What Is… Or Was “Schenk” Beer Anyway?

That’s from the New York Herald of 28 May 1874.  Schenk is one of those words that flits around the edges of US beer history popping up in scientific tables, included in passing references before, say, 1900 that is one of the more irritating to research. One simple reason is that it was / is a reasonably common surname. And it may suffer from that problem of speculation in the guise of conclusion we see too much of. Footnotes and primary records are the regular cure for that ailment so let’s see what we can find out before we form the image in our mind’s eye.

First, let’s start relatively near the end. In every child’s favourite bedtime book, Johnson’s New Universal Cyclopaedia: a Scientific and Popular Treasury of Useful Knowledge, Volume 1, at page 442 we read this in the sub-article on “Lager Beer”:

Three varieties of this beer are made: (1) “Lager” or summer beer, for which 3 bushels of malt and IA to 3 pounds of hops are used per barrel, and which is not ready for use in less than from four to six months. (2) “Schenk” winter or present-use beer: 2 to 3 bushels malt and 1 pound hops per barrel; ready in four to six weeks. (3) Bock bier, which is an extra strong beer, made in small quantity and served to customers in the spring, during the interval between the giving out of the schenk beer and the tapping of the lager. In its manufacture 3 1/2 bushels of malt and 1 pound of hops per barrel are used, and it requires two months for its preparation. 

The encyclopedia was produced by the A.J. Johnson publishing house of New York City run by one Alvin J. Johnson. You can click on the image to the right where each of the  three sorts of beer are prefaced by the word “Munich” – which is interesting. What I also like about that passage is how well it aligns with one other reference from a completely difference source. In 2011, the terribly reliable Ron wrote a post about Vienna malt and quoted a long passage from the British Medical Journal 1869, vol. 1 and particularly from pages 83 to 84:

Generally speaking, the beer drunk in Austria and Germany has less alcoholic strength than that consumed here. The strongest Kinds, such as those known in Bavaria by the names “Holy Father”, “Salvator”, and “Buck”, rarely contain so much as 5 per cent, by weight of absolute alcohol. The store-beer, or lager bier, generally contains about 3.5 per cent., ranging from 4 to 2.8 per cent. ; and the ordinary beer for quick draught, schenk bier, corresponding in that respect to our porter, contains from 2.25 to 3.5 per cent, of alcohol. In the Austrian dominions, the beer is generally preferred rather weaker than in Bavaria ; but in Austria, the organisation of the breweries, and the system of conducting the business, have been developed in such a manner as to assimilate more to the vast establishments we have in this country.

Now, to my mind that looks like two sources from two English-speaking countries within nine years of each other each presenting as fairly authoritative information about a classification of beer from a third culture.* For present purposes, this is useful enough to rely upon as a first principle that, whatever it was, in the latter third of the 1800s, schenk was understood as and also the common word for German beer of a weaker sort than middling lager and stronger bock. It is considered to exist on a continuum and not of a difference class than lager or bock. It is an adjective as much as a noun. A degree of strength.

This is interesting. Boak and Bailey’s bibliographical guide to entering an enhanced understanding of lager included a 2011 article by Lisa Grimm – “Beer History: German-American Brewers Before Prohibition” – which states this about the entry of lager into the brewing culture of the United States:

Many historians attribute the first lager beer brewed in America to John Wagner, a Bavarian immigrant who set up shop in Philadelphia in 1840, though some of that notice is probably due to the chain of events he helped kick off—Maureen Ogle points out in her excellent Ambitious Brew that two German immigrants were brewing lager on a small scale in 1838 in Virginia.

This passage follows the statement “German brewers were a relatively late addition to the scene, arriving in large numbers only in the mid-19th century.” This timing aligns with the post I wrote about a rather alarming New York City Sunday afternoon attack on a public house** which I entitled “An Anti-German Anti-Lager* NYC Riot In 1840” with that asterisk. See, I assumed Germans and lager were common entrants into the NYC scene but as Gary, well, chided me (let’s be frank) in relation to… 1840 slightly predates the date lager is understood to have arrived in New York with George Gillig… or rather the date Gillig takes on brewing lager. It appears he brewed something else from 1840 to 1846.

Additionally, that bit brings up national pride right about now. Jordan, in part of our book Ontario Beer, wrote that the first brewer on record in Waterloo Township was George Rebscher who opened his establishment in 1837:

It should come as no surprise that Rebscher, as a German brewer from Hesse in Franconia, brought with him the brewing techniques that were used in his homeland. Rebscher was the first brewer of lager beer in North America. What we cannot know is exactly what the lager might have been like. It seems likely the unfiltered styles that were popular in Franconia might have represented some of the early output. Given what we know of brewing in the early stages of a settlement in Upper Canada, it is relatively unlikely that George Rebscher’s lager would have been made entirely of barley for the first year or two of production.

Which is all very interesting. In the 1843 edition of Flügel’s Complete Dictionary of the German and English Languages there is a translation given at page 508 for “schenk” and a number of related words.  You can read it if you click on the thumbnail to the right. And if you can struggle with the Gothic script you will see that it is related to ideas of draught and tavern. Sort of table beer, perhaps. By contrast, lager-bier is defined at page 353 as “beer for keeping, strong beer.” Jordan went on to suggest that the early beer from Rebscher was more zwickelbier than kellerbier based on the lack of aging. To my mind, based on the above, that sounds a lot like a beer that is more schenk than lager, too.

And… that’s it. Frankly whether it was Rebscher, Wagner or Gillig really does not matter for today’s purposes. These gents are all examples of the folk included in the wave of German-speaking immigrant to the western hemisphere in Q2 1800s. It’s The Beginning. The beginning of lager. Well, a beginning of what is called lager. The beginning of German beer in North America. New beer for a new wave of immigrants in the 1830s and 1840’s. Sorta. Sorta maybe. The problem with the story is that there are two key elements that exist in North America well before this genesis story: German beer and… Germans. See, the Germans who came to North America in the second quarter of the 1800s were not the first. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has summarized it this way:

The largest wave of German immigration to Pennsylvania occurred
during the years 1749-1754 but tapered off during the French and Indian Wars and after the American Revolution… By the time of the Revolutionary War, there were approximately 65,000 to 75,000 ethnically German residents in Pennsylvania. Some historians estimate the number as high as 100,000. Benjamin Franklin wrote that at least one-third of Pennsylvania’s white population was German.

Which is interesting. There was German beer of some sort and there were Germans not only well before lager shows up in America but plenty of Germans were before the American Revolution.  But they were not necessarily the same sort of Germans. As that piece states, the German immigrants of the 1830s and 1840s came from northern and eastern Germany and were Catholic whereas the earlier Pennsylvania Germans tended to come from the southern German principalities and were Lutherans or other sorts of Protestants. Which may well mean, then as now, the beer was different.

 

 

 

 

So, armed with that, let’s go further back. If we do, we see that “schenk” was a term with a prior history. As illustrated to above the far left, Heinrich Hildebrand used the term in his early 1700s philosophical treatise Jurisdictio Universa Secundum Mores Hodiernos Compendiose Considerata. You can see it there in Gothic German script as an illustration of his tenth hypothesis set out in Latin. And, no, I have no idea what he’s talking about either. “Schenk” also shows up, as up there in the middle, in this entry in a French language dictionary of German terms from 1788, the Neues Teutsches und Französisches Wörterbuch. And, to the upper right, here it is in an English-German dictionary from Britain published in 1800. So, schenk was a thing before lager came to the USA. At this point, not so much the adjective explaining relative strength. Note also how broad the various associated forms of the word are. In 1800, a tavern  keeper is a schenk or a schenke depending on gender. It has a meaning more its own than by the end of the 1800s.

Let’s go a bit lateral now. Bear with me. We saw a year and a half ago that in the 1820s there was something called cream beer being sold in New York which was associated with the Germans of Pennsylvania. A sort of fresh beer… draught… table beer perhaps. There is another term used around the same time – “Bavarian” – sometimes with “ale” and sometimes with “beer.” The New York Evening Post of 20 January 1836 uses the term “Bavarian beer” in a long article, “The German Prince In Germany And France” where it is said the German author Jean Paul was fond of it.

And then there is swankey which , as noted by Boak and Bailey in the June 2015 edition of BeerAdvocate, was a name of a beer in Pennsylvania which was a lot like a name for a light rustic beer in Cornwall England, swanky.  The word swankey with an “e” was used in a 12 May 1849 article on a crisis at sea in the New York’s Weekly Herald. It was used in rather unflattering terms as you can see to the right: vinegar, brandy, saltwater and molasses. Notice that the ship left from Delaware. Next to eastern Pennsylvania. A lowbrow making a lowbrow reference to probably a lowbrow drink.

Hmm… then we see that the 28 April 1888 edition of the New York Tribune included a passage in a newsy notes column on a enterprise dedicated to the brewing of swankey which I set out in full below:

Brook’s law was an 1880’s temperance law in Pennsylvania. And low strength table beer “is very popular in Germany.” Stan notes a similar add from Wichita from around the same year in his book Brewing Local but suggests swankey started there. Hmm – the police blotter article up top from twelve years before would discount an 1888 start if there is a connection.  I wonder if it actually is something of the end point for the concept. See, swank is an old word, too – like schenk.*** In the common sense has a rather interesting etymology. Full of notions of youth and swagger and stagger before it was a fifty cent word for trendy.

And if we are honest, swanky and schenk can start to sound a bit alike if you mix in various accents especially if the schenk is schenke. Mixed accents of mixing peoples. See, there is a Cornwall and Pennsylvania connection, too. Quakers moved from Cornwall to western New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania in the later 1600s.  Pennsylvania has a few nicknames and one is the Quaker State, immortalized by the engine oil as well as a brand of oatmeal. Did they bring the word swanky in the 1600smeet up with Germans in the 1700s making schenk, merge them in to swankey and maybe brand it as cream beer in the early 1800s to explain it to people who didn’t get the local lingo. That 1880s reference Stan notes might be more of an echo, a remembrance of beer words past.

Seems a bit of a convenient stretch, doesn’t it. But we are talking about a pretty small and culturally discrete population. There are only 240,000 people in Pennsylvania in 1770. And we see three low alcohol not-lager beers coming out of the same community over time and at a time when there was no real finesse about neatly splitting hairs over whether a beer is of one sort or another. Think about it. Maybe a stretch. Maybe not.

*Note also this definition from the 1885  edition (and not the claimed 1835 edition) of The Progressive Dictionary of the English Language: A Supplementary Wordbook to All Leading Dictionaries of the United States and Great Britain published by the Progressive Publishing Company of Chicago: “Schenk-beer (shengk ber), n. [G. schenk-bier, from schenken, to pour out, because put on draught soon after it is made.] A kind of mild German beer; German draught or pot beer, designed for Immediate use, as distinguished from lager or store beer. Called also Shank-beer.

**The term “German public house” was a thing in New York before 1846. The Spectator newspaper used the term on 2 April 1842 to describe one of the buildings lost in a great fire.

***This looks like a reference to “schenkebier” from the 1400s.

Your Thursday Beer News For That Day Just Five Weeks Before March

It gets like that in January. Counting the days to the warmer ones like prayers upon beads passed through the fingers. It’s time. Please be March soon. Please. Warmth. Now! Come on!! Time, like grace, arrives in its own pace I suppose.  Even calling this a Thursday post is jumping the gun a bit. These things get plunked together mostly on Wednesday. These things matter. Anyway, what’s been going on in the news?

I lived in PEI from 1997 to 2003 and am pretty sure John Bil shucked my first raw oyster. Love struck I wasCarr’s was an eight minute drive from my house and I often bought a dozen or two there to take out to the back yard and suck back on a Saturday afternoon. RIP.

Our pal Ethan and Community Beer Works are working with the owners of Buffalo’s Iroquois brand to revive a version of the venerable brew. An interesting form of partnership where craft leans of community pride in legacy lager.

Carla Jean Lauter tweeted the news Wednesday afternoon that Nova Scotia’s newbie Tusket Falls Brewing had decided to withdraw its Hanging Tree branding for one of its beers. Rightly so and quickly done as far as I can tell. That’s the Facebook announcement to the right. This was a good decision on their part but not one that goes without consideration. I grew up in Nova Scotia and, among other lessons learned in that complex culture, had the good fortune to be assigned as law school tutor in my last year to one of the leaders of the Province’s version of the Black Panther movement when he was in first year, the sadly departed, wonderful Burnley “Rocky” Jones. He did all the teaching in that friendship. I would have loved to have heard his views on the matter. See, Loyalist Canada was settled in the 1780s by the British Crown as a refuge for the outcasts, including African American freed former enslaved Loyalists, seeking shelter after the dislocation of the American Revolution. Court justice there as it was here in Kingston included hanging as part of that. Hell, in the War of 1812 at Niagara there was still drawing and quartering. As I tweeted to Ms Pate, another Bluenoser, the hanging tree could well symbolize peace, order and justice in Tusket as much as bigoted injustice elsewhere. Or it could represent both… right there. Were there lynchings in southwestern Nova Scotia? Some stories are more openly spoken of than others. Slavery lingered on a surprisingly long time here in Ontario the good. We talk little about that. And Rocky and others do not fight that good fight without good reason. We might wish it should and could depend on what happened in that place. But somethings are no longer about the story of a particular place. Somethings about beer are no longer local. And its not “just beer” in many cases. Yet, we happily talk of war. Q: could a Halifax brewery brand a beer based on the story of Deadman’s Island?

My co-author Jordan has made the big time, being cited as “Toronto beer writer and expert” by our state news broadcaster.* With good reason, too, as he has cleverly taken apart the fear mongering generated around the reasonable taxation of beer.

This is really what it is all about, isn’t it? Well done, Jeff. The setting, style and remodeling of his third pub, the
The Ypres Castle Inn all look fabulous. Good wee dug, tae.

I don’t often link to a comment at a blog but this one from the mysterious “qq” on the state of research into yeast is simply fantastic: “[t]o be honest anything is out of date that was written about the biology of the organisms making lager more than three years ago…” Wow! I mean I get it and I comments on the same about much of beer history, too, but that is quite a statement about the speed of increase in understanding beer basics. Read the whole thing as well as Boak and Bailey’s highly useful recommended lager reading.

Max finally gets a real job.

Gary Gillman has been very busy with posts and has written one about a very unstylish form of Canadian wine, native grape Canadian fortified wine, often labeled as sherry. Grim stuff but excellently explained. As I tweeted:

Well put. These were the bottles found, when I was a kid, empty up an alley or by forest swimming holes. I thought we had a few examples of better fortified wine ten or so years ago. But, likely as the PEC and Nia good stuff sells so well, no attraction to a maker.

Gary gets double billing this week as he also found and discussed the contents of a copy of the program from the first Great American Beer Festival from 1982. I have actually been pestering Stan for one of these off and on for years only to be told (repeatedly) that archiving was not part of the micro era. Tell me about it, says the amateur boy historian. The 1982 awards are still not even listed on the website but that seems to be the last year of the home brew focus.  Anyway, Gary speaks about the hops mainly in his post. I am more interested in the contemporary culture: which presenter got what level of billing, what the breweries said of their beers. Plenty to discuss.

More on closings. Crisis what crisis?  In the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo. What’s it all about, Alfie?

That’s enough for this week. Plenty to chew on. See you in February!

*All I ever got was “an Ontario lawyer who reviews beers on his blog…” like I am some sort of loser…

The Tale Of Two Harvest Ales

You will recall my slight obsession with MacKinnon Brothers Brewing Co., located a mere 20 km to my west in the Loyalist town of Bath, Ontario. Attentive readers will recall that brewmaster bro* Dan joined me to represent Canada at the 1780 Challenge organized by Craig three years ago, back in the spring of 2015 in central NY, where two brewers used cut straw stalks as part of the wheat beer mash just as we discovered they did back then. A fun day. In fact below, in the leftmost thumbnail, you will in fact see Dan MacKinnon mock inviserating Craig Gravina in one of the greatest “brewer gets back at blogger” moments in recorded history. I’m getting verklempt.

Well, this week I got an email and then a box at the door both from Laura Voskamp, the rapidly expanding brewery’s media contact. The box came two half growlers labeled “Batch #1” and “Batch #2”, two bags of malt labeled “2016” and “2017” along with a note. The image above and to the right is the note. Below in the middle thumbnail are the bags of malt in the cool clinical laundry room light. I did my part to share the news of their first 2016 release of the Harvest Ale which was generally received as one of the best beers to come out of Ontario. Jordan and Robin dubbed it “estate beer” which works for me. So, very much looking forward to this bit of a beery performance art piece in a box.

 

 

 

 

Ivan MacKinnon** added a bit more information by email. Both malt sample were  Munich malt made from the Metcalfe barley strain malted at Barn Owl. The 2017 is darker, quite clearly stained.   In both cases, the quality is excellent but their differences reflect the growing season, mainly. Rain and insects hammered the 2017 crop while the 2016 basked under the sunny sun.  Out of the situation, as stated above to the right, MacKinnon made two batches of Harvest Ale out of their 2017 barley. The first, straight up bug and rain reality and the second a blend of four-firth 2016 malt cut by one-fifth of the 2017. Batch #2, the blend of 2016 and 2017 is lovely. When I wrote my notes on Friday night, I waxed poetical:

Light copper coloured ale. Approaching the colour of that good French cookware. Taste: Brewery characteristic apple richness while still a level of dry attenuation. Mid- mouth prominent note of smoke wells up but more like unsliced rye than just sootiness. Hefty note yet woodsy. If this is harvest, it’s late in the season. A sensation leaf pile. October not late August. Even a fattiness that remind me of my favourite Polish Krakowska sausage. White pepper.  Leek and wild mushroom sauce on venison. And a jug of this. Then it fades – a diminishment of the rustic. In the finish as apples and nut flair up to stand with it. Malt smoke russet apple in quick succession. With, then, light toffee plus a hint of  an unfiltered McDonald Export A green label tobacco as a last lingering hello. Your uncles coat including the hard candy he’d slip to you if you were a particularly clever pest to your parents. Earthy sweetness. Their Crosscut making the big leagues? Lovely.

Hmm. I suspect the sample may have contained alcohol. The pure laine uncut Batch #1 from 2017 is not as lovely. While the brewery describes it as phenolic off-flavours, I would say celery and cumin. Which is not what many are looking for in a beer and to be honest, on a Sunday morning doing laundry while skipping church, it’s a very spicy dry experience. But the underlying malt sweetness is there and this clearly has the brewery’s house style. So, it’s an educational moment rather than one poetical.

Still, it has its use. Not a drain pour. I am having a bit with Brie on a bun as T-Rex plays on the turntable while the clothes get done.*** And it is being bashed into the crock pot of baked beans I have gurgling away in the oven, dry beans I grew myself out in the garden. Batch #1 is perfectly geared to sit along with the mustards, molasses, ancho pepper, ginger root, Seed to Sausage saucisson sec from just north of here and all the good other things I threw in there. Local barley. Local malting. Local sausage. Very local beans. Local terroir aplenty.

*An actual bro, by the way.
**Also an actual bro.
***Turntable dust matching dryer lint. One side of the LP matching the wash cycle almost exactly. No doubt this lifestyle is exactly what Bolan meant when he said “born to boogie.”

Your Beery News For The Sudden January Thaw

Nothing slows down life as much as three weeks of the freezing weather that we are just about to get a break from. Well, that and regularly keeping track of the beery news again. It’s been since November since I started back up.  I was last August’s jaunt as Stan’s intern that did it, I suppose. Give me a few years. I might get reasonably good at it. Maybe. Sorta. Bet I pack it in come spring.

Anyway, first up, all that hope and rage you have balled up into the narrative that moderate alcohol is good for you? It’s very likely a crock. Why? Because “…low-volume drinkers may appear healthy only because the ‘abstainers’ with whom they are compared are biased toward ill health.” My take? If you regularly wake up hungover you are likely hurting yourself. Start with a few liver function tests.

Crap. Eric Asimov has mentioned Prince Edward County wines in The New York Times. I’ll never be able to afford to drink the local stuff now.

More bad news? Why not? The sudden shutting of central New York’s venerable Saratoga Brewing was covered in great detail by central New York’s venerable Don Cazentre. It’s not that often that beer business news gets covered as business news but Don is regularly the one doing it. Another form of the death of the dream of national big craft – along with, you know, less and less of the stuff being sold. Hail the new boss! Local murky gak in a sterile monoculture branded taproom where everyone wants to tell you about how great the beer is. Now, that’s my kind of entertainment.

Now, how about something positive? I definitely award the best long writing this week to the two part essay by Matthew Lawrenson on pub life for the perspective of someone with autism:

I’ve been told that people are wary of me due to my “beer blogging’s greatest monster” reputation and are surprised when I’m more anxious and less obnoxious than they’ve been lead to believe. All I can say is that, usually, things are rarely what people expect them to be.

My favourite thing about the essay is how plainly described it all is. Matthew treats the subject objectively, with the respect it deserves. Very helpful. By way of a bit of contrast, because it’s important to keep this dynamic, Jordan took on the argument being made by Canada’s macro brewers about our excise tax regime and found it seriously lacking, working both the numbers as well as his sarcasm skills:

…let’s do the math. Wow! The average price of a case of beer is $36.50 if you go by the examples that Beer Canada have used. Now, let’s see. 24 x 341ml = 8,184 ml. How many ml in a HL? Wow. That’s 12.218 cases of beer per hectolitre. That’s 293 bottles and a low fill! Hmmm. What’s $31.84/293? Oh wow. It’s 10.8 cents a bottle in federal excise!

I was left (again) with the feeling that all cost inputs deserve that level of scrutiny. It’s we the buyers and our cash that runs the whole industry, after all. Why shouldn’t we get a simple straight answer? Consider J.J. Bell’s news today that he is dropping Harvey’s from his pub’s line up because “They’ve been using their strong position in the local market to price gouge, pure and simple.” Now, that’s some plain speaking about value.

How did we get here? Maybe beer 5,000 years ago in Greece. Merryn Dineley ordered the article so I am looking forward to greater analysis that just the abstract but the reference to “remains of sprouted cereal grains as well as cereal fragments from the Bronze Age” sure seems interesting.

Not beer: Al Tuck. Listen for a bit. There you go. Feel better, right?

Coming to the end but still enough time for my favourite use of Twitter in beer-world for 2018. Josh Noel’s fictional life of John Holl started on New Years Day this way:

On a Thursday evening in 1986, as a spring storm pounded the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, John Hall sat in an airplane on the rain‐glazed tarmac and did something he would recount for the rest of his life. He reached for a magazine.

Finally. All things come to an end. And speaking of ends – bumboats. Say it fast five times over out loud… in public: Bumboats!  Bumboats!  Bumboats! Bumboats! Bumboats!” Hah – made you do it.

Laters.

A Few (Hah!) Additional Tudor Calais Brewery Tidbits

The Tudor resources over at British History Online are a wee bucket of gold. The last few posts under the 1500s tag are largely from the Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1, 1509-1514 pages. Rather than string these last fragmentary references to beer and brewing into a likely false and certainly shallow narrative due to my lack of wider historical context, let’s just plunk them down chronologically for your consideration to see what might be made of them. Remember: rushing to any conclusion is the hallmark of disastrous pseudo-history jampacked with inauthenticity. Once I lay them out upon the table, you may feel inspired to criticize and/or praise – whether in the comments or on social media at some later date. Prehaps catch up a bit with the last few posts on the brewing plans of Henry VIII.  Or just to lay upon a sofa thinking, as if you were Billy Wordsworth considering those daffodils. Feel free. Live it up.

First up, on 24 June 1509 the coronation of King Henry VIII is recorded and with it there is a list of the members of the royal household with their functions. John Knolles, yeoman “brewer” is noted under the pantry staff. Edward Atwood, yeoman “brewer” falls under the group managing the cellar. Within the buttery we find William Kerne, yeoman ale taker as well as both Thomas Cooke and William Bowman who are groom ale takers. I might suppose that these functions relate to the distribution of ale throughout the household seeing how they are located and described. Is it a case of ale at home, beer abroad? Let’s see.

In February 1512, we read of numerous royal grants of position. Grants of ecclesiastical office, grants of land to the widow of an earl. And also

Thomas Loye, brewer, of London. Protection for one year; going in the suite of Sir Gilbert Talbot, Deputy of Calais. 

This is Gilbert Talbot. He traveled with his own brewer. England controlled Calais from 1346 to 1558 and Henry VIII early in his reign seems to have an great interest in ensuring it is well resourced.

On 1 October 1512, we have another record indicating the broad and integrated nature of the economy of the royal enterprise:

Account of “the victuals provided by John Shurley, cofferer of the King’s most honorable household, and John Heron, supervisor of the King’s customhouse in London, the 1st day of Oct. the 4th year of the reign of King Henry the VIII.th, for a relief of victual for the King’s army upon the sea in whaftyng (wafting) of the herring fleet upon the coast of Norfolk and Suffolk where divers of the French ships of war lay.”

Provisions with costs, viz., biscuit 72,325lbs. at 5s. the 100, and straw to lay them on, from 39 bakers named; beef, from 6 butchers in Eastcheap, 11 in St. Nicholas Fleshambles, 2 in Aldgate, total 112 pipes; beer, from 12 brewers, at 6s. 8d. the pipe (p. 11); fish “gret drye code Hisselonde fishe,” at 38s. 4d. every 124, from 2 fishmongers (p. 13); freight to 8 masters of vessels (p. 14); petty costs (p. 16); remanets (p. 19).

So, you have a navy to protect the fishermen from the French fleet and supply the fishing fleet and navy with food – including fish – to ensure the supply of fish.

Next, on 12 May 1513, The Privy Council of Henry VIII received new of a fairly particular concern related to West Country ale as preparations are made for  the needs of a great army:

Since the Admiral’s coming, he has given orders, notwithstanding the King’s and Council’s commands, that no more beer is to be made in the West, as, being made of oaten malt, it will not keep so well as that made of barley malt. The soldiers are not as willing to drink it as the London beer brewed in March, which is the best month. Nevertheless, when in Brittany, they found no fault with it, but received it thankfully, and since they have been in Plymouth they have drank 25 tuns in 12 days; but now so much beer is come from London that they will not drink the country beer. My Lord of Winchester has written to the Admiral that he shall henceforth be sufficiently furnished at Portsmouth from time to time….”The quantity of victuals provided by them in the West is as follows. In Plymouth, 200 pipes of beer, 46 pipes of flesh, 20 pipes of biscuit; besides bread, biscuit, flesh and beer spent by the soldiers on land the last 12 days, for which they paid. At Dartmouth, 60 pipes of biscuit, 24 pipes of flesh, 150 pipes of beer, 300 doz. loaf bread, 200 of fish. At Exeter and Opsam, 50 pipes biscuit, 600 doz. loaf bread, 160 pipes of beer, 40 pipes flesh, 1,200 of fish.

That passage is fascinating just on the basis of the ratio of beer in the dietary demands of an army alone, but note that the news is being spread that better beer is to be had out of the recently constructed mega-brewery at Portsmouth. You also have three classes of beer described: country oaten beer from the West, City beer from London and industrial mega-brewing at Portsmouth.

Just nine days later, on 21 May 1513 the need for pipes or barrels for the beer was identified as being in short supply. Thomas Wolsey, then the chief almoner to Henry, was advised by his former master at court and soon-to-be if not now servant Richard Fox(e) as follows:

The Captain of the Isle of Wight desires Wolsey’s favor in the matter now before him. Some of my Lord Lisle’s captains desire wages for their folks that shall attend on their carriages to Calais. John Dawtrey will write the rest. Wants empty pipes for the beer. “I fear that the pursers will deserve hanging for this matter.” There shall be beer enough, if pipes may be had, “which I pray God send us with speed, and soon deliver you of your outrageous charge and labor; and else ye shall have a cold stomach, little sleep, pale visage, and a thin belly, cum rara egestione: all which, and as deaf as a stock, I had when I was in your case.”

The fear of failure was both personal and in relation to the enterprise at hand.

In June 1513, also as part of the preparations for Calais, we have this lovely specific reference to a particular person:

Wm. Antony, the King’s beer brewer. Commission for six months to provide brewers for the King’s beer brewing at Calais for the great army about to go beyond sea. 

In August 1513, we see a record under the heading “The King’s Horses” of oats for horses being sidetracked to a brewer who seemed to be not exactly involved with Henry’s horses:

Account of prests (in all 25l. 4s. 8d.) and payments (in all 22l. 6s. 8d.) for hay, oats and beans sent to Calais. Some of the oats were sold to Master Alday at Sandwich, for his beerhouse. 

In that same month, we also see references to the carriage of beer to Calais which indicates that the brewing there on the continent had not reached a scale allowing for local self-sufficiency. Interestingly, the beer seems to be flowing in a number of directions – (i) to ships, (ii) to Calais as well as (iii) from Calais:

“The Dockette of William Ston’s Boke,” being jottings and calculations of payments due for carriage of beer and victuals for ships including his own wages at 18d. a day for 218 days, and at 10d. a day for four days when occupied in receiving beer from Calais.

All the efforts to bolster Calais were occurring in the context of (imagine!) a war with France as I noted in the last post. As part of that larger war, Scotland did as Scotland did (oh, my people!) and decided to undertaken yet another (imagine!) suicidal adventure.* As Henry was fighting to the south, he himself at battle on the continent, Lord Howard raced to deal with an invasion of Scots and associated northern border folks. Disaster ensued for the invaders which you can read about in Howard’s report to Henry provided on 20 September 2013:

On the 9 Sept. the King of Scots was defeated and slain. Surrey, and my Lord Howard, the admiral, his son, behaved nobly. The Scots had a large army, and much ordnance, and plenty of victuals. Would not have believed that their beer was so good, had it not been tasted and viewed “by our folks to their great refreshing,” who had nothing to drink but water for three days. They were in much danger, having to climb steep hills to give battle. The wind and the ground were in favor of the Scots. 10,000 Scots are slain, and a great number of noblemen. They were so cased in armour the arrows did them no harm, and were such large and strong men, they would not fall when four or five bills struck one of them. The bills disappointed the Scots of their long spears, on which they relied. Lord Howard led the van, followed by St. Cuthbert’s banner and the men of the Bishopric. The banner men won great honor, and gained the King of Scots’ banner, which now stands beside the shrine. The King fell near his banner. (fn. 9) Their ordnance is taken. The English did not trouble themselves with prisoners, but slew and stripped King, bishop, lords, and nobles, and left them naked on the field. 

“Would not have believed that their beer was so good” is perhaps the grimmest tasting note in the English language. Over 10,000 Scots died at Flodden even though they outnumbered the English. The English lost 1500.

In March 1514, once the wars to the south and north as settling or settled, we see more stability. And there is a very handy account for victualing for Calais which contains my favourite 1500s reference – malt. When they are shipping malt it means there is brewing at the destination – if not sometimes even on board the ship in transit. Meaning there is stability and perhaps peace:

John Miklowe, Thomas Byrkes, and Brian Roche. Release of 20,910l. 16s. 10d., received by them through Sir John Daunce, for purveying provisions for the army with the King beyond seas; and of 392l. 15s. received by sale of a part of the said provisions; and of various quantities (specified) of flour, wheat, casks, malt, oats, beer, flitches of bacon, &c., received by them from William Browne, junr., Richard Fermour and George Medley, merchants of the Staple of Calais, John Ricrofte and John Heron, surveyor of customs, &c., in the port of London. 

Another even more detailed account including some similar names was sent the next month, April 1514:

Received of John Daunce 500l. Of Ric. Fermor, Wm. Browne and Geo. Medley, 1,000 barrels of flour at 10s.; 3,611 barrels 4 bushels 3 pecks at 8s. a barrel; 40 qrs. of wheat for brewing beer at [10]s. the qr.; empty beer barrels, 408 tons at 5s. the ton. Of John Ricroft, 7, 845 qrs. 1 bu. malt, at 5s. 4d. a qr. Of John Heron of the Custom House, London, 150 tons of beer, 150l., and 180 flitches of bacon, 13l. 10s. Received from John Daunce, for wages, by John Myklawe, Thos. Byrks and Brian Roche, 2,710l. 16s. 10d.; and by John Myklowe, and Wm. Briswoode, 3,000l. Receipt by the guaves of malt: Myklowe, Byrks and Roche charge themselves of every qr. of malt received by them “at Calais and there sold and uttered to be guaved,” 7,845 qrs. at 12d. a qr. Total received by them for victualling, wages and carriage, as appears in three books of accounts, 25,625l. 6s. 6d. Paid by them for empty foists, &c., 1,745l. 13s. 5¾d. on victuals remaining unspent, 2,235l. 11s. 8d. Losses of victuals, 2,929l. 11s. 8d. In hand, in debts, obligations and ready money, 12,574l. 3s. 4¾d. Wages of war, conduct money and jackets, for officers, artificers, carters, &c., 2,674l. 7s. 2d. For the carriage of victuals to Saint Omesr’s, 3,429l. 9s. 9¾d. Total, 25,588l. 16s. 10d. Arrearage of this account, 36l. 9s. 8d.

Interesting that the “wages of war” sometimes just meant the payment for folk and stuff to wage war with. Also, there is wheat specifically for brewing mentioned. I have not idea what “guaves of malt” are. I could not find that term listed as a unit of measurement. Seems connected to the reselling of the malt – meaning there is private brewing going on at Calais. Note also the shipment of empty beer barrels which would have, I assume, been of a specific size and perhaps durability.

On 29 May 1514, there is another reference indicating the brewing at Calais was being established at a certain scale:

Indenture witnessing delivery at Calais, 29 May 6 Hen. VIII., by John Ward to Wm. Pheleypson and Th. Granger, of 20 “myln” horses for the beer houses and 80 cart horses for the victualling of the King’s army royal.

Are “myln” horses used in the milling process?

On 12 August 1514, we have more accounting for the shipment of empty beer barrels as well as a lovely note for another necessary for beer – hops:

Giving amounts, persons by whom delivered, &c., of flour, malt, bacon, hops, bay salt, empty beer barrels and cart and mill horses. Signed: per me Thomam Byrkes.

Attentive readers, all two of you, will recall that three years ago we looked at a early modern word search tool and saw how “hops” or “hoppes” came into far more common use on a very particular date roughly around 1518.  So this use of hops not only and early one in English culture but also, given this is state enterprise in the form of the industrial military complex, it is very timely… very early in the timely if you ask me. Also, goes some way to dispel the idea that Henry was against hops – he just didn’t want them in his ale.

In the miscellaneous records related to 1514, we see a few records that seem to be reconciling expenses related to the French war now that things had settled down. In particular we see records related to one  John Dawtrey, only described as “a captain of the army” which must have been a more important rank than we would understand today:

Money advanced by John Dawtrey.—Payments for “land wages of the King’s army by sea”; for the army mustered before the commissioners at Portsmouth, to serve in campaign of 6 Hen. VIII.; “for wages of the army upon sea, the 6th year”; for provisions, ordinance, masts and other necessaries; for taking up a great chain; for wages of “captains, petty captains and soldiers called Swcheners when they were in the Isle of Wight,” for 5 months from 30 Dec. 4 Hen. VIII.; for fitting out The Soveraigne; for the carrack called The Gabriell Royall; for beer and bake-houses at Portsmouth; for making two gates (?) at the castles, and repairing the ditches there; and for repairing the ships.

These expenses appear to be broken out or added to in “a letter from my Lord of York to John Dawtrey.” Total: 2,100£. Or $2,369,137.42 USD today.

“Petition for sundry payments for which the accomptant has no warrant”; viz., payments for biscuits and western fish “in a great storm lost”; to Nich. Cowart, for loss in sale of wheat after the wars, and for his wages as “supervisour and having the charge of the byscuett,” and purveyor of wheat, from 24 Jan. 4 Hen. VIII. to 7 Nov. 6 Hen. VIII.; for wages of John Dawtrey and his two clerks, from 16 April 3 Hen. VIII. to 12 Sept. 6 Hen. VIII.; for carriage of money remaining in the hands of John Dawtrey from Hampton to London, &c.; for biscuits in the hands of Nich. Cowert and John Dawtrey; to Hen. Tylman of Chichester, brewer, for beer; to Rich. Gowffe of Chichester, baker, for biscuits; to _ Serle of Brighthempston, for barrels; for remainder “of wood vessels, carts, leighter and divers other necessaries,” in the charge of Rich. Palshed, at Portsmouth. “Money paid and advanced by Richard Palshed”:—for wages of brewers, millers, beer-clerks, mill-makers, coopers, surveyors, master-brewers, horse-keepers and smiths, attending upon the King’s brewhouses at Portsmouth, 5 and 6 Hen. VIII., and of certain brewers and mariners from 22 Aug. 6 Hen. VIII. to 31 March following; for expences in carriage of beer, for rent of houses, for building a great store-house at Portsmouth, for repairing the King’s garners and beer-houses at Portsmouth, for loss in sale, “after the war was done, of mill and dray-horses, wheat, malt, oats and hops; for wheat, malt, hops and beer lost and damaged at sea, and for wages of the said Rich. Palshed and his two clerks.”

Turns out Dawtrey was the Overseer of the Port of Southampton and Collector of the King’s Customs so sending him all the bills makes sense. He appears to be in charge of building and operating Henry’s four great brew houses as well as Lord Howard’s beer barrel storehouses at Portsmouth as well as paying for beer brewed by others like Henry Tylman of Chichester as well as Richard Palshed who we saw referenced as “Palshid” and “Palshide” in that brew house post. Palshed must have been the general manager brewing operations as well as likely a Member of Parliament.

Two decades on, the brewing operations at Calais are still going… sort of. In the Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic of the Reign of Henry VIII: Preserved in the Public Record Office, the British Museum and Elsewhere in England, Volume 9 we find the following from 27 December 1535:

Petition of Jas. Wadyngborne, of Calais, to Cromwell, chief secretary. His brewhouse at the Cawsey in the marches of Calais was destroyed in the last wars, and he then bought a house in the town standing over against the King’s Exchequer. At the King’s last being at Calais, he bought this house and others “in the said quadrant,” to the petitioner’s great loss. Bought a new house in the Middleway near the town for more than 200l., and daily brews for the town, paying excise and other charges as if he were within. ill be compelled to cease brewing in consequence of a late Act concerning the woods in the Marches, unless Cromwell obtain for him the King’s license to brew as heretofore.

There you go. Lots to chomp on. Life truly is a gas between the wars.

*See, for example, Darien.

Your Mid-January Thursday Beery New Round-Up

It’s been a big week. The Arctic air mass has left us so Easlakia once again is a ball of slush. It’s been a dryish January around these parts but only “-ish” – so don’t go all hostile. Much more veg. No fries. Walks as walks can be walked. It’s good for you. Hmm. Ice storm coming Friday. That should be sweetly end-timesy. Like what Lars just went through recently… maybe. You and I? We have done nothing for good beer. Not like Lars. Speaking of getting off the kookoo juice, I like this: “…waking up fresh at 8am on a Saturday morning after 8 hours uninterrupted sleep.” Try it. It’s good.

I was very sad to read a Ed’s blog about the passing of Graham Wheeler. During my home brewing years his book (with a drizzle of R. Protz) Brew Your Own British Real Ale was a constant companion. One thing I will always appreciate having learned from him was how small differences between recipes created remarkably different ales.  A great loss.

This is the national anthem of beer.

Caption contest! What the hell was Mr. B saying with that expression? It’s a third of an Elvis, clearly. Click for the full view. Was Jordan using that dab of tuna fish juice behind the ear as cologne – again? Robin caught the moment* at a beer dinner Wednesday night in the centre of the universe which famously included house made gentleman’s relish, the only relish a gentleman ever needs. Perhaps Mr. B was musing on the qualifications JSJ brought to the table, gentlemanly-wise. Surely not.

Speaking of hostile, it was a bit odd reading the follow up this week to Eric Asimov’s bit in The New York Times on brown beer. His column was just a round up of the brown ales you can try in the New York market with, yes, a little jig and jag about beer nerds. Then…. accusations, handbags and recriminations. Reminded me a lot about last week’s crisis over pointing out – “theatrical gasp” – sexism in craft beer.** What a round up of “the superior gathered to get the boot in” that was. And now, while it is clear that it’s probably never going to be a good idea to go all “bored quasi-intellectual snobbery intro is the tiredest of journalistic tropes” if you want to be taken seriously, I was quite happy Jeff told his what his actual issue was with this week’s panic. Not my issue but a reasonable issue as he framed it. Still, Asimov’s a fabulous wine writer who makes complex things make sense – and successful enough to have no interest in making his own status an issue. Me, I liked the piece. And, tellingly, so did a lot of the paper’s readership if the many many comments are anything to go by. So say it loud and say it proud: brown ale is go! As in other hobby interests, this again goes to show that good beer still needs a bit of aging to get past these angst-ridden teenaged years. Yes, these may still be the times of doubtful mild cheddar. As I say to my own kids, it gets better. I hope.

700 employees! Damn good thing they are still small.

Nearby, Robsterowski in Glasgow posted an interesting pit on those little knives or tongue depressors used to smack the head of a fancy beer pour – skimmers. I’ve never thought much about them so his work has added to my understanding by about 1237382%.

Not beer: King Crimson’s Larks Tongues in AspicThis was 45 years ago now. Talk about gentleman’s relish.

There, another 23 minutes I can’t get back. Don’t forget to lay your bets on next week’s crisis in the shrinking good beer writing marketplace. Who lashes out next? Stay tuned. Meantime I will likely be back on the weekend with something about brewing in the 1500s you won’t care about. See you then.

*Shared without consent.
**Was it only last week? Nate S. uncovered this weeks Pigs Of Craft award winners. Folks just don’t get it.

“There Is Slow Lading Of Beer At Portismouth”

Exciting times. Hunting for more information about those four Tudor brew houses at Portsmouth introduced a few posts ago,  I came across a number of documents* including this dramatic report from Lord Howard to Lord Wolsey, 6 June 1513:

The premises heard, I took horse and rode hither to tell my lord of Winchester and Lord Lizle, and will forthwith return to the ships. I look hourly for news from Brytayne, where I have three ships. Cannot yet certify the time of my departure, for “there is slow lading of beer at Portismouth”…

At that moment, Henry has only been monarch for four years. Wolsey is two years short of becoming Cardinal but is Henry VIII’s first minister. Howard appears to be quite arguably second. So, there is a lot of political power getting into the question of beer being brought onboard ships.  From 1512 to 1514, England is at war with (who else?) France.  It was part of the broader anti-Venetian War of the Holy League which, as leagues go, must have been right up there. I will let you run down that rabbit hole on your own time.

I take “Brytayne” to be Brittany. Ships are being prepared to hit the open sea. In fact, the very next day a note is recorded to the effect that:

“Victuals delivered, for 6 weeks beginning” 7 June 5 Hen. VIII., to the Trinity Sovereign and 18 other ships; giving for each the purser’s name, the number of men and the quantity of beer delivered by Richard Palshid.

And again we read on the 8th of June another note to Wolsey this time sent by “Fox” who I take to be Richard Foxe at the latter end of his career as a key advisory to the monarch:

…to-morrow to Portesmowthe to see how the brewhouses go forward. Because much victual goes to the army out of Thamys and also from hence and out of the west country, order should be taken for its distribution to each ship: and the Admiral should be written to to despatch the victuallers hither again with empty vessel or else they cannot be served with beer, as Dawtrey will certify. Without wafters “there is good likelihood that they shall be take up by the way.” Much old piped beef is left here by Edward Ratclif which is like to be lost. You should command Ratclif to come hither and do the best that can be done with it.

Interesting stuff.** Provisioning is being directed no only to Portsmouth but also out of the Thames as well as the West Country… Bristol? “Wafters” might be similar to barges or bulk goods ships. And it is from Portsmouth that wafters with empty vessels must be brought to load with beer. Because Portsmouth has the brew houses.

Lord Howard reports the situation to the entire Privy Council as of 8 June in this way:

Lading of beer alone delays his departure; for there are but two cranes and the crayers can only come in and out to them at full sea. On consultation with Wm. Pawne and Palshide, suggests the use of lighters as in the Thames. Two or three of the greatest in Thames should be towed hither by crayers, “and with making them higher with a strake of board we doubt not they shall come safe hither.” The brewhouses here are the goodliest he ever saw, and already brew 100 tun a day. As there is no place to store it but the streets, where hot weather would destroy it, he has commanded Wm. Pawne to have great trenches digged and covered with boards, turf and sedges. The beer which came for Lord Lisle has been assayed by Howard, the Treasurer and the Clerk Comptroller and mostly sent back to London; for Heron’s servants, who deliver it, say that the brewers are bound to take back “unable stuff.” I know not what the King pays, but “much of it is as small as penny ale and as sour as a crab. I doubt not your Lordships will see the brewers punished.”

Two cranes? Who set up this situation with all the beer and not haulage ships and two cranes for loading? Oh, likely Henry VIII. Never mind.

Still, there is the key fact I wanted to establish related to the four brew houses. One hundred tun a day. So much it is stored in the streets. You will recall that I was not able to put my hand on the cited secondary source “Eley 1988” for the statement that they brewed “500 barrels per day in 1515.” This is even better. Not only does the 1513 figure apparently corroborate Eley’s 1515 one, it is a primary source – or at least a trusted recital of one – AND according to my calculations is bigger, a tun being more like 5.83*** UK beer barrels. Which makes the production level 116,600 barrels a year based on a modern 200 working day year of fifty work weeks five days each. If it was 52 weeks of six days, that becomes 181, 896 barrels a year.

If that is the case, then this four brew house brewery infrastructure was four to six times the size of Thrale’s brewery when he acquired it in 1758. The entire beer brewing production of the United States in 1810 was 182,690 barrels. The production of the four brew houses of Portsmouth is a bit mind boggling given how it seems to be both (i) a trustworthy stat and (ii) from hundreds of years before any facility at that scale had been at least brought to my attention. Neato.

More to come I am sure.

*This one set of documents is to be referenced for the quoted bits in this post where no other reference is given.
**Note to self: definitely take a pass on the piped beef whenever in Portsmouth.
***See comment from Martyn about my crummy use of decimal points.

The Session 131: Emergency 1-2-3!!!

One of my favourite things about The Session is a good crisis edition of… The Session.

Let’s be honest. The ball has been dropped about three times in the decade and more of this monthly beer blogging session on a common topic leaving thousands and thousands world wide distraught at the idea that there would not be any single thing to read on the topic of beer… well, posted by a beer blogger… in unison with other beer bloggers… you remember beer bloggers?

Fortunately, the world’s first beer blogger noticed and this beer blogger, the world’s second, is not going to let down the side. Jay whipped together a splendid topic entitled “New Session: Three Things In 2018“:

For our first question of the new year, what one word, or phrase, do you think should be used to describe beer that you’d like to drink?
For our second question of the new year, what two breweries do you think are very underrated? 
For our third question of the new year, name three kinds of beer you’d like to see more of. 

Hmm. Let’s see.  Well, you can tell it is a crisis topic as the three questions require five answers. What are my answers?

Word? Clear. It’s very fashionable to suggest no one has a right to note that a bad fad is a bad fad but 96% of all the nouveau cloudy beer is, as one would expect, bad cloudy beer. It takes a semi-pro PR specialist to suggest otherwise but, really, if you stuck to clearer beer would the world be worse off? No.

Under rated? In the 10,000 brewery universe that is an impossible question as they are not subject to any rating system which reflects their actual quality. No one knows them all. So, classes might be the next thing I can rely upon. Regionally, I would suggest Quebec breweries are under rated. In North America, La Belle Province is an enclave of another language, another culture. The beers reflect that culture. And it’s under explored. A second class? Corn based craft beer. Really? Grow up.

Three kinds I want to see more of? I like the word “kind” when it refers to a category, a class. A kind of beer is better when it gives comfort. So – maybe mild, dubbel and… 1700s porter. Made with diastatic malted Battledore barley. Yum.

Crisis averted. Again.

Another Year, Another Bunch Of Beer News For Thursday

OK, I still seem to be doing this. I did regular weekly news blog post years ago but never thought I’d find myself coming back to it. It’s like 2011 again. Is it because beer news is less boring? Not really. Is it because I am a slacker? Likely. Let’s see what the lazy man sees this week.

Very oddly, a Super Bowl beer and cheap snack crap pairing article a published a full month too early. It’s such a useless thing it’s rather sweet: “Barbecue chips give you the sauce without the meat“? Wow!

Story of 2018? More breweries are failing as more come into being. I am quite content to understand that we have moved from an era of growth to one of stasis and churn. The story of closure linked above does give concern whether we have given false hope through funding flawed dreams from the public coffers. Could it be that we, the people will be holding the bag as more come and go? Good chance that’s the case.

Two years ago.

Looking less further back, Pete gave us the best farewell to 2017 by cutting and pasting stuff accumulated through the year. Good to see that he has to note in passing the question of junkets and, let’s be honest, not all that convincingly.*  A gaffaw at an annual shareholders’ meeting. It remains a question needing questioning even if, in a pleasure trade like beer, no one really loses an eye. Sure sure. Is it that junkets don’t matter because good beer ultimately is not that important? Could well be. Why not? And it that is the case, can we really care if the ownership of a pub chain expresses a political point of view? Who cares?

Speaking of “no one cares” news: Hanson.

Two excellent observations on beer history writing from merryn: (i) errors – I presume we are burdened by errors because, in case you didn’t notice, we are writing about alcohol; (ii) The history of civilization? Because maybe we needed to gather and gorge and not kill each other.

“No more highly viscous wort” news.

Bryan Roth has written the piece of the week, exposing in some detail the intense culture of the shit-wallowing pigs inflicting itself upon a corner of craft beer and… apparently a shadow social media world of mock piggery. Hmm. [Ed.: The Beer Nut has actually captured an image of events in progress.] Though I still am a bit unclear on the slight hesitancy to draw obvious final conclusion – I would not have written “building friendships through participation in memes and challenges for fun” so unadorned – Roth’s take is at least brave if messy and frenetic especially in the tight world of US craft Caucasoid maleness. The pressure to stroke the buffer of phony “community“, to toe the line imposed on self-evident observation is often sad if impressive. Backlash. For a view from another, read this: “That was a nice chat, honey. Now send Tom over. I want to actually order a beer.” Now, that was pretty clear.

Best non-beer thing? The Telharmonium.

There you are. Good things and bad things. A normal week. Adjust your perspectives accordingly.

I had also meant to praise Pete in equal measure his identification that there is no such thing as a beer expert, something I raised three years ago. Stan caught it in his blog post today. Which makes me wonder if Stan is now moving in on Thursdays. (By the way, I just realized I have the power to update Thursday bullet point news all the way though each Thursday. So good to self-publish.)

A First Good Beery Question In 2018 To Ponder This New Year’s Day

People complain. People complain that folk complain. It’s quite odd given people complain all the time about the value of this or the value of that. From donuts to computers to cars to the location of your house, people question and complain every time that feeling creeps up where what was assumed to be worth it turns out to have been a bit of a bust. Given most don’t get a regular supply of vintage samples (or, for that matter, quietly get paid by brewers to review and comment back on the QT as a trade consultant) but, no, actually have to live with a limited set of bank notes from which to draw upon, the question of value is always relevant. Beer isn’t all that special. So, it was good to see this topic bust out over New Year’s Eve:

What are they talking about? Well, late model Fuller’s Vintage Ales, of course. See, yesterday a few hours before that tweeting session started by Boak and Bailey (but with an image which would have destroyed my thin veneer of dramatic tension just now) I opened and started writing about a FVA dated 2008 which led me to exclaim this:

Crash the Stash Day #2: Fuller’s Vintage Ale. Let me check around to see what to expect. Seriously? The brewery is selling these for £100 each? £100?!?!? Glad I spent $6.95 CND almost a decade ago.

This was only news to my conscious self as Martyn had alerted me to the fact almost a year ago when I started a post about working my way through my stash of maybe 16 or so bottles of the stuff from 2007 onward. So subconsciously, I was at least prepared. And I girded myself for the question through drinking these beers, aged and new, since at least 2005. But the reality is that at least from a theoretical point of view, even after having a pleasant enough 2008 era bottle yesterday, I have eight bottles left with an alleged value of around $750 Canadian.

I was pretty clear in my mind that the 2008 was not worth $170 CND or £100 that the brewery was asking. Don’t get me wrong. It was a very good beer and I am delighted that my 45 year old self left such a treat for my 54 self to enjoy over a New Year’s Eve afternoon. Don’t get me wrong. It was yummy. But it had no value which corresponded to what was being asked when I look at it from a few points of view.*

On a relative value scale, were I magically able to use it as free currency $170 would get me and the family a very nice dinner out with drinks at a reasonably good restaurant here in my fair city. Or five tickets to our OHL hockey team with beers and hot dogs and maybe a t-shirt. I would have much preferred those achievable experience to my 90 minutes solo with the ale in a tulip glass. Even though it was a very nice beer in a tulip glass.

As an opportunity cost consideration, I could have left the beer capped and watched its theoretical price rise over a few more years.  By drinking it I am destroying the future increased value, racing well past actual inflation. But that depends on the future buyer being there and the beer not only holding its intrinsic value as a consumable but increasing in sheer tastiness over time. One issue was it started to feel like it was past its best at nine years. Folk would be noting this in the G.D. social media therefore ruining my prospects. How dare folk chat freely?

On beer trading marketplace, if it truly had that value I should be able to sell it back to Fullers or at least my government retailer for something expressing the wholesale current value. It’s been kept in a cool dark cellar and subject to optimum protection. As usual, my claims to provenance were impeccable. If I go back through my tax records I would likely be able to find the receipt for buying it. I expect it would say I spent something like $6.95 CND. Yet… the box was gone and the label encrusted with a bit of mould. Who would want that? I couldn’t sell my Captain Scarlet Dinkie toys in that condition – and I wouldn’t anyway so stop asking. Any in any event, there isn’t actually a buy-back program. Because there isn’t actually a market for the inflation-laced price.

As for the bottle itself, it was a bit like me facing my fifty-fifth later this year. Maybe a bit past it but still performing well. Took a long time in the glass for the bitterness to face a bit to reveal the toffee and pale malt below. I noted as follows:

Plenty of pith, orange zest and minty bitter hops over toffee malt. Lingering bitter finish with a hint of licorice. Less of a cream heart than the 2007 opened a few weeks ago… I have the end of it in a tulip glass now an hour and a half in. It could easily be a very well-made well-designed fresh strong ale that I might buy for a regular price. In no way a disappointment like that sad Stone vertical.

Frankly, I enjoyed the 2007 I had a few weeks ago a bit more. So, is the idea that the brewery is selling at that value a good one or a bad one? Is this a rip off or a smart advertising campaign? One thing I like about it is how the sticker price gives me confidence that I did the right thing by sticking a few aside as I did. They are also saying, screw you white whale hunters – we control this marketplace ourselves. But that is like the silly idea of “brewer’s intention” or, if we are already mocking 2017, “brewery’s cartoonish can label designer intention” in that it doesn’t really give me much value related to the price point being offered. The drink itself has to stand up for itself. And it did. To a degree. But not that degree.

No, in the end the price being sought now is not reasonable. But it does give me the warm conceit that I was once a clever lad. And I can drink to that. And I might just as that 2009 is up next.

*And, frankly, can you disagree with me unless you’ve bought one at current offered prices? Hmm?