Your Beery News For A Mid-September’s Week

The week saw a sweater weather day but now the house is hot and humid again. Spring was late be summer is holding on by the hair on its chinny-chin-chin. The Beer Nut was by over the weekend. I mean he went by… on a train. He took a picture of where I wasn’t standing to wave at him as he went by. His half month-long Twitter diarized trip to Quebec and Ontario so far is like the stay-cation I could never afford. I am just happy that he discovered where the beating heart of Canada can be found. That a view! We really do put out best foot forward for the rail traveling public, don’t we.

The Tand starts us off with a fabulously clear discussion on what is needed to handle cask ale properly and there is a simple set of rules to follow:

They all begin with C. Cleanliness, condition and cellar temperature are the basics. The other is somewhat contrived, but is chronology. Time. Rack the beer to settle. give it a day at least. Vent when the beer has rested. Know when the beer went on and when it ought to be sold by.

He himself aka Tand no doubt would appreciate the cellar instructions and cellar thermometer posted by Brad Wright on Wednesday.

Neolithic beer questions! It’s all about the neolithic this week it seems. What did they drink at feasts? Did they brew bread before they baked bread?

More mod-ren-ly, the Pursuit Of Abbeyness posted some thoughts of the state of “craft” as illustrated by two neighbouring breweries in Cornwall, England. Among other things, it is a good reminder of how not all craft is created equal:

Rebel was established in 2011. Verdant started in 2014, but arguably did not hit its stride until it upgraded to its current, 16-hectolitre brewery in October 2016. Rebel is barely known outside of Cornwall. Verdant is now one of the UK’s most visible craft breweries, a producer of sought-after beers that receive enthusiastic reviews across social media.

This line about Rebel is fairly brutal: “The beers are the sort to win CAMRA awards, but not the sort that grabs the attention of the urban Millennial on the look out for the latest craft-beer sensation.” Given that knowledge, is investing in beer any less of a crap shoot these days than it ever was? Strong on average but fickle in the particular.

Jordan illustrating the only thing he remembers from those undergrad years. Ouch. Right in the brain pan.

Beer community spirit, graphically illustrated:

Speaking of the organized representation of data, Jeff published the results of the survey he was running on US brewery staff compensation. The results are both rare given how little actual use of stats is applied in craft beer (other than as compiled for compromised PR purposes) and useful given the focus he places on real issues:

I gave respondents a list of other benefits employers sometimes offer their workers. Nearly half of respondents (45%) received no additional benefits beyond PTO and health care (if they received those at all). Of the benefits I listed, only training and retirement planning were offered by an appreciable number of breweries (29% and 32% respectively). I was shocked to see that not a single brewery in this pool offered child care. 

Jeff was encourages by the findings but I am less impressed. Saddened even. For all the money in beer there seems to be little money in beer. Still, fabulous work by Jeff.

‘s’truth: every city needs widely available, low-priced craft option.

This is a hard one to sift: a US craft brewery doing a crowd funding campaign to move because the area’s presumed gentrification did not occur:

According to the Star-Tribune, owner Kevin Welch moved into the overwhelmingly white city’s most diverse neighborhood where he “hoped to be part of West Broadway’s transformation.” Instead of a “transformation,” though, Welch and his employees have witnessed violence and seen customer’s cars damaged. They complain that “biker gangs started peddling drugs in the alley” outside. The last straw was a fatal shooting of a black man who is unnamed in the Star-Tribune story, Steven F. Fields. Fields was a hotel employee who was smoking a cigarette when he was murdered.

Reactions not entirely sympathetic. I’d like to know what the realtor’s advice was.

Finally, Ed posted some science-y stuff about brewing that maybe 0.1% of you will get. Gems like this:

Brewers can have problems with processing aids. Antifoams in Fermenting Vessel can clog cross flow filter membranes over time, though this is not a problem with kieselguhr filters. Single shot PVPP may also cause problems with cross flow. Tannnic acid can be a great help but can cause problems if added immediately upstream of filtration.

What the hell is that about? What the hell is a “kieselguhr filter“??? I am glad that there are people like Ed out there worrying about that stuff so I can just concern myself with what is tasty in the glass.

That’s it. One more week of news for the summer of 2018. Baseball in coming into its last handful of regular season games and the NHL is starting camp. Three months to Yuletide. There’s still plenty of veg in the garden but… but…

A Thought About The Proposed Changes To Canada’s Law Of Beer

Gary threw his two cents in and I hooked my pal Jordan up with my other pal Jordan who wrote a “Jordan quotes Jordan” article on the proposed changes to Canada’s federal government’s regulation on the nature of beer. As Jordan the journalist (“JTJ”) pointed out there is one aspect of the proposed changes which appear sensible but, at least for me, are a critical problem:

No longer would beer be required to “possess the aroma, taste and character commonly attributed to beer” or be categorized into different styles or types like ale, stout, porter and malt liquor. Instead, officials are proposing to set limits on sugar content and simplify language around the use of additives that would define what is a beer.

Now, as might be argued a rarity, the actual Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement to my mind actually states the intention a bit more clearly:

In addition, the current requirement to “possess the aroma, taste and character commonly attributed to beer” would be removed in recognition that different beer styles or types have different attributes. This element is proposed to be replaced in part by a limit in the percentage by weight of residual sugar in final products. This change would maintain the integrity of beer and provide a more objective measurement.

Sadly, this proposed change is based on a misunderstanding of the use of the word “commonly” in the regulation. See, it can be taken to mean that (i) the attributes have to be common to all beer but I read the line to mean that (ii) people commonly understand that the attributes of the beverage before them are included in the concept of beer.  Consider this twitter exchange this morning between Jeff Alworth and John Holl. Holl had posted a photo of a glass of something he described in this way:

…the strawberry rhubarb wheat topped with the same beer (plus extra strawberries) pumped through a slushy machine.

Jeff asked in response whether in “…a blind tasting, could you have identified it as a beer?” and John’s response was interesting:

Yes. There is enough hop content, and the aromatics are on point. The finish is bone dry. There’s a lot of runway to play with this style and from social media posts there’s a lot of breweries joining the fold each day.

Rather than chastising Jeff for being a luddite and not being hip with the cool kids’ juice, John took the observation seriously and set out some attributes that he would commonly associate with beer: “enough hop content” and on point aromatics. Fabulous. He entirely understood the point being made.

The current wording of the regulation also understands the point. Just this week in my lawyering day job I solved a rather large problem by determining whether something was a “significant” deviation from “normal” – not all that different from the idea of establishing what “commonly” means.  I had no difficulty as it required me to review real life examples and explain degrees of things as well as expectations of things. Easy.  Words like this pose no problem to understanding.

Further, words like this are not locked in. By this I mean the law can reflect reasonable expectations in the future as long as the legal drafts-person does not attempt to tie down the wording to an understanding that exists in the present.  As John Holl noted, there’s “a lot of runway to play with this style.” His only fault is defaulting back to the until recently relevant concept of style which has only realistic application to the beers from perhaps the late 1980s to perhaps 2014-15 at the latest. Too many walls have been broken down since then to force the square peg of style into the round hole of beer.

What John might better have said was there is a lot of play within beer. Beer is in fact great like that. And people can be trusted to know what is and what is not a beverage we can commonly include in the concept of beer. As soon as you lay down more specific attributes you exclude anything which does not have those attributes.  One of the things that ended the concept of style – in addition to the insane exponential expansion of style categories – was the ever tightening nose of attribute allocated to each of those dizzying styles. The current regulation wording avoids that nightmare. The proposed wording runs towards it, arms wide open. JTJ actually quoted Jordan the Beer Writer (JTBW) on an associated point:

The most important thing you could do if you’re a craft brewer would be to get a handle on how to add ingredients these lists,” said Jordan St. John, co-author of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide. “The labelling component and making sure people understand what they’re getting — that’s really beneficial for the consumer. It’s just that getting there is going to be a bit of a pain.

Jordan is saying to brewers if your favorite ingredient is not on the list, it is out.  My argument is that if there is a kitchen sink clause allowing for beer to be what is commonly understood as beer  – not exclusively or even primarily – then the beer is in fact beer. That is good law.

This will be the gist of  my comment back to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). You can make comments, too, by following the instructions on the CFIA website here. Go ahead. Participate in democracy. About beer. Do it.

 

Here’s A New One To Me – “Virtual Beer”

The CBC has posted a story gleaned from interviews at last week’s Canadian Brewing Awards and Conference held in my old hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia  that breaks the mold of “fourth line Jr B hockey player” level PR skill that we usually here out of these sort of revival tent meetings. The problem? Contract brewers:

Mistry says he tries to work with clients who already know something about brewing and, in many cases, they eventually move on to build their own brewery. The contract batches are just a chance to get a foothold in the marketplace without having to risk too much on capital investments up front. But he concedes that since craft beer has become so popular, some people contract brew as a hobby or vanity business venture. “There’s a lot of bankers out there that start their brands, so they have no scientific background,” said Mistry. “There’s one guy we deal with who [has] a marketing company.”

Mistry is Jamie Mistry, operations manager at Common Good Brewing Company in Scarborough, Ontario. It’s a pretty blunt statement in a pretty blunt report. Apparently all is not well in the Canadian brewing scene. Brian Titus, owner of Garrison Brewing in Nova Scotia appears to be quoted as saying there’s the worry that contract beers flood an “already saturated market, while also diluting the strength of the craft beer brand.” Hard to disagree with that sentiment. Sam Corbeil of  Sawdust City Brewing Co. in Gravenhurst, Ont. said called the idea on contract brewing was originally “appalling” to him. Appalling!

Strong stuff. But what most caught my eye was the use of the phrase “virtual beer” to describe the phenomenon. It states contract brew is (i) referred to in the industry as “virtual beer”and (ii) that this is a concept mostly unknown to the public. A Google search for the term finds not a lot of back up for the assertion that it is a thing. There was a weird iPhone app around 2006 by the name. Plus it’s code for well earned praise amongst coders.

So, I am not sure it’s really a term that is really used in craft beer. Is there really that level of disgust or at least distrust? Not sure the phrase works, myself. If anything, it would be better to reference the practice as “virtual craft” if the goal is to make an oblique slag to the integrity involved.  Unless the online knitters have already cornered that market.

The Difference Between Temperance And Prohibition

Looking around the law books the other day… OK, I actually hardly ever look at law books at all these days. Just databases… of cases. And when I should be working the search engine for the latest on “equitable estoppel” or “profit-à-prendre” I sometimes slip in a few phrases related to the laws of liquor. And sometimes I find a paragraph or two  like these from the ruling of the Ontario Court of Appeal in the case Re The Canada Temperance Act, [1939] O.R. 570:

There can be no doubt that the cause of temperance (and by temperance I mean temperance in its true sense, which is the antithesis of teetotalism and of prohibition) has made great strides since the Canada Temperance Act was first enacted [in 1878.] Open drunkenness which was not considered a disgrace at that time is so considered now. The most grievous blow which temperance ever sustained was the enactment in Canada and the United States of prohibitory laws in force throughout those countries, which brought forth the bootlegger and in his train the racketeer, who by illicit trafficking amassed millions of dollars and became a wealthy, organized and powerful criminal class.

Since the repeal of those laws, much has been done to overcome the evil, but it is yet by no means completely cured. Nevertheless I think no one would have the hardihood to suggest that an emergency, such as that described by Lord Haldane, exists in Canada.  At the present time each Province in the Dominion of Canada, with the exception of Prince Edward Island, has legislation regulating and controlling the sale of liquor within the respective provinces, and the validity of this legislation has been affirmed. In all these Provinces the sale of liquor has been made a Government monopoly and the traffic is regulated and controlled by Government Commissions or Boards charged with the duty of controlling the sale. In Prince Edward Island there is a prohibitory law. For these reasons, it seems manifest to me that the emergency, if any existed, has wholly passed away and that the foundation, and the only foundation upon which Russell’s case can be supported, no longer exists.

While the words of Justice Henderson appear in his dissent, they do address the idea that something normally managed under provincial law – like the liquor trade – can be legislated upon at the national federal level under its “peace, order and good government” power if there is a national state of emergency. For Justice Henderson, that emergency had passed by 1939. Blessed control, the state’s temperance tool, had ensured common open drunkenness never returned. For him, prohibition is by contrast the tool of wealthy, organized and powerful criminal class… and, apparently, Prince Edward Island where you couldn’t buy legal liquor until a decade later. So temperance and prohibition are opposites. The majority did not agree however on the facts, holding that there had in fact been no change of circumstances and, as a result, that the national Canada Temperance Act, R.S.C. 1927, ch. 196 remained valid.

If, as some argue, the federal government could now intervene to pass a statute – one to “correct” last week’s Comeau ruling – some sort of national interest would have to be invoked. It could be an interest like, theoretically, a booze related emergency which somehow silently has remained unchanged since the 1870s. That would require arguing, as the lawyers for the churches did in 1939, that “the menace of intemperance is still present.” Not likely now. And probably not really likely in 1939 if we think carefully about Henderson’s dissent. Provincial control boards managing the liquor supply created and still uphold the temperate way we all enjoy in modern society.

So if that national interest is not likely the one that could be relied upon,  what other national interest could there possibly be to justify a federal intervention into the local common sense approach administered by each province?

Comeau, Beer, Provincial Autonomy, The Crown And The Individual

Up in the night thinking. So, we had the big court ruling out of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) about crossing the provincial border into New Brunswick with beer in your truck and few, clever beer writers and clever political pundits included, seems to have seen the unanimous decision coming. The heart of the decision in R. v. Comeau, by the way, is that the province has the power to provide that all booze in the province needs to be bought from the government agency. Which is what provinces do all the time – make laws for local application within their constitutional jurisdiction under their exercise of the bit of the power of the sovereign Crown assigned to each provincial legislature.

One problem that Canadians have at moments like this is that Canada is actually fairly hard to understand as an entity. The Constitution has something like 137 documents and there are loads of other unwritten rules. And at its heart it is a federation and not a unified state so the local bits called provinces are not subject to national oversight within the area of their local jurisdiction. There are powers and obligations assigned under our constitution to entities like the federal legislature, provincial legislatures, the Crown in other forms like the Governor-General and the courts and also the rights of the individual and indigenous peoples to  oppose or be immune from those other parts of society we call government.

I have had a taste of this as I practiced law from 1997 to 2002 in Canada’s tiniest province, Prince Edward Island, where it was a fairly common event to run into any number of ways the odd local rules under which the provincial jurisdiction was exercised. It was like a little constitutional science experiment. And unlike, oh, 100% of beer writers and maybe 99.9999% of political pundits, I also argued a constitutional case there proving, uniquely as far as I know, to the trial level judge that the province had exceeded its rights and offended the constitution by breaching the Charter of Rights and the protected political beliefs of individuals. I was on my feet for two days making my oral argument as I recall. You can find the ruling here. After I left PEI, it was again won on appeal on other grounds and, then, appeal to the SCC was refused.

The point is this. Provinces can pass internal laws that do not line up with the laws of other provinces. They are autonomous from each other except where there is a rule common to all Canadians that the local law offends. Now, PEI was once both hilariously and yet accurately called “too insular to be xenophobic” by the late great Harry Flemming – and this is expressed in all aspects of the law and how the culture responds to the law as an intensely local matter. So, you may have an ailment in PEI that is not covered by the public health system which is regularly provided for in all other provinces. When we lived there at least three men I knew died in the ambulance on route to another province because there was no cardiac surgeon in PEI. And you can find a ruling which can reference the environmental standards that might apply to crop spraying but then find a local aspect wins the day because:

Crop spraying, especially ground spraying,  is a common and ordinary activity on farms on Prince Edward Island… The type, severity, and duration of any “interference” was minimal and not what could be described as unreasonable in the context of a P.E.I. farming community.

Similarly, I recall a Crown prosecutor once telling the judge to disregard my submissions as lawyer acting for the defendant because I was relying on court cases from other parts of Canada. As relates to booze, while PEI has a strict liquor control government owned agency, as late as 2004 the culture also included well known illegal taverns.  It also even had a famous ban on soft and hard drinks sold in cans that only ended in 2008. I could go on (believe me, I could go on and one) but these are just examples of local nuttinesses which are all allowed within a province because it is a province.

The unhappy response to yesterday’s ruling by the SCC in Comeau appears to be largely based on the idea that somehow individual rights were part of the case. They really weren’t. The Comeau case was about a provincial offense related to bringing beer in to New Brunswick under a provincial law being within the power of that one province.  What was questioned was whether a right of all provinces related to free inter-provincial trade was offended.  The rights of the individual were not raised. They were only an implication.

They could have been raised. There is a lovely line of Charter cases related to personal autonomy from government impositions starting with the 1997 Godbout case in which the SCC determined that a municipality could not require staff to live in the municipality as that was a decision within “that narrow sphere of personal decision-making deserving of the law’s protection.” My own PEI ruling* referenced that idea in relation to the political beliefs of the individual. Other cases have discussed the concept of individual autonomy protecting the individual against government over reach in other contexts. And the problem for travelling with beer – and perhaps Mr Comeau’s lawyers – is that one of those other contexts considered was recreational marijuana use. Unlike in my case and others where the individual was able to resist the imposition of a restriction on their personal decisions, the SCC stated this in the 2003 ruling in R. v. Clay:

With respect, there is nothing “inherently personal” or “inherently private” about smoking marihuana for recreation.  The appellant says that users almost always  smoke in the privacy of their homes, but that is a function of lifestyle preference and is not “inherent” in the activity of smoking itself.  Indeed, as the appellant together with Malmo-Levine and Caine set out in their Joint Statement of Legislative Facts, cannabis “is used predominantly as a social activity engaged in with friends and partners during evenings, weekends, and other leisure time” (para. 18).  The trial judge was impressed by the view expressed by the defence expert, Dr. J. P. Morgan, that marihuana is largely used for occasional recreation.  Reference might also be made on this point to a case under the European Convention on Human Rights decided recently by the English courts under the Human Rights Act 1998 (U.K.).  In R. v. Morgan, [2002] E.W.J. No. 1244 (QL), [2002] EWCA Crim 721, the English Court of Criminal Appeal observed, at para. 11, that:

A right to private life did not involve or include a right to self intoxication, nor the right to possession or cultivation of cannabis, whether for personal consumption within one’s home or otherwise.

See also R. v. Ham, [2002] E.W.J. No. 2551 (QL), [2002] EWCA Crim 1353.  Recreational smoking is not on a par with other activities that have been held to go to the heart of an individual’s private existence.

I wrote about this ruling at the time stating:

This is a bit weird. If we are autonomous from the state, can’t we choose to be slackers? Are we not allowed to dedicate the core of our lives to the life of choice, even if the choice made is not the profound? If we are not granted each our own choice, we are not then each so much uniquely individual but individual as measured against some idealized standard of generic individuality. I bet if we looked into the brain of the judges the ideal standard might look a lot like the life they chose for themselves. Oddly, in many other areas of constitutional law, the individual is allowed to define him or herself – it is a subjective right. It looks like the subjective right to be slack is not good enough.

The law of marijuana use has clearly shifted since then as might have the right to be a slacker. But would the same 2003 rule in Clay apply if a Canadian sought to prove to the courts that his or her “narrow sphere of personal decision-making deserving of the law’s protection” should include the right to cross a provincial boundary to buy cheaper beer? Dunno. I do know, however, that this is not how the Comeau case defense was framed. It was not about Mr. Comeau about the individual. It was about Mr. Comeau as an example, an incident of a bigger thing, the trade in beer.

What is the take away? No where in any of this has any province barred the export of its beer to another province. As we know from our studies of Ontario’s brewing history especially in relation to the regulation of brewing during the deepest temperance years of 1916 to 1927, the making and shipping our of beer is not something provincial governments concern themselves with. The ban in about bringing it in, not sending it out.** So any province can make a local rule allowing beer from elsewhere in. And, in fact, it is allowed already… to a degree. The Liquor Control Act of PEI, for example, states this at section 33(2):

(1) No person shall have in his possession or keeping within the province any liquor that has not been purchased from a vendor under this Act.

(2) This section does not apply…

(b.1) to the keeping or having by persons of or over the age of nineteen years of liquor imported for personal consumption, not exceeding 3 litres of spirits, 9 litres of wine or 24.6 litres of beer per person;

So, there in Canada’s littlest province, the law actually allows you to have can have some imported booze. Just not an unlimited amount. Because that is the rule that is set by their statute passed by the legislature voted upon by the folk elected by the people. Democracy. If you want a law like that in your province, elect the people who promise to pass one. That’s it. Not a constitutional issue. Just one of the local law in each province. Take up your fight there.

*See para 65 of the Condon case – yes, my own Penge Bungalow Murders.
**Although wee PEI only allows export by brewers under provincial permit according to s.91(5) of the Liquor Control Regulations.

 

The Final Beery News For This Winter Olympiad

Did I mention I planted peas and radish seeds outside the other day after shoveling a patch in the snow? I have hope and I have trust. Spring is keeking around the corner surprisingly early this year. There isn’t a day in the 14 day forecast with a high temp mark below freezing. March is upon us. And I made the news today… well, me amongst many others. Spring training games start tomorrow. And a good brewery is opening a fifteen minute walk from my house and I am off to the opening this evening. So, it’s a happy time.

Hmm. What is else is going on? Well, now that we are in the merrily saturated market, now that the local supply is diverse and inclusive, fabulous and fresh… what do we do when we consume the ales and lagers of others? Foreign beer is not necessary very now. But still it show up and often finds a place for no other reason than that its comfortingly foreign. I even bought eight Guinness the other weekend. Something something rose coloured glasses something… something something “stupid European boyfriend“…

One for team? Taken.

Speaking of teams, as shown to the right, Ben Johnson* won the Canadian beer Olympic social media moment with his screen shot and tweet of the spouse of Rachel Homan, one of our Olympic curling team members.** It is a fabulous image, the subject displaying his Canadian-ness in a number of key ways: the clothes, the way the hat is jacked down, the wide balanced relaxed stance and his “third and fourth” two-fisted macro lagers. Ben posted his tweet on Sunday evening and by Tuesday morning it had over 6,000 retweets and even made it into the realm of actual media. 8,000 retweets by Wednesday 7:00 am. Nutty.

Not beer: Slovenian wagon cart bits from 3,000 BC.

Web 2.0 update: not a good look.

News that England’s Fuller’s bought a smaller brewery broke on Tuesday morning and, in an amazing display of speed guru-ism, within minutes tribes were forming, one asking “why is this OK?” as the other says “it is OK!” – which is pretty much normal and not much turns on it. The acquired Dark Star charmingly tweeted

Yes, I predict we’ll do more one-off, small batch beers this year than in our history with their investment in our operation. Same brewers, same passion.

…which could be true but could also mean they’ll be shut by summer. Or not. A seemingly wise man considers the Otley alternative, you know the formerly award winning brewery, the former darling that disappeared late last week. Then the longer pieces came out within 24 hours. Another churned out rushed bit at GBH. A longer, substantive*** piece by Pete pops up… yet with the familiar assurance that Fuller’s is “a minnow in the world of corporate beer.” Hmm.  Yes, “weasel words” and then already “some redundancies in sales and accountants.“**** Yet, there is a sameness to it all.  And there’ll be more. Not just (or even primarily) in the ideas – not the content but in the pattern of comment. I can’t put my finger on it. Is that all there is?  If only someone was keeping track of the promises of the bought out and the later reality. And remember around 2013 when people were going to write fiction about craft beer? Have we dropped playing at being Hemingway to playing at being U.S. News & World Report circa 1993? Content. And plenty of it. Ever notice content sounds a lot like stuffing? You just know somewhere someone is writing another identical style guide for the Christmas market – and another twenty are writing articles to congratulate the long dead man for guiding it all still today, the hand reaching out from the grave. Creepy needy. Me, I am reminded of the stack of thumbed, even greasy magazines at the barbershop when I was a kid, only the top few being touched by those waiting.

There is another view. Ron gave a glimpse with this gathering of 1950s brown ale adverts. The prosaic hiding the poetic. Yet… still rose-tinted, no? Next? More art – this time a brief drama:

Craft Beer: Haha! Young kids today hate macro crap beer!
Macro Beer: Haha! Young kids today just hate beer. How’s your cash reserves, craft?

Interesting. The things you learn when you aren’t listening to a staff PR guy posing as an economist. Speaking of bad news, these are hard times in the lives of the one of the saints:

…Samuel Adams beers and Angry Orchard ciders hurt business… We remain challenged by the general softening of the craft beer and cider categories… A late-2017 survey of beverage retailers by Wells Fargo named Boston Beer as the year’s least innovative alcohol company.

Which isn’t exactly praise right there coming from Barron’s. Hmm.  How would you write a comforting column adopting the language of minnow based on that?***** Should we expect some redundancies in sales and accountants? Maybe. Because that is sorta where we are at as Q1 2018 looks out and sees Q2 coming on fast.

One final reminder: as you likely know, two other weekly news summaries are available with Boak and Bailey posting their round-up every Saturday morning UK time whilst Stan Hieronymus offers his thoughts on Mondays with little old me now plodding along mid-week. I have elbowed my way back into this clique over the last year so am quite grateful for their quite different weekly perspectives on this finite set of stories and should be back with more cheery thoughts of my own next Thursday… in March!

Update: bonus non-beer Quebec content because the phrase “…and it tastes like feet.

*Yes, the socialite Ben Johnson but not that Ben Johnson.
**Traitor curler!!!
***Beefy even. Based on actual experience. And much to be said about simply being interested in something more than others.
****Must have lacked passion.
*****But… but… passion!

Canada’s Secret Olympic Success Strategy Based On Beer

It’s begun. As I reported just last Thursday, every time the winter Olympics come around we witness Canada using the power of beer against the other nations of the Earth. And our athletes do it right out in the open! The USA is waking up in shock (apparently) at the display of wanton friendliness. Bwahahahaha! Then, having built up the reputation, no one notices the wild elbows during the team contact luge finals. Or that bucket of wax that just happens to get spilled on the course during the downhill synchro tobogganing prelims. It’s all working exactly to plan.

Your Beery News For The Sudden January Thaw

Nothing slows down life as much as three weeks of the freezing weather that we are just about to get a break from. Well, that and regularly keeping track of the beery news again. It’s been since November since I started back up.  I was last August’s jaunt as Stan’s intern that did it, I suppose. Give me a few years. I might get reasonably good at it. Maybe. Sorta. Bet I pack it in come spring.

Anyway, first up, all that hope and rage you have balled up into the narrative that moderate alcohol is good for you? It’s very likely a crock. Why? Because “…low-volume drinkers may appear healthy only because the ‘abstainers’ with whom they are compared are biased toward ill health.” My take? If you regularly wake up hungover you are likely hurting yourself. Start with a few liver function tests.

Crap. Eric Asimov has mentioned Prince Edward County wines in The New York Times. I’ll never be able to afford to drink the local stuff now.

More bad news? Why not? The sudden shutting of central New York’s venerable Saratoga Brewing was covered in great detail by central New York’s venerable Don Cazentre. It’s not that often that beer business news gets covered as business news but Don is regularly the one doing it. Another form of the death of the dream of national big craft – along with, you know, less and less of the stuff being sold. Hail the new boss! Local murky gak in a sterile monoculture branded taproom where everyone wants to tell you about how great the beer is. Now, that’s my kind of entertainment.

Now, how about something positive? I definitely award the best long writing this week to the two part essay by Matthew Lawrenson on pub life for the perspective of someone with autism:

I’ve been told that people are wary of me due to my “beer blogging’s greatest monster” reputation and are surprised when I’m more anxious and less obnoxious than they’ve been lead to believe. All I can say is that, usually, things are rarely what people expect them to be.

My favourite thing about the essay is how plainly described it all is. Matthew treats the subject objectively, with the respect it deserves. Very helpful. By way of a bit of contrast, because it’s important to keep this dynamic, Jordan took on the argument being made by Canada’s macro brewers about our excise tax regime and found it seriously lacking, working both the numbers as well as his sarcasm skills:

…let’s do the math. Wow! The average price of a case of beer is $36.50 if you go by the examples that Beer Canada have used. Now, let’s see. 24 x 341ml = 8,184 ml. How many ml in a HL? Wow. That’s 12.218 cases of beer per hectolitre. That’s 293 bottles and a low fill! Hmmm. What’s $31.84/293? Oh wow. It’s 10.8 cents a bottle in federal excise!

I was left (again) with the feeling that all cost inputs deserve that level of scrutiny. It’s we the buyers and our cash that runs the whole industry, after all. Why shouldn’t we get a simple straight answer? Consider J.J. Bell’s news today that he is dropping Harvey’s from his pub’s line up because “They’ve been using their strong position in the local market to price gouge, pure and simple.” Now, that’s some plain speaking about value.

How did we get here? Maybe beer 5,000 years ago in Greece. Merryn Dineley ordered the article so I am looking forward to greater analysis that just the abstract but the reference to “remains of sprouted cereal grains as well as cereal fragments from the Bronze Age” sure seems interesting.

Not beer: Al Tuck. Listen for a bit. There you go. Feel better, right?

Coming to the end but still enough time for my favourite use of Twitter in beer-world for 2018. Josh Noel’s fictional life of John Holl started on New Years Day this way:

On a Thursday evening in 1986, as a spring storm pounded the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, John Hall sat in an airplane on the rain‐glazed tarmac and did something he would recount for the rest of his life. He reached for a magazine.

Finally. All things come to an end. And speaking of ends – bumboats. Say it fast five times over out loud… in public: Bumboats!  Bumboats!  Bumboats! Bumboats! Bumboats!” Hah – made you do it.

Laters.

Your Beery News For A Yuletide Thursday

Ah, December 21st. The kids’ Christmas pageant at church was already a few weeks back now. Gifts are bought and parcels have been mailed. Mainly. I will go out for a pint after work tonight but generally this is the time of sweet sherry and cups of tea. Times are a bit too Dad-ly to get overly tinseled. I’ll take a moment to think of Zimbabwe.  Play a few tunes. Then I’ll check in with the news.

Starting on a very cheery note, there is nothing better than accusations of marketplace corruption and political underhandedness in Canada’s tiniest jurisdiction – not that I’d have any idea of why this would be the case.:

Now you take your kid’s to a grocery store, and not only can adults purchase Gahan beer, they can even sample it. Why not sell Gahan beer in the emergency waiting rooms across the Island. Also, a keg of beer (Gahan) would be nice for patients in the back of an ambulance to take their mind off their issues. I am only using Gahan, since they are currently the only ones allowed to sell privately here on the Island. Maybe the other brewers never thought of this idea or are not Liberal donation givers

Frankly, I blame them getting rid of the bootleggers in 2004.

Next, apparently elsewhere in this fine nation the Canadian craft brewer alert status about the impending implosion of their entire industry has been raised to an alarming all time high: concerned. Let that give you pause, global brewing industry.

South of the border, it’s funny watching the brewing trade groups go on and on about the tax cut benefits the ownership class has received without any apparently awareness that these savings are built on relieving 13 million of their fellow citizens from access to health care. Andy has the right take as does Jason: a gratuitous three and a half bucks a barrel back in the owners’ pocket.  Forbes has the extraordinary details on the windfall that has fallen in the laps of the brewery ownership class. Just in time for Dunkin’ Donuts beer.

Antipodeanly speaking, you will be please to know that one retail business in New Zealand considers non-alcohol beer a gateway drug. Reminds me of how, as an undergrad in a college half-run by clerics, we learned how High Anglicans thought the danger with stand up… relations are that they could lead to dancing. Fabulous. Remind me to never shop there.

I love how one farming publication seems to suggest we set the birth of Jesus aside at this time of year to remember… the farmer. Friggin’ farmers.

One last thing. You really will have to pardon me. I really don’t care about the best beers for Christmas. I don’t. Not for me. Not for you. I hope you find something else to do like being happy, annoying little nieces and nephews, doing something good and not telling anyone, staring at the conifer in the living room and eating unfamiliar poultry. Or find a 45. Or listen to this. And, for God’s sake, don’t do this. Try this. Have a holly. Have a jolly. But enjoy yourselves and don’t fret about the beer.

 

Just A Nickel Per Two-Four… That’s All, Right?

Lots of interesting facts in John Iverson’s National Post column on this year’s Canadian Federal government’s budget and its hike on beer taxes:

– Nationally, beer’s share of total beverage alcohol sales has declined to 41.5 per cent in 2016 from 48 per cent in 2006;
– Brewing supports 163,000 full-time equivalent jobs in Canada; and
– An additional $470 million in excise duties over the next five years just on this 2% hike only on the excise portion of the Federal take.

Seems relatively reasonable. I mean we all need taxes paid and taxes spent if we aren’t going to all die in an under-serviced ER waiting for care needed after the car flipped after hitting a pothole in the under-maintained road, right? And taxes come from economic activity. But notice the opening lines of Iverson’s column:

It was widely noted that Bill Morneau’s spring budget imposed a two per cent hike in beer taxes, adding 5¢ to a case of 24 bottles. Less widely noticed was that prices will increase on beer, wine and spirits every year thereafter at the rate of inflation. Let that sink in.

Apparently, there is push back. According to a press release Beer Canada, Restaurants Canada, Spirits Canada and the Canadian Vintners Association bought a domain name and have set up corkthetax.ca to lobby against the escalator tax mechanism on beer, wine and spirits “buried within Budget 2017.” The group’s statement also calls the increase “hidden” and has aimed its unhappiness at the Senate, Canada’s unelected upper house of Parliament which gets to have a look after the elected bit of the operation is done. Which tells me that they missed the details when the proposed law was released in the House of Commons over a month and a half ago at the new section 170.2(2)(a) wherein we find this complex bit of math:

Each rate of duty set out in Part II of the schedule applicable in respect of a hectolitre of beer or malt liquor is to be adjusted on April 1 of an inflationary adjusted year so that the rate is equal to… the rate determined by the formula

A × B

“A” basically being the excise duty and “B” being the rate of inflation. How was this not… noticed? The word “beer” appears twenty-six times in the proposed statute, one of which is in the passage above. So about as hidden as a four letter word can be to anyone who can press “Ctrl+F” and search a document for four letter words.

I am all for political opposition to a policy change and, yes, perpetual escalation appears procedurally a bit wonky – but secret hidden attack on beer? Not so much.