Warm Weather And The Taxes Are Done Early May Thursday Beer News

Is there any news now that the temperature is over 20C? Isn’t that the real news? Is there any other news to cover? Sure there is the mule making process* being experimented with again, the comminglings this time happening at the #CBC18 event. A magic time with all sorts of attractions. One might find some news there… but how to do that (i) at a distance resistant to the back-slappy back-scratchy and, you know, (ii) sober? What idealism. That’s not how the news is gathered. Buddy up and hit the free bar!

LAST MINUTE ADDENDUM: an hour and a half long video of Ron going on about brewing in the 1700s at a US university. [Gotta fisk and fact check…]

Elsewhere and perhaps from another universe, the best tweet of the week was this one by Dominic Driscoll who berated a beer festival for attracting nothing but the same old “rip-off street food and only hipster attendees.” Actually, I found the selection of shades of grey in this image attached to his tweet rather compelling. Perhaps not all that #CBC18 but still a worthy gathering.

Check your trousers for flying monkeys. Boston Beer had a good quarter.

You know what? I bought three types of cloudy ale variants last weekend as well as a brett saison for takeaway from Ottawa’s Flora Hall Brewing and I was happy to report to myself, once I settled in back home, that I quite liked them. One was even a NEIPA. Nothing like the SunnyD stuff labeled NEIPA crap that I have been handed before. This was cream and fruit and grain all a bit like your morning yogurty muesli. Which is something I like to eat. So why not? I bet they would even pair well with my morning yogurty muesli.

Conversely – and sadly – this story does not live up to the headline as “Adnams Makes Beer from Leftover Marks & Spencer Sandwiches” is really just about recycling the crusts of sliced sandwich loaves. Not anywhere near as disgusting as I had hoped so therefore not anywhere near as fun. Still… it might pair well with recycled crusts of sliced sandwich loaves.

Speaking of which, “Today’s Beer” makes much more sense than “Modern Beer” as a descriptor, given styles are shifting at the speed of a fruit fly family’s genetic fingerprint. A few years from now it will be more like “This Afternoon’s Beer”… maybe.

While, yes, this beer may have nothing to do with Washington it is still sad to have to say the actual history of brewing in the 1700s colonial and independent America was vibrant, clearly full of good beer, brewed at a generous scale and sometimes exported – and porter was even cellared and aged.  Looks like a case of becoming what you berate. Click a few links to the right starting here if you want to know the real story. If you want to, that is.

Back to today, remember when cable TV companies complained about all that convergence happening on the information superhighway? Same:

One could argue that alcohol consumption may have decreased nationwide, but the way the study controlled for countries that had specifically introduced recreational pot, before and after, seems to provide strong evidence that access to weed on some level replaces a degree of alcohol consumption. The results of the study also reportedly “take into account age, race and income data.” They confirm similar findings from two previous professional studies on the same topic, all of which have suggested a link between marijuana legalization and a decrease in alcohol sales.

Which means tomorrow’s Today’s Beer might not even be beer. Don’t worry. Just like brewing history, craft can bend the words so deftly that tomorrow’s today’s beer could actually be not beer and, yet, still be called beer.

I like this story in The Washington Post and not only for the admission that the interest in non-alcoholic beer is due in large part to the author’s alcoholism. My problem is that rather than hunting out non-alcoholic beer when I don’t want the booze, I like to hunt out drinks simply without alcohol. Pear juice. Yum. Assam tea. Ahh. Ginger ale. I am mad for good ginger ale. And it illustrates the problem with folk who say they are really only into craft beer for the flavour: there are masses of other flavours out there to be explored elsewhere, well away from the ethyl alcohol. Summary? If you don’t want or can’t have a beer… why have a bad beer?

I also like this incredibly detailed bit of research in something that is likely not connected to The Wall Street Journal but I have no idea why it was undertaken. Now I know that North Dakota out drinks South Dakota in terms of beer. By a tenth of a gallon of beer. I think that might be a nonfact. Or is it an unfact. A true thing that matters not a jot. Not a sausage. I do like how it show little meaningful correlation between taxes on beer and consumption of beer.  North Dakota has the 17th highest taxation level. Think about that. 17th. Boom. Don’t even mention Rhode Island. Just don’t.

One more thing. I was happily reading an article today and then got blind sided by another one of a sort of weird but typical editorial choice showing up in beer periodicals. I’ve been holding back. This is something that I have found to be somewhat embarrassing for years. Let me share my pain. It is illustrated to the right in the sub-tile kicker (or whatever journos call it) beneath the headline for this article on mead in the latest issue of that CAMRA mag. “Fire breathing dragons and armies of the undead…“?!? What unmitigated cheese. But then you see the same thing in the same article above a very nice piece by Boak and Bailey: “…the lost art…“! It’s all a bit ripe. Holiday cheese ball ripe. What am I complaining about? It’s that weird junior high basement dungeons-and-dragons grade ancient, mystical, medieval claptrap. You see it everywhere. It’s a bit there in that Raiders of the Lost Ark OG cover, too. Makes you feel like you should be drinking your beer from a pre-raphaelite vase while discussing hobbit culture as Houses of the Holy plays quietly on a slow loop somewhere down a hallway.** You see a hint of it anytime brewing is referred to as a “mystery” or “alchemy” even though it is the opposite of that – just a very common practice undertaken regularly for millennia by a large number of ordinary people. Would we  discuss, say, the “alchemy” of shoes? Or the “lost art” of, errr, growing reasonably ordinary tomato varieties in a nice terracotta pot bought at the hardware store? No. No, we wouldn’t. It’s like that loser “rock star brewer” crap of the X-treme beer era but, unlike that, it never seems to have the decency to go away. Never ever. No matter how stupid and laughable it all is. Does anyone actually get the slightest wiff of “mystical magical alchemy” mumbo jumbo at all from beer? Do you? Or is it just lazy cliché layout copy?

OK, that is it. The week that the BA plays BB right down to the big screens and the group hate on the evil other – terrible bad majoritarian popular beer.  It’s over. That week is done. And like every week, a new week begins each Thursday at noon. See you at the end of the next one. Go!

*Don’t get me wrong. The mule has wonderful attributes: “more patient, hardy and long-lived than horses, and are described as less obstinate and more intelligent than donkeys” according to wikipedia. Thick skin and and natural cautiousness. But they are just not… natural. The result of a meeting that would not otherwise occur. Who loads the Wikipedia entry for “Mules” anyway?

**Many is a word
That only leaves you guessing
Guessing ’bout a thing
You really ought to know, ooh…
(…you really aughta know-a-woe…)
[Fade out on twiddly electronic stoner keyboards.]

4 thoughts on “Warm Weather And The Taxes Are Done Early May Thursday Beer News”

  1. It’s a good reminder. I am not steeped in history much these days and all this stuff came to my attention after the Beer Bible. But, while good beer may have been available, all evidence suggests it was nowhere near as prized as liquor. A small tweak to that sentence would leave the sentiment the same.

    And what’s the story with agronomy in 18th and 19th-century North America? A persistent story holds that barley wouldn’t grow, or would grow but was poor and so wouldn’t make good beer. (Hops, obviously, grew fine.) Can you point me to a reliable source on barley-growing 1600-1900?

  2. You know I kid because I care, right? Seriously. No one else would ask as you do so more than a thanks back at you. Here are some general themes.

    The liquor / beer divide was along rural / urban lines. Colonial America was largely rural by population so the smaller percentage of city folk enjoyed a wide range of well made beers imported and local while a much bigger percentage of rural folk enjoyed homespun drinks, many of which were distilled for a few reasons. But generally as the US urbanizes it moves to beer more and more. This is driven by temperance as well as value. US spirits are never prestigious.

    Another big reason. Liquor, as it turns out, is actually quicker. You can make rot gut whisky from grain and get it to marker far quicker and safer than beer. Plus it is concentrated. So you want to take a cart load of whisky barrels to the country to sell and not beer because the cart of whiskey is worth about 8 times more. So in the chaos leading up to and after the Revolution, the complexity of beer making takes time to re-establish itself compared to the slim and simple way of whisky.

    But what is missing is not only cider but homespun drink. Farmers would have made beer, fruit beer, fruit wine – and would have made in particular apple jack. One of Michael Pollen books unpacks the role for apple jack on the US frontier fabulously. These things are not counted in the stats for alcohol use prior to the early temperance folk because they simply were not societal issues. Not because there was not drunkenness but because drunkenness was just fine by society until about the 1820s. I suspect a huge part of the alcohol intake in colonial and post colonial US is actually (i) rural and (ii) literally unaccounted for because it is homespun.

    You are quite right about the lack of grain for beer and distilling in the last third of the 1700s. It is a combination of climate but it is particularly caused by the crushing effect of the Revolution on the farming economy as well as a plague brought on by the Hessian fly, imported along with the straw the British cavalry units brought from Europe. For the next few decades, crops were hammered and particularly wheat. Beer was made more with wheat than barley until the first of the 1800s. Barley is a more northerly crop from lands that the Revolution’s resolution gave to the British. So in the 1790s we up here are rolling in it as CNY actual undergoes a famine.

    So, where beer was able to exist and be sold it flourished. But travel, resources and rural survival skills prove more effective until the stability of the first half of the 1700s returns in the first half of the 1800s.

    1. I know something of cider, most of which was brewed on farms and so never entered any databases. Hard to guess how big a role it played. But one thing I always point out is that the Roxbury Russet was up and running by 1635, which illustrates how quickly the colonists got to work growing apples. The next couple hundred years were good ones for cider in America.

  3. And prior to the genocidal Sullivan expedition in 1779 western NY was filled with Iroquois fruit orchards which the settlers revived as soon as the lands were refilled after the war.

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