All The Good News Beer News For 03Q218

What day is it? The meds are making for a blur. Without getting overly graphic, the other day there were four hands within inches of my nose and two of them were working a thread and needle. Gums were tightened. Rearranged. Anyway, it’s not been a time for gulping buckets of ales and lagers but it has been a great time to wallow in both mild misery and brewing related social media with a slight sense that things are either not right or, you know, the meds… so…

First off, given Vlad’s news in the lead up to the Russian performance art event mimicking an election that he now controls a nuclear powered cruise missile as well as a submarine bomb that now hover and skulk amongst us all ready to strike if we… what… say bad things about him… well, in light of that the news about Russian barley seems a little less important. But, it is interesting to read how Russia has become a key bulk exporter of our favorite grain. I don’t expect this to directly change much – but indirectly, the overall market might get shifted in a way that benefits the Western beer buying public due to new malt quality barley flooding the market.

While we Canadians are (i) subject to the Crown-in-Canada and (ii) members of the Commonwealth, I can’t imagine setting the opening hours according to somebody’s wedding. Do my UK readers care?

Lew blogged.

Next, if you click on the thumbnail to the right, you will see a promotional photo for BrewDog* from, I am told via Stringers on Twitter, the year 2014. Yet neither of the Google Image searches for “BrewDog sexism” and “BrewDog feminism” are otherwise particularly productive. So… keep all that in mind as you read on about their great new PunkNotWorthy class PR stunt (coming just days on the heels of their million beer giveaway PR stunt) and then their still a teensie-weensie bit odd apologetic confessional. Why mention the “talented team of women at BrewDog” as you ask to be excused for an admittedly botched stunt? Being newbies to taking an actual stance on an actual thing exterior to their imperial corporate existence, it seems they also borrowed this from (or at least failed to heed the failings of) the sexist / not sexist stratagem behind last week’s gaff by Stone. The best that can be said now might be that it is bad if superficial marketeering. The best we can hope upon reflection is that it was an entirely miscalculated act of sincerity by a corporation that is fairly immune to simple sincerity. Further comment: Mhairi McFarlane, Craft Queer, and many more. And M. Noix Aux Bières made an interesting observation:

There’s something badly wrong with the beer media when a company messing up its marketing gets more coverage than their announcement, in the same week, that they messed up one of their recipes.

Is that all there is? Big bulk craft. Getting it fairly wrong. Again? Leaning on the PR. Again. Because that’s what big bulk craft does. Does anyone care about these globalists anymore? It’s great route to medium term millions but the long term often see weirdnesses arise. The yeasty yogurt non-movement of 2016, for example. If you need any further proof of that reality, look at the news released on Tuesday that Sierra Nevada is changing direction, dropping innovation, getting back to lean on its flagship SNPA and hiring a PR firm to flog it.  Subtext: branch plant expansion hasn’t panned out, sales have dropped, panic setting in, “let’s not let SNPA turn out like Sam Adams” muttered around the executive committee room during breaks even as they set out on that same path.

There is another way. A more thoughtful path. This interview of Francis Lam, host of NPR’s The Splendid Table contained this interesting tidbit about the relationship between good drink and food:

There are people who have a beautiful wine with every meal, but for a lot of people that act signifies something special. You have to eat, but you don’t have to drink, so the idea of having something at the table that is there, almost purely for pleasure, is meaningful. I think for a lot of people that signifies that we’re here to actually enjoy, rather than just feed.

This is an aspect of the beer and food pairing discussion does not focus on, giving all the attention as it does to restaurant settings. Simply gathering and enjoying. How rad. It is even more interesting when considered along with this column from the ever excellent Eric Asimov of The New York Times in which he discusses how austere herbal old school value Bordeaux go so well with food even if not separate sipping. It would be interesting to see unloved or less understood beers highlighted alongside foods served at home that bring out their better natures… but that would require craft beer and pop beer writers to admit (i) value matters and (ii) some prominent beers are, you know, sorta duds.  But you are not a slave to either trade associations or the other voices who would control you, are you. Have some pals over, treat them swell and see what works over dinner. After all, this is only beer we are talking about.

Infogramtastic news! This important NEIPA tasting graphic passed by my eye this week. Click for a larger size for the full details. This decade’s wide leg jeans.

Celebrity newbie brewer or local newbie brewer?

And finally, Pete added a strong contribution to the discussion about pay-to-play in beer writing** as sort of a wrapper around a disclosure statement about a drinky junket to Catalonia:

I’m going because I’ve been keen to check out the explosion in Spanish craft beer for several years now and think there will be some genuinely interesting stories, but haven’t been able to afford to do it under my own steam. Will my reporting of the trip be influenced by the fact that I’m being given hospitality? I don’t believe so (beyond the fact that I’m actually there, of course.) But any story I write about it will carry a disclaimer explaining that it’s been paid for by someone else, so the reader can make up their own mind.

While we have never met,*** Pete and I have gotten along as web-pals for well over a decade but don’t really see eye to eye on this in each instance… but we see the same questions the situation raises so it was good to read his commentI was wondering what your reaction would be!” For me there are two things: self-certification and subject matter control.

As I have said before, it is not up to the writer to suggest that they are the self-certifying measure of any reliability. Only the reader can judge the result. But as long as there is disclosing, the judgement is informed. When I hear of folk presenting as beer experts or, worse, journalists quietly running review-for-pay schemes or side-gigs as law firm holiday tap takeover party as partnering hosts but not openly disclosing, I tend to place their other work in, umm, context. I am entirely sympathetic to the need to make money in a minor niche like good beer but one person simply can’t be all things. Promote and influence or research and write. The key word being “or” of course.

The bigger problem is one Pete might be implying in passing: “…beyond the fact that I’m actually there, of course…” It’s not, in fact, that he is there. It’s that he is not somewhere else. Where no one else is. Where no trade or tourist association pays the bills for travel and hotel. Where the beer isn’t free. I put it this way:

I need to better unpack your thoughts. You sit near a line. Main general quib? Lost stories of the unjunketed topics. Explorations. The work of @larsga is best example. Deep down, though, perhaps I never admired you more than when you were mid-Atlantic alone on a container ship!

Lars Marius Garshol, without a doubt, has done more to exemplify what researching in the service of understanding beer and brewing should be than anyone else in this decade. He has spent what seems to be every spare moment and every dime on seeking out the rural, secret brewing patterns lurking in the countryside of the northern third of Europe from Norway to Russia. These sorts of creative efforts and the resulting independent focus is what leads to innovative, interesting and reliable writing.  He sets a very high standard for not only me, the playboy amateur armchair historian, but even places more driven and diligent traveling researchers like Robin and JordanBoak and Bailey, Ron and (yes, of course) Pete**** in rich context. But it is a shared context. Pete makes that very clear, sets out the whole picture and places himself in that picture at his own angle of repose. We all do that. It’s just that some do it better and more openly than others while a few don’t at all. It shows.

There. Another week in the books. Please also check out Saturday’s take on the news from BB2 as well as Monday’s musings from Stan. I look forward to their corrections and dismissals and outright rejections of some or all of what sits above. It’s no doubt what’s needed.

*Disclaimer: I got boxes of BrewDog samples a decade ago. And I think I may have bought one small can of their beer coming up on five years ago on this trip.
**Disclaimer: I got boxes of BrewDog samples a decade ago. And I think I may have bought one small can of their beer coming up on five years ago on this trip.
***Because I hardly ever go anywhere…
****In fact, if I had the money, I would fund them all to chase after narrow and likely hopeless projects knowing they would come up with some of the best finding and writings as a result.

It’s March! It’s March It’s March It’s March News!!!

So… I like March. For years I proclaimed March in 89 font letters on one of my old blogs. I am far more restrained now. A place between two seasons. Did you see that it snowed in Ireland and the UK this week? Farmers out east call this the Million Dollar Snow* – the late storms that drench the fields on melting. And all brewing trade social media has been suspended over there for the last few days for pictures of snow laying thinly all about, just like the story told in the carols! Must be that EU Committee on Taking Photos of Snow (EUCTPS) funding grants finally kicking in.

First, right after last Thursday’s deadline, The Tand Himself** wrote about the inversion of reality that craft has become in the UK market and under their cultural version of the term’s application. Years ago Boak and Bailey discussed the vague and wandering UK use of the word “craft” and it seems like it’s wandered six steps further since then. While it is useless to get too caught up into it, craft now appears to mean “an expensive crap shoot enjoyed by folk many times you likely would not want to spend much time with” – or, you know, something other than what’s in the glass. Who needs that? The better  approach such clinky studies with a certain humility and thank God others are playing with just, you know, honesty. We are blessed and less affected here where craft can still range from $2.80 a tall boy to whatever the market might bear. Related: discount craft discussion #1 and discount craft discussion #2. Somewhat related: odd personal product placement posing deep and abiding questions about value.

Next, I like this footage from the BBC archive of a show discussing the 1986 about the new UK craze for trend in brown bread. Which is interesting. Context about trends in food and other social patterns should be always related to trends in beer culture. Me, I was in Britain for a good chunk of 1986 and remember both the good malty ales and my uncle complaining about all the whole wheat and vegetables suddenly in his diet. Related: drive-by expertise. Unlike branding, actual history and knowledge are reasonably identifiable things. Dr Caitlin Green, lecturer at the University of Cambridge in history, has posted a series of images of ancient drinking vessels. That drinking cup carved out of amber is one of the more wonderful things I have ever seen. By further contrast, consider this discussion of the poorly traced and argued history of lambic – part of our heritage of mob craftism. Why must this be so?

Back to today, interestingly how Ben noted a change in the demeanor of UK trade reporter James Beeson who wrote about his unhealthy relationship with alcohol on Friday and then how drinking swanky craft before 3pm on Sunday made him somehow “a winner.” I’ve often noted to myself how two classes of people seem to align their identity with drinking, alcoholics and beer writers. If you feel the first, the second is irrelevant – just as he openly explored in the thread that followed. No beer makes you a winner. It’s best to be well. And I wish him well. No one needs a millstone.

Do you see a pattern up there? Proper personal insight compared to something else, perhaps second hand. Yet Jeff manages this tension with care and perhaps a bit daring in his posts on sexism. It’s not his story to tell but it’s the story he can tell or host. Still, even with his own discussion on the fact it is not his story – and the reality that we each are only what we are – I just wish the posts didn’t have a male host as intermediary… so, I will pair this link to one from Nicci Peet who is making a documentary about women in all sectors of the trade and has even launched a Patreon campaign to support it:

If you’re here you probably know I’ve just launched a new documentary project photographing women (cis, trans, genderqueer, woc) in the UK beer industry. There’s a lot of talk and debate lately around sexism and inclusivity. Part of the problem is that there’s a lack of visual representation of the diverse range of women who work in the industry. When I say women working in the industry I don’t just mean brewers. If you have a passion for beer there are so many different routes into the industry. 

Both Nicci and Jeff’s very much worth your time. [Related for contrasting context.] And, just so we are clear, the #1 lesson on exactly how not to do it was brought to you Wednesday afternoon by Stone‘s Arrogant Beavis and Butthead social media intern:





The tweets are all now deleted – but for a hour or so defiantly defended. It makes one wonder why do they stick with the junior high locker room branding at Stone? It’s all about judgement of others with a passive aggression from a largely unwarranted stance. Don’t get me wrong. They make mainly pretty good gas station beer that’s reasonably reliable and know how to get the government grants for the branch plants. But apparently because that’s how the head office rolls if the intern’s tacit instructions are anything to go by. Time to move on.

**aka TTH.

Your Thursday Beer News For That Day Just Five Weeks Before March

It gets like that in January. Counting the days to the warmer ones like prayers upon beads passed through the fingers. It’s time. Please be March soon. Please. Warmth. Now! Come on!! Time, like grace, arrives in its own pace I suppose.  Even calling this a Thursday post is jumping the gun a bit. These things get plunked together mostly on Wednesday. These things matter. Anyway, what’s been going on in the news?

I lived in PEI from 1997 to 2003 and am pretty sure John Bil shucked my first raw oyster. Love struck I wasCarr’s was an eight minute drive from my house and I often bought a dozen or two there to take out to the back yard and suck back on a Saturday afternoon. RIP.

Our pal Ethan and Community Beer Works are working with the owners of Buffalo’s Iroquois brand to revive a version of the venerable brew. An interesting form of partnership where craft leans of community pride in legacy lager.

Carla Jean Lauter tweeted the news Wednesday afternoon that Nova Scotia’s newbie Tusket Falls Brewing had decided to withdraw its Hanging Tree branding for one of its beers. Rightly so and quickly done as far as I can tell. That’s the Facebook announcement to the right. This was a good decision on their part but not one that goes without consideration. I grew up in Nova Scotia and, among other lessons learned in that complex culture, had the good fortune to be assigned as law school tutor in my last year to one of the leaders of the Province’s version of the Black Panther movement when he was in first year, the sadly departed, wonderful Burnley “Rocky” Jones. He did all the teaching in that friendship. I would have loved to have heard his views on the matter. See, Loyalist Canada was settled in the 1780s by the British Crown as a refuge for the outcasts, including African American freed former enslaved Loyalists, seeking shelter after the dislocation of the American Revolution. Court justice there as it was here in Kingston included hanging as part of that. Hell, in the War of 1812 at Niagara there was still drawing and quartering. As I tweeted to Ms Pate, another Bluenoser, the hanging tree could well symbolize peace, order and justice in Tusket as much as bigoted injustice elsewhere. Or it could represent both… right there. Were there lynchings in southwestern Nova Scotia? Some stories are more openly spoken of than others. Slavery lingered on a surprisingly long time here in Ontario the good. We talk little about that. And Rocky and others do not fight that good fight without good reason. We might wish it should and could depend on what happened in that place. But somethings are no longer about the story of a particular place. Somethings about beer are no longer local. And its not “just beer” in many cases. Yet, we happily talk of war. Q: could a Halifax brewery brand a beer based on the story of Deadman’s Island?

My co-author Jordan has made the big time, being cited as “Toronto beer writer and expert” by our state news broadcaster.* With good reason, too, as he has cleverly taken apart the fear mongering generated around the reasonable taxation of beer.

This is really what it is all about, isn’t it? Well done, Jeff. The setting, style and remodeling of his third pub, the
The Ypres Castle Inn all look fabulous. Good wee dug, tae.

I don’t often link to a comment at a blog but this one from the mysterious “qq” on the state of research into yeast is simply fantastic: “[t]o be honest anything is out of date that was written about the biology of the organisms making lager more than three years ago…” Wow! I mean I get it and I comments on the same about much of beer history, too, but that is quite a statement about the speed of increase in understanding beer basics. Read the whole thing as well as Boak and Bailey’s highly useful recommended lager reading.

Max finally gets a real job.

Gary Gillman has been very busy with posts and has written one about a very unstylish form of Canadian wine, native grape Canadian fortified wine, often labeled as sherry. Grim stuff but excellently explained. As I tweeted:

Well put. These were the bottles found, when I was a kid, empty up an alley or by forest swimming holes. I thought we had a few examples of better fortified wine ten or so years ago. But, likely as the PEC and Nia good stuff sells so well, no attraction to a maker.

Gary gets double billing this week as he also found and discussed the contents of a copy of the program from the first Great American Beer Festival from 1982. I have actually been pestering Stan for one of these off and on for years only to be told (repeatedly) that archiving was not part of the micro era. Tell me about it, says the amateur boy historian. The 1982 awards are still not even listed on the website but that seems to be the last year of the home brew focus.  Anyway, Gary speaks about the hops mainly in his post. I am more interested in the contemporary culture: which presenter got what level of billing, what the breweries said of their beers. Plenty to discuss.

More on closings. Crisis what crisis?  In the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo. What’s it all about, Alfie?

That’s enough for this week. Plenty to chew on. See you in February!

*All I ever got was “an Ontario lawyer who reviews beers on his blog…” like I am some sort of loser…

The Tale Of Two Harvest Ales

You will recall my slight obsession with MacKinnon Brothers Brewing Co., located a mere 20 km to my west in the Loyalist town of Bath, Ontario. Attentive readers will recall that brewmaster bro* Dan joined me to represent Canada at the 1780 Challenge organized by Craig three years ago, back in the spring of 2015 in central NY, where two brewers used cut straw stalks as part of the wheat beer mash just as we discovered they did back then. A fun day. In fact below, in the leftmost thumbnail, you will in fact see Dan MacKinnon mock inviserating Craig Gravina in one of the greatest “brewer gets back at blogger” moments in recorded history. I’m getting verklempt.

Well, this week I got an email and then a box at the door both from Laura Voskamp, the rapidly expanding brewery’s media contact. The box came two half growlers labeled “Batch #1” and “Batch #2”, two bags of malt labeled “2016” and “2017” along with a note. The image above and to the right is the note. Below in the middle thumbnail are the bags of malt in the cool clinical laundry room light. I did my part to share the news of their first 2016 release of the Harvest Ale which was generally received as one of the best beers to come out of Ontario. Jordan and Robin dubbed it “estate beer” which works for me. So, very much looking forward to this bit of a beery performance art piece in a box.





Ivan MacKinnon** added a bit more information by email. Both malt sample were  Munich malt made from the Metcalfe barley strain malted at Barn Owl. The 2017 is darker, quite clearly stained.   In both cases, the quality is excellent but their differences reflect the growing season, mainly. Rain and insects hammered the 2017 crop while the 2016 basked under the sunny sun.  Out of the situation, as stated above to the right, MacKinnon made two batches of Harvest Ale out of their 2017 barley. The first, straight up bug and rain reality and the second a blend of four-firth 2016 malt cut by one-fifth of the 2017. Batch #2, the blend of 2016 and 2017 is lovely. When I wrote my notes on Friday night, I waxed poetical:

Light copper coloured ale. Approaching the colour of that good French cookware. Taste: Brewery characteristic apple richness while still a level of dry attenuation. Mid- mouth prominent note of smoke wells up but more like unsliced rye than just sootiness. Hefty note yet woodsy. If this is harvest, it’s late in the season. A sensation leaf pile. October not late August. Even a fattiness that remind me of my favourite Polish Krakowska sausage. White pepper.  Leek and wild mushroom sauce on venison. And a jug of this. Then it fades – a diminishment of the rustic. In the finish as apples and nut flair up to stand with it. Malt smoke russet apple in quick succession. With, then, light toffee plus a hint of  an unfiltered McDonald Export A green label tobacco as a last lingering hello. Your uncles coat including the hard candy he’d slip to you if you were a particularly clever pest to your parents. Earthy sweetness. Their Crosscut making the big leagues? Lovely.

Hmm. I suspect the sample may have contained alcohol. The pure laine uncut Batch #1 from 2017 is not as lovely. While the brewery describes it as phenolic off-flavours, I would say celery and cumin. Which is not what many are looking for in a beer and to be honest, on a Sunday morning doing laundry while skipping church, it’s a very spicy dry experience. But the underlying malt sweetness is there and this clearly has the brewery’s house style. So, it’s an educational moment rather than one poetical.

Still, it has its use. Not a drain pour. I am having a bit with Brie on a bun as T-Rex plays on the turntable while the clothes get done.*** And it is being bashed into the crock pot of baked beans I have gurgling away in the oven, dry beans I grew myself out in the garden. Batch #1 is perfectly geared to sit along with the mustards, molasses, ancho pepper, ginger root, Seed to Sausage saucisson sec from just north of here and all the good other things I threw in there. Local barley. Local malting. Local sausage. Very local beans. Local terroir aplenty.

*An actual bro, by the way.
**Also an actual bro.
***Turntable dust matching dryer lint. One side of the LP matching the wash cycle almost exactly. No doubt this lifestyle is exactly what Bolan meant when he said “born to boogie.”

A Few (Hah!) Additional Tudor Calais Brewery Tidbits

The Tudor resources over at British History Online are a wee bucket of gold. The last few posts under the 1500s tag are largely from the Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1, 1509-1514 pages. Rather than string these last fragmentary references to beer and brewing into a likely false and certainly shallow narrative due to my lack of wider historical context, let’s just plunk them down chronologically for your consideration to see what might be made of them. Remember: rushing to any conclusion is the hallmark of disastrous pseudo-history jampacked with inauthenticity. Once I lay them out upon the table, you may feel inspired to criticize and/or praise – whether in the comments or on social media at some later date. Prehaps catch up a bit with the last few posts on the brewing plans of Henry VIII.  Or just to lay upon a sofa thinking, as if you were Billy Wordsworth considering those daffodils. Feel free. Live it up.

First up, on 24 June 1509 the coronation of King Henry VIII is recorded and with it there is a list of the members of the royal household with their functions. John Knolles, yeoman “brewer” is noted under the pantry staff. Edward Atwood, yeoman “brewer” falls under the group managing the cellar. Within the buttery we find William Kerne, yeoman ale taker as well as both Thomas Cooke and William Bowman who are groom ale takers. I might suppose that these functions relate to the distribution of ale throughout the household seeing how they are located and described. Is it a case of ale at home, beer abroad? Let’s see.

In February 1512, we read of numerous royal grants of position. Grants of ecclesiastical office, grants of land to the widow of an earl. And also

Thomas Loye, brewer, of London. Protection for one year; going in the suite of Sir Gilbert Talbot, Deputy of Calais. 

This is Gilbert Talbot. He traveled with his own brewer. England controlled Calais from 1346 to 1558 and Henry VIII early in his reign seems to have an great interest in ensuring it is well resourced.

On 1 October 1512, we have another record indicating the broad and integrated nature of the economy of the royal enterprise:

Account of “the victuals provided by John Shurley, cofferer of the King’s most honorable household, and John Heron, supervisor of the King’s customhouse in London, the 1st day of Oct. the 4th year of the reign of King Henry the, for a relief of victual for the King’s army upon the sea in whaftyng (wafting) of the herring fleet upon the coast of Norfolk and Suffolk where divers of the French ships of war lay.”

Provisions with costs, viz., biscuit 72,325lbs. at 5s. the 100, and straw to lay them on, from 39 bakers named; beef, from 6 butchers in Eastcheap, 11 in St. Nicholas Fleshambles, 2 in Aldgate, total 112 pipes; beer, from 12 brewers, at 6s. 8d. the pipe (p. 11); fish “gret drye code Hisselonde fishe,” at 38s. 4d. every 124, from 2 fishmongers (p. 13); freight to 8 masters of vessels (p. 14); petty costs (p. 16); remanets (p. 19).

So, you have a navy to protect the fishermen from the French fleet and supply the fishing fleet and navy with food – including fish – to ensure the supply of fish.

Next, on 12 May 1513, The Privy Council of Henry VIII received new of a fairly particular concern related to West Country ale as preparations are made for  the needs of a great army:

Since the Admiral’s coming, he has given orders, notwithstanding the King’s and Council’s commands, that no more beer is to be made in the West, as, being made of oaten malt, it will not keep so well as that made of barley malt. The soldiers are not as willing to drink it as the London beer brewed in March, which is the best month. Nevertheless, when in Brittany, they found no fault with it, but received it thankfully, and since they have been in Plymouth they have drank 25 tuns in 12 days; but now so much beer is come from London that they will not drink the country beer. My Lord of Winchester has written to the Admiral that he shall henceforth be sufficiently furnished at Portsmouth from time to time….”The quantity of victuals provided by them in the West is as follows. In Plymouth, 200 pipes of beer, 46 pipes of flesh, 20 pipes of biscuit; besides bread, biscuit, flesh and beer spent by the soldiers on land the last 12 days, for which they paid. At Dartmouth, 60 pipes of biscuit, 24 pipes of flesh, 150 pipes of beer, 300 doz. loaf bread, 200 of fish. At Exeter and Opsam, 50 pipes biscuit, 600 doz. loaf bread, 160 pipes of beer, 40 pipes flesh, 1,200 of fish.

That passage is fascinating just on the basis of the ratio of beer in the dietary demands of an army alone, but note that the news is being spread that better beer is to be had out of the recently constructed mega-brewery at Portsmouth. You also have three classes of beer described: country oaten beer from the West, City beer from London and industrial mega-brewing at Portsmouth.

Just nine days later, on 21 May 1513 the need for pipes or barrels for the beer was identified as being in short supply. Thomas Wolsey, then the chief almoner to Henry, was advised by his former master at court and soon-to-be if not now servant Richard Fox(e) as follows:

The Captain of the Isle of Wight desires Wolsey’s favor in the matter now before him. Some of my Lord Lisle’s captains desire wages for their folks that shall attend on their carriages to Calais. John Dawtrey will write the rest. Wants empty pipes for the beer. “I fear that the pursers will deserve hanging for this matter.” There shall be beer enough, if pipes may be had, “which I pray God send us with speed, and soon deliver you of your outrageous charge and labor; and else ye shall have a cold stomach, little sleep, pale visage, and a thin belly, cum rara egestione: all which, and as deaf as a stock, I had when I was in your case.”

The fear of failure was both personal and in relation to the enterprise at hand.

In June 1513, also as part of the preparations for Calais, we have this lovely specific reference to a particular person:

Wm. Antony, the King’s beer brewer. Commission for six months to provide brewers for the King’s beer brewing at Calais for the great army about to go beyond sea. 

In August 1513, we see a record under the heading “The King’s Horses” of oats for horses being sidetracked to a brewer who seemed to be not exactly involved with Henry’s horses:

Account of prests (in all 25l. 4s. 8d.) and payments (in all 22l. 6s. 8d.) for hay, oats and beans sent to Calais. Some of the oats were sold to Master Alday at Sandwich, for his beerhouse. 

In that same month, we also see references to the carriage of beer to Calais which indicates that the brewing there on the continent had not reached a scale allowing for local self-sufficiency. Interestingly, the beer seems to be flowing in a number of directions – (i) to ships, (ii) to Calais as well as (iii) from Calais:

“The Dockette of William Ston’s Boke,” being jottings and calculations of payments due for carriage of beer and victuals for ships including his own wages at 18d. a day for 218 days, and at 10d. a day for four days when occupied in receiving beer from Calais.

All the efforts to bolster Calais were occurring in the context of (imagine!) a war with France as I noted in the last post. As part of that larger war, Scotland did as Scotland did (oh, my people!) and decided to undertaken yet another (imagine!) suicidal adventure.* As Henry was fighting to the south, he himself at battle on the continent, Lord Howard raced to deal with an invasion of Scots and associated northern border folks. Disaster ensued for the invaders which you can read about in Howard’s report to Henry provided on 20 September 2013:

On the 9 Sept. the King of Scots was defeated and slain. Surrey, and my Lord Howard, the admiral, his son, behaved nobly. The Scots had a large army, and much ordnance, and plenty of victuals. Would not have believed that their beer was so good, had it not been tasted and viewed “by our folks to their great refreshing,” who had nothing to drink but water for three days. They were in much danger, having to climb steep hills to give battle. The wind and the ground were in favor of the Scots. 10,000 Scots are slain, and a great number of noblemen. They were so cased in armour the arrows did them no harm, and were such large and strong men, they would not fall when four or five bills struck one of them. The bills disappointed the Scots of their long spears, on which they relied. Lord Howard led the van, followed by St. Cuthbert’s banner and the men of the Bishopric. The banner men won great honor, and gained the King of Scots’ banner, which now stands beside the shrine. The King fell near his banner. (fn. 9) Their ordnance is taken. The English did not trouble themselves with prisoners, but slew and stripped King, bishop, lords, and nobles, and left them naked on the field. 

“Would not have believed that their beer was so good” is perhaps the grimmest tasting note in the English language. Over 10,000 Scots died at Flodden even though they outnumbered the English. The English lost 1500.

In March 1514, once the wars to the south and north as settling or settled, we see more stability. And there is a very handy account for victualing for Calais which contains my favourite 1500s reference – malt. When they are shipping malt it means there is brewing at the destination – if not sometimes even on board the ship in transit. Meaning there is stability and perhaps peace:

John Miklowe, Thomas Byrkes, and Brian Roche. Release of 20,910l. 16s. 10d., received by them through Sir John Daunce, for purveying provisions for the army with the King beyond seas; and of 392l. 15s. received by sale of a part of the said provisions; and of various quantities (specified) of flour, wheat, casks, malt, oats, beer, flitches of bacon, &c., received by them from William Browne, junr., Richard Fermour and George Medley, merchants of the Staple of Calais, John Ricrofte and John Heron, surveyor of customs, &c., in the port of London. 

Another even more detailed account including some similar names was sent the next month, April 1514:

Received of John Daunce 500l. Of Ric. Fermor, Wm. Browne and Geo. Medley, 1,000 barrels of flour at 10s.; 3,611 barrels 4 bushels 3 pecks at 8s. a barrel; 40 qrs. of wheat for brewing beer at [10]s. the qr.; empty beer barrels, 408 tons at 5s. the ton. Of John Ricroft, 7, 845 qrs. 1 bu. malt, at 5s. 4d. a qr. Of John Heron of the Custom House, London, 150 tons of beer, 150l., and 180 flitches of bacon, 13l. 10s. Received from John Daunce, for wages, by John Myklawe, Thos. Byrks and Brian Roche, 2,710l. 16s. 10d.; and by John Myklowe, and Wm. Briswoode, 3,000l. Receipt by the guaves of malt: Myklowe, Byrks and Roche charge themselves of every qr. of malt received by them “at Calais and there sold and uttered to be guaved,” 7,845 qrs. at 12d. a qr. Total received by them for victualling, wages and carriage, as appears in three books of accounts, 25,625l. 6s. 6d. Paid by them for empty foists, &c., 1,745l. 13s. 5¾d. on victuals remaining unspent, 2,235l. 11s. 8d. Losses of victuals, 2,929l. 11s. 8d. In hand, in debts, obligations and ready money, 12,574l. 3s. 4¾d. Wages of war, conduct money and jackets, for officers, artificers, carters, &c., 2,674l. 7s. 2d. For the carriage of victuals to Saint Omesr’s, 3,429l. 9s. 9¾d. Total, 25,588l. 16s. 10d. Arrearage of this account, 36l. 9s. 8d.

Interesting that the “wages of war” sometimes just meant the payment for folk and stuff to wage war with. Also, there is wheat specifically for brewing mentioned. I have not idea what “guaves of malt” are. I could not find that term listed as a unit of measurement. Seems connected to the reselling of the malt – meaning there is private brewing going on at Calais. Note also the shipment of empty beer barrels which would have, I assume, been of a specific size and perhaps durability.

On 29 May 1514, there is another reference indicating the brewing at Calais was being established at a certain scale:

Indenture witnessing delivery at Calais, 29 May 6 Hen. VIII., by John Ward to Wm. Pheleypson and Th. Granger, of 20 “myln” horses for the beer houses and 80 cart horses for the victualling of the King’s army royal.

Are “myln” horses used in the milling process?

On 12 August 1514, we have more accounting for the shipment of empty beer barrels as well as a lovely note for another necessary for beer – hops:

Giving amounts, persons by whom delivered, &c., of flour, malt, bacon, hops, bay salt, empty beer barrels and cart and mill horses. Signed: per me Thomam Byrkes.

Attentive readers, all two of you, will recall that three years ago we looked at a early modern word search tool and saw how “hops” or “hoppes” came into far more common use on a very particular date roughly around 1518.  So this use of hops not only and early one in English culture but also, given this is state enterprise in the form of the industrial military complex, it is very timely… very early in the timely if you ask me. Also, goes some way to dispel the idea that Henry was against hops – he just didn’t want them in his ale.

In the miscellaneous records related to 1514, we see a few records that seem to be reconciling expenses related to the French war now that things had settled down. In particular we see records related to one  John Dawtrey, only described as “a captain of the army” which must have been a more important rank than we would understand today:

Money advanced by John Dawtrey.—Payments for “land wages of the King’s army by sea”; for the army mustered before the commissioners at Portsmouth, to serve in campaign of 6 Hen. VIII.; “for wages of the army upon sea, the 6th year”; for provisions, ordinance, masts and other necessaries; for taking up a great chain; for wages of “captains, petty captains and soldiers called Swcheners when they were in the Isle of Wight,” for 5 months from 30 Dec. 4 Hen. VIII.; for fitting out The Soveraigne; for the carrack called The Gabriell Royall; for beer and bake-houses at Portsmouth; for making two gates (?) at the castles, and repairing the ditches there; and for repairing the ships.

These expenses appear to be broken out or added to in “a letter from my Lord of York to John Dawtrey.” Total: 2,100£. Or $2,369,137.42 USD today.

“Petition for sundry payments for which the accomptant has no warrant”; viz., payments for biscuits and western fish “in a great storm lost”; to Nich. Cowart, for loss in sale of wheat after the wars, and for his wages as “supervisour and having the charge of the byscuett,” and purveyor of wheat, from 24 Jan. 4 Hen. VIII. to 7 Nov. 6 Hen. VIII.; for wages of John Dawtrey and his two clerks, from 16 April 3 Hen. VIII. to 12 Sept. 6 Hen. VIII.; for carriage of money remaining in the hands of John Dawtrey from Hampton to London, &c.; for biscuits in the hands of Nich. Cowert and John Dawtrey; to Hen. Tylman of Chichester, brewer, for beer; to Rich. Gowffe of Chichester, baker, for biscuits; to _ Serle of Brighthempston, for barrels; for remainder “of wood vessels, carts, leighter and divers other necessaries,” in the charge of Rich. Palshed, at Portsmouth. “Money paid and advanced by Richard Palshed”:—for wages of brewers, millers, beer-clerks, mill-makers, coopers, surveyors, master-brewers, horse-keepers and smiths, attending upon the King’s brewhouses at Portsmouth, 5 and 6 Hen. VIII., and of certain brewers and mariners from 22 Aug. 6 Hen. VIII. to 31 March following; for expences in carriage of beer, for rent of houses, for building a great store-house at Portsmouth, for repairing the King’s garners and beer-houses at Portsmouth, for loss in sale, “after the war was done, of mill and dray-horses, wheat, malt, oats and hops; for wheat, malt, hops and beer lost and damaged at sea, and for wages of the said Rich. Palshed and his two clerks.”

Turns out Dawtrey was the Overseer of the Port of Southampton and Collector of the King’s Customs so sending him all the bills makes sense. He appears to be in charge of building and operating Henry’s four great brew houses as well as Lord Howard’s beer barrel storehouses at Portsmouth as well as paying for beer brewed by others like Henry Tylman of Chichester as well as Richard Palshed who we saw referenced as “Palshid” and “Palshide” in that brew house post. Palshed must have been the general manager brewing operations as well as likely a Member of Parliament.

Two decades on, the brewing operations at Calais are still going… sort of. In the Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic of the Reign of Henry VIII: Preserved in the Public Record Office, the British Museum and Elsewhere in England, Volume 9 we find the following from 27 December 1535:

Petition of Jas. Wadyngborne, of Calais, to Cromwell, chief secretary. His brewhouse at the Cawsey in the marches of Calais was destroyed in the last wars, and he then bought a house in the town standing over against the King’s Exchequer. At the King’s last being at Calais, he bought this house and others “in the said quadrant,” to the petitioner’s great loss. Bought a new house in the Middleway near the town for more than 200l., and daily brews for the town, paying excise and other charges as if he were within. ill be compelled to cease brewing in consequence of a late Act concerning the woods in the Marches, unless Cromwell obtain for him the King’s license to brew as heretofore.

There you go. Lots to chomp on. Life truly is a gas between the wars.

*See, for example, Darien.

My Local Pub Is Six Miles Away But My Local Brewery Is Closer

Twelve years ago… seriously…

Ah, the pub lunch. It’s Feb Fest,  our municipal winter carnival so we got out of the house and downtown for a pub lunch – well, after watching a bunch of seven year olds playing hockey on the outdoor rink behind City Hall. Surprisingly good game. Yellow against red. A butterfly save was made. Back checking even. The lad we know scored a goal for team red. Knuckle punches given. Goodbyes shared after dinner plans made.

We marched over at the Kingston Brew Pub right after the final whistle. The oldest continuing brew pub in Ontario, they have a newish menu focused around their own smoker out back  – and are carrying about twenty Ontario made good beers in addition to their own. Kale and bacon soup. Veggie tacos. Big burgers. Good to see the owners of another great good beer bar in town having their family lunch in the next booth over. Yellow teamers. I still said hello. We got a front window booth, one of the best spots to sit and have a beer anywhere.

I had a Junction Hey Porter! as well as Nickelbrook’s Headstock, two beers that ask you to explain the point of beer hunting into the States. The exchange rate is enough of an argument now for most but Ontario has done much to stop the grumbling. I think I need to admit that the KBP is my pub. This is at least my 25th year of going there even if we’ve only lived here for fourteen years. We watched Canada lose to the USA in the final of the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. My children have grown up eating there. I am not sure what that means to me but it means something.

I do know a pub man in town, a cheery snappy grumbly Welshman prof now in his eighties, who may now not be so able to get around. He’d have at least double my time in the local pubs. I saw him last in the KBP, holding court. Great guy. He must have seen and amazing shift in the scene given he was here for two decades before the brew pub opened. But the recent news is pretty amazing and now coming at a rapid pace. Just three years ago the nearest breweries were an hour’s car drive away – at least. By the end of this year, we may have eight in town or within a half hour’s drive. And they are good. I have an excellent brewer from western Lake Ontario asking me to introduce him to the guys I know at Stone City. I get a bit frustrated that I can’t get any of the excellent black lager or Belgian pale ale made by Napanee Beer Co. because its all of a 22 km hike away. They opened last spring. I am consoling myself with Kings Town Brewing GPA at the moment. They’ve only open for about six weeks.

I am not sure what that all means to me either but I have planned in better weather how on a Friday I can take the 701 bus from downtown, hit KTB for a growler, then plant myself at a favourite sports bar and wait for a drive home. That’s good. And new.

Session 118: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

sessionlogosmThis month’s edition of The Session sees host Stan Hieronymus of asking everyone to write about their doomed dream dinner plans:

If you could invite four people dead or alive to a beer dinner who would they be? What four beers would you serve?

Elephant in the room: I have been to one beer dinner and never ever plan to ever go to one again. I wouldn’t do that to any guest. So, let’s swap that out and think about four folk I would invite to a pub, to sit around and drink and snack with. No pairings. Not in my doomed dream dinner.

Other than that, this is a great topic for where I am in my life as a beer blogger. I have migrated 565 posts from the old platform to this new one and in doing so have revived some old friendships by revisiting some posts long forgotten. Based on that, my first guest to the pub is Pete Brown. Pete won the big prizes and a few others at last evening’s British Guild of Beer Writers Awards. Like may of the other beer writers I have met over the internets, Pete and I never have been in same the physical space even though he did participate in a ship to shore Morse code discussion with me back in 2007 as well as an interview with Knut and me back in 2006 upon the release of his second book. The beer I would serve Pete would be Double Double, the lost style that lasted from about 1520 to 1820. Its Elizabethan roots would, I hope, inspire him as a topic for his next book.

Next, I would build upon the Elizabethan theme by asking Martyn Frobisher to join us to explain what it was like to put in an order for 80.5 tons of beer as part of his preparations for his 1577 iron ore mining expedition to the high Arctic of what is now Canada. One of the more fascinating topics I have been able to research has been the unexpected presence of beer and brewing in Canada’s eastern Arctic well before the creation of the nation, during the great and grand first wave of northern exploration. I would serve him a gallon of whatever it was he requisitioned and let him explain it to the table. In the 1660s we have seen beer brewed in the Arctic and in the 1670s at least two sorts of beer being brought along  for the trip.

Two more? I would invite Sarah (alias Jenny) who was in the 1730s a runaway slave, the legal property of the brewer Hendrick Rutgers. And I would also invite the unnamed twenty year old woman from Barbados whose own brewing skills were included in the 1760 notice offering her for sale.  The notice said Sarah ran south with a white man while her Barbadian dinner mate was turned down at market, her advertisement running again a few month later. When I wrote about them I thought it was the saddest corner of the story of brewing I had ever encountered. I’d serve them whatever they wanted as they came to the table but I would be very interested in knowing what beer meant to them.

I am going to cheat… twice. I am adding another guest and one who was never ever dead or alive. I can’t think of anyone who might bridge the odd set of table mates than Piers the Ploughman, the hero/everyman of the 1370s morality epic. As we are told, Piers would get his halfpenny ale as he would think fit. He would hammer at Frobisher, himself a knight, on the order good government demanded. He would in turn comfort the enslaved and then round upon Brown, lecturing him on the rumours of everything from junketry to Putinesque vote rigging, saying with the wagging finger:

Then would Waster not work · but wandered about,
Nor no beggar eat bread · that had beans therein
But asked for the best · white, made of clean wheat;
Nor none halfpenny ale · in no wise would drink,
But of the best and the brownest · for sale in the borough.

Then, once the moral order was established, I would have them served the best and the brownest ale of the borough – especially for the ladies. They’ve earned it.

Maine: Interlude 2007, Allagash, Portland

Twenty-four bucks? What was I doing last decade? I have only a few of these aged big bottles left. I gave up a long time ago on trying to keep the cellar up. One of the few beers left from the days of glory, the era of beer blog ad revenue. I was throwing around the cash like a madman. Pretending that I mattered like some current era communicator. Stan actually mocked me about this beer in particular. But that was back in the day when folk weren’t questioning the fleece. Or at least when 2000 brewers weren’t making something good and sour for half the price. You know, the 75 comments under that post from some pretty interesting names are all… pretty interesting – but it’s as if they thought we would all be drinking $60 beers by now. Really? How did that turn out? Market forces thought otherwise. Bulk fine craft FTW!

It’s 40º C out there. Seven week drought might end tomorrow. Worst summer for rain since 1888. Nutty. I just need a reasonably interesting beer. I just need it not to suck. I pulled it out of the cellar, stuck it in the fridge by the orange juice and the milk bags. [Canada. Go figure.] Hey… it doesn’t. It’s good. Still and a bit thick but in no sense off. Fresh with a lighter lingering finish than expected. The colour of aged varnished pine. An orange hue at the edge. On the nose, warm whisky sweet with autumn fruit, brown sugar and grain as well as a fresh Worchestershired yogurty hum. Pear and fig. The baked fruit crisp you dream of. The second half pint pour generates a lovely subdued tang when rinsed about the gums. Like 90% barley wine with maybe 10% old gueuze. Or less. Just a hint. And all those whispers of rich deep malty grain huskiness still there. Lovely.

Am I glad I spent $24 for this nine years ago? I’m sure I don’t care. Do you know how much I have spent on diapers and winter tires since then? It makes me want. And I just want a thick bacon sandwich. I have asked a child younger than this beer to bring me a chunk of the slab of Vermont cheddar we are working on. Fabulous. Rewarding. The espresso of a grain field. Big BAer love and deservedly so.

Is The Data Overload Becoming An Issue?

It was a bit of a revelation. Well, a joke and a revelation. I have a brother who is a bookman who sends rare finds for birthdays and holidays. This year for my 52nd I got this book on cheese. Published in 1960, it is a simple thing. More like a long magazine article than a full book. The author describes one trip taken in a car traveling from farmhouse cheese maker to farmhouse cheese maker. Cheeses are gathered in the back seat and the trunk… sorry, boot… and the taken back to London where they are eaten at dinners and parties with guests like Dame Margot Fonteyn and Stirling Moss. It’s all very light and comforting. It’s not all that unlike Everyday Drinking – The Distilled Kingsley Amis which I reviewed six years ago now. Yes, a voice from another era and one imbued with class and cultural distinctions which don’t matter anymore. Yet it is filled with discovery:

Mrs. Roberts DOES still make Caerphilly but not in her cool dairy, which I had foolishly asked to see. That is only used for storing milk and cream! Her cheeses are made in the kitchen, with vats and presses a hundred years old, and they mature in the bedroom. As these ancient, heavy wooden vats are irreplaceable, she may soon have to give up her cheesemaking.

OK, like Amis perhaps without the ever present danger of arrest for driving whilst intoxicated. Perhaps. There are still bottles consumed as she goes about. But there is nothing snobbish about any of it. In the second paragraph, snobbery is the word used for the one who sniffs contemptuously at the mere mention of the cheeses of ones own country. It’s an essay about the pursuit of the real in a world where imports and processes have become the norm. Sound familiar?

This is a voice like the one in my head when I became interested in beer. Not a voice I hear very much of anymore, sadly. Between the quantity chasing tickers and the off-flavour seminarians and the worshipers of the next ever so slightly different hop strain, there seems to be little being left to individual discovery. Too much expertise in the beer to be assimilated from above. Not enough simple pleasure in the experience of it. The current bleat about poor quality in new craft is just the latest twist. The hand of industrial process now reaches down as one’s betters warn that if you eat that cheese matured in the bedroom you might encounter something unexpected, unplanned.

This is not to suggest all was better. The second half of the book is filled with recipes which range from the traditional – like that very attractive cheddar biscuit – to the weirdly experimental. I will not, for example, take up the recommendation to wrap eight bananas in ham and bake them in a sauce made with a whacking pile of grated Lancashire cheese. But there is a joyfulness about it all which big craft seems to be drumming out of me, drumming out of good beer. I don’t care. The errors and trials and surprises of all these new actual small brewers are too interesting to care about their elders and betters, the self-appointed senex with the standard operating procedures, marketing staff and strategic plans for the annual trade show.

Ontario: Windward Belgian Wheat, Stone City, Kingston

stone1The last year has been the scene of many a revelation when it comes to my relationship with beer. Among other things, out of nowhere two fabulous breweries opened up in my immediate vicinity after years of claiming my town was the least served by fresh beer for its size in the northeastern bit of North America. One is MacKinnon Brothers which I have discussed before. The other is Stone City Ales who have a great social media presence and a website with great generational honesty. One feels a certain pain knowing one has kept a beer blog for over a decade appreciating that it’s like knowing how to properly maintain an 8-track player.

The great thing about having local beer choices finally after a quarter of a middle-aged life waiting is now normal it is. I did my Saturday morning shopping run and hit Stone not long after the 11 am opening. I picked up a ridiculously under-priced Rochefort 8 at the LCBO to soak a flank steak from Pig and Olive in. Hit Bread and Butter bakery as well as the Quebec-based Metro grocery, too, with all its ever so slightly exotic tendencies and, then, home and unloading the making of a good feed. What has changed is that the good local beer fits in now as just a stop on the way. Nothing precious, special or even – frankly – craft. Just as good as all the other excellent stuff you can buy in my very foodie town.

I bought a growler of Stone’s Windward Belgian Wheat. Eleven bucks after growler returns. It’s a 4.9% cloudy thing. See that picture? Cloudy. I am working on my cinéma vérité approach to representing beer in my art. The beer gives off very evocative aromas. Is it just me or do some wheat beers smell like babies straight from the bath? Maybe its just me. I diapered for 14 years. Anyway, the scents are twiggy herbal – mace, rosemary and lavender – with cream of wheat and meadow in mid-spring. Maybe even oolong tea with its earthiness. In the mouth, there is a grassy acidic bite then a wall of dry French bread crust with more of all that rich tangy complex herbal construct. The effect is drying rather than astringent. Extremely appetizing. I would love to soak pork shoulders in this for the best part of the day and slow smoke it for another, too.

Early signs of BAer respect. Every beer from here is a favourite. As I found in last December‘s taste test at Bar Hop in Toronto, Stone’s beers stand up to the best. This one is just another chapter in the same story. Lucky me.