The Resistance to Change As Spring Arrives Edition of Your Thursday Beer News

Spring! Let’s get going right away with this tweet from Joe:

I am against fetishizing containers and dispense methods. I am for glasses of beer with sturdy foam in comfortable pub and home settings. Vote for me.

Interesting. In these last weeks of by 56th year, I am a friend to such an idea. I long for the first warm Saturday, a late morning beer after a few hours of digging in the garden. That’s the dream.  But is that reality? Is it healthy? I mean we all want to be healthy, right? But there is this great unhappiness that things are not what they seem which seems to be downright toxic and very 2019. Let’s see if I can put a thought or two together… well, let’s do that a little later. I am enjoying the first full day of spring too much to be too cranky right away.

There – that’s a better way to start. By the way, I really liked this photo posted by Boak and Bailey on Twitter. A cheery scene. By the way, I hear Jessica grabbed guzzled the pint – and then  was licking the mustard straight off the knife. Weird. Still, a lovely still life. Now, some actually interesting reading: the tale of brewer Wilhelm Kohlhoff, Peoples Brewing Company in Oshkosh, Wisconsin (1953-1968):

Kohlhoff is now 91 years old. He still recalls details of the brewing process he followed at Peoples. He also still has the original, handwritten notes he made when he first went to work in the brewhouse. They form a step-by-step, minute-by-minute outline of his brew day. The notes are written in a mix of German and English and give temperatures in degrees Réaumur, a unit of measure favored by many brewers of the period.

More actually interesting reading: the story of Italy’s relationship with Tennent’s Super Lager:*

It’s a scene that has been repeated for loads of folk from Glasgow who have made the trip over to Italy on their holidays in the last decade or so. A holiday that, while the stunning architecture, frescos, ice cream and pizzas might seem like the most obvious talking points when you return to work the next week, they all play second fiddle to the fact everyone drinks Rab C Nesbitt’s favourite swally, Tennents Super.

I love this. Nothing better than the happy confusion my Scots folk feel finding out they are actually loved for one thing or another.

Next, Jeff has proven himself a big fat liar** about the quality of his writing with this piece entitled “The Sound of History Rhyming.” Now, don’t get me wrong… I fundamentally disagree with his premise, and his timeline… as well as all his examples. It is all too clever and neat. But the writing is compelling. And I might be entirely wrong. Utterly. Consider this bit of a tid:

As products, there is very little in common between mass market lagers and milkshake IPAs. The intention brewers have in creating highly engineered beer in 2019 is flavor, not cost. That’s a huge difference. But what the two eras have in common is a comfort in harnessing science to achieve an end without considering tradition.

See, that is fundamentally wrong. We are given this fib that somehow folk after WW2 were suckers and the brewers took advantage of their naivety. Nothing is further from the truth. Throughout the 1900s was a rush for lighter and zestier flavoured beers that, yes, were cost effective but were also celebrations of the progressive confidence of the era. The Champagne of Beers was so labeled in 1905. In Canada, rice based beers show up in the 1920s. They were modern – even if we*** are no longer modern in that way. Milkshake IPAs are also speaking to today in their way, even if I do not speak the language. I am, as I keep telling you, an anachronism.

One more thing before, you know… here’s a fabulously boozetastic giffy graphy.

Now, the gloom. First, beer writing. Mr Beeson went right after something called in a way that raised two concerns for me right away:

The Beer Boutique is closing/going into administration. In six months writing for them they never paid me once on time, and by the sounds of it they’ve treated their employees & investors just as appallingly.

So, obviously not being paid is a rotten stinking thing. But I am not sure what “writing for them” means.  It is a store? Ms. K. shared the other day that she was “going back to the client-based blog posts” which indicates the way she earns a living, in addition to her rightly proudly proclamation that her work is found in @fermenthq and @ogbeermag. Similarly burdened by the slog, Jeff admittedI can see how my writing has degraded as a result of the constant hustle. It ain’t a good thing” in a follow up to an odd tweet by GBH – and by odd I mean MK’s boast that the reason he started “GBH was that beer media was boring (with a few exceptions) 15 years ago!” strikes me as odd given I have seldom seen so much claimed for (with a few exceptions) such exuberantly tepid writing, known mainly, yes, for moving the mid-point firmly from the comparative to the superlative while, oddly, keeping the foot on the clutch when the time for a conclusion comes around. It’s not that it’s wrong or ill-intentioned. It just… falters. Like somewhere else someone not including the obvious reason for changing a recipe of a brand of beer – the making of the more of the money. Is that why folks are turning away from reading paid beer writing?

Maybe. It’s all so uncertain. We are next inevitably drawn to “The Fraudulent Influencer” by Doug the CPA as posted at Beer Crunchers V.2.0:

Despite this NOT being a lucrative field, the prospect of being insta-famous and the money, free beer, glassware, tickets, and access that accompanies it has resulted in a vast sea of wannabe influencers. Like authentic versions, the imitators come in all shapes and sizes, each in search of a piece of the action. The time it takes build a strong following by generating meaningful content is too daunting. They look for shortcuts to appear more influential than reality, in hopes of getting noticed by breweries, or agencies working on their behalf. 

Is it the glam? Apparently the glam ain’t all that glam. It can’t be the glam. You may now want to listen to Andy Crouch on the Full Pint Podcast. You might want to tighten your seat belt before you do. And it’s not just the writers. Consider the brewers next. The Beer Nut offered this second hand observation:

Chatting to a brewer yesterday who said his access to international markets is determined by his Untappd scores. Terrifying.

What does that do? Does it lead to things like the “uncomplicated and easy drinking“or a pastry stout named Chocolate Lagoon? Fact jostles with fiction these days as far as what is on the shelf or in the tap. I’d be getting skitterish, too. Breweries are dropping like flies. It’s the era of “a miniaturized version of industrial lager’s vision” for heaven’s sake. And then what about the drinkers? Well, it seems that some older guys of The Men’s Shed sort can’t get a break when they gather in congregation and discuss, likely, boring brown beer. Jings.

These are tough times. But is it all bad? I don’t think so. I can get a better selection at better prices than ever. Value reigns even if sucker juice beer is getting its day in the sun. Ah, the sun. Spring is here. Hopefully folks will get out and find something other to do, other than to buy than beer. Other than to seek a living writing about beer. I don’t really depend on beer culture, me. I just want that corner with a bit of warmth in the sun, a ache in the shoulder, dirt under the nails and an excuse to open something nice on a Saturday soon. Before then, check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday. It’s probably warmer wherever they are already. Spring!

*H/T to Cookie.
**See “…my writing has degraded…” below… well, now above seeing you are reading a footnote.
***Well, the “we” who are not the majority of beer drinker everywhere who prefer light industrial lagers still today.

Your Mid-March Thursday Beery News Update

What a week. I can’t really get into it but… what a rough week. Not Elizabeth May rough but rough enough. Brendan Palfreyman Esq. has not had such a bad week. He seems to be on holiday along a sunny bit of the US Atlantic shoreline from whence he tweeted the photo of the week. I commented how pleased I was that fancy was apparently not as good as good in that bar’s parlance.

Good news! “Craft beer” has now been defined… by the UK’s SIBA. Note that #3 disqualifies most faceless bulk craft.

Cellar palate“? That sounds really bad. Could you imagine the doctor telling you that you had that? Great-uncle Louie had shed knee back in the 1950s. That was bad. Oh… oh, it’s not a medical condition:

Suffering from ‘cellar palate’ means that you’ve become so immersed in a local style that you become blind to the faults or shortcomings in the wines. It’s a condition more commonly associated with winemakers, but it can affect anyone tasting lots of wines from a specific region, such as wine critics or even holidaymakers.

No doubt a condition that afflicts most beer nerds as well. Well, maybe it’s called tap tongue. I recommend a month on bracing pots of tea. Rare teas. Intoxicatingly fabulous teas. You’ll go tea crazy! Then you end up with tea tonsils and you need to hit the wine to straighten yourself out.*

Speaking of things to learn from wine fan culture, Matt has been exploring the way of the vinous and…

I learned that wine is just as fallible as beer and that this was reassuring to me. And maybe we need to figure out how to better communicate faults as constructive criticism to help both industries improve.

I agree. And I dump and I spit. Getting loaded on tasting samples is for chumps who depend on convincing folk that beer culture is unique when it is patently not. Try spitting next time you are out and about. See what happens.

Jeff invited Matt Meador of the now defunct Oregon Beer Growler magazine to share his thoughts about the fate of publications like his:

…back at the 2019 Oregon Beer Growler, we were fighting a battle we didn’t win. Our challenge was perhaps best illustrated by one well-established Oregon craft brewery who refused to advertise with us. Each month, the brewery’s marketing people would repeat: “we don’t need to advertise our beer, it sells just fine without advertising.” This highly successful brewery — as was its right — was solely focused on a hard return for any advertising expense. That’s okay, I guess — it’s sound business to spend carefully. But this brewery saw no value in supporting the publications devoted to promoting and celebrating the Oregon craft brewing industry.

Years ago, early on in the life of this fifteen year old blog, I remember writing an established beer writer complaining about how it was that – for all the money in beer – there was no money in writing about beer. Lesson? There is no money in writing about beer. That in itself is a #MoneyMakerMarch message.

Did you watch BBC’s broadcast of Inside the Factory that focused on brewing? Was it any good? I am blocked online so have to wait until 2023 when it will be shown on TVO, Ontario’s educational channel.

Good news! Dann and Martha are back and they are making Jack D’or again!

I can’t get too worked up about the “secret lies that macros tell” approach to this recycling big story, now this week in The Guardian out of the UK:

The British craft beer report, due to be released by small brewers’ trade body the Society of Independent Brewers (Siba) this week, will say that 98% of drinkers do not believe a global firm such as Budweiser owner Anheuser-Busch InBev or Molson Coors can make craft beer. The findings cast doubt on the credentials of a growing number of beers bought or launched by major brewers, such as Camden Town, Fourpure, Goose Island, Meantime, Hop House 13, Blue Moon, Lagunitas and London Fields. The report said 43% of 2,000 survey respondents believe craft beer has to be made by a small brewer…

Of course big macro can make craft beer industrially! Most craft beer is brewed industrially. Have you actually visited a craft brewery? Massive things filled with management driving around in golf carts, evil robots and computerized equipment in much the same way as macros are. Truck fleets and logistics staff just like the macros. Bank accounts with funds for advertising and junket payments… just like macros. That’s craft today. You want good beer, find yourselves some micro. Mmm… micro brewed beer, that’s the stuff. Owner still working on the floor, a decent level of variation from batch to batch – and right in your neighbourhood. Don’t let craft fool you.

Josh Noel has written on the tale of Goose Island’s disappearing Honker’s Ale, a sad reality about which I shared a “beer writer’s scoop”** two weeks ago:

Honker’s was among Goose Island’s oldest beers, but never the most popular at the brewpub. That would have been an accessible beer most approximating Bud or Miller, such as Lincoln Park Lager or Blonde Ale. But when deciding what beer to lead with in liquor stores, bars and supermarkets, Goose Island needed to differentiate itself. Sierra Nevada had done so with a pale ale. Samuel Adams did it with dark, hearty Boston Lager. Goose Island opted for Honker’s Ale.

A sad loss for us all… well, in theory. Days of future passed beer. In the sense that we are now back in an era that loves green beer filled with adjuncts and adulteration. That could be the name of my new craft beer bar – Adjuncts and Adulteration.

Speaking of the colour of beer, this post by Rach Smith on the meaning of, the purpose of boring brown bitter from an ornithological point of view is worth a read:

…the winter sun had lingered as it held off the evening from drawing-in any closer, just a little longer than it had the previous day. Shadows were being cast high in the trees against a backdrop of holiday-blue sky. I shot up from my comfy seat and ran upstairs to get a better view of the fancy birds bobbing around outside my window. Curiosity had got the better of me. Only, they weren’t fancy at all, they were just sparrows.

Dirty birds. That’s what I call house sparrows. Invasive. Bullies. Reminds me of something. Now, white throated sparrows? Chipping sparrows. I can listen to those all day. Indigenous sparrows. At home in my yard any time.

Well, that’s it for this week. Rash and rushed. That’s what you’ve come to expect from me. Make sure you make time for the more thoughtful thoughts from Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday. Laters!

*Sing along. Look at those guys singing almost 50 years, just better well groomed hipsters.
**That rare combination of following up on someone else’s work yet still getting it not quite right.

Now That It’s March It Must Be Thursday So Here’s The News

Well, here we are. March. -15C this morning with the wind chill but at least it’s March. Things could be worse, I suppose. I could find myself at what the British call a hen party like we see in the photo of the week captured by temporarily angry Katie apparently practicing her mind control in the attached photo… except I’m not in Britain so she can’t reach me… and… I’d be at a Rooster Do or whatever they call it to make sure we are not getting all inter-species. The rural Ontario stag and doe makes so much more sense. But I am struck how fabulous Katie is… for some reason… give her money… give her power.

We continue with a rather odd tale out of Syracuse NY where we find a craft beer bar shut down due to a rather firm boycott:

Talisman struggled to attract business after its August opening due, at least in part, to a boycott effort from former J.Ryan’s regulars and bartenders. They blamed Carvotta for J.Ryan’s sudden closure and the firing of bartenders and other staff. Former J.Ryan’s fans also posted false negative reviews on the Talsiman Facebook page, attempting to make it difficult for the new bar to get off the ground. They derided the new bar as the “Taliban Tap Room.”

Yikes. Staying in upstate New York, Craig has proved again how flammable he is… and the answer is very… because his FB posts and new findings relate to Albany Ale are on… wait for it… fire. This clickable one to the right from 1832 is my current favourite notice related to Albany ale because it’s from a notice for immigrants to a frontier village in what is now suburb or city to the west end of Lake Ontario, then in Upper Canada, seeking specifically a person who is a tanner, currier and brewer of Albany Ale. Fabulous.

Back in Britain, there was another sort of unhappiness with CAMRA facing apparent or at least alleged revolt from within based on generational shift in appropriate standards:

A war is brewing among members of a real ale campaign group after younger reformers accused the ‘sexist’ old guard of treating the organisation like a ‘pensioners drinking club’.  The feud has been made public after seven reformers – all in their early forties or younger – of Campaign for Real Ale wrote a scathing letter claiming the organisation was ‘riddled with allegations of sexism and cronyism’.  In the letter published in this month’s newsletter, they wrote: ‘We need to see a campaign thinking more seriously about the next generation of pubgoers — a campaign whose public image is not riddled with accusations of sexism…’

Good. Very good. But how many old guard members are there really out there? You’d know better than me. ATJ knows more and he wrote an article for The Telegraph. Here’s a handy Twitter search for “CAMRA sexism” to measure the temper of today.

Crystal takes one of more obligatory sort for the team.

Jordan on why his beer appreciation college course is the best beer appreciation college course:

Luck doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it. I basically started from the proposition that I’ve got to be more useful for less money than both established programs. Cicerone can’t customize their content. Prud’homme can’t customize their content. I can tell the students what happened last week and change out recipes between semesters. 

Martyn has written a cheery attack on the shadowy Portman Group, all over its stance on strong ale:

Among the beers that break the new Portman Group guidelines, and therefore face a potential ban, by being stronger than eight per cent and sold in 75cl bottles, are beautiful brews from the US, such as Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops, or Local 2, Rogue’s XS Old Crustacean barley wine and Lost Abbey’s 10 Commandments; a rake of great beers from Italian craft brewers, who go for 75cl bottles in a big way – pun semi-intended – including the wonderful Xyauyù Barrel from the Italian brewer Baladin; and a fair number of beers from the Netherlands and Belgium… and Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux.

The bastards. The only thing that lets me go on is knowing that there’s Avec Les Bons Voeux out there. Matt took an interesting take on the subject via tweetfest:

…there are thousands of videos of people chugging cans of DIPA on Facebook and Instagram like it’s a game. If we want to encourage responsible drinking of a premium product, perhaps we start by addressing the reality of the situation.

In very happy news… Go Ray… go Ray… go go go Ray!!!

More great news, this out of CBN and the east coast Canadian fabrication scene:

Diversified Metal Engineering (DME) in Charlottetown ceased operations and went into receivership last November along with its sibling business, Newlands Systems (NSI) in Abbotsford, BC. The company and brands have been bought by CIMC Enric Tank & Process B.V. (CETP) of the Netherlands, and the Charlottetown facility has been reopened under the name DME Process Systems. Previous DME staff members have returned to work, and the plant will continue to manufacture DME and NSI equipment, as well as provide parts and technical support to previous DME and NSI customers.

There’s background on the DME story in former weekly news.

I had no idea that there was a German tradition of drinking beer and throwing political insults on Ash Wednesday but state radio folk Deutche Welle says there is:

…every Ash Wednesday the gloves come off, and political leaders are allowed to push the rhetoric to the limits of fairness — and sometimes beyond. That’s been the case this year, too, in the centenary edition of the ritual. Here are some best zingers from the 2019 edition of the political roast day Germans call “political Ash Wednesday.”

The zingers include such winners as “Good PR isn’t going to lift one single child out of poverty” and, of a leader of another political stripe “In her heart of hearts, she’s a Social Democrat.” Wow.  Consider my knee well and truly slapped.

That’s it for this week. A little thin… unlike me in either respect. I got through a kid’s 19th birthday and the intro to drinking legally as well as an radical expansion of the life at work and survived. By next week, the clocks will have changed and the snow will be muchly melted. Check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday as well as the slowly simmering #MoneyMakerMarch that everyone… well, Stan… is talking about.

Putting The Cat Under The Cow For #MoneyMakerMarch

I didn’t plan to make every post for #MoneyMakerMarch build upon an idea set out in William Least Heat Moon’s foundational article on the micro brewing movement, “A Glass of Handmade” from the Nov’ 1987 issue of The Atlantic, but today I thought of this passage:

The New Albion Brewing Company, of Sonoma, California, the first true American micro, went under because it began bottling before it was financially able to produce beer in quantity. In distribution Jonah must face the leviathan. An industrial brewer can make distribution very difficult for a small brewer (sometimes by illegal means). One solution: eliminate distribution altogether by running beer from the maturation tank to the customer’s glass, or, as The Venerable said, “Put the cat under the milk cow.”

What a fabulous image. Put the cat under the cow. And what was the boom of brewpubs in the late 1980s is now the boom in taprooms. So, it was with huge interest that I followed up on Stan’s tweet this morning leading to a post at the The Mad Fermentationist, the semi-official news outlet of Sapwood Cellars of Columbia, Md. on just exactly how they are making money running their brewing and taproom operations to maximize a reasonable return. And what honesty do they bring to the discussion:

Most of our IPAs and DIPAs work out to $100-150 per ½ bbl keg. Self-distributing these beers for $200-250 there would be no way to make enough to cover rent, pay ourselves, and fund expansion. However, being a retailer of our own beers means we get $800-900 for that same keg sold by the glass and growler. It makes sense for us to charge a reasonable price ($7-8 for a 14 oz pour in a 17 oz glass) and have consumers return rather than charge a dollar or two more and end up having to self-distribute kegs (with the added effort).

Read the whole thing. Then consider how this is an example of open book brewery operations, giving secrets away to the competition. And to the drinker.  Now I know that $.80 of Whirlfloc and six cents of Zinc Sulfate Heptahydrate go into every 10 barrels of their Pillowfort ale. Didn’t before. There is really no reason for any brewery not to take this step in eager transparency. They even go so far as to say that while other breweries stick to percentage markups, they do not. Competitive advantage? It is now.

Any other open book brewers out there? Let me know so we can spotlight them as part of #MoneyMakerMarch. Meantime, go read the post. It’s fabulous.

In Like A Lamb And Out With A Better Sense Of The Money Makers

In the article “A Glass of Handmade” published in the November 1987 issue of The Atlantic magazine, William Least Heat Moon along with a character called The Venerable explored the then early micro brewing scene in the USA. It’s one of the original sources of my interest in good beer, dense with keen observation and quotes from players now in their fourth decade past the interviews. One, Buffalo Bill’s Brewpub owner Bill Owens,  was quite clear about his business model:

Owens brews six barrels every Monday, about three hundred barrels a year. “For a hundred and thirty dollars’ worth of ingredients I can make a twenty-five-hundred-dollar profit. A glass of lager – that’s all I brew now – costs seven cents. I sell it for a dollar and a half. Compare my profit on a bottle of commercial beer – forty cents.”

Making money. Along with brewing history, it’s one of the more interesting aspects of good beer but one rarely discussed these days by beer writers. In my conversations with small brewery owners, it’s something I often bring up much to their amusement. I remember the look on Ron‘s face a few years back when I started asking one upstate New York small brewery owner how much this bag of malt cost, how much he made of that keg. I don’t get it. I got answers. Yet no one seems to go there. You can think of as many reasons for that as I can but it’s annoying that such an obvious critical element of the trade is set aside or even hidden behind suggestions that there isn’t any money in making good beer.

For such a successful, now well established industry, well, that sure would be weird. I get it – and there are a couple of folk dabbling with macro-economic observations but getting particular brewers to unpack what they are up to, what the situation they are facing is more immediate. So, inspired by #FlagshipFebruary, I thought it would be good to explore my interest in the green, the black and the red and look to see who is out there doing the same thing. The balance scale and the small scale. Micro brewing micro-economics.

This month, I have a few interviews lined up and might see if anyone else is interested in having a look see wherever they are. #MoneyMakerMarch. Sure, it maybe started as a joke. But then it ended up making me think. And made me remember one of the things I was first interested in when it came to good beer, that seven cent per glass cost. Let’s see if anything comparable to that sort of gross revenue before taxes and other expenses is in anyway still possibly true. These days I take apart the price of multi-million dollar projects for a living.  Let’s see if I can apply any of that experience to come up with anything unexpectedly interesting.