The Victoria Day Week 2019 Thursday News In Beer

Victoria Day. Is that done only in Canada? Probably. Well, we spent it in Ottawa with the fam and the friends of the fam and it ended up with me paying for it all. Warning to parents of young children: they grow up and they can’t afford their own needs. Anyway, we had fun and in two spots, Brothers as well as the hotel bar  I enjoyed the local Dominion City’s Town & Country  Blonde Ale. And I can confirm that Irene’s is still one of my homes, the honeyed wood even richer 15 years later.

You can now lose hours and hours and hours to the excellent interviews of folk from the recent history of the British brewing trade care of brewingstories.org.uk.

Stan wasn’t really contradicting Jeff and Jeff really wasn’t saying it as any sort of main point but this is an important observation:

I agree, but would another clause. These brewers do have a vision for what they want to create, but they also have enough of an ego to think that they are making beer that will appeal to an audience broad enough to support a thriving business. They may not want to print money, but many like ending up on something of a stage and more look forward to feeling money in their pockets.

Show me a brewery that is not based on the profit making model and I will show you an impending failure.  Everything else has to be built upon that foundation one way or another if it is going to be sustained: capitalist or socialist, private or public. But pretty much anything can be built upon that model.

Beer in corner stores is coming to my province. I like it.

I was really taken by this answer wine writer Oz Clarke gave on why you need to keep an old copper coin in your wallet if you are in the habit of being in places where you are presented with dodgy red wine from time to time.  Now, while I have happily avoided any interest in taking an “off flavours” class (aka misery mongery) I am now interested to see if the copper coin works with any poorly made beers – and apparently I should be focusing on lagers. Any particular candidates for experimentation?

I had no idea there were jazz bagpipers. I approve.

I was quite pleased with the news in this brief article on the beer coming out of Grimbergen Abbey, a brewing monks’ collective that sold their branding in the 1950s. Sounds like it’s reasonably actually actual:

“We had the books with the old recipes, but nobody could read them,” Stautemas said. “It was all in old Latin and old Dutch. So we brought in volunteers. We’ve spent hours leafing through the books and have discovered ingredient lists for beers brewed in previous centuries, the hops used, the types of barrels and bottles, and even a list of the actual beers produced centuries ago… Stautemas, who lives with 11 other monks at the abbey, said: “What we really learned was that the monks then kept on innovating. They changed their recipe every 10 years.”

I like that last bit. Instability is at the heart of brewing. But TBN may well be right: ultimately, it’s really just big-brewery PR.

In this week’s stolen IP news, an Alberta brewery has been allowed by the trademark holder, the municipal government, to use up the last of its stock labeled “Fort Calgary“:

On Wednesday, city officials met with Elite Brewing and Bow River Brewing to discuss the cease-and-desist order over the use of the name, which is trademarked by the city. According to a memo that went to councillors from administration, the city has agreed to allow the brewery to retain the name until the beer is sold out “in the spirit of co-operation.” If any beer is left on July 30, when it’s projected the beer will be sold out, it must be stripped of the name. 

What is it with craft brewers and purloined intellectual property ? Do small bakeries steal the brand names of others? Do weavers and potters? Nope. This story is a bit different as there seems to have been a discussion and a resulting understanding that then was not fully understood.

Here is an interesting stat:

Prince Edward Islanders spend less money on alcoholic beverages than anyone else in Canada, according to a recent report by Statistics Canada. The report found Islanders spend $614.70 per capita on liquor. The national average was $756.90.

Apparently, folk in Newfoundland and Labrador spend $1,029.20 each a year for the national leadership. But note that this is not average sales per unit, just gross sales. And prices in Newfoundland, I suspect, are way higher per unit. But that’s not the interesting thing. The interesting thing was when I lived in PEI from 1998 to 2003 I had pretty much unlimited access through my neighbours to an excellent moonshine vodka called, in its finest form, Augustine. They also still had speakeasies. Everybody and his dog also home brewed. So the stats may mean less than the little they appear to mean.

Neato: six 5,000 year old yeast strains extracted from brewing related pottery in Israel.

Finally, this is weird. Apparently the deadbeat brewery left an unhappy employee in charge of the social media account:

After nearly 30 years Ironworks has come to a shameful end. Yesterday @ 3pm, five armed police officers and a tax enforcement official seized the brewery and changed the locks, and ushered the employees out.

The news is not good: $15,409 in taxes and fees. A pretty modest amount but then add on that no employees have been “paid in the last several months, as well as he stopped paying their payroll taxes over the last year” and you have a sense that there was much going wrong here. H/T Robin.

Well, another week goes by. A bit of a slow one. Such is life. Lessons? Pay your bills. Name your beer a name no one else owns. Simple! Check out Boak and Bailey this Saturday but be warned that Stan on hiatus this Monday. He does that. Hiatuses. Hieronymustic Hiatuses. It’ll be OK.

The Mid-May Thursday Beer News Bulletin

A busy week. In a way, much meatier than usual I’d say. But I’d say that, wouldn’t I. I am only trying to suggest there is something here below that is worth the next six minutes of your life. And I have thousands of posts, don’t I? Some of you have read most if not all of them. My blog posts. Thousands of six minute packets of the little bit of life God gave you. Hundreds of hours. Think about that next time you look in the mirror. And now… the news.

Clever Barry in Germany spotted the most interesting aspect of the news that Sam Adams and Dogfish Head are corporately co-mingling here on out. Have a look at the bit of the press notice under that thumbnail: “craft and beyond“!  The whole thing is so disassociated to actual interesting small scale local brewing that I feel a bit odd addressing the matter at all. Some might be impressed with the dollars at play and some at the funny way its about “Sam and Sam” but its really a dull tale – if only because it’s been over a decade since I bought any of either brewery’s beers as far as I can recall. And it really wasn’t anything like a merger. While I don’t think that personality matters to beer culture at all, except as being suckers to branding, I do agree with Jeff otherwise that the deal is a bit of a head scratcher. My hot take?

Wow! New Kids on the Block have announced 2019 summer tour sharing equal billing with the Backstreet Boys.

Robin and Jordan* first announced a new Ontario Craft Beer weekly podcast and then, despite all rumours, released the first of their new Ontario Craft Beer weekly podcasts. I don’t like podcasts as what takes six minutes to read becomes thirty minutes of listening and, well, just reread that first paragraph up there. Adds up. Yet I liked listening to this one given it is informative and bright light entertainment – but I am not sure I will go back over and over and spend 1/48th of a day a week, 1/336th of my week, 1/224th of my waking week listening on a regular basis. I have a lawn to mow, for heaven’s sake. Condo residents may, therefore, approach the matter differently.

This is one of the best beer culture video archive gems yet: the only pub in Scandinavia in 1965.

Speaking of Scandinavia, Martyn has absolutely taken one for the team by describing in inordinate detail his thoughts on a very dull new drink: Carlsberg Danish Pilsner. Reflecting on his past life with the thing within the green label, he wrote:

I don’t have anything against big-corporation beer in itself, but I do have a big problem with dull beer: I can’t drink it. I have a very low boredom threshold with food and drink (and most other experiences, actually) and I would literally rather drink nothing than drink more than a couple of pints of beer with no interest. And that Carlsberg: it wasn’t actually bad, or faulty, it was simply a cypher, a blank hole where beer should have been. There was no pain in drinking it, but it was a hedonistic vacuum that actively repelled me, that made me not wish to experience this beery nothing.

Fabulous.

The big news in beer law is that Guns N’ Roses are suing Oskar Blues Brewery, the brewery that labeled a beer as Guns ‘N’ Rosé without, you know, asking:

The complaint says Oskar Blues applied to trademark Guns ‘N’ Rosé last year and abandoned the effort after the band objected. The lawsuit says the brewery is still selling the beer and the merchandise. The band wants a court order blocking the brewery from misappropriating its name, destroying the products and turning over profits from Guns ‘N’ Rosé and other monetary awards.

Seems to make sense. I mean, the whole mash-up Boing Boing e-culture of 2003 died an ugly death a decade and a half ago, right?

The big other news in beer law are the allegations that BrewDog improperly appropriated the idea of an advertising agency named Manifest when it was creating its Punk AF brand. Apparently it is another beer I have no interest in buying as, like much bulk macro craft, it is over priced, over branded and in this case, pretty much no-alc. Could this story be more boring? Duller that Sam+Sam? Not sure. One response from multimillionaire top law school grad cottage industry owner Mr. Watts was a bit poorly stated and this just looked bad. But INCITE web-mag-thing thought otherwise and interviewed the CEO of Manifest:

As such, our creative platform was called ‘Punk AF’, playing with the fact AF can mean both alcohol-free and ‘as fuck’ but also unlocking their biggest brand asset – their flagship beer Punk IPA. This is the central ‘idea’ to our concept. It’s simple, yep, but it’s rich in thinking and precisely answered the brief. Or so we thought. When they said they wanted to pursue another direction, we understood and moved on. When I saw a preview of Punk AF on Twitter in January, I flagged to BrewDog that this was our concept – I received no reply.

My only comfort in all of this is that the word idea is in quotation marks up there. Setting aside the actual details of the commercial dispute, I think Mr. Oliver’s thoughts on an entirely different matter might still apply:

There are a lot of folks out there who need to understand: If you can get yourself into a state more frothy than “mildly annoyed” over beer…there is something seriously wrong with you. And, btw, you are not “important” to the beer world, okay? Me either. Get. A. Life.

I like this idea of putting the consumer more squarely in the middle of the :

A craft-beer bar with prices that fluctuate with supply and demand is planned for downtown Detroit… The owner of the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange, where beer costs move up and down like stock prices, “now plans to open a Detroit Beer Exchange” at 1258 Washington Blvd., in the Stevens Building… The Kalamazoo bar and restaurant opened in 2010, with 28 taps and prices that change up-to-the-minute as well as occasional “crashes” that for five minutes bring every beer to its lowest price — such as $2.50 for a Bell’s Oberon or $1.50 for a Miller High Life…

See, I would just happily ride the trough caused by the off set of the folk chasing the tale of trend. That could work out very nicely if one was prepared to sadly wallow in last year’s model.

I am stopping there. Don’t forget to check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday and if you are into podcasts, see if Robin and Jordan keep it going next Tuesday. The week is filling up.

*Also star of radio and TV! Well, he was on province-wide public radio and TV on Wednesday.

The Q2-May Slightly Shorter Version Of Thursday Beery Newsy Notes

Two evenings of work this weeks seriously imposed on my idle key tapping time. I know you share my pain. Anyway, it’s just as well as it’s been a quiet week from my point of view.

The Ponderosa Tavern is  shutting its doors in my old hometown of Bible Hill, Nova Scotia after a five and a half decade run. I never actually went to The Pond as it was a bit rough in my day but it is interesting to learn about how taverns, a beer-only form of establishment, were approved under the local law. There was a local vote in which, I note, the folks of Bible Hill near the proposed tavern said “NO!” while those who lived farther away said “YES!”

Another great photo essay from Martin.

Towards the end of last week, the Brewer’s Association issued their new guidelines for today’s temporary beer styles which might stay relevant until September. Making fun of these guidelines in sorta blog fodder circa 2009 so I will leave it there. It’s also far harder to make fun of something so evidently off the rail so I will just leave it there.  Also, if I use the new guideline for anything it might be as a road map of what to avoid so I think it is best if I just leave it there.

The man sometimes known as Stonch is reminding us all to get a life as again he takes a long walk in Italy. There may be beer.

Here’s an interesting video on the expansion of New York, early bits of which I think might not be entirely correct given my research a few years ago into colonial New York breweries. See, folk used boats and weren’t waiting for roads to be built. So there were breweries up the shore.

Geoff Latham has found an excellent bit of information, a miraculous 1690s plan to create 1:10 malt extract syrup for navigators to address the bodily perils faced at sea:

…and they are no other than Corn and Water concentrated, or reduced into a more compact and narrow compass; the one for the extinguishing of Hunger, the other of Thirst…

You know you are going to be a bit disappointed by an article on the state of alcohol retailing in Ontario when the second line starts with the words: “[f]ollowing the repeal of alcohol prohibition in 1927…” We didn’t have prohibition. We had temperance. Different. Still, this ain’t a bad response to the chicken littles who fear the costs of privatization:

There are two important lessons to take from these exorbitant claims. The first is that the figures that opponents of the plan are claiming are entirely unsubstantiated. They are simply the figures they claim. In order for them to have any legal weight whatsoever, they would have to be proven in court, which would require The Beer Store to open its books. Given the grandiose figures being tossed around, it is entirely possible that The Beer Store is bluffing in an attempt to maintain its privileged treatment. The second important lesson here is the price of cronyism overall. The government over-regulating and picking winners and losers in the market hurts consumers twice over. First through inflated prices and poor customer service, and again as taxpayers via legal challenges.

How many journals can I keep? I have a cheese one, a gas station bathroom one, a favorite socks one… thanks be to God I have beer to fall back on as a pleasure, not a task. Speaking of odd habits, don’t find yourself collecting hundreds of collector beers. No one cares.

Jeff’s on a book tour. Speaking of books, Boak and Bailey have published a greatest hits. Which is good. I loved REO Speedwagon’s greatest hits… a lot. So I am looking forward to Balmy Nectar all the more.

It’s fun to pick on an article with so many errors but the underlying unspoken truth might be worth noting – folk are spending a lot on craft beer without any identification that it is good value:

People spend more on craft beer every month than they do on their monthly cell phone and utilities bills. Drinkers are shelling out an average of $59 per month on beer, a new survey from Chicago-based market insights agency C+R research, found. Millennials spend $5 more. More than half (56%) of millennials said they drank an ice cold craft brew at least once a week.

Millennials. Go figure. Likely members of the style set.

Another week in beer in the books. No great shockers but there is still the rest of Thursday and Friday. Want to know what happens then? Check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday.

Tra-La! It’s May!! Here’s Your Thursday Beer News For The Lusty Month

Ah, summer… or at least that part of spring that is after filing taxes. Tax Filing Day, Labour Day and Christmas Day are the only three actual dates that turn the calendar for me. The real seasons are (i) winter plus mud month plus fretting about the furnace and tax forms, (ii) the months of joy, the time of year when all the good movies are set in, and (iii) the long goodbye to all signs of life on the planet. Last week’s cruddy news was clearly the last burst of the bad time before the coming of… the good time. It all makes sense.

What has that got to do with beer? Other than that the months of semi-public semi-irresponsibility are here? Do you think I could sit around my yard listening to a ball game on a tiny AM radio in view of the neighbours and passers by wearing plaid shorts and a funny hat drinking a beer in November or March? No, that would be weird. Now? It’s expected. You know what else is expected? The week in beer news. Let’s go!

First, all bow to Bristol as Boak and Bailey have posted a remarkable post on the 1960s opening of a Guinness brewery in Nigeria based on a collection of records shared with them by the daughter of the plant’s technical director:

David Hughes’s 2006 book A Bottle of Guinness please gives an excellent summary of the rise and fall of the Ikeja brewery. After 1985, the import of barley was banned, and so Nigerian Guinness began to be brewed entirely with local sorghum. Stout ceased to be produced at Ikeja after 1998, with production moving to Ogba, further away from Lagos again. Fiona’s father, Alan Coxon, went on to become head brewer at Park Royal from 1972 until 1983–84. He left Guinness after a dispute with management over, as Fiona understands it, plans to gradually and slyly reduce the ABV of Guinness’s core products.

Value. Interesting. Hmm… somewhat distantly relatedly, I remember first seeing this phenomenon in a New York beer store years ago when there were cans of Heady Topper or some other supposed special beers that wasn’t supposed to be sold outside of Vermont. They sat on the counter by the cash register for ten bucks a pop. I thought “what idiot pays ten bucks for one can of beer” but now it appears that sort of idiot might be the backbone of UK small craft beer retailer strategies:

Some buyers are driven to underhand measures to secure hyped beers for their shops. “I know there’s a lot of jiggery-pokery that goes on,” says Sandy. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world in the craft beer scene.” Stories of retailers buying beers from other shops to resell in their own establishments are common. This can even stray across borders. “I’ve certainly heard of bottle shops ordering from European websites,” says Ferguson. “I know someone up the road was doing grey market beer imports. Obviously HMRC wouldn’t take a kind view of that.”

[Note: I only take journalists seriously when they choose to use the word “jiggery-pokery” if and only if “dog-eat-dog” also is used.]

As another example of writing worth your time, Matt Curtis has led the announcement of his new project Pellicle, a digital magazine with a scope broader than the normal and seemingly failing format of the beer mag, with an article on Irish oysters… and beer:

Inside, we arrive at a table laid out with freshly cut wedges of lemon and lime, along with a few bottles of Tabasco. The gathered crowd marvelled at the effortlessness with which Hunter shucks an oyster. Taking it in one hand—that hand encrusted with salt and dirt, evident that he had been hard at work pulling in nets that day—he inserts a short blade into the shell. Finding exactly the right spot in less than a second, he pops the shell in two with a single motion. Careful not to touch the salty fruit within with his fingers, he then uses the blade to clean the shell of any grit or rough edges, before ensuring the oyster is no longer attached to its shell, and serving.

Having lived in an oyster area or two in eastern Canada, my only concern is Matt failed to find a place for my favorite oyster word – spat. That’s what we of the western Atlantic call a first year seed oyster. Never mind. What I like is how the article is unburdened by any of the wowsy, life changing experience claims much beer writing for money is larded with. Which means it’s an example of just better writing. And a nice clear subject matter travel funding statement, too. Nice. Still, slathering an oyster with Tabasco is an utter waste. But, well… never mind.

Next, Robin wrote an interesting post under the title “Tampopo, Ramen, Beer, & the Amateur” which I immediately was taken by given her assertion of the priority – nay, the primacy of the amateur:

With the word amateur celebrated instead of filled with negative stigma (the latter, I feel, unfairly gets more focus), suddenly all the events people go to, the sense of wonder and excitement I feel when I go to a bar I’ve never been to before, when I don’t recognize a THING on the beer menu, and that wild, devil-may-care attitude when I order something to just try it…all of that suddenly made more sense to me. There was no single word that could accurately define it. “Passionate” felt too one-sided. “Curious” didn’t quite cover the drive. And a label of “connoisseur” or even “expert” seemed to remove a lot of the assumption that there is always more to learn and discover about beer. 

Excellent. The only folk who could fine a negative in amateur is the phony pro, the self-labeled expert. Ay mo. A mass. Am ant. It’s all about love, baby.

The opposite of which, I suppose, is the grasping crowdfunder. Give me the amateur over that every time. Boo, grasping crowdfunders!!

Martyn wrote a wonderful fact packed tweet that I need to share in full:

In England in 1831 there were 5,419 common breweries, 23,582 full-licence pubs that brewed their own beer and 11,432 beer shops that brewed their own beer, over 40,000 breweries in all. The country’s population was 12,011,830. That would require over 187,000 breweries today.

I think of facts like that when I read folk think there were something like 150 or 275 breweries in the US prior to 1800. Makes no sense. Ah, but for a record to bring us back to reality we wallow in the shallows of easily available evidence.

Speaking of summer, tra-la and all that, we often hear a lot about the quality of beer at baseball games. Suckers who like the Toronto Blue Jays are particular complainers. Me, if I am honest and count my ticket stubs, I am more of a minor league guy. So I’m delighted to read that my nearby Syracuse Mets have upped their triple-A game beerwise:

It’s seems to be going about as well as the ballclub hoped. Even on a day when lots of beer was available for a buck, a steady stream of customers popped in for a full-price IPA, Imperial Stout, Saison or other style made by a noted local or national craft brewer. “We’re getting a whole new demographic of people coming to the games — the craft beer enthusiasts,” said Clint “Tonka” Cure, the Mets’ assistant general manager. “And then we’re also getting the craft curious — the people who aren’t sure they’re going to like it but think this is a good time and place to give it a shot.”

That picture way up at the top is from my July 5, 2016 visit to the ball park at Syracuse.  I love Syracuse. We haven’t been south for a couple of seasons since the Canadian dollar tanked but maybe I’ll get my butt back down there this year for a few games. I can take my Mr Mets book to get signed.

That’s it! Another week has passed and tonight I sleep in Oshawa!! What could be better? I bet Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday will let us know.