Driving Around Albany With Craig And Ron

 

realm1Not just Albany. Delmar, too. Delmar! Land of Craig’s youth. We sat at Real McCoy with owner and sign maker Mike Bellini and his pal Jay, a pro ciderman. I like a one-person brewery. Ron said it was the set up he dreamed of for himself. He was preaching the double brown gospel. Research. Comparing notes. Overly precious hipster nano failure v. single hop and malt explorations. The height of barley stalks and why. Maybe. Local hops were passed around. Forgot to mention the spruce beer idea, that coniferous flavouring predates DIPAs in the repetior.

realm2Everywhere we go Canadian malt is the backbone of NY craft brewing. Good to see. It’s good to be helpful. Definitely some sort of brown ale revival going on. And local ciders everywhere. 2014’s fruit salad obsession may just be history. Wouldn’t that be nice. Yesterday, Gerry L. was with us for a couple of hours and was corroborating and filling in gaps in 1700s NYC. And backdating schenck and lager. Was it just a new word layered on existing practice before the Panic of 1837? Maybe.

More nerdism this evening. Trains, canals and marketplace expectations. You don’t advertise in a paper to the neghbourhood customers. Not in the 1790s. No way.

The Great White Male Hero Theory Problem

This is a pretty interesting article from outside the usual fanboy circle of craft – but it still illustrates an analytical tendency that hinders discussion. Consider this:

It’s no secret that without Jim Koch and Boston Beer as standard bearers for the industry, craft beer would not have its current identity and the trade group is loathe to lose its most effective cheerleader.

You can take this sentence at least a couple of ways. Either (i) Koch has been a major cause of the success of US craft or (ii) he has shaped US craft to meet the needs of Koch and in doing so brought others along with him. The trouble is both suggest a “but for Koch” implication which is not realistic even if it is seductive. We must keep in mind that, while craft has made him massively wealthy, the man also believes yogurt helps him be less drunk. Because he is human and few humans lack their own weirdnesses.

Good beer has been made for millennium after millennium by millions of people. It has satisfied literally billions of humans over hundreds of billions of experiences in both its functional and pleasurable aspects. It is in a real sense the cause and effect merged. But there is a tendency to ignore that reality and place upon the head of those who harness – or shackle – beer’s inherent continuity with a gold star. I suppose it’s due to the need to get ones hand around the scale of beer’s place in our cultural heritage. But beer is too much like a virus for that. It’s too much like an independent phenomenon, slightly separate from the people who brew it.

Koch is not the cause of the success of Shocktop as the piece suggests. Beer itself is. It’s brewed by so many to such ready profit exactly because of its simplicity. We are in a time of transition away from the exceptionalist fallacies of the last ten years back to the reality of diverse pervasive skillful brewing. It is very similar to the post-Revolutionary era as well as the early colonial period. They are each eras before aggregation occurs. Then… it occurs. It’s cyclical. Koch has just been repeated the pattern of E.P. Taylor starting in the Canada of the 1920s before moving on to the UK, using his understanding of merger and acquisition. He is just like the Rutgers brothers, Anthony and Harman in New York City in the mid-1700s creating a vertically integrated brewing dynasty across Manhattan. He’s like the Hanseaticbrewers’ guilds in the 1400s leveraging the new opportunities of hops. He has asserted control. If he had not filled the space of the controlling craft aggregator someone else would have. It’s not the stuff of alternate universe fantasy to point out the propensity of brewing to provide for this. There’s a reason all the home runs in sport are hit in baseball. Because it provides for it.

This is a nice segue. I need to get back into the records to study brewing in North America before 1850. There is such a wealth of databases to work through that it would be more than a disservice not to. Primary records which tell their own story. No spin doctors. Maybe. Gotta watch out for those who give themselves a gold star or who sidle up next to them. Gotta keep an eye out for them.

#23 – The Kid’s Up

“He’s up by seven,” he shouted to the kitchen through his mouthful of toast, the autumn morning light glinting on the plate and mug on the side table.

“Ketchup and what?”

“No – he’s up by seven! The kid is up by seven points with Nanos, Ekos and all the other Greek gods!!!”

“That’s nice.”

Nice? What’s that supposed to mean. The Governing Party is back on track, at the front steps of kicking the dullards out and all she can muster up is “nice“? He rubbed his chin. Thought for a bit. The Kid’s made a big move in the last few weeks. The commies have faded back just enough to provide the necessary support. Another sip of coffee. A leaf fell outside the bay window. Been a long time. Unfold the Globe. Fold it the other way. And all Hap pulls out of his bag of tricks is a stupid cash register clang. Cornered himself. He’s cut so much he has nothing much left to cut to tempt the 905. Thought he was cornering the others. Folks are ready to spend. Could be. Could be they’re just sick of Hap. Hap looks sick of Hap come to think of it. Toast. Chew.

“More coffee?”

“Sure thing. You splash some caff in the decaff today?”

“Not with your heart.”

“Jeese. No kidding? Got a bit of zip going today.”

Shadow Cabinet.

None

So Far It’s Been A Poor Election Campaign For Beer

mulcair2015UPDATE TO THE UPDATE!! #TeamPoliPour2015 is coming together very nicely. We have received another link via Twitter to a French-Canadian blog post from 4 September which includes photos of both Harper and Trudeau with beer. Must analyze more closely for evidence of actual pouring as opposed to serving and hoisting. More updates as they come in….

UPDATE!! – NDP leader Mulcair seen today in PEI at a microbrewery to announce tax policy. [Inside scoop: I used to live about 300 yards from the parents of named NDP candidate Herb Dickieson (Egmont) on the road just north of New Glasgow, PEI. Lovely people.] Got a tweet from @salut_galarneau at 7:32 EST to let me know. Money shot. You may have had to wait otherwise for the morning papers…

Earlier: Remember last Canadian federal election? The leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition was caught on camera proudly pouring a beer. And our Prime Minister was seen awkwardly pouring a beer on his way to his first majority government. Our conservatives like beer. Our centre left appear to want to expand access to beer – though their generosity is somewhat limited. Generally speaking beer is generally not a matter of general public debate. We like beer. It’s like hockey without the ice to us.

So, what has gone wrong so far this time around? Why have I not been bombarded with candidates in tavern scenes or folks who just want to be seen to be Johnny Average Canuck uncomfortably holding a case of some beer upside down? Don’t get me wrong. Normal folk from average backgrounds who have made good have been the norm as far as our national leadership goes. And that sort of dull is frankly better than the alternative. But, still, why is the only image so far this one tweeted from a campaign flight showing NDP leader Tom Mulcair holding a Dos Equis? I sure hope the federal level has not taken the message from the most recent provincial election in Canada’s biggest province when not talking about beer was key to the winning campaign.

And why Dos Equis? Who decided to put that on the campaign plane at all? Well, at least he’s been seen with a brew. Time for macro and micro, craft and kraphtt to demand the nation’s leaders kow-tow to a tavern table of Canadians, insist they show the electorate they drink what the common folk drink. Hey – I know a thing or two… and have a few pals in or near the war rooms. Send me a line. Campaign beer theory is not something for the amateurs. Which makes me comfortable charging a fee. You need help. I can help: beerblog@gmail.99

Saturday Night In A Rain Soaked Beer Tent

I rarely think of things as being “Canadian” because “Canadian” is a bit elusive. Usually you need an American friend to let you know something is weird so that you can tell him “oh, that’s Canadian.” Sitting in a beer tent at long plastic covered tables during a cold downpour watching iconic 1970s rockers April Wine on a military base at a civvie invitation only concert feet in chilling puddles watching soldiers and pals and dates and, apparently, parents and grandparents having a good time on the one macro beer on offer struck me as pretty Canadian as I was sitting in the midst of it there last night. There in the foggy tent on the parade square asphalt. Do other nations even have laws requiring beer tents? The stamping of hands as you go in? I didn’t have any beer. Not because I didn’t like the beer. Mooseheads pale ale is decent enough for a beer tent. Fact: the porta potties were a hurricane away. Others didn’t pass on the opportunity. Watched one guy down eight or ten Mooseheads in the first half hour we were there. He was givin’ ‘er. As we say. It was so foggy in the tent from the downpour outside that it started condensing on the inside of the tent, rain reforming to pour on our heads. A science lesson in itself. We left not just because of that or because it was so loud that I stuffed wads of Kleenex in my ears but because they played their 1979 cover of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” which I had not appreciated they had in fact once recorded. They did an excellent job for the eleven minutes of that tune but the crowd was there for songs on the radio, songs with lyrics like “tonight is a wonderful night to fall in love, oh yeah” and not covers of early prog rock speed metal. Earlier, folk had happily Legion danced to the opening band, Whiskey Overdrive, playing classic rock covers. Legion dancing requires a generous application of the elbows. And a few Mooseheads. There’s a real happy levelling that goes on when military folk are partying. The opposite of the oneupsmanship you can get at house parties filled with strangers. Military folk already know who in the room is one up. Still, there was a bit of a crush at the exit gate as we left. But plenty stayed. It was really good. Good company. Good out dinner before. Good being among Canadians. People were having a time.

#22 – Halfway Home

The new Nanos numbers this morning were not good. Another small slide. When he had called a friend’s office later he hadn’t been in yet. The voice on the phone had used the words “death march” even with weeks to go. Weeks to go this time could mean weeks to go of this. Or, worse, an “anyone but the NDP” move to the Grits leaving us in the wilderness. Again. It had stung hard to have to listen to Elsie Wayne so often.

Limited upside. Great. And the boss let the message out that he’s not perfect. What an interview with Joe Rockhead the other night! I am who I am and that’s who I am. People want a Syrian grannie in every church… for God’s sake. Somewhere they know they can drop off Timbits or a casserole or a blanket or something to feel good about themselves. Why is that too much to ask?

“Grain Suffisamment Pour Faire De La Biere”

hebertThe footnote quoting a text from 10 August 1620 actually reads in full:

Nous avon du grain suffisamment pour faire du pain and de la bière

That statement was written by Denis Jamet, Récollet missionary at Quebec in New France. When I wrote the bit about New France in Ontario Beer a year ago, I only thought to state that beer “came to New France at the latest in the 1630’s with Jesuit priests who brewed as part of their daily duties.” Hadn’t thought of the Récollets. The Jesuits come along a little later and, by 1634, they have a full brewery was being planned but in Quebec the Récollets were here first. I’ve been reading about their entry into the extremely sparce European population along the St. Lawrence Valley in the early seventeenth century in Champlain’s Dream by D.H. Fischer. In 1617 when there were 50 or 60 male residents of New France, there were four Récollets, three at Quebec and one further west at Huronia in what is now central Ontario. Denis Jamet was one of them. He came to New France for a second stint on board Champlain’s spring 1617 sailing from France to the new world.

Early New France did not do without strong drink. As part of their provisions, every year “they imported generous quantities of eau-de-vie, wine and cider.” People were arriving, too. Along with Denis Jamet, in 1617 the first permanent colonial family arrived in New France: Louis Hébert and Marie Rollet along with their three children. Hébert takes up planting, serving as apothecary to the settlement and starts over the next few years to create some economic stability and wealth for his small clan. He dreams of being on a stamp one day. He dies in January 1627 but not before he he becomes, as noted, also associated with “une chaudière à brasserie” – a brewing kettle. This document mentions it arriving in 1622. Which means, if Jamet is to be trusted in that first bit I quoted up there, the first colonists were making beer at least two years before the kettle arrive. Makes sense. Raw ale was a thing. And these technologies like kettles took time to all get in place. Apparently the plough Hébert requested showed up a year after he died.

Which leads to a bit of a puzzle for me. When Jamet made that statement, who is the “nous” – the Récollets only or the population of New France as a whole. Perhaps just the priests yet this brewing history of Quebec seems to indicate that both Hébert and the Récollets were brewing in or before 1620. None of this will win the prize as to the first beer brewed in what is now Canada as that was clearly going on in Newfoundland at Cupids in the early 1610s and was likely also being done for a few decades before that by summering West Country English fishermen on the Newfoundland shores who brought along barrels of malt. I do think, however, that Hébert and/or the Récollets may be the first to grow their own grain for beer making, to take control of the whole process. Hébert is understood to be the first wheat farmer in New France.

He was also the apothecary. You will recall that I posted a while back about Richard Whitbourne, who was in Newfoundland around the same time and described how “many of our Nation finding themselues ill, haue brused some of the herbes and strained the iuyce into Beere.” One of the things folk were struggling with was how to survive in North America. Baffin and his crew get hammered by scurvy in the Arctic 1616 and in the years before that Champlain loses many early overwintering explorers to the disease. He thought that it had to do with having access to fresh meat. They are working out new Baroque era medical science on the edge of known world. And likely experimented with the properties of their beer as part of that process.

What is not to like? Exploring farmer scientist educated devout brewing adventurers. What did you do today?

Session 89: A History Of The Hop And The Malt And The Beer…

sessionlogosmIt’s that time again. The monthly edition of The Session. Beer blogging boys and girls gather ’round the coal fired ISPs throughout the world to share their thoughts on a topic. This month our host is the Pittsburgh Beer Snob who writes:

At many points in history you can look back and find alcohol intertwined. A lot of times that form of alcohol is beer. Beer is something that connects us with the past, our forefathers as well as some of our ancestors. I want this topic to be a really open-ended one. So, it should be fairly easy to come up with something and participate. If you were among any readers I had when I posted most of the time you have a very good idea of where I might be going with my post when the time comes. The same doesn’t apply to you. Do you want to write about an important beer event with great historical significance? Famous figures that were brewers? Have you visited an establishment that has some awesome historic value? Maybe a historically-themed brewpub? I wouldn’t be surprised to even see a few posts on Prohibition. It doesn’t really matter when it comes to history!

History is good. I am actually of the opinion the best histories of beer and brewing are yet to be written. But I also believe the best beer writing, thinking, constructs, descriptions and criticism are all a fair ways off, too. We wallow in times of self-satisfaction. Would you just look about you at the works so far, Ozzy?

Anyway, that being or not being the case, what to make of the state of brewing history? I have written a bit of my bit to be sure but I am still not satisfied. I have come across beer in the Arctic in the 1570s, the 1670s and the 1850s. Fabulous facts. Beer for those living on the edge. Why? Because it kept them alive. Happy and alive. Billy Baffin, that giver of what I think the most Canadian surname, on his fifth voyage in 1616 got into a real pinch and had to hightail it to an island off Greenland and make a tea to keep he and his crew alive:

Now seeing that wee had made an end of our discouery, and the yeare being too farre spent to goe for the bottonie of the bay to search for drest finnes ; therefore wee determined to goe for the coast of Groineland to see if we could get some refreshing for our men ; Master Hei’bert and two more having kept their cabins above eight days (besides our cooke, Richard Waynam, which died the day before, being the twenty-six of July), and divers more of our company so weake, that they could doe but little labour. So the winde favouring us, we came to anchor in the latitude of 65° 45′, at six a clocke in the evening, the cockin eight and twentieth day, in a place called Cockin Sound. The next day, going on shoare on a little iland, we found scuruy great abundance of the herbe called scuruie grasse, which we boyled in beere, and so dranke thereof, using it also in sallets, with sorrell and orpen, which here groweth in abundance; by meanes hereof, and the blessing of God, all our men within eight or nine days space were in perfect health, and so continued till our arrivall in England.

God is good, indeed. Beer is a bounty that is provided to us for health and joy and the lessons of history prove it. Yet, history also proves the wages of not only drunkeness but seeking out the best and brownest. Beer is neither benign or neutral but a powerful tool. That is what history teaches us. It can trace empires for us. Fortify a frontier. Collapse a region. Give hope. And bring despair.

Considering The Role Of Ale On This Canada Day

canadaday

Nine years ago, back around those heady days of political blogging, I wrote a series of posts on a fictitious Atlantic Canadian separation movement focused on a mde-up new capital called Tantrama City. One post set out details of the Canada Day celebrations under the new governmental order and featured the photo of Neil and Larry above. I have no idea who these guys are but I love it. It may be the most Canadian image I have ever seen. The nutty bow ties in the national colours, Neil’s boring earnest shirt and Larry drinking a Bud. And the fact they don’t give a crap and are just having a good time.

Is there a Peru Day or a Norway Day? Canada Day is such a politely bland concept but, this being a confederation with lingering prickly regional identities, it suits us. We are the country that cancels recreations of historic events. Why recall past unhappinesses? What we remember in particular is the formation of one semi-autonomous colony out of three in 1867 (or was it four… Canada was sort of split into Canada East and Canada West but had formerly been separately Lower Canada and Upper Canada from 1791 to 1841), two of the invitee colonies not joining in until six (PEI) and eighty-two (Newfoundland) years later. My particular part of the nation remembers the events with mixed emotions.

So, on this we day celebrate the fourth version of Canada after the one that was otherwise a bit chunk of New France up to 1760, then the one with the Upper and the Lower, then the one that didn’t work from 1841 to 1867. And maybe the one from 1763 to 1791, too. OK, maybe this is the fifth Canada. Most of all we recall the man who is attributed with bringing the four colonies together, Sir John A MacDonald. Larry and Neil might well have been making a joke or two about him – as the founder of a large part (but not all) of our current constitutional structure (yes, it is a bit messy) was a bit of a drinker. A bit of one. Consider this description of one of the planning sessions from the pre-Confederation years:

“…The Council was summoned for twelve and shortly after that we were all assembled but John A. We waited for him till one – till half past one – till two – and then Galt sent off to his house specially for him. Answer – will be here immediately. Waited till half past two – no appearance. Waited till three and shortly after, John A. entered bearing symptoms of having been on a spree. He was half drunk. Lunch is always on the side table, and he soon applied himself to it – and before we had well entered on the important business before us he was quite drunk with potations of ale.” But, after two and a half hours of debate, the wound up their discussions of the constitutional changes and agreed on the course to be followed…”

So, we are a nation imagined and brought into being by a drunk. That is the story we are told. Historian Ged Martin in 2006 published this detailed study of the record of Macdonald’s drinking patterns which both confirms the fantastic level of consumption, his personal struggles as well as the possible causes. It is a very sympathetic piece. If they read it, I am sure Larry and Neil would like him more… and raise another beer to the nation imagined mid-spree thanks to potations of ale. They’d probably raise an American one come to think of it. But only if it was the nearest one. We are not that fussy.

Another Candidate For First Beer Downed In North America

1578beer

Martin Frobisher. He was taking a group of miners to what later gets called Baffin Island¹ in the Canadian high Arctic to dig for ores. The image is from The Three Voyages of Martin Frobisher, a book from 1938 that reprints the 1576-78 journal of crew member George Best along with other records. It is very likely that this is not of the first beer in any respect. Almost certain. Because it is from the second of the expeditions. The 1576 expedition had five tons of “beare” listed amongst the “furniture” – as in things furnished – for the voyage. So it’s nearly the first… maybe.

The thing I thought I would find as I have seen elsewhere was barrels of malt and hops being shipped over. I’ve seen it on Newfoundland’s shores about twenty years later as well as in Hudson Bay a century later. But this was no crew of masterless West Country men salting west Atlantic cod or factors left to overwinter to trade in northern furs. Nope. Frobisher’s crew was funded by Earls, Countesses and Lords to the tune of 50 to 200 pounds each. The Queen’s Majesty herself threw in a rounded thousand. There was a surgeon on board as well as four tons of cheese. Almonds and raisins plus two firkins of prunes. Just in case. They are living in style. There is both Malmsey and sack, for heaven’s sake. That would now be described as Madeira and sherry respectively.

A gallon of beer for each man each day. Likely downed in wooden tankards like these. A gallon. That is the equivalent of twelve 12 oz or 350 ml bottles a day every day. In 1576, it was two pounds two shillings for a ton of beer but two pound five shillings in 1577. Seven percent inflation over one year is unlikely. Maybe a better grade of beer? Not a lot of detail of the life on shore in the accounts. Just interaction with the local Inuit as well as the work gathering of tons of ore. Each group seemed to appear pretty silly to the other.

¹… because our lad Billy Baffin isn’t even born until around 1584.