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.

 

Merry Christmas Beer News Updates Everyone!

This is going to be great. A weekly news update laced with the holiday spirit. Everything is going to be wonderful and swell. The one and only problem seems to be that I seem to have some sort of new sys admin tool on the bloggy app of mine so bear with me if this all ends up looking like a dog’s dinner* or… thinking of this season of Yule… the day after Christmas dinner with distant cousins!  Footnotes and embedded images seems to be a hassle. Fabulous.**

Anyway, the first gift I offer is the photo of the week above, found on Twitter under the heading “Matchbox Covers Depicting Drunk Cats by Artists Arna Miller and Ravi Zupa.” Cats have always struck me as a struggling species. You can find more images of beer loving hardly coping cats with serious drinking issues by Miller and Zupe here.

Next up, the new government of Ontario has its own gift for us all – a plan to distract us all from the important business of the day to ask us how liquor retailing should be changed! Wow!! The survey even comes with a dumb name, “Alcohol choice and convenience for the people”… which has everyone wondering when the same survey is going to be rolled out for, you know, squirrels and chipmunks.  Or drunken barely coping cats. Fill it out if you like. Even you! Apparently  they are interested in views from beyond Ontario, given that is one of the possible responses. Thanks for skewing the responses to my detriment.

I like this video of Garrett Oliver plunked on YouTube by Epicurious magazine. He demonstrates a wonderful ease with explaining beer. It is unfortunately presented in a way that suggests it’s macro v. micro. I’d prefer some crap craft bashing. He also talks about relative value – but presents some some odd arguments. No, a craft IPA does not cost $4 rather than $1 because of the hops. And a good German malty beer is not double the price of a poor one due to the cost of the malt. There is much more to price and, yes,  not all as easy to explain – but his general argument that good costs more is there and welcomingly well presented. 

Jeff has unpacked how Beervana pays its way:

A little less than two years ago, I began running an experiment here when I took on Guinness as a sponsor. In July, we signed a contract for a third year of sponsorship, which will run through June 2019. This is a slightly different model than the subscriptions Josh describes, but the upshot is the same: the idea was to find a partner who saw value in the site and wanted to reach my very specific, engaged readers.

This is good. Open and honest. And we few remaining actual bloggers need to support each other, knowing how hard it is to make a buck writing one of these things… or just finding the time or accessing the resources you want for the research you want to do. Not unrelated: self-inflicted expertise extrapolation? Heavens to Betsy! Let the man think out loud.

Speaking of supporting our fellow bloggers, Robin ran into Canada’s newest jam blogger in the market the other day. He’s very keen on new content creation

The British Guild of Beer Writers has published a list of the best beer books of 2018. The trouble is it seems to be a list of all the beer books published by guild members from 2018. There’s twenty-six books listed, some of which were published years ago – even under other titles. Decisive selection. The best book of the year is not included. 

Conversely, Max in a single not necessarily beautiful image posted on Facebook has told a thousand words… and then added a few words: “…’twas good. ’twas very good, and the second one too. Pivovar Clock Hector at Pivni Zastavka…” The only thing that defies scientific knowledge is how the glass shows multiple lacy rings, each matching a gulp while we all expect that he downed it in one go.

It is an important observation on how useless the US Brewers Association’s definition of “craft brewer” has gotten that it acts as filler for the weekly update only after I have hit 750 words. Jeff notes how it is now entirely related to accommodating one non-craft brewer. Wag that I am, I retorted *** that it no longer requires a brewer to actually brew very much beer.  There. That’s all it means. 

Related: an honest man in Trumps new America or the root of the problem?

This week, Merryn (i) learned not to want to be a medieval farmer and (ii) linked to a 2013 web-based data presentation about Viking brew houses which I am linking to here for future Newfoundland reference but it’s totally today…  so there you go.

Finally, how about some law? This speaks nothing to the people or the business involved but I have no idea how I might determining whether to consider sending string-free cash to a cause like this one:

We know that the decision to invest your hard-earned money is not to be taken lightly, no matter how big or small your contribution may be. We would gratefully use the funds to assist with legal fees, as we continue to protect ourselves, our name, our businesses, and our team. We are looking for and in need of building a legal fund that will provide for our past, present and future legal demands, as a rapidly growing grassroots craft beer franchise system. 

The legal issue appears to be mainly legal dispute with their franchiees. I have no idea who is right and who is wrong. Craft makes it extra blurry. Having advised upon franchise agreements in my past private practice, I would not want to suggest where the right sits. Often in the middle.

Relatedly perhaps, Lew asked about unionization and proper wages for craft brewery workers and got an ear full on Facebook.

Well, on that cheery legal note, I will leave you for now with Jay Brooks description of how “T’was The Night Before Christmas” is really about beer. And, please dip into the archives to remind yourselves of Christmas Photo Contests past. Ah, beer blogging. Remember how fun that was? Until then, Boak and Bailey have more news on Saturday and, the Great Old Elf himself, Stan has more news on Christmas Eve. Ho. Ho. Ho. 

*where is the basic HMTL editor I knew and loved? I can’t even indent this footnote or make the asterisk a larger font than the text. What sort of animals are running WordPress??? Hmm…
**There. Killed if all by installing a “classic editor” widget.
***Yes, retorted.

Your Days Dwindling Down To A Precious Few Beery News Notes

Well, it sure is getting quiet out there. I put off gathering together my thoughts until Wednesday night and, still, it felt like I’d only posted the last weekly update the day before. Christmas is a-comin’. Right off, however, I need to show you the photo of the week. To the right, tweeted out by Joe of @whatjoewrote after he wrote “making a sacred pilgrimage to a golden place today.” I love a lot about the image but probably the best is that Orval font.

Next up, Stan is finally back. Free loader Stan. Stan the travelin’ man. Stan the guy who drifts into work at 10:45 am saying wide-eyed “what? whataaa?!?” to the questioning stares.  His final roundup for The Session begs the question of why we don’t have one mega-blog and pay him to edit. Why?

Quere: if two contract brewers merge in the forest, does anybody hear?

Nothing says Yuletide like bankruptcy law news. Turns out DME, the eastern Canadian brewing equipment manufacturer, is now confirmed to be $27 million in debt of which $18 million is owed to the Royal Bank of Canada:

The entire list names more than 700 creditors between DME’s operations in Charlottetown and Abbotsford, B.C. The creditors list includes companies from around the world, along with individuals and government agencies. More than 50 of the companies owed money are on P.E.I., along with approximately 140 people with Island addresses… Around $1 million of that is listed as being owed to P.E.I. companies. However, nearly half of the companies and individuals named in the creditors document don’t have dollar amounts listed. Those numbers still have to be determined. The final amount DME owes could change.

So far, as I mentioned last week, these are old stomping grounds and I know the receiver’s lawyer and the judge, now have fed the press backstage and even recommended counsel to international interests. And I am not even involved. Here is the list of the additional unsecured creditors. Their own lawyers are owed around $435,000. Wow. Note that the Indie Alehouse deposit is there but without a noted value. The Toronto Star reported it as being worth $800,000. Many other breweries with deposits are all there but also without a noted value. Sift the clues. Go ahead.

Responding to the news from two weeks ago that Norm was  moving away from beer, Jason Notte has posted a thread of tweets that shares his views on the affect of alcohol on the health of writers, including this one:

A few years ago, the great told me something I wasn’t ready to hear: Craft beer isn’t a trend story and beer consumption isn’t just an industry. When you see rising beer consumption and “drunkest states” listicles, there’s some hurt behind those numbers.

It’s true. You might not like it but it is true. Along those lines, perhaps in miniature, Boak and Bailey recorded a brief conversation overheard in a UK pub:

“My plan is to get back to the office after lunch absolutely hammered.”
“Blimey, careful, mate.”
“Nah, it’s fine — it’s December!”

Yikes. Yik even. To make us all feel as we should – distracted – Mark Dredge has posted some fabulous photos from Vietnam. Fabulous.

A bit less fabulously, I don’t particularly have that particular hate on for “listicles” that those never asked to write one have but this one works for me, 25 from Fortune magazine. It expressly contextualizes the selection well and also notes price. Happy to see that the Ontario’s price for #2 is 50% of what is suggested by the list. I will have my fill over the next few weeks. Ha ha! Sucks to sucks if you don’t live here.

If your brain is like mine, you might like this. Issue #163 of Brewery History has been released from behind its paywall for everyone to enjoy. The article on 15th century brewing in England is of particular interest to me but there are a range of articles to explore.

I came upon this article, no doubt funded by shadowy interests*, that argues that US tariffs on aluminum have led to an increase in reliance on US made beer cans:

President Donald Trump’s aluminum tariff won’t make beer taste better, but it’s succeeded in boosting the economy, according to a report published on Dec. 11 by the Economic Policy Institute. The research argues that tariffs imposed on aluminum and steel have led to increases in U.S. employment, production and investment.

Finally, in his big comeback** Stan did note something I myself should also address:

Boak & Bailey recently explained how they choose what to put in their Saturday lineup. In the interest of transparency, my rules are pretty arbitrary. I include links here to stories I think you should enjoy reading, either because the writing is terrific or the ideas within merit thinking about, or both. I also include links to stories I simply want to comment on.

Me?  I don’t really think of you. I think of the news as something that develops and needs tracking. Beer news needs its own aggregation. So I keep graphs. I make tables. I smoke a pack and then smoke another as Wednesday night turns into Thursday morning. I am even thinking about how Putin and Xi have minions and how once one maybe stumbled across my social medial presence. I know I am being watched. Help! No?  Look, I realize this is mid-December filler but if you think about it from my perspective, well, maybe it will make a little sense. Just a little?

That being said, there is only one more roundup before Christmas and two before this year is dead. Dead dead dead. Let’s think about that a bit before we get pounded at lunch, shall we?  A good time to reflect on things. Things like pasting together a weekly charade of a commentary on the brewing industry. Things like concerning myself more with the roasts to come rather than the giving one ought to give.

Enough from me! B+B on Saturday and Stan next Monday.

*Note: “The EPI advocates for policies favorable for low- to moderate-income families in the United States.
**What? You want every footnote to mean something?

Your Ontario Election Day Good Beer Blog Thursday News

Wow. We are here finally. Just a few weeks ago we got our first campaign photo of a leadership candidate pouring a beer. The best thing is there is a  chance that someone who got the second most votes to become the leader of his party will go on to lead that party to the second most votes to lead that party to election victory to become Premier of Ontario* for the next four years. See how nice and accommodating we Canadians are?** Actually, just with a good night in a pub, it is all about seat distribution. All so excellent. I trust by this time next week I am not an involuntary freelancer as a result.

Midday Update: I must have lost my marbles during the hazy dilerium brought on by that anthem to the province as I have forgotten to mention not only that you will need to check out Boak and Bailey’s pépites des actualités on Saturday but also failed to recognize Stan’s (i) return to the Northern Hemisphere but also (ii) his return to the Monday beer news correspondent’s desk.

Such confusing times. Confusion is all about the news these days. Did you know that in New Brunswick Moose Drool beer has to be called Moo Drool beer? Did you know, as my fellow Esq. reports, that the Oakland Athletics are legally objecting to a craft brewer of sorts for misuse of the word “athletic”? My main issue in the latter one is how you cannot have no-alcohol craft beer. It’s an impossibility to impose that technique and remain true to anything resembling a traditional process. Much more ominously, a careful eye has noted that a craft brewer in England has adopted reasonably identifiable fascist imagery and name branding. Denials ensued – but how thick are folk?

In a more tangled pit of legalese, we learn of this story coming out of a court process in North Carolina:

A lawsuit brought by Charlotte’s largest craft brewers has uncovered illegal activity amid efforts to overturn North Carolina’s self-distribution laws, according to an attorney representing them. Initial discovery exposed a “secret agreement” between Anheuser-Busch and distributor R.A. Jeffreys that gives sales of those beers priority over all other products — illegal under a 1989 state law, says Drew Erteschik, co-counsel for The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, NoDa Brewing Co. and the Craft Freedom initiative. 

I love secret deals in that you often find if you do a little research they were actually reasonably discoverable at the time… BUT THE POINT STAYS THE SAME NOW!!! Secret anti-craft factions lining up against us all. How will craft survive… err, maintain its place… err, resist massive continuing expansion?

Sad wine news from Nova Scotia as frost in June hammers the grape crop.

Speaking of craft expansion, Evil Twin Brewing has called out the hidden shadowy practice of private equity’s grasp upon the ankles of craft beer, including this in lamentation to a voice speaking for the cause of money – a dirge to what is and what should never be. Oddly, this is all raised in response to the expansion of the Mikkeller corporate empire. Being owned by, I now assume, more evil twin.

Note: extremely interesting connection drawn by one US craft brewer between the discussion above, the underlying state of affairs and its refusal to participate in the central authority hugging “IndePendeNt” seal*** issued by the Brewers Association.

This tweet reminded me that it is good to remember that, while Canada may be relatively young, Ontario retains a number of Georgian taverns like the 1830s Black Bull Tavern of Queen Street in Toronto.

Tank Stella“? Please tell me that is code for something.

Jeff pointed out something very interesting when he discussed whatever something called “rosé beer” is:

No. Rosé is just a name applied to preexisting beers to move product. Hibiscus goses? The first of those appeared nearly a decade ago. This is not a new style, it’s just a way to make people there’s something new here.

It relates to a point The Beer Nut made over here in relation to east coast IPA. The death of style being accompanied by confusion as to the continuing lingering existence of what was formerly perceived as, you know, a style. I have never understood “east coast IPA” since people stopped praising east coast IPA circa 2007. Harpoon IPA is the model. Malty and less hoppy and perhaps still available  at Fenway… or wherever else no one cares about your Cicerone server badge. Rosé beer? Quebec’s Rosée D’Hibiscus has had reviews posted on BeerADvocate since at least 2007 including this linguistic wizardry:

It’s pink, an orange pink colour with a finger of foamy pink head. Pinkest beer I’ve had. Some lacing as the beer goes down.

Sounds pretty damn rosé to me. Which, for me, illustrates a key element of craft beer boostering today – amnesia. Or a profound dedication to not researching anything.  Can’t be an expert without a strategy to adopt unknowing.  “Waters of Lethe” might actually be a good name for a Midlothian beer bar, come to think of it.

Bizarre: if this is the weaving of “the science of craft beer into story telling like no other” then isn’t all pretty much lost? Nice puff piece, maybe, on the use of ingredients to add fruit flavours. Maybe.

HardKnott Dave doesn’t have amnesia. And he seems to be equipped with an honesty attachment as well. His piece on the role of moolah and line placements in UK pubs is fabulously clear:

They contacted me a couple of months ago as they were negotiating with suppliers of their major brand lager. It seems that they were being offered a cash lump sum for a two year exclusivity deal. They were being offered £2k cash to kick our Intergalactic Space Hopper off the bar. Apparently it isn’t just one major beer producer that is doing this, it is most of the big multinational brands and is looking a little bit like a cartel and anti-competitive action.

Preach! Too bad 99.9999% of people in the know are not sharing. Reasonable to assume anyone downplaying this is on the take one way or another themselves.

By the way, this post marks the 3000th post in the upgraded version of A Good Beer Blog launched in October 2016. If you ever want to glory in the original 2003-2016 site and the 1,500 or so extra posts over there that I never quite got brought over here it is sitting there at the Wayback Machine just waiting for you. I do love that old school tab with the 2004ish beery emoticon. Mucho mucho gracias for all the clicks over all the years!

*This oddly spaghetti western themed tune was rolled out to us when I was in kindergarten in 1968, we sitting lined up neatly, a couple hundred souls cross-legged on the gym floor getting our dose of political propaganda.
**Well, most Canadians…
***whatever… ;D

Your Weekly Beer News Considered And Consolidated For Exactly What Your Thursday Demands

I need to make sure I am less self-indulgent this week. Last week was a bit too… thematic without, you know, a solid theme. I deserve a rebuke from time to time. I thought Stan was helpfully chastising me in his comment… but I am not quite sure. You have a look:

I’m pretty sure Alan McLeod was lamenting the use of the term “deep dive” in his commentary on recent beer news last week. Fact is when I see the words “deep dive” I expect what follows to go deep less often than not.

I never do well with these sort of mathy statements. But then… I thought it would be “more often than not” if deep dives labelled properly were more common than the tawdry shams.  Doesn’t “less often than not” mean the shams outweigh the actuals?  And if you think about it – by their very nature – these summary things are more like strolls in the shallows, not deep dives at all.  Oh dear. I’ve been self-indulgent again. Must stop. Here’s some news.

My problem with the thesis on glitter beer by the entirely reliable Carla Jean Lauter is knowing the many really stupid and indulgent things which give me joy. They still remain sorta stoopid* despite my joy. I am reminded, in fact, of that passage from Thomas More’s early modern masterpiece Utopia:

They divide the pleasures of the body into two sorts—the one is that which gives our senses some real delight, and is performed either by recruiting Nature and supplying those parts which feed the internal heat of life by eating and drinking, or when Nature is eased of any surcharge that oppresses it, when we are relieved from sudden pain, or that which arises from satisfying the appetite which Nature has wisely given to lead us to the propagation of the species. 

In first year undergrad, someone in class asked what More meant by eased surcharge. Poop, said the prof. Or, now, glitter pee, I suppose.

Elsewhere, someone by the name of Gary, left in charge of UK grocer Sainsbury’s social media, was having a hard time at the end of last week but Matthew L stepped forward to straight-forwardly and helpfully explain the economics of chilling beer at the general retail level:

I’m closer to the shop floor realities of retail than Gary is, and I can explain why supermarkets don’t, as a rule, chill their entire beer supply and display chain.  As stated above, this might be a revelation to those who don’t work in my industry.

What a sensible explanation. And what a sentence from Stonch: “For an hour and a half, I was a fixed point among the shifting population of tourists, as I savoured glasses of each of the four beers poured at a simple bar.” While we are at it, what a photo and caption from The Beer Nut!

Good to see that sensible sweaters are big in Brussels. TBN actually had another point… which I liked. And I also liked this proclamation from Matty C about London. I usually don’t like proclamations, urban or otherwise, but this is actually a good one. It’s nice. Not quite Belgian millennial sweater nice but actually pretty close.

Speaking of almost Belgian millennial sweater goodness, if I were to pick a review to review as illustrating what a book review (and, yes, I know this sounds indulgent) it’s this review by The Tand of the new book by Stange and Webb. It even includes substantive arguments as to why one should trust the new book by Stange and Webb on Belgian beer:

The authors point out – and this is important – that they did not seek samples from breweries, but rather, went there and bought the beers. They are also keen to opine that, in an age of obfuscation and blurring of lines, often by large conglomerates,  the place of origin of beer remains important, as it adds to authenticity. This is particularly so in Belgium, where beer in all its diverse forms so often has a clear link to its local or regional roots. 

Some will still insist that paying your own way to prepare a book about beer is impossible. Sounds like a very good one. And what is a good “two”? Well, that’s the number of new good things you’ve learned so far about Belgium. Boom! Here’s something interesting which is not related to Belgium a confession from Boak and Bailey:

We’ve never been quite sure. Think it refers to a distinct grain / seed / breadcrust flavour derived from malt.

I think I can be helpful here… if the question is “what does a biscuity malt mean?” If you go way back into this blog’s archives you will find beer reviews like this or this.  And there you will see me using descriptors like biscuity and breadcrusty and pumpernickely. When I did that I sometimes actually went and got a biscuit or crust of bread to confirm my reference. But then… was it an arrowroot biscuit or a butter biscuit? Whole wheat or French? I also would find I wanted to describe something as raisiny but  then wonder is it a Thompson or Sultana? Words like this draw you into thinking about flavour. Based on your own actual experience. I think it is fundamental to learning how to taste things, about how I taste things.  You may have another path to the same end. There are likely many. But this is one I recommend.

Question: if you call a brewery “they” then don’t they then have souls?

Finally, our two nominees for “The Unhelpful But Beer-Related Semi-Science Story Of The Week“:

Australians Have Developed a Beer That You Can Drink in Space

Why Do Some Beer Bubbles Appear to Defy Physics?

There. I am done for now. There could be more to be said but I think I am done for this week. Yup. Feels like it. Done. Big Supreme Court of Canada ruling on buying beer and then transporting it across provincial boundaries being issued later today.  But that’ll deserve its own space and quiet consideration. So it will.

*St👀pid, even. Which, you know, owning the complete DVD set of Space: 1999 requires me to acknowledge. And the 200 lbs of men’s tweedwear.  

All The Beer News That Matters For The Middle Third Of April


Matters? None of this really matters all that much. Fine. Maybe posts like this are just the stuff you need to get you to – or through – the stuff that matters. Let’s go with that. It’s OK. A quiet week now and then is nice. No need to puff it up with claiming this post is a “deep dive” into this or that. Is that why so much get the head scratching these days? Is there actuallyan increase in beer media types tweeting about beer just because they want freebies“? Does that really matter? Yet… who thought that, by Wednesday, the TV ad up there from 1995 would matter so much now, twenty three years later? But it does as it’s a matter the center of a lawsuit that might end up maybe marking the end of an era. More below. Deep down there.

Before that – first, but not exactly unrelated – I find a certain sort of post, illustrated this week by one Pete, a bit… odd. You may not agree – which is fine – but let me express myself for just this one instance.  Please. What I don’t get is while he concludes that what he finds odd is an article motivated by the desire to “create specious claims” he spends a lot of time saying things like “that’s certainly food for thought” and “there are certainly some interesting points” which, for me, leads to the critique of the article sounding a lot like a sibling of the article. Which leads me wondering why the article, the one he didn’t like, would matter to Pete that much. It’s not like I don’t sympathize. I was shocked when I read about “The Secret Brewery Battle That Could Kill Manchester’s Booming Craft Beer Scene“! but then couldn’t believe my eyes when I read about “The Secret Brewery Battle That Could Kill Wales’ Booming Beer Scene“!!! Clearly there is less than 85% overlap between the two articles so… journalism can’t be dead! [Note: intracraft warfare now clearly out in the open with the use of “beer bullies” by one local Mancunian know-it-alls. Well… sometimes they do know something, right?]

All I mean is what we are all seeing around us is far more interesting : the expansion of craft by including and retaining anything claiming to be craft; freakshake pastry stouts, the churn of increased brewery closures aligning with the uncertainty tiny brewers bring; and the seven year itch that, yes, is hitting the craft beer monogamists. Being a spectator in a ripe time of transition behooves us all to spectate. Which sounds a lot like speculate but it’s really quite a different thing all together. Let’s just sit and watch for a bit. There. That’s better. [Note: if you love something let it go.]

Perhaps conversely… but maybe not, my own dear old hometown newspaper ran an article on my own dear old undergrad alma mater’s historic brewing studies – and it’s perhaps the most honest bit of beer related journalism I’ve read in yoinks. [Note: Apparently, we usually can’t handle the truth.] So much of what was made sounds horrible. Did anyone get an F for their project?

In an even more real case of matter… and perhaps even anti-matter,  I think we can all agree that we don’t need to check out the Royal Oak in Wigan. Don’t go. The back streets of Ron’s Amsterdam, however, are where the clever should aim there feet.  [Note: Ron hit the exact sweet spot for mushy not mushy this week. Govern yourselves accordingly.] And speaking of travel and also as a matter that surely matters, I would still be mesmerized even if it turned out that Lars has been stringing us all along, weaving an entirely fictional fraud upon us all with his northern farmhouse ale studies. “Koduõlu, the traditional farmhouse ale from the large Estonian islands in the Baltic“? Who researches that? Lars!

What else? Well, given my recent doubts as to the point of taproom fever, it has been playing the role of interesting subtext of the week. What is a taproom anyway? Beeson, J. is of the opinion that if the beer is not brewed on site surely it’s just a bar. Yet the utterly venerable Laxfield Low House in Suffolk clearly has a taproom yet does not brew. It is the room where casks are tapped and served on gravity. [Note: it has a taproom but is not a taproom.]  The Royal Tavern here in Kingston, Ontario has a sign over the door that says “Tap Room” but – even though the establishment predates Canada and was a haunt of our first Prime Minister – it’s just a bit of a hard dive.  Not Wigan Royal Oak hard… mostly… mainly. [Note: it has no taproom and is not a taproom but claims a tap room.] I suspect taproom is like curate, code for “modern thing or action which needs not be investigated and considered so much as put up with and outlived.” [Note: Did I mention I turn 55 next week. Does it show? If you call it “double nickels” it sounds way cool, too, just like “curate“!]

You know what matters? You, the kind reader. And this has to be the most heart warming response to a weekly newsy notes post ever:

OK, then. I will.

Finally, that matter at the top of the page. That 1995 TV ad way up top… that’s actually referenced in the Answer and Counterclaim filed by MillerCoors in the Stone vs. Keystone lawsuit archived at Syracuse, NY attorney Brendan Palfreyman’s website.  Much of US-based beer social media was humming about the contents of the Answer as well as Brendan’s analysis on Twitter. The bottom line is this. Stone launch a court action a couple of months ago claiming a bit of the moral high ground. But, as I noted last February, there is plenty of evidence of the use of “Stone” related to Keystone beer before their trademark was registered and under US law this is important. As stated at paragraph 29 of the Answer:

…Coors’ use of STONE and STONES predates Stone Brewing’s use of STONE. When co-founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner decided to adopt the moniker Stone Brewing in 1996, Coors was already selling Keystone beer nationally in cases labeled STONES and running marketing campaigns advertising Keystone beer as STONE. MillerCoors did not “verbatim copy” Stone Brewing’s trademark. If anything, it is much more likely that Stone Brewing copied the STONE name from Coors, since Keystone beer was already advertised as such in the market.

It sounds like bravado but at section 23 of the Answer, it states that Koch said the following in an interview about Keystone’s 1995 “Bitter Beer Face” ads (like the one up there at the top of this post):

Basically it was a misinformation campaign. It was designed to tell the American public ‘You’re not sophisticated enough.’ Let’s try to tell you that you don’t want better beer. It’s really a form of oppression. There’s just nothing short of it.

This is an amazing bit of evidence. Needs to be proven in court but, funny enough, that is what MillerCoors apparently is going to do. Watch the TV ad again. I had no idea there were “anti-hoppy” ads running in the mid-1990s. What is not to love about that ad? Well, maybe not if you like that bitter puckery micro beer. Which might cause a mid-1990s upstart with oddly strong impressions about what oppression means to take aim at the gargantuan brewery making fun of your dreams on the TV.  Wouldn’t that be funny if over two decades that attitude were now to come back to bite someone. Sometimes a particular stone is the best means to clarify what is real. Who knows? Let the court decide, I say!

So there you go. What looked like another dull week explodes again by my Wednesday deadline to send this baby to the printing shop… boom. No doubt there will be even more for you to consider from Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday.

New Openings For Unpaid Interns And Brewing Trade Association Moles

Have you ever wanted to be an unpaid intern or a brewing trade association mole for one of the most celebrated and venerable beer websites cunningly located in both the western and northern hemisphere? Me too! That is why years ago I set up our unpaid intern and brewing trade association mole programs with the hopes that someone somewhere would want to be one and that someone somewhere would take that other person’s initiative as a sign of my own value and give me advertising money.

Well, the day is again here for refreshing the pool of unpaid interns and brewing trade association moles along with an exciting new opportunity developed (more in proximity* to as opposed to) with a local community college. Now you can be an unpaid intern in the very attractive field of brewing trade association mole. Fantastic! Why didn’t the curriculum committee think of this before?

Just put your name, contacts and the reasons for applying in the comments below and the approvals committee will be in touch lickety-split if you offer anything really spicy in terms of shared graft, rumour and innuendo.

*site of a handy district bus transfer spot I know.

Your Beery News For The Sudden January Thaw

Nothing slows down life as much as three weeks of the freezing weather that we are just about to get a break from. Well, that and regularly keeping track of the beery news again. It’s been since November since I started back up.  I was last August’s jaunt as Stan’s intern that did it, I suppose. Give me a few years. I might get reasonably good at it. Maybe. Sorta. Bet I pack it in come spring.

Anyway, first up, all that hope and rage you have balled up into the narrative that moderate alcohol is good for you? It’s very likely a crock. Why? Because “…low-volume drinkers may appear healthy only because the ‘abstainers’ with whom they are compared are biased toward ill health.” My take? If you regularly wake up hungover you are likely hurting yourself. Start with a few liver function tests.

Crap. Eric Asimov has mentioned Prince Edward County wines in The New York Times. I’ll never be able to afford to drink the local stuff now.

More bad news? Why not? The sudden shutting of central New York’s venerable Saratoga Brewing was covered in great detail by central New York’s venerable Don Cazentre. It’s not that often that beer business news gets covered as business news but Don is regularly the one doing it. Another form of the death of the dream of national big craft – along with, you know, less and less of the stuff being sold. Hail the new boss! Local murky gak in a sterile monoculture branded taproom where everyone wants to tell you about how great the beer is. Now, that’s my kind of entertainment.

Now, how about something positive? I definitely award the best long writing this week to the two part essay by Matthew Lawrenson on pub life for the perspective of someone with autism:

I’ve been told that people are wary of me due to my “beer blogging’s greatest monster” reputation and are surprised when I’m more anxious and less obnoxious than they’ve been lead to believe. All I can say is that, usually, things are rarely what people expect them to be.

My favourite thing about the essay is how plainly described it all is. Matthew treats the subject objectively, with the respect it deserves. Very helpful. By way of a bit of contrast, because it’s important to keep this dynamic, Jordan took on the argument being made by Canada’s macro brewers about our excise tax regime and found it seriously lacking, working both the numbers as well as his sarcasm skills:

…let’s do the math. Wow! The average price of a case of beer is $36.50 if you go by the examples that Beer Canada have used. Now, let’s see. 24 x 341ml = 8,184 ml. How many ml in a HL? Wow. That’s 12.218 cases of beer per hectolitre. That’s 293 bottles and a low fill! Hmmm. What’s $31.84/293? Oh wow. It’s 10.8 cents a bottle in federal excise!

I was left (again) with the feeling that all cost inputs deserve that level of scrutiny. It’s we the buyers and our cash that runs the whole industry, after all. Why shouldn’t we get a simple straight answer? Consider J.J. Bell’s news today that he is dropping Harvey’s from his pub’s line up because “They’ve been using their strong position in the local market to price gouge, pure and simple.” Now, that’s some plain speaking about value.

How did we get here? Maybe beer 5,000 years ago in Greece. Merryn Dineley ordered the article so I am looking forward to greater analysis that just the abstract but the reference to “remains of sprouted cereal grains as well as cereal fragments from the Bronze Age” sure seems interesting.

Not beer: Al Tuck. Listen for a bit. There you go. Feel better, right?

Coming to the end but still enough time for my favourite use of Twitter in beer-world for 2018. Josh Noel’s fictional life of John Holl started on New Years Day this way:

On a Thursday evening in 1986, as a spring storm pounded the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, John Hall sat in an airplane on the rain‐glazed tarmac and did something he would recount for the rest of his life. He reached for a magazine.

Finally. All things come to an end. And speaking of ends – bumboats. Say it fast five times over out loud… in public: Bumboats!  Bumboats!  Bumboats! Bumboats! Bumboats!” Hah – made you do it.

Laters.

Thursday Beer Links For Year’s End, Hogmanay and New Year’s Eve 2017

What can we say about 2017? Not as many celebrity rock star deaths as in 2016, I suppose. And we are not yet into the Putin war years. So, all in all a year to look back upon fondly.  It is the time of triumphalist beer pronouncements, whether by blogger or brewer, at bit at odds with the infantalization, death on the shelf and often resulting profiteering that really misses the key point: that being that the beer drinker really needs to be at unending war with the breweries she or he supports. If I have any message for you during this holiday season, it is that.

What else is going on out there? The Braciatrix has a very good piece about Vikings, brewing and Yuletide. One of the things I like best about her point of the post, which focuses on the roles of women in Norse brewing, is how there is a weaving with the roles of men in brewing. Given what I have learned and am still learning about Renaissance brewing in Tudor England and the Hanseatic Baltic, I suspect that the range of intimate scale household brewing to the ale house to public festive celebratory consumption to early industrial export brewing held places for both women and men, in contexts likely quite strange to we moderns. Fabulous stuff.

Also fabulous? Any post by Ron where he is wandering in and out of pubs. And any post by TBN where he is proving again that no more than about 50% of craft beer is worth it given the other better and often cheaper 50% of craft beer. Or a brewery tour post when Ed has to use the washroom.

Mr. Lawrenson has posted a rather special year in review,  one a bit unlike the others – not the least of which was him noting his own lack of activity. I quite like his Teletext tweets, especially how the medium de-aggrandizes the puff he like to waft away. There is so little rejection of the brewery owner as wizard theme going around in these days of the great schism and resulting gap filling that his commentary is always welcome relief. I look forward to more editions of his News in Brief in 2018.

Remember: pay your taxes. And quit complaining about paying taxes with your beer while you are at it. You want western civilization? Pay for it.

You know, much is being written on the murk with many names. Kinderbier. London murk. NEIPA. Gak from the primary. Milkshake. It’s gotten so bad in fact that even Boston Beer is releasing one, a sure sign that a trend is past it. Some call it a game changer, never minding that any use of that term practically guarantees something isn’t. They need to live as the hero in an exceptional time, I suppose. No such luck. My comfort is that the sucker juice of 2017 is so identifiable and so avoidable. My prediction? Clarified murk will be the hit of 2018. Which will take is full circle. To Zima. Then on to the low and no-alcohol ones.

Boom: “The late, great Don Younger (founder of the Horse Brass Pub) used to encourage beer competition by saying that a rising tide raises all boats, if that’s true than 2017 may be the year those boats began taking on water.

And keep your US craft in the US, thanks very much. We have more than enough of our own elsewhere.

Finally… you know, time was this would be when I was rushing around getting the Yuletide Kwanzaa, Hogmanay, Christmas and Hanukkah photo contest results are. How happy is the house that the tears and denunciations that went along with that are over. I found the prospect of transferring the entire set of contest posts to this the new site too daunting. Fortunately, the wonderful Wayback Machine has saved about 379 versions of the original website over the years and you can go browse the decade of 2006-15’s worth of the photo contest posts. To pique your interest and as a Yuletide treat, here are all the winners from the ten years including the favourite of all time from 2007 above which Stonch, then co-contest administrator, described this way:

First, the best image depicting some element of beer culture comes from John Lewington. He calls it “Two pints of bitter”. This is candid photo John took of two old boys enjoying their Sunday afternoon ale in a 17th century pub in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Perhaps they’re old friends, or maybe they barely know each other. When this photo was taken, it didn’t matter: they were immersed in their own worlds for a moment. It’s a beautiful photo, and my favourite overall.

Click on the image for a larger version of each year’s winner.

Contest Year
Photograph
Artist
2006
Dave Selden of Portland, Oregon
2007
John Lewington of England
2008
Matt Wiater of Portland Oregon
2009
Kim Reed of Rochester, New York
2010
Brian Stechschulte of San Francisco, California
2011
Jeff Alworth of Portland, Oregon
2012
Robert Gale of Wales
2013
Fabio Friere of New York City
2014
Thomas Cizauskas of Virginia (co-winner).
2014
Fabio Friere of New York City (co-winner).
2015
Boak and Bailey

There you are. Another year over and deeper in debt. Don’t go crazy at New Year’s Eve. There’ll be another one in 12 month’s time.

What? More Monday Links? Why? Why Oh Why?

Not that I wanted to start up paying attention to the news about beer for this century again… but the time it takes to get one of these early modern posts out sorta leads me to wanting to provide some in-fill. I mean it is exciting stuff but how many tales of hegemonic Euro-explorer types getting scurvy half way across the Atlantic can you take? So…. here is some more Monday in-fill!

First, note that “Grainews is written for farmers, and often by farmers” and late last week they published a fairly detailed article on hop growing in Canada’s easterly and fairly northern province  of Quebec. An interesting and practical introduction to growing at the edge of viability. Note: “Craft brewers want good quality, but are not worried about consistency year to year…” Somewhat self-evident but interesting to see it confirmed at the farmyard stage.

News this morning has come that two huge Canadian conglomerates have swapped dozens of local and regional papers… and then promptly shut down many of them. And with those papers go a large number of columns including the excellent one on good beer in southwestern Ontario published bi-weekly by Ben. Sad to see but, as you can see from the list, this is a bigger shift hitting a wide range of communities, not just beer geeks.

I trust that no one cares about this.

Whenever I read about how awful UK beer prices are I stop and think how wonderful it would be to be pay what they pay for beer in the UK. We seem to have over 50% higher prices for decent beer and, given we tip, that prices is likely pushing 75% over the course of an evening out.

Prepare ye for the new style “sub-session” if this proto-fad gets traction:

With session beer having taken off in the US and the low-alcohol sector on the rise, Grundy and James hope that their new beer, with a lower ABV than is traditionally associated with session beer, will deliver in flavour what it lacks in alcohol. The pair are launching two new lager beers into the UK market: a Pilsner-style lager made with British malt and Saaz hops (2.1% ABV) and a dark lager (1% ABV) described as having “dark berry fruit on the nose” and a “coffee-like palate and smoky finish”.

Hmm. I fully expect this will be gak but, as we have learned from certain things named New England, selling gak with a backstory seems to be suddenly compelling to a significant sector of the beer drinking public.  My advice? If you want something with a coffee-like palate and smoky finish go to a diner that still has a few old guys sitting in the smoking section and have some joe.

Finally, the continuing testiness over who should write what about good beer has led to this fairly incoherent tweet from an other wise semi-reliable largely sensible source. Belief-based expertise extrapolation is a dangerous thing. But this sorta stuff breaks out regularly. Consider this from 2009 as well as this along with this from 2016. I sense we are in a slightly counter-reformation moment in which a retrenching is occurring, a rejection of a wide range of opinion is being played out. These are tight times. The other day, I responded to a known name over a spat involving another known name and my first observation was that I presumed one of the parties was stone broke. S/he was. Remember that and take it into account when these things flair. For all the niceness of good beer, the lack of the overall trade’s generosity to the thoughtful and independent writer is a bit astounding.

Well, that is it for now. Maybe I will do this again next Monday, too. Might the foray lose its rarity? Who knows?