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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Your Thrilling Third Week Of February Thursday Beer News Update

A week tomorrow is March. I haven’t even bought my seeds for the garden! How edgy is that? What if I have to pick another sort of broad bean, something new to the market? March also means mud, college basketball and baseball spring training. I suppose it might also mean Bière de Mars if I could find any. I am sure will survive without it. Quite sure, especially compared to ending up with the wrong strain of broad beans. How the neighbours will laugh.

To begin this week’s new review, you know a hobby is well into its mature and not necessarily necessary stage of the life cycle when the news starts to sound like a Monty Python skit:

One of the oldest Lithuanian farmhouse ale yeast strains – sourced from famed brewer Aldona Udriene’s JOVARU Beer – is now available… “We’re ecstatic and fortunate that Aldona Udriene of Jovaru, known as the queen of Lithuanian farmhouse beer, is partnering with us…”

Sadly, no mention of our hero Lars whose work would have been unintentionally instrumental to the craft brewing world’s opportunity to mistreat this tradition. (Not to mention the website Craft Brewing Business which ran the story seems clearly to have poached their story’s photo from Lars.)

In other yeast news, sadly it turns out that the discovery of yeast from a bottle of beer found in a shipwreck was not quite a discovery:

It turns out, there’s more to the story. It turns out, there’s already beer made with that yeast. At Saint James Brewery in Holbrook, Long Island, owner-brewer Jamie Adams has for the past year or so been making use of yeast taken from bottles found in the wreck of the SS Oregon, which sank off Fire Island in 1886. Those beers have mixed the historic yeast with modern yeast.

Hmm… why blend yeasts like that? I’d still be interested in efforts at “a biotech lab at nearby SUNY Cobleskill to culture the yeast for modern use.” But that’s because I was marginally famous in that fabulous program for a glorious afternoon with Craig. Craig was more marginally famous than me. Obvs.

Next up, the chef-owners of Montreal’s celebrated restaurant Joe Beef, David McMillan and Fred Morin, published an exposé on their own past alcohol dependency in Bon Appétit magazine:

The community of people I surrounded myself with ate and drank like Vikings. It worked well in my twenties. It worked well in my thirties. It started to unravel when I was 40. I couldn’t shut it off. All of a sudden, there was no bottle of wine good enough for me. I’m drinking, like, literally the finest wines of the world. Foie gras is not exciting. Truffles are meh. I don’t want lobster; I had it yesterday. What am I looking for, eating and drinking like this every day?

Hmm… what would it take for craft beer to form a registered charity to have professional therapists assess brewery workers and then be able to send them either to therapy or to a rehabilitation center?

Help. I saw this tweet and was unclear of the implication other than to note that by way of some photoshopping a message on a t-shirt was removed from a image used by BrewDog. I am at a loss. Please help.

Conversely, some very blunt and largely (in my view) correct observations on the treatment of various problems in good beer these days and specifically responses to racism:

This level of outrage isn’t applied when the issue is racism or the person offended is black.  The idea that we should all sit around singing “Kumbaya” because someone hired a black face and instituted “sensitivity” training WITHOUT an apology or restitution is a dub.  People are looking for any reason to go back to publicly drinking their Founders products.

Wonderful line, full of importance: “If this was a difficult or emotional read, just imagine what it must have been like to write this piece, let alone live portions of its content.” Also consider this and this as well as this backgrounder from the author.

The entirely welcome death of “curate” as it relates to beer.

The English pub: clubhouses of cliques or open inviting spaces for all? Very good question with perhaps an honest answer which is “both”!

Next, Jay Brooks wrote his piece for #FlagshipFebruary and it was entirely enchanting – and it had nothing to do with the beer he selected to write about –   because it was really a short biography of his life with good beer:

I’m part of that dying breed of beer lovers whose first encounter with better beer predates the craft beer movement. I grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania, when it was a land of regional lagers and the occasional cream ale, but it took joining the military and being posted to New York City to open my eyes to beer’s diversity and endless possibilities. In those dark days — roughly 1978-1980 — it was the imported wonders of Bass Ale, Guinness, Pilsner Urquell, and many others that captivated both my imagination and my taste buds.

And, as a bonus, Jay adds this tidbit: “…[d]espite its success over the previous decade, it had still not remotely saturated the bar scene in the San Jose area…” The beer? Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. The modesty of the early success of SNPA contrasts with it’s later national fortunes. Very interesting. Better than the exercise in seemingly denying undeniabletruths.**

Now smaller.

Finally, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal issued an appellate ruling on a case brought by a craft brewery over the fees paid to the government to sell their beer:

Unfiltered applied to the Supreme Court for a declaration that the mark-up was an unlawful tax under s. 53 of the Constitution Act. The application judge found that the mark-up was a proprietary charge and, therefore, not an unlawful tax.

The key word? “Proprietary”! What the ruling really says is that brewers make the beer under license, then it is deemed to be owned by the government for sale by the brewer as agent for the government. It’s called a liquor control board for a reason. And notice this at paragraph 58:

Unfiltered argues that it receives nothing for the mark-up which it pays to
the NSLC. With respect, I disagree. Unfiltered has the ability to sell beer in this province. Without the licenses and permits issued by the NSLC and compliance with them it could not do so.

Boom!! Consider the license to replicate someone else’s created music via CD or Spotify, you are using someone else’s property. In this case, its the same except we are dealing with the proprietary right to convert fermentables to alcohol. Fabulous. As you all know, I wrote a chapter in 2007’s Beer and Philosophy: The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking entitled “Beer and Autonomy” in which I explored in summary how government intersected with alcohol. I wish I had this ruling to work with when I put that chapter together as it gets to the nub of the matter clearly and, obviously, with authority. 

Enough! Check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday if you want more sensible insights on the world of beer. Soon… March!***

*physically.
**perhaps mentally.
***#MoneyMakerMarch!

 

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.

 

That Time In 1986 When Mr. Jackson Came To Albany

This is an interesting notice in the October 31, 1986 edition of the Times Union from Albany, New York under the heading “Newman’s Brews Beer Tasting”:

English beer authority Michael Jackson will visit Albany Nov. 4 to conduct “The Quintessential Beer Tasting,” at 8 p.m. at the Century House in Latham. The international beer tasting, sponsored by Albany’s Newman Brewing Company, will be open to the public. Jackson, known as “The Bard of Beer” and author of “The World Guide to Beer,” has been called the world’s best authority on beer. He has led beer tastings at Harrods in London and the Pierre Hotel in New York City. For the Albany show, he will lead a guided tour through a selection of 13 international beers. Tickets at $6 per person are available through Newman’s Brewery at 465- 8501 and at the door.

What is really fun about the item is that a few days later, on 5 November 1986, a report on the event written by Fred LeBrun was published in the same paper under the headline “Beer Guru Salutes Newman’s” which I need to reproduce in full to properly undertake a review of the implications:

The real Michael Jackson came to Albany yesterday. Downtown was snoring because it was Election Day, so he did what he frequently does when he’s on the road anyway. He had a well-thought-out Newman’s Albany Amber Ale at Ogden’s. Now Ogden’s, a reasonably serious restaurant, is not a bistro that would first come to mind for a casual beer. But then the real Michael Jackson is not a casual beer drinker.

It should be noted about here that this real Michael Jackson rarely sleeps in an oxygen tent, at least by choice, nor is he likely to be caught fondling a Pepsi. He did wear a sequined glove for a while as a goof, but grew tired of it in a couple of hours. This real Michael Jackson is 44, bearded, a touch pudgy, tweedy and scholarly, wears glasses and speaks with a pleasant, all-purpose British accent. He is also the world’s most respected authority on beer. His “The World Guide to Beer” of a decade ago is still the definitive text on the subject, and his newly published “Simon and Schuster Pocket Guide to Beer” will do still more to educate a world awakening to the great variety and styles of beers and ales available, using much the same critical language in the past reserved for fine wines. From Adelaide to Nairobi to Anchor Steam country out in San Francisco, wherever beer and ale is brewed, this Michael Jackson is The Word.

He was in Albany on a pilgrimage of sorts, paying respects to one of his favorite American alemakers, William Newman, and sampling a fresh batch of Newman’s Winter Ale, due out for the general public in a couple of weeks. A few months ago, when Jackson was interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times, he listed Newman’s Winter Ale as one of his five favorite American beers. Anchor Steam, for the record, remains his favorite.

For Albany, in its Tricentenniel year, Jackson’s visit offers a double dose of irony. Albany, and the Capital District in general, was once a brewing center of the United States, according to Jackson, along with Philadelphia. At one time, there were breweries in practically every Albany neighborhood, brewing a variety of styles – 18 at one point. But when the Newmans, William and Marie, opened their microbrewery five years ago exactly, there wasn’t a single brewery left in town. Schaefer, the last major brewery, was newly gone, and shortly before that Hedrick’s, owned by Albany County Democratic Chairman Dan O’Connell, and Fitzgerald across the river.

Yet in the five years since, the Newmans has struggled mightily to carve out a steady little market for itself with deep, full-flavored, hoppy ales sold in kegs and jury-rigged take- home containers. They have fought against the biggies, which in this market is Genesee, and Miller, and the ever-present Budweiser, and recently a hot run by Stroh’s. They have eked out standing in this crowd. Now Albany Amber Beer is available in bottles, created to Bill Newman’s fussy specs by the Schmidt’s Brewery in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the active center of new breweries in America has moved to the West Coast, notably Oregon and Washington State.

Out there, the Newmans are positively venerated, idolized, for what they’ve done. They were the first on the East Coast to create a new-style baby brewery offering traditional beers and ales of great character. Now there’s Samuel Adams in Boston, and New Amsterdam and Royal Amber in New York and dozens more. “Newman’s has never had the credit it deserves,” writes Jackson in his newest guide. “Its misfortune is to be in Albany, which may be the state capital but is an unimaginable distance – about 140 miles – from downtown Manhattan.” Prophets in their own land.

Jackson strongly recommended making the trek up the Hudson to sample draft Newman’s, much better than the bottled stuff. Good news for Jackson’s next book, as far as the Newmans are concerned, was his delight with the soon- to-be-released Winter Ale, an ale Bill Newman varies each time it comes out. “It has a very rich aroma, with a lot of fruitiness to the palate,” Jackson said Tuesday, referring to a little notebook he always keeps with him. The Word has spoken.

Craig mentioned a Jackson visit in our 2014 book, Upper Hudson Valley Beer. A photo caption states that Michael Jackson, in the middle sporting his Jeff Lynne lid, said on a 1985 visit: [i]f Newman succeeds in his heroic venture, he will undoubtedly inspire many others.” Newman is the guy in the necktie. As we told the tale, Newman spent three months in 1979 under the tutelage of the father of the British independent brewery movement, Peter Austin, at his Ringwood Brewery in Hampshire England. With Austin, Newman received a crash-course in all things brewing, and toured many of the countries breweries—both big and small. He returned to Albany with plans for his own version of Austin’s 10-barrel, open fermenting brewing system and, within a year, was brewing Newman’s Albany Amber as the 1980s were hitting their stride. 

Look what the LeBrun article notes. Jackson knew in the mid-80s that Albany had been one of the great brewing centres. As Craig has learned, that was forgotten history locally.  And Newman’s wasn’t just early, it was good if Jackson’s word the Winter Ale was worth anything. There is an implication that the west coast had passed an earlier east coast prominence in micro brewing – not part of the triumphalism of today but, as we know, history gets forgotten. And Newman was considered their forebearer.

In December 2015, Gary wrote about his own trips in the 1980s from Montreal south to visit Newman’s. It makes for a great companion piece. It was all over soon. On 15 August 1987, it was reported in the Knickerbocker News that Newman’s had filed for bankruptcy and, while it would live on as a contract brewed beer for a few more years, the brewing era was over.