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.

All The Beer News That Matters For The Middle Third Of April


Matters? None of this really matters all that much. Fine. Maybe posts like this are just the stuff you need to get you to – or through – the stuff that matters. Let’s go with that. It’s OK. A quiet week now and then is nice. No need to puff it up with claiming this post is a “deep dive” into this or that. Is that why so much get the head scratching these days? Is there actuallyan increase in beer media types tweeting about beer just because they want freebies“? Does that really matter? Yet… who thought that, by Wednesday, the TV ad up there from 1995 would matter so much now, twenty three years later? But it does as it’s a matter the center of a lawsuit that might end up maybe marking the end of an era. More below. Deep down there.

Before that – first, but not exactly unrelated – I find a certain sort of post, illustrated this week by one Pete, a bit… odd. You may not agree – which is fine – but let me express myself for just this one instance.  Please. What I don’t get is while he concludes that what he finds odd is an article motivated by the desire to “create specious claims” he spends a lot of time saying things like “that’s certainly food for thought” and “there are certainly some interesting points” which, for me, leads to the critique of the article sounding a lot like a sibling of the article. Which leads me wondering why the article, the one he didn’t like, would matter to Pete that much. It’s not like I don’t sympathize. I was shocked when I read about “The Secret Brewery Battle That Could Kill Manchester’s Booming Craft Beer Scene“! but then couldn’t believe my eyes when I read about “The Secret Brewery Battle That Could Kill Wales’ Booming Beer Scene“!!! Clearly there is less than 85% overlap between the two articles so… journalism can’t be dead! [Note: intracraft warfare now clearly out in the open with the use of “beer bullies” by one local Mancunian know-it-alls. Well… sometimes they do know something, right?]

All I mean is what we are all seeing around us is far more interesting : the expansion of craft by including and retaining anything claiming to be craft; freakshake pastry stouts, the churn of increased brewery closures aligning with the uncertainty tiny brewers bring; and the seven year itch that, yes, is hitting the craft beer monogamists. Being a spectator in a ripe time of transition behooves us all to spectate. Which sounds a lot like speculate but it’s really quite a different thing all together. Let’s just sit and watch for a bit. There. That’s better. [Note: if you love something let it go.]

Perhaps conversely… but maybe not, my own dear old hometown newspaper ran an article on my own dear old undergrad alma mater’s historic brewing studies – and it’s perhaps the most honest bit of beer related journalism I’ve read in yoinks. [Note: Apparently, we usually can’t handle the truth.] So much of what was made sounds horrible. Did anyone get an F for their project?

In an even more real case of matter… and perhaps even anti-matter,  I think we can all agree that we don’t need to check out the Royal Oak in Wigan. Don’t go. The back streets of Ron’s Amsterdam, however, are where the clever should aim there feet.  [Note: Ron hit the exact sweet spot for mushy not mushy this week. Govern yourselves accordingly.] And speaking of travel and also as a matter that surely matters, I would still be mesmerized even if it turned out that Lars has been stringing us all along, weaving an entirely fictional fraud upon us all with his northern farmhouse ale studies. “Koduõlu, the traditional farmhouse ale from the large Estonian islands in the Baltic“? Who researches that? Lars!

What else? Well, given my recent doubts as to the point of taproom fever, it has been playing the role of interesting subtext of the week. What is a taproom anyway? Beeson, J. is of the opinion that if the beer is not brewed on site surely it’s just a bar. Yet the utterly venerable Laxfield Low House in Suffolk clearly has a taproom yet does not brew. It is the room where casks are tapped and served on gravity. [Note: it has a taproom but is not a taproom.]  The Royal Tavern here in Kingston, Ontario has a sign over the door that says “Tap Room” but – even though the establishment predates Canada and was a haunt of our first Prime Minister – it’s just a bit of a hard dive.  Not Wigan Royal Oak hard… mostly… mainly. [Note: it has no taproom and is not a taproom but claims a tap room.] I suspect taproom is like curate, code for “modern thing or action which needs not be investigated and considered so much as put up with and outlived.” [Note: Did I mention I turn 55 next week. Does it show? If you call it “double nickels” it sounds way cool, too, just like “curate“!]

You know what matters? You, the kind reader. And this has to be the most heart warming response to a weekly newsy notes post ever:

OK, then. I will.

Finally, that matter at the top of the page. That 1995 TV ad way up top… that’s actually referenced in the Answer and Counterclaim filed by MillerCoors in the Stone vs. Keystone lawsuit archived at Syracuse, NY attorney Brendan Palfreyman’s website.  Much of US-based beer social media was humming about the contents of the Answer as well as Brendan’s analysis on Twitter. The bottom line is this. Stone launch a court action a couple of months ago claiming a bit of the moral high ground. But, as I noted last February, there is plenty of evidence of the use of “Stone” related to Keystone beer before their trademark was registered and under US law this is important. As stated at paragraph 29 of the Answer:

…Coors’ use of STONE and STONES predates Stone Brewing’s use of STONE. When co-founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner decided to adopt the moniker Stone Brewing in 1996, Coors was already selling Keystone beer nationally in cases labeled STONES and running marketing campaigns advertising Keystone beer as STONE. MillerCoors did not “verbatim copy” Stone Brewing’s trademark. If anything, it is much more likely that Stone Brewing copied the STONE name from Coors, since Keystone beer was already advertised as such in the market.

It sounds like bravado but at section 23 of the Answer, it states that Koch said the following in an interview about Keystone’s 1995 “Bitter Beer Face” ads (like the one up there at the top of this post):

Basically it was a misinformation campaign. It was designed to tell the American public ‘You’re not sophisticated enough.’ Let’s try to tell you that you don’t want better beer. It’s really a form of oppression. There’s just nothing short of it.

This is an amazing bit of evidence. Needs to be proven in court but, funny enough, that is what MillerCoors apparently is going to do. Watch the TV ad again. I had no idea there were “anti-hoppy” ads running in the mid-1990s. What is not to love about that ad? Well, maybe not if you like that bitter puckery micro beer. Which might cause a mid-1990s upstart with oddly strong impressions about what oppression means to take aim at the gargantuan brewery making fun of your dreams on the TV.  Wouldn’t that be funny if over two decades that attitude were now to come back to bite someone. Sometimes a particular stone is the best means to clarify what is real. Who knows? Let the court decide, I say!

So there you go. What looked like another dull week explodes again by my Wednesday deadline to send this baby to the printing shop… boom. No doubt there will be even more for you to consider from Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday.

Ontario’s LCBO Has Nation Based Beer Quota?

Interesting comment on Ontario’s LCBO, the province’s sole wholesale import beer buyer. The comment is from an Estonian supplier newly selling its beer into this my local marketplace:

In an April 11 statement, A. Le Coq said its product should arrive on store shelves in the province’s major cities this week. The brewery’s director Tarmo Noop said that entering the Canadian market was a long and difficult process. “In Canada the government puts very strict controls on alcohol sales and in connection with that, very tough regulations are in effect for both importers and imported goods,” he said. As an example, Noop said that only one brand of Estonian beer could be sold on the market at one time. The company also had to redesign its packaging to meet local regulations.

Really? Is this just for Estonia or do all nations have to send us only a few of their brews? How many German, French or Italian beers can be on the shelf at one time? Where is the chart of these national quota levels and who came up with it?