If Mid-November Were More Exciting Would You Be So Happy With Your Thursday Beer News?

So. Here we are again. This is a bad week. Traveling around central Canada. Long meetings. Hotel rooms. Fortunately, I am working on my Korean food skills as part of this road show. My newly increased obsession, kimchi is… well… it’s like a hipster Scot would have invented if Korea hadn’t done it first. Peace food. Other than that, its all hotel breakfast buffets and minivans fully of cheery engineers. Bounding down the highway balanced on a buffer of spicy exotic cabbage.

First off, I was alerted by someone no doubt more attentive that I am, given my kimchi induced food coma, that there has been a shock wave hammering those writing about the history of saison. You see,  has shared his thoughts of a fact-checking mission he undertook on the “2004 book Farmhouse ales, and especially the contribution it includes by Belgian brewer Yvan De Baets” and YdB is not too thrilled but sadly fell back on what looks like a status based defense in his extensive comments offered in response:

This is your website. By definition you will have the last word on it. Cool. I will not start a debate here anyway. I have more to say about some of your claims but I don’t have nor the time nor the desire to do it: not only I strongly dislike the ego battles, but more importantly the first tanks of our new brewery are arriving in a few weeks and I have to prepare them a nice nest.

Remember: watch out for expertise transposition. Few brewers are actually all that acquainted with the means and methods of the historian. Its not in the nature of the gig. Likewise, vice versa. Dig it? For me, however, I think the real problem is assuming anything written in 2004 is going to represent an exhaustive examination of a topic involving beer. A decade and a half is a long time for research to advance – especially when that decade and a half saw the explosion of the digitized historical records. That being the case, taking a strong stance either in favour or against such stale dated research is likely a mug’s game.

More convivially, Eric Asimov of The New York Times (who I like a lot) wrote a piece about the ciders of the Hudson Valley (which I like a lot):

All share a deep-seated desire to understand the traditions, nuances and complexities of apples and ciders. They are the latest wave of a great cider revival in the Northeast, reaching through New England, out to the Finger Lakes in western New York, and down through the Appalachians. For anyone used to most commercial ciders, which are often made from concentrate, sweetened and sometimes flavored, these serious ciders are a revelation. They are mostly bone dry, with the flavors of apples and of the region. Apples, too, it turns out, express a sense of place, what wine lovers call terroir.

Less authentically, apparently what was a contract brewery is now an app that the deal did not include. Figure out that one if you will… and this one for that matter:

Drinking at taprooms isn’t just en vogue, it’s a permanent part of today’s industry that now drives about 10% of Brewers Association-defined volume.

Permanent? You misspelled “today’s top fad” darling. Not unconnectedly, Matthew Curtis announced his retirement from the collective blog Good Beer Hunting. One never know what is behind “effective immediately” but one hopes its nothing too drastic. I line it up in my mind with the tweets about breweries hiring passionate beer comms for their passionate beer comms needs. All in all, a very tough row to hoe but hiring Rebecca would be a smart move, for example:

Hi guys! I’ll be looking for some freelance/ad hoc work after this month. I’m an accredited Beer Sommelier and was even nominated as Best Young Beer Writer this year by the (!).’

You know, Pete Brown used to be a beer comms guy but he is no longer working for this sort of work. He is working on being a better Pete* – which is great – but once in a while loses his marbles most wonderfully:

Oh fuck off. I’m sorry (I’m trying to rein in the bad language and anger and be more professional) but fuck the fuck off. Even the most cursory reading of the history of pale ale/IPA shows this simply isn’t true.

Like others, I don’t really even care what he was writing about when he got so deliciously rude… but in case you are curious it was about a disappointing relaunch of Bass Ale.

Czech beer drinking in a slump.

Tandleman has an opinion on the four Cloudwater cask offerings pending according to a tweet – as well as a very nice new profile photo of himself as you can see. He must have a good social media consultant.  I wonder what social media consultants like that cost…

These days, calling anything “one of the most important beers in modern American brewing” is a bit silly but the Chicago Tribune found cause to so publish in relation to Allagash Brewing’s Coolship Resurgam. I remember about a decade ago getting in a handbags match over someone claiming one US brewery or another was the first to do something to which I replied something something about the Allagash coolship – which Ron will correct correctly as being a “cooler” in English. These things get heated. Fortunately, even the shock of the new is past us now given we live in hyperspace and no one really cares, knowing that next week’s new thing will in turn be stale by the following weekend. Just hope the Allagash beer is tasty.

As noted last week, readbeer.com is up and running. We now can see the output of 63 different sources of online beer writing. That will grow and with it the decentralized, leveled goodness of blogs will return. One of the great things about the former RSBS was how access to ideas was not being filtered through the gauze of self-proclaimed expertise or assertions of journalism. Access was immediate and it was up to the reader to sift clues.  Soon there will be 630 feeds. Best to keep up.

Well, that is enough for now. I am closer to home for most of next week so maybe this will be more considered. Maybe something big will happen that will fill the thousand words with one long observation. Maybe I will sit and count the days to first Christmas and then Spring Training.  That’s more like it. In the meantime, check in with Boak and Bailey for the regular Saturday update.

* Fab.

Session 141: The King Is Dead! Long Live The King!!

My reaction was immediate when I heard the news:

At first I was afraid, I was petrified…
Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side…

In fact, I was so strongly moved by the idea of shutting down the sentence that I tweeted out my congratulations to Stan and Jay on their retirement, as opposed to that of The Session – the monthly collective writing exercise that has been a constant in the last 7/8th of the history of beer blogging. But then Stan and Jay wrote to tell me it really was time to let go. I wonder if they are right. They might be.

My problem is not that beer blogging is one type of writing in a broad range of formats.  It’s the only one that provides for long form creative writing on anything that strikes the author’s fancy, without concern for pay or editorial intrusion. The Session was one way that the fellow minded stayed in touch with each other. Interestingly, Jonathon Surratt is reviving another old tool – the very former RSBS – with the same goal through his new beer aggregator, readbeer.com.

I think there is a place for such things. Folk new to writing need encouragement. Folk with opinions need a venue when their writing is more personal or quirky than editors will pay for. Despite more ways for more people to express their thoughts about beer, there is an unfortunate drive to homogeneity driven by the unreasonable hope of some day making some sort of living from beer writing. Wasn’t likely when The Session was new. Likely less likely now. It’s a side gig for 98% of us. A fun gig, sure. But that is sorta it.

There is nothing wrong with this. Writing is a pleasure. Sharing your writing is a way to make that experience richer. Maybe Jay’s work on The Session will continue in another form. Maybe not. Either way link you writing to readbeer.com so as many people as possible can find it. If you have enough interest in writing you should have interest enough in putting in it front of a few more eyeballs. Sign up.

The US Mid-Terms Of Thursday Beery News Notes

Did anything really important happen this week? The USA slid a bit to the left on Tuesday. But only a bit. Me, I slid to the west and the north, taking time to visit two breweries over the last seven days. MacKinnon Brothers of Bath, Ontario and Brassiers du Temp of Gatineau, Quebec. Each had a harvest ale. MacKinnon’s is its third edition and is called Harvest Ale 2018 while BDT’s is Obwandiyag.* Each was all about local ingredients. Plaid as well as toques were seen in each tap room.

One other thing that happened, as reported in the Watertown Daily Times of mighty and nearby Watertown, New York was the delivery by sea and seaway of “vats” for an unnamed central New York brewery. I assume this means fermenting and aging tanks for FX Matt but I could be wrong.

Annoyingly, this image of London Bridge from 1632 flew by on Twitter this week. Annoyingly, I say, as the painter seems to have framed the left of the image on the eastern property line with that proto-German trade mission called the Steelyard, the likely location of the first hopped beer consumed in England no doubt by Hanseatic sailors perhaps as early as the thirteenth century.  It does, however, wonderfully set the immediate scene.

As a man who has high hopes to get much much older, I found this discussion of  the role of the UK pub in addressing adult male loneliness fab:

As the UK population ages, the number of older people at risk of social isolation and loneliness is on the rise, which can have a detrimental impact on physical and mental health outcomes for older adults. Evidence for ‘what works’ in reducing loneliness and social isolation among older people is limited, especially for men. Hence, we turned our focus on the role of pubs and their potential to reduce loneliness and social isolation for older men.

Speaking of old men with high hopes, I thoroughly enjoyed this interesting post from Mudgie and a vibrant conversation in the comments – all on the way changes have caused his well loved local to go off track:

None of these are in themselves showstoppers, except when United or City are on the telly, but added together they make it a pub that I find much less congenial than it once was. If I was showing someone around the area, I’d take them in there for a pint, not least to show them the largely unspoilt interior, but I don’t personally care to drink in there. 

Conviviality. Is that what we want? That and little more, I’d say. Certainly not being chained to a pub. This week… relatedly… perhaps… somewhere… I saw a link to a chestnut of Pete‘s from an OG recent past and I was a bit shocked to see this:

Beer helps us express ourselves and mould our identities. It doesn’t need dancing bears and croaking frogs to do that.

Oh, dear God. No. If beer is shaping your identity you may be a entirely earnest struggling** beer bubble beer writer… or an alky [… or both!] Isn’t even loneliness better than that? But I would hope that you, like me, think of beer like maybe having a cheesecake or perhaps going to see a movie once a week. Or getting, like Jeff, engaged politically. Beer? A momentary escape perhaps but certainly not something core to identity. Life is too short for that.

Dear God, no #2: non-bubbly spiked ‘seltzer’!

Pura Still is a malt-based beverage, like beer but without the color or the hops. It contains a “splash of coconut water” and hints of fruit flavors. It will launch next month in three flavors: Mango, Blackberry and Mandarin Orange.

Western civilization just out-suckered Sucker Juice!! Somewhere some wannabe influencer is trying to figure out how to be the leading authority on non-bubbly spiked seltzer. While they still can, guidance officers really need to help our high school drop outs so that they don’t end up doing that sort of thing. Best of all, given it is malt based and non-traditional, it now qualifies as craft beer!

Update: Beer news item of the week. From the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times:

A Ribble Valley beer writer and BBC Radio Lancashire beer enthusiast has been shortlisted for the British Guild of Beer Writers Young Writer of the Year award. Clitheroe-based beer writer Katie Taylor has reached the shortlist of the prestigious awards, alongside highly-regarded writers from across the industry.

While the use of ripe adjectives is a well-known hallmark of the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times, the extended copy explaining Katie Taylor’s particular interest is fabulous and also unpacks a bit more about the process than the BGBW has. I particularly appreciate the use of “entrants” by ATJ rather than “nominee” given that the process is based on submitting one’s own name. Well done @Shinybiscuit !

There is no doubt as to the photo of the week as shared by BlogTO. Both infuriating and comical, it perfectly captures an aspect of Canadian life – the desire to be correct tied to an abiding interest in not actually being all that concern with being correct. The scene is Ontario’s liquor control commission, the LCBO, and the object is a mass produced sales promotion flier. Now, I can’t say for sure that the LCBO produced the promo-product but it would have had to pass through the hands of about 16 bureaucratic conception, design and approval committees on its way to the retail floor. Oh… Canada.

A bit of a shorter post today. I’ve been on the road as I mentioned and it’s the week of our 26th so, you know, I have been away having my identity moulded by things other than intoxicating liquors. Remember – Boak and Bailey put me to shame most Saturdays with their weekly news nuggets.

*aka the great Pontiac of whom another particular hero of mine, Major Robert Rogers, met and wrote in 1765 : “I had several conferences with him, in which he discovered great strength of judgment, and a thirst after knowledge.
** This, the better sort of GBH thingie, comes to mind.

Your First Thursday Beery News Notes For November

Does anyone love November? The World Series has been won, the leaf lettuce took a hard frost and all the Halloween candy was handed out last night. What was left of the evening has shrunk into the afternoon now that the clocks have been changed in the UK and will change again in North America over the coming weekend. The end of October is really the end of the year. The next two months should be their own season. Good winter. Purgatorial autumn. Like driving through New Brunswick, you just want get past November even if it’s 1/12th of your life. Just look at that slightly out of focus photo of my salad from my eastern Ontario garden, picked just a few days ago. Now everything on the plate is dead – except the kale.* Kale, the salad green of death. Bringer of children’s tears. Can the news in beer turn us all away from thoughts of kale and the grave? Let’s see.

First, one can go out like and when one wants to go out through preemptive liquidation:

Honestly my heart hasn’t been in it since the premises move, we expanded to the wrong size, and Gaz’s creativity has been missed.

Speaking of the heart not being in it, the US Brewers Association is apparently going to change the definition of “craft” again (as if they control the concept) by ditching “traditional” as a formal requirement. Keeping in mind that the one thing that divides “craft” from earlier “micro” is the practical abandonment of traditional practices, this is not a big change but, still, this is pretty sad:

According to the BA’s current definition, which has changed three times since 2007, a craft brewer must be small (less than 6 million barrels), independent (less than 25 percent owned by a non-craft brewer), and traditional (a majority of its total volume must be derived from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients). It’s the last pillar, traditional, that is under review, in part because an increasing number of craft brewers are already experimenting with non-traditional beer offerings such as flavored malt beverages and hard seltzers. A growing number of BA members have also expressed interest in creating beverages infused with THC and CBD, Wallace wrote.

So, in response to the BA, it should be clear there is now room for, you know, a traditional brewers association that actually has an interest in beer and not just profiteering from a collective brand. Just don’t call it anything related to craft. That’s for factory beer now. The reasons for doing this are, frankly, less than honourable and so personal reactions seemed to divide into two groups:

(i) those who consider craft beer to be made of craft brewery owners – these folk who then love this because they seem to get a vicarious joy from seeing these brewery owners get richer;** and

(ii) those who consider craft beer to be made of… beer.  These folk laugh at bulk ciders and soda pop being called “craft” anything but know why it’s being done.***

Conversely, I have been cheered by the Beer Nut’s notes on his fluid fueled travels  at the end of the summer throughout Ontario and Quebec, the very parts of Canada most nearest me and myself. He posted about a side trip to Quebec City during which he was caught breaking the law and otherwise up to no good:

Two mouthfuls in, our friendly Via Rail conductor came by to tell me to chug it. Turns out train beer, or at least drinking your own beer on board, is illegal in Canada. Yes it said that on my ticket so yes I should have known, but it’s still downright barbarous. No wonder passenger rail is underused. What’s the point if you can’t have train beer?

Ha ha!!! Other than his response to regulatory infractions, I am quite interested in his thoughts on the local beers I am quite familiar with: “…certainly like an IPA from the olden days“… “I approve. Isn’t it good to know that “unfiltered” doesn’t have to mean mucky?“… “Overall an absolutely benchmark modern IPA.” The entire set of quite independent reviews is his gift to the nation… err, nations…

Speaking of Ontario, Ben wrote an excellent piece on a side project highlighting the process breweries can follow when pestered by bars who illegally demand freebies in return for access to their taps.

The system of graft for tap lines is so ingrained in the hospitality industry, fighting it sometimes feels futile… And so, inspired mostly by all the emails I was getting, I launched a website that allows people to post anonymously and share the emails from bar owners they were previously sending me. It’s called Dirty Lines and it does still get some occasional action. I take no responsibility for the content there, incidentally. I don’t investigate any claims. I don’t vet submissions. It just lives there as a mechanism to vent, essentially.

Speaking of the End Times, I love this lyrical new rule of craft beer:

Efficiency in the managing of seasonal product requires an integrated approach to bring uniformity to how seasonal items are identified so that all contributors in the supply chain reap the benefits.

This lengthy tale by a fellow Oldie Olson might bemoan something things but as it is TL;DR you will have to figure out if that is the case.  I would note one thing: if you label yourself as “cool” either (i) you are really not at all or (ii) you are Miles Davis. And he’s dead.****

Digging around in the past, Geoff Latham has uncovered a description of an English spiced ale from 1554. There is a great conversation in the responses to his tweet from people who know that there is nothing that can’t be explored usefully in that concise shared medium. Speaking of digging around in the past, Nicola the mudlark of the Thames found a wonderful clay pipe at low tide marked with the sign of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes  – and shared that it may well have been a pub freebie of centuries past. Fabulous.

A few legal notes to finish with. Beer retail franchisor Craft Beer Cellar was in a law suit with an employment review website over negative employee reviews but the claims appear to have been recently thrown out. See here and here:

The plaintiff argued that Glassdoor created/developed the reviews because it removed a review and then allowed it to return. The court disagreed: “Glassdoor’s decisions to remove the ‘review,’ and to permit an updated version to be re-posted, constituted the exercise of a traditional editorial function. Without more, Glassdoor cannot be deemed responsible for creating or developing the content.”

And Brendan P over at FB has posted an FYI which was a bit on the QT so I am acting PDQ:

Did you know that you can get every cent you pay in NYS excise tax on your beer back as a production credit against taxes owed? For example, let’s say you sell 2,000 BBL in 2018. At NY’s excise tax rate of $0.14 per gallon, that’s $8,680 in taxes. Just fill out form CT-636 or IT-636 and you can get the full $8,680 as a credit against your taxes…

DO IT! LISTEN TO BRENDAN AND DO IT!!!

Well, that is it for now. I am up to over 1345 words! Every one a gem. I am off to dig into the one youngest child’s trick or treat candy before she wakes. It’s what I like to call “me time” but I expect you all approve. Remember to check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday to see what has happened since I cut and pasted this all together. Perhaps Stan will even post another teaser for the new month. Until next week, as the Beer Nut said to his train beer plans – au revoir!

*Miraculously, the red lead lettuce sprang back up after the frost and was completely unharmed. Fabulous. I know you would have wanted to know.
** See Messrs B.Roth and J.Notte.
*** See Messrs J.St.John and A.Crouch.
**** Unlike my leaf lettuce.