What Is My Methodology? Perchance Schmethodology?

I have found myself wondering what the heck I am doing with all this Albany Ale stuff but I’m not too concerned. It is interesting in itself and I think it is informing me on a pretty interesting big picture question – what makes the Albany and the Hudson River so different from the St. Lawrence Valley, my river. You will recall that during Ontario Craft Beer week this past June, I wrote a number of posts on the development of Ontario after the American Revolution but it is important to remember that, like the Dutch in the Hudson, the upper St. Lawrence also had a 1600s existence when it was all New France.

The big question I have is why did Albany create this export trade while my city did not? There are some basic answers around the odd semi-autonomous existence of early Albany while Kingston has been firmly tied to its Empires. Also, there is simple geography with Albany being a deep water seaport while Kingston has always sat behind rapids and locks. Difference makes sense. But is that it? Looking more closely, there are the details. And details can get obsessive with a range of ways to get at them:

  • Who is doing what? You can find this information in newspaper ads, business directories and gazetteers. People have always been obsessed with what others are doing and putting it in a central place so thoers can see it. Google is making this information available to all for free without travel.
  • How is it being taxed? Beer has attracted excise and sales taxes for centuries. This is Professor Unger’s approach. I have not really gotten into this level – yet.
  • What is being brewed? Ron Pattinson’s obsession with day to day brewing logs is a less to us all in detail. And he is getting some of the brewing replicated as his trip to Boston this weekend shows.
  • Who is allowed to deal with beer? Beer is also regulated along with all booze. Tavern and brewery license records exist as do the court records of applications and charges for violations. Taverns and Drinking in Early America by Salinger is largely built on this sort of analysis.
  • Where does the beer go? Pete Brown has taught us a lot about that. Mapping trade routes is another avenue to this stuff. I have asked about Dutch East India ale as well as Bristol’s Taunton ale. What made for the demand for these beers and what made them eoungh good value to the other end of the world to buy them?
  • Beyond all this, there is Martyn. The funny thing about Martyn’s work for me is that I can’t understand where he gets his data – his focus on words amazes me. I don’t know if I could be so elemental and authoritative. But West Country White Ale inspires.

So, there is a lot there – a lot for anyone in any town to use to figure out the path of their local brewing trade. And there are a lot of other people hunting as well. Me, I have no idea what I will learn about Albany or Kingston or beer or anything else. But it is worth the hunt. And why not? Weren’t we all supposed to be citizen journalists, historians and novelists? Isn’t that the promise of the internet or is it really more like that personal jet pack we were all supposed to have by now? I think you might all want to get all be scratching around a bit – even if not as obsessively as others.

I Am An Ontario Craft Beer Week Event

ocbwI love it. Things are getting interesting. In response to Troy and Cass setting up a beer crawl, I asked and have been personally declared an Ontario Craft Beer Week event in my own right. Me. Not me going somewhere. Not even me doing something. Just me. Mr. Event. I had some Beau’s in the back yard this evening. Event. I am doing some research into beer in my town in 1810 to 1830. Event. Woooooooooooot!!! Here is what the listing in the beer week events calendar says:

Alan McLeod will spend all week blogging about the OCB. He will include craft beers from Ontario and will explore what Ontario’s great beers mean, where they have been and where they are going. Historical, observational, poignant and humourous, Alan will take readers on a journey that will surely leave them thirsty for more.

Get out your kleenex everybody because I am taking a journey. I am told I am even going poignant, for God’s sake. I have no idea where they got that idea but I guess it means that I have to tell you about that time I had some Ontario craft beer and… it was on a moonlit night… and … no… I am getting verklempt. Not ready to share.

Anyway, like the idea of having a province-wide craft beer week, this is a hoot. We are going to talk a bit about what beer means around here, how long it has been here and what I think about its future. You join in, too, because this is not just about me. I hope to have some good local beer, to visit a few craft beer places in my town and hover expectantly over some great craft beers I have yet to try. Ontario Beer week runs from June 20th to 26th. Be prepared. Brace yourself.

You Were My First Blog… But I Forgot You…

It’s not like I’ve had unkind thoughts about you, Gen X at 40, but with the busy beer blog, Twitter and Facebook I hardly have any time left. Heck, I haven’t even checked my email accounts this morning. Plus I get up too late. You understand. Right? And it’s not like I am all that clever before the caffeine kicks in. You should be happy for the break once in a while. It’s the pros. That’s what it boils down to. The invasion of the pros. It happened to amateur political rant blogs back around 2007 and now it’s even happened to beer blogs. Even the aggregators are going. Remember them? The places that were supposed to kill blogs are being killed off themselves. No one even spams the comments anymore.

Sorry about yesterday, my oldest blog, but these things happen.

My Computer Screen Is Dying And I Don’t Mind

I am actually sympathetic as my back is still stiff and wonky, having good days and bad. The screen narrows, flickers, gets wavy and even reboots of its own accord. Once upon a time, this would have been a source of anxiety. How would I pay for the replacement? How will I get along without checking in. But there are other surplussed screens around the basement as well as that laptop I picked up at Best Buy on sale. I have a better screen sitting on the 1995 Pentium 75 “Asteroids server” right now. There is other equipment floating around going back fifteen years and I consider myself a latecomer to these things. My computer screen can die without me noticing that much.

My computer screen is a lot like a fork to me now.

Hail To The New Sponsor – Scotland’s BrewDog!

771It was an intense stretch of negotiations. I begged. They were repulsed. I whined. Then…they pitied and came on board. We of A Good Beer Blog are always thrilled when a new sponsor signs up and we like to explore all sorts of ways to get along all in the cause of what might be thought of an alternative take on craft lagers and ales. The fine folk at BrewDog cover a few bases – they make incredibly good and innovative beer while meeting a sensitivity to the emotional needs of a North American bound fan of the Greenock Morton. It’s good to be in such a relationship. I’m all a giggle at the idea of them joining people like the hoteliers of Prague and, of course, the good good people at Ontario Craft Brewers. I think we’ll float the ad in the tops stories for a while. See how that works. Click on it and you will no longer even be here.

And this is part of a big plan we call the big plan. We are always looking for these sorts of new pals. It’s kind of like a support group for this one beer fan with a writing problem who finds himself bearing the full weight of a jurisdiction with monopolistic beer practices of limited variety, overly taxed price structures and friends who ask “can I have another one of those?”. Proceeds go to beer travel by car and beer acquisition by hand picked selection at some of the nicest stores in Quebec and the US north-east. That’s right: cash = stash. Simple math. And we dicker and we try to figure out a bazillion ways for you to join in whether by an ad or a sample or just by that Google ad cheque in the mail. Why? Because we love what you the beer hound, beer maker, beer writer, beer vendor and beer bar owner do. All proceeds include the tax man’s share (at least five ways if I was to think about it) and acquisitions go in part to the local beer nerds I am cultivating…though in larger part to me. Gotta be honest.

Do you have what it takes to sponsor or otherwise the support the program of good works we are undertaking at A Good Beer Blog? I bet you do. I do.

Considering My Own Inherent Irrelevance

Sifting the tea leaves of the place of oneself in the blogosphere and in life is entirely a mug’s game. Only idiots care. Yet, I am an idiot. It struck me yesterday when I reviewed the detailed commentary James Bow has written on the 2008 Canadian Blog Awards. Admittedly, it has been some time since I was nominated for these sorts of things and I can take my ego massaging from other sources but something struck me when I read the candidates for Best Blog in Canada – and realized I never heard of any of them. They may well have never heard of me either as they were blogging in a different way, not using the cut, paste and comment format that I along with most Oldie Olson bloggers use. They are pretty good, too.

Then, I got fiddling with the settings on Google Analytics to figure out what that could tell me. One of new features with mt bloggy systems upgrades is the server stats are gone. Once upon a time, back around the summer of 2005 or so, I think I could count almost 11,000 visits a day to this blog according to mt server stats. Now Google Analytics tells me that on 23 November 2008 Gen x 40 had 118 visits. The beer blog gets almost seven times that traffic now. I know it is all apples to oranges. Back in the day, every bot and spam was counted and now RSS readers are left out. Yet the message is clear. I write on this site for Hans and a few others. Yet I write and I enjoy the writing.

But it isn’t really just about the blog, is it. We all know that. David sent me a link by Twitter the other day that proves it. In itself, even the choice of medium was telling. He didn’t leave a comment because blogs are really so 2004. The link he sent me was to a Washington Postarticle entitled “The Dumbest Generation: The Kids Are Alright. But Their Parents …” in which my cohort, early Generation X, are shown to be the biggest bunch of losers in recent decades, maybe centuries. Now, to be clear, we knew that already. That is the whole point of me and my peeps. The slacker generation was not a slacker generation out of choice. Growing up in the era of recession after recession, there was no point in effort. But the article is perhaps a little to close to the bone on this core generational fact:

Whatever you call them (I’ll just call them early Xers), the numbers are clear: Compared with every other birth cohort, they have performed the worst on standardized exams, acquired the fewest educational degrees and been the least attracted to professional careers. In a word, they’re the dumbest. Obviously, we’re talking averages. No one would apply the word “dumb” to Barack Obama (born in 1961) or Timothy F. Geithner, his nominee for secretary of the Treasury (born in the same month). Yet the president-elect himself has written eloquently about how hard it was for him and his peers to obtain a serious education during their dazed-and-confused teen years. Like it or not, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (born in 1964), who stumbled over basic civics facts during her vice presidential run, is more representative of this group. Early Xers are the least bookish CEOs and legislators the United States has seen in a long while. They prefer sound bites over seminars, video clips over articles, street smarts over lofty diplomas. They are impatient with syntax and punctuation and citations…

Ouch. Kick in the goolies ouch. Yet here I am in pajamas, waylayed by a cold my grandfather would not recognize as a cold, writing on a blog no one reads, torturing the language as my grade 8 teacher told me I did and sluffing off of the things I ought to be doing on a Sunday morning. I am as I ought to be: looking forward to a game on the TV so that I can nap through more than half of it as the snow collects outside, unshovelled.

Beer Hunting in Michigan and Quebec

I have a couple of big trips coming up in October. Circumstances place me to the west in London, Ontario relieved of duties before noon on a Friday which means I have an hour to head further west still to the border at Sarnia and the afternoon to shop in Michigan. Having been there before, I have a sense of what I am looking for: something wet hopped, a case of Two Hearted Ale…as well as a little Bud American Ale…just to see. I don’t think I’ll make it as far as Jolly Pumpkin but Ron has given me the name of some of his most north-easterly clients so with any luck I will land some anyway.

The next weekend, however, sends me far east through largely uncharted territory as I head to a small IT/brainiac conference called Zap Your Pram in PEI. I will try to stop in a few government stores out east but on the way back on Sunday, I hope to hit a beer store or two in Quebec City like Le Monde des Bieres or Dépanneur de la Rive. I want to get my hands on some Dieu du Ciel for sure but, as John Rubin mentions in today’s Toronto Star, there are plenty of Quebec-made brews we never hear about in English-speaking Canada. The same is true of any regional brews due to our wacko inter-provincial trade restrictions but Quebecers, arguably, have a taste for a broader range of flavours than the rest of we Canucks and it shows in their brews. So maybe I’ll grab something from Microbrasserie Charlevoix or Hopfenstark, both unknowns to me but well regarded by the BAers.

Any hints before I undertake the 4,000 km two-part tour?

Notes From A Stay-cation

I don’t mind “stay-cation” except that you can’t spell it without the hyphen. Better than being called an unimaginative twerb who can’t get it together enough to take the family camping. I have excuses – I always have excuses. First, family reunion on Saturday. Then, the annual vintage base ball game that got rained out yesterday. Today, a beer writer or two visit as part of their multi-continental trip. So even though we are at home, we are getting something of an edjification.

I hope I don’t just watch TV but the twisted back makes that a possibility. I watched the ESPYs last night, thinking they would be lame. Best TV awards show ever. Justin Timberlake was a dreamy host – I say no more for fear of affecting my cred. Now, on a Monday morning in July, I hunt in vain for reruns of Mr. Dress-up and The Friendly Giant. What the heck has happened to the CBC? Thank God, I can at least look forward to Elwood Glover’s Luncheon Date at noon to go with my egg salad and parsley sandwiches.

Bob Asks A Good Question About Dutch Beer

We all know the story of India Pale Ale but Bob asks in the comments whether the Dutch ever did a similar thing:

Bob Schneider [11:37 PM June 25, 2007]
I realise that this is a review of a book but I was wondering if you could satisfy my curiosity. When I was brewing professionally in Holland, MI, I was trying to come up with a beer name and tagline that connected with the Dutch East India Trading Company (correct name?) similar to India Pale Ale shipped to British troops stationed in India. I did some research but ended up making an IPA with our house German ale yeast. When I put the beer on tap at the brew pub, the owners renamed it anyway. It was still one of the best IPAs I have made.

So my question is; Did the Dutch traders ship beer as a commodity in trade for Asian goods? If yes, what years, what style? Were hops used in any manner then?


Good enough to be brought up to the surface for a little bit more of a think….or a thunk if I can’t come up with anything. I will check through Unger’s texts but if anyone else has any ideas, please share.

From A Good Beer Blog’s Fan Mailbag

Through the grapevine…barley stem?… I learned that Roy Bonisteel, host of CBC TV’s excellent Man Alive from 1969 to 1989, is a fan of this here beer blog. I sent word back asking for a few words and low and behold there is some background on the greatest beer related poem ever, Al Purdy’s “At The Quinte Hotel”, which I recently posted:

I like the beer blog….it’s very good. In interesting fact that a lot of people don’t know is that although Bellevillians are very proud of Al Purdy’s poem about the Quinte Hotel…it is not the Belleville Quinte. It is the Trenton Quinte…now called something else…where Purdy drank. At this same time I had a room at the Quinte when I was driving cab and working at the Courier. At that time we didn’t know each other…but year’s later over many a beer, talked about the fact that we had both been there at the same time. Tell your friend I’ll keep up with his blog.


You know, from time to time I wonder who you all are and where you are. I received a very nice email this week in fact from a gent – Roshan from Kochi, India – who was pleased to tell me that he now takes a moment to smell his beer, because he now knows like Purdy that it is made of flowers I suppose. From Quite to Kochi.

Drop a line anyone of you now 3500 daily visitors. Always good to hear from you.