Apparently The Beer News Heats Up When We Reach Mid-February

Happy Valentine Day. Or is it Valentine’s Day? Never sure. Me, I grew up in a florist’s household and, as a young lad, was a Netherlands-trained wholesale florist myself. So, I pretty much have burned the entire thing out of my consciousness. Watching people line up to pay $80 bucks for roses when $25 worth of fresh red tulips was the smart move gets depressing. You worried about the big macro industrial beer trade? Worry about the big macro industrial rose trade. Just sayin’.

In other VD related news, thankfully the “what beer to pair with chocolate!” story and the “how to confront your date with beer on your big day!” story seem to have both mercifully gone away. Did you see as many? It feels like something grew up, like watching your teen finally eat a damn green bean. Time to get back to a more honest, wholesome approach. Hmm… stuffed haddock imperial sounds pretty good, actually. Thanks Pam!

Other than that, as I mention above there is plenty of heat in the real news left in the last few weeks of winter. For starters, Jeff shares the news that Portland, Oregon’s seemingly perhaps formerly beloved BridgePort Brewing has shut after 35 years:

This will hurt the soul of many Portlanders. Even if BridgePort wasn’t locally owned, even if it wasn’t making interesting beer, and even if the pub had been turned into a wannabe Chili’s, it was still the oldest and perhaps most important brewery in the state. Exactly 20 years ago, we lost a monument to Oregon beer when Miller shut down the old Henry Weinhard brewery that anchored downtown. We will lose the most important remaining emblem of our brewing history when BridgePort shutters its doors thirteen blocks north of Weinhard’s.

Keep in mind one thing. This and the other closures being reported in 2019 are occurring in an economic upturn.  What will happen if the economy starts to actually wobble?

If that sort of prospect weren’t bad enough, Robin rightly blew a gasket (as did many many others) over an entirely unnecessary but utterly sexist and creepy story run in the Great Lakes Brewing News:

This post isn’t going to talk too much about beer, but it’s something related to the beer world. Primarily one of the many things wrong with it in regards to its treatment of women. No no, this isn’t going to be talking about a sexist label or a really bad PR gaffe in which a rape joke was made. This is a special kind of trainwreck.

In response, the author/editor/publisher indicated that it was all a one off satire. Problem is… there was nothing satirical about it. Also, as I was able to show via a couple of tweets, the GLBN has had a long standing habit of publishing the author/editor/publisher’s pervy creepy personal fiction for over a decade. Breweries (including Fat Head’s which has supported with advertising for years) have now begun abandoning the publication. Nice to see, by the way, someone turning the stupid immortal Calagione statement that the craft brewing industry is “99% a**hole-free” back on itself. 99% asleep at the wheel on such matters might make for more accurate math. More here at a Wednesday round up in Detroit’s MetroTimes.

Entirely to the opposite and building on his Beer 101 webcasts that mentioned last December, Garrett Oliver proved again why he is the leading spokesperson for good beer in North America when he strode upon the small screen on US broadcast morning show LIVE with Kelly and Ryan under the FeBREWary banner:

Look alive, peeps! In the green room about to appear on @LiveKellyRyan. We’re going to improve your Monday! In the meantime, the chocolate chip cookies in the green room are pretty good. The life of the modern brewmaster is a strange thing….

Discussing good beer with the authority the O.G.G.O. brings is a rare thing indeed. Placing it on a normal everyday national forum like that was almost a shock. Here is the four minute segment.

In other good news, Anchor Brewing is thriving and going union!

There are approximately 70 full- and part-time employees in the bargaining unit, spread across the Anchor’s production facility in the Potrero Hill neighborhood and its taproom, Anchor Public Taps, across the street. The brewery employs approximately 160 people total, including white-collar workers…

Video of the week: drunken horse riding in England in 1972.

Floorboard story of the week: early 1900s Danes hid brewing archives under them.

A drinks man,  the roaring boy has left us.

Graham Dineley* has posted something of a personal history of coming to beer which entirely parallels mine – 1980s home brewing along with Dave Line’s books:

My first Baby Burco on the left, on it’s third element, is now relegated to heating sparge water. In the middle is my last remaining beer sphere, Peco mash tun and demi-johns. Inside the blue sleeping bags there is 10 gallons of beer in the final stages of primary fermentation. I bought my ingredients from Hillgate Brewing Supplies in Stockport, the shop mentioned by Boak and Bailey. It must have been just after the shop had changed hands from Pollard. The man running it was John Hoskins, if my memory serves me right. I would phone in an order: “Two of page 88 please” and pick it up the next day. He would make up recipes from David Line’s “Brewing Beers Like Those You Buy”, which was a boon for a novice brewer without any scales.

A Burco! We had a home brew shop owner in Halifax that would lend out Burcos for free like a beery private librarian when you bought your malt and hops. Fabulous. And a completely different route into good beer than the authorized version would let you believe.

Speaking of rambles down the unilateral memory lane, I might be coming around a bit more to #FlagshipFebruary even if the month is long and, frankly, chores are being missed.** It’s a good measure of which memories are considered important to some – naturally I suppose given the model includes allocation of stories through the assignments. Not everyone gets to choose Sam Adams, for example. So what has week two given us? I hand’t paid much attention to  New Zealand’s Epic Ale which seems to be a clone of a mid-2000s C-hop brew. Good for the Kiwis getting a day. I’ve like most New Zealanders I’ve met. Similarly, Evan wrote glowingly on Samichlaus which is a beer I regularly pass when shopping. Racing to be the strongest beer was like being the hoppiest – a bit of a genetic dead end in good beer but still Samichlaus hangs on. Having passed between breweries, it’s a flagship in the sense that war prizes can stock a naval fleet.*** Two more weeks to go. Crickey. No suspense that SNPA will be the last one reviewed, right? Bet it gets ripped. No? You’re probably right.

Well, that’s enough for now. After last week’s update Maureen gave high praise. I am simply grateful that somebody reads this stuff. It’s all just talon sharpening for my real world life. Well… and temper tempering I suppose. Best not to ask my inner voice too many questions. Unlike Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday whose more cogent thoughts should set you off in all sorts of new directions. Two weeks to March! What will March stand for? What will be it’s new hashtag? We’ll have to think about that.

*Yes, indeed.
**Nothing tells you there is a bit of confusion more than GBH insisting there should not be confusion and that he/they/it are confused by it. If people only understood how smart they were they’d get over all the weirdness.
***Whose navy indeed!

 

Your Thursday Beer News Notes For The Week Winter Showed Up

I should not complain about having to shovel snow on the 20th of January when its the first real snow of the winter. It’s not that tough a life. Five weeks to March today means it won’t be all that bad from here on out. What effect has this on my beer consumption? Not so much in volume but now is the time when a pint of stout and port is added to any sensible diet. I say “a” pint with care given the concoction should be somewhere in the area of 10% alc. Yowza. But when does great reward comes without some risk?

Not long after last week’s deadline for news submissions, Ed tweeted that he had “[j]ust been sent an excellent article on rice malt beer 😉” The study describes the potential of rice for brewing and sets out an optimized malting program allowed water saving.  Which is cool. But it is also cool that it is about the use of rice which, except for corn, is the most hated of fermentables. This is despite the fact that rice beer came to Canada about 93 years ago – well after it was brewed in the U. S. of A. – a fact which has been fabulously preserved for us all in the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the case The King v. Carling Export Brewing & Malting Co. Ltd., [1930] S.C.R. 361 at page 373 about the production of beer during the era of US prohibition:

I do not think we can accept the suggestion that there was no market for lager beer in Ontario. The learned trial judge dwells upon the fact that rice beer is peculiarly an American taste, and infers that it is not sold in Ontario. The evidence in support of this does not proceed from disinterested sources and I wonder whether the boundary line so sharply affects the taste in illicit liquor. In truth, it is stated by Low that it was not until some time in 1926 that the respondents began the manufacture of rice beer, and we are not told at what date, if ever, in their brewery, rice beer wholly superseded malt beer.*

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we stopped calling it “American-style lager” and just called it rice beer… or corn beer as the case may be? Will it take another century to pass for good beer to admit this fundamental reality of North American brewing culture?

Beer at the Post Office? Thanks Vlad!

I am still not sure what to make of #FlagshipFebruary.** Like a lot of you, I have been making up alternative hashtags like #GoldenOldieAles, #FlogshipFebruary and #PartyLikeIts1999. But it’s earnestly offered and, you know, as long as there isn’t a secret spreadsheet being sent around to members of the good beer PR-consulto class prearranging who are going to each write about this or that fabulous flagship as a way to artificially drum up interest and maybe future paying PR gigs, I think we might actually come away with a reasonably good taste in our mouths.

It reminds me a lot of by far the most successful of such hashtags, #IPADay created in 2011 by this blog’s friend Ashley Routson aka The Beer Wench.*** But (and this was not really the case in 2001 so laugh not) I would argue was easier to determine what an IPA was in 2011 than figure out what “flagship” mean today. As I am l not clear what a flagship really is, I asked some questions like if the Toronto brewery Left Field consider their oatmeal brown Eephus (1) their foundation (2) their flagship (3) both or (4) neither. They wrote:

We’d be comfortable calling it a foundational beer. We don’t really refer to any beer in the lineup as a flagship. Along with a few others, it’s one of our year-round offerings.

Seefoundational does not (usually) mean flagship. More evidence? Consider this September 1990-ish beer column on the state of affairs in Lake Ontario land. It mentions the venerable and largely forgotten Great Lakes Lager. Foundation? Sure. Not the flagship. That’s now Canuck Pale Ale. You know, flagship might also even be a slightly dirty word in the trade. A tough row to hoe for the industry marketers behind this scheme. But hope lives on eternally in such matters as we learned from the new CEO of Sierra Nevada who, faced with the task of turning things around for the musty ales of yore, stated:

…he’s bullish on Sierra Nevada’s prospects heading in 2019 and he’s projecting 5 percent growth. He believes that advertising will help turn around Pale Ale’s negative trajectory, and that continued growth for Hazy Little Thing, combined with increased focus on Hop Bullet and Sierraveza, will propel the company forward this year.

Advertising! How unlike beer macro industrial crap marketeers!! If that is the case, me, I am launching #FoundationAlesFriday come March to get my bit of the action. Join my thrilling pre-movement now.

Beer so horrible that it can’t really be called beer is rising in popularity in Japan as sales of the real stuff and the semi-real stuff drops.

Elsewhere, I tweeted this in response to the wonderful Dr. J and I quite like it:

Well, the multiplication of “style” to mean just variation leads to a dubious construct that bears little connection to original intent and leaves beer drinkers more and more bewildered when facing the value proposition of fleetingly available brands however well made.

Let’s let that sit there for a second. Fair?

Send a furloughed US Federal employee a beer. Or help with some unplanned bridge financing for an out of luck new brewery.

Even elsewhere-ier, Matt Curtis is to be praised and corrected this week. Corrected only in the respect that he wrote the utterly incorrect “in true journalistic style I was too polite to say” in his otherwise fabulous piece**** on what it was like going booze free for three weeks:

As I walked down Shoreditch High Street on my way to an event from the British Guild of Beer Writers showcasing alcohol free beers I passed some of my favourite bars and restaurants. I found myself pining to sit within them, simply to soak up the atmosphere. In that moment I felt that merely the sound of conversation and conviviality would sate my urge to drink more than any can or bottle of low alcohol vegetable water that has the indecency to call itself beer.

Lovely stuff.

Note: an excellent lesson in what it means to understand beer.  “It’s what [XYZ] told me…” is never going to serve as reliable research. Just ask, beer writers! Ask!!! Conversely, this article in The Growler serves as an excellent introduction to the 18 month rise of kveik on the pop culture commercial craft scene. I say pop culture commercial craft as it has been around the actual craft scene for a number of hundreds of years. Much more here from Lars.

How’s that? Enough for now? Winter getting you down? Remember: things could be worse. I think so. Don’t forget to read Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday if you want to stay on top of things. Perhaps he will update the impending contiguous v. non-contiguous acreage rumble we’ll all be talking about in a few weeks.

*Buy Ontario Beer for more fabulous facts like this!
**Though I do like the concept of the pre-movement.
***Note: I make no comment on the wide variety of beer “wenches” or “nuts”… or “foxes” or “man” or any such other monikers. At least they don’t claim to be an expert.
****The current edition of Boak and Bailey emailed newsletter contained this bit on Matt’s experiment: “…it all seemed pretty reasonable to us. But even if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be any of our business. We did wince to see people in the business of beer berating him for his decision, and winced even more deeply when we saw people nagging at him to break his resolution.” I agree that this is sad and, I would add, smacks of the nags shouldering the alky’s burden themselves.

 

Your Beery News For A Holiday Thursday With Plenty Of Jingoism Stats And Other Fibs

There. Vacation. That’s better. Not vacating. Stay-cating. Hopefully play-catin’ but there are chores that have been deferred. Weed-cation. A trippy jaunt to the hardware store to check out bathroom faucet repair options. Others in beer have been thinking about a bigger world of beer this week, far bigger than any I expect to see. I’ll be lucky to see the back lawn with all the work I’ve left myself. Let’s see what’s being said.

First, a sad loss of someone who made sure folk got out and about for all the best reasons. Jeff posted an excellent remembrance of Chris “Podge” Pollard, the beerman who did as much as anyone to teach Brits about Belgian beer in the best way possible – by getting them in country, on the ground and through the front door:

His guidebooks were wonderfully well-researched and a great insight into the cities he chose. Most of all, he was just a good lad.

Ed posted some interesting thoughts on the far more generic use of national descriptors for beer styles when confronted by friends from outside the beer bubble:

I had to explain that in the world of beer the name of a country is often used as a flavour descriptor, not a statement about where the beer is made. “American” means made with citrussy hops, “Belgian” with phenolic yeast, and in the case of “New Zealand” it’s the hop flavour again. It hadn’t occurred to me until I saw their confusion that this might be considered slightly odd. 

I suppose I am more of a regionalist than a nationalist when it comes to these things. Not that they are meaningless but, as The Tand shows, the hallmark of a sort of beer can be quite local. I suppose the point is we need to remember these things are code.

You know, statistical triumphalism is a bit odd but the source is fairly normal summary stuff:

Domestic beer used to make up 87.7% of total consumption in the US, and it fell to 67.6% in 2017. Foreign and craft beers together made up just 12.3% of US consumption in 2000, and has now increased to 32.4%. US consumers are trending away from abundantly available domestic brews and are reaching for foreign imports instead. Instead of Budweiser, Heineken and Coors, people are choosing Corona, Modelo and Dos Equis. 

It’s interesting from the point of view that in the 1980s microbrewing was not always so welcoming and even antagonistic to imports. In a December 20, 1987 article in the Syracuse Herald American, we read:

Kirin has “all the flavor of a European import, without the bite,” Palmer said. But F.X. Matt II, who heads the F.X. Matt Brewing Co. in Utica, calls Kirin “bland and undistinguished. When you’re as big as Kirin, you’re interested in making a beer that offends no one and is bland,” Matt said.

In a June 1987 article in the Syracuse Post-Standard, Kevin Townsend of the still operating Buffalo Brew Pub was interviewed and put it this way:

Townsell’s Buffalo Brew Pub is one of about two dozen tiny brewery pubs in the country, most of which are on the West Coast. But as the demand for quality beer grows, the number of brew pubs is increasing. “`One hundred years ago, we had breweries in every city and town, with local delivery,” said Bud Lang, editor of Anaheim, Calif.-based All About Beer magazine. “Now we have a few huge breweries and 18 wheelers delivering beer nationwide.” Townsell’s 1,500-gallon monthly production makes his the only brewery in a region that was once the nation’s fourth-largest beer producer. Between 1811 and 1972, 350 breweries opened, operated and closed around Buffalo. “Beer lovers, home brewers, any first-generation Europeans are attracted because what we say we’re going to offer is a fine, quality, full-bodied product, which is similar to an English or a German product than it is to any American mass-produced beer,” Townsell said.

Like nationalism, pointing at stats misses the point. Is your beer delivered by 18 wheeler? A lot of craft is now. Is it bland and undistinguished? The vast bulk of beer being made ticks that box. Whether it comes from across the nation, from another country or in the neighbourhood – isn’t it only about if you like the stuff in your glass? Wasn’t that the point of micro and then craft? Frankly, the statement “instead of Budweiser, Heineken and Coors, people are choosing Corona” is about as mind-numbingly pointless as they come. And, of course, being the fanboy of “elsewhere” or “craft” for that matter usually means you are not noticing the realities, even the ugly.

Thoughts from Canadian wine writer David Lawrason might be related:

The more educated we become however the more we want different flavours, styles, places, stories and grapes. And this is what the next generation is bringing to the discussion and eventually, I think, to the marketplace.  We longer term (senior) writers may tend to pigeon-hole the next gen of natural and orange wine advocates as hipsters making political and personal statements, but in fact – as in anything – there are those who genuinely care and those who have jumped on the band wagon. Many people do thirst after meaning in wine. They are bored with replication and homogeny and are searching for difference and authenticity.

What are people searching for anyway. The Beer Nut linked to a story that reminds us that, for most, the world is not all that different from 1987. In the particular, the Irish don’t care much for anything but a “normal” pint glass:

The 20-ounce serving remains “the barometer for value”, he says. “What’s the price of a pint? It’s how people equate it. The beer culture that we’ve tried to establish … when you’ve a 10-percent beer you’re not going to charge people €14 for a pint of it. Generally, the cost of Irish beers isn’t an issue, said Conwell. “Most of them would be reasonably priced. Foreign imports are usually the ones that hit you in the pocket, hence the smaller serving size.”

Hmm… more problematic foreign stuff. I better leave it there and go have a coffee… from Central America. At least it’s fair trade and rain forest  grown. Because that’s what the label says, right. Hmm… And while you are scratching your head along with me, don’t forget that B+B has more news on Saturday just like Stan does each Monday.