There Is A Thursday Between Easter Being Done And Taxes Being Due And Here’s The Beer News For That

The last Thursday of April. Didn’t we just start March five minutes ago? I’d love to know whose life is dragging these days because mine is flying by. Taxes last weekend (first draft and executive decisions.) Taxes next weekend (final draft, resignation and despair.)  What has that got to do with good beer culture? Well, for one thing, it’s been a week of fairly bad news which is not really having an effect but only in the sense that so few people are paying attention anymore. I try to be so damn cheery these weeks… but this one is going to be a bit of a study in shades of grey.

First, and as noted just too weeks ago, any idea that Canada will soon have free inter-provincial trade in booze can only be based on a fundamental misunderstanding of our constitution, a misunderstanding which is apparently shared by our hobbyist Prime Minister:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this year’s budget bill does what the Harper government could never do over ten years in office — it “frees the beer.” There’s just one problem with that claim: only the provinces can free the beer (or wine, or spirits). And most of them haven’t — including Premier Doug Ford’s Ontario, despite his government’s first budget being otherwise loaded with booze liberalization measures… “Unfortunately, in the parliamentary system that we have … we still have to struggle province by province.”

Speaking of disastrous misunderstandings of law, apparently the policy decision to place beer and other boozy treats in the corner stores of Ontario could cost us all $1,000,000,000 to get out of the relatively recent 2015 deal that kept beer and other boozy treats in the corner stores of Ontario. Quietly arranged without public input, the current deal locked in something for another decade – the vested right of big brewers to continue to leverage the decades-old interesting combo of a monopoly married to a cooperative to make heaps of dough. Who would give that up? No one.

In other gross misunderstanding news, Max has published a follow up on Joe Stange’s piece on the brand new used BrewDog brewery in Berlin. Go read both:

Though there’s no doubt that the delays and unexpected costs contributed its ultimate fate (and I sympathise Koch’s frustration with the builders), I believe that, even if everything had gone according to plan (which hardly ever does), the enterprise was doomed for the simple reason that it had arrived way too late. Let me explain.

What I don’t get is the idea that there was “frustration with the builders” at all. I do planning on construction projects on the owner’s side, sometimes a few times the value of this project and consulting project managers are always part of the planning process. And they carry errors and omissions insurance. Odd. And no one has contacted anyone in on the site other than the owner. Did not one beer journalist think to check with the construction company or the local permit issuing authorities to corroborate? Very odd. But who am I to say?

Similarly, big news for old big craft out of Pennsylvania as venerable craft cornerstone Weyerbacher is disappearing as we know it according to the reliably reliable (and far less drama-ridden than GBH) Brewbound:

Speaking to Brewbound, newly named president Josh Lampe, who previously served as chief operating officer and has supplanted brewery founder Dan Weirback as the company’s leader, said 1518 Holdings had acquired a 55 percent stake in the 24-year-old business… In addition to the new investment, the Easton, Pennsylvania-based craft brewery has also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an effort to restructure its debt. In a press release, Lampe said 1518 Holdings believed the bankruptcy filing “was necessary in order to move forward quickly.”

I used to hunt our a few Weyerbacher ales over a decade ago, barrel aged things that were so smokey rich I swear I was drinking BBQ sauce. Insanity, ProphecyBlasphemy all got reviews in the summer of 2007. So long ago, I called them oaked ales and not barrel aged. Then I lost interest in +/- 10% massive ales. Then a decade passes. Then the brewery ends up in bankruptcy. And now I am 56.

Keeping up the theme that things are on the move, I repost myself. In a comment at Stan’s I wrote how, while I can no longer distinguish between whether something is nonsense or that I just no longer care, I found this observation is weirdly interesting from the rebuttal to PKW thoughts on the BA no longer being on the right track:

Despite its flaws, the BA does present a threat to the capitalist paradigm that is bolstered by the current administration, and that is exactly what the economy and beer industry need in order to prevent corporatocracy and monopoly under the guise of a diverse portfolio. 

Does anyone actually think this? As I wrote, I have never equated any brewing with anything but something stoking a capitalist agenda. Or, you know, they go all Wayerbacher. Brewing is one of the classic examples of the capitalist construct whether in its multi-national form or the mom and pop. If anyone believes that the BA is working otherwise has to have been operating under at least a profound willful blindness for the last decade of irrational exuberance over market share stats.

Perhaps related, The Guardian has reported on the stalling of UK craft’s expansion:

Five years ago the sector was still in its “gold rush” stage, which made it easier for new brewers to start up and quickly gain market share, according to the research from the national accountancy group UHY Hacker Young. But with the industry maturing, it is now much harder for startups to gain a foothold as multinational brewers buy and invest in existing craft and artisan breweries, the group says. “We’re not saying that the market is shrinking, just the number of players is consolidating and sales growth is going to be harder to come by,” said James Simmonds, a partner at UHY Hacker Young

With eight new breweries opening in the UK in the last year compared to 390 in the year prior to that, well, it’s obvious that something has changed – but is anyone paying attention and considering the implications? Pete, interestingly and perhaps applying the same techniques beer writers use to consider the health implications of alcohol, has disputed the same figures as published in the Morning Advertiser, askingwhy are people so keen to see the demise of the craft boom?“* More misunderstanding! I’d be more upset at perhaps the worst selection of a verb within a very short sentence including a quotation:

“Sales growth is going to be harder to come by,” exclaimed Simmonds.

Exclaimed! Of course, we are living with a core of writers who are keen to see and posit upon nothing but a perpetual craft boom so there is a likelihood for a disappointment. And it doesn’t mean that good beer is any less popular but, as Boak and Bailey noted last weekend, international craft beer “is a parallel dimension, clearly signposted, and easily avoided.” Is it perhaps time to say (like JFK did when declaring himself a doughnut half a century ago) that in a way we are all now Berliners? That craft beer in one sense is becoming too easily avoided?

Want to trigger fanboy unhappiness, mention something good in the LA Times Official Domestic Beer Power Rankings… like now finding myself attracted to this description of top ranking entry Busch Light:

Busch is so named because of the company that owns it. Anheuser-Busch InBev, with almost $55 billion in revenue in 2018, owns so many beer companies. In addition to all the Budweiser brands, they also have Corona, Michelob, Stella Artois, Beck’s, Rolling Rock and dozens of smaller brands. Ever wonder why a lot of your beers sort of taste the same? Busch Light is actually an outlier, though, in that it tastes like nothing at all. I literally wrote down “no tasting notes.” It doesn’t taste like anything. It tastes like Arrowhead water. It is refreshing, though!

I now want to try something with no taste. It’s not possibly possible, is it? Everything has some taste. Note also that according to 2007, back in my Weyerbacher years, all these beers were supposed to be dead in 2014 or so… yet they live on just as before. How many of the top craft breweries on 2007 can we say that about, that they live on just as before?

Finally, Ron has triggered a conversation which seems to have gone on to touch all the bases of craft fan unhappiness over his choice of recreation brewing partners. [Why do people over 14 years old even bother typing “haters gonna hate“?] Jeff linked to the 20 minute long backgrounder YouTube story of the Goose Island recreation of an early Victorian porter so, you know, now I don’t have to. I just hope Ron got paid a lot. At least more than producing the YouTube video.

Well, that is it. A weirdly ungleeful week. And it’s not just me. No bubble bursting with a bang. More like the whimper. Who stands for the cause these days? Who waves the banner for international big bulk craft proudly?? Hello? Anyone??? Hmm. Surely, someone can explain it all. Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday? We will have to wait to find out. Well, wait and finish those tax forms.

*This week alone, I might offer Stone and Weyerbacher but that would be a fact-based reality-based observation.

The Thursday Beery News Update For Fire, College, Style and Being Fifty-Six

I picked that picture up there of a fire in France earlier in the week, the night time warming of the vineyards at Chateau Figeac: “rows and rows of candles on the vineyard to protect the vines from frosty nights…” Here’s perhaps an even more stunning image, the French Côte-d’Or lit up at night form above. I spent three weeks in Paris with pals in 1986, weaving from art galleries to bars to cafe’s to our small family run hotel. We were there so long we got grief from the owners for being so bad at getting to know Paris, for wasting the experience that we were being told where to visit and that led to me, a gawky probably hungover 22 year old, staring at the blue glass at  Notre-Dame. Lovely then. Sad now.

Let’s go! Diageo has done a good thing:

The maker of the iconic Irish stout Guinness has announced it is removing plastic from beer packaging. Plastic ring carriers and shrink wrap will be removed from multipacks of Diageo’s beer products – Guinness, Harp, Rockshore and Smithwick’s. They will be replaced with 100% recyclable and biodegradable cardboard.

Excellent. And here’s an excellent suggestion for a gravestone, one that speaks to one of our lingering and perhaps pre-Christian rituals.

I am a bad man. I missed a post by a co-author, mainly because it came out two Thursdays ago, exactly when I am in a post-update publication funk. It’s Jordan’s post on the things he has learned creating and running a college course about beer:

How do you create something unique from scratch?  For one thing, it’s continuing education, which means that it’s nights and weekends. It has to be affordable. It’s a self selecting group of students and they have presumably been through a long day at work or a long week at work by the time they get to you. It has to be instructional, educational, and entertaining enough to hold their interest. It probably needs to be a little interactive and there has to be room for discussion. That goes for all 67 hours of class time from the preview workshop to the last week of the last class.  So there I was: anxious about public speaking, with no experience teaching, tasked with creating and administering 67 hours of content, and just bloody minded enough to think I could pull it off.

Speaking of structures, Jeff wrote and excellent thing on the development of flash in the pan styles and by excellent I mean he stated something that I have long considered the case:

With trends, there’s a push-pull, and the pull is what establishes the style. First breweries gamble with something new—that’s the push. With a style like gose or a technique like kettle-souring, the push may last for years before a brewery scores a hit. But then that organic interest comes and customers start asking for the new thing. Brewers have been pushing saison for 20 years and Americans are just not taking the bait. But hazies? That’s all pull now. Even brewers who hate them feel compelled to offer their ravenous customers what they want. 

Pay attention to that push. Many folk deny it exists, saying its all demand driven. As if there ever was a public outpouring demanding a gap needed to be filled by Black IPA or sugar coated breakfast cereal gose. Officially absolving the beer drinking public from these sorts of abominations of marketing is a welcome thing. And the distinction between trend and style also fits better with the original Jacksonian intention of style to be an emulation of a classic. Good stuff.

Speaking of writing excellent things, Evan Rail has been tweeting about writing longer writing beery-wise as part of his process of writing a new piece of longer writing:

As a writer, you’re constantly doing short-term, short-gain work, which makes it really hard to get ahead. The work that brings real satisfaction — and which often makes for long-term success, financial and otherwise — is hard to fit into the day-to-day grind.

It’s the same for the amateur boy beer writer. Time is the commodity I simply don’t have. I’ve put in 24 hours since 36 hours ago. Frankly, I was glad to get a number of posts on beer and 1400s Bristol this winter but if I had my druthers I would do that sort of research and writing all the days of my life.

Politics? Here in Ontario, we have a particular form of conservative government which is dedicated to changing the way we get our booze and dope. It even affected the annual provincial budget to the point I have to go into work today to look at some beer law, an interesting puzzle. This was a telling tweet:

Number of times Doug Ford’s budget mentioned the words “alcohol” or “beer”: 46. Number of times “poverty” was mentioned: 0. Priorities.

That being said, we regularly regulate these things at the provincial level and alcohol has been at the forefront of cultural policy at many times in our past, not only from the 1870s to the 1930s the period people can’t cope with. Ontario, the true foundation of all hoppy beer trends. Buy our book Ontario Beer for the full story. Seriously. Grow up. Buy it. Pretend it’s my birthday.

A short post this week. But lots of good stuff to share. And it really is my birthday. On a Thursday before a four day springtime weekend. “W” to the “oooot”! And this is the one I have been waiting for. Fifty-six! Remember when you were nineteen and you couldn’t wait to be fifty-six? As you reflect in the arm glow of that, don’t forget Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday. Each a gift to us all. See you next week!

These Are The Greatest Mid-April Beery News Notes Yet!

Howdie! It’s definitely spring now. Definitely. I’ve planted radish seed and the snow’s all gone.  More planting to come this weekend.  It’s a busy time in the beer world with the great retreat having begun in earnest. The Craft Beer Conference is going on in Denver so plenty of hope and new instructions* being delivered. And, in a real sense, nothing immediately new has actually been done under the umbrella of craft has been done for quite a while. Whither glitter 2.o? No one knows… or perhaps cares. Not Martin Taylor who posted the photo of the week up there on Wednesday, clear glowing golden goodness.

Oh, speaking of the Craft Brewers Conference, apparently they hauled an old rocker (who, for some reason, is a brewery cross-branding project) out to speak to them all and he regaled them with a few sexist jokes! Fabulous. Conversely, all hail the greatest mind in the beer world over at least the last decade:

…the ruination of nomenclature leaves you with no power to describe things.

How many times have I said that very thing? Never? You’re probably right. But I like it.

In exciting rule of law news, the Canadian federal government has announced it is changing the rules barring inter-provincial trade in booze! Too bad it is regulated at the provincial level as last year’s Comeau ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed. Will there be a constitutional conference on all this? Likely not. Somehow, somewhere a bilateral agreement between two will start the ball rolling. My bet? Nova Scotia and Manitoba!

Neolithic malting techniques explained!

Next up, Thornbridge Brewery in the UK announced a new take on beer and, in a move I trust might be appreciated by our last quote giver up there, it’s a step back of the best sort:

Seeing as the current beer market is awash with Citra/Mosaic US-style IPAs, I wanted to create a beer that uses only British ingredients that was slightly different.  I took the concept of German Kellerbier, a timeless, classic style of unfiltered lager, which is as close to cask conditioned real ale as the Germans get, and put a British spin on it to create our new beer, which we named Heartland.  Kellerbier is known as a fresh-tasting, highly drinkable style with flavours drawn from the yeast (as it would have been served direct from the tank) with a fine bitterness.

Read the whole thing. I have never wanted to have a glass of a new beer more. That sounds entirely yum.

One a word: why?

More research has been published in The Lancet showing that regular alcohol is never a good idea if avoiding health issues is part of your life plan. Note again: no j-curve. You are just trading off long term health for short term jollies. Which can be quantified apparently. I am sure your favourite beer writer will disagree with the medical opinion – but who takes health advice from a paid booze trade advocate? Oh, some of you do? Interesting.

Speaking of things that set of craft crybabies, in even greater neg the UK’s newspaper The Independent has asked the questions we all want answered. Has craft actually succeeded in making beer no fun? Has good beer gone uttlerly boring?

Another day, another press release with the words “craft beer” in the title – perhaps the second or third this week. This time, a madcap alternative to craft beer fun runs, craft beer mini golf, craft beer rafting, craft beer cycle tours, craft beer billiards, craft beer haircuts and craft beer yoga: a new London “craft beer hotel” from the people at BrewDog. It’s apparently a revolutionary place with “craft beer in every room”. Please excuse me for a moment while I consign said email to subfolder “CRAFT CRAP.”

It’s true, isn’t it. Who thought a decade ago that ten years of money and ego could actually succeed in making beer so boring? But they have! I like the article’s tag line… sub-title… whatever you call it: “Big business has killed the authenticity of small-batch brews.” I probably have not paid a nickel into the BrewDog coffers for half a decade so you can’t blame me. I like micro and local too much to bother with big craft.

The Beer Nut again takes one for the team and compares discount Italian lagers. Sadly, the better one will never make our side of the Atlantic.

Martyn has written an excellent post on an unexcellent thing… the disappearance of the word “bitter” from the English landscape:

Exactly when it started happening I’m not sure, but bitter, once the glory of the British beer scene, is disappearing. In the place of all those marvellously hoppy, complex bitters and best bitters we once sank by the pottle and quart, we now have brews sold under the same brand names, made by the same breweries, very probably to the same recipes, with the same ingredients – but describing themselves as “amber ales” instead.

Fortunately, Ontario is behind the times so our old school local preferences are still out there to be enjoyed: sweetish husky pale ales, nut browns, dark ales that might be milds but no one has bothered to inquire.

Finally, we here in Ontario and across Canada heard the news of the sad early passing of Joel Manning. Ben Johnson wrote a fitting warm remembrance:

To a person, anyone I’ve heard speak of Manning is likely to note that “he is a good dude.” He was affable, open, steadfastly committed to helping people in his industry, and always willing to talk. He was also, in every sense of the word, a professional brewer. Manning began brewing beer at age 20 when he was hired as a brewing assistant at the original Amsterdam Brewpub in 1986. He worked his way up to Brewmaster there in just three years and held that position until 2004. In 2005 he took over as the Brewmaster at Mill Street Brewery and remained in that role until his retirement last year. He worked in the beer industry for 32 years.

There we are. Another week has passed and if it had a theme in good beer, it was one of loss, both welcome and deeply sad. I hope it’s a better week ahead. Taxes loom** but so does the four day Easter long weekend. Did I mention the 150 garlic that overwintered outback are suddenly popping up green? So there is good in the world. I expect more of it to be reported by Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday. You should, too.

*Surely, independent malt.
**Which I still do by hand and pencil and paper for four tax returns for some unknown reason…

Your Thursday Beer News Update: Buy-Outs, Bad Press And Bisulfite Bother

Ah, April. As lilacs breed out of the dead land, we watch baseball beginning. Seven months ahead of baseball baseball baseball. People get spring fever and, as a consequence, sometime buy very big hats. Craig has been brewing Albany Ale again with local brewers C. H. Evans, fabulously holding up the side for the project. I think that collaboration dates now back over five years when his hat was not so tall. I also captured the moment by celebrating the very nice breakfast that I had the next day. All so excellent.

Best boozy April Fool’s Day joke. Best letter to the editor.

I find this bit of craft amnesia really strange. The idea that Allagash White stood alone with haze without reference to Pierre Celis and Hoegaarden is a bit sad. Like people suggesting that sparklers weren’t invented as a way to flog poor beer, I suppose.  Or the idea that micro/craft didn’t start beyond the USA. But, as an entire counterbalance… an antidote even, consider Nate’s incidental beer pictures in the Czech Republic or consider Lars live-baking the mash on so-me or, best of all, consider Martyn finding an ad for US hops being sold in the UK in the 1790s! Wow! I am renewed. Redeemed. You can see that I am a sensitive I might not be alone.

A sensitive man…

I am not alone. Jeff at Beervana is a bit fed up, too, with some of the latest news. He captured the mood of these buy-out PR notices with his Mad-Libs, fill in the gaps form for any craft brewers planning to take advantage of any moolah-laced opportunities:

[ _______________ ] announced today an agreement to acquire a majority interest in [ ________ ]-based [ __________ ] Brewing Company.

I found this refreshing, especially in the context a so much fretting about “rumours” which seem to the UK blogging English for knowing something but living under slightly less freedom of speech than we enjoy in North America, if we trust (as I do) the theme as illustrated by @totalcurtis. I blame an over concern with the interests of lawyers, as perhaps illustrated by Boak and Bailey. I’ve never heard of bloggers facing legal problems over sharing trade information but, well, that’s what it feels like on my side of the gown and wig.

They do raise another point: “…the question of people’s feelings.” I usually don’t put that much stock into this personally* either but then I was reminded of the thought when I read this in a review in The Guardian of Pete Brown’s new book:

Brown moved from advertising into “beer writing”, which is not much of a shift. Beer writing purports to be a branch of consumer journalism. Producer journalism would be more apt. He is forever being invited to judge competitions (beer of course, and cider, veg, pies, cakes, anything). He goes to tastings. He opens food festivals. He attends events…  The proximity of writer/critic to maker or artisan is worrying. Beer or wine or food writing often becomes a sort of dissembled advertising, or advertorial, which doesn’t announce itself save by its gushing enthusiasm and self-congratulation.

Now, even if I am a sensitive man, I point this out for the general concept not the particular. My copy of Pete’s book will come to my house in a few weeks as the release has been delayed in Canada. And I won’t review it because it’s not a beer book. But I do think the review in The Guardian was extremely mean spirited. And not in the A.A.Gill, a hero of mine, sense of mean spirited. Not even in the Pete Brown sense of a teensie mean spirited.  It was actually a bit cruel. Demeaning even.* But the general observation on beer writing set out above? Not too far off the mark for a sadly significant part of beer writing. As you know I have thought and written about for years so don’t… just… OK, fill your boots – what the heck. You gotta be you, too.

Independence.

In other news, Garrett Oliver made The Sunday New York Times. And then an interesting discussion broke out on Twitter between him and Matt C. on the meaning and value of “local” including this comment:

It’s complicated for sure. But there is an extent to which asking a brewery to “double-down on local” is like asking a 12 yr old to “double-down on adolescence.” These days “local” can mean only breweries from your own neighborhood. I can walk to five breweries from my house…

I like the point. But is it what people want today? And isn’t that the only point? The discussion started with this from Matt C and goes along through a large number of threads. Worth thinking about.*** And worth thinking about in the context of all the above and below which is really about how a wide range of writing about beer takes many forms. It’s all fairly robust even if we collectively have not caught up to that realization.

Picking hops in 1800s Wisconsin.

Confession time. I am down to maybe having one or two beers a week. Work pressures? Health concerns? Nope. Allergies. Now I am a sensitive man so I am comfortable sharing with you that more and more I am having histamine reactions from beer like many folk get with red wine. The problem has always been there but I managed it by avoiding naturally high sulfate beers like Burton IPAs or anything Burtonized.  For example, I get a headache during the first Sleemans. Always have. Hard water brewery. Then, as with one really good eastern Ontario Porter,**** I started noticing a reaction from some craft breweries that I put down to smaller newer places using sodium metabisulfite (the pink powder home brewers use) as part of the cleaning regime. That one gives me a set of thrilling achy reactions down the throat. But, recently, I have noticed a new class of randomly sulfate laced beers: some of the ones with fruity flavours added. For decades, I avoid anything that is a flaky pastry treat  that’s foil wrapped  for freshness and boasts of “real fresh fruit filling” because that stuff has actually put me in the hospital a few times. Has anyone else noticed this? I know… I am a sensitive man. And it’s not that I mind. Good for the wallet and the waist. Great sleeps, too.

Not unrelated.

That must be enough for this week. This busy week. The week that BeerAdvocate magazine wrapped it up for good. Where will we end up? Back here?

But the bartender is not quite
so sensitive as I supposed he was
the way he looks at me now
and does not appreciate my exquisite analogy

Now, it was brought home to me a long time ago that beer poems and beer history and critical essays about drinking culture will not really buy beer or flowers or a goddamn thing…

and I was sad
for I am a sensitive man

Uncertain how to cope with it all? Read Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday. That might help.

*Honestly, without being the slightest bit pointy fingery, I could not imagine writing “imagine how those team members feel learning the news from Twitter, or on some poxy beer blog” myself but that is why they are they and I am me and, beyond that, there are far more vulnerable voices out there. Too sensitive. But what can you do. Beer is made of flowers.
**Compare to this review in The Observer. Covers the same ground but seems to have no grudge. Odd. And, as I say, cruel.
***And worth hauling out again when someone once again says with a vapid flourish that you can’t explain thing in detail or have a civil discussion on Twitter.
****Which I mention only after I have had the reaction corroborated by someone else I recommended the beer to who had the same odd response.

Perhaps A Very Short Version Of Thursday Beer News.

I say “very short” up there as I never know where these things are going. I am like a one man Brexit in that sense. Suffice it to say, mustering the time and content for this post differs from week to week but, unlike Brexit perhaps, is always the source of joyous surprise.  I couldn’t imagine anything could be more screwed up than 1970s Canadian constitutional conferences – shown live on TV all day in my youth. But Brexit is it! I know some of you are actually living under this nutty-nutso situation so I will not go on. Excecpt to wonder what a backstop really means to @thebeernut.

So what is up in reality land? First, Geoff Latham has an interesting question: what does this record from a brewing session that occurred in September 1848 mean? It appears to show someone dabbling in early hipsterism, employing unholy techniques when it comes to hops. Click on that thumbnail. Can you read the text and help with the mystery?*

Interesting. Second, now Stan has a question:

I think I’ve only asked a variation on that question one other time — in this case the more open ended, “What is the most important hop ever?” — and Jason Perrault of Select Botanicals and Perrault Farms said to give him a little time to think about it. I haven’t pressed him on it since, but now might be time.

My answer – and I am sticking to it – is the one in the beer on the ships that had the cannons of the Hanseatic League 1300 to 1500. Likely proto-Saaz.

Home brew for three pence a pint! What year would that have been? That was my own Burco dream back in the middle of the 1980s. Speaking of the 1980s, great news of  Mendocino Brewing Company, care of a Tom tip. An early micro brewing icon is being revived:

Though the beer is not being produced inside the cavernous, 65,000 square-foot facility, Krauss and his team have high hopes about the future, to the delight of local beer drinkers and fans of the legendary brews. “Red Tail Ale and Eye of the Hawk are back,” smiles Krauss. The beers have recently been revived by the brand’s original brew master, Don Barkley, and can currently be purchased on tap at a few inland Mendo locations: in Ukiah at Crush, Cultivo and the Sports Attic; in Hopland at Campovida; and once again, where it all began, at the Hopland Tap, where the ales were originally served more than three decades ago.

Right on. Moving on, we find some odd responses to the idea of more craft beer going into the UK supermarket chain Tesco. Apparently, the Tand is still the clearest thinking person in beer culture:

This should surprise nobody. Breweries are businesses and while keeping it cosily in the bubble is nice for fans, it don’t pay the milkman. Big beer and big business want a share and they know how to go about it. Expect much more of similar.

The odd thing for me is the twin ideas that (i) for some reason we beer writers are supposed to be boosters for a bigger market slice for the  brewers that self-identify as preferable and yet (ii) we want to keep those precious brewers human scale as if this all is some sort of personal relationship. Note: never has this occurred in all of human history.

Similarly, Paste magazine has listed some of the contract beers they sell under house names – and then unpacks who is actually making them like this entry for Mission Street Pale Ale:

Attributed to Steinhause Brewing in CA, this pale ale actually comes from California’s own Firestone Walker, who also makes a handful of other Mission St. styles like blonde and black ales as well as a hefeweizen. They’re also behind Trader Joe’s Fat Weasel Ale, Jumping Cow Amber, Frugal Joe’s Ordinary Beer, and the Gila Monster Amber Lager.

I had heard years ago that Unibroue up here in Canada made all their Belgian ales. Makes sense. Why sell bad beer in your store when you can rebrand good stuff? And why be a brewer competing with chain branded beer when you can brew it yourself? Everyone wins.

Speaking of beer on the move, Josh Rubin has a great story in The Toronto Star on the ambitious expansion of one Ontario brewery into the Big Apple including one non-traditional and interesting comment from a craft brewer:

Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, was puzzled but welcomes the new arrival. “It seems like an awfully strange move, but then again, we’d probably happily open in Paris or Tokyo, so maybe it’s the same for everyone these days,” said Oliver. “If they make great beer, people will come. And I can walk there from my house. Brooklyn once brewed 15 per cent of all the beer in the United States, so I’m sure that one more brewery/taproom will be just fine,” Oliver said.

Clever people. I hope they make a go of it. Sadly, elsewhere apparently stupid is still a part of craft beer culture:

“We understand it is a bit risqué, but it’s in good humor, comical, and consensual.  We have received good feedback from when we have showed this to many” said Brady.

Jeff obviously was not part of that early feedback loop. Really, I hope you don’t bother looking at the underlying story. Morons. Particularly swell that they are ‘splainin’ sorts who unilaterally assert something is consensual.

Finally in far happier branding news, big craft brewer Stone has lost its motion for a preliminary injunction in that trademark infringement case against cheery micro macro Miller. I say happy because the court has confirmed that the case between Stone and Miller over beer brands is all about money and not some sort of special status. I say happy, too, because it places Dr. Johnson squarely back in the midst of it all, as we observe again with him the unassailable truth that brewing offers and perhaps even inflicts the curse of “the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice” upon those who are not careful, who over reach.  Brendan has more in his Wednesday afternoon tweet-fest of the court’s ruling.

Well, that’s it. Not as short as I had thought – and not even all that pointless! More good news than sad. Not a bad week. The dirty snow has already faded to the lump here an there on the north side of things. Desperate for more? You know the drill: Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday. See ya next week, unless that real job of mine gets in the way. Think I am out at meetings on Tuesday and on the road Wednesday night. Uh oh.

*Ooops… forgot I hate any use of “mystery” as it relates to beer and drinking culture.

England’s Increasing Concern Over Beer Brewing, 1430s to 1580s

I have a thing for a beer I have never had. Double Double. As I understand it, this beer was made by recirculating perfectly good wort and rebrewing it through a new batch of malt. In the mid-1500s, it was a great bother for the nation, it even gets a mention in Shakespeare,* somewhat in open view. In 1560, Queen Elizabeth became directly involved as the supply of single beer was tightening.  She ordered that brewers should brew each week “as much syngyl as doble beare and more.” Hornsey discusses a 1575 letter from the Earl of Leicester discussing a trip he took with Elizabeth, a summary of which from another source is noted above. When she wanted refreshment, she found her ale was as strong as Malmsey, heavy sweet strong Madiera wine. Not pleased.**

In the article “The London Lobbies in the Later Sixteenth Century” by Ian Archer, published in 1988 in The Historical Journal the resulting legal restrictions on brewing double double within and near to London was discussed:

The parliamentary diarist Cromwell describes a bill in 1572 “restraining the bruing of double double ale or doble double beere within the Citie or iij miles thereof, and no beere to be sould above 4s. the barrel1 the strongest, and 2s. the single beere.”

Archer explains that the goal of the regulation of ‘double double’ beer was supposed to ensure that the most intoxicating and expensive of beverages were not available to the poor, while also limiting the consumption of grain. To that, we might also add the waste of wood. England in the mid and later 1500s was not only facing speculation in malt  was having a fuel crisis. Whole forests had been lost. Double double requires not only the loss of volumes of single ale and beer to the production process but also a second firing of fuel. The Common Council of the City of London had regulated double double for years before the statute of 1572 was considered. In 1575, as we can see above to the right, another general statute against the brewing of double double throughout all of England was before Parliament. Notice, too, that it was the brewing of both double double beer as well as double double ale that was being reined in by the law. The hopping of the beer in itself was not key to the question.

Beer brewers themselves were a bit suspect at this time. Strangers. Archer states that the Brewers’ Company was an unpopular group dominated by aliens and thought to be profiteering at the expense of the poor. As we saw a few weeks ago, “aliens” or “strangers” were foreign nationals who were subject to being recorded in a  form of census. Yet, of the 1400s mood one can state that “stranger beer brewers found the Crown to be an ally throughout the fifteenth century because of their ability to supply beer to the military.” We also remember that Henry VIII created a beer brewing complex in 1515 at Portsmouth to supply the needs of his navy. Prior to that, the English navy had to buy beer from a group of 12 brewers in London. Probably including many alien beer brewers.

The role of hopped beer in military victuals continued.  In 1547, the supplying of the Scottish town in England, Berwick, required a steady provision of beer by the tun. Likely in support of the army of Edward Seymour, maternal uncle of Edward VI, who upon the death of Henry VIII became Lord Protector. The expedition culminated in the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in which 8,000 Scots were killed to 250 English. All too reminiscent of the outcome of that 1513 misadventure at Flodden when 10,000 Scots died and the English leader Lord Howard noted:

The Scots had a large army, and much ordnance, and plenty of victuals. Would not have believed that their beer was so good, had it not been tasted and viewed “by our folks to their great refreshing,” who had nothing to drink but water for three days.

In a letter dated 29 January 1587, James Quarles, the surveyor general of victuals for the navy sets out his request to regularize the supply of provisions as England prepared to face the Spanish threat. He requests continued control of Her Majesty’s brewhouses, bakeshouses and storehouses and then sets the standard for a pottle of beer per seaman a day, at a price of 1 and 3/4 pence per day. Interestingly, he also notes that a tun of beer had increased in price by about 50% from the 1540s to the 1580s, from 18 shillings to 26 shillings 8 pence. As noted above, resources like fuel and malt were tightening.

While both the armies and navies of England depended on hopped beer, the civic beer brewers were not only suspect but, like the state run beer breweries of the later 1500s, they were busy. As we noted before, Kristen D. Burton in this 2013 article describes the scale of brewing being undertaken in the whole of the City of London during Tudor times:

The beer brewers of London established England’s capital city as the leading producer of beer throughout Europe by the end of the sixteenth century; a notable feat considering the late arrival of hopped beer to England. In 1574, London beer brewers produced 312,000 barrels of beer and by 1585 that had increased to 648,690 barrels…

Scale. So, it may be that beer brewing was more welcome or less of a concern to England in the middle of the 1400s than in the latter 1500s. Or perhaps it was too critical to the nation. This might go a bit against the existing narrative. Perhaps that is because it was first a fairly benign practice in harbour towns supplying the immigrant community. Hops being imported from the continent, just a few bales at a time as in 1480. One hundred years later, it has gone from being perhaps a local port town quirk to a key military asset to a danger to social order if let loose without controls on its supply, strength and price.

If that is all correct, one of the keys to the advancement of hopped ale was not consumer preference so much as military demand. Beer was stable where ale was transitory. Beer could be held on a ship or in preparation for a battle on the field. Ale needed constant production. It also needed rationing if that was the case. And Double Double, perhaps the sucker juice of its day, was no part of a rational rationing program.

Its last sighting was in Schenectady, New York in 1820 of all places and times.  A few weeks ago, Craig unpacked the history of the brewers of that beer. They were men in transit during the great push west, the brewing of a Double Double apparently also transitory. Will I ever have one? I expect so. Perhaps Jeff is right and we are ripe for the wheel turning again. A massively malty beer would be just about right for a return to garage punk band brewing, shrugging off this era of discontent, this time of disco brewing of Franken-beers as foreign to ale as Malmsey.

*Conversely, Shakespeare gives “good double beer” a fairly respectful mention in Henry VI, Part 2, Scene III care of that unforgettable character, the Third Neighbour: “And here’s a pot of good double beer, neighbour: drink, and fear not your man.” Also note that it is beer, not ale. The play is set in around the last half of the 1440s so very little beer going about, one would have thought. Perhaps an anachronism? Or maybe a coy cultural reference to something lost to time.
**Not a wine without an unblemished past in court circles.

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.