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.

Where Else Hides The Culture of Entitlement?

Pete Brown’s piece this morning about, according to my finger count, seven members of CAMRA and two incidents entitled “CAMRA’s Noxious Culture of Entitlement” got me wondering. Craft beer is funny stuff as any fan-based hobby is. People lose perspective. So, somewhat related to the Hedonist Beer Jive‘s 5 Most Boring Topic in Beer Journalism, are there five most tedious or obnoxious themes in craft beer appreciation? Do these compare?

  • The brewery that considers itself outside proper business regulation because they make, you know, craft beer;
  • The organization or artist that can tell you what you should think of the beers or brewers they support because they are speaking for “the community”;
  • The advocate who claims others have a conflict or some other ethical fault never mentioning that they do consulting on the side;
  • Anyone who bristles at “it’s just beer” more than they would “it’s just cheese”;
  • Lobbyists who disconnect craft beer obsession from health and legal downsides like obesity and drunk driving.

Are those fair? Are they even in the same ball park? I have no idea. The CAMRA men (all Pete’s examples were male, right?) trigger feelings of that sort of bile raising obnoxiousness even to those just experiencing the events second hand. But there seems to be acceptance of plenty of similar things without a boo. Is that fair? I don’t know.

Surprising Protzian Update: Amazingly, there is actually a retort from Mr. Protz who was apparently one of Pete’s boorish company. I leave it to you to enjoy the fireworks but would point out that I found Mr. Protz’s description of what makes for good fun coarse and exceedingly discomforting in the past. Entitlement indeed.

Pants on Fire Update: Clearly Pete Brown and Roger Protz are both big fat liars as each has described the same incident giving utterly different takes on the same few facts. Interesting to note the fact arose in the context of unmoderated alcohol consumption. Surely nothing like this has ever happened before. Why can’t UK beer writers control themselves or their consumption of beer when presented to them at no expense? Who else was at this table of vipers at the free dinner in the National Brewery Centre last week? Confess!

More Thoughts On That Pesky Albany Ale Question

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I have been thinking more about this pre-1850 invention called “Albany ale” and I am a bit surprised to find so many references to it of one sort and so few references of another. The stuff was made in volume, transported and traded over great distances but now seemingly forgotten to memory. As we will see [Ed.: building suspense!] when we discuss the quote above, it was the stuff of memory even at the end of the 1800s.

But what was it? As noted this morning by Robert in the comments, there is a brief description of Albany’s production of ale in the 1854 book The Progress of the United States of America by Richard Swainson Fisher at page 807:

The business of malting and brewing is carried on to a great extent In Albany; more than twenty of such establishments are now in operation, and Albany ale is found in every city of the Union, and not unfrequently in the cities of South America and the West Indies. The annual product is upward of 100,000 barrels of beer and ale.

Similar text was published in the Merchant’s Magazine in 1849 except it was 80,000 barrels. Interesting to see how far it traveled – California, West Indies and South American in addition to references to Newfoundland in yesterday’s post. There is also this passage in 1868’s A history of American manufactures from 1608 to 1860 Volume 1 by John Leander Bishop and a few others:

…Kuliu mentions, in his account of the Province in 1747, that he noticed large fields of barley near New York City, but that in the vicinity of Albany they did not think it a profitable crop, and were accustomed to make malt of wheat. One of the most prosperous brewers of Albany during the last century was Harman Gansevoort, who died in 1801, having acquired a large fortune in the business. His Brewery stood at the corner of Maiden Lane and Dean street, and was demolished in 1807. He found large profits in the manufacture of Beer, and as late as 1833, when the dome of Stanwix Hall was raised, the aged Dutchmen of the city compared it to the capacious brew kettle of old Harme Gansevoort, whose fume was fresh in their memories.’ [Note: Munsell’s Annals of Albany. Pleasentries at the expense of Albany Ale and its Brewers are not a recent thing. It was related by the old people sixty years ago of this wealthy Brewer, that when he wished to give a special flavor to a good brewing he would wash his old leathern breeches in it.]

Was Albany ale originally a wheat ale? It was obviously big stuff in the state’s capital for decades.

Reference to Albany ale also appears in an illustration of a principle in a book of proper English usage. In the 1886 edition of Every-day English: A Sequel to “Words and their Uses” by Richard Grant White where we read the following at page 490:

I cannot but regard a certain use of the plural, as “ales, wines, teas,” “woolens, silks, cottons,” as a sort of traders’ cant, and to many persons it is very offensive. What reason is there for a man who deals in malt liquor announcing that he has a fine stock of ales on hand, when what he has is a stock of ale of various kinds ? What he means is that he has Bass’s ale, and Burton ale, and Albany ale, and others; but these are only different kinds of one thing.

The fifth 1886 edition of Words and their Uses by the same Mr. White contains no reference to Albany ale but does indicate he was a prolific US author who lived from 1821-1885. Does the later use by White imply it was an easily understood example? Probably.

albale2In the New York journal The Medical Record of 1 March 1869, there is an article entitled “Malt Liquors and Their Theraputic Action” by Bradford S. Thompson, MD the table to the right is shown that clearly describes Albany ale as a sort of beer the equal to the readers understanding as London Porter or Lager-Bier. I am not sure what the table means from a medical point of view but it clearly suggest familiarity… at least amongst the medical set.

In 1875, it is described in a travel book called Our Next-door Neighbor: A Winter in Mexico by Gilbert Haven (who seems to not have been a lover of the drink himself) at page 81:

Here, too, we get not only our last look at Orizaba, but our first at a filthy habit of man. Old folks and children thrust into your noses, and would fain into your mouths, the villainous drink of the country – pulqui. It is the people’s chief beverage. It tastes like sour and bad-smelling buttermilk, is white like that, but thin. They crowd around the cars with it, selling a pint measure for three cents. I tasted it, and was satisfied. It is only not so villainous a drink as lager, and London porter, and Bavarian beer, and French vinegar-wine, and Albany ale. It is hard to tell which of these is “stinkingest of the stinking kind.” How abominable are the tastes which an appetite for strong drink creates! The nastiest things human beings take into their mouths are their favorite intoxicants.

So, along with grammarians and the drinking medical set, Albany ale was also a name known to the non-drinking traveling set in the post-Civil War United States. It was, as a result, something we might consider “popular” in its day.

Oddly, the story of Albany ale does not seem to make it deep into the 1900s. Without making an exhaustive study, I don’t see reference to “Albany ale” in Beer and brewing in America: an economic study” by Warren Milton Persons from 1940. It is not indexed in Beer in America: the early years, 1587-1840 by Gregg Smith. It does not seem to be in Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer by Maureen Ogle as it really starts with the the rise of lager is in the second half of the 1800s. Why did it fall so far so fast?

That quote way up there? The one at the top? It’s from an 1899 New York Times article entitled “Kicked 90 Years Ago Just the same as Now” in which a 96 year old New Yorker still employed as a municipal engineer who was interviewed about the City’s old days. Talking about his youth in the 1830s, he said “Albany ale was the beverage then that lager beer is today, and a mighty good drink it was.” So, lager likely killed it off but only after it had its day and was enjoyed widely in the days before rail transportation both within the United States and abroad.

2015 Update: came across book by Mr Haswell, the 96 year old New Yorker mentioned up there.

Book Review: A Life On The Hop, Roger Protz

I bought a copy of this book after looking around and only finding Knut’s observations from last summer on the difference between its marketing and that of Pete Brown’s Hops and Glory. There was a press release by its publisher CAMRA, a nibbly bit by the NUJ, a smidge from his editorial assistant but I couldn’t seem to come up with a review other than the one that Knut found in The Westmorland Gazette:

A Life on the Hop is an amusing romp around the beer world and is devoid of beery jargon. It will be enjoyed not only by beer lovers but also by those who enjoy travel writing.

Magic. I’ll miss print journalism when it dies.

There has been much sport made of Mr. Protz but it is not something that I really understood as he is not a often discussed writer in this part of the world. So, being the good boy that I am, I thought I would have a read of his autobiography to learn a bit more to either join in the slag-fest or, more fairly, get a bit of perspective. I was in for a little shock.

The book is subtitled “Memoirs of a Career in Beer” and the key word is “memoirs” – as this really isn’t an autobiography but a series of anecdotes arranged in themes based largely but not solely on geography. I learned this in the first chapter when I thought I would learn about his childhood but where I learned about pubs he liked in around his first London newspaper work in Fleet Street – the Cheese, Punch, Old Bell, Old King Lub, Black Friar and the Globe. I didn’t know what to make of it – not much Roger, lots of tavern. Then you are quickly into chapters take you through the Czech Republic, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium Germany, Mexico and the USA as if someone were gleaning through one’s old note books in search of favorite and perhaps not too often repeated yarns of a wag. About a hundred pages in, I started turning down page corners after I read errors vaguely Canuckois like:

a. Fraunce’s Tavern in New York dates from 1790 “when New York was still under British rule” [p.107] The British left in 1783 (some moving to help found my town) and the building dates from 1719.

b. the Yakima Valley of Oregon was once part of “French Canada” [p.124] even though the French speaking part of Canada was far to the east and I think that the Yakima was south of the part of the area of the British claim.

I folded down more corners until I stopped around page 167. I didn’t really care that I doubted his explanation of the genesis of the term steam beer [p. 117] or that lambic is the oldest beer style known to mankind, being close to beer dating back to Egypt, Babylon and Mesopotamia [p. 129]. Did it really matter that Babylon was a city state within Mesopotamia? Was I missing the point?

I didn’t miss that there is something of a cranky, indiscreet tone to these travels. Targets include Tories who put him up for the night, corporations and two older ladies encountered in Prague having a private conversation:

I was crossing the square with Graham Lees, a CAMRA founding member with an acerbic turn of phrase, when we passed two elderly American women who were eyeing the fabulous architecture of the area. “Y’know,” one of them said to her friend, “it’s nothing like Poughkeepsie.” Lees went red in the face, chased after them and snarled: “Of course it’s nothing like fucking Poughkeepsie. It’s been here for several fucking centuries.” It was his finest hour.

That’s the finest hour for an arsehole, perhaps. It’s that kind of small coarse tone that you hear in a far too graphic and entirely gratuitous of an account of the suicide of a brewer in an early chapter and the tragic affect on the family or, later, the naming of names of fellow beer tourists who may have broken marital vows at Oktoberfest. You may come away wondering what sort of person would make that part of a book.

Yet he is obsessed with beer. And has spent a life following it – a life that I realize the more I write about beer sometimes can mean hard scrabble and closed doors. It’s a little bittersweet when despite all the years he is not able to arrange for proper accommodations on an invite to the US and back on a liner. It’s a little poignant when he thinks that when someone isn’t able to meet with him because Roger is going to reveal the truth about a merger when it is likely the guy was just too busy. It is a tough old road and a long one. It’s likely one that he takes pride in taking – a road not often taken when he started out. That pride and hard effort comes out as well.

One beer writer chastised me for an unkind comment by email a few months ago, saying: “anybody who started writing about beer since 1995 (just picked that year out of the air – maybe it should be 2000… should pause. If it weren’t for people like Roger they might not be able to be doing what they do.” He also said that he wouldn’t use him as a source but the point is still a good one. When it wasn’t easy, when it didn’t pay well and no one could roll out of bed and blog their thoughts within 17 minutes, Roger was out there writing about beer. He probably got you from one stage of interest to another at some point. And that is what the book is really about. You will get irritated, you will not find out the information you might have thought you would find and you will turn down corners when you find another error – but you will get a sense with the man.

So, buy the book and share your thoughts. Just don’t go on a beer tour with him and give him any reason to think you went off for the evening with the buxom lonely lush. You may read about it later.

Day 15: War, Xmas Photos And Roger Freaks Out!

I got a great gift in the mail today. Copy 8 of 10 of Ron Pattinson’s new book, WAR! He wrote about the book’s release this very morning from his home in The Netherlands and by suppertime a copy was in my mailbox here in Canada. Compiling his studies to date on the years of World War I and World War II, it is a great example of the work he is doing to bringing actual detailed primary research to the question of the history of beer.

One wishes all beer writers were so concerned with the facts as we witnessed today from Roger Protz who went all freaky handbags over BrewDog’s new and insanely strong beer. He’s received a number of head shaking responses, deservedly so given his use of language like “over-inflated egos and naked ambition” and “the wild buckeroos” and “what were you smoking last night, chaps?” and “this bunch of ego-maniacs” and “anxious to give beer a bad name.” The oddest thing is that he goes off on his own ice flow all the while misunderstanding the technical process used for actually making the beer, baldly claiming it had wine yeast in it… not that wine yeast would get you a 32% beer. One wonders what Protz was thinking or, in fact, had been smoking himself when he wrote such a blurt. He has certainly gone a long way to discredit his own opinions on experimental beer generally. For a more measured response, you may want to read Pete Brown’s post on the new and insanely strong beer from last Thursday…you know, when it was news.

Now with the Xmas 2009 Beer Blog Yuletide Photo Contest Extravaganza. First, a couple of solo entries from Canada.

Chris Berry of Kanata, Ontario sent this one picture to the right which sorta looks normal… until you have a good look at the baby’s face. Frank MacDonald of Torbay Newfoundland kept the kids out of the photo to the left. It was taken at the Grizzly Paw Brewpub in Canmore Alberta.

Next, Jeff Alworth of Portland, Oregon has sent in some photos from the scene there. I have no idea how he got to put in 8 entries but never having been to Oregon I can’t be sure this is not some sort of cultural thing, some sort of secret message to us all. Maybe he can’t count. Better not mess with the photo set just in case:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally Tim Connelly of Cambridge Massachusetts sent in these pictures which are entitled “Inside Cantillon,” “In a Galway pub,” “Outside of a Galway pub,” “The Franciscan Well Brewery Pub, Cork’ and “Brooklyn Brewery”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four more great entries. I better starting beating the bush for more prizes. Here I go. Off to email brewers until all I have are bloody stumps for hands. Why? I don’t do it for you. I do it for Santa.

“BrewDog Go Bonkers” by Roger Protz, 30 November 2009

[Stored for cross referencing…]

BrewDog have surpassed themselves with their over-inflated egos and naked ambition. They chose — deliberately, of course — to launch on the very day the Scottish Parliament was discussing a minimum price for alcohol a “beer” with a strength of 32%. Naturally, the wild buckeroos in Fraserburgh claim this is the world’s strongest beer, even though technically it’s not beer at all, as brewer’s yeast cannot work beyond a strength of 12 or 13 degrees. Clearly the new product, called Tactical Nuclear Penguin (what were you smoking last night, chaps?), was finished with a wine or champagne yeast. James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog, said the beer was “completely pushing the boundaries”. Indeed, and it’s also pushing beyond breaking point what sensible beer writers and connoisseurs will take from this bunch of ego-maniacs. Those of us who attempt to paint an image of beer as a fine drink enjoyed in moderation by sensible people have the ground cut from beneath our feet by BrewDog, which just plays in to the hands of the yellow press, ever anxious to give beer a bad name. I don’t often agree with the likes of Alcohol Concern but I think Jack Law, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, hit the soft spile on the head when he said BrewDog was guilty of “childlike attention-seeking”. He added that the fact that the beer, priced at £30 a bottle, had achieved a new record was not admirable. “It’s a product with a lot of alcohol in it, that’s all. To dress it up as anything else is cynical.”

Ontario: Two Evenings In Dark Bars In Toronto

 

Beer culture is is such a delicate and hopefully early state of development in Canada – even after all these years – that there are only a few places you hope to find an important work related training course so that when the bell rings and class gets out, well, you have something to do. I found a couple of spots the last few days that did the trick.

Feeling all very Ron, I got off the train last evening at around 9:00 pm and by one mere hour later had placed myself (after a little confusion from staff going off shift as to whether they were at work or not) at the upper room of the Queen and Beaver on Elm Street a half block away from the former site of Sam the Record Man. A sad testimony to the swath being cut through recorded music in Canada, the greatest record store in the land is but a hole in the ground now.

But I didn’t let it get me down. I have plenty of lps in the rec room to see me out. Instead, I planted myself in a wing chair and watched the second half of the MLS finals with a small group on a quiet Sunday night. At eight bucks a pint, it was not cheap but not insane either and when you can get a Denison’s weissbier as well as McAuslan oatmeal stout things are not all that bad. Service upstairs was far better than the apparent social intrusion I made on the empty first floor. The neat and tidy English soccer themed rec room feel was great after being stuck on the train for a few hours. We need a society for wing chair appreciation. A society with beer taps.

 

 

 

 

Tonight was a different matter as I walked up Yonge Street to hit the wonderful Cafe Volo. I met Troy Burtch of GCP’n’B there for supper. We got to chat with plenty of fine T.O. beer nerds as well as Ralph the owner and Michael Hancock of Denison’s Brewing. Blab-blab-blab. Chatter-chatter-chat. Bought Troy late wedding gifts in the form of a share of a bottle of Pannepot as well as another of Nostradamus. Should his good bride point out that the gift only went to one half of the happy couple, well, I can only plead that once I gave a wah-wah pedal as a wedding gift.

I had a County Durham Hop Addict which was very good as well as a Beau’s Gabba Gabba Heywhich was one wee notch gooderer and which got a solid three thumbs up from Michael. Five buck pints and the relaxed but seriously aware good beer atmosphere had the place hopping on a Monday night. Ralph was in the cellar beating on the casks at one point, the next telling us about his travels to Italy, then talking about how he was heading back to England for more training before he rolls out his own micro brewing on site. It was the place to be for good beer that night – busy when I wanted busy as much as the night before was quiet when I was whacked.

These moments are few. I don’t get out much so I am that much more tickled when they turn out to be just what I needed..

That Messy Messy Democracy That Is Beer Writing

Stan H. and E.S. Delia have both written posts in the last few hours that go to the very heart of beer blogging. Stan’s post “The end of beer writing as we know it?” and Mr. Delia’s “On Beer Writing” both explore the relationship between blogging – an amateur form of expression – with profession beer expressions like movies or beer magazines. Dalia writes:

The bigger issue is the nature of beer writing. Carroll quotes filmmaker Anat Baron’s take on beer writers versus beer bloggers, implying that the writers’ assessments were more astute or level-headed than that of the beer bloggers. I don’t get paid for this, so perhaps my opinions are less valid.

Nothing is so embarrassing as when condescension meets foolishness. It reminds of the old joke “what do you call a doctor who got ‘D’ in first year anatomy?” The answer is, of course, “doctor.” Like Dr. Johnson said of nationalism, this sort of idea about professionalism can also be the last refuge of a scoundrel. For further study on this idea, I suggest you seek out the works of Ivan Illich. You may not agree with the idea that professionalism in itself carries downsides but the perspective is nonetheless worthwhile.

Fortunately, both Mr. H and Mr. D reject such poppycock. Both suggest the far better idea that beer blogging is not in any way illegitimate and in fact can uniquely advance the discourse on beer culture in ways that profession beer sometimes can’t. Delia reminds us of the need to look to and weigh content. Hieronymus looks with hope to innovation and new beginnings. Sure, there is a lot of crap in blogging as well as failed technicalities like poor grammar. But there is also a lot of crap in magazine writing and in documentary film making as well as failures such as the business botch of misplaced trust in an illusory homogeneous craft beer community which will buy your tickets or purchase your subscriptions like unthinking autobots. What has been going on for years – and what some still don’t get – is that all this writing is a collection of disorganized personal explorations which, like this post exemplifies, feed each other and weave another part of a large tapestry with ideas. It is a better more complex and richer way.

Thirty-three years ago, Bill Gates complained about the very same thing in relation to software “hobbyists” but he as wrong, too, as history has proven.

When Should A Beer Blog Pay For Itself And The Beer?

Interesting to note that there are two comments today from pro-writing bloggers (ploggers?) mentioning how their connection to the blog connects directly or indirectly to income. Jack Curtain over at his Liquid Diet states:

…I want to once again express my deep gratitude to everyone who sent me their best wishes and especially those who generously “tipped the bartender” as a result of this posting, including one very kind snail mail of a brewpub gift card to which I will put good use. It is both demeaning and embarassing to ask for money, but I also think that the time and effort which goes into this site warrants some support now and then…

Jack is a writer who brings incredible experience as a newspaperman, beer columnist and published author. Another leading beer writer is Pete Brown who also touched on this idea today when he wrote:

“…I may be using some of the answers to this for a commercial project for which I will be paid money. If this offends your sensibilities and you feel it contravenes the unwritten ethics of blogging I apologise.

I find these comments somewhat unfortunate. Not because there shouldn’t be politeness in the world of beer writing but that this should not be an issue at all. I have been a very lucky beer blogger. See, I get ads and do so in a significant part because I have been doing this beer blogging for so long and have built up an insane body of work (1,543 posts and exactly 5,000 comments as of today). And I hope that body of work is also entertaining and informative. Beer pays for itself though those ads and has done so for three years now. It’s not a fortune and I spend it wisely. I don’t go to beer fests, don’t jump on planes to Europe for all those drinking sessions with Knut or Ron or Jeff or Pete (and a whack more to be sure) or drive deep into the US with Lew and Jay and Stan (and to be sure a whack more, too) – and I sure don’t buy every $32.00 Norwegian porter that I have recently seen foisted upon the shelves of beer stores in the northeastern US. But I do buy beer and gas and hotel rooms and generally use the money and goodwill the blog generates for sustaining my interest and also – as the impending Christmas Photo Contest 2008 prize list should show – to thank you for your support (…and mucho mucho gracias to those fine brewers who have already agreed to forward prizes.) I even have to pay taxes on the revenue as business income after deducting expenses as it is not incidental. I actually think that is very neat.

But that is not the real point. The real point is that there is yoinks and yoinks of money in beerand those who write about it should be supported by those who make beer, sell beer, distrubute beer and market beer….and maybe even those who are interested in reading about beer. I am not about to hit you, my readers, up as a result of this. I am not having an epiphany of how to make riches out of this gig. I do this because I like it. But if you are that part of the readership selling a beer, wouldn’t it seem clever to you that a few well placed ads for that beer collectively costing less than one print ad might be worth your while? As far as I am concerned there is a group of perhaps teo to twenty beer bloggers who deserve serious global attention for this sort of marketing. In addition – and this is even more to the point – there are dedicated and interesting local scene beer bloggers who should be supported by that local scene. If you are a microbrewer and you don’t know who your local beer bloggers are you are missing a huge opportunity. And, to be honest, if you are a brewer launching a new beer and you are not sending out samples by courier to beer bloggers as many brewers do (thank you very much) you are frankly pretty close to being out of line. Why would you expect your fans to be doing all the new media innovative heavy lifting they do for you and your beer without some recognition and compensation? Why is the incredible opportunity they present not part of your business plan?

By the way, I am neither embarrased to point this out or expect your sensibilities will be offended. Not that Jack or Pete are wrong in having such good manners but I think we should be a wee bit more realistic about all this – realistic about how money and new media work in the new craft beer economy. Now, excuse me as I am off to Twitter this post and place a link on Facebook to spread the word.

The Hieronymi Were Here…As Were Steve and John!

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So beer writers Stan and Daria and family were here getting a break from the camper on their world beer tour 2008. As it turned out, so were Steve from Beau’s and John o’ Church-key. Between them the lads drove 500 km to get here and as much to get home – nothing compared, however, to the Hieronymi land cruiser which hit the 10,000 mile mark yesterday. And, after hours of great beer and some good chow I threw together, I came away from what I will call the first Kingston Symposium on Craft Brewing realizing I pretty much know nothing about beer. Zippo.

Hanging around with such people of the beer is always a great education but listening to two such knowledgeable beer thinkers as Stan and Daria (who is also a recent winner on Jeopardy) over a whole evening with two of Canada’s most interesting young brewers was pretty amazing. Not to go blow by blow through the beers but I shared some Ontarians including our local Barley Day’s Wind and Sail Dark, some Stuart’s Natural and made some fairly snazzy scallops in a pan with a slug of Wellington Dark. Good Ontario and Quebec craft cheeses also shared the table.

We talked about beer price and value, the regulatory challenges of the Ontario market and the Canadian border as well as the opportunities a province that is trying hard to catch up to our southern neighbours provides. We also poured bottles of Steve and John’s brews including Beau’s flagship kolsche and Church-key’s West Coast IPA – as well as half year cellared bottles of Bog Water and Lactese Falcon, that beer that begs to be next to a rib-eye. Each of these showed really well and, in their comparison, begged the question as to which better expressed Ontario-ness: the traditional Algonquin Park canoe trip invocating bog myrtle or the funky blue cheese tang of the beer of the 22nd century. I just made that up. I am sure John will pick it up as the LT’s catch phrase.

To finish, we popped the tangy spicy dry and quite fascinating Fuego del Otono, a seasonal chestnut beer which is also very under-priced from Jolly Pumpkin. Stan and Daria had passed Dexter on a Saturday when the brewery was not open so it was fair to include it in their year-long continent hopping search for the essence of global local beer. By the way, that last beer is one of the ones that make me think there should be a web based auction for craft beer where beer lovers could set out what they would pay for a beer. If Ron at Jolly Pumpkin would set me aside a mixed case of beer like Fuego del Otono for pick up when I am in the neighbourhood, I would definitely pay $11.99 or a bit more compared to the $8.99 I paid for this one last fall at the ever excellent Bello Vino of Ann Arbor. Other beers of the moment might not get such a price boost from the set you own auction, if my suspicions are correct.

In the end, one in the morning came far too soon and, as with the best gatherings like this, I came away having added understanding as well as happily convinced in how little I still really know. There is so much to learn about good beer. For one thing, I now crave New Glarus Spotted Cow and may have to drive to Wisconsin just to get me some more.