Merry Christmas Beer News Updates Everyone!

This is going to be great. A weekly news update laced with the holiday spirit. Everything is going to be wonderful and swell. The one and only problem seems to be that I seem to have some sort of new sys admin tool on the bloggy app of mine so bear with me if this all ends up looking like a dog’s dinner* or… thinking of this season of Yule… the day after Christmas dinner with distant cousins!  Footnotes and embedded images seems to be a hassle. Fabulous.**

Anyway, the first gift I offer is the photo of the week above, found on Twitter under the heading “Matchbox Covers Depicting Drunk Cats by Artists Arna Miller and Ravi Zupa.” Cats have always struck me as a struggling species. You can find more images of beer loving hardly coping cats with serious drinking issues by Miller and Zupe here.

Next up, the new government of Ontario has its own gift for us all – a plan to distract us all from the important business of the day to ask us how liquor retailing should be changed! Wow!! The survey even comes with a dumb name, “Alcohol choice and convenience for the people”… which has everyone wondering when the same survey is going to be rolled out for, you know, squirrels and chipmunks.  Or drunken barely coping cats. Fill it out if you like. Even you! Apparently  they are interested in views from beyond Ontario, given that is one of the possible responses. Thanks for skewing the responses to my detriment.

I like this video of Garrett Oliver plunked on YouTube by Epicurious magazine. He demonstrates a wonderful ease with explaining beer. It is unfortunately presented in a way that suggests it’s macro v. micro. I’d prefer some crap craft bashing. He also talks about relative value – but presents some some odd arguments. No, a craft IPA does not cost $4 rather than $1 because of the hops. And a good German malty beer is not double the price of a poor one due to the cost of the malt. There is much more to price and, yes,  not all as easy to explain – but his general argument that good costs more is there and welcomingly well presented. 

Jeff has unpacked how Beervana pays its way:

A little less than two years ago, I began running an experiment here when I took on Guinness as a sponsor. In July, we signed a contract for a third year of sponsorship, which will run through June 2019. This is a slightly different model than the subscriptions Josh describes, but the upshot is the same: the idea was to find a partner who saw value in the site and wanted to reach my very specific, engaged readers.

This is good. Open and honest. And we few remaining actual bloggers need to support each other, knowing how hard it is to make a buck writing one of these things… or just finding the time or accessing the resources you want for the research you want to do. Not unrelated: self-inflicted expertise extrapolation? Heavens to Betsy! Let the man think out loud.

Speaking of supporting our fellow bloggers, Robin ran into Canada’s newest jam blogger in the market the other day. He’s very keen on new content creation

The British Guild of Beer Writers has published a list of the best beer books of 2018. The trouble is it seems to be a list of all the beer books published by guild members from 2018. There’s twenty-six books listed, some of which were published years ago – even under other titles. Decisive selection. The best book of the year is not included. 

Conversely, Max in a single not necessarily beautiful image posted on Facebook has told a thousand words… and then added a few words: “…’twas good. ’twas very good, and the second one too. Pivovar Clock Hector at Pivni Zastavka…” The only thing that defies scientific knowledge is how the glass shows multiple lacy rings, each matching a gulp while we all expect that he downed it in one go.

It is an important observation on how useless the US Brewers Association’s definition of “craft brewer” has gotten that it acts as filler for the weekly update only after I have hit 750 words. Jeff notes how it is now entirely related to accommodating one non-craft brewer. Wag that I am, I retorted *** that it no longer requires a brewer to actually brew very much beer.  There. That’s all it means. 

Related: an honest man in Trumps new America or the root of the problem?

This week, Merryn (i) learned not to want to be a medieval farmer and (ii) linked to a 2013 web-based data presentation about Viking brew houses which I am linking to here for future Newfoundland reference but it’s totally today…  so there you go.

Finally, how about some law? This speaks nothing to the people or the business involved but I have no idea how I might determining whether to consider sending string-free cash to a cause like this one:

We know that the decision to invest your hard-earned money is not to be taken lightly, no matter how big or small your contribution may be. We would gratefully use the funds to assist with legal fees, as we continue to protect ourselves, our name, our businesses, and our team. We are looking for and in need of building a legal fund that will provide for our past, present and future legal demands, as a rapidly growing grassroots craft beer franchise system. 

The legal issue appears to be mainly legal dispute with their franchiees. I have no idea who is right and who is wrong. Craft makes it extra blurry. Having advised upon franchise agreements in my past private practice, I would not want to suggest where the right sits. Often in the middle.

Relatedly perhaps, Lew asked about unionization and proper wages for craft brewery workers and got an ear full on Facebook.

Well, on that cheery legal note, I will leave you for now with Jay Brooks description of how “T’was The Night Before Christmas” is really about beer. And, please dip into the archives to remind yourselves of Christmas Photo Contests past. Ah, beer blogging. Remember how fun that was? Until then, Boak and Bailey have more news on Saturday and, the Great Old Elf himself, Stan has more news on Christmas Eve. Ho. Ho. Ho. 

*where is the basic HMTL editor I knew and loved? I can’t even indent this footnote or make the asterisk a larger font than the text. What sort of animals are running WordPress??? Hmm…
**There. Killed if all by installing a “classic editor” widget.
***Yes, retorted.

The First Week Of December Finds Every Child’s Mind Drifting To Beery News Notes

This week’s big news saw me and mine on the road. I was up in the nation’s capital over Saturday and Sunday and took part in my kind of beer tourism. By that I mean actually doing normal things while noting beer around me and having one when the more important things in life were not imposed upon. We took in an hour at the National Gallery of Canada and spent time in the Canadian exhibits, where I came across this painting, Manitoba Party, from 1964. Cheery and folk artsy, right away I noticed the kegs and beer distribution smack dab in the middle. More detail below.

 

 

 

 

Speaking of Canada, Frank Zappa once said that you can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. Canada obsesses about such things, often when there is little in the news other than, you know, affirmations. Mr. B has picked up the theme:

I’ve no idea what Canada’s national beer style might ultimately be, whether it will be hop-focused or yeast-based or feature some ingredient that it true to the Canadian spirit. 

Not sure that is a big worry of mine. Zappa went on to that that it also “helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.” We have our own form of football. And, really, the good neighbour has enough of those bombs. Art, however. That works for me.

Looking back on the rest of my week, I find I have to take something back* from last week’s news notes. I wrote that we would have to spend a “happy early December without an edition of #TheSession” but Stan is giving us one last kick at the can with the topic “One More For The Road” in which we are asked to:

Pick a beer for the end of a life, an end of a meal, an end of a day, an end of a relationship. So happy or sad, or something between. Write about the beer. Write about the aroma, the flavor, and write about what you feel when it is gone.

Not particularly Yule-drenched but there will be a few weeks afterwards to get oneself back in the spirit. With any luck, the responses will give J. Wilson some cheer, given his tweet this week which is about as broadly grim as one might get:

Sometimes I worry about the future of beer since so many beer lovers today don’t even like the taste of beer.

Me, I am more hopeful than that – especially given how beer and brewing has survived any number of false gods and dead ends over the centuries.  December is actually an excellent time to get back in touch with the classics and leave the NEIPAs and other alcopops to the amateur drinkers. Alistair of Fuggled fame has offered us one route to set things back in their proper order:

…it seems that Craft Beer™ Advent Calendars have been all the rage in recent years and I thought I’d jump on the old bandwagon. Only one minor issue, I have an aversion to having stuff curated for me, I much prefer to survey what’s available and make my own decisions, yes I can be something of a contrarian, I know. The plan as it currently stands is to buy 24 bottles of seasonal beers, drink one each day of Advent, and then write a blog post about it…

Wonderful. A blog plan. Nate has also offered us a route forward for his beer blogging for 2019 and beyond:

…I gave up on the Beats element about music years ago as I stopped listening to so much music, and frankly, my music reviews weren’t very good at all. So, I needed to replace Beats with something and given my love for professional wrestling, why not change it to Beatdowns and write about wrestling since I watch so much of it? So, from now on, this blog will be known as Booze, Beatdowns and Bites.

There was a university radio show near me that I liked a decade ago named something like “Hardcore Grooves and Wrestlin’ Moves” so this should work for me.

Here’s an interesting twist on the recreation of one historic brand of beer – the rights to brew Syracuse NY’s Congress beer were acquired by the local historical society!

In more real news, BarMas that objectified human point of fascination of mine – for his superhuman chore doing and vernacular booze production skills – has posted about his new orchard:

Originally, the ends of every row had cherry trees, which our current plot is missing, so we will gain, I think, 5 very large cherry trees. Inside the cherry trees, each row then had a few pear trees, and this is repeated a thee ends of the rows we are purchasing. Mostly they seem to be conference, mirroring the ends of the current rows, but there are a few other varieties, like Bürgermeisterbirne/Köstliche aus Charneux, and I hope some perry pear trees and more Williams Christ.

Wow.  Riddled. Jealousy.

The serious news in the business of beer as it affects Canada and beyond has been reported upon by my pal Josh Rubin in the Toronto Star:

DME, a P.E.I.-based equipment manufacturer with facilities in B.C. and South Carolina, was in receivership, with more than $18 million owed to RBC and an unspecified amount to other creditors, including the company’s own 250 employees. The company’s directors have all resigned, and a B.C.-based receiver has been appointed to explore either a liquidation or sale of the company, with offers due by Jan. 7.

Big news. And a bit strange news. First, though, gotta tell you. I know folk involved, the lawyer bringing the receivership and even the judge granting it,** and have no doubt as to the realities but the effect is going to be widespread. Josh*** got Jason Fisher**** on the record to explore what losing a $800,000 deposit means to him and his brewery. What gets me is that the required cash injection was allegedly only $5,000,000 which seems like a paltry sum in the face of 250 jobs – that’s just $20,000 a job  – and especially given the work they were getting including being a supplier to the new Guinness brewery in Baltimore. Where is the ACOA money? Where was Wade… who I also know… former law school prof. Also, before you buy brewing equipment, here is some reasonable advice on securing your deposit.

There. By next week will be another one gone and one closer to Yule. I am more of a Dec 15th to Jan 10th sorta holiday season person. Other versions exist. Many are US Thanksgiving to Dec 25th holiday-ers, immediately stripping the house of tree and tinsel thereafter and, presumably, getting a bit drunk on New Years Eve then staring out the window waiting for spring.  Not me. I want to realize that the sun has made at least three weeks worth of its way back to equinox before I come around to reality.  Then, I want be out in the winter woodland to hear the chickadees calling out for mates and, well, we all know about chickadees, right?

I am sure there still will be beer news throughout. Just like Boak and Bailey know and report out on each Saturday.  Feel nostalgic? Go check out some Xmas contest entries from Yuletides past. Link to the right…

No, not what caused this weird blurt… which looked like a 1.3 violation with perhaps a 1.2 twist.
** I practiced law in PEI from 1998 to 2003. Respectively (i) co-associate pal and (ii) respected partner of another firm and colleague of my counterpart respectively.
*** Who I know in the fellow beer writer sense.
*** Who I don’t know but think I had a brief flame war with once.

Ontario: Patricia, Stone City Ales, Kingston

A beer with subtitles: autumn saison, brewed with sweet potato and squash. I bought two bottles of this a few Fridays ago from the retail counter at Stone City, a short march up the hill from work. The first bottle gave me a bit of pause. This was an example of something. An excellent beer thoughtfully made that I liked but, still, one that I was not sure about.

And my uncertainty was fuelled by my own uncertainty as to why I am uncertain. So I am glad I bought two. This is a fabulous beer. The base saison is white peppered and dry. The gourd and rhizome quite restrained. On this warm Sunday afternoon in the middle of this strangely warm autumn, it tastes like the rich earthy air flowing in through the wide open windows. It is a clever timely release with adjuncts which are right up my alley. I grow squash and we even have use the nickname Swee Apado around the house, given we eat so much of it. So what is wrong?

Clouded vintage gold ale under a lacing fine white head. On the nose, it is classic saison in the Dupont style. Not the DuPont one, if you know what I mean. Backing it up is the dirt-tang of sweet potato. In the mouth, immediately dry and twiggy herbal with an very pronounced opening of flavours in the swallow followed by a long long hot herbal finish that resolves into the squash. The vegetable elements hide, show, hide then show.

I worry that my problem is this beer is cleverer than I am. Rustic and elegant. I can personally only claim the first. In my mind, I am searching for a place to put the beer. Pigeon hole it. I want to have it with spurting hot venison sausages. In a coconut curry. Or pork shoulder roasted on a bed of parsnips. I want a balancing fattiness. But is that fair to the beer in itself? Yeats spoke about loving something, someone for herself alone.  I have never claimed to be all that nuanced in my tastes but this may well be suggesting, strongly, that I revisit my limitations. I don’t like to not get the point of something this good.

So… I consulted Keats and his poem Ode to Autumn. The subtitle asked me to, no? And this explains everything. This is not the autumn of mists and mellow fruitfulness in the glass. That’s the autumn of back to school. A month ago. This beer speaks to a later point – the brittle leaf pile, warm welcome corduroys. Early sunsets and chilly walks back up Cobourg Road to get to college, to happy hour. Soccer practice with freezing knees. Remembrance Day and singing “Abide with Me” down at the Grand Parade.

We are not there yet. Here the leaves are still on the tree and I am picking cherry tomatoes off the vine a month after the equinox. I mowed today. Soon it will be six months to May. Four to March. This will be a short winter if autumn still is a ways off yet.

 

Wisconsin: Wisconsin Belgian Red, New Glarus Brewing, New Glarus

Is that not the most repetitive title to a post yet? I wonder if New Glarus is in New Glarus County…or maybe Wisconsin county. Anyway, this is simply an incredible beer. Stan and Daria brought it to us when they visited this summer. Once upon a time, I had a small old farmhouse and it was near a small cottage owned by another branch of the family. We had pin cherries, black cherries and choke (or is it choak?) cherries as well as juneberries and other bush fruit we planted over the years. Small bush fruit in the cherry family is the best – all relating to but not being defined by that toothpaste, cough drop or pie filling flavour that gets associated with the word “cherry” these days. This beer reminds me of the complexity of those natural flavours.

The beer is pie in a glass. Insanely fresh tart cherry backed by a cream of wheat richness. It pours cloudy reddish amber, like lightly oxidized fruit. Snow white froth and foam on top. Bright and cheery from the effervescent carbonation. Meaty fruit in the mouth with tangy acidity and that aroma which evokes the whole of the plant, the twigginess, the almondy scent you get when you peel new bark. It’s almost ammonia sharp but not. Is that brett? It is like with Orval, that dry lavender aspect. Is this a creation of hopping that moves the cherry from meaty and sweet to something more like scent of an orchard? Dandy. Not quite sour but in the neighbourhood. Makes me want to plan a trip to the other end of the Great Lakes.

I threw a couple of these ounces into twice as much a Burton Bridge porter just to see. Good but something of a waste. BAers love it. Is this the best fruit beer ever?

Sour Beer Studies: Kriek 100% Lambic, Cantillon, Brussels

I shared with one to the shock and dismay of my guests two years ago but I’ve grown up so much since then I thought I would revisit it to see what I thought. Back then I use the word poo which seemed to tick off a crank. Apparently some who write “barnyard” have never been in a barnyard. Let’s see how this goes today when it’s just me and the glass and a sticker on top saying I spent nine bucks for the 375 ml of the 2006 bottling.

Pop. There it is. Gravenstein apple and beef cattle holding structure. You will have to excuse me as I grew up in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia and actually recognize the scents. Yet they are not repulsive. Not at all. Rather they are evocative this time. It looks lovely – pouring a clear deep blush – the colour of rosé wine, with a fleeting white foam that disappears after a few seconds. In the mouth there is less harshness than I recall even with the strident acidity. I must be weakening.

In the first sip, there is that green apple acid, a general fruit berry thing that I can associate with cherry if I think about the idea of a mouthful of under ripe pin cherries grown on the unrelenting North Atlantic brushland. There is also a little cheesy, yogurty rich funky tang that needles at you a bit but is overshadowed by the snap of the sour. More than anything it reminds me of the austere dryness of the wine I made with my own vines and my own hands back in 2003. As I get into it, though, I get the sweet fresh cherry layer. It opens up ever so grudgingly. My teeth feel slightly stripped of enamel but with a fruit note in the mix of dissolving calcium.

What can I say? If it were not for the specific acidity that mimics one under ripe variety of Maritime Canadian apple that happened to grow where I grew, I would not know what to make of this stuff. A theory of fruit preservation put in stark action? BAers still approve but I am still disappointed with my understanding of why I need that much acid in my body.

Session 6: One Fruit Beer – Kriek De Ranke, Wevelgem, BE

Greg had the power for today’s version of The Session for August and he picked fruit beer as the topic. To be utterly fair, if you are going to pick this topic, it has to be in August when all the world is plump with the results of all that “tra-la it’s May” of a few months ago.

It’s not like I am a stranger to the subject. I’ve posted a bunch of posts about fruit beer, whether sweet lambics, syruped experimentals from the Ottawa Valley, ranges from the Low Countries to ranges largely from North America. I know I was fascinated by the date dubbel from De Regenboog, I liked Floris Honey on a hot day, I am not entirely sure about Fruli but I hated Belhaven’s foul take. All in all, I think the Historic Ales of Scotland were the most interesting – including the seaweed one. And then there are my sour beer studies, trying to sort out some of the most severe confections there are.

But do I like fruit beer? I have no idea. So I am going to follow the posts today like the one from the great guys at Lost Abbey to pick up any threads or themes I see going and pop some sort of fruit beer later today.

Update From Amongst The Laundry: Heading out on holiday for a few days when you have kids starts and ends with laundry so we are a bit pinched for time here at beer blog HQ but we will suffer through with this evening with the help of a 750 ml of Kriek De Ranke, a traditional cherry lambic – qualifying this post for another entry in the sour beer studies as well as my entry for The Session. I picked this one up at Tully’s in Wells, Maine for 17 bucks, best before July 2006. The beer pours a light pink candy floor fine head over cloudy red cherry ale, the head resolving to thin foam. In the nose, more fruit than tart giving me hope that there is going to be some civility in the severity. The Beer Advocate gives this background on the beer:

De Ranke Kriek emulates the famed Oud Kriekenbier from the defunct Crombé brewery in Zottegem. De Ranke Kriek is a mixture of two blended soured pale ales and Girardin lambic, all steeped in whole fresh cherries from Poland and then aged for six months.

Did I mention I love Polish cherries, having worked there for four months? They are put to good use here. In the mouth, there is dry tart acid but also a good measure of true sludgy cherry fruitiness as well that works with some cream of wheatiness. On the swirl, a light cream aspect is added from the yeast, bracing up the body as well. This is quite a genial lambic or, according to the wrapper, “Belgian sour ale fermented with cherries with lambic added”, as there is plenty of the complexity – some of which is pleasant. Three others in the house for dinner tried it, did not screw up their faces yet declined another taste. That is pretty good for this style. Interestingly the paper wrapper says this brewery is a weekend working hobby for the brewery, something you might guess from their website. All 78 BAers love it.

Finally, I have a foothold in the world of dry lambics.

Assorted Low Country Fruit Beers

fourbelgians

What better way to see in Canada Day weekend than sampling Belgian and northern French fruit beers. There is no rhyme or reason to the selection other than they are from within a couple of hundred kilometres of each other. Should this breaks rules it is because no one sent me the pamphlet with the rules.

Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic: On the nose there is fresh cow poo or another barnyard note, vinegar and unsweetened under-ripe gravenstein apple. Cloudy naturalized cloudy pink with white rim and foam. Stomach souringly strong acid, cheesey tang, dry pin cherry in the mouth. Vineous if your wine has gone off. Hard to say likeable but one is told this is a classic. MADD could use this as their centerpiece of a temperance campaign if they could get it to the teens soon enough. 97% of BAers say very nice things. Nicer things. Here is the brewery’s website and what it says about this beer.

La Choulette Framboise: beer the colour of wild strawberry jam, blush and straw, with white foam and rim. A note of the La Choulette’s tell tale potato peel under true if dry raspberry from the vine…if they grew on vines. Some sub-astringent drying hop and warming as would be expected at 7%. Less sour than the kriek above but still there, on the dry side. BAers who love dry fruit beer are all over this one. Here, too, is the brewery’s website.

Darbyste: From Brasserie de Blaugies. Cloudy caramel ale under white foam. Quite a tangy fig aroma. Still dry but not nearly so dry as the desiccating fluids above. Acidic, juicy, lightly astingent, green fruit and round richness. But dry though without vineousness. Some light butter biscuitiness. 5.8%. Not offensive, not a wowser. BAers say this. Here, again, is the brewery’s home page.

Lindeman Pomme Lambic: compared to the above, this is fluid Altoid. Green apple sweet and that is about it. Rich and quite accurate apple and not at all unpleasant but that is about it. BAers frown with 14% saying no. After the above three, however, it is something of a welcome break from all that austerity. Here is something approximating the brewery’s website.

More as I pour if the guests stick around as I open more of these sour things.…OK, so I am not the guy to tell you why you should try some of these stark traditional ales. But man these are dry and acidic. I need a Rolaid and I am sure glad I picked up some saisons to try so I can get my love back for the brewers of this region.