Beer And Trans-Atlantic English Explorations Of The Later 1400s

That passage above is from the The Voyage Made by M. John Hawkins Esquire, 1565. According to the wisdom of Wikipedia, Hawkins was the chief architect of the Elizabethan navy, the first English trader to profit from the Triangle Trade and Treasurer of the Navy from 1577 to 1595. Its from a part of his journal that records French colonial efforts in Florida at their short lived Fort Caroline. While the colony had only been settled in 1564, they had already turned local grapes into wine, apparently the first in North America.

It’s not the earliest record of alcohol use in North America – even if it might be the earliest of production. We have seen before how the French were drinking cider as they worked the Newfoundland shore in the 1520s. But what is interesting to me is that the French in Florida had their choice of products, given the ample source of good bread making grain, but made wine. Which is reasonable as wine is simpler to make than beer, given there is no intermediary stages like malting or mashing.

A few years ago now, I discussed the  provisioning of Martyn Frobisher’s 1578 voyage to mine iron ore on Baffin Island in Canada’s Arctic. The post was based on my luck find of the victualing records. Have a look by clicking on the image to the right. You can see how much biscuit, meal, beer, wine and pork was loaded on board. Note: beer, not malt. He was not brewing beer up on Baffin that year. I’ve discussed late 1500s trans-Atlantic ships’ provisions of malt before, too.

I have been a bit fruitlessly looking for more of those sorts of records, feeling a bit like Manilov in Dead Souls, not getting very deep into things.  I want to turn the clock back further, back past Cartier in the mid-1530s. I have been primarily thinking about what was down in the hold of John Cabot‘s ships on his 1490s voyages to eastern Canada. Until I got into the Cabot era, I had no idea how lucky I was finding the record for Frobisher. An actual victualing bill from the 1570s. Lucky also that the scholarship on that adventurer was not as quirky and proprietary as was the case (perhaps until recently) with Cabot. That has recently broken somewhat in recent years. In 2012, The New York Times reported:

In 2010, an international team of scholars working together in what is called the Cabot Project came upon a set of 514-year-old Italian ledgers that Dr. Ruddock had found decades earlier but which had disappeared from view. They showed that in the spring of 1496, Cabot received seed money for his voyages from the London branch of a Florentine banking house called the Bardi.

Plenty has come out related to the new Cabot findings that has given me a bit more hope. We know that Henry the VII gave notice in 1496 that Cabot was authorized to buy victuals for his first voyage and also authorized the second voyage in 1498. We also know that in 1499, a Bristol merchant named William Weston sailed to Newfoundland.* Cabot also might have settled friars at Carbonear, Newfoundland on his third voyage. But there is that problem of the vulnerability of scholarship… ie, people who I can poach from. That hoarders of ideas Cabot scholar Ruddock died in 2005 and Peter Pope who wrote wonderfully about the early Newfoundland trade died in 2017. So I am left to my own wits.

Which means I have to come up with rules for my own research. What do we know? Well, we do know that Bristol was the gateway for English expeditions to the west just as London and other eastern facing ports served, generally speaking, the North and Baltic Seas. In particular, Bristol had a flourishing wine trade in the 1400s. The quantities involved were significant – between 1,000 and 2,500 tons of wine a year through the 1400s, depending on the politics. We have to recall that the English held Gascony from the 1200s until the 1450s. Gascony is know for wine, even including the Bordeaux region. Bristol was where that wine was received for English consumption. So, it is reasonable to expect provisioning of vessels leaving Bristol in the 1400s to have a supply of wine.

Additionally, to find trans-Atlantic provisioning records you need to find trans-Atlantic voyages. Where were the merchant adventurers of Bristol during the English Renaissance sailing towards? First, we have to remember that the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance ratified at the Treaty of Windsor in 1386 is arguably the oldest alliance in the world. The Portuguese were also makers of wine for the English market as well as explorers. And that wine landed at Bristol. So they were sailing back and forth from there. Voyages, trade links and colonization out into the Atlantic was not a particularly wide-spread European habit before the 1400s. The Canary Islands, populated by a semi-Stone Age people, the Guanches, were only taken by Spain in 1402. Yet trade links with Iceland were developed by Bristol’s merchants by the mid-1400s which included a:

diversity in food [which] increased as the English… imported large quantities of beer and wine, salt and pepper, malt, wheat, sugar and honey.

Which means if the Bristol merchants are shipping beer to Iceland… there is beer on Bristol ships heading north. And, fabulously, malt. And other targets for the adventurous traders of Bristol were developed like the voyage of the Trinity in 1480-81 seeking out opportunity in North Africa. Was there beer in that hull, too?  It’s not unreasonable to think so. We do know that the well-armed naval merchants of the Baltic-based Hanseatic League did not themselves get out into the Atlantic but they did bring hopped beer to England as early as the mid-1200s.  Remember the cargo of beer brought on the Elyn of 1401. Which means that you have the conditions to have hopped beer moving out of England, too, as a transferred on trade good. Quite a bit early than I had thought.

I will illustrate my working date with some fairly common understanding of dates. Professor Unger identified “about 1520” as the time when the English mastered the new technology of brewing beer with hops. That is backed up by the records showing written references to “hops” or “hoppes” were not so common until about that same time. Yet, if you dig around the records a bit, that date starts to look a bit late. In records (“alien subsidies”) of foreign merchants for Bristol in the mid-1400s we read that:

…the returns to the 1449 and 1453 alien subsidies, which in some cases give either occupational descriptions or surnames that suggest an occupation: there are two beer-brewers, two tailors, a pinner, pointmaker (maker of laces for securing clothing), shearman, bellmaker, leatherworker, goldsmith, smith and, possibly, heardsman…

Which means that there were two immigrant beer brewers in Bristol well before Cabot and about the time of the Icelandic trade. Which means the beer heading north could well have been English beer and even made close to the port.  Further, in the 2014 PhD dissertation by  John R. Krenzke of Loyola University in Chicago, “Change Is Brewing: The Industrialization of the London Beer-Brewing Trade, 1400-1750” we read, at page 42, that a similar timeline is at play in London:

Ale brewers were successful in 1484 in having the City of London lay down the ingredients that could be used in ale brewing—“only liquor (heated water), malt, and yeast”—to limit the competition that ale brewers faced from beer brewers. In response the beer brewers of London were able to obtain a charter to become their own guild in 1493. The two groups were to remain apart and in direct competition to each other until 1556 when they were merged.

The “stranger” beer brewers were allowed to sell beer freely in London in 1477 and were not as unwelcome at all as we read on page 7:

…at first, beer remained primarily a beverage brewed by foreigners, known as strangers to their English hosts, for themselves and, because of its stability, for English soldiers. Stranger beer brewers found the Crown to be an ally throughout the fifteenth century because of their ability to supply beer to the military.

Nothing like government demand to validate new technology. And we need to recall in all this that Henry VIII himself created great state-owned naval brewing capacity at Portsmouth in 1515, producing 500 barrels per day to supply his military ambitions. Just before Unger’s date of 1520. The question, then, is how large the capacity of the privately operating beer brewers of Bristol was half a century earlier and did it supply the merchant adventurer ships heading west to Canada in the 1490s. That is the question I need to dig at. All the conditions are present: confident merchant adventurers, established beer brewing and thirst. All we need is a record or two.

*Much more here on the scale of the oceanic Bristol trade missions in “The Men of Bristol and the Atlantic Discovery Voyages of the Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Centuries,” the MA Thesis of Annabel Peacock from 2007.

 

The Government-Shutdown No-Deal-Brexit Why-Kids-Don’t-Drink Version Of Thursday Beer Notes

Woot!!! Holding up the roof since 1693!!!!

So… two weeks and a bit until #FlagshipFebruary* begins… meaning the inevitable rebound to #TrendyMarchMania will see some of the dry,  those off the sours for almost nine weeks hitting the bottle extra hard. You know, we really need to full year calendar to keep all this stuff straight – given we also have #MildMay and #DecemberIsForAmataurs, too.

As I mentioned a few updates ago, the US government shutdown has caused all approvals required by brewers from the  Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. I clucked at the time that at least this halted the manic pace of biere nouveau but – and with a hefty h/t to @beerinator – it appears that the permitting process is far more intrusive that that:

In a suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in D.C., Atlas notes that the government has approved labels for its cans of The Precious One, an apricot IPA, but not the labels for its kegs, known as “keg collars” before the shutdown began. Those kegs can’t be shipped out for sales outside of D.C. without label approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau: Doing so would violate federal law.

Who knew that “permitting” included such minor matters?***1/2

Next but disconnectedly so, here is an excellent primer for buying wine for a crowded restaurant table. Note the following statements:

I simply order what I most fancy eating and what I’d most like to drink, that’s what gives me most pleasure — even if the combination may seem bizarre to the sommelier… Do you worry about which cheeses to pick off a cheeseboard? I’m sure you don’t, so don’t worry about the wine…

Fabulous advice. Applies to beer, too.**

Unrelatedly, wonderful views (see above) of a +335 year old pub structure in Dublin, Ireland. Here is some backstory from 2016 on the efforts to save the structure:

“The astonishing skeletal grid of ceiling beams and joists is still intact on the ground floor, as well as early brick walls with ancient embedded timbers… With all of the modern partitions and ceilings now removed, the ground-floor shop retains all the grand scale one would expect of a public inn of the post-medieval period, complete with typical corner chimney stacks…”

Not connected at all, good to see some wonderful news of Young’s in England taking a stand on saving its affected staff from the fallout caused by Brexit. More here on the business reasons behind this sensible move:

The boss of pubs firm Young’s on Thursday cheered higher sales, but warned that hiring staff is tougher. Patrick Dardis said around 38% of his 5000-strong workforce are EU nationals, and added: “More workers [from Europe] are leaving here than coming. The recruitment and the retention of top talent is increasingly difficult.

Whiplashedly, ScienceDirect published this so it must be right. It’s a research paper entitled “Why are young people drinking less than earlier? Identifying and specifying social mechanisms with a pragmatist approach” which sets out a number of reasons why my children are apparently smarter than I was as a kid:

Recent analyses of surveys of youth drinking in Sweden have found a strong decrease both in rates of abstinence and in levels of drinking among drinkers. For instance, alcohol consumption among 15- to 16-year-olds has fallen more than 50% between 2000 and 2012. At the same time, the abstention rates among boys and girls have increased from about 30% to more than 50% . Moreover, heavy episodic drinking has decreased from 34% to 18% among boys (ibid.)…  Similar declining trends of alcohol consumption among young people have been identified in other European countries, North America and Australia…

Virtigo inducingly, the Tand himself has posted about how craft sees cask and it’s good enough to have a whole month dedicated to the #MarchOnCraftFibs campaign. It starts fabulously thusly:****

Yesterday there was a Twitter post that caught my attention. It referred to an opinion piece in Imbibe Magazine by Jessica Mason in which she claims that “We’re on the precipice of a cask revival”. The article goes on to explain her thinking which can be summed up – more or less – that cask can revived – wait for it – by modern brewers adopting Golden Ales. Well I exaggerate, but I hardly agree either with the way the article says “cask is becoming ever more exciting, flavoursome and stylistically broad” as if we’ve all been drinking flavourless crud for all these years and can only be saved by innovative craft brewers rescuing us from our own stupidity. 

And utterly conversely, I finally figured out what I don’t get about GBH writing style. This piece by Roth is pretty good even if it needs editing down to get some control of the subject. It’s like there is a need to give each source equal space.  And the obvious extra access to New Belgium, an acknowledged sponsor, is there, too. But those are the problems with the subject matter presentation. That’s normal middly stuff. No, it’s the fact that the letters “GBH ” actually appear 22 times within the text of the story. Twenty-two! Breakout the flashing neon font. Enough already. One is enough. Three is cloying. But referencing your own publication 22 times in a story is weird. Needy. And too bad. It’s an important story and would have been much better if it was just cleaned up with a lashing of confidence.

One last thing: stunning stats on pub waste.

That’s enough for now. My neck hurts. Odd. Mid-January is quiet time. I actually typed all this while balled up in family quilts watching VCR recordings of cooking shows from the 1990s. Seriously. Who has time for -26C, Sunday’s promised nighttime high?  I want it over. You want it over. Like Brexit, we know the next few weeks are just going to be ugly and we need to get them out of the way. Need relief along the way? Check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday for a well earned break.

*Hmm. Now not thrilled with the hinted need to seek to attach a big old lumbering craft revenue stream to what is basically a hashtag.
***1/2Not sure what this footnote is for… it’s even out of order.
**Have another cold Big Mac, you big carrot-headed lardass! [Note: as a distant cousin of Mr. President, I reserve the right to call him a big carrot-headed lardass.]
***So much of wine pairing advice these days is based on relaxing and not worrying while beer pairing advice is so anxious.
****We really do need to acknowledge what a clear focused writer the Tandy One is.

A Guide To Maxing Out Your Upcoming #FlagFeb Experience

While I suggested in the last Thursday update that I cannot find much drive within myself to take on the call to celebrate the flagship beers of yore in February I am not being a grump. As you can clearly see to the right, both the shed and I like flags. And I recognize that Master Polk and Mistress Polk, for example, appear to be positively enchanted. The Fuggled folk are all a’giggle. So, it is perhaps useful for me to see what I can do to assist even if I do not jump on the bandwagon. Let’s start with a clarification of terms. Mr. B. wrote this about #FlagshipFebruary on Facebook deep down on a thread:

Flagships are, I think, the beer that formed the foundation of the brewery… not necessarily its current best-seller. I’m sure there are brands that outsell Central City’s Red Racer Pale, for example, but I would certainly list that as the brewery’s flagship. Ditto Deschutes Black Butte.

There are a few things to unpack there. It’s not a beer that founded craft era so much as the brand for each brewery. So the brewery, practically, has to be old and its given candidate brand needs to be something of a survivor. And its not necessarily the most loved today which means you may need to do a little sleuthing unless you are going to stop at Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Sam Adams Boston Lager. So how are you going to do that?

Act like a historian. One handy resource that you can start with are the Past Winners’ records for the Great American Beer Festival. So, if you look at the first awards list you see that in 1983 SNPA was the overall winner while SABL won top dog in ’85 and ’86.  Fine. But look at 1984.  Yakima Brewing won first and second place for an imperial stout and a Scottish ale. Hmm. Now, look at 1987 where SABL won as best “Continental Pilsner” as opposed to “Continental Amber Labers” – really.

The brief study of these records raises a few more questions. Is the brand’s recipe or even branding sufficiently similar now as it was then when it served as a foundation? Were those really the hops they use back then? Are you really experiencing the same thing? Does it even exist? Also, do these flagships actually represent the brewery’s foundation or are they just the lucky ones that now have survived the obstacle course of time, those whims of a succession of a beer fads and trends. Does its current status actually reflect its actual history or is it, like the beak of the finch, the one which by luck could accommodate unforeseen future? Figuring out that might take a little work.

My thoughts? Not that this initiative is any sort of minefield that we will fail at but that this is a great opportunity to consider the relationship between the micro brewing phase of approximately 1983-2003 and the craft phase from 2003 to the present. How much of craft’s history is made up and heavily laced with retrospective rosy coloured glassware? Plenty, I’d say. How much is even based on the lessening status of the great old white male brewery owner? Maybe a bit? So… if you really want to celebrate the actual foundation of the good beer movement, look at the structure of the early medal categories and go get yourself some stout, an amber or a porter. Find a Fuggle.

Use #FlagshipFebruary. Use it to explore and enrich your own understanding. Sours, fruit beer, barrel aging and even heavy hopping are developments largely from later in the second half of the history of your hobby. You may need to accept that what is actually the old and foundational is actually new and novel to you. Which is good. So do it.

 

 

The Thursday Beer News For Seven Weeks To March… Just Seven Weeks To March…

These are the cruel weeks. I’ve shared my dislike of the bleak mid-winter, haven’t I? I’m a bad Canadian in this respect. I have krazy karpets, skates, cross-country skis and even snowshoes but they all stay at home, down in the space under the basement stairs. We sorta even fear the toboggan. I don’t remember ever liking the coldest part of the year and I suspect I caught it from my mother whose town in Scotland has palm trees growing on the front. One thing I am not planning to do is wallow in strong ale, a traditional remedy or perhaps just response. Another reason #Dryanuary, in part or whole, makes a bit of sense and saves one from a shock.

I saw this chart (to the right) the other day and it gave me pause. See, it basically states that the top US macro brands added up to around $20 billion US in sales revenue in 2018. But here is the thing: if those top 10 are worth around $20b in sales and all of US craft is worth about $26b… what is the other 55-60% of the value of the US beer market made up these days? All of which illustrates either: (i) why I have issues with any numbers get thrown about in the triumphalist discourse or (ii) how easily I might miss perhaps obvious things. Help in the form of an explanation appreciated.

Here’s an interesting story, illustrating the conflicts that can arise among progressive constituencies and the need for serving staff to be extremely aware of complex matters of identity:

… the barwoman informed her she was banned because of the clothing item, which was considered as ‘transphobic and not inclusive’… The 34-year-old backs the feminist group Fair Play For Women, which opposed a Government consultation to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA)… [a]  member of staff… told her she could not stay at the pub as she had been upsetting other customers… [one] took to Twitter to speak of his distress. He posted: “When you’re trying to relax in your fave pub and there is a TERF [trans exclusionary radical feminist] wearing an anti-trans T-shirt… it’s disgusting and I’m so upset by it…”

Next, I like this article on craft and fad by Matt C a lot but, as I noted to him via tweet,  I was not sure that I agreed. Consider this passage:

“NEIPAs were waiting to happen,” McMeekin says. “Take the West Coast IPA, an amazing hoppy style of beer; soften it, plump it up, give it a unique hazy look and you’ve arrived somewhere that’s different, just as good, and still approachable.” Like Brut IPA, it’s a style many brewers have been falling over themselves to replicate, and yet it feels as though NEIPA has been around long enough to transcend mere trend and become something more meaningful.

See, for me none of this has been waiting to happen. It’s not natural. There has been nothing as intentional as the ramping up of US craft style fad over the last few years. As I recall, Craft Brewing Conference side seminars on barrel aging and newer and newer hop varieties beginning around a decade ago might have been the start of it all. A profitable route forward for all. Reasonable dream as dreams go, I suppose. Now, however, I see it as a dangerous game to present more and more rapidly shifting fashions to a well trained public. Dangerous given the level of investment required of small brewers to keep up with the chase.

Not unrelated, one last 2018 retrospective from Jacob Berg,* if only for this observation:

I saw a local brewery charge $65 for a bottle of stout at a pop-up event in the city. Not for a case of stout, but for one 500ml bottle. Do what you want with your money, but that’s foolish.

Jeff has posted a very good post on three themes, including the plight of writers. I agree and entirely sympathize with his point of view except that he references writers “augmenting their income with the kind of work… that journalistic ethics once forbade.” My quibble is only this: that ethical construct still forbids them. It reminded me of the slightly cringe inducing line in the latest NAGBW newsletter:

Like our work as journalists, there are always ways we can improve what we do.

“Our”? I get it but a long time ago when we discussed these things, it was pretty clear actual beer journalism was a rare bird. But, like “expert,” it is an attractive and compelling form of calling card inflation that gets trotted out from time to time. Remember only this: it is good** to be a beer writer as that includes many wonderful categories: historian, novelist, PR, essayist, commentator, poet and journalist amongst many others.  Many folk undertake more than one style of writing and, yes, many do take on journalism from time to time. But it is still a relatively rare bird compared  to the overall scene. If we accept that, then we can release ourselves from the ethical quagmire and relish the prospect of spending time with Evan Rail like he tweeted about this very week:

I just gave a fun Prague tour to a lovely American couple. And last month I spoke about Czech beer to 20 US & Canadian brewers on behalf of the Foreign Ministry. If you’d like me to talk to your group, host a tasting or take you on a tour, please get in touch. We’ll have a blast.

Beer journalist Josh Noel has shared news of a Goose Island brewery contest in response to the hometown Bears gut wrenching loss on a missed field goal on Sunday:

The brewery announced on social media Monday night that it would do its part to help fans understand the difficulty of nailing a 43-yard field goal. The prize? A free case of beer each week for a year for anyone who makes the kick.

I tweeted how this was something exactly up my alley, being a fat middle-aged 1970s field goal kicking survivor myself. Interestingly, two tweets on the question of journalism are more to the point than my glory days dreaming. First, there was a direct discussion between the Michael K or the social media intern at GBH which was more than a little clumsy and ham-fisted leading to the wonderful response: “[w]hatever else you do, please keep calling me Joel.” And then  less directly we had this slightly cryptic comment ending with “[b]ut that’s JOURNALISM for you“*** which I am sure I am too young to understand fully. My point (again) is only this. It is one thing among others. It is by far not the only thing and perhaps the thing you do not want to aspire to with your writing.

Enough!!! A few short items to close with:

 – Science: by 1967, someone had created a beer can tab opening resistance testing machine.

 – Predictions for 2019 are now coming in, like this one from BeerCrunchers2.0 blog suggesting the death of certain things, like high lactose beers, is either certain or, like Brut IPA, certified too soon. See, too, this wish list from @beerwithnat.

 – ATJ wrote a wonderfully lyrical vignette for the Telegraph of London on a pub named The Barley Mow.

 – The BBC Culture has provided us all with a bit on the Green Man, explaining the name behind many pubs.

 – One last look at the best of 2018 from Retired Martin with some extraordinarily Dadaesque photos.

 – A h/t to Merryn for “Botanical evidence of malt for beer production in fifth–seventh century Uppåkra, Sweden“!

 – I cannot find much drive within myself to take on Mr. B’s call to celebrate the flagship in February (given I am pretty sure we started giving them up for a reason) but your mileage may differ. Master Polk, for example, is positively enchanted.

There you have it. Busy. Another week on and soon it will be mid-month. Get your garden seeds now. In a couple of weeks it will be too late to start your asparagus patch for 2022 harvesting. You know how long they take to establish, right? Meantime, check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday.

*Librarian.  co-editor.
**And, frankly, good enough.
***And the story (more essay than journalism) itself is quite good although we perhaps still suffer from the GBH two sides (“…You can have no issues with burlesque. It’s feminist expression, that’s fine…“) even when we are talking pretty obvious sexist piggery. It all reminds me of CBC 2015 at Portland where sexism seemed to be cool and apologists were many.

The First Thursday Beer News, Resolutions And Gnawing Regrets For 2019

One eye on the beer, one eye on you!

Wasn’t that fun? New Year’s Eve = The Worst Holiday Eh Ver. I had promised myself I would be nicer again this year* but I honestly found this holiday more boring than usual. Was it because it was on a Monday? Because it rained? I was holiday-ed out? You decide. I did drink a wee bit but we stayed in. I sipped on an insanely** cheap Belgian beer throughout the day and shared a swell bottle of Ontario Riesling in the evening.  Defrosted grocery store pastries shared about the family room. Wooo!!!

Anyway, here we are: 2019. Big news so far? The Trump shutdown of the US Federal government has halted the breakneck manic approval of more and more, newer and newer transient ephemeral brands of craft beer, the amnesiac mainstay of the trade over the last few years. So he can’t be all bad. Not unrelated, David Frum also linked Trump to craft crusaders this week. Slightly related, U.S. Sen. and potential Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren appears to have done herself a beer-related injury.

I am absolutely gutted that I did not follow the DrinkablongwithRon 2018. What sort of animal have I become? I even had string. I did notice that noted British beer writer Jeff Evans announced he is pulling the plug on his website:

A short message re Inside Beer. After ten years, I’ve decided to close the Inside Beer website, due to other pressing commitments. The site will stay live for a few more weeks but will not be updated. This Twitter account remains open. Thanks to everyone for their support. HNY!

I note this not only for the update but to capture Martyn’s keen observation: the move is related to Jeff getting a more attractive opportunity. No doubt more to come on what that turns out to be.

One thing I did do in 2018 was avoiding Brut IPA altogether… along with glitter beer, that one month flashpoint. Never had nuttin’ of neither. I’m still coping with kettle sours. The New York Times, being generally more useful, has provided us with a helpful if brief study of its local BeePah action:

It’s taken a little over a year for Brut I.P.A., a new style of India Pale Ale, to sweep through the craft-brewing community. The name is a reference to brut, a dry Champagne. By all accounts, it was created by Kim Sturdavant, the brewmaster of Social Kitchen and Brewery in San Francisco, who used amyloglucosidase, or AMG, to remove the sugars in an I.P.A. AMG is an enzyme usually added to make light beers and to balance big beers like imperial stouts.

More of the best of the new? Ed posted the most honest Golden Pints ever. Mashtun and Meow’s were filled with fun and gratitude. More GP18 here. In other beer writing news and opinion, Matt is laying off the sauce. Crystal is off the sauce, too. BeerAdvocate reminded each of us to ask ourselves… why not lay off the sauce?  And Tandy Man asked about another sort of laying things aside:

It has been a very quiet year for the blog for many reasons. I have had the passing of my mother to contend with, been very busy with beery things here in Rochdale, Oldham and Bury and latterly in Manchester for Manchester Beer and Cider Festival. But I don’t think it the main reason. I just couldn’t be bothered. Little inspired me frankly.  Some things interested me, but overall, just all a bit flat. Like a London pint.

I suppose it’s been obvious that creative beer writing has not been quite as interesting over the last couple of years as it was in its hay day (given all the jostling to be Bernstein and Wordward, pretendy or otherwise) but it’s important to be OK… be just OK, like the man above,† with the idea that one can be neither a craft PR type pushing for greater collective boosterism or sitting looking in the mirror, finding yourself admitting you are are cutting back for health reasons. While Stan may be right, that beer reading has been rather spare the last couple of weeks, there is still that great big middle ground to write about and it is full of interesting things worth exploring and sharing your ideas. So while I won’t be confused anytime soon for a #beerpositive**** supporter, Polk is on the right track.

Say – speaking about drinking and health, this is an excellent article worth considering because it’s written by a wine writer and judge who is also a liver disorder specialist. He poses the question this way:

I believe advice that everyone should have at least two alcohol free days a week is a well-intentioned effort to combat the enormous adverse impact that alcohol has on some individuals’ health and well-being. The question, of course, is whether that strategy will be effective in reducing the well-known damages of excessive drinking to individuals and society: liver disease, neurologic problems, socially unacceptable behaviour, and driving under the influence, to name just a few.

See that? “Well-known”… which means if you don’t believe it you are participating in something like climate change denial.***

New booze laws for 2019? That’s what you showed up for, right? I left it for last. Big news is how the crowds at the next World Cup will face plumped up booze taxes:

In an effort to make their country healthier, authorities in Qatar have introduced new taxes. But with the World Cup just round the corner, fans around the world will be raising their eyebrows almost as high as the new prices for booze. That’s because the Gulf state has added 100% to the cost of alcohol – seeing a crate of 24 beers now retail for £82 and a bottle of gin set you back and astonishing £73.

Other new laws include unintelligible changes to craft distiller operations in California, relaxed retailer rules in Tennessee and Colorado, tougher drink driving laws in Ontario, and a booze crackdown in Turkmenistan.

Well, that’s enough for now. Can’t give away all the good stuff on the first Thursday. Predictions? What will happen in 2019 otherwise? Ask me in 12 months. What’s happening Friday and on the weekend? Go ask Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Friday.

Don’t be looking for the linked connection down here…
*I don’t mean that I will be even nicer, just that again I promise… only to fail.
**I have no idea how this gets shipped to Canada for such a low price. Does it come by tramp steamer with no guaranteed delivery date?
***And for God’s sake stop taking about a J-curve. You just look silly.
****#beerrealism is much more interesting. #ThinkingAboutDrinking, too. And I need to get my own butt in gear. Frankly, more than anything, I blame me.
*****Ben predicts on three topics, and does so rather well. On the most interesting topic, DME, the main question I have is not one really asked yet except in discussions on the QT. Something is afoot – as the story so far is not right. The other question I have I will ask: how much of the deposit money was borrowed and how much was actual saved cash. If the former, the ripples will spread much more widely. Who will lend for such equipment now? If the latter, perhaps spare me a full throttle application of the broke craft owner motif next time we meet. But, as Ben’s gathered threads ask by implication, think on the fate of Texas’s Big Bend Brewing Co., now closed due to $1 million lost to DME and the others who may soon follow.