Your Mid-March Beer News For The Winter That Won’t Go Away

Andy Crouch captured the mood with this tweet on Tuesday:

We are tired. We are tired of slipping. Of sliding. We are tired of corduroy. [Except me. I’m not hating on the cords – just trying to fit in here – gimme a break.] Otherwise, it’s been a really quite week. Not one brewery has done anything stupid since last Thursday.  Well, Stone seems to be having shelf space quality control issues in Europe but, well, that’s par for the course for big international craft. And St. Patrick’s Day is coming up on the weekend but that will be ruined but 827 beer writers working for exposure and samples lording over the fun of drinking green bulk lager… but that’s for next week.

Deeply into the now, Mr. B has a new book coming out, Will Travel For Beer. Like any numbers book there is a hyper-inflationary aspect to the idea of going on 101 vacations about beer but I am sure there will be more than a few ideas worth planning one or two trips around.

It’s not the one beer a day I couldn’t manage but who can stop at the third chip?

This is an odd story. Apparently MillerCoors in the US has created a new demographic category for 21 to 24 year olds and is intent in trapping them for life in a haze of weird macro-made beer like things:

The purpose is to sell more beer, which has been losing business to wine and hard liquor for a decade. MillerCoors, the U.S. division of Molson Coors Brewing Co., is gearing its marketing to 21- to 24-year-olds, a slice of the population the company characterizes as “curious,” “pragmatic” and still virginal when it comes to drinking beer… MillerCoors says there are important differences between millennials and the new generation the beer maker created but hasn’t named.

Apparently, the answer for these poor fools is a fluid called Two Hats described as “a light beer imbued with fruit flavours.” Which (i) we have seen in one form or another before such as the cited Bud Light Lime-A-Rita yet (ii) still sounds uniquely horrible. Pity the short term career path of the team that came up with this one.

Did I ever mention I really can’t get too excited about the unhappiness of the good monks who otherwise play quite happily in the commercial marketplace? Think of the extra good work that could be done if one of the recipes were given to big beer to milk  for all it’s worth with all licensing residuals going to good causes. No, reselling is fine by me. If I can buy Harris Tweed, an actual craft product, from some one on eBay – why not beer? I mean, who would deny the joy of the best beer thing of the week – also found on eBay?

Boom! Now that we have dealt with matter haberdasherrific, be careful. This post from B+B may find you wanting to stroke your screen. Lovely images of malt being made 50 years or so ago.

If we are honest, GBH is now sort of on a different planet, no?

Finally, as Jeff notes, the US Brewer’s Association has put out its annual biggest 50 craft brewery and biggest 50 brewery list… except it’s not the biggest 50 breweries but the biggest 50 brewing companies. Which is odd for an organization supposedly celebrating small. EcoBart explained that the lay of the corporate landscape no longer allows for simply listing breweries – but then offered a tweek that might see number of brewing facilities listed under each FrankenKraftenCorp. Which gets to be confusing. TBN certainly was confused. I’ve plunked the entire list into this post down there at the bottom for your review. Look at it. Look!! The inclusion of Duvel Moorgat certainly sticks out. Andy hailed it all as the revenge of the East. Me, I applaud Bell’s for sticking with “Inc.” while all the world rushed to “Co.” Two years ago or so, the annual list was a helpful tool in following the breweries which had sold out. We don’t talk of selling out anymore. It is all too confusing. Which is another reason to buy from your local actual small brewery at the taproom where you can talk with the owner and the brewer.

Remember: Boak and Bailey Saturday, Stan on Monday.

À La Recherche Du Bière Perdu

Sitting here with benignly received stitches in my mouth, it’s not only that I look back with fondness on that time before a week ago that I could have a drink. It’s looking back with fondness that I could have anything pretty much not in paste form. I did have a bun the other day. Took me 27 minutes to eat it. Which reminds me of other looking back fondly at the joyful consumption as with this archaeological dig in England:

Once at the cutting edge of Oxford University, the friary building was either torn down or at least fell into disuse during the mid 1500s when the Franciscans fled the country during the dissolution of the monasteries. Built over for many centuries, it is only thanks to redevelopment for a new shopping centre that archaeologists have been able to delve into the treasures it contains. ‘Greyfriars’, as it was known, was home to both the friar lecturers and scholars and their students. So far the archaeologists have found thousands of artefacts, many hundreds of which – in true student fashion – are related to alcohol.

i remember when I could be related to alcohol, too. There is plenty more detail over at this site for Oxford Archaeology which appears to be the firm working with the developers to clear the site. The discovery of a 13th century tile floor was an unexpected surprise. Not unlike my surprise when I learned hummus and yogurt could be an entire meal.

There is much more detail in The Independent. Seems like the monks, unlike me at the moment, had a rich and varied diet:

Mutton, lamb, pork, beef, chicken, geese and song birds were all on the menu, as were sea fish (cod, whiting, haddock, herring, eel, gurnard, conger, grey mullet, thornback ray, salmon and sea trout) and freshwater fish (especially roach and dace). The archaeological investigation has also revealed that they had a liking for oysters and mussels – and for hazelnuts and walnuts. For making pottage – a thick mainly vegetable stew – they used wheat, barley, oats and rye.

They also found “hundreds of medieval beer mugs” – hundreds. The monastery is described as being one of the seats of “super friars” with great academic and political influence which is one of the things, I suppose that lead Henry VIII to getting rid of them. The order reestablished itself in Oxford a bit over a century ago. Their kitchens were apparently preserved in good condition… for archaeology… but I am not sure if they established whether the monk’s ale was brewed within that facility. Medieval Oxford not only had a brewer’s guild starting in the 1400s but they also had a Brewers Street so who knows.

So, there you go. A little light learning for a Tuesday.  From a guy with stitches in his mouth. Did I mention the stitches? I did? Oh, good.

All The Good News Beer News For 03Q218

What day is it? The meds are making for a blur. Without getting overly graphic, the other day there were four hands within inches of my nose and two of them were working a thread and needle. Gums were tightened. Rearranged. Anyway, it’s not been a time for gulping buckets of ales and lagers but it has been a great time to wallow in both mild misery and brewing related social media with a slight sense that things are either not right or, you know, the meds… so…

First off, given Vlad’s news in the lead up to the Russian performance art event mimicking an election that he now controls a nuclear powered cruise missile as well as a submarine bomb that now hover and skulk amongst us all ready to strike if we… what… say bad things about him… well, in light of that the news about Russian barley seems a little less important. But, it is interesting to read how Russia has become a key bulk exporter of our favorite grain. I don’t expect this to directly change much – but indirectly, the overall market might get shifted in a way that benefits the Western beer buying public due to new malt quality barley flooding the market.

While we Canadians are (i) subject to the Crown-in-Canada and (ii) members of the Commonwealth, I can’t imagine setting the opening hours according to somebody’s wedding. Do my UK readers care?

Lew blogged.

Next, if you click on the thumbnail to the right, you will see a promotional photo for BrewDog* from, I am told via Stringers on Twitter, the year 2014. Yet neither of the Google Image searches for “BrewDog sexism” and “BrewDog feminism” are otherwise particularly productive. So… keep all that in mind as you read on about their great new PunkNotWorthy class PR stunt (coming just days on the heels of their million beer giveaway PR stunt) and then their still a teensie-weensie bit odd apologetic confessional. Why mention the “talented team of women at BrewDog” as you ask to be excused for an admittedly botched stunt? Being newbies to taking an actual stance on an actual thing exterior to their imperial corporate existence, it seems they also borrowed this from (or at least failed to heed the failings of) the sexist / not sexist stratagem behind last week’s gaff by Stone. The best that can be said now might be that it is bad if superficial marketeering. The best we can hope upon reflection is that it was an entirely miscalculated act of sincerity by a corporation that is fairly immune to simple sincerity. Further comment: Mhairi McFarlane, Craft Queer, and many more. And M. Noix Aux Bières made an interesting observation:

There’s something badly wrong with the beer media when a company messing up its marketing gets more coverage than their announcement, in the same week, that they messed up one of their recipes.

Is that all there is? Big bulk craft. Getting it fairly wrong. Again? Leaning on the PR. Again. Because that’s what big bulk craft does. Does anyone care about these globalists anymore? It’s great route to medium term millions but the long term often see weirdnesses arise. The yeasty yogurt non-movement of 2016, for example. If you need any further proof of that reality, look at the news released on Tuesday that Sierra Nevada is changing direction, dropping innovation, getting back to lean on its flagship SNPA and hiring a PR firm to flog it.  Subtext: branch plant expansion hasn’t panned out, sales have dropped, panic setting in, “let’s not let SNPA turn out like Sam Adams” muttered around the executive committee room during breaks even as they set out on that same path.

There is another way. A more thoughtful path. This interview of Francis Lam, host of NPR’s The Splendid Table contained this interesting tidbit about the relationship between good drink and food:

There are people who have a beautiful wine with every meal, but for a lot of people that act signifies something special. You have to eat, but you don’t have to drink, so the idea of having something at the table that is there, almost purely for pleasure, is meaningful. I think for a lot of people that signifies that we’re here to actually enjoy, rather than just feed.

This is an aspect of the beer and food pairing discussion does not focus on, giving all the attention as it does to restaurant settings. Simply gathering and enjoying. How rad. It is even more interesting when considered along with this column from the ever excellent Eric Asimov of The New York Times in which he discusses how austere herbal old school value Bordeaux go so well with food even if not separate sipping. It would be interesting to see unloved or less understood beers highlighted alongside foods served at home that bring out their better natures… but that would require craft beer and pop beer writers to admit (i) value matters and (ii) some prominent beers are, you know, sorta duds.  But you are not a slave to either trade associations or the other voices who would control you, are you. Have some pals over, treat them swell and see what works over dinner. After all, this is only beer we are talking about.

Infogramtastic news! This important NEIPA tasting graphic passed by my eye this week. Click for a larger size for the full details. This decade’s wide leg jeans.

Celebrity newbie brewer or local newbie brewer?

And finally, Pete added a strong contribution to the discussion about pay-to-play in beer writing** as sort of a wrapper around a disclosure statement about a drinky junket to Catalonia:

I’m going because I’ve been keen to check out the explosion in Spanish craft beer for several years now and think there will be some genuinely interesting stories, but haven’t been able to afford to do it under my own steam. Will my reporting of the trip be influenced by the fact that I’m being given hospitality? I don’t believe so (beyond the fact that I’m actually there, of course.) But any story I write about it will carry a disclaimer explaining that it’s been paid for by someone else, so the reader can make up their own mind.

While we have never met,*** Pete and I have gotten along as web-pals for well over a decade but don’t really see eye to eye on this in each instance… but we see the same questions the situation raises so it was good to read his commentI was wondering what your reaction would be!” For me there are two things: self-certification and subject matter control.

As I have said before, it is not up to the writer to suggest that they are the self-certifying measure of any reliability. Only the reader can judge the result. But as long as there is disclosing, the judgement is informed. When I hear of folk presenting as beer experts or, worse, journalists quietly running review-for-pay schemes or side-gigs as law firm holiday tap takeover party as partnering hosts but not openly disclosing, I tend to place their other work in, umm, context. I am entirely sympathetic to the need to make money in a minor niche like good beer but one person simply can’t be all things. Promote and influence or research and write. The key word being “or” of course.

The bigger problem is one Pete might be implying in passing: “…beyond the fact that I’m actually there, of course…” It’s not, in fact, that he is there. It’s that he is not somewhere else. Where no one else is. Where no trade or tourist association pays the bills for travel and hotel. Where the beer isn’t free. I put it this way:

I need to better unpack your thoughts. You sit near a line. Main general quib? Lost stories of the unjunketed topics. Explorations. The work of @larsga is best example. Deep down, though, perhaps I never admired you more than when you were mid-Atlantic alone on a container ship!

Lars Marius Garshol, without a doubt, has done more to exemplify what researching in the service of understanding beer and brewing should be than anyone else in this decade. He has spent what seems to be every spare moment and every dime on seeking out the rural, secret brewing patterns lurking in the countryside of the northern third of Europe from Norway to Russia. These sorts of creative efforts and the resulting independent focus is what leads to innovative, interesting and reliable writing.  He sets a very high standard for not only me, the playboy amateur armchair historian, but even places more driven and diligent traveling researchers like Robin and JordanBoak and Bailey, Ron and (yes, of course) Pete**** in rich context. But it is a shared context. Pete makes that very clear, sets out the whole picture and places himself in that picture at his own angle of repose. We all do that. It’s just that some do it better and more openly than others while a few don’t at all. It shows.

There. Another week in the books. Please also check out Saturday’s take on the news from BB2 as well as Monday’s musings from Stan. I look forward to their corrections and dismissals and outright rejections of some or all of what sits above. It’s no doubt what’s needed.

*Disclaimer: I got boxes of BrewDog samples a decade ago. And I think I may have bought one small can of their beer coming up on five years ago on this trip.
**Disclaimer: I got boxes of BrewDog samples a decade ago. And I think I may have bought one small can of their beer coming up on five years ago on this trip.
***Because I hardly ever go anywhere…
****In fact, if I had the money, I would fund them all to chase after narrow and likely hopeless projects knowing they would come up with some of the best finding and writings as a result.

Session 133: Hometown Proud?

For this month’s edition of The Session, host Gareth of Barrel Aged Leeds has asked us this question:

For this month’s edition of the Session, the proposed subject is ‘Hometown Glories’. Take this and run with it how you wish, but when thinking about possible subjects I had in mind an imminent visit to the place I spent my formative years and blogging about it’s highlights and wider beer scene. 

Being a gent of a certain age, I was struck by how similar this topic was to Session #15 “How Did It All Start For You?with a heavy dose of Session #9 “When Beer And Music Shaped My Life added for good measure. Which is fine but there is another problem. I am not sure I have a hometown. Our family moved when I was age 7, 8 and 15 before I went away to university at 18 to a city where my parents moved to when I was 21. As an adult I have received my mail and wages in eight communities including long stretches in Poland and the Netherlands – not to mention of months long patches of slumming around the UK with friends and family half-heartedly looking for work. So what to do?

Recently I realized that there was more to the story. I was trying to make sense of the storeroom in the basement. There are boxes and boxes of my late parents’ things down there and, working my way through the papers, I came upon my birth certificate. Oh. My. God. They lied to me and took it to their graves. I was horrified. Even though I spent my first years in Mississauga, turns out 55 years ago I was born next door… in Toronto. TORONTO?!?! The shame. The confusion. Yet, now I know why I love Johnny Bower so.

So, I am drinking a Pompous Ass tonight from Great Lake Brewing, Toronto’s other gift to Canadian beer… you know, other than me. At $2.65 CND it’s the right choice, fresh value craft from a legendary micro in its 31st year. One of the things that makes me hometown proud.

It’s March! It’s March It’s March It’s March News!!!

So… I like March. For years I proclaimed March in 89 font letters on one of my old blogs. I am far more restrained now. A place between two seasons. Did you see that it snowed in Ireland and the UK this week? Farmers out east call this the Million Dollar Snow* – the late storms that drench the fields on melting. And all brewing trade social media has been suspended over there for the last few days for pictures of snow laying thinly all about, just like the story told in the carols! Must be that EU Committee on Taking Photos of Snow (EUCTPS) funding grants finally kicking in.

First, right after last Thursday’s deadline, The Tand Himself** wrote about the inversion of reality that craft has become in the UK market and under their cultural version of the term’s application. Years ago Boak and Bailey discussed the vague and wandering UK use of the word “craft” and it seems like it’s wandered six steps further since then. While it is useless to get too caught up into it, craft now appears to mean “an expensive crap shoot enjoyed by folk many times you likely would not want to spend much time with” – or, you know, something other than what’s in the glass. Who needs that? The better  approach such clinky studies with a certain humility and thank God others are playing with just, you know, honesty. We are blessed and less affected here where craft can still range from $2.80 a tall boy to whatever the market might bear. Related: discount craft discussion #1 and discount craft discussion #2. Somewhat related: odd personal product placement posing deep and abiding questions about value.

Next, I like this footage from the BBC archive of a show discussing the 1986 about the new UK craze for trend in brown bread. Which is interesting. Context about trends in food and other social patterns should be always related to trends in beer culture. Me, I was in Britain for a good chunk of 1986 and remember both the good malty ales and my uncle complaining about all the whole wheat and vegetables suddenly in his diet. Related: drive-by expertise. Unlike branding, actual history and knowledge are reasonably identifiable things. Dr Caitlin Green, lecturer at the University of Cambridge in history, has posted a series of images of ancient drinking vessels. That drinking cup carved out of amber is one of the more wonderful things I have ever seen. By further contrast, consider this discussion of the poorly traced and argued history of lambic – part of our heritage of mob craftism. Why must this be so?

Back to today, interestingly how Ben noted a change in the demeanor of UK trade reporter James Beeson who wrote about his unhealthy relationship with alcohol on Friday and then how drinking swanky craft before 3pm on Sunday made him somehow “a winner.” I’ve often noted to myself how two classes of people seem to align their identity with drinking, alcoholics and beer writers. If you feel the first, the second is irrelevant – just as he openly explored in the thread that followed. No beer makes you a winner. It’s best to be well. And I wish him well. No one needs a millstone.

Do you see a pattern up there? Proper personal insight compared to something else, perhaps second hand. Yet Jeff manages this tension with care and perhaps a bit daring in his posts on sexism. It’s not his story to tell but it’s the story he can tell or host. Still, even with his own discussion on the fact it is not his story – and the reality that we each are only what we are – I just wish the posts didn’t have a male host as intermediary… so, I will pair this link to one from Nicci Peet who is making a documentary about women in all sectors of the trade and has even launched a Patreon campaign to support it:

If you’re here you probably know I’ve just launched a new documentary project photographing women (cis, trans, genderqueer, woc) in the UK beer industry. There’s a lot of talk and debate lately around sexism and inclusivity. Part of the problem is that there’s a lack of visual representation of the diverse range of women who work in the industry. When I say women working in the industry I don’t just mean brewers. If you have a passion for beer there are so many different routes into the industry. 

Both Nicci and Jeff’s very much worth your time. [Related for contrasting context.] And, just so we are clear, the #1 lesson on exactly how not to do it was brought to you Wednesday afternoon by Stone‘s Arrogant Beavis and Butthead social media intern:





The tweets are all now deleted – but for a hour or so defiantly defended. It makes one wonder why do they stick with the junior high locker room branding at Stone? It’s all about judgement of others with a passive aggression from a largely unwarranted stance. Don’t get me wrong. They make mainly pretty good gas station beer that’s reasonably reliable and know how to get the government grants for the branch plants. But apparently because that’s how the head office rolls if the intern’s tacit instructions are anything to go by. Time to move on.

**aka TTH.