandry conditions.” That seems to be what Battledore was… yet it was also selected and traded. Conversely, the same text Diversity in Barley discusses “barley breeding” as “conspicuously… different plants within local landrace populations together with separate harvest and seed multiplication.” So, landrace triggers breeding. Which makes landrace not a simple thing at all.

Session 129: Isn’t It Really A Case Of Local v Style?

This month’s question posed for The Session is offered by our host Eoghan of Brussels Beer City who has framed the question in this way:

…outside of large metropolitan areas, areas with a large craft beer culture, or regions without recourse to online shopping the spread of different or new styles can remain limited. That’s not even to mention the local or regional styles that disappeared in the last 50 years. And that’s why the theme of this month is styles missing from your local brewing scene’s canon. And you can take local as a relative concept, depending on your context – your town or municipality, county, region, even country if you really are isolated. And local also means brewed locally, not just available locally. Essentially: what beer style would you like to see being brewed in your local market that is not yet being brewed? Simple enough question.

This is an excellent question. Yet, as with all excellent things, there is at least one problem. A problem with this question is that it contains either a contradiction or at least a capitulation. “All the styles” is a globalist concept while local surely must mean more than “here” – it should mean indigenous. As we know, the canon is antithetical to the the concept of wonderful reality of indigenous brewing. If, as will no doubt be trotted out, the canon was instigated by Jackson – even though it was not his original plan – we can all blame him for the effect of the globalization of craft. But that would be silly. Jackson did not have that sort of influence. Good beer just moved along with all the other consumer products as part of the marketplace reformations of the 1970s whether it was related to cars which actually did not blow up or cheeses that actually tasted good. Good beer was just along for the ride.

The less wonderful aspect of this change called “craft” has taken globalism along a parallel path to the route previously taken by big latter 20th century industrial lager gak as well as latter 19th century German lager and latter 18th century Taunton ale before it. Beer moves. It has always moved. Globalism under the guise of craft beer styles is no different. It’s how you make money. It has some odd side effects. Like how globalized craft picks up and moved Ron to Chile for no apparent reason other than to generate massive hangovers and a broken watch. It generates the same beery events with their identa-issues all over the world fueled by simu-simul-craft. It isn’t just the antithesis of local. It’s the enemy.

Fortunately, even having avoiding the constructs of global craft and its false prophets, I shall not want. Micro and craft have also spawned the taproom and remembrance of indigenous beers past. In fact, we now have many excellent and uninternationalized beers which are local to me. I may have a few this Friday evening. As craft dies its death, so too goes its side kick style. In its place we are seeing hundreds and thousands of local expressions, each defying any concept of canon. Which means nothing here is missing. This is a time of plenty. Be thankful.