Your Beer News For The Week The Red Sox Moved Past The Yankees

This was a home week. Every second week I am in a hotel at the other end of a Great Lake figuring out how to spend 1,500 times my annual wage on a fascinating project. Every other week I am in my basement watching sports TV on a Wednesday evening, having made soup, planning an early night. The soup was good and had about 37 ingredients including our turkey stock from the weekend. It was more complex than craft beer. I thought about that for a bit. Then I created #IsYourCraftBetterThanSoup, a new global public interest group. Might do a GoFundMe with this one.

Anyway, Jordan was here last Friday. We walked into exactly five establishments with him, although two were only for surveillance purposes. He was sifting clues. He does that. I was just wandering, doing a little day drinking and enjoying a Friday off. I share the chalk board from Stone City Ales as they presented it to the bar flies of noon on that fine day for a purpose: to note their wet hop ale, this one with hops from nearby Prince Edward County. Entirely yum. Largely speaking an eastern Lake Ontario zone vernacular. As I noted about ten weeks ago (again) I like my local to be quite localized and infused with locality. I have even pitched my experience to those with more, those trying to solve the “wet” v. “fresh” hop unhappiness. I did so by suggesting the more direct “unkilned” for greater certainty. It received one yea, many boos.

Less locally and further to last week‘s mention of the Cask Report, Old Mudgie worked a few numbers and found a sad result. On average, UK pubs that sell cask ale sell only 40 pints a day. Meaning as many sell 60 pints as 20. Meaning a good chance its been sitting around. This is not a problem with the beer. This is a problem of a lack of gravity dispense firkins on pub counter tops.

UPDATE: I like this piece on how to slink away from Ben which was posted after the newsy notes went to the coal-fired presses.

This is interesting stuff from the US branch of the wine world. The Board of Directors of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas issued a press release on Tuesday:

The Board of Directors found sufficient evidence that the tasting portion of the 2018 Master Sommelier Diploma Examination was compromised by the release of detailed information concerning wines in the tasting flight. The Board unanimously voted to fully void those results to protect the integrity of not only the examination process but also the reputation of the Court of Master Sommeliers and the title Master Sommelier.

Wow. While craft beer is trying to figure out if it’s OK to say both good and bad things about a fairly pointless BrewDog press release, wine is chucking out the exam results. Boom! Good beer beyond craft sometimes has such standards – and Stan is leading the way, especially when it comes to my fears for turning kveik into some sort of craftardization of itself:

Just my opinion, but to support Lars I suggest a) retweeting him, b) pointing others to his posts, c) reading everything he writes 3 times, and d) when somebody refers to kveik as if it is a style remind them it is a type of yeast.

I weedled this irritation a bit by pointing out that I have been sold a beer framed as a “kveik” to which Lars pointed out that “[i]f you go up to one of the brewers at the festival and ask him for kveik, he will give you dried chips.” Toronto’s Bellwoods seems to be doing it right. Remember. Kveik is not a beer. Not a style. It means a family of yeast strains. So, if you see a craft brewer holding out one of their beers is kveik, ask whose kveik it is and where it comes from. Tell them Lars sent you. Fight!

Less seriously, a beer drinking fish.

More seriously, Brendan Palfreyman has unpacked the law suit under which Founders is alleged to have discriminated against a former worker based on race.  Interestingly, he notes that the defense has carefully (“artfully” he states) admitted some of the allegations. Pretty awful allegations in terms of a poisoned work environment. It’s bad news at a very basic level – not good if the evidence shows he was “written up” for being one minute late while others were allowed to be more lax. Remember, craft beer is fun. Reason enough for me to pass on Founders until more is known.

Speaking of legal issues, one Ontario brewing four-person partnership faces a partner facing criminal chargesRobin is righteously outraged. Me, I have done criminal defense work. I am a big fan of their Ukrainian Dunkel. And I am righteously outraged, too.

Finally, I don’t often find myself moved by the save the pub advocacy but this one rings a bell – a Tudor era location with a reasonably consistent presence as an establishment located on East London river frontage. The history as claimed is venerable:

The first pub on the site probably originated during the Wars of the Roses in the 1460s and was called The Hostel. During more peaceful times in 1 533 it became known as The Red Cow, a reference to the bar maid working at the time. The notorious Judge Jeffreys was caught outside the ale house as he tried to escape disguised as a sailor on a collier bound for Hamburg after the Glorious Revolution of 1688; which overthrew King James II. 

The location is at least as impressive. It would have spent most of its live at the edge of the city, to the east of London Tower. In a guide from 1890 we read:

“The Town of Ramsgate” hostelry has a bulging bay window which offers a moderate view of the river, but with this exception reserves its allurements for Wapping High Street, where a conspicuous board at the entrance to the passage draws attention to the attraction of the place. The intelligent tourist, I am told, occasionally makes his way here. 

A winning cause. Or at least one worth fighting. Me, I am off for a nap. The Thursday news gets put to bed Wednesday nights. Before I head to bed. Beerless. Last night the beer was not in the head but at the head. Upside? The Red Sox won. Downside. Only that guy without his beer. Bad call. Good call? Seeing if I come up with something to write about mid-week next week. From that Holiday Inn by the highway. See you then.

The Baseball Playoffs And Work Have Taken Over 98% Of My Brain… But What’s Left Is Just For Beer News

Early October. Canadian Thanksgiving coming up on the weekend. I know you are up for that. The gas stove in the basement now gets going on most mornings before the sun comes up. Leaves turning. School is well into first term. And each and every beer is needing to provide a bit more comforting malt even if it might sing with the bounty of the harvest. Sickly sweet kinder-obsterlich-biers and thin sours should be getting nudged to the side right about now if the universe is to have any meaning.  Does the news reflect the season in the same way? Let’s see.

Speaking of back to school, did you know it is illegal in Canada to walk the street with an “open beer” but soon you will be able to roam the sidewalks and parks of Ontario smoking a doobie? Sucking on the wacky-tobacky? That is just weird. Pretty sure we are not collectively ready for the spliffy scents and scenes but it’s coming real soon.

It appears to have been #WorldNoAlcoholDay on Wednesday. I missed the parade. Did you know that Canada has a favorite 1980s pop-rock song dedicated to sobriety? Kim Mitchell’s “Go For Soda”.  It’s great and hits all the right 1980s points. Big hair. Cable TV. Youth smoking. Horrors in the news. And having a nice soda is just part of the fun. The vid is like an SCTV skit, the last pop moment milestone before microbrewing hit.*

This is the best tweet-form semi-snub of the day – a gin and tonic men’s cologne. I bet out pals Misery and Death up there got a giggle our of it.

The tweet from SIBA reads “Incredibly worrying ‘craft / not craft’ slide from Heineken’s On-Trade category controller Andy Wingate…” but the reality is hardly incredible. It’s quite credible in fact – and only worrying if you like working against trends. See, the trend is really that beer drinkers latch on to what matters to them in the seven seconds they spend caring and they like to leave brewers scurrying to catch up, cramming the square peg of wants into the round hole of style – neither making much sense.  Is anyone really surprised that trendy labels including Guinness and Goose are lumped along with Cloudwater while the dull dowdy old stuff sits to the right? Duvel? Totes dowds. “Craft” now means now-fad. Did it ever not?

Building upon the Cask Report’s findings for this year, Martyn asked some excellent questions about why cask is so often so bad in the UK and came up with many useful answers:

Cask beer is a perishable product: it loses its best qualities very quickly, certainly within a few days. Most pubs ignore this, and as a result most cask beer is sold a long way off from peak condition. Paradoxically, there is also a big problem of pubs selling beer too young. Almost three in five publicans confess to putting beer on sale before the recommended three days of cellar conditioning. So there is a fair chance that just as your pint is finally coming into condition, it’s already past its best because the cask has been open too long.

In this week’s “globalization corner” I give you Lars (again) and his fabulous find of a three-way wedding day drinking vessel puzzle from Estonia. I figure the way to drink from it is the husband and wife share two sided by side in the back while mother-in-law pushes up the middle from behind to get her fair share.  If you have a better idea or, you know, an actual authoritative source to cite please leave me a comment.

Trump never had a beer. As if it matters. Again, the world spits its cocoa on the keyboard. The Beer Nut has had a number of beers. And he rightly reminds us that the proper name for New England IPA style beer is murk. And, I don’t know about you, but six euros for confused murk seems like a basis for complaint to me.

This is how it works for many of the booming number of craft brewers in New York state: A couple of friends decide to turn their beer passion into a business. They start off small, usually with no employees and often, like the guys at Stout Beard, hanging on to other jobs with decent pay and benefits. Many will eventually grow, sell more beer, add space and equipment and hire employees. But make no mistake: Few of these start-up craft breweries are suddenly going to rival Anheuser-Busch, or even Genesee or Saranac, in the volume of beer, size of the payroll or reach of their sales efforts. A rare few might even close.

Fabulous. It’s great to read about reality with the craft beer business. I can’t remember the last time I was able to to that but, yes, it is always great. While we are at it, spend a minute to think of poor John Keeling, formerly of Fullers. Out of a job, nothing to do. There but for the grace of God go I.

And “go I” I go as that’s enough for this week. Hopefully I will do better next week. I really hope I do. Meantime, check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then tap the breakfast table over and over on Monday saying quietly to your coffee “when is Stan coming back… when is Stan coming back…” When?

*See our book Ontario Beer for the EP version of this point.

Your “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” And Other Beery News Update

The beery discussion this past week was woven with tales of travel. Don’t get me wrong. I think the whole idea of beer tourism is weird. If I travel, I save maybe 15 minutes every second day for thoughts about a beer. I like museums, beaches, shopping, seeing friends and family, wandering and napping too much to centre a trip around beer. But… that doesn’t mean you need to be like me. Going elsewhere to find new spaces to roughly replicate drinking at home and roughly familiar bars is great. And, as Nate above shows in the tweet of the week, it can be something that opens the door to lederhosen-based public silliness opportunities and “the best photo of me that’s ever been taken!” Which is good.

Jordan St. John went on one last Euro trip before the UK is, what, given the boot… turns its back? And he went to Brussels… which he found rather odd:

When travelling, you want to try to be positive, so putting this thought out of my head, I ambled along through bustling groups of tourists, instagramming along with them. It is in the nature of the tourist focused district to be reductive and sure enough every fourth store sold waffles and every fifth store sold chocolate. It took only a moment to realize that every sixth store sold beer and the dawning realization came upon me: “Oh, I’ve been rooked.” I’m not referring to the quality of the beers on offer, lest you think I’ve come unmoored. It is the depth, complexity, and overwhelming success that the brand of “Belgian Beer” has on a uniform basis.

Me, I was in Brussels for a week staying at a pal’s place in 1986 but stuck to the Jupiler and Guinness. Seemed all a bit heavy handed to me. Was told by a police officer in a long black leather trench coat to move along after the bars shut. Oh, and he had a machine gun. Still, Jordan also bought me a tie which I got in the mail and it was lovely so I thank him publicly. It says “Ind Coope Sales”! So his trip was not all for nuttin’.

Boak and Bailey have shirked their weekly new nugget obligations (again) while roaming around the land of lederhosen. I like this observation particularly:

Despite looking to British eyes like the garden of the nearby pub-restaurant, people were tucking into picnics they’d brought from home, unloading Tupperware and supermarket paper bags from rucksacks and baskets. (With typical German clarity, most of the beer gardens we visited had large signs explaining the rules pinned to trees: sure, bring your own food, but buy the drink from us, or be cast out of your community.) The garden itself also had a barbecue and a pretzel window. The chef tending the former rang a bell every time a rack of ribs was ready and seemed to be selling out, while even those who had brought their own tea were buying giant pretzels to go with it.

Travel writing needs more of this and less of the “my sponsor’s business is the best” stuff. Knowing where it is OK to have a beer in public and where you can eat a sandwich without offending is vital data.

Still on the travel theme, fellow Haligonian Rebecca Pate headed north to Iceland for an Arcade Fire show – and took a mo to report, as an aside to the main feature, on the state of the Reykjavíkjavíkian* bar scene:

The recent emergence of a craft beer culture in Iceland is tied into the country’s drinking history. Prohibition came into force in 1915 and effectively lasted until 1989. The original blanket ban on drinking became entwined with a sanction on beer specifically, as beer was closely associated with Denmark and the Danish way of life – it was therefore seen as unpatriotic for Icelanders to enjoy a pint. The day that the law was changed, the 1st March, is now celebrated annually as Beer Day (Bjordagur).

Perhaps most heroically of all, Lars went deep into rural Russia and undertook what might better be called “beer exploration” as opposed to beer tourism:

The village looked like any other village in Russia, really: a cluster of traditional wooden houses, neatly arranged in rows, with wide, grassy spaces (the streets) in between. The fields were ranged around the cluster of houses. We went down a couple of streets before finally we stopped in front of one of the houses that looked exactly like the others, except Marina was standing in front of it, waiting for us.

You know, every time someone writes a puff piece and calls their work a “deep dive” on social media I think to myself “that ain’t no frikkin’ deep dive – Lars is the deep dive.” Example. Note how Marina malted her own grain: “the malts are dried in a similar trough on top of the oven. So she makes very pale rye malts.” Which should be enough to put the  now well-dismissed “there was no pale malt before coke” fibbery to bed. The process is fabulously described. I want to now try this at home.

One last point on travel. Noticing a lot of people noting they are not traveling to the GABF. Is anyone still going? Why?

Not travel. I had this article about a new brewery in NH shared with me because of the headline but, as I also work in construction for a fair share of my time, this story is refreshing as it has the underlying theme of brewing beer as slowing down as opposed to adolescent manic passion. And the use of “local” rather than “independent” or other such PR claptrap is always good.

Fabulous footage of 1972 hop picking action.

And, finally, this sort of pointless picking apart of alcohol related health advice that is really verging on obsessive compulsive.  If you really prefer to die from a liver disease other than cancer, take comfort and keep pounding back the booze.

There. Another week’s update done. That was all very cheery, other than for the wee fibs o’craft stuff. As per. Want more? If Stan doesn’t pick it up again, if Boak and Bailey never get back from holiday you might want to check out what appears to be a German-sourced English language period update from Bier, Bars & Brauer now in its 23rd edition. Until next week , exeunt!

*No, really… it is… look it up… HA HA MADE YOU LOOK!!!

Beery Notes From The Third Third Of 2018

Time flies but don’t tell the weather that. First day of school traditionally saw the new corduroys out in force but this year we are having more heatwave. This does not bode well as a step towards global warming. You can see how quickly the environment can flip into a new level of temperament.  Hop regions will be lost and barley crops shall fail if this keeps up. How’s that for curmudgeonly beer blogging?

John Keeling has written an gushy mushy ode to cask ale in the Brewers’ Journal that bears attention:

I started drinking properly in 1973. My first pints were in a Whitbread pub. I tried Trophy, Tankard, lager, lager top and shandy. After experimenting with all those I discovered, along with my friends, Boddingtons and Robinsons. Cask bitter, I have loved you ever since and nothing, not even the finest Pilsner nor the toastiest stout, can capture me for long. I will always return to you.

I wonder how he feels about his dog?

The Beer Nut has traveled from Ireland to Quebec and he does not like the steak tartare.  He finds a mid-sized cornfield vast and likes the first class lounge of our train system. Classic commentary on the Canadian way.  He appears to be heading east but I am not sure, as usual, how far he intends to take it. Will he enter Atlantic Canada? Stay tuned.

Next time someone tells you that the smaller glass ware is suited to the style, remind yourself of how the Brewers’ Association has confirmed its really about getting more money from drinkers’ pockets per barrel by up-selling “experience”:

These changes resulted in an 18 percent increase in revenue, with only a four percent increase in customers. In addition, the number of brands on checks went from an average of two to four. We were making more money for the same work, while also exposing guests to more brands! As an added benefit, the overall sentiment of the guest experience, conveyed in person and online, improved. Many online reviews mention the ability to create your own four-ounce flight as a reason for making the trek to our out-of-the-way bar and beer garden.

Speaking of the new frontiers of newbie sucker juice, a fabulous listicle of ten ignored classic beers was published at Don’tDrinkBeer about the ten top beers that the recent kinderbiere set do not understand. I like it. The groundwork laid down at the outset is worthy of the Tale of Ale and Max:

In a beer scene increasingly dominated by monoculture acid bombs, trubtastic slurrycans, and flabby batterwater, many iconic beers have fallen by the wayside. New palates have neither the time nor attention span for these outdated beers from the past. These beers represent the educational arc that many beer enthusiasts would imbibe on their way to honing their palate. We now exist in an instaRone paradigm, where learning is passe and not knowing is vulnerability. Now the beer journey begins and ends with a 16% double barrel pastry stout and new beer palates don a jaunty expert cap and instantly dislocate their rotator cuff patting themselves on the back.

Me, I have retreated from, literally, the Kool-aid experience as I have too often now been disappointed by what is labeled as an IPA turning out to be something sucked by straw on an elementary schoolyard at recess. I buy comforting brown ales or, yes, the classics. Avoids needing to know “exactly” why craft can cost so much – especially when asking about the expenses is never part of the inquiry. Cooking Lager made an excellent observation on the current state of affairs in a somewhat related comment:

Craft beer is no different. Most of it is just beer concentrate. It’s an acquired taste not a natural taste anyone is born with. You acquire it if you spend time doing so. Drink enough DIPA, eventually you’ll start to like it. The booze rewards the pleasure centres and eventually you will not only forgive the taste but convince yourself you like it. We all acquire tastes. If I compare my own reaction of pleasure to a strong black coffee to my 10-year-old nieces’ wince if she sips it, it is because I acquired the taste, not because she is too stupid to get it. I acquired the taste because I liked the pick me up. Then I started to like the drink. Then I took notice of different roasts, beans and countries of origin. Then I wondered why I was buying a £4 cup of poncey coffee when Greggs do a really good Americano.

The folk who consider that the beer market is broken into teams and that they are contesting with each other will take offense (again) but this is key: “the booze rewards the pleasure centres.” Is the idea that this is all about flavour PR spin? Notice how often the same gurus complain about their hangovers on social media. No, it’s all about finding a sort of palatable alcohol because the selling of palatable alcohol is quite profitable. And makes people happily buzzed. Sometimes it takes complexity to coax the wallets open, sometimes facile flavours. The brewer’s ultimate goal in each case includes the same motive – which is fine as folk are quite happy to spend in response.

Finally, Tim Webb* has written a wonderful eulogy to Chris “Podge” Pollard:

…it was his brilliant eye for detail and for knowing what makes a place great that set him aside.  Despite penning six books he did not claim to be a beer writer, yet his pithy descriptions of cafés came so fully formed that they put you there at the bar, often armed with priceless information, such as “The Dalmatian is deaf.”

There you are. The dearly departed, the great and good – and the not so great and good. Another week in the life of beer as we know it in 2018.  B+B will have more news on Saturday and I shall be back next week.  Here’s hoping for a new crisis to pick at as well as the discovery of a new wonder to behold. See you then.

*Not as the byline states, editor Ted Hampson. My error.

The Very Last Thursday Beer News For August 2018

So how did your summer go? Mine was fine, thanks, even if I did have to work a lot. Finally got a real week off and I have been lazing about. Might go our to a favorite posted late last week on Twitter, Jasper Johns, “Ale Cans,” 1964. I like it. I have been just sitting here looking at things I like between stretches of doing things I like. Which is pretty good for a holiday.

More beer health news. Nice to see that “minimal risk of harm” has replaced the silly J-Curve as a reasonably expression of the limited impact that moderate alcohol consumption has won out. Here is a good analysis of the study. The semi-paid semi-amateur trade spin doctors may still be out in force but the general rule is still minimal harm from minimal consumption… statistically. The always relevant question, as Jeff pointed out recently, is how minimal is your consumption… really.

I liked Andy’s tweet as it tied in with issues related to value and supply:

Going into a liquor store these days to buy beer is like stumbling into an episode of the Walking Dead. Zombie beer brands just sitting warm and dead on store shelves waiting to attack the unsuspecting consumer.

Layer on that the fun folk at The Sun had asking normal folk about some heavily priced UK craft brands:  (i) “I work in a bar and have tried a lot of beers – and this one, from Evil Twin Brewing, is awful. I wouldn’t even pay a pound for it, let alone 12. On the tin it says it tastes of honey but I think it tastes more like sewage“; yet (ii) “I like a dark beer and this is pretty good from Evil Twin Brewing. We drink a lot of dark beer where I come from. In the background you can taste a burnt biscuity, caramel flavour which is nice.” The semi-paid semi-amateur trade spin doctors were again out in force defending… something… but I thought they were reasonable “person on the street” comments.

Then – get this – comes the news… nay, admission that the main brewery participating in the Back to the Future style buck-a-beer government program is losing money on the process. The biggest retailers has already backed out after mere days according to BlogTO (via Crystal.) What I think Andy, The Sun and this article are all noting is how little understood the value of beer is. I might suggest that it is because there is alcohol in beer and its price serves the intended of the consumer in given contexts but that would be opinionated of me.

Speaking of opinion, Josh Noel in the Chicago Tribute explored how US craft is expressing its opinion(s) of the current US Federal government:

In the Trump era, more than a few Chicago bar and brewery owners have worn their left-leaning politics on their sleeves. With an openness unseen in most corners of the hospitality industry, bars and breweries have openly worked on behalf of immigrant rights, gay and lesbian equality, transgender rights and even that third rail of politics, abortion.

Nice to learn from a link in that article, too, that Jim Koch‘s support of the President led to a boycott in his appropriated state of choice:

“Marketers really haven’t had to deal with something like this for 50 years — since the Vietnam War,” said Robert Passikoff, president of the New York consulting firm Brand Keys. “There is no win on this thing. There’s only dealing with it,” he added. “Now, everything is political.” Koch and Boston Beer have faced a backlash on social media driven by figures such as Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone , who pledged in a Twitter post to “never drink Sam Adam’s beer again!” In the physical world, a Jamaica Plain teenager and his father hung a spray-painted sign within sight of the company’s Boston brewery reading, “SHAME! SAM ADAMS [heart] TRUMP SHAME!”

Now, no need to just do a Koch pile-on when we have BrewDog. I don’t need to actually link to their latest failed marketing strategy (which I have a certain familiarity with being myself an early marketing strategy) but I would like to link to Carla Jean who unpacked their sexist and racist junk.

And Stan‘s last weekly update contains an excellent extended extract on the means by which Henry King (who served as president of the United States Brewers Association from 1961 to 1983) made sure the industry as a whole did not take a wrong step in marketing or brewing – he acted in the best interests of the trade and consumers:

“We beat the federal government by seven weeks. We reported the cobalt problem, we were out of it and no longer had production seven weeks before the Food and Drug Administration even got their act together on it.” He acted decisively not just because it was good for the beer industry, but because it was right. When the nitrosamine proved to be a carcinogen in the 1970s, King again moved swiftly. 

Hero of beer!

There. Another week done, another month done and another summer almost done. Damn good thing I am immortal or I’d be getting all anxtity over this passing o’time stuff. B+B has more news on Saturday as always but I was going to also remind you that Stan will be back Monday… but he won’t!  I was thinking of moving this summary of the news back a day or two. I will see how that goes…

Your Beery News For A Holiday Thursday With Plenty Of Jingoism Stats And Other Fibs

There. Vacation. That’s better. Not vacating. Stay-cating. Hopefully play-catin’ but there are chores that have been deferred. Weed-cation. A trippy jaunt to the hardware store to check out bathroom faucet repair options. Others in beer have been thinking about a bigger world of beer this week, far bigger than any I expect to see. I’ll be lucky to see the back lawn with all the work I’ve left myself. Let’s see what’s being said.

First, a sad loss of someone who made sure folk got out and about for all the best reasons. Jeff posted an excellent remembrance of Chris “Podge” Pollard, the beerman who did as much as anyone to teach Brits about Belgian beer in the best way possible – by getting them in country, on the ground and through the front door:

His guidebooks were wonderfully well-researched and a great insight into the cities he chose. Most of all, he was just a good lad.

Ed posted some interesting thoughts on the far more generic use of national descriptors for beer styles when confronted by friends from outside the beer bubble:

I had to explain that in the world of beer the name of a country is often used as a flavour descriptor, not a statement about where the beer is made. “American” means made with citrussy hops, “Belgian” with phenolic yeast, and in the case of “New Zealand” it’s the hop flavour again. It hadn’t occurred to me until I saw their confusion that this might be considered slightly odd. 

I suppose I am more of a regionalist than a nationalist when it comes to these things. Not that they are meaningless but, as The Tand shows, the hallmark of a sort of beer can be quite local. I suppose the point is we need to remember these things are code.

You know, statistical triumphalism is a bit odd but the source is fairly normal summary stuff:

Domestic beer used to make up 87.7% of total consumption in the US, and it fell to 67.6% in 2017. Foreign and craft beers together made up just 12.3% of US consumption in 2000, and has now increased to 32.4%. US consumers are trending away from abundantly available domestic brews and are reaching for foreign imports instead. Instead of Budweiser, Heineken and Coors, people are choosing Corona, Modelo and Dos Equis. 

It’s interesting from the point of view that in the 1980s microbrewing was not always so welcoming and even antagonistic to imports. In a December 20, 1987 article in the Syracuse Herald American, we read:

Kirin has “all the flavor of a European import, without the bite,” Palmer said. But F.X. Matt II, who heads the F.X. Matt Brewing Co. in Utica, calls Kirin “bland and undistinguished. When you’re as big as Kirin, you’re interested in making a beer that offends no one and is bland,” Matt said.

In a June 1987 article in the Syracuse Post-Standard, Kevin Townsend of the still operating Buffalo Brew Pub was interviewed and put it this way:

Townsell’s Buffalo Brew Pub is one of about two dozen tiny brewery pubs in the country, most of which are on the West Coast. But as the demand for quality beer grows, the number of brew pubs is increasing. “`One hundred years ago, we had breweries in every city and town, with local delivery,” said Bud Lang, editor of Anaheim, Calif.-based All About Beer magazine. “Now we have a few huge breweries and 18 wheelers delivering beer nationwide.” Townsell’s 1,500-gallon monthly production makes his the only brewery in a region that was once the nation’s fourth-largest beer producer. Between 1811 and 1972, 350 breweries opened, operated and closed around Buffalo. “Beer lovers, home brewers, any first-generation Europeans are attracted because what we say we’re going to offer is a fine, quality, full-bodied product, which is similar to an English or a German product than it is to any American mass-produced beer,” Townsell said.

Like nationalism, pointing at stats misses the point. Is your beer delivered by 18 wheeler? A lot of craft is now. Is it bland and undistinguished? The vast bulk of beer being made ticks that box. Whether it comes from across the nation, from another country or in the neighbourhood – isn’t it only about if you like the stuff in your glass? Wasn’t that the point of micro and then craft? Frankly, the statement “instead of Budweiser, Heineken and Coors, people are choosing Corona” is about as mind-numbingly pointless as they come. And, of course, being the fanboy of “elsewhere” or “craft” for that matter usually means you are not noticing the realities, even the ugly.

Thoughts from Canadian wine writer David Lawrason might be related:

The more educated we become however the more we want different flavours, styles, places, stories and grapes. And this is what the next generation is bringing to the discussion and eventually, I think, to the marketplace.  We longer term (senior) writers may tend to pigeon-hole the next gen of natural and orange wine advocates as hipsters making political and personal statements, but in fact – as in anything – there are those who genuinely care and those who have jumped on the band wagon. Many people do thirst after meaning in wine. They are bored with replication and homogeny and are searching for difference and authenticity.

What are people searching for anyway. The Beer Nut linked to a story that reminds us that, for most, the world is not all that different from 1987. In the particular, the Irish don’t care much for anything but a “normal” pint glass:

The 20-ounce serving remains “the barometer for value”, he says. “What’s the price of a pint? It’s how people equate it. The beer culture that we’ve tried to establish … when you’ve a 10-percent beer you’re not going to charge people €14 for a pint of it. Generally, the cost of Irish beers isn’t an issue, said Conwell. “Most of them would be reasonably priced. Foreign imports are usually the ones that hit you in the pocket, hence the smaller serving size.”

Hmm… more problematic foreign stuff. I better leave it there and go have a coffee… from Central America. At least it’s fair trade and rain forest  grown. Because that’s what the label says, right. Hmm… And while you are scratching your head along with me, don’t forget that B+B has more news on Saturday just like Stan does each Monday.

 

Even On A Thursday In Mid-August You Need Your Beer News

That’s the photo of the week. The storage room at Fuller’s as tweeted by Brewers Journal magazine… or journal, I suppose. There is plenty of beauty to go around in good beer if you remember to have a look. Jordan found a slice of it when jet lagged in an London pub:

“How the hell are you, Frank,” says the first of the day’s regulars. “Old and weary,” says Frank, limping slightly towards the cask engine as that ritual badinage continues.

No, you can look up “badinage” for yourself.

Less wonderfully, J.Surratt discovered something about a brewery owner being like Jesus and the offending Twitter presence soon was deleted, the website now password protected.  Perhap’s it’s being reworked as “The Hobo Of Craft” with heavy appropriation of Red Skelton’s lovable clown character,  Dodo Delwyn

Brewers! Answer Jeff’s survey. While you are at it, send in your entries to the annual NAGBW awards.

Lars made the front page. I made the front page in Albany once. Craig needed a quote that wasn’t from him so he just sent an email to the paper saying it was from me. Works for me. I have the greatest coauthors. A pal in NY State government phoned to ask me how the hell I got a quote on the front page of the paper of record. I giggled.

Stan beat me to the “craft beer ham slice” photo taken at a UK Tesco grocery store but it bears some discussion. This may either be a sign of successful infiltration of the brand or, you know, a sign of the end times. I am in the latter camp but to be fair if you need every product in your fridge, pantry and bathroom cabinet to have the words “craft beer” on the label, this one is for you. If, on the other hand, you understand the need to protect your brand, moderately priced sandwich meat might not be your best friend. Does anyone buy that margarine with cold pressed olive oil?

Your fabulous brewing history post of the week came from Martyn… again. The joppen/joppen debate has reared its ugly head and I have an inking that the answer is to be found in the vaults and archives of the Hanseatic League, the swellest league of them all. Consider this:

Turns out Pryssing is actually the old Danish/Swedish/Norwegian name for Prussia, which in the modern languages is Preussen, the same as it is in German. Ping! On comes a lightbulb. The old English name for Prussia was Spruce – Chaucer called the country “Sprewse”, and it was still being called “Spruce-land or Prussia” as late as 1697. The “Spruce beer”, beer from Prussia, that appears in an English poem in 1500 and was on sale in London in 1664 is clearly the same drink as Pryssing. (The “spruce tree”, first mentioned in 1670 by John Evelyn, was so called because it was the fir from Spruce.)

My ticking thought is not that the spruce came from Prussia but Prussia was the inheritor of Hansa and that shipping empire brought in spruce and other lumber from deeper into the east, from the Baltic States and Russia, shipping them as early as the 1200s into England and other seaside Euro-nations. The mariners of Hansa were heavily involved, according to Unger, for bringing hoppy beer west.

Constellation brands: lays off craft division sales force and then invests $5,000,000,000 in Canadian dope sales. Somehow this all places rec drugs in a bit of contexts.

Ben pointed out that self-promoter and formerly craft brewery focused now gas station alcopop manufacturer, Mr. Koch, has sidled up to Donald Trump. I can’t think of a less Boston thing to do in 2018. Maybe wearing a Yankees hat – but even that is not this bad. My thought? What do you expect from the man who believes dry yeast mixed with yogurt keeps you from getting drunk and who gave us “Sex for Sam“?

This is the worst one yet from the GBH blog. The formula of (i) pre-determined conclusion and (ii) quotes from lots of people benefiting from the pre-determined conclusion is familiar. No, in this time of tiny brewers and local malt and hops the norm of questioning authenticity and sourcing is not “quaint” and this might as well come from planet Mars:

“These gypsy brewers have no roots, the argument goes. They are hardly brewers. They are marketing companies. They don’t make anything, whereas ‘true’ craft brewers do. These arguments place gypsy brewers outside of the craft beer industry and into the nebulous service sector.” Ironically enough, as with so many things in 2018, none of this seems to matter anymore.

Where do they get this stuff? Sweet rhetorically passive aggressive improper application of “irony” too.

This was posted later today than the usual 5:53 am Thursday pre-set. I am happily working on a project that is worth about 1347 years of my annual income and someone has to write the deal! Me. So, I wrote most of this at a highway side hotel near an engineering firm that I am working with. Very fun stuff. Rebar. Really top quality rebar. Might as well be Lego and Tonka toys. Is that a bad attitude for a lawyer?

With that, I leave you for another week. Remember to check out B+B on Saturday and Stan on Monday. The beer news never sleeps.

It Is August So Make The Best Of What Is Left Guided By These Tidbits Of Thursday Beer News

Remember?

These Thursday news headlines are getting longer. I wonder what Stan would say about my lack of control. I write that because last Monday’s musings from Stan were so well managed. Made me think about how plunking down this weekly post speaks as much or more to my interesting in writing as my interest in beer. Writing demands writing. So, after reading Stan, I immediately looked to see how many links I had stored away so far in the week for this report and – to my horror – it appears I had been having a good weekend. Nothing had been tucked away to be noted so far. Jings! Bet it won’t show.

How did my week go otherwise? Thanks for asking. I did go to a new pub in another town by the waterfront the other day. It was very pleasant with the cooling wind coming in the window with the view. The beer was a house branded short pour that was also in a cheater pint but my waiter forgot to bill m for my partner’s drink so it all worked out. Sweet.

Dad joke.

Beer sales are up in Germany. Revenues are up in the UK, too, but perhaps not volume. Trumps tariffs are forcing US beer makers to raise prices and “America’s long love affair with beer is on the rocks“!

According to the Beer Institute, a trade group, drinkers chose beer just 49.7 per cent of the time last year, down from 60.8 per cent in the mid-90s. Among 21- to 27-year-olds, the decline has been sharper. Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, Budweiser’s owner, found that in 2016, just 43 per cent of alcohol consumed by young drinkers was beer. In 2006, it was 65 per cent. Per-capita beer consumption in the U.S. fell to 73.4 litres last year, from 80.2 in 2010 and 83.2 litres in 2000, according to IWSR, a drinks market research firm. Germany, by comparison, consumed 103 litres a person last year.

My kid says it is all about calories in her crowd, so gin or vodka with soda is what they buy. Gin’s big. Makes sense. When folk find out I know something about beer, the look I get is either (i) weirdo or (ii) of course, you fat lump. Both of which are sorta correct so I don’t really mind. Can’t hurt my feelings. No sirree.

Could it be that grain was first malted for purposes other than brewing beer? Merryn has linked to that story.  Interestingly, I heard somewhere – likely NPR – over the weekend that there is a theory (working the theory cocktail circuit) that farming was started to encourage bees because early humans liked honey and bees like plants. Tough luck for that whole “beer created civilization” stuff. It never made sense anyway.

2011 was the peak year for wine blogs. I’d put beer blogs a bit earlier. Lew is one human-sized ball of regret over how things turned out. I remember the glory days. Glory… days…. OK, fine. No one cares. Actually, there are plenty of bloggers but they call themselves on-line journalists. Link every second paragraph to the writings of others while coming to conclusions others had pretty much already figured out? Blog.

Michael Tonsmeire has again updated his fabulous chart of larger brewery ownership connections. Just to be clear, ownership is just one of the ways other outside interests can exert control over a business. Loan agreements are just as restricting but, as private transactions, harder to spot. All those firms in the pure “independent” center of the chart? Just as likely to have a taint that some puritanical nerd sect will have an issue with. But no one cares about that either.

Speaking of law. Beer law story #1.  Beer law story #2. Taking sides in these matters is a bit weird. It’s like folk think they are smarter than the common law. Note: beer not special… standard rules expected to be applied. And these things have happened before. Don’t hear about anyone going all torches and pitch forks against Sam Adams, which is again on the decline. Folk should figure out where to apply their “I’m upset” resources.

New York craft breweries, as Don C. reports, have put together a TV show for public broadcasters. Note:

The series cost about $500,000 to produce, said executive producer and director Justin Maine of MagicWig. The state’s Empire State Development office contributed 80 percent — about $400,000. The project started when the ESD office began looking for ways to promote the state’s growing craft beer industry.

So… more like a state funded advertorial. But its about beer so that’s OK. Don also tells the story of NNY coming to CNY. I enjoyed the original Sackets location in my VBB days.

August. Here’s an August “man bites dog” news story if ever I saw one – someone’s pee is reminding him of beer.

Finally, Europe’s blistering summer might well have seriously damaged the barley crop:

The price of European malting barley, which is used to ferment the brew as well as provide flavour and colour to beer, has surged by two-thirds since the middle of May to a five-year high of €230 per tonne. Scandinavia, the Baltics, Germany and France are among the regions that produce the ingredient, whose production in some regions has dropped by as much as 50 per cent and is “dire”, according to Scott Casey of consultancy RMI Analytics. “In some places the crops are just dying,” he added.

Drag. That actually matters. My yellow zucchini seems to be dying, too. Not that a global industry depends on my yellow zucchini crop. Happens every year. Some sort of virus. Droopy and starting to rot on the blossom end. They look so hopeful in June when they pop out of the ground but by August its a scene out of a C-grade horror movie out in the garden. I should get out my Airfix men and make a flick about how Rommel was really defeated with the assistance of huge yicky plants from Mars.

That’s it for now. Another quality update for your Thursday. Yes! You are welcome. Remember: Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan next Monday.  Bet their zucchini plants are just fine.

As July Turns To Face August These Are Your Thursday Beer News Stories

Last weekend saw the family head off to the Big Smoke for a Pixies and Weezer combo concert at an outside venue at the west end of  Lake Ontario. It was great. Stinking hot. 15,000 people. Me and a lot of other old guys having a scream-along to “This Monkey’s Gone To Heaven” and “Hash Pipe” which was great. The scene, the Budweiser Stage at Ontario Place,  was an absolute fleece-fest: a tall boy of Bud Light Radler selling for about 15$. I had a Bud with my bland black bean burger before the show. Ice cold it went down like an icy cold Bud. Which was great until it warmed to about 5C after a couple of minutes and then it got, you know, not so great.

I wasn’t really following up on Andy’s idea of taking time to try a classic this summer when I had that Bud. I wasn’t in a place where Bud existed when three decades ago so it does not fill a personal space like that. Not my classic. It’s gas station cooler 1990s New England road trip scenery to me. The beer I passed up. But I did have an old favorite on Friday… and it was an odder experience. Hennepin, which I have enjoyed since at least 2005, showed up in my local LCBO for about $11 for a 750 ml (behind a far worse label… updated branding fail.) I was up for this. We were having a slab of salmon for supper. But it was not the beer I wanted. Hot and heavy even though it was perfect eight years ago on another hot summer night. It’s not like the beer was off. It was lovely. It was just way more than fit my interests, my needs. Am I turning into a target for the low-no movement? What do I actually want?

Jonathan Surratt wins (or perhaps poaches) the “Shaming the Worst of Craft” award with week with the news he shared embedded in that photo to the right. Some gawdawful craft bar somewhere is serving beer in bowls. Could you imagine being served that? Do they serve the food in flute glasses? Do they expect people to pay with actual money? Boo!

Ben notes how a single beer craft brewery putting out a fairly acceptable product that sells well has created another single beer craft brewery to make a fairly acceptable product that sells well. I think of these things like I thought of the music of The Carpenters when I was in my teenage punk phase in the latter 1970s.  They made music that was safe enough for parents who did not like discussing bad things. Like “why Alan is listening to all that swearing?” Mind you, my folks didn’t listen to The Carpenters so I am not sure I will bother buying this beer. Especially as “bugle” is actually a well-known euphemism for beer induced gastric issues.

Is this #ThinkingAboutDrinking? I suppose the idea of thinking is that it’s not about being all positive, just supportive. Fight!

Now this is great: a service to us all. The current big craft and macro craft family tree. Then updated for more detail. Nice to see honesty in the placement of breweries like Sam Adams, BrewDog, Brooklyn and Founders in their natural state. Speaking of Sammy A, sweet dissection by Jeff of another slightly… smarmy GBH post* on the supposed risk of Jim Koch somehow losing status. The lack of institutional knowledge is amazing. Jeff’s point: “when Boston got too big, BA changed the definition.” My point was how Koch was actually an outsider to the main micro/craft movement, which Josh Noel noted and “Sex with Sam” confirmed. Why do we have to fudge things rather than knowing and writing about the actual history of the craft beer movement?

How to sit on a fence.

This is either a story about art v. the regulation of alcohol or it is a story about arts management not grasping the need to find a venue with a stage with a normal licence. I love the “Toronto the Good” half-news in the footnote:

Editor’s note: The Tarragon Theatre has now relaxed their rules for this particular show. Patrons are now able to buy beer up until show time.

AKA: accept what you have been granted.  In other Ontario drinks sales regulation news, Robin has written about how for a few weekends she worked as a beer selection advice giver in one of the few grocery stores with a limited alcohol sales licence.  The role and the context may appear odd. It may well appear odder still as the new provincial government has promised beer and wine** in every corner store! Mind you, the promise has no details. But it may well be that the brave new world promised in 2015 will have a best before date of maybe 2018. So, Robin’s notes may well end up being a valuable set of observations on the state of affairs at the front line in which turns out to be a transitional period. Fabulous information for the future beer regulation historian.

Brendan has shared news that:

files opposition versus beer (and other beverages) trademark application for STONEMILL

With so many breweries using the five letters “s-t-o-n-e” is no one going to point out to the courts how this “just waking up to the news that there are intellectual property claims to be made” approach might be a tad selective on the plaintiff’s part? BeerAdvocate lists 3267 beers or breweries with the letters in that order in their name. Because it is as common as a very common thing. If I don’t associate “Firestone” or “Stone City” with Stone why would “Stonemill” confuse me?

Let’s conclude our collective cogitations this week with a few thoughts about wine writing from Jon Bonné, Senior Contributing Editor with Punch wegazine:***

We assumed experts are meant to provide some kind of road map through an unknowable, confusing realm. We’re expected to help you find a bottle for dinner, and not complicate the conversation. But that has led us, at a time when wine is more interesting than ever, to trivialize its cultural value. We’ve sacrificed context—I mean real critical context, not the fanboy literature that passes for too much wine writing today—for comfort and a sense of belonging. I think Bourdain might look at the situation and point a blaming finger at many of us for failing to explain why one wine is worth more than another, or why certain wines are culturally suspect because they’ve been made with cynical motives. (Big wine companies love when we abandon context for the blind pursuit of deliciousness. Context is the enemy of fake-artisan wine, after all.)

The piece is interesting as it builds on the loss of Bourdain and that irritatingly bland idea of “woke” to get to the notion that context and value are important. It’s a bit too toggle switch for me. Things are complex even if fakers are all around. And I am already a bit sad to see Bourdain being used as a prop for the arguments of others. But I like the call to deeper learning. Hence #ThinkingAboutDrinking.

Upcoming week? The second half of baseball begins. Six or seven weeks until school starts. Use the time you have left wisely. As part of your path to wisdom consider stopping for a pause with Boak and Bailey on Saturday and again after the weekend with Stan next Monday. Laters!!

*Time for an incidental graphics update, too. Keep it fresh.
**Hard liquor, as we call it here, will remain at the surprisingly good LCBO, our government store.
***It actually calls itself “PUNCH” in shouty all-caps… but is font really identity? I mean if it was PUNCH would i have to italicize it? 

 

 

Thursday. Beer. News.

News? You want news? Let’s get into this right away. Is this the worst thing ever done to beer? According to a stranger to me*, this is a pint of Guinness and Sprite, half and half sold in Seattle USA. It wasn’t his drink but someone else’s down the bar who explained  “it’s very English.” Yik. Good photo. Bad drink.

Lars is my hero:

A few years ago I put together a description of how to brew keptinis based on ethnographic sources. Martin Warren followed my instructions, but ended up with just black, unfermentable water. So when Simonas invited me to come to Lithuania to see keptinis being brewed, he didn’t need to ask twice.

Keptinis! 

Into the bucket ran what looked like porridge. The pressure in the keg was so high that what came out was pure foam…

Keptinis! Keptinis!!

A small controversy was set off in Ontario by new branding released by Steam Whistle – as noted by Jordan. The brewery announced its branding in this way:

While nutritional labels are not required on beer in Canada, Director of Marketing Tim McLaughlin says that Steam Whistle is “proud of what goes in our beer, and almost more importantly what doesn’t go into our beer.” The labels follow federal standards and display the beer’s ingredients – “pure spring water, select Canadian malt, European hops, Brewer’s yeast” – as well as calories, vitamin content, and other nutritional statistics.

The implication that Jordan sees is the one hidden in the phrase “what doesn’t go into our beer” – suggesting as it does that others may put other things in their beer. In fact, Jordan received a pestering email from the brewery “suggesting that I use the hashtag to discuss the relatively purity of Steam Whistle.” You know, many brewers do put other things in their beer. And many recognize that us of only water, malt, hops and yeast is just one approach to beer. In other news, I had a Steam Whistle Pilsner in 2005.

Modern Toss on modern beer. And BBC Archives on British Beer in Germany in 1974.** While I am no sure I can fully subscribe to the holistic romance of Jeff’s post on a purposeful meaning of “craft” (mainly because beer is functional) that last link makes a strong argument in favour of the argument.

In the “Worst Idea Ever, Worse Than Guinness and Sprite Even…” a line of wines has been produced, the branding based on The Handmaid’s Tale:

The product descriptions for the wines, dedicated to Offred, Ofglen and Serena Joy, are about as ill-conceived as the idea itself, a real achievement when taking into account the fact that wine matters as much to The Handmaid’s Tale as women (and gay people) do to Gilead. Yes, the show goes down easier with a healthy pour. But maybe not one memorialized with the white bonnet and “Of-insert-husband’s-name” formulations that viewers associate with torture and tyranny. 

Who would possibly think this was a good idea? Stupid thoughtless people, that’s who.

Interesting news from the courts. Most interesting because Beau’s did not participate in the trademark litigation brought against it. For those who would argue that beer and wine are different markets, this is a helpful and clear statement from the ruling:

…the parties’ goods would likely be sold in the same stores and restaurants in various provinces. For example, in 2015 and 2016, the LCBO sold both products. In addition, both products would be considered to be in the premium category given their prices; Steelbird’s wine is sold for $34 or $35, and Beau’s Kissmeyer beer is priced at $6.45 per bottle.

Speaking of rulings, one of those dumb marketing schemes rolled out by BrewDog was help to be inappropriate by the shadowy Portman Group, as The Morning Advertiser reported. Stung, one representative of the brewery’s Department of Poor Ideas suggested folk missed the nuance. Lesson: if you have to explain or even use the word “nuance” in a response, it likely never was nuanced.

Fourpure? Don’t care. Except could someone tell craft brewers that they can skip this stuff and admit it is about scale, wealth and ambition?

They see Fourpure and our beer as a primary focus here in the UK and as their sole production brewing facility we will benefit from all the time, expertise and investment required to succeed, and that means that everything around the brewery will be a little bit easier and a little bit better.

Life as a rich person usually is a a wee bit easier, little bit better yes.

I hope you’ve been enriched. More of the same next week. Don’t forget to catch up with all the beer news on the weekend with Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then find out what happened in good beer and a few other things over the weekend with Stan next Monday.

*Ross Maghielse, Manager of audience development at Philadelphia Inquirer.
**Note the driving gloves. Fabulous.