The Many Early Vassar Breweries Of Poughkeepsie

The more attentive readers will recall how back in July 2012 I wrote about the Vasser brewing book of the mid-1830s and then in November 2014 wrote about the Vassar general ledger of 1808-11. Then I wrote a whole lot about New York brewing over the last couple of years starting about here…  but I never got back to the Vassars even though, due in large part to the founding of a university, it is one of the more famous 1800s pre-lager American breweries. Wonder why? Too easy? The story is pretty much out there already for all to see. Matthew Vassar is a mid-century magnate along the lines of John Taylor of Albany and perhaps even a more wealthy brewer at the time. Everybody knows that.

But then a notice in a paper like that one up there grabs your attention and off you go again. It’s from the Poughkeepie Barometer of 14 April 1807 and it was placed by James Vassar, the father of Matthew. See what he’s doing? He has imported a European barley strain “more productive and valuable than the common Barley” and is selling it or leasing it to his neighbouring farmers. Leasing. That is fabulous as is the fact that the leased seed is “returnable next fall”! We learned the years around the 1700s becoming the 1800s was a time of crisis and innovation in the grain zones of the youthful USA. And, as Craig has shown, six row reigned far longer as base brewing grain than was understood – just as wheat lasted far longer and was used more widely as the main brewing base before six row was accepted. So, by bringing in European barley and propagating it for a few years until he had enough to spread out to neighbouring farms, James Vassar is in his way participating in the great experiment of making America.

 

 

 

 

Notice that the ad way up top was placed in Feb 1807. A few weeks later, as we see to the nearer left, James posts a notice seeking hops in the same newspaper. And he wants them to be not frost bitten and “gathered last season” too. But which one could gather he was advertising for local hops. Would it be obvious that they would have to be local Hudson Valley hops? Sixteen years later, above middle, we see a notice from the New York Spectator dated 8 April 1823 that gives an update on the London hop market as of the 4th of Mark – and it is all about English hops: Kent, Sussex, Essex and even Farnham* hops all being sold from 42 to 120 shillings. I do not see, however, hop market notices from much before that point.** Hop notices appear to be more of the “I’ve got a few bales” variety like with the one to the upper right from the New York Gazette of 28 September 1821. So… my bet is that in Feb 1807, James Vassar was looking for local hops when he placed his notice in the local paper. That being the case, he is brewing local ingredients but of the best quality he can find both in terms of barley and malt.

 

 

 

 

Which brings us to the 1808-1811 ledger. Vassar is making good ale branded under the name of his town. The ledger, as I mentioned in my 2014 post, places Vassar in the heart of a farming community centered on a supply town. Some of the same farmers who are growing his grain are also his customers. He also is buying hops by the pound from his neighbours, confirming my suspicions from that notice above. He is selling his beers in a town where there is a range of spirits, wine and other luxury goods from around the world according to the grocers notice next to Vassar’s November 1807 notice in the Poughkeepsie Barometer. And note something else important. The ledger runs, as you might have guessed, exactly to a point in the year 1811. This is because it is only the brewery ledger of the father, James Vassar. If you click on that thumbnail to the right you will see that the firm of James Vassar & Co. was dissolved on 15 November 1810 and accounts were settled with the partnership of John G. and M. Vassar, being the sons of James – John Guy Vassar and (“the”) Matthew Vassar.

 

 

 

 

The first brewery hands off to the second. And the next generation has its own dreams. They are brewing both ale and beer and also buying barley as well as hundreds of bushels of oats according to the notice placed by the partnership in January 1811. And they are continuing in their father’s practice of selling seed barley to the local farmers according to the notice in the now fancier Poughkeepsie Political Barometer of 17 April 1811. A happy and successful succession plan has carried forward. It doesn’t last. Weeks later in mid-May, as the article from the 15th of the month to the right explains, the brewery burns as they all seemed to burn in that era at one point or another. After the fire is controlled, however is when the real tragedy occurs. Two days later John G., the elder son of James, goes into the destroyed brewery to see how much can be saved but is overwhelmed by a gas that has settled in one of the vats and dies apparently in agony a short time later. Horrible. Sadder than even the story of Eugene O’Keefe a hundred years later.

 

 

 

 

What happens then? From the notice to the left placed on 25 May, 1811 James Vassar is scrambling to call in debts from both his time running the brewery as well as the term when his sons were. then, according to the notice posted again in the Poughkeepsie Barometer on 24 July 1811, Matthew is out on his own buying up cider which might place him away from the family business at this point… or maybe diversifying. He is only nineteen years old. That Wikipedia entry says M. Vassar & Co. started up in 1814 but this add from three years earlier clearly uses that name. The next year, James is in the market seeking 10,000 bushels of Barley in September 1812. That looks like the continuation of the brewery. Which would make for the third phase. Dad. Sons. Dad.

 

 

 

 

Then what? In the 13 January 1813 paper, Matthew himself is both buying barley and selling ale and beer. Dad. Sons. Dad. Dad/Son? Then on 14 July 1813 he is entering into a brewing partnership with a Mr. Purser, rebuilding the brewery and accepting the casks of James Vassar that are still out there more than two years after the fire. And he gets into other gigs. Matthew is also running a store with a particular focus on cigars… or rather segars – but that ends up in the hands of another partner, a Mr. Raymond as you can see from the notice above to the right dated 14 July 1813, the same day the notice goes up about the new brewery. Dad. Sons. Dad. Dad/Son. Son in Partnership? Maybe. All muddling along. Moving forward.

It’s actually quite the thing that later in life he becomes a magnate given all the ins and outs of the family’s early years in the brewing trade. It starts a bit like the hapless Horsfields of Brooklyn half a century earlier but then, somehow, they spawn a genius. After the early years of the century, Matthew gets into banking and brick works, railroads and politics. But that story, the story of the rise of the great Vassar brewery, is really a separate later one.

*Interesting, given the price being so much higher, that Farnham hops were discussed in New York newspapers as early as this story in the New York Journal of 20 January 1785 shows. This talk of Farnham is all for Ed, by the way.
**See also this set of New York Gazette notices from 20 February 1818 including two for hops and how geographically sourced goods are referenced expressly – Jamaica rum, Sicily Madeira, English Leather, Baltimore flour. Not the hops.

Cream Ale, Cream Beer And Creamy Goodness

This ad in the Jewish Daily News of 30 November 1916 published out of New York has my wee brain spinning – and not only due to the works I can read and those I cannot read. I am starting to think “creamis a nugget of a folk tale, an indigenous memory that keeps appearing generation after generation from, as Gary proposed, the later 1700s to today in the northeastern US for no other reason than its useful pleasantness.

Gotta think about this.

Babylonian Cuneiform And Brewing Patterns

The other day, I read that The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York had freed thousands of images from their intellectual property right shackles for free and unrestricted public use. This is good. And being a dutiful beer blogger, I immediately put in the word “beer” in the search engine to see what would pop up. And this is what popped up. A chunk of dried mud with scratchings. I love stuff like this. Three years ago, I stared at Mesopotamian brewing things at the Royal Ontario Museum, aka the ROM.  Somewhere I have photos I took thirty years ago of myself, when a selfie took a tripod, at the British Museum staring at Mesopotamian brewing things made of mud. Scratchings made a person over 150 generations ago. On just a piece of mud.

It’s actually more than that. It’s Urra=hubullu, tablet 23 from Mesopotamia in the late 1st millennium B.C.  “Twenty-three, eh?” thought I. Being a clever man I realized there must be twenty-two others. So off I went. Or, rather, I put a few words in Google… and found what I am sure you all expected I would findCuneiform Texts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Literary and scholastic texts of the first millennium B.C. by Ira Spar, Wilfred G. Lambert published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005 where I learned about what had been scratched into the dried mud thingie over three thousand years ago. Tablet 23 is a vocabulary of food and drink terms. The passage on this piece of cuneiform cites, at page 234, a 1950 article “On Beer and Brewing Techniques in Ancient Mesopotamia According to the XXIIIrd tablet of the series HAR.ra=hubullu” by Oppenhiem and Hartman which describes the content of tablet 23 in the context of brewing.

Fabulous. So fabulous as it is all seemingly quite authoritative. The Spar and Lambert text goes on to state what exactly was written down on three thousand odd years ago in that clay. There is great beer, dark beer, white beer, cloudy beer and beer for the tigi-songs whatever they were. My favourite might be the symbol for “clear/clean beer” indicating, of course, that folk were both skillful and appreciative of skill. That information is all in column 2. In column 3, the words are about process. Yeast is pulverized, barley bread is crushed and spread just right. It is soaked and dried then soaked and mashed. It is rinsed, pressed, crushed, broken and mixed. Malt is dried, watered, opened, spread and warmed. To my mind, this is more than a vocabulary. This is a guide not so very much different from Samuel Child’s 1768 guide discussed the other day.

This is interesting. How is it that I can read a Mesopotamian clay tablet and pretty much immediately understand what is going on? If it was about religion, governance or astronomy I wouldn’t have a clue. But beer and brewing are not strange. They are, in a very meaningful way, constant. You can see that if we go back to column 2 where you see words for 1:1 beer, 2:1 beer, 3:1 beer and even triple beer. The ratio is the relationship of grain input to beer output. If you scroll down to page 238 of the 2005 Spar and Lambert text you see there are footnotes and in the footnotes an explanation of Mesopotamian methodology. I am just going to cut and paste the footnote in relation to column 2, line 11 and what follows as I think it is one of the more extraordinary things I have ever read about beer in a couple of ways:

 

 

 

 

First, it is extraordinary as it basically sets out the scheme of brewing over 3,000 years ago in a manner which is readily understandable to anyone who has home brewed from an all-grain mash. Second, not only is it understandable… it is very familiar. It looks a lot like the parti-gyle process which makes a lot of sense as no one in their right mind wastes resources. So, the first sparging of the mash gives a 18% sugar solution wort, the second a 6% wort and the third a 1.5% wort. Roughly declining to a third each time. And sometimes the wort is recirculated to strengthen it even more to make what the footnote’s author describes as “very powerful” beer.

What is extraordinary to me is that this ratio looks a heck of a lot like the proper way to brew that I have read about from Piers the Ploughman in England’s 1370s to Matthew Vassar in New York’s 1830s. It reads like the 1825 advert for Thomas Molson’s brewery here in my hometown. Strong ale, single ale and small or ship’s beer with what looks like double double thrown in for good measure, that hazard from Shakespeare to Schenectady.

Which leads to another thought. Is that pattern a constant? Four grades of beer naturally created solely by the relationship between the sparge fluid and mash?  Following these rules you will have a 11%-ish beer, a 4%-ish one and a 1.25%-ish one. As well as whatever the heck double double was to create all that toil and trouble. A constant pattern. Could be. Could be.

When In Doubt, Consider A Simpler Answer

I left a comment over at Boak and Bailey in response to their noting this week of that Cloudwater cask story which whipped the British beer discussion out of its holiday slumber. That being said, I am still not sure the Cloudwater story has been properly framed so I am unpacking the comment a bit more here.  For starters, here are two tweets from Jeff that I think better get to a key factor underlying the situation:

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The Cloudwater press release was issued on 1 January 2017. They’ve been brewing for 22 month and have announced they are stopping cask production, stating:

We worry that cask beer has backed itself into a corner that risks becoming unattractive to modern breweries. 

I never trust that sort of use of “modern” as it smacks a wee bit of assumed superiority, echoing the new e-conomy of the late 1990s or at least a shortcut being taken. Especially as they don’t quite say they don’t make a profit – just an “insufficient” margin. Then, as you consider that, compare it to the to the brutally honest but tougher news from Dave at Hardknott on the one hand and how under capitalization can force a good brewery to face difficult decisions. Next, consider the positive story from Hawkshead which runs 65% cask that they also call modern beers.

It seems from those business stories that the question could be better asked as why Cloudwater took on cask without the full resources – or apparently a full plan to make it succeed as other success. Is it as simple as that?  I did find Eddie Gadd of Ramsgate Brewery’s tweet a bit telling:

…most new brewers (inc me) don’t look too closely at the numbers during start-up – we don’t want to be put off the dream!

I notice that the Cloudwater press release mentions they are working with Shelton Brothers and I have a suspicion that I have had their beer at the Allen Street Pub in Albany, a cask specialist, where, due to actual friendships, I do not seem at risk of ever being shelted.  Perhaps it was that pint of Black IPA with a balancing splash of someone else’s brown ale to give it some joy.

In any event, the idea that a firm representing about 1/3000th of British cask production not succeeding is cause to raise prices generally is a bit off. It seems from what we are actually being told is that cask places natural productiondistribution and even geographical constraints on the market that the ambitions of international craft can’t overcome or at least cannot easily reconcile without focus and extra capitalization. Makes sense. It is a thing unto itself. Should have been self-evident from proper initial market research.

There is nothing wrong with changing course. Do what makes you money and what you are interested in. But don’t slag the successes of others or blame the market. Congratulate others who succeed where you can’t or shouldn’t have tried.

Moses Granger of Lowville NY Had A Patent

The title of the patent from 1832 is titillating: “US Patent: 6,894X – Restoring sour or musty beer or ale to its original purity by rebrewing.” Sadly the note at the DATAPM data base tells the rest of the story:

Most of the patents prior to 1836 were lost in the Dec. 1836 fire. Only about 2,000 of the almost 10,000 documents were recovered. Little is known about this patent. There are no patent drawings available. This patent is in the database for reference only.

This is sad for us now as well as sad for the inventor, Moses Granger. As you can see above, he started his brewery in Lowville, New York seven or so years before registering his mysterious patent for improving bad beer. The announcement is from the Black River Gazette of 14 December 1825. You can see below from page 28 of the Congressional Series of United States Public Documents, Volume 235 that his patent was issued on 11 January 1832 which means he had to have invented it and then worked on the patent application sometime before that. Notice also that his patent is in a list of “Calorific and Steam Apparatus” which again is a reminder that Steam Beer is a reference to the general introduction of steam powered motors into the brewing trade and not something about the beer itself.

Unlike most of you, I have visited Lowville, New York. It is just about an hour and 45 minutes drive to my south east sitting in Lewis County, the next NY state county to Jefferson which I can see out my office window. It is the home of Lloyd’s of Lowville.  My 2005 post on neighbouring Denmark, NY on the hill north of Lowville gives you a sense of the area. Rural limestone Federalist buildings, analogous to our larger urban and military Georgian ones.

Gary mentioned Moses Granger and this patent in the latest of his further explorations of the odd later 1800s eastern US use of “musty” as a positive term for a class of ale. The patent from an earlier point in time, however, is clearly about the correction of poor beer – restoring it by rebrewing sayeth the patent’s title.  “Rebrewing” is an interesting word. In 1818, another two hours modern travel to the southeast in Schenectady, there was rebrewing going on – the last reference I have found to the ancient and famed double double immortalized by Shakespeare. Beer made by reusing beer as sparge water, ramming more power into the wort. It makes a brain smackingly strong drink.

Lewis County, NY in 1825 was still the frontier. See those military installations in my dear old British fort town? Kept back interest in settling NNY as the Erie Canal was opening up WNY.  It was settled by the generation after the Revolutionary one, as places like Cooperstown and then CNY started filling up and interests became fixed. Spafford described the place in his 1813 Gazette – and he can be trusted as he was born there. One might read the notice posted by Moses Granger in 1825 that he was the first brewer in Lowville. Spafford shows (at page 50 and 51) that in 1813 there were no brewers in Lewis Co. compared to seven distillers. Jefferson Co. had a ratio of two brewers to sixteen distillers. In 1828, Watertown, Jefferson Co. only had one brewery. The area was awash in rot gut whisky. A rebrewed super strength brewing process might well be worth protecting by way of patent.

I will dig a bit more and maybe post more – and wait for Gerry… again… to correct and add to the story. An excellent thing, too, as by collaboratively assembling what we know the history unfolds.  The strange thing is why one would invent such a thing in a frontier setting and then seek the protection of the law – on the one hand just thirty years removed from that log house brewery in Geneva, NY but, on the other, in the era of the scientific brewing of Vassar. An era of great change.

MacKinnon Releasing A Beer With Terroir… Really…

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This is odd. A rare case, indeed. A press release that you are really interested in for what is actually set out in the press release:

Bath, ON – You’re invited to raise a glass with MacKinnon Brothers Brewing Company on Monday, November 7th. Get the first taste and celebrate the release of our brand new 2016 Harvest Ale: the first beer made using 100% of ingredients grown on our own family farm. This landmark beer uses Newport and Vojvodina hops, which are grown on trellises in the corner of our brewery pasture, as well as AC Metcalfe barley grown in a field on the west side of the farm. All of the malt for the brew was malted in Belleville by our friends at Barn Owl Malt. As a family farm for 8 generations, brewing a 100% farm-sourced beer has been on our minds since the inception of the brewery. The beer itself is a malt-centric variant on the German Marzen style, using our
favourite ale yeast. At 5.0% ABV and 18 IBU it showcases the unique characteristics of our farm grown barley. Beyond that, it’s instilled with a backbone of hundreds of years of resilience and ingenuity. Need we say more?

It’s two years now since I first began running into the MacKinnon Brothers’ beers around the area. I dreamed of the idea of the heritage grain farmer brewers brewing a beer with their own malt, hops and water… and maybe a few local yeast cells in their. Seems like the are ready to raise the standard for “terroir” as a word with actual meaning in the craft brewing world.

Very cool. Too bad it’s being released while I am shackled to my desk, pinched by the tight black shoes of regret. You could go. Monday, 7 November at 1915 County Rd 22, Bath, Ontario. You could.

Book Review: Brewing Local by Stan Hieronymus

brewinglocalsmConfession. I have fed Stan in my home. I have been asked by Stan why he bothers discussing things with me. My name appears in this book. I am very fond of Stan. All of which may influence my opinion of his writings, of this book. Along with the fact that this was a review copy kindly forwarded from the publisher. Can’t help it. Heck, if I run the photo contest again this Christmas I might just give it away as the only prize. I’m like that.

But let’s work around that for the moment. As with his other books for the Brewers Publications series, Stan has written a practical guide. Starting with the second half of the book, we see it contains discussions on foraging, a directory of ingredients one might consider adding to a beer to capture locality in the glass and, then, a collection of brewing recipes – including one for an 1835 Albany Ale supplied by Craig which has its roots in a report to the New York State Senate from that year which I discussed now over six years ago. It is flattering but at the same time something I consider important. Beer and brewing in the north end of the Western Hemisphere has a history which goes back at least 439 years – not counting the Viking expeditions. You would think it was invented by the immigrants who moved here after the varying successes of the 1830s revolutions in Europe. It wasn’t.

Much to his credit, Stan goes even further back and documents one beverage of one of the peoples who were here before European colonization: corn-based tiswin of the Apache. He also ties late 1800s Okalhoma choc with the Choktaw people who were relocated in the genocidal trail of tears two generations before. There would have been others – but they were not by any means pervasive according to a Senacan cultural botanist pal of mine. Yet it is hard to believe that the brewers of New Sweden in the 1650s making beer from local pumpkins, corn, persimmons and watermelons didn’t learn something from the locals.

What the depth and breadth of Brewing Local conveys is a picture of a complex and largely unexplored understanding of indigenous vernacular brewing on this continent. It is an exciting time to have an interest in such things. Stan emailed me earlier this year that he would have included my idea of “four eras of cream ale” had he come across it in time. I suspect I hadn’t even written it in any proper manner before he saw it. Months later, I got to hunting around “cream beer” dating back to the early 1800s with the hints of its pre-lager existence, its earlier German immigrant foundations and its potential links to later 1850s Kentucky Common. All of which might also be worthy of a footnote or two in this book. Had I written it. Had someone – anyone – looked it up. There is so much yet to be pursued.

Which is a good thing. Which makes for a very good book. Because the book is both history and guide, both a “how to” and also a “why” which ties a lot of things together in a way that hasn’t been done before. It’s a part of a bigger collective work in progress. [I don’t find fault that Stan, for example, doesn’t mention the reason I think steam beer is called steam beer but that is also part of the bigger working out of things. I could be dead wrong.] Does this make it a milestone book in North American brewing history? Could be. I’ll have to read it a more few times to form a full opinion on this book. You should, too.

According To Me: How Brewing Cultures Develop

This is the third in a series of occasional posts in which I try to figure out what I really think about things like measuring how much one drinks or what taste looks like. This one, disconcertingly, it looks like a unified theory – something I have mocked for years. But a few weeks ago, Jeff and I shared some useful – perhaps spicy – comments by email back and forth about each other’s prose which triggered some reflection. Explaining myself, I put it this way:

I do not write for the reader. The entire thing, my entire hobby is an exercise in testing my own assumptions. I am trying to solve a very large puzzle. And then I apply the things I come up with – structures of argument in some cases but in other just very big thinking – back into my work life as well as my relationship with life generally. I appreciate that this is all sounding odd – a bit hypomanic – but it is very hard to explain. Last year I even wondered what it would be like to be a beer writer who never drinks beer at all. So it is not so much about being in or out of the bubble but seeing it as a bubble within bubbles next to bubbles and trying to get it all ordered.

I see bubbles. I guess. The other night I woke up at 4 am after a pre-post-apocalyptic dream* and, mulling bubbles for a while afterwards to change the story in my head, thought about what I had been seeing with all this research over the last year, the diving back and forth over centuries. What has struck me even more than ever is how pervasive beer is in our English-speaking culture’s history. There is an obvious reason for that. Alcohol arises naturally, spontaneously. I remember in high school watching out my front window at starlings gorging on the rowan berries in the front yard bush. They were getting quite drunk off the fermented juice. Having a hard time landing or staying on a branch. One bird holding tight to the telephone wire side by side with his or her fellow lost toe grip and swung right round 360 degrees. The berries were loaded with rough country wine. And so became the birds.

This is good. It is a thing of nature. Beer is too. When we say “I would like to shake the hand of the man who invented beer” we tell a fib. Someone somewhere some long time ago came across a puddle. It had formed twice. Once briefly to get the ripe grain laying on the ground damp enough to sprout. And then again later for the now-altered malt to ferment. Someone drank from the puddle and figured out what had happened. All the brewing in all the history of humanity is a repeated effort to replicate the moment. To recreate what that puddle spawned. I see three core tendencies or aspects of those efforts, those replications: vernacular beer, scientific beer, mass market beer. Each is normal… whatever normal is. Better to say they reliably reoccur. Each tendency generates pleasure and profit reliably, too. And breweries – and brewing cultures – over time reflect more than one tendency or aspect. Just the few city blocks of Golden Lane in London, England display all three facets over the centuries. And each tendency generates associated sorts of beer. In a fairly regular pattern.

I prefer the idea of vernacular brewing over words like traditional or indigenous. Brewing can speak of a place. Stan will be pleased. Look at that video up there. It’s was shared by** the ever excellent Lars Garshol of Larsblog. Look at what is going on there. It’s likely very similar to how ale was brewed by an early micro. Or by William Mead in 1790s Stillwater, NY. Or at Hoegaarden in the 1400s for that matter. Vernacular brewing depends on a measure of geographical, jurisdictional or economic isolation. Look at the thumbnail. That is a page of Lord Selkirk’s diary from 1803 in which he describes a 12 barrel brewery on the frontier in NNY. Barley is little grown. So the beer is made of a blend of wheat, what barley that can be found and chopped straw. Tidy and efficient. Local resources making local beer for the local population. Unger indicates that how the semi-autonomous jurisdiction of Hoegaarden exported its singular sort of beer throughout the Low Countries of the Renaissance. Understanding local can be very important. Many years ago my part-time farmer father-in-law’s veterinarian traveled to the Ukraine as part of a Canada-USSR project to assist in improving farming practices. He entered a barn where he found the cattle eating fresh cut corn – the whole plant, unripened corn and all. The advice he gave? Kill half the cows. Not enough food to feed all of them from the crops they had on hand. Gotta know what’s possible. Locally.

Scientific brewing represents a refusal. A refusal to accept what vernacular brewing teaches us. It is geared for efficiency or as E.P. Taylor might put it as in the 1942 letter beneath that thumbnail, the avoidance of waste. Coppinger in 1815 wrote of the need for cleanliness and an “economical mode” of building a brewery if the new American Republic was to meet the standards of old world brewing. Efficiency is not code for skill. Coppinger knew it was possible to make “clean bright malt” in a rustic setting. Unlike what some will tell you, pale ale spared from smoke was well known long before the scientific revolution. In addition to the race for efficiency, brewing changes to react to scarcity. Coke was introduced to malting as a replacement for charcoal long before that, as well. It was not so much because it was better as it was due to fact that England’s forests had been drastically thinned out by the late 1500s. The new fuel provided a new way to continue on with brewing. It is related to better husbandy. The late Georgian and early Victorian reports of the recently invented Agricultural Societies on both sides of the Atlantic described the advances in brewing from an economic point of view. Beer is persistent.

The scale of the mass market has also been an abiding theme with brewing. Taylor of Albany had a pontoon room in the mid-1800s which echoes the royal breweries of ancient Egypt. The Hanseatic trade routes of the 14th and 15th century that allow Hamburg to have a massive brewing industry mirror how the coming of the railway to southwestern Ontario unleashed the carbohydrate laden grain fields out to the British Empire though the previously local brands Labatt and Carling. It took the improvement of the River Trent in 1712 to get the sulfurous local brewer out into the wider world. The English hops trade was subject to scale in the mid-1700s with one merchant London-based James Hunter being “one of the one of the most considerable dealers in hops in England” controlling a huge portion of the marketplace. Beer has a habit to expanding and adapting to meet the possibilities.

If that is so, if brewing has a number of constant attributes like vernacular expression, scientific efficiencies and the opportunism of scale – not to mention the relative certainty of wealth creation – how extraordinary is any era? Is this era? In a way its consistency over time could one of its weirdest characteristics. But then couldn’t the same be said of other persistent commonplace things like shoes, cheese or rope? Something about the pattern make me wonder if it is all a symbiotic relationship held with yeast. Maybe even a wildly successful outcome of an experiment undertaken millennia ago by the Central Yeast Planning Council. It would at least make sense of the formula beer > drinking culture > brewery. Or at least that’s what I think.

*Lots of daytime grey clouds to the horizon views with commentary like “oh, this doesn’t look good.” At one point from an apartment I saw a darker swirling column of grey far off, another moment I was on a path among dunes watching meteor-like flashes in all directions overhead. I never have dreams like this. More Torchwood than Doctor Who.

**Lars commented that he was not the source of the video. I think I saw him link to it now that I think of it.

The Best Advice A Brewer Was Ever Given

The winner hands down is Joseph Coppinger, from his book The American Practical Brewer and Tanner from 1815:

The common mode of keeping malt is in bins situated on upper lofts, often injured by leaks from the roof, and at all times liable to the depredations of rats, which in the other way can be effectually guarded against, and is a highly important object of precaution to be taken by the brewer. Should weevils at any time get into, or generate in your malt, which is common when held over beyond twelve or eighteen months, the simplest and easiest way of getting rid of them, is to place four or five lobsters on your heap of malt, the smell of which will soon compel the weevils to quit the malt, and take refuge on the walls, from which they can be swept with a broom into a sheet or table cloth laid on the malt, and so taken off.

Not three. Not six. Only four or five will do. Best advice. Ever.

It’d Be Nice To Get More Actual Spruce Beer Brewed

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