The Intern’s Beery Links For Mid-July

Ah, the mid-July week off. Nothing teaches you more about how life is a fleeting interim stage than July. The poppies and irises are already in the past. The last of the early radishes have long been dug under. Time is passing. One day you wake up and discover you are a 54 year old intern for some guy named Stan. Hmm.

What’s gone on this week in beer?

When The Selling Out Game Has Some Weird Players

The BeerCast has posted an excellent unpacking of the sale of the discount shelf of London Fields (mothballed) brewery by an experienced guest of the Queen to those oddest of flatmates, the Danes of Carlsberg and the Empire State folk at Brooklyn Brewery. Expect a shedding of everything associated now with the name and then a massive leveraging of the name. For a mere four million pounds, most owners of craft beer won’t get out of bed in the morning. Given the situations of all involved, this deal looks like and smells like money all around.

Cheery Not Niceness

I enjoy these teletext messages from Matthew Lawrenson on Twitter. They retain his snappy direct humour but it’s like the words are coming out of the mouth of Tinky-Winky. I love the format he is developing. Thirty years ago visiting family in Scotland, I would sneak into the TV room to play with the remote, exploring teletext. Checking the weather forecast for Skye in multi-colour dot matrix… then checking out the soccer scores. All while the TV plays on underneath the text info. Magic. As a form of brewing and craft commentary this singular and effective. This one was posted Friday morning my time here in North America. Note the author. And the cheeky image.

Being Nice

I am less certain about this conversation one Twitter – while making no comment on the particular conversation.  It’s the pattern. You see it quite often, a double form of delicacy. The desire to speak discretely of a brewery or bar doing something wrong being jumped upon for either (1) not name the names or (2) raising the real issue without naming the names. I am never quite sure what makes folk more upset, not getting all the juicy gossip or finding fault with a craft community member without first satisfying a level of procedural test for bringing evidence before a criminal court. Yet, it is only beer. I dunno. Folk seem happy to slag airlines and coffee shops. It seems a particularly southern Ontario concern but you see it pop up in England, too. In this case, the misapprehension that brewery or bar staff have some deep loyalty if not a monogamous bond with the boss seems the root of the problem.

Oliver Grey expanded on this concern mid-week. He primarily discusses the tribal divide between big craft and big beer, framing it from the perspective of Campbell’s narrative structure:

I get it, the hero of the story needs a villain to triumph over. I wrote about it at length. But it’s important to remember that to the villain, the hero can often look like a terrorist. For every story a perspective, for every perspective a truth. Therein, the issue slumbers.

Seeing as he has to deal with fools like this, I get the point. But there is the greater risk that is engaged with far too much in beer – the Hosannas, all the Hosannas. Given alcohol makes you initially feel good, it is not unexpected that people like saying nice things about it but taking the next steps of treating it like something beyond criticism and discord has always struck me as a bit weird, leaving ideas and interests unexamined. Give me cheery naughtiness anytime.

Mentioning the Bad

Jeff Alworth made a promise on Friday that definitely borders on the niceness question:

…enough of the excuses: Boak and Bailey are right, I should be writing about bad beer more often. I’m actually going to start looking for them. Rather than just writing scathing reviews, though, I’ll use it as an opportunity to discuss why I think the beer is bad, because “bad” is in many dimensions an objective evaluation. A good brewer may fail to execute on a vision, which is one kind of bad. A mediocre brewer may compose an uninspiring recipe, a different kind. Or the beer may have faults and off-flavors, a kind of bad that is now rarer, at least in these parts. Beer may be bad because of technical, aesthetic, or other reasons–and there’s actual value in discussing the nature of the problems.

I am delighted by this declaration, if only because it is framed as contrary to the Jacksonian model we have inherited. I would note that it is not what was first given that was inherited but what was later devised. Change is good. Let’s change some more, please.

Jet Setting

In an effort to bite the hand that feeds me (not), I wonder about this tweet:

It’s not that I equate this sort of event with junketeers who dash off to lap up the gravy and PR before regurgitating some or all, then claiming to be clever. My question is whether this is simply another form of the internationalization of commodity craft, that globalist mono-culture that leaves nothing local in its wake. I would be thrilled to hear about what local beer questions and successes were discussed in South Africa by South Africans. Not sure I will.

Other Stuff

Interesting to see that Diageo via Guinness USA has a money flow to another beer site on the internets. GBH calls it underwriting. Beervana calls it sponsorship. This pays for interesting writing. Good. Also interesting that this goes largely uncommented upon especially compared to other funds flowing from other big drinks empires into smallish bank accounts. Just to be clear, I have happily spent sometimes shockingly generous sums for running ads on this website and its predecessor. To be fair, they were largely from outside the brewing world due to my (way back then) huge following. I call them ads. In the glory days, it paid for a lot of travel. Still, interesting quiet little pay packet play.

Yes, Mirella. Very good tee.

And finally, the best use of a GIF ever. Thanks Zak. This is going to end up dumber than “crafty” isn’t it.

He Took Exception To The Spilled Beer

Elaborately, his exception he took:

She accidentally spilled Mangeya’s drink and he became angry and violent, threatening to beat us up. He shouted obscenities at the top of his voice. He eventually calmed down after some shoppers spoke to him and we reimbursed him $1 for his drink and promised to buy his water glass,” said Miss Mary Shumba, one of the workers at Regal Supermarket. She said Mangeya went away but later came back with some explosives that he connected to power cables while he was sitting at the entrance to the shop.

It is unkind to make light of events in distant and less secure lands. Yet there are only four sorts* of news stories left about beer, one being variations on the theme of beer and crime. And of all those wicked stories blowing up a shopping complex has got to be up there as the greatest over-reaction I have ever seen. The use of “lost his marbles” in an actual report of a thwarted crime of this scale is just an added bonus.

As discussed last year, tales of true crime and beer are a venerable part of our social discourse. Those three mugs of beer for the servant girl in 1729 illustrate the opposite end of the same old measuring stick. For better or worse both moralists and felons often associate beer and crime. Do we deny the truth with the fervour of a semi-amateur craft PR consultant sensing something that might compromise his revenue stream? Or do we embrace the seamy reality as part of beers role in life’s rich pageant?

*1. “Beer Fest / Bar / Micro / Wet Hops Coming To Town!”; 2. Interview (with no corroborating fact checking) of Great Figure in Craft Brewing (yogurt optional); 3. Travel Piece on “Wherever The Junket Money Sent The Author”… and it was Amazeballs!; 4. Beer Crime.

Nigerian Government Questions Silly Beer Health Claims

Is it fair to say good luck seeing this sort of puffery questioned in North America?

The Council, in a letter signed by its Director General, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, listed some of the claims, which include that beer is not an alcoholic beverage and that if taken regularly and in moderation has many defined nutritional and health benefits and can indeed be part of a healthy life style. Other claims by the company also include that “beer consumption has therapeutic qualities such as prevention of kidney stones, increase in anti-oxidant activity in the body, reduction in the risk of heart disease and blood pressure management”. The government agency expressed its reservation that the claims “in effect suggest that beer is a health drink and have the potential to lure unsuspecting consumers into unwholesome consumption of the product”…

I kick myself often and especially when I don’t note down good sources of information – especially those that I will only realize later I need. A few weeks or months ago, Maureen Ogle tweeted a link to a very sensible medical article which described how the entire problem with health claims related to beer is that they were not holistic, that they did not seek to explain the entire set of effects on the arc of a drinker’s life. I saved it not. What was the point? I just end up shaking my head when beer consultant types make these sorts of claims. But it looks like the Nigerian Consumer Protection Council is taking it seriously and is on the track, investigating claims by Nigerian Breweries Plc on the nutritional, health and therapeutic benefits of beer consumption.

Fuzzy Photos Of Drinking Things From A Museum

rom1A few hours on the fourth floor of the Royal Ontario Museum Saturday found me looking for beer stuff in the exhibits. Just a game. You think of how pervasive beer has been in western culture and how places like museums like to not discuss it all that much and it starts to be a fun game to play for a tired mind after a long night in a noisy hotel. Fun? Time passing maybe. Temper maintaining perhaps. Anyway, there was some fairly interesting stuff to be found.

Like that friend of Bertie Wooster who passes time when walking through London by imagining golf shots, I think about the beers I would have from these museum pieces. Not hard when the drinking vessel in question is a 1750s Silesian glass tankard but what about a fourth century Sudanese clay drinking cup. Clay asks for something like thin boozy porridge but there’s not much of that going around these day in this civilization. Chip shot into the Shaftesbury Memorial pool at Piccadilly.

rom2

rom3

 

 

 

 

Then I think about the techniques the curators are using to get the beer stuff into the displays but not really mentioning. In one room of the exhibit, two Georgian silver tankards are in the back placed on bookshelves along with other curios as if they were not really used for drinking beer at all. In another display, pewter pots are lined up in a row to describe weights and measures as opposed to the uses to which they were put. The weighted and measured. Odd. No pottle. The fifteenth century mead drinking jug made of spruce sits next to the leather canteen in a daring juxtaposition of old things, weirdly shaped and made out of strange stuff. Two iron glanced off Shakespeare’s forehead neatly carries on down Charing Cross Road. Kids are getting tired feet. Me, too.

rom4

rom5

 

 

 

 

We took the subway back to the hotel, three stops south to Osgoode the TTC car as empty but for us as the sidewalks had been on the way north earlier. The kids said that Toronto was nice but it was no Montreal. I knew what they meant but it was not a bad Toronto, either. University Avenue looked like the MIT area of Cambridge if the MIT area of Cambridge had stopped being built in 1973 or so.

When To Have That Beer In Zimbabwe In 2012?

Laws around beer reflect cultural norms both in how they regulate and how they express norms that are unregulated. Consider this proposed reform to the hours of sale law of Zimbabwe:

The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare is crafting its own alcohol policy, which might alter the tough proposals by President Robert Mugabe’s health advisor, Timothy Stamps. Stamps has forwarded to Cabinet a policy document that seeks to force supermarkets, shops and bottle stores to sell alcoholic drinks between 6am and 7pm, while the selling of beer would be banned after mid-day on Sunday.

That comes off as a bit odd. Clearly breakfast time drinking is OK there. Here in Ontario, you can’t serve a beer before 11 am in a licensed establishment even if you can drink well past midnight. But in each case, you get over 12 hours stretch of imbibing. In Kenya you only get six hours. Alaskans get 21 hours in a row – why bother shutting at all?

Unexpected Tribute

A very unexpected and gracious tribute to Romeo Dallaire, my personal greatest Canadian, was entered this evening as a reply to a post I made on my blog last January. Please go read it.

Update: these two articles in French indicate that there was a Senegalese intellegence officer by the name Amadou Démé in Rwanda at the time.   [My French is poor as is the Google translator so if anyone can identify more information about this, please do.]   In January 1994, he apparently uncovered arms caches of the Interhamwe (also known as the Interahamwe) militia which played a major role in the Rwandan genocide in the spring of 1994.   In 1994, Senegal sent a battalion-sized force to Rwanda to participate in the UN peacekeeping mission there.   Dallaire commanded that mission.

Permission Denied

While I am not clear in myself as to what Canada should have done in relation to Iraq, I can’t recall ever being so clear as when I understood what was happening in Rwanda and how democracies, the world community, whoever was at the wheel failed. Canadian General Romeo Dallaire is testifying this week at United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. I do not think I will ever forget the CBC radio piece on Rwanda in 1994 when he was interviewed and described walking into a stadium where children had been butchered wondering why he was walking on sausages when he realized they were all little severed fingers. 800,000 people died there just ten years ago in a few weeks to people with only rifles and machetes. Yesterday, he identified the accused who gave the orders:

Dallaire, who led the ill-fated 1994 United Nations peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, rose to his feet, glanced around, then fixed an icy glare on his former nemesis. “He’s on the extreme right, in the last row,” Dallaire said, pointing at Theoneste Bagosora…

…Today Dallaire is expected to testify about the secret informant who warned in January, 1994, that death squads were compiling lists and training to kill thousands of people a day. When Dallaire told U.N. headquarters in New York he planned to raid the arms caches of the death squads, he was told not to take any military action, that he had to remain neutral.

They told him not to act on a plan.   I can’t get around the numbers. 267 World Trade Centres. Downstream in Burundi, the river was red with human blood and parts. Then you remember fifteen years before that two and a half times that many died in Cambodia.