Your Thrilling Third Week Of February Thursday Beer News Update

A week tomorrow is March. I haven’t even bought my seeds for the garden! How edgy is that? What if I have to pick another sort of broad bean, something new to the market? March also means mud, college basketball and baseball spring training. I suppose it might also mean Bière de Mars if I could find any. I am sure will survive without it. Quite sure, especially compared to ending up with the wrong strain of broad beans. How the neighbours will laugh.

To begin this week’s new review, you know a hobby is well into its mature and not necessarily necessary stage of the life cycle when the news starts to sound like a Monty Python skit:

One of the oldest Lithuanian farmhouse ale yeast strains – sourced from famed brewer Aldona Udriene’s JOVARU Beer – is now available… “We’re ecstatic and fortunate that Aldona Udriene of Jovaru, known as the queen of Lithuanian farmhouse beer, is partnering with us…”

Sadly, no mention of our hero Lars whose work would have been unintentionally instrumental to the craft brewing world’s opportunity to mistreat this tradition. (Not to mention the website Craft Brewing Business which ran the story seems clearly to have poached their story’s photo from Lars.)

In other yeast news, sadly it turns out that the discovery of yeast from a bottle of beer found in a shipwreck was not quite a discovery:

It turns out, there’s more to the story. It turns out, there’s already beer made with that yeast. At Saint James Brewery in Holbrook, Long Island, owner-brewer Jamie Adams has for the past year or so been making use of yeast taken from bottles found in the wreck of the SS Oregon, which sank off Fire Island in 1886. Those beers have mixed the historic yeast with modern yeast.

Hmm… why blend yeasts like that? I’d still be interested in efforts at “a biotech lab at nearby SUNY Cobleskill to culture the yeast for modern use.” But that’s because I was marginally famous in that fabulous program for a glorious afternoon with Craig. Craig was more marginally famous than me. Obvs.

Next up, the chef-owners of Montreal’s celebrated restaurant Joe Beef, David McMillan and Fred Morin, published an exposé on their own past alcohol dependency in Bon Appétit magazine:

The community of people I surrounded myself with ate and drank like Vikings. It worked well in my twenties. It worked well in my thirties. It started to unravel when I was 40. I couldn’t shut it off. All of a sudden, there was no bottle of wine good enough for me. I’m drinking, like, literally the finest wines of the world. Foie gras is not exciting. Truffles are meh. I don’t want lobster; I had it yesterday. What am I looking for, eating and drinking like this every day?

Hmm… what would it take for craft beer to form a registered charity to have professional therapists assess brewery workers and then be able to send them either to therapy or to a rehabilitation center?

Help. I saw this tweet and was unclear of the implication other than to note that by way of some photoshopping a message on a t-shirt was removed from a image used by BrewDog. I am at a loss. Please help.

Conversely, some very blunt and largely (in my view) correct observations on the treatment of various problems in good beer these days and specifically responses to racism:

This level of outrage isn’t applied when the issue is racism or the person offended is black.  The idea that we should all sit around singing “Kumbaya” because someone hired a black face and instituted “sensitivity” training WITHOUT an apology or restitution is a dub.  People are looking for any reason to go back to publicly drinking their Founders products.

Wonderful line, full of importance: “If this was a difficult or emotional read, just imagine what it must have been like to write this piece, let alone live portions of its content.” Also consider this and this as well as this backgrounder from the author.

The entirely welcome death of “curate” as it relates to beer.

The English pub: clubhouses of cliques or open inviting spaces for all? Very good question with perhaps an honest answer which is “both”!

Next, Jay Brooks wrote his piece for #FlagshipFebruary and it was entirely enchanting – and it had nothing to do with the beer he selected to write about –   because it was really a short biography of his life with good beer:

I’m part of that dying breed of beer lovers whose first encounter with better beer predates the craft beer movement. I grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania, when it was a land of regional lagers and the occasional cream ale, but it took joining the military and being posted to New York City to open my eyes to beer’s diversity and endless possibilities. In those dark days — roughly 1978-1980 — it was the imported wonders of Bass Ale, Guinness, Pilsner Urquell, and many others that captivated both my imagination and my taste buds.

And, as a bonus, Jay adds this tidbit: “…[d]espite its success over the previous decade, it had still not remotely saturated the bar scene in the San Jose area…” The beer? Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. The modesty of the early success of SNPA contrasts with it’s later national fortunes. Very interesting. Better than the exercise in seemingly denying undeniabletruths.**

Now smaller.

Finally, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal issued an appellate ruling on a case brought by a craft brewery over the fees paid to the government to sell their beer:

Unfiltered applied to the Supreme Court for a declaration that the mark-up was an unlawful tax under s. 53 of the Constitution Act. The application judge found that the mark-up was a proprietary charge and, therefore, not an unlawful tax.

The key word? “Proprietary”! What the ruling really says is that brewers make the beer under license, then it is deemed to be owned by the government for sale by the brewer as agent for the government. It’s called a liquor control board for a reason. And notice this at paragraph 58:

Unfiltered argues that it receives nothing for the mark-up which it pays to
the NSLC. With respect, I disagree. Unfiltered has the ability to sell beer in this province. Without the licenses and permits issued by the NSLC and compliance with them it could not do so.

Boom!! Consider the license to replicate someone else’s created music via CD or Spotify, you are using someone else’s property. In this case, its the same except we are dealing with the proprietary right to convert fermentables to alcohol. Fabulous. As you all know, I wrote a chapter in 2007’s Beer and Philosophy: The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking entitled “Beer and Autonomy” in which I explored in summary how government intersected with alcohol. I wish I had this ruling to work with when I put that chapter together as it gets to the nub of the matter clearly and, obviously, with authority. 

Enough! Check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday if you want more sensible insights on the world of beer. Soon… March!***

*physically.
**perhaps mentally.
***#MoneyMakerMarch!

 

Beer And Trans-Atlantic English Explorations Of The Later 1400s

That passage above is from the The Voyage Made by M. John Hawkins Esquire, 1565. According to the wisdom of Wikipedia, Hawkins was the chief architect of the Elizabethan navy, the first English trader to profit from the Triangle Trade and Treasurer of the Navy from 1577 to 1595. Its from a part of his journal that records French colonial efforts in Florida at their short lived Fort Caroline. While the colony had only been settled in 1564, they had already turned local grapes into wine, apparently the first in North America.

It’s not the earliest record of alcohol use in North America – even if it might be the earliest of production. We have seen before how the French were drinking cider as they worked the Newfoundland shore in the 1520s. But what is interesting to me is that the French in Florida had their choice of products, given the ample source of good bread making grain, but made wine. Which is reasonable as wine is simpler to make than beer, given there is no intermediary stages like malting or mashing.

A few years ago now, I discussed the  provisioning of Martyn Frobisher’s 1578 voyage to mine iron ore on Baffin Island in Canada’s Arctic. The post was based on my luck find of the victualing records. Have a look by clicking on the image to the right. You can see how much biscuit, meal, beer, wine and pork was loaded on board. Note: beer, not malt. He was not brewing beer up on Baffin that year. I’ve discussed late 1500s trans-Atlantic ships’ provisions of malt before, too.

I have been a bit fruitlessly looking for more of those sorts of records, feeling a bit like Manilov in Dead Souls, not getting very deep into things.  I want to turn the clock back further, back past Cartier in the mid-1530s. I have been primarily thinking about what was down in the hold of John Cabot‘s ships on his 1490s voyages to eastern Canada. Until I got into the Cabot era, I had no idea how lucky I was finding the record for Frobisher. An actual victualing bill from the 1570s. Lucky also that the scholarship on that adventurer was not as quirky and proprietary as was the case (perhaps until recently) with Cabot. That has recently broken somewhat in recent years. In 2012, The New York Times reported:

In 2010, an international team of scholars working together in what is called the Cabot Project came upon a set of 514-year-old Italian ledgers that Dr. Ruddock had found decades earlier but which had disappeared from view. They showed that in the spring of 1496, Cabot received seed money for his voyages from the London branch of a Florentine banking house called the Bardi.

Plenty has come out related to the new Cabot findings that has given me a bit more hope. We know that Henry the VII gave notice in 1496 that Cabot was authorized to buy victuals for his first voyage and also authorized the second voyage in 1498. We also know that in 1499, a Bristol merchant named William Weston sailed to Newfoundland.* Cabot also might have settled friars at Carbonear, Newfoundland on his third voyage. But there is that problem of the vulnerability of scholarship… ie, people who I can poach from. That hoarders of ideas Cabot scholar Ruddock died in 2005 and Peter Pope who wrote wonderfully about the early Newfoundland trade died in 2017. So I am left to my own wits.

Which means I have to come up with rules for my own research. What do we know? Well, we do know that Bristol was the gateway for English expeditions to the west just as London and other eastern facing ports served, generally speaking, the North and Baltic Seas. In particular, Bristol had a flourishing wine trade in the 1400s. The quantities involved were significant – between 1,000 and 2,500 tons of wine a year through the 1400s, depending on the politics. We have to recall that the English held Gascony from the 1200s until the 1450s. Gascony is know for wine, even including the Bordeaux region. Bristol was where that wine was received for English consumption. So, it is reasonable to expect provisioning of vessels leaving Bristol in the 1400s to have a supply of wine.

Additionally, to find trans-Atlantic provisioning records you need to find trans-Atlantic voyages. Where were the merchant adventurers of Bristol during the English Renaissance sailing towards? First, we have to remember that the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance ratified at the Treaty of Windsor in 1386 is arguably the oldest alliance in the world. The Portuguese were also makers of wine for the English market as well as explorers. And that wine landed at Bristol. So they were sailing back and forth from there. Voyages, trade links and colonization out into the Atlantic was not a particularly wide-spread European habit before the 1400s. The Canary Islands, populated by a semi-Stone Age people, the Guanches, were only taken by Spain in 1402. Yet trade links with Iceland were developed by Bristol’s merchants by the mid-1400s which included a:

diversity in food [which] increased as the English… imported large quantities of beer and wine, salt and pepper, malt, wheat, sugar and honey.

Which means if the Bristol merchants are shipping beer to Iceland… there is beer on Bristol ships heading north. And, fabulously, malt. And other targets for the adventurous traders of Bristol were developed like the voyage of the Trinity in 1480-81 seeking out opportunity in North Africa. Was there beer in that hull, too?  It’s not unreasonable to think so. We do know that the well-armed naval merchants of the Baltic-based Hanseatic League did not themselves get out into the Atlantic but they did bring hopped beer to England as early as the mid-1200s.  Remember the cargo of beer brought on the Elyn of 1401. Which means that you have the conditions to have hopped beer moving out of England, too, as a transferred on trade good. Quite a bit early than I had thought.

I will illustrate my working date with some fairly common understanding of dates. Professor Unger identified “about 1520” as the time when the English mastered the new technology of brewing beer with hops. That is backed up by the records showing written references to “hops” or “hoppes” were not so common until about that same time. Yet, if you dig around the records a bit, that date starts to look a bit late. In records (“alien subsidies”) of foreign merchants for Bristol in the mid-1400s we read that:

…the returns to the 1449 and 1453 alien subsidies, which in some cases give either occupational descriptions or surnames that suggest an occupation: there are two beer-brewers, two tailors, a pinner, pointmaker (maker of laces for securing clothing), shearman, bellmaker, leatherworker, goldsmith, smith and, possibly, heardsman…

Which means that there were two immigrant beer brewers in Bristol well before Cabot and about the time of the Icelandic trade. Which means the beer heading north could well have been English beer and even made close to the port.  Further, in the 2014 PhD dissertation by  John R. Krenzke of Loyola University in Chicago, “Change Is Brewing: The Industrialization of the London Beer-Brewing Trade, 1400-1750” we read, at page 42, that a similar timeline is at play in London:

Ale brewers were successful in 1484 in having the City of London lay down the ingredients that could be used in ale brewing—“only liquor (heated water), malt, and yeast”—to limit the competition that ale brewers faced from beer brewers. In response the beer brewers of London were able to obtain a charter to become their own guild in 1493. The two groups were to remain apart and in direct competition to each other until 1556 when they were merged.

The “stranger” beer brewers were allowed to sell beer freely in London in 1477 and were not as unwelcome at all as we read on page 7:

…at first, beer remained primarily a beverage brewed by foreigners, known as strangers to their English hosts, for themselves and, because of its stability, for English soldiers. Stranger beer brewers found the Crown to be an ally throughout the fifteenth century because of their ability to supply beer to the military.

Nothing like government demand to validate new technology. And we need to recall in all this that Henry VIII himself created great state-owned naval brewing capacity at Portsmouth in 1515, producing 500 barrels per day to supply his military ambitions. Just before Unger’s date of 1520. The question, then, is how large the capacity of the privately operating beer brewers of Bristol was half a century earlier and did it supply the merchant adventurer ships heading west to Canada in the 1490s. That is the question I need to dig at. All the conditions are present: confident merchant adventurers, established beer brewing and thirst. All we need is a record or two.

*Much more here on the scale of the oceanic Bristol trade missions in “The Men of Bristol and the Atlantic Discovery Voyages of the Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Centuries,” the MA Thesis of Annabel Peacock from 2007.

 

The First Week Of December Finds Every Child’s Mind Drifting To Beery News Notes

This week’s big news saw me and mine on the road. I was up in the nation’s capital over Saturday and Sunday and took part in my kind of beer tourism. By that I mean actually doing normal things while noting beer around me and having one when the more important things in life were not imposed upon. We took in an hour at the National Gallery of Canada and spent time in the Canadian exhibits, where I came across this painting, Manitoba Party, from 1964. Cheery and folk artsy, right away I noticed the kegs and beer distribution smack dab in the middle. More detail below.

 

 

 

 

Speaking of Canada, Frank Zappa once said that you can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. Canada obsesses about such things, often when there is little in the news other than, you know, affirmations. Mr. B has picked up the theme:

I’ve no idea what Canada’s national beer style might ultimately be, whether it will be hop-focused or yeast-based or feature some ingredient that it true to the Canadian spirit. 

Not sure that is a big worry of mine. Zappa went on to that that it also “helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.” We have our own form of football. And, really, the good neighbour has enough of those bombs. Art, however. That works for me.

Looking back on the rest of my week, I find I have to take something back* from last week’s news notes. I wrote that we would have to spend a “happy early December without an edition of #TheSession” but Stan is giving us one last kick at the can with the topic “One More For The Road” in which we are asked to:

Pick a beer for the end of a life, an end of a meal, an end of a day, an end of a relationship. So happy or sad, or something between. Write about the beer. Write about the aroma, the flavor, and write about what you feel when it is gone.

Not particularly Yule-drenched but there will be a few weeks afterwards to get oneself back in the spirit. With any luck, the responses will give J. Wilson some cheer, given his tweet this week which is about as broadly grim as one might get:

Sometimes I worry about the future of beer since so many beer lovers today don’t even like the taste of beer.

Me, I am more hopeful than that – especially given how beer and brewing has survived any number of false gods and dead ends over the centuries.  December is actually an excellent time to get back in touch with the classics and leave the NEIPAs and other alcopops to the amateur drinkers. Alistair of Fuggled fame has offered us one route to set things back in their proper order:

…it seems that Craft Beer™ Advent Calendars have been all the rage in recent years and I thought I’d jump on the old bandwagon. Only one minor issue, I have an aversion to having stuff curated for me, I much prefer to survey what’s available and make my own decisions, yes I can be something of a contrarian, I know. The plan as it currently stands is to buy 24 bottles of seasonal beers, drink one each day of Advent, and then write a blog post about it…

Wonderful. A blog plan. Nate has also offered us a route forward for his beer blogging for 2019 and beyond:

…I gave up on the Beats element about music years ago as I stopped listening to so much music, and frankly, my music reviews weren’t very good at all. So, I needed to replace Beats with something and given my love for professional wrestling, why not change it to Beatdowns and write about wrestling since I watch so much of it? So, from now on, this blog will be known as Booze, Beatdowns and Bites.

There was a university radio show near me that I liked a decade ago named something like “Hardcore Grooves and Wrestlin’ Moves” so this should work for me.

Here’s an interesting twist on the recreation of one historic brand of beer – the rights to brew Syracuse NY’s Congress beer were acquired by the local historical society!

In more real news, BarMas that objectified human point of fascination of mine – for his superhuman chore doing and vernacular booze production skills – has posted about his new orchard:

Originally, the ends of every row had cherry trees, which our current plot is missing, so we will gain, I think, 5 very large cherry trees. Inside the cherry trees, each row then had a few pear trees, and this is repeated a thee ends of the rows we are purchasing. Mostly they seem to be conference, mirroring the ends of the current rows, but there are a few other varieties, like Bürgermeisterbirne/Köstliche aus Charneux, and I hope some perry pear trees and more Williams Christ.

Wow.  Riddled. Jealousy.

The serious news in the business of beer as it affects Canada and beyond has been reported upon by my pal Josh Rubin in the Toronto Star:

DME, a P.E.I.-based equipment manufacturer with facilities in B.C. and South Carolina, was in receivership, with more than $18 million owed to RBC and an unspecified amount to other creditors, including the company’s own 250 employees. The company’s directors have all resigned, and a B.C.-based receiver has been appointed to explore either a liquidation or sale of the company, with offers due by Jan. 7.

Big news. And a bit strange news. First, though, gotta tell you. I know folk involved, the lawyer bringing the receivership and even the judge granting it,** and have no doubt as to the realities but the effect is going to be widespread. Josh*** got Jason Fisher**** on the record to explore what losing a $800,000 deposit means to him and his brewery. What gets me is that the required cash injection was allegedly only $5,000,000 which seems like a paltry sum in the face of 250 jobs – that’s just $20,000 a job  – and especially given the work they were getting including being a supplier to the new Guinness brewery in Baltimore. Where is the ACOA money? Where was Wade… who I also know… former law school prof. Also, before you buy brewing equipment, here is some reasonable advice on securing your deposit.

There. By next week will be another one gone and one closer to Yule. I am more of a Dec 15th to Jan 10th sorta holiday season person. Other versions exist. Many are US Thanksgiving to Dec 25th holiday-ers, immediately stripping the house of tree and tinsel thereafter and, presumably, getting a bit drunk on New Years Eve then staring out the window waiting for spring.  Not me. I want to realize that the sun has made at least three weeks worth of its way back to equinox before I come around to reality.  Then, I want be out in the winter woodland to hear the chickadees calling out for mates and, well, we all know about chickadees, right?

I am sure there still will be beer news throughout. Just like Boak and Bailey know and report out on each Saturday.  Feel nostalgic? Go check out some Xmas contest entries from Yuletides past. Link to the right…

No, not what caused this weird blurt… which looked like a 1.3 violation with perhaps a 1.2 twist.
** I practiced law in PEI from 1998 to 2003. Respectively (i) co-associate pal and (ii) respected partner of another firm and colleague of my counterpart respectively.
*** Who I know in the fellow beer writer sense.
*** Who I don’t know but think I had a brief flame war with once.

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.