The “I HATE YOUR THANKSGIVING!!!!” Edition Of Thursday Beery News Notes

I am the sad Canadian. I hate the week when Thanksgiving comes around late every November. It is the one holiday Canadians don’t get to participate in any way, even through analogy. Face it. Our early October Thanksgiving  is the least fun combo that vague residual churchiness and storage squash could muster up. And, yes, we have bonus days off like Boxing Day and Easter Monday – but what do we do with them as a culture? Nothing. Today to the south, Americans seem to plan to get hammered to cope with dodgy distant cousins while setting off exploding turkeys launched from vats of hot oil.  And not one of them in any way took seriously the advice on what beer to pair with their family festive feasts. I want a US Thanksgiving, too. Until that day, I am a sad Canadian.

That being said, Josh the Owner of Spearhead has spoken of one of the few things we have… or rather should have… that Americans can’t have…  but, in fact, he ain’t getting his hands on it at all:

Hey it’s been over a month since you opened. I made an order @ 6:45 AM on October 17. Still has not arrived. How do you ever expect to shut down an illegal market with such poor customer service?

You know what they say: Hayters gonna hayte.*

Early afternoon update: How did I miss this? Look at this fabulously transparent statement from the Beer Sisters on what working in what they call the beer sommelier gig looks like. No dubious claims to being independent and certainly not journalists. An excellent measure against which others should be measured.

While the US has had a truly horrible run of natural and man-made disasters to cope with, this call from Sierra Nevada to respond to the wildfires in its part of California stresses the need to respond to crisis by supporting the actual neighbourhood as you can:

“Although Chico and the Sierra Nevada brewery were spared, the Camp Fire has devastated neighboring communities where many of our friends, families and employees live,” said Sierra Nevada founder and owner, Ken Grossman. “This community has supported us for 38 years and we’re going to do everything we can to support them back.”

Speaking of fire, the maltsters Muntons tweeted out informative information about a fire at their premises that should be trotted out and thrown at anyone lost for words who blames Twitter as a communications platform:

Local Fire Services arrived quickly at the scene with 8 Fire appliances and a high-level access platform… Muntons have a robust Business Continuity system in place that has been tested annually and proven very effective… For further information please contact: Nigel Davies, Technical and Sustainability Director…

Speaking of the simplicity of malting barley for drink, I’ve been reading a bit in the southern media about the horrible prospect of jacked up prices for craft beer but up here in the true north strong and free that all adds up to good news according to the Western Producer:

Looking ahead to 2020, Watts showed data forecasting relatively steady beer production in the United States compared to 2015, with craft beer rising from 29.1 million hectolitres to 39.0 million, while non-craft beer declines from 194.5 million to 183.9 million hectolitres. However, due to the increased malt usage in craft beer production, the total U.S. malt demand will grow from 2.014 million tonnes in 2015 to 2.211 million tonnes in 2020.

Money, money, money. Speaking of prices getting all jacked up, one should note that GIBCS 2018 is not for keeping… apparently:

…a fellow beer writer who tasted this beer with me, said he wishes there was more of the soft, Tootsie Roll-esque flavors that have characterized past versions. Again, this is total nitpicking. This beer is better than 90 percent of the bourbon barrel-aged stouts other breweries are putting out.

Hmm. Spot the suspicious things with that assertion. Speaking of which, Gary Gilman places the singular success of Belgian beer this week in the lap of the now long late Mr J:

Stella Artois is of course today a growing force in the premium international lager segment, so Unibex was right in a sense, but that growth came in the wake of the romance Jackson created for Belgian beer. Without that groundwork, Belgium would be one of a number of European countries vying for sales internationally and likely well behind Germany, Denmark, and Holland with no cachet, moreover, attached to its beers.

I can’t buy it. Aside from the fact of the continuation duration of his particular death, the general fiction of the few founders in the micro/craft tale – and the necessity of the GWH – is how we would have to believe that no one else would have noticed… whatever. In this case, it requires us to believe that no one would have noticed the indigenous beer culture at any time during the 40 years since Belgium’s brewing.** Not happening. Romance? Nope – it’s been big beer driven, moolah motivated and, frankly, much of the export expansion came just far too late along the timeline for the Jacksonian touch of the hem: “…exports to the USA have risen tremendously from a mere 2 million litres in 2005 to over 130 million litres in 2009.” Stella! Stella!!!

I love this speedy 1983 BBC guide to speedy home brewing.  Notice how it ends with a simple “yum”?  It gave me nostalgic pause. And there was an interesting juxtaposition with that to be observed, drawing both from this ying to this other yang. I don’t know why in particular it struck me other than the first being the small mutual affirmation pool while the other was a powerful personal kick against construct. Which persuades you more? And do either give more pleasure than the happy man of 1983 enjoyed?

Finally, as the next few weeks drag on, each day shortening before the winter equinox, remember to lay off the sauce – as at least one Scottish medical man recommends:

He said: “We now have new evidence that the weather, and in particular the temperature and amount of sunlight that we are exposed to, has a strong influence on how much alcohol we consume. Furthermore this weather-related alcohol consumption is directly linked to our chances of developing the most dangerous form of liver disease – cirrhosis – which can ultimately end in liver failure and death.”

Death! I understand that is even worse than Stella.

Another week has passed. Soon it will be December – but before then we get to gather as a nation and watch the Grey Cup this Sunday. Bet just knowing there is three-down football to the north ruins many a US Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t let it. Be yourselves. And check out Boak and Bailey this Saturday where no doubt they will have an update on the UK’s plans for Grey Cup celebrations.

*For years I have wandered this earth waiting for the right moment to use that particular Dad joke. Notice I did not write “Hayter’s gonna hayte” as that would be rude.
**Whatever that in fact means.

 

Another Georgian Ruling On The English Law Of Hops

That’s a 1760 etching up there, titled “The Hop Pickers” which sits in the British Museum’s collection. Over three years ago, I wrote a post I was rather pleased with on three court rulings related to the English hops trade in the 1700s. In one ruling from 1769, the scale of the trade described was simply astounding, the purchases of one agent just in the Canterbury area totaling around £30,000 in then contemporary money. So, I was happy coming across another ruling from the era based on this rather creative scam allegedly engaged in by one Mr Waddington of Kent which was perpetrated in the spring of 1800 upon the hop trade of Worcestershire:

…on the 29th of March 1800, at Worcester, &c. wickedly intending to enhance the price of hops, did spread divers rumours and reports with respect to hops, by then and there openly and wickedly, in the presence and hearing of divers hop-planters and dealers in hops, and others then being at Worcester, &c. declaring and publishing that the then present stock of hops was nearly exhausted, and that from that time there soon would be a scarcity of hops, and that before the hops then growing could be brought to market, the then present stock of hops would be exhausted; with intent and design by such rumours and reports to induce divers persons unknown then present, being dealers in hops, and accustomed to sell hops, and having large quantities of hops for sale, not to carry or send to any market or fair any hops for sale, and to abstain from selling such hops for a long time, and thereby greatly to enhance the price of hops…

I love old legal report twinnings: “rumours and reports”… “openly and wickedly”… “in the presence and hearing of”! I found the case looking for references to the statutory 9 Ann. c. 12. s. 24. from 1711 which prohibited common brewers from using any other bitter than hops in brewing their beer. Not sure where that particular line of research came from or where it was headed but, again, the scale of hops involved is itself astounding.

While the Waddington ruling is arcane and complex and involves nine separate charges, basically the allegations were that Waddington wanted to trick his competition either into moving away from the market or into selling to him all based on a false rumour that there were shortages of hops which would cause a price rise. Their retreat from the market itself would likely cause a price rise and Waddington would sell into the market and make a bundle. Bad bad man, Mr. Waddington.  The scale of the operation was quite ambitious as he cornered the market and controlled 500 tons of hops – or 10,000 cwt sacks of hops.* By doing so, is was argued, he sought to turn the £11 pound sack of hop into a £20 one.

The interesting thing is how the court struggles to figure out if the actions were actually actionable – as the rumours were required to be false for them to be criminal. But the rumour, in fact, had the intended effect and the prices did rise. So it was not false. The prosecutors did not buy that shell game and argued that there was a difference in buying in bulk and cornering the market:

It is clear from the opinion of Lord Coke in 3 Inst. 195. and from all other general writers, that forestalling, engrossing, and regrating, were crimes at common law…

[So, just to be clear, none of that forestalling, engrossing, and regrating anymore, thanks very much.] The case goes on to describe the hop market in a fair bit of detail in order to establish whether Waddington had wickedly perverted it or just had cleverly played within it.  Cut to the chase:

Lord Kenyon, C. J. reported the evidence given at the trial, which in his judgment was sufficient to go to the jury upon all the counts; and that they found a general verdict against the defendant. The principal part of the evidence related to the forehand bargains made by the defendant with different planters for their growing crop of hops; a practice however which appeared to have prevailed for a considerable period of time in Kent, and without which some of the witnesses stated that in their judgment the cultivation of this plant, the expense of which was exceedingly heavy, could not be generally carried on. There was also evidence of the defendant’s having bought up very large quantities of the commodity to an unusual amount, and by making unusual advances of money; and that he had held out language of inducement to other persons dealing in the same article to withhold their stock from the market with a view to a rise in the price. 

So, it seems to boil down to Waddington, an established merchant, introducing the Kentish practice of paying farmers in spring to buy hop futures into another part of England where the practice was unknown. Or at least this was what the defendant’s lawyers argued. The sentencing judge was not moved. Despite that practice, it was held that creating an “artificial scarcity” was still an offence.

During the Georgian period when protection of market supply of necessaries was giving way to the more rapacious Dickensian cult of market opportunity, interesting that in 1800 this was still earning criminal conviction. Waddington was fined 500 pounds and got one month in jail. Interesting that the fine represented less than 1% of the value of the hops he ended up controlling. His 500 tons even at the original market price of £11 a cwt sack was worth a total of £110,000 in contemporary money.*  A sum many times that in our money.

Wow. So, there you go. Another step forward in the law of hops.

*Math corrected subsequent to Martyn’s stern and warranted correction.

 

 

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…

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.

If It’s Lazy And Hazy These Must Be Your Beer News For A Thursday

Late July. The fifty seventh muggy day of the summer. In Africa and California the temperature hovers in the mid-120s F. A beer fest in Oregon has been postponed due to the heat. A couple of years ago, I wondered out loud if it was too hot for beer, if gin or white wine was called for. Not sure I am so worried about that anymore as it’s ice water I want. Soon it will be cold compresses to the wrists and the back of my neck. I am far too danty for this weather.

The photo up there as borrowed from here solely for consideration of the shape of the glass. Have we moved far past the days of stemware or the minutely differentiated special IPA glass? I have actually noticed my betters in social media posts, the writers who I assume care more than me, using these fairly jolly beer can shaped beer glasses. Is this something that might indicate something of a relaxation of attitude?

Next up, Nate drank three old beers that were past it and two that were great. Lesson? Malt is better than real fruit filling. And lesson two? Generic stemware is certainly still out there.

There was an interesting profile published in Drinks Retailing News on the new head of the UK health lobbyist group Alcohol Concern – one Richard Piper – who seems to want to move away from a hard line pushing abstinence (if that is a fair characterization of their past) to something more middling and measured:

“The guidelines are useful up to a point,” he shrugs. “If you’re drinking 70 units a week they’re easy to dismiss, but at 45 units they may be the perfect message.  I don’t dispute the science behind them, but I’d like to see an alternative discourse. It’s a more significant risk reduction, for instance, if you cut your drinking from, say, 42 units to 28 units than it is to go from 28 to 14, so we’d like to focus more somewhere up the consumption curve.”

His proposed approach reminds me of the highly successful MADD Canada public service announcement strategy which focuses on not driving if you are going to drink as opposed to lecturing on the drink.

Apparently… (i) there is a beer style more people like than you might have imagined and (ii) some breweries have shut while others have been bought. Oh, sorry…. those things aren’t news.

Merryn reported on an Anglo-Saxon malthouse discovered an archaeological dig:

The settlement was Christian and it is believed the malt house was not something organised by the local inhabitants but was part of a much wider integrated system. “I think here we are seeing the hand of the church. The church is the super state and it had access to all the latest technology and engineering skills anywhere in Europe,” said Dr Jolleys.

A bit of scale, then. Fabulous. I was wondering if the Angles and Saxons ever thought they would just end up hyphenated all the time. Not much related, one thousand years later, Glaswegian students were very very bad in the 1700s.

Last Friday, The New York Times reported that radiation from the 2011 explosions at that nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan had now shown up in California wine. Apparently this is reasonably common as “certain nuclear events would leave unique signatures based on time and proximity to the grapes.” The levels of radiation are below normal background standards so this is more about noticing the footprint than the first ten minutes of the movie THE WINE THAT KILLED CALIFORNIA… but that is no reason not to worry in the back of your mind in the middle of the night about what really might be going on, the things that no one is telling us…

The North American Guild of Beer Writers has announced that entries are now being accepted for the 2018 beer writing awards and will continue to be through Sunday, Aug. 19.  There are a semi-boggling thirteen categories in this year’s competition. While I am not sure about the “Best Short Form Beer Writing” (which includes beer writing from any publication, online or print, that contains fewer than 600 words as that would include 90% of the other category submissions) mine is but a quibble. Get yourself and your writing in there and – hey! – see how you fare.

Flux. More discussion on Twitter of a favorite topic, the success / failure of regional US craft brewers branching out and the greater scene. BA Bart indicates that it’s the tiny brewers who are expanding at this time. The context of the North American retail market at the moment is quite dynamic. Macro craft is on the move. Budget priced Wicked Weed at $5.99 a six-pack.  Goose Island being moved on a “buy one get one free” basis or a 15-pack for $11.99.  Not all beer consumers check price but how does the small scale folk or, rather, the mid-sized firms survive? Jason adds a twist: “keep opening new breweries in the wake of those that close.” We are somewhat immune from price fluctuations here in Ontario… and immune from even twenty years of inflation apparently. Where do you put your money? Where should ambitious craft brewery owners put theirs?

That is it. A bit less than this week than most but I have a range of complaints (which I could share with you if you like) upon which I base this week’s rather thin offering. I know you want more so I will remind you check in with Boak and Bailey on Saturday and again with Stan next Monday. Three separate nations. Three distinct sources of beer news. Two hundred and eleven other nations to go.

Book Review: Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out, Josh Noel

My copy of Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch, and How Craft Beer Became Big Business came in the mail from Amazon this week and I happily started into it while watching preteen softball on a June mid-week evening. The book, as the cover image to the right explains, is a history of Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company, creator of the barrel aged stout and most infamous of the craft brewers to cash-out.

The book covers the span of over three decades, tracing an arc from brewpub making English style ales to regional production microbrewery to big craft reject to brand asset within the portfolio of an international global conglomerate. It’s quite a remarkable thing.  Before I knew it I was 120 pages in. It is clear that author Josh Noel, a journalist with the Chicago Tribune covering a broad mandate, benefits from his skill as an investigative reporter but also as a native of that fair city. The beer and book both convey a sense of place as well as event.

It also, refreshingly, paints realistic portraits of the key players, warts and all – without the slightest bit of an unseemly tone. My first impression from the book, in fact, was that none of the players behind the rise and fall and then rise and fall of Goose Island were all that attractive. As Noel tells it, brewery founder John Hall comes across as a bit of an angry nutcase who came up through the corporate rat race, starting out as a cardboard box salesman. We read at page 79 that as early as 1996 Hall is described as planning to sell out to big beer. But he’s also someone who took a change with his accumulated wealth on a reasonable if calculated risk so the attitude makes sense.

Less sensible is the image created of John’s son Greg: drifter turned alcoholic brewer turned egotist face of the business.  To the mid-2000s, he frankly comes off as a poor little rich kid, even if politely described. Even Michael Jackson is given an cameo and a slag at page 30:

Jackson was a good message guy. He wouldn’t hesitate to criticize Big Beer. But when a small brewery released a flawed beer, no one knew it from Michael Jackson.

The point of these observations is not to be just unkind. As a result of such honesty – rare among craft narratives – the reader is provided with a basis for trust in Noel’s work.  That trust is bolstered by Noel’s deft description of the factors behind the mid-2000s shift from micro-brewing to craft brewing as the US gospel of good beer.  While Noel does unfortunately buy into the back dating of “craft”* to an earlier point when it was not either the ethos or in general use, he does explain how the first efforts of the Brewers Association starting with its formation in 2005 were aimed at control of the discourse through control of the language. Noel suggests it needed to do this for internal reasons:

By the early 2000s, craft beer was splintering into identities. It was cool, it was hip, it was counter culture, it was “you’re not worthy”…

Not to mention it was when brewers and society at large were uncomfortably witnessing the weird 2002 tale of the “Sex For Sam” sponsored by Samuel Adams Beer in which “prizes were awarded to people who had sex in unlikely public places.” Yik. Noel unpacks the tone of the times, unpacks the tension which existed between cottage industry “craft” and what the founders of the Brewers Association were really after and later accomplished: the creation of a single story of large efficient breweries where quality and consistency are the hallmarks. Thus the creation of heterogeneous and hegemonic big craft as an act of sheer control.

Tied to the BA’s interest in market control, efficiency and scale – a goal would have made E.P. Taylor glow with pride – are Noel’s observations on profit and wealth as a fundamental underlying goal. Be clear on this point. All beer has this as its goal and it applies to macro, old school micro, big craft as well as today’s  tiny taprooms. So we read that Goose Island’s 312 beer is a hit as much for the retro black telephone tap handle as the taste.  And that Matilda was pushed as it had twice the profit margin of 312! And you thought it was all about homage to the great brewers of Belgium. Chumps.

I am enjoying this book greatly. I may even post another follow up as I have in the past when faced with a book on beer that sits so far above the rest. If you have not bought this, skip a couple of six packs and get your copy now. Like right now. Now.

*Not to mention perpetuates the tooth-achingly saccharine phrase “cast of industry all-stars” at page 124 thus, likely unintentionally, appearing to trip over the line from keen observer to fan-boy-ish insider.

Who Was Ben Kenton And How Good Was His Porter?

Hunting for references to the 1700s hops trade, I came upon this notice in the Independent Journal of New York from 1 March 1784. What was remarkable was how, within a year of the end of the American Revolution, trade was being undertaken with the former motherland.  What was also remarkable “Ben Kenton’s Porter” – who was he? Two and a half years ago, I mentioned Hibbert’s London Porter being sold in New York in 1798 but have yet to see this Kenton follow mentioned. Now off on a new hunt, I found the following in a book from 1787 entitled Adventures of Jonathan Corncob, Loyal American Refugee:

A few minutes after a gentleman came up to me, and asked me if my name was not Corncob; I answered in the affirmative, but said I had not the honour of-recollecting him. “I wonder at that,” said he, “for we were fellow prisoners at Boston, and made our escape together from gaol.” We immediately began to congratulate and compliment each other…  On taking leave he invited me to dine with him the following day, at his plantation, where I was regaled in a most luxurious manner; the turtle was superior to any ever served on a lord mayor’s table; the’oranges and pine-apples were of the highest flavour; Ben Kenton’s porter sparkled like champaign, and excellent claret and Madeira crowned the feast. At the end of the dinner I caught myself unbuttoning my waistcoat, and crying out, ’tis d–d hard that there should be hurricanes in this country.

Then, my curiosity piqued by mention of the quality, I found this passage in the diary Of Joseph Farington, R.A. from September 1803:

September 4. Dance called. He spoke of the great changes which happen in some men’s fortunes. He dined the other day with Claude Scott, the corn merchant at His House near Bromley where He lives splendidly. The late Ben Kenton ; Porter Seller & Wine merchant told Dance that when he kept the Magpye ale house in Whitechapel, Claude Scott, abt. 30 years ago, applied to him offering to keep his books, being then seeking for employment. Kenton died possessed of a great fortune, & Scott is supposed to be worth 300,000. His Son married the only daughter of a Mr. Armstrong who is said to be worth half a million.

Greedy Georgians. It’s all money, money, money with them. Kenton was described in one account as “a typical East End lad made good; his mother was said to have sold cabbages on a stall in Whitechapel Field Gate.” Kenton himself apparently started out as a waiter in a tavern. In The Annual Register, Or, A View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1800, Kenton’s passing was recorded in this entry for 25 May:

In Gower-street, in his eighty-third year, Benjamin Kenton, esq. From an obscure origin, and an education in a charity-school, he obtained, by frugality, industry, and integrity, with an irreproachable character, a more than princely fortune. For some years, he kept the Crown and Magpye tavern, in Whitechapel; and afterwards, becoming wine-merchant in the Minories,* He went very largely into the trade of exporting porter. His property, in the different public funds, exceeds 300,000l. and at the present market prices, is worth 272,000l. his landed estates 680l. a year. And he has bestowed it in a manner that reflects honour to his memory.

Kenton’s portrait hangs in Vintners’ Hall in London. He was “one of the most of distinguished members” of the Vintners’ Company was one of the beneficiaries under his will. His obituary goes on to list all the charities to which he left considerable sums – “the hospitals of Christ, St. Bartholomew, and Bethlehem, 5000l each; to the charity for the blind, 20,000l” as well as one Mr. Smith, his grandson, and only immediate descendant, “who was, unfortunately, not much in his favour 800l a year.” Don’t shed a tear as that is the equivalent of 87,000 pounds a year now. The vast residue of the estate is left to his daughter’s man friend, survivor of a bit of a tragic tale. **Anyway, so it appears Kenton was a self made man with buckets of money. Made from selling wine and Porter.

Before he was a disgruntled schismist, Anglophile George Washington bought Kenton’s porter as part of a large general shipment of fine British goods in 1760.*** Here is a 1766 invoice for a shipment sent by Kenton to the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers.

 

 

 

 

To the left is an advertisement from the Maryland Gazette of 28 July 1763 offering “Ben Kenton’s Porter in bottles.” From the same publication, in the middle there is a notice from 19 May 1774 which includes among the offerings “a few dozen of Ben Kenton’s porter.” To the right is word of a sale in the 12 March 1784 Morning Post of New York with 40 barrels and hogsheads of porter which was not from Ben Kenton but direct from the brewer Phelix Calworth “who had the preference of supplying the great Ben Kenton.” Which points out that Kenton made his zillions not from making the porter but from distributing it. Kenton’s middleman role is similar to the one played by the merchants Hugh & Alexander Wallace in 1772 intra-provincially as shippers of Lispenard’s beer to William Johnson, the man who could have stopped Washington had he lived.

Detail on his rise to wealth and how it occurred is set out in an 1893 guide to London street signs:

In the year 1719 a boy was born of humble parentage in Whitechapel, who, as Benjamin Kenton, vintner and philanthropist, achieved a considerable reputation. He was educated at the charity school of the parish, and in his fifteenth year apprenticed to the landlord of the Angel and Crown in Goulston Street, Whitechapel. Having served his time, he became waiter and drawer at the Crown and Magpie in Aldgate High Street, not long since pulled down. The sign was a Crown of stone and a Magpie carved in pear-tree wood, and the house was frequented by sea captains. Kenton’s master is said to have been among the first who possessed the art of bottling beer for warm climates. He, without reason, changed the sign to the Crown; his custom fell off; he died, and the concern came into the hands of Kenton, who restored the Magpie to its former position, and so increased the bottled-beer business, that in 1765 he gave up the tavern and removed to more commodious quarters which he built in the Minories.

Hmm: “…among the first who possessed the art of bottling beer for warm climates.”  It is noted in the guide Cylindrical English Wine and Beer Bottles 1735-1850 that Kenton took care to select the design of his glassware, preferring champagne style glass. Kenton shipped bottled porter to India, too.

The bottles were good enough to steal, in fact. In the records from the Old Bailey, there is a prosecution of William Sinkey for the 1780 theft of three baskets of empty bottles owned by Kenton. The finding of “not guilty” was based on Sinkey’s argument that the thief had been hired by someone to carry the basket he was found with. Seems a bit light to be let off if you ask me. By contrast, in 1771 William Grimsby – a cooper by trade – was found rolling away a hogshead owned by Kenton just 40 yards down the road from where it was left. He was not so lucky in his pleas to the court, was convicted and transported. The thief was likely sent to America, the main repository before the Revolution and before convicts were sent to Australia.

More than just biography makes this all of interest. It reminds me of the 1700s hop rulings I wrote about a few years ago that indicates how much value was in that element of the brewing industry. Scale. The economic power that brewing generates never fails to impress. I am also very intrigued by the reference to the “art of bottling beer for warm climates.”****We see again and again how common trans-oceanic shipments of porter, ales and beer were. That the skill was perfected by a wine and porter merchant perhaps should have been obvious in hindsight. Have to keep seeing what I can find out about what that skill was…

*His business address in 1760 was No. 152, the Minories, Aldgate according to a note to this record of Washington’s purchase. This blog post has an image of the street from not long after Kenton’s passing.
**Who, in turn, appears to be uncle to the painter Constable.
***He bought from Kenton regularly in the 1760s. His taste for porter extended past the Revolution.
****Note => “He… became possessed of a secret which made his fortune, that of bottling ale so that it could pass through the changes of climate on the voyage to India round the Cape, without the cork flying out of the bottle.”

When Did The United States First Export Hops?

Above is a table published in The Republican Watch Tower of New York on 4 July 1804.  I went looking for this sort of thing after reading Martyn’s excellent post of this week “How Long Have UK Brewers Been Using American Hops? 200 Years, You Say…” Initially, I was interested in the Hesperus, the ship that brought the hops in question to New York to Belfast in 1818. I found notices in the New York newspapers for the same ship bringing Irish linens to the American market on its return voyage. I love ships.

But then I wondered when the first exports of hops from the young United States occurred.  And I say “United States” as there is no reason to believe there might not have been colonial exports here and there but I would suggest that is another story. That being said, if the table above is to be believed, hop exports would have begun at least in 1797. But where did they go? One often reprinted 1802 article under the title “To The People of the United States” authored under the  name Franklin originally in The Aurora on early US export prospects – the one to the right quoted from The Bee of Hudson, NY –  specifically addressed the hop trade and gave a sense of the realities and goes on to conclude:

The profits of raising hops are such that the great brewing countries of Europe impose heavy duties on their importation from America or elsewhere.

So, soon into the new century US hops were needed at home and subject to European protectionist tariffs. The hop trade to Europe was subject to a prohibition. Which means it had been happening and then was stopped. Which makes one wonder where all those pounds of hops were going, the ones shown in the 1804 table from The Republican Watch Tower. Hmm.

It is clear that there is a market for hops at the time. The internal inter-state beer trade was certainly robust between New York and New England. Here is a notice that includes 35 sacks of hops on sale in NYC in 1795. In this notice to the right in the New York Gazette of 27 August 1805, 20 bags of hops are on offer. If they are 50 pound bags, that is the same volume of hops listed as the entire export from the nation in 1797.  In this edition of Ming’s Price Guide* from New York in August 1810, there are prices for both American and English hops. Still, the international market for commodities like hops has to be understood in the context of tariffs and even international relations during the Napoleonic Wars and at this time we have to be reasonably aware of the Jay Treaty of 1795 opening up trade from the US to Britain and the Embargo Act of 1807 shutting it down again. So if we are looking for an export of hops to Britain from the United States we should keep those dates in mind.

The other thing to remember is that hops are not only native to New York but also grew prodigiously. To the right is a notice for the sale of certain lands in central New York. It was placed in the New York Gazette on 3 May 1805 and notes that “the soil is rich and fertile to produce any species of grain, hemp, etc. – the climate moderate (testified by the abundant growth of vine and hops); the water is good, the salmon and other fisheries great…” So while Craig may be correct in relation to the dates of commercial growing and selling of New York hops, their pre-existing natural abundance was an obvious characteristic of the state. It is also worth noting that when he and I were putting together Upper Hudson Valley Beer, I came across a record from the first decade of the 1700s of Mohawks selling hops to Albany brewer, Evert Wendell.

And hops were not just picked wild at the time. In
The New and Complete American Encyclopedia, 1808 edition, there is an extensive section on the propagation and selling of hops including information taken, it is cited from a document published by the Agricultural Society of New York… no, the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures, instituted in the State of New York.** The cultivation in New York is especially encouraged:

The cultivators of land in this state have every inducement which policy or inducement can afford, to enter, in spirit, into the cultivation of hops. We shall therefore be enabled to supply our own demand, and export this article; instead of sending abroad for all we use; and no crop that can possibly be put on land will yield an equal profit…

Were the hops loaded on the Herperus in 1818 destined for a Belfast brewery the first hops sold into the British market? It’s quite unlikely given the abundance of native hops, the records of an export trade, public marketplace pricing and the general regular European trade in many commodities going back a couple of centuries. Was there a Caribbean market for hops along with the wheat and biscuit shipments we see bound to supply an aspect of the slave trade? Could be but southern brewing of beer was a very dodgy thing.

It’s also likely that it was a little remarked upon activity, like the export of casks of beer from Albany and New York City. Likely modest supplies of infilled cargo rounding out a vessel’s hold. As usual, we are at the whim of the vendor from the time – was there enough demand to spend the money to place the notice in the newspaper? Without someone making that decision then it is difficult to know now what they were particularly up to. But such is life, the record of the activity never being proof of the fact of the activity.

Still, there is likely more to be found out there – especially in relation to activities such as Strictland’s study in the years after the end of the Revolution when interest in trade between the newly independent nation and the home of its often Loyalist heart in the old country seemed to tick up before the laws came down. So let’s consider this an introduction to the idea.

*aka Dickinson’s (Formerly) Ming’s New-York Price-Current, Ming and Young’s New-York Price-Current, Ming’s New-York Price-Current, Oram’s New-York Price-Current, Oram’s New-York Price-Current, and Marine Register, The New-York Prices Current.
**The NY Agricultural Society as it exists today only comes into being in 1832… which seems a bit late given the county ag fairs start up years earlier.

 

Your Ontario Election Day Good Beer Blog Thursday News

Wow. We are here finally. Just a few weeks ago we got our first campaign photo of a leadership candidate pouring a beer. The best thing is there is a  chance that someone who got the second most votes to become the leader of his party will go on to lead that party to the second most votes to lead that party to election victory to become Premier of Ontario* for the next four years. See how nice and accommodating we Canadians are?** Actually, just with a good night in a pub, it is all about seat distribution. All so excellent. I trust by this time next week I am not an involuntary freelancer as a result.

Midday Update: I must have lost my marbles during the hazy dilerium brought on by that anthem to the province as I have forgotten to mention not only that you will need to check out Boak and Bailey’s pépites des actualités on Saturday but also failed to recognize Stan’s (i) return to the Northern Hemisphere but also (ii) his return to the Monday beer news correspondent’s desk.

Such confusing times. Confusion is all about the news these days. Did you know that in New Brunswick Moose Drool beer has to be called Moo Drool beer? Did you know, as my fellow Esq. reports, that the Oakland Athletics are legally objecting to a craft brewer of sorts for misuse of the word “athletic”? My main issue in the latter one is how you cannot have no-alcohol craft beer. It’s an impossibility to impose that technique and remain true to anything resembling a traditional process. Much more ominously, a careful eye has noted that a craft brewer in England has adopted reasonably identifiable fascist imagery and name branding. Denials ensued – but how thick are folk?

In a more tangled pit of legalese, we learn of this story coming out of a court process in North Carolina:

A lawsuit brought by Charlotte’s largest craft brewers has uncovered illegal activity amid efforts to overturn North Carolina’s self-distribution laws, according to an attorney representing them. Initial discovery exposed a “secret agreement” between Anheuser-Busch and distributor R.A. Jeffreys that gives sales of those beers priority over all other products — illegal under a 1989 state law, says Drew Erteschik, co-counsel for The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, NoDa Brewing Co. and the Craft Freedom initiative. 

I love secret deals in that you often find if you do a little research they were actually reasonably discoverable at the time… BUT THE POINT STAYS THE SAME NOW!!! Secret anti-craft factions lining up against us all. How will craft survive… err, maintain its place… err, resist massive continuing expansion?

Sad wine news from Nova Scotia as frost in June hammers the grape crop.

Speaking of craft expansion, Evil Twin Brewing has called out the hidden shadowy practice of private equity’s grasp upon the ankles of craft beer, including this in lamentation to a voice speaking for the cause of money – a dirge to what is and what should never be. Oddly, this is all raised in response to the expansion of the Mikkeller corporate empire. Being owned by, I now assume, more evil twin.

Note: extremely interesting connection drawn by one US craft brewer between the discussion above, the underlying state of affairs and its refusal to participate in the central authority hugging “IndePendeNt” seal*** issued by the Brewers Association.

This tweet reminded me that it is good to remember that, while Canada may be relatively young, Ontario retains a number of Georgian taverns like the 1830s Black Bull Tavern of Queen Street in Toronto.

Tank Stella“? Please tell me that is code for something.

Jeff pointed out something very interesting when he discussed whatever something called “rosé beer” is:

No. Rosé is just a name applied to preexisting beers to move product. Hibiscus goses? The first of those appeared nearly a decade ago. This is not a new style, it’s just a way to make people there’s something new here.

It relates to a point The Beer Nut made over here in relation to east coast IPA. The death of style being accompanied by confusion as to the continuing lingering existence of what was formerly perceived as, you know, a style. I have never understood “east coast IPA” since people stopped praising east coast IPA circa 2007. Harpoon IPA is the model. Malty and less hoppy and perhaps still available  at Fenway… or wherever else no one cares about your Cicerone server badge. Rosé beer? Quebec’s Rosée D’Hibiscus has had reviews posted on BeerADvocate since at least 2007 including this linguistic wizardry:

It’s pink, an orange pink colour with a finger of foamy pink head. Pinkest beer I’ve had. Some lacing as the beer goes down.

Sounds pretty damn rosé to me. Which, for me, illustrates a key element of craft beer boostering today – amnesia. Or a profound dedication to not researching anything.  Can’t be an expert without a strategy to adopt unknowing.  “Waters of Lethe” might actually be a good name for a Midlothian beer bar, come to think of it.

Bizarre: if this is the weaving of “the science of craft beer into story telling like no other” then isn’t all pretty much lost? Nice puff piece, maybe, on the use of ingredients to add fruit flavours. Maybe.

HardKnott Dave doesn’t have amnesia. And he seems to be equipped with an honesty attachment as well. His piece on the role of moolah and line placements in UK pubs is fabulously clear:

They contacted me a couple of months ago as they were negotiating with suppliers of their major brand lager. It seems that they were being offered a cash lump sum for a two year exclusivity deal. They were being offered £2k cash to kick our Intergalactic Space Hopper off the bar. Apparently it isn’t just one major beer producer that is doing this, it is most of the big multinational brands and is looking a little bit like a cartel and anti-competitive action.

Preach! Too bad 99.9999% of people in the know are not sharing. Reasonable to assume anyone downplaying this is on the take one way or another themselves.

By the way, this post marks the 3000th post in the upgraded version of A Good Beer Blog launched in October 2016. If you ever want to glory in the original 2003-2016 site and the 1,500 or so extra posts over there that I never quite got brought over here it is sitting there at the Wayback Machine just waiting for you. I do love that old school tab with the 2004ish beery emoticon. Mucho mucho gracias for all the clicks over all the years!

*This oddly spaghetti western themed tune was rolled out to us when I was in kindergarten in 1968, we sitting lined up neatly, a couple hundred souls cross-legged on the gym floor getting our dose of political propaganda.
**Well, most Canadians…
***whatever… ;D

Warm Weather And The Taxes Are Done Early May Thursday Beer News

Is there any news now that the temperature is over 20C? Isn’t that the real news? Is there any other news to cover? Sure there is the mule making process* being experimented with again, the comminglings this time happening at the #CBC18 event. A magic time with all sorts of attractions. One might find some news there… but how to do that (i) at a distance resistant to the back-slappy back-scratchy and, you know, (ii) sober? What idealism. That’s not how the news is gathered. Buddy up and hit the free bar!

LAST MINUTE ADDENDUM: an hour and a half long video of Ron going on about brewing in the 1700s at a US university. [Gotta fisk and fact check…]

Elsewhere and perhaps from another universe, the best tweet of the week was this one by Dominic Driscoll who berated a beer festival for attracting nothing but the same old “rip-off street food and only hipster attendees.” Actually, I found the selection of shades of grey in this image attached to his tweet rather compelling. Perhaps not all that #CBC18 but still a worthy gathering.

Check your trousers for flying monkeys. Boston Beer had a good quarter.

You know what? I bought three types of cloudy ale variants last weekend as well as a brett saison for takeaway from Ottawa’s Flora Hall Brewing and I was happy to report to myself, once I settled in back home, that I quite liked them. One was even a NEIPA. Nothing like the SunnyD stuff labeled NEIPA crap that I have been handed before. This was cream and fruit and grain all a bit like your morning yogurty muesli. Which is something I like to eat. So why not? I bet they would even pair well with my morning yogurty muesli.

Conversely – and sadly – this story does not live up to the headline as “Adnams Makes Beer from Leftover Marks & Spencer Sandwiches” is really just about recycling the crusts of sliced sandwich loaves. Not anywhere near as disgusting as I had hoped so therefore not anywhere near as fun. Still… it might pair well with recycled crusts of sliced sandwich loaves.

Speaking of which, “Today’s Beer” makes much more sense than “Modern Beer” as a descriptor, given styles are shifting at the speed of a fruit fly family’s genetic fingerprint. A few years from now it will be more like “This Afternoon’s Beer”… maybe.

While, yes, this beer may have nothing to do with Washington it is still sad to have to say the actual history of brewing in the 1700s colonial and independent America was vibrant, clearly full of good beer, brewed at a generous scale and sometimes exported – and porter was even cellared and aged.  Looks like a case of becoming what you berate. Click a few links to the right starting here if you want to know the real story. If you want to, that is.

Back to today, remember when cable TV companies complained about all that convergence happening on the information superhighway? Same:

One could argue that alcohol consumption may have decreased nationwide, but the way the study controlled for countries that had specifically introduced recreational pot, before and after, seems to provide strong evidence that access to weed on some level replaces a degree of alcohol consumption. The results of the study also reportedly “take into account age, race and income data.” They confirm similar findings from two previous professional studies on the same topic, all of which have suggested a link between marijuana legalization and a decrease in alcohol sales.

Which means tomorrow’s Today’s Beer might not even be beer. Don’t worry. Just like brewing history, craft can bend the words so deftly that tomorrow’s today’s beer could actually be not beer and, yet, still be called beer.

I like this story in The Washington Post and not only for the admission that the interest in non-alcoholic beer is due in large part to the author’s alcoholism. My problem is that rather than hunting out non-alcoholic beer when I don’t want the booze, I like to hunt out drinks simply without alcohol. Pear juice. Yum. Assam tea. Ahh. Ginger ale. I am mad for good ginger ale. And it illustrates the problem with folk who say they are really only into craft beer for the flavour: there are masses of other flavours out there to be explored elsewhere, well away from the ethyl alcohol. Summary? If you don’t want or can’t have a beer… why have a bad beer?

I also like this incredibly detailed bit of research in something that is likely not connected to The Wall Street Journal but I have no idea why it was undertaken. Now I know that North Dakota out drinks South Dakota in terms of beer. By a tenth of a gallon of beer. I think that might be a nonfact. Or is it an unfact. A true thing that matters not a jot. Not a sausage. I do like how it show little meaningful correlation between taxes on beer and consumption of beer.  North Dakota has the 17th highest taxation level. Think about that. 17th. Boom. Don’t even mention Rhode Island. Just don’t.

One more thing. I was happily reading an article today and then got blind sided by another one of a sort of weird but typical editorial choice showing up in beer periodicals. I’ve been holding back. This is something that I have found to be somewhat embarrassing for years. Let me share my pain. It is illustrated to the right in the sub-tile kicker (or whatever journos call it) beneath the headline for this article on mead in the latest issue of that CAMRA mag. “Fire breathing dragons and armies of the undead…“?!? What unmitigated cheese. But then you see the same thing in the same article above a very nice piece by Boak and Bailey: “…the lost art…“! It’s all a bit ripe. Holiday cheese ball ripe. What am I complaining about? It’s that weird junior high basement dungeons-and-dragons grade ancient, mystical, medieval claptrap. You see it everywhere. It’s a bit there in that Raiders of the Lost Ark OG cover, too. Makes you feel like you should be drinking your beer from a pre-raphaelite vase while discussing hobbit culture as Houses of the Holy plays quietly on a slow loop somewhere down a hallway.** You see a hint of it anytime brewing is referred to as a “mystery” or “alchemy” even though it is the opposite of that – just a very common practice undertaken regularly for millennia by a large number of ordinary people. Would we  discuss, say, the “alchemy” of shoes? Or the “lost art” of, errr, growing reasonably ordinary tomato varieties in a nice terracotta pot bought at the hardware store? No. No, we wouldn’t. It’s like that loser “rock star brewer” crap of the X-treme beer era but, unlike that, it never seems to have the decency to go away. Never ever. No matter how stupid and laughable it all is. Does anyone actually get the slightest wiff of “mystical magical alchemy” mumbo jumbo at all from beer? Do you? Or is it just lazy cliché layout copy?

OK, that is it. The week that the BA plays BB right down to the big screens and the group hate on the evil other – terrible bad majoritarian popular beer.  It’s over. That week is done. And like every week, a new week begins each Thursday at noon. See you at the end of the next one. Go!

*Don’t get me wrong. The mule has wonderful attributes: “more patient, hardy and long-lived than horses, and are described as less obstinate and more intelligent than donkeys” according to wikipedia. Thick skin and and natural cautiousness. But they are just not… natural. The result of a meeting that would not otherwise occur. Who loads the Wikipedia entry for “Mules” anyway?

**Many is a word
That only leaves you guessing
Guessing ’bout a thing
You really ought to know, ooh…
(…you really aughta know-a-woe…)
[Fade out on twiddly electronic stoner keyboards.]