Your Thursday Bullet Points For A Beery Yule

Are we in Yule yet? I think we are. The old town is at least looking wintery as you can see above. Our warm spell has flipped to cold snap so fast that the last of our garden tomatoes ripening on the window sill looked out at -17C this morning. But enough about comfort and joy. This blog is about beer, not… not beer.

First up in the news is all this  fuss about the shadowy Portman Group telling a brewery with childish colours and cartooning in their branding that childish colours and cartooning might be attractive to children. Infantilization indeed. I am pleased that the response of the UK brewery in question is so sensible and support the take by  in large part. BUT… a bit shocked was I by the (i) weepy hand wringing over the decision, (ii) weepy hand wringing over the process, and (iii) the collective amnesia about the Portman Group rulings on 2008. So much #poohwiddowcwaft! Now, I realize that the demise of most actual beer blogging has left an imprint on the minds of some that beer blogging was never all that good but it is rewarding to reach back in the archives to find sensible discussion about those events in a way that neither social media or trade-based beer journalism can apparently cope with these days.

Speaking of sensible application of the law, good to see that Beyoncé got here reputation unshackled from those freelancers who would attach their profit making to her hard earned fame.  It is quite stunning how we see this appropriation by craft brewers of the intellectual property of others. I still haven’t heard who drew and, so, owned or owns the copyright as opposed to the trademark as it relates to that White Stag. Yes, yes… it’s all a bit of fun. But that’s what the sexists and racists say, too, right?

Gerald Comeau, hero.

Robin and Jordan got a generous amount of coverage by TVO, Ontario’s public TV and interwebs broadcaster this week. My only sadness is the entire misrepresentation of the sixty years from 1927 to 1987 and the glory that was E.P. Taylor’s contribution to the world of brewing with his war on waste under the banner of lightness and modest price. The point, however, on “local” is especially well made and avoids our muddiness about all of Ontario being “local” to the entire 13,000,000 persons province.

Finally, interesting news about the jump in Canadian malting barley sales to China including this tidbit:

Canadian malting barley commands a higher price, especially for China’s premium beer market, because of its dark color and higher protein, which allows for better foaming, Watts said.

Because its all about the foaming. Good to see us kicking some Argie-Aussie-Euro butt for one in something other than curling.

I am off. Not like Stan is off. I should be back sooner than he is. I am going to think about Thursdays. Gonna think some more.

Your Monday’s Thoughts On The Latest Beer News

Ah, Monday. And a Monday after a quiet weekend on the beer blogging scene hovering just at the cusp of the holiday season. Dreams of Victorian veteran carvers are starting to dance in the head.* Nothing from 1600s or 1700s brewing history is nibbling at my brain at the moment. So, I turn to that other older thing I did on the blog and give a few news items less attention than they deserve. I think something picked up as Stan’s summer intern might be to blame. Enough! Too much self examination leads to bad things like supposing one might need an editor or running off chasing another hobby. No need of that. Here’s the news.

First, Martyn has posted his findings related to a trip to Norway in search of the meaning of kveik. I initially thought this a bit odd given the voluminous obsession with the subject that has been the last few year’s work of Lars Garshol including this post from just a few weeks ago entitled “‘Kveik’ – what does it mean?” But I quickly understood what what going on – a helpful summary and transposition of sorts: kveik for dummies… like me.  Once you read Martyn’s piece, I recommend you set aside a few evenings to go back through the research results posted by Lars. The idea that a third branch of brewing yeast has been quietly living on in rural settings to the north and east of the Baltic is fascinating.

On a far smaller scale, over the weekend I tweeted a tweet:

Thoughts on a can of GK Abbot Ale. Incongruous messages about cold black tea, caramel, whisky malt, potters clay in a body with oddly flat fishy stickiness. Still… relatively cheap.

That got me thinking about how consequential each beer one pours in a glass must be. The beer in question cost $2.30 which translates to £1.38 or $ 1.80 US. If I had not been paying intentional attention, it would have passed by my mind without much comment. That weird little nod to clay would not have raised itself to my consciousness. Yet just 50 cents more would have bought me a fine example of the low end of excellent regional craft. Can we still care at all for bulk imports?

Imagine – taking money to offer a favourable opinion on a beer.  Who saw that coming?

Next up, I have one itchy thought about the whole – let’s be honest – kerfuffle going on in Portland, Oregon between a brewery and the City over the use of a leaping stag logo which has appeared on a beloved landmark sign for decades. Jeff has described the issue from the perspective of one side of the debate, which is a very important one given the small brewery actually is the party that has held the trademark since 2012. But before the trademark, there was copyright. The classes of intellectual property are distinct. The craft brewery did not create the image. The sign permit was acquired in 1940 and, as authorship immediately creates copyright, someone created the image then. So, someone must own or owned the copyright in the design of the stag which is separate from and prior to the trademark. Can one trademark someone else’s design? Apparently so – but does that extinguish the copyright? These sorts of things can vary, but if (according to Wikipedia) the sign was built and owned by Ramsey Signs from the 1940s to 2009 when the City bought the sign from them, did the underlying copyright to the sign design not also pass to the City? Dunno. I once represented a man who argued he owned 25% of Times New Roman font as he owned one of the original sets of hand made typeface. Not everyone agreed but I recall he said he did receive royalty cheques. So, who first drew the leaping stag?

I think following Ypres Castle Inn means you are of a certain age.

Finally, I do tire of references to temperance as code for everything one does not like in beer regulation. It’s up there with anxieties over lack of wine world respect. Face it – public health is a key foundation of modern western civilization. Who would chose to go back to the pre-temperence society? Even when the do gooder sociologists in their laboratories get it wrong no one in their right mind wants them stopping doing their work. Give the church its gruitgeld!!!

PS: boring big craft pretending that it’s pretty much the same as taking outside investor money and the attached strings. Somehow related.

How Many Brewers Are Actually Happy To Leech Off Ron’s Research?

This comment was left on FB by what looks like the owner of maybe the 4573rd most important brewery in the USA and I find it just stunning:

Ron Pattinson I recently brewed an AK recipe I believe you posted on Beeradvocate. We are a brand new brewery and I tagged you on social media in an attempt to point people in the direction of the great work you do. I did respond “guilty”. But I’m not so sure. Do you want to sell books or do you want to sell recipes? Is Barclay Perkins or the myriad other breweries getting a cut of your book sales? Is Eldrige Pope getting any of the ad revenue per click for their 1893 recipe? That nod I gave to you was out of respect. Not guilt. Rethinking that.

See, Ron is exploring how to get at least a cut of all the money he makes for others who use his brewing records research. He just put up a payment button which he stated was for those needing to atone for their guilt. Over a decade ago I realized there was no money in writing well about beer. And I’m lucky to be otherwise employed. But for years, I have encouraged his efforts in this respect and he has had some success. But only some. Do you like historic beer recreations? You owe a debt to Ron. Do you buy or sell beers styled as gose or a number of forgotten styles… even if the given beer is an abomination of the style? Thank Ron.

Ron is one of my favourite people who I’ve met through beer. Been lucky enough to have been out with him on three blurry weekends if I recall correctly. His work in brewing history speaks for itself. I actually don’t think of him as a beer historian so much as the chief archivist of the entire good beer movement. So, when some dope writes the sort of thing I cut and pasted above, it’s not only depressing. It’s a bit disgusting.

My next recommendation is that Ron hide his actual research for brewers, post about his findings but offer the details only to subscribers. It’s the least he deserves. Frankly, why the guy isn’t on long term consulting contracts for big craft brewers is beyond me. Except this is beer. Par for the course.

Tales From The Crypt Of Early Micro

I am working on a relatively new database to me, a newspaper and magazine archive covering a little over the last thirty years. Grinding common beer words through the search engine of any new database is always fun but in the shadowy world of the recent past it can also be surprising. I don’t actually write all that much about the origins of of the micro brewing industry but, as we know, the shifting sands and rearguard revisionist retelling of all the genesis stories should be enough motivation for anyone. And it turns out there are interesting tales to be told from the point in time when “micro” was battling with “mini” and recently deceased “craft” was just a gleam in some PR committee’s eye.

First, set the scene. In Albany, New York’s Times Union of 16 July 1986 we have the staff byline story “Abrams Sues Big Breweries” – this particular Abrams being New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams:

The state attorney general filed an anti-trust suit in federal court Tuesday charging the four major beer breweries and their distributors have virtually suffocated competition and created unnaturally high 6-pack prices. The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn names Anheuser-Busch Inc., Miller Brewing Co., G. Heileman Brewing Co. Inc. and the Stroh Brewery Co. breweries and the New York State Beer Wholesalers Association, which he charged control 80 percent of the New York state beer market. The four companies distribute almost every big-name beer in New York, including Budweiser, Michelob, Miller, Schlitz, Schaefer, Colt 45 and Schmidt.

The story states that the lawsuit, which charged distributor and breweries were engaged in an actual conspiracy to control the beer market prices. The interesting thing is that this is the sort of thing that big craft suggests it triggered but this story is effectively pre-micro.

In another tale from that same month we read, again in the Times Union, a story of accusation. In the 7 July 1986 edition, we can find the headline “Boston Beer Seller Claims 3 European Imports Impure” which is pretty funny given there have been false and well proven accusations about competition in the brewing industry since, well, pretty much since beer was invented. The story by Bart Ziefler of the Associated Press starts in this way:

A tiny Boston beer company is taking on two giant international brewers, claiming the top European imported beers couldn’t be sold in West Germany because they don’t meet that nation’s beer purity law. In a series of radio and newspaper ads, Boston Beer Co. has challenged the the quality of the Beck’s, St. Pauli Girl and Heineken beers sold in this country. Beck and Co. of Bremen, West Germany, which brews Beck’s and export- only St. Pauli Girl, denies the claim. Netherlands-based Heineken, brewer of the No. 1 import, acknowledged that its contains corn and they don’t try to sell it in West Germany, according to the Boston Business Journal. “It’s sort of common knowledge among brewers that the beers are doctored,” said James Koch, whose company began selling Samuel Adams beer a little more than a year ago. “If you’re going to bring beer from that far away and have it drinkable, you’ve got to do something to stabilize it.”

Really? Corn as the crisis in craft? Excellent. Can’t we just admit we like corn sometimes? Is this PR campaign where the phobia related to the one ingredient “whose name may not be spake” came from? Sweet last line in which Koch states that he said he hoped to make Sam Adams truly a Boston beer next year by opening his own brewery. Correct me if I am wrong but, according to wiki wisdom, the brewery wasn’t bought for another eleven years and it was located in Cincinnati.

The Buffalo News of 8 November 1991 included a particularly excellent “state of the nation” report by Dale Anderson from the 1991 Microbrewers & Pubbrewers Conference at the Hyatt Regency in that fair City… two months before, in September. Under the lengthy headline “A Little Beer – Microbreweries, Producing Specialty Beers in Small Quantities Are The Talk Of The Industry” we learn a lot of things… and not just that there was the term “pubbbrewers”:

1. “Two American breweries — Sierra Nevada in California and Red Hook in Washington — actually have outgrown the “micro” designation.”
2. “The biggest concentration of brew-pubs on the continent, meanwhile, is in nearby Ontario, where there are about two dozen in the Toronto area alone.”
3. “These small-scale operations have little effect on the big brewers… Instead, they have moved in on the imported specialty brands.”
4. “One reason Queen City chose to brew at Lion is that it could put foil wrapping on the necks of the bottles and other breweries couldn’t. “We sat back and said we didn’t want to run a microbrewery with a pub attached,” Smith says, “so we followed the path of Jim Koch with Samuel Adams in Boston. The tough part is predicting four or five weeks ahead of time what we’re going to need.”

You can click on the article for more but it is interesting that the acknowledgement of out-growing the category as well as contract brewing was so openly stated and presented simply as a sign of success.

Less familiar perhaps than the other stories is the weird 2002 tale of the “Sex For Sam” sponsored by Samuel Adams Beer in which “prizes were awarded to people who had sex in unlikely public places.” Unlike the many references to Mr. Koch the Ascendant in the media of the time, this is not one that weathers the passage of time so well. In the New York Post of 7 November 2003,  William J. Gorta and Bill Hoffmann reported the story a year later after events in question – when the resulting criminal processes were concluded:

The Virginia woman who scandalized St. Patrick’s Cathedral by having sex in the pews as part of a sleazy radio stunt that revolted the city will not go to jail. Loretta Lynn Harper, 36, was sentenced to 40 hours of community service as part of a plea deal in which she admitted to disorderly conduct. Prosecutors took pity on Harper because her boyfriend, 38-year-old Brian Florence – her sex partner in the church tryst – died suddenly of heart failure last month.

Turns out the great idea was a joint project between Boston Beer and the soon to be fired WNEW-FM shock jocks Opie and Anthony. An FCC fine of $357,000 was levied against the radio station. The final two lines of the story is classic:

WNEW had no comment on the sentencing. A rep for Opie and Anthony and Sam Adams President Jim Koch did not return calls.

Wise. But a little more detail is provided in a gossip column in the New York Daily News of 29 August 29, 2002 which I provide in full for reasons of review of the delightful manner in which the gossipy tidbit was framed:

Opie and Anthony had a beer buddy rooting them on in the studio while they encouraged the St. Patrick’s Cathedral sex stunt that got them canned. Jim Koch, the head of Boston Beer Co., admitted he was on hand during the taping and issued an apology on the company’s Web site Monday. “We at the Boston Beer Co. formally apologize to all those upset or offended by the incident on the Opie and Anthony show and by our association with it,” wrote Koch. His company backed the show’s “Sex for Sam” contest, which promoted a trip to Boston to the company’s annual festival for couples who had public sex. The Samuel Adams brewer even called Lou Giovino, the Catholic League’s director of communications, to apologize. “I spoke with him twice since Monday,” Giovino told us, “And we’re satisfied with his apology.” But Giovino didn’t seem content when we told him he could listen to Koch’s studio hooting on the Smoking Gun’s Web site. “Oh, boy,” he sighed.

The past is a foreign country – they do things differently there. “Oh boy,” indeed.

One last tale. A little less… ripe and perhaps more in tune with where the future was actually going. In the 2 November 1996 issue of Newsweek magazine, there was a short piece headlined “Hobbies – It’s Beer O’Clock” in the regular Cyberscope column authored by Brad Stone and Jennifer Tanaka.

Seems like it’s hardly ever Miller time anymore. Now that America has developed a taste for microbrewed beer, The Real Beer Page (http:realbeer.com) should find a natural audience. It’s a one-stop destination for dozens of links to microbrewery home pages, beer Web zines and a database of brew pubs with a search engine to help you find one in your neighborhood. Cheers.

Dozens! Imagine. Particularly sweet is the note that the caption to an accompanying image was “Suds on the Menu” because no one loves an early web pun more than me. I also like the reference to “beer Web zines” which what I really should have called this place – A Good Beer Web Zine. Where are my Hammer Pants?

The Problematic Third… No, FOURTH (!) Week Of The Intern’s Beery Links

Week three.* I understand this is when a beer blog intern really lets the side down. I mean there is gardening to do, day dreaming about ice cream making demands and quality napping time to be enjoyed. Me, I weeded the leeks and harvested the garlic just yesterday. I’ve no time to write my own stuff. I clearly need a need a break. Fortunately, others have been doing a particularly swell job keeping an eye on the ball so there has been lots to think about this week.

What Is Bad Aurosa and What Isn’t

First, my co-author-in-law Robin LeBlanc wrote an excellent piece on a beer which neither of us are likely to ever see on a shelf let alone buy. Aurosa, a Czech brand aimed at… women. All of them apparently. All at once. But that, as you know, makes no sense. Robin deals with this handily:

…the type of women they have in mind are a very specific subset. Usually white, thin, rich, and the type that identify deeply with Kendall Jenner’s instagram account. There is nothing wrong with this type of woman, but if you’re going to market to all women you have to acknowledge that we’re not all one type and that is why women don’t need a brand of beer specifically for them.

This has wider implications beyond this mockery attracting form of thick-headed sexism… which, BTW, can in turn attract casual hate.  The fact is beer is not manly and also not not manly. It isn’t noble or ignoble.  It’s a fluid that gives you a buzz for lots of your money which can be branded in any number of ways, even the quite stupid – and, as Maureen wrote about in 2009,  even the blatantly racialized. Why all the attribution? Money? Money.

I illustrate the tendency in reverse. One aspect of the chameleon-like status of gender and brewing has been the presentation of early brewing as all female, an argument often begins with a paragraph on that Sumerian goddess. It is that, yes, and more. And less, too. Jay some time ago posted a helpful list of all the goddess and gods and neutral deities of brewing. The list conveys the many labels cultures and eras imposed on the joy juice. We make of it what we want. Or someone wants to tell us to want.

As with many things about beer, along with the money I blame the alcohol but if we do consider the many faces and facets of beer and brewing over time and cultures, for me, the interest lies in the diversity of ways it acts as a conduit – a trigger even – for both the highs and depths humankind can come up with.

Lars Travels East So You Don’t Have To

Clearly driven by more than booze and cash, we have Lars. Is there any more dedicated beer researcher than Lars Marius Garshol? This week he is sending tweets from out front,  where the new ideas and ancient ways are to be found. The eastern front that is. He sent out this update on Tuesday:

On the road to Kudymkar. Car shaking so bad I can’t look out the window sideway, or I’ll be sick. Should be there in an hour or so.

According to wikipedia, Kudymkar is a town and the administrative center of Komi-Permyak Okrug of Perm Krai, Russia. Lars took himself there to document traditional rural farmhouse brewing techniques and his twitter feed is on fire. Well, it’s not. OK. It is not flammable. But it is a hot take! Fine, it’s not – as it is actually well researched and properly considered. Let’s just leave it that his work is fascinating and valuable. This one tweet is more marvelous that 98% of the entire internet. What did you do for beer this week? Not much, right?

Rich Brats Pay Others To Make Beer

Much has been made of the article in Forbes on the three sons of rich people who are starting a brewery. The reality that money speaks for money may underlie the very access to the publication. Fun making of the three lads and story’s errors is to be found at Beervana but the best thing is the plan they proudly describe to make “pilsnar” – it’s the bestest dumb thing about beer of all this week.

But the matter may have gone to far with this question posted by John Urch: “Have three more arrogant, hubristic people opened a brewery?” As we all know, the answer is yes (and you can all name them.) Often it is a requirement for big craft success.

Andy Crouch on the Need for Transparency

The release by tweet of Andy’s July 2017 column for BeerAdvocate has caught the attention of more than a few. There was even the obligatory if weak gotcha .gif sighting. In his column, Andy* argues that the problem with big beer buying into craft bigly is all in the disclosure:

…consumers have a right to know about this. If you’re a Big Beer-affiliated brewery, own that. Don’t hide it. In your company’s “About Us” or “Brewery History” page online, don’t omit that AB InBev owns you as almost every formerly independent and now High End brewery does. Don’t play cute about it with the press. Stop telling consumers nothing has changed. Anyone saying that is either lying or negligently naive.

I spoke up thusly: “Add transparency about contract brewing + non-ownership financial arrangements, too. Maybe records of health + safety orders.” See, what matters to me has little to do with ownership but plenty to do with interests. I don’t care to spend my money on bad employers or false fronts. If we benefit openness and transparency, let the light shine everywhere. I want to know who is getting paid by whom, who is contract brewing, who is cashing out, who isn’t a good employer, and whose civics are admirable.

Other Stuff

More fun hate on for BrewDog. Why do they make it so easy?

Our stunned Jim Koch quote of the week explains what his version of big craft thinks of some of its customers – those who like to think:

It’s a dilemma other nationally distributed craft brewers have faced, including Jim Koch, the founder of Boston Beer, which makes Sam Adams and has annual sales of $879 million. “If you make great beer,” Koch says, “and people love it and drink it, and more and more of them love it and drink it, the beer geeks will turn against you. You’re talking about roughly 5%, but they’re an influential 5%.

If you are reading this – heck if you are reading about beer at all – that’s you. Get in line. Money needs more money!

Presenting a far more coherent grasp on reality, Stonch returns us to the topic of pie and mash reviews, with Jeff’s deft hand giving grace to an otherwise modest corner of English culture found in a car park.

And finally, Stan wrote a well thought out piece on what it means to be a brewmaster. Another form of over-reach, self-promotion exposed in a way. Is that all this is about?

And there we end your Monday morning story time. The book is being gently closed, your blankey adjusted, you can finish off the last of that nice warming drink and go back to quietly dozing at the office for another summer’s week.

*No, it’s the fourth, you dope.
**Disclosure: we hung out once four years ago.

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.

Craft? Why Not Micro Brewing? Heck, Why Not Mini Brewing?

One of the interesting things about the language of beer is how little we think about it. Sure, there have been useful churnings over the origins of “craft“* and discoveries that before it became the popular term a little over a decade ago.  But the reality is in the thirty plus years of this revival of good smaller scale brewing, “craft” is a word that has had its day. Refer to the new Brewers Association logo if you don’t believe me.

So, before we had craft when all the current commentators were still in high school we had micro brews made by micro brewing at micro breweries. But why? Why was “micro” the prefix of choice? The image above is a passage from that bedtime favourite Seminar on Micro-local Analysis by  V. GuilleminM. Kashiwara and T. Kawai published by Princeton University Press in 1979. “Micro” at that time was a science word.  Which make sense given since at least the later 1800s interest in the microscope was a popular interest.  In the book The Micro-macro Link by Jeffrey C. Alexander, published by University of California Press in 1987** the progression of the concept of “micro” is described in this passage in the introduction:

Although the micr0-macro theme has entered sociological theorizing as a distinct and firmly established issue only in recent decades, its prehistory can be traded from late medieval thinking through postwar meta-methodological debates over science, epistemology and political philosophy.

In brief, in the 1970s and early ’80’s the use of “micro” as a handy catch-all concept was relatively new. It appears to me that the route “micro” took from egghead to everyday was computing. We have the 1980 text Distributed Micro/Minicomputer systems: Structure, Implementation, and Application, for example, in which the future was described in this way:***

The continuing decline in processor and memory cost couples with the lower cost communications based on fiber optics, micro-wave transmission, and satellite communications, to use a few examples will hasten the development and widespread use of distributed systems based on micro- and minicomputer [technologies]…”

One is reminded of the SCTV character Gerry Todd from 1981-83 played by Rick Moranis to be brought back to the era when issues around what we might now call “personal” technology were sufficiently new and niche to be mocked.**** It is, in fact, always necessary to seek to place yourself back in a context when searching for a particular meaning. Otherwise, we are left with recollection and a lot of IMHOs which are often worse than useless. Fortunately, digital records give us a chance to reach back and pretend to relive the past – or at least can be used to cross reference the to often positive recollection.

Applying that principle, we see another interesting thing that is interesting for immediate purposes because it is included in the heading for this blog post.***** We see the words “micro” and “mini” bandied about. What did they mean in relation to the trendiest thing at this point in time? No, not beer… computers. Consider this articles in The Times Union of Albany, NY from March 11, 1986 under he title “Overbooked Libraries Seach for Space May Be Overdue”

At the central library of the Schenectady County Public Library across the street from City Hall, a space shortage has forced books to be stored on the second floor where administrative offices are located – off-limits to library patrons. Staff gofers bridge the gap between floors. “The lack of space is getting pretty serious,” said Ronald Lagasse, director of the Schenectady County Public Library. “The problem is we’ve had to increase the variety of formats of information we provide.” A micro-computer requires 200 feet, space the books used to get. Videocassette recorders, microfilm readers and printers and the storage for them have further eroded what was once the sole domain of books. 

First, shoot the person who put that pun in the headline. Then – notice that “micro” was not very… micro. Now, look at this schedule of events and the mid-afternoon listing under the title “Wildlife Expo is Four Shows in One” published by the same paper five days later:

*2 p.m – Bruck Brodsky of Upstate Computer will feature “Home Use and Education With Micro and Mini Computers.” Attending this one will surely help you in the operation of many computers used throughout the Expo.

Hilary Dustin of U.S. Forest Service will lecture on the Finger Lakes National Forest.

“Micro” and “mini” are two things, two points on a scale. Why do we care about this? Because “micro” and “mini” brewing may also be a bit older than you realize. Look at these images:

 

 

 

 

The image to the left is a Schlitz ad from Schlitz ad found in Black Enterprise magazine’s October 1977 edition. A similar ad ran in U.S. News & World Report and Saturday Review in 1977 as well as Business Week in 1976. This use of “mini-brewery” was the same as Bert Grant’s Ontario-based pilot brewery operated first at Carling in the 1950s and then at his home in the early 1960s. See also Food Engineering, Volume 43 from 1971 which described producing beer in a “laboratory mini-brewery.” Scientific beer.

The other two images above are for another thing. They are ads for Bierhaus International’s “mini-brewery” as seen in Mother Jones Magazine Feb-Mar 1981 and Feb-Mar 1982 editions. Variations of the “Try My All Natural” advertising were also placed for years in magazines like in Kiplinger’s Personal FinanceField and Stream, Popular Science and The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Tremendously manly and busy ads they are, too. I hope someone will be able to tell me about Bud Weckesser, the president of Bierhaus International Inc., if only because he clearly seems to be a man of international intrigue.† More to the point, he was selling a “mini-brewery” to subscribers of those fine journals. Science at home.

Like the Schlitz and even Bert Grant’s pilot breweries, the Beerhaus International set ups were small. Small enough to fit in a home. Schlitz’s was only a five gallon set up providing “a world of care in miniature.” So you would think that “mini” is less than “micro” right? Not always. At least when it comes to brewing. Let’s have a look at that bit of the end of an article placed in the May 1982 edition of InfoWorld 17 magazine entitled “Micro Firms Vie for European Market at Hannover” in which the following is stated:

You can take comfort from one thought in all this scale. Although Information Technology is growing incredibly, it is still not the biggest section in the seven-pound-plus Fair catalog (supplied with extra-strength handles). That is reserved for Electrical Engineering. When you reach the part of Fair reserved just for new railway locomotives, you begin to grasp that there are still worlds for the micro to conquer. There aren’t any micros used yet in the mini power station, not the mini brewery that run each year for only eight days in the Spring as part of the Fair on the flat German plains of Hannover.

It’s a delicious description of a transition point. [The heavy catalog has handles alone was worth the price of admission.] “Micros” are under too new to be pervasive but the “mini” brewery seems to have been around for yoinks. “Mini” is just small. “Micro” is both small and new.

So what happened to mini? As we see today with “independent” being proposed as the new “craft” just as “craft” was once the new “micro” we know these things are propped up and then later taken down once stale. But did “mini’ ever get its day in the sun? In the 1989 Canadian book Ale & Beer A Curious History by Alan D. Butcher published by then powerhouse bookseller McClelland & Stewart we read this lovely transitional passage:

…scores of other mini-breweries are also simply satisfying local tastes? Upper Canada Brewing, an Ontario-based “micro” brewery, sells across Ontario and has recently entered the European market.

A few years earlier, the Australian publication Beverage Review appeared to use the term generously. In 1984, The Economist magazine’s Intelligence Unit published an issue on retail business which contained the description to the right. It describes a Whitbread pub, the still operating Alford Arms, as then having a brewing set up in house. A mini-brewery appears in this context to refer to the equipment more than perhaps than the business model. Similarly, in a 1986 publication from the apartheid era South African Information Service South African Panorama a similar description is used:

Barney’s Tavern and Heritage Brewery, which are administered by South African Breweries. The beer is brewed on site and Is called Digger’s Draught. The brewery is the only fully-fledged mini brewery of Its kind in South Africa.

The term shows up in the USA as well. A 1986 article on plans for Kentucky’s first micro, the Oldenburg Brewery, stated that it:

…will be a mini-brewery licensed under the new Kentucky microbrewery law enacted by the legislature in 1984. The brewery will have a limited capacity of 12,500 barrels of traditional German beer made only with malted barley and hops …

And in the 1982 travel guide Making the most of Sonoma: a California guide by Don Edwards we read one of the founding American micros being described in this way:

A wine country mini-brewery, New Albion, produces traditional British-style ale, porter, and stout— all good companions to Sonoma’s cheese, bread, and sausage.

And then? Not so much more. “Micro” soon starts to go macro as the inevitable dreams start to kick in. It then reigns for the best part of twenty years before it became clear that micros were not going to be in view of mini in the future. Change and growth occur. The idea that New Albion might lead to international scale big craft would have seemed very much a dream (if not a farce) to those sipping a stout with their Sonoma bread and sausage. Language needs to compete, keep up or fall away. “Mini” just never really got very deep into that game.

 

*Which includes some of the best sources ever including this clever one: “New Belgium is one of several breweries Alan McLeod, co-author of The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer—A Rant in Nine Acts, describes as big craft. “What bugs me about ‘craft beer’ as a term is that it arose to cover up that micro beer was less and less crafted and more and more industrialized. It is double speak,” he wrote via email. “… New language was required to mask the industrialization and then nationalization of what is now big craft.”
**Note obvious use of egghead texts found on Google Books to laydown a questionable baseline of cleverness.
***Interestingly, a now charming foreshadowing of only the nonthreatening parts of the argument of “Why the Future Does Not Need Us” from 2000. I actually cited this in my 2000-2001-ish LLM thesis so I don’t feel entirely dirty writing this footnote.
****But were more likely then thought of as “home” technology. Note: I also still have my rude 45 of “Turning Japanese”… so there.
*****You don’t post a blog. You post a blog post to a blog. Blog is short for “web log” which makes it a log and a log has entries. A log is not each entry. It is the total of all entries. A blog is not each post.
More here.

Your Monday Morning Beer Links For Canada Day Weekend

As threatened and then oddly certified, I am stepping in for July as Stan has scampers off somewhere. And it seems Boak and Bailey are putting their feet up, too. So my July 2nd and a bit of the 3rd will be spent pounding the keyboard for your sideward glance – instead of focusing on the can of Bud and Coors Light like most beer loving Canadians will be doing. No rush. I have to make the best use of that lawn chair out back. Hmm… has there been anything going on worth discussing?

Wine News

As is Stan’s habit, I begin the week’s highlights with news from Clarence House. Prince Charles and herself spent a part of last Friday about an hour’s drive west of me partaking of the wines of Prince Edward Co., Ontario. I have written a few posts in the past about the region which you may wish to review before checking out the story as covered by the UK’s Daily Mail. Excellent exposture to the greater world market likely means my local prices go up. Thanks, Chuck.

In other wine news, Eric Asimov in The New York Times has made the case for simplicity and pleasure in his regular “Wine School” column:

That is especially true with the thirst-quenching wines we have been drinking over the last few weeks. These easygoing wines are primarily focused on the No. 1 task of any wine: to refresh. They do so deliciously, but these wines don’t offer much to think about. They are the lawn-mower beers of wine, ready to stimulate, energize and invigorate. They provoke physical reactions, and do not leave much room for contemplation.

I can hear the teeth grinding but being honest – for 99% of the time 99% of beer drinkers don’t sit around and contemplate 99% of their sipping anyway. Thinking about such things might include less thinking about such things. Think about it.

The Logo

Once again, the US Brewers Association PR committee has made a bit of a botch of a well meant bit of communications. At the start of the week, they revealed a new logo for their organization, then limited its use to only members who signed the special pledge and watched as their plans for market share demarcation got ripped. Given these folks came up with the fabulous failure of “craft v. crafty” what were we expecting? So many fonts for one image – is it five? And that weird outline. And an upside-down bottle.

The really problem the BA faces is that it can’t use the proper word that beer fans are really interested in – local. This is because it has spent a decade chasing the false promise of national craft with truckloads of California beer selling in New York gas stations and corner stores while Maine brewed Belgian-styled ale sell in Hong Kong and Dubai. So, the campaign and the logo have to fall back on second rate concepts.

The key concept in the messy logo is something called “INDE… PEN… DENT” which sits uneasily along with inordinate use of a “TM” and “CERTIFIED” given the limited visual geography. [Note: I couldn’t find the image’s trademark registration when I looked for 47 seconds and nothing about the logo relates to certification.] The problem with “independent” as a core message is that big industrial macro is independent too and the diversity of small local brewers can hardly be expressed with the “one ring to rule them all” approach that centralized trade industry branding offers. Plus anything can be “independent” can’t it.

Jeff Alworth takes a different approach which is quite compelling, separating message from branding. He argues that by moving away from “craft” and embracing “independent” as the core concept, the BA is taking back control of the debate. Bryan Roth also explores “independence” more from just the branding angle. But, for me, both these approaches (as both Jeff and Bryan state) are not without long term issues. Consider Mr C. Barnes at The Full Pint who is even less hopeful.

The Video

This is even sillier. Andy called it correctly when he called it “whining and whinging.” You may have more thoughts on the thing but I don’t see why anyone would bother. Why make that sort of ad when you have made this fabulous one?

Other things

The Sun newspaper-like thing reports that hipster craft is causing an inflationary effect on the price of lager. Who saw that coming?

The Sammy Smith “no swearing in our pubs” rule has led to at least one pub closing up for an evening due to naughty bad bad people being rude. Pete Brown, no fan apparently, called Humphry Smith, the head of the company behind the scheme to wipe out bad language the “nastiest, most unpleasant person in the brewing industry” by way of his introduction to a story on Humph in The Guardian which discloses this tidbit:

Smith’s eccentricity is the source of local legend and seems to know no bounds. Regulars inside Smith pubs claim he habitually dresses up as a tramp and poses as a customer to make sure his rules are being enforced. Punters in the Commercial Inn in Oldham claim Smith once sacked a bar worker for not handing him the correct change – another tale of summary sacking it has not been possible to confirm.

Quite the nut – but it is his ball so he can take it home whenever he gets in a huff, I suppose.

Finally, happy to report that the Canada Day long weekend was celebrated with Ontario made regional and local small brewery beers from Perth, Riverhead, Beyond the Pale, Great Lakes and Side Launch. Those two gents up there with their Buds? They are the 90%. It’s everywhere.

Fine. That’s enough for this week, Stan. Time to hang up the bloggers smock. Send your complaints and spelling correction suggestions to him via Twitter.

Once Upon A Time I Was Stan’s Summer Intern

It happened so fast:

I officially endorse this idea. “What I did on my summer vacation.”

What idea? Covering for Stan as he blows off July’s obligations and skips the Monday beery links stuff. And he deputized me. Me?!? The good news is I have done this before. Stan likely started out just copying my old Friday links from about a decade ago. You know, when blogging was cool. Not like now. Now, when it’s like slipping out quietly to attend the CB radio fan club meetings.*

To be fair to what he privately calls Team Stan – and in line with the terms and conditions he surprisingly sent me via email immediately after he tweeted – I might need a few hints. So little of what is written these days has any oomph that I might need guidance to a hidden gem. But, let’s be honest: anything Lars writes is fabulous and will always make the cut. Twitter outrage? Not so interesting. There. You have your marching orders. Send me links via beerblog@gmail.com.

Five Mondays. That’s all. Let’s see what we can learn.

*All foreseen 14 years ago.

 

Session 123: The Internet And Craft Beer

The trouble with the considering how the Internet and craft beer have interacted is that any old fool can stake a claim to knowing something, spend years rabidly building a personal brand and then – with no accreditation backing you but plenty of beer porn – hold yourself out as some sort of expert… and then expect folk to pay you and even (get this) come out to hear you speak as if in the presence of a special moment.

Me. That’s me right there. I’ve done all that. Fourteen years of it. Been quoted by The New York Times, too. All because of the Internet. In the January 2007 issue of Great Lakes Brewing News I got on the front cover with my article “Crafting the Internet: Beer On Line” which I am sure now springs immediately to your mind’s eye now that I mention it. (I used to do that sort of thing before I learned about the starvation wages of a freelancer.) It goes on for three whole pages and I take the time to generously discuss my beer blog, those of my friends as well as mentioning all the paying sponsors of the time that I could shoehorn in. What a corrupt wee jerk I was. What is it with this internet thing? Some things never change.

The interesting thing about the article is how essentially the structures of today are still the ones we use. BeerAdvocate and RateBeer are discussed as are pro writers like Lew as well as Mr. Rubin of the Toronto (Red) Star. Beers had started to be offered on line for delivery to your door. I complained that most “craft breweries” (look at me using the term that early) were behind the times, offering only an “email us” feedback loop for their customers – though I mentioned that Flossmoor in Illinois and Beaus here in Ontario had started up their own blogs.

2007. Framed. That serves as a reasonable benchmark for the question posed by this month’s hosts for The Session at Beer Simple:

This month, we’re taking on the internet and craft beer: is it a help, a hinderance, an annoyance, or all of the above?  How is beer drinking/brewing different in the internet age, and how is the internet changing the way brewers and craft beer drinkers do business?  

The odd thing about the question is the shortsightedness of the questions. Good beer in the sense of the micro brewing has been around for over three decades and, really, at least four if we understand the role of Peter Austin and the era of import bars. Similarly, as Boak and Bailey point out in their response to the question, alt.beer was founded around  July 1991. I would add BeerAdvocate was founded just five years after that. Plus, before use.net, the beer discussions of obsessives occurred in personal ‘zines and local newsletters whether published by CAMRA branches or that guy in New York whose name I can’t recall. Yankee Brew News was founded in 1989.

So, if we think about it, is the question really about how social media (post-2007) has affected craft beer (also pretty much post-2007)? If so, isn’t it a question about how social media has affected pop culture? I would think the effect on a craft brewery would be much the same as it might be in relation to a sports team or a pop singer. But the question as posed seems to include a unspoken bias or at least a foundation in unhappiness:

Just how fast do aleholes on message boards and elsewhere turn off prospective craft beer enthusiasts?

What an odd concept. As a third party observer why would one care if “aleholes” are turning off “prospective craft beer enthusiasts”? There is a word for both classes of person – strangers. Which is the problem social media has brought into all parts of the discourse. The presumption… no, the illusion of nearness. Brewers, bloggers, other fans and storytellers are all in the double bubble of the alcohol-laced social media construct. Associating what you find there with commonality or, worse, friendship is rife with peril. Some fools actually consider creaky big craft brewers heroes. Good Lord.

All beer is, as a result, properly understood as local and personal. The ecology is small and getting smaller with the return to more naturally scaled micro and happy tap rooms – and the slow collapse of big craft dreams much to its own surprise.

Should we be surprised? Has the internet lied? Or have we all lied to the internet?