The Problematic Third… No, FOURTH (!) Week Of The Intern’s Beery Links

Week three.* I understand this is when a beer blog intern really lets the side down. I mean there is gardening to do, day dreaming about ice cream making demands and quality napping time to be enjoyed. Me, I weeded the leeks and harvested the garlic just yesterday. I’ve no time to write my own stuff. I clearly need a need a break. Fortunately, others have been doing a particularly swell job keeping an eye on the ball so there has been lots to think about this week.

What Is Bad Aurosa and What Isn’t

First, my co-author-in-law Robin LeBlanc wrote an excellent piece on a beer which neither of us are likely to ever see on a shelf let alone buy. Aurosa, a Czech brand aimed at… women. All of them apparently. All at once. But that, as you know, makes no sense. Robin deals with this handily:

…the type of women they have in mind are a very specific subset. Usually white, thin, rich, and the type that identify deeply with Kendall Jenner’s instagram account. There is nothing wrong with this type of woman, but if you’re going to market to all women you have to acknowledge that we’re not all one type and that is why women don’t need a brand of beer specifically for them.

This has wider implications beyond this mockery attracting form of thick-headed sexism… which, BTW, can in turn attract casual hate.  The fact is beer is not manly and also not not manly. It isn’t noble or ignoble.  It’s a fluid that gives you a buzz for lots of your money which can be branded in any number of ways, even the quite stupid – and, as Maureen wrote about in 2009,  even the blatantly racialized. Why all the attribution? Money? Money.

I illustrate the tendency in reverse. One aspect of the chameleon-like status of gender and brewing has been the presentation of early brewing as all female, an argument often begins with a paragraph on that Sumerian goddess. It is that, yes, and more. And less, too. Jay some time ago posted a helpful list of all the goddess and gods and neutral deities of brewing. The list conveys the many labels cultures and eras imposed on the joy juice. We make of it what we want. Or someone wants to tell us to want.

As with many things about beer, along with the money I blame the alcohol but if we do consider the many faces and facets of beer and brewing over time and cultures, for me, the interest lies in the diversity of ways it acts as a conduit – a trigger even – for both the highs and depths humankind can come up with.

Lars Travels East So You Don’t Have To

Clearly driven by more than booze and cash, we have Lars. Is there any more dedicated beer researcher than Lars Marius Garshol? This week he is sending tweets from out front,  where the new ideas and ancient ways are to be found. The eastern front that is. He sent out this update on Tuesday:

On the road to Kudymkar. Car shaking so bad I can’t look out the window sideway, or I’ll be sick. Should be there in an hour or so.

According to wikipedia, Kudymkar is a town and the administrative center of Komi-Permyak Okrug of Perm Krai, Russia. Lars took himself there to document traditional rural farmhouse brewing techniques and his twitter feed is on fire. Well, it’s not. OK. It is not flammable. But it is a hot take! Fine, it’s not – as it is actually well researched and properly considered. Let’s just leave it that his work is fascinating and valuable. This one tweet is more marvelous that 98% of the entire internet. What did you do for beer this week? Not much, right?

Rich Brats Pay Others To Make Beer

Much has been made of the article in Forbes on the three sons of rich people who are starting a brewery. The reality that money speaks for money may underlie the very access to the publication. Fun making of the three lads and story’s errors is to be found at Beervana but the best thing is the plan they proudly describe to make “pilsnar” – it’s the bestest dumb thing about beer of all this week.

But the matter may have gone to far with this question posted by John Urch: “Have three more arrogant, hubristic people opened a brewery?” As we all know, the answer is yes (and you can all name them.) Often it is a requirement for big craft success.

Andy Crouch on the Need for Transparency

The release by tweet of Andy’s July 2017 column for BeerAdvocate has caught the attention of more than a few. There was even the obligatory if weak gotcha .gif sighting. In his column, Andy* argues that the problem with big beer buying into craft bigly is all in the disclosure:

…consumers have a right to know about this. If you’re a Big Beer-affiliated brewery, own that. Don’t hide it. In your company’s “About Us” or “Brewery History” page online, don’t omit that AB InBev owns you as almost every formerly independent and now High End brewery does. Don’t play cute about it with the press. Stop telling consumers nothing has changed. Anyone saying that is either lying or negligently naive.

I spoke up thusly: “Add transparency about contract brewing + non-ownership financial arrangements, too. Maybe records of health + safety orders.” See, what matters to me has little to do with ownership but plenty to do with interests. I don’t care to spend my money on bad employers or false fronts. If we benefit openness and transparency, let the light shine everywhere. I want to know who is getting paid by whom, who is contract brewing, who is cashing out, who isn’t a good employer, and whose civics are admirable.

Other Stuff

More fun hate on for BrewDog. Why do they make it so easy?

Our stunned Jim Koch quote of the week explains what his version of big craft thinks of some of its customers – those who like to think:

It’s a dilemma other nationally distributed craft brewers have faced, including Jim Koch, the founder of Boston Beer, which makes Sam Adams and has annual sales of $879 million. “If you make great beer,” Koch says, “and people love it and drink it, and more and more of them love it and drink it, the beer geeks will turn against you. You’re talking about roughly 5%, but they’re an influential 5%.

If you are reading this – heck if you are reading about beer at all – that’s you. Get in line. Money needs more money!

Far a more coherent grasp on reality, Stonch returns us to the topic of pie and mash reviews, with Jeff’s deft hand giving grace to an otherwise modest corner of English culture found in a car park.

And finally, Stan wrote a well thought out piece on what it means to be a brewmaster. Another form of over-reach, self-promotion exposed in a way. Is that all this is about?

And there we end your Monday morning story time. The book is being gently closed, your blankey adjusted, you can finish off the last of that nice warming drink and go back to quietly dozing at the office for another summer’s week.

*No, it’s the fourth, you dope.
**Disclosure: we hung out once four years ago.

Pity The Canadian Olympian Running Today

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Is there anything sadder than a life’s work geared to one event that gets swept away by another bigger event on short notice? Our national public broadcaster has rightly determined that the last evening of Olympic coverage is going to be restructured and cut in order that we can all watch a live feed of the last concert of the tour by the band The Tragically Hip – because the beloved lead singer with the most Canadian of all names, Gord, is terminally ill. The tour’s final concert being held in the town where I live. The band is from the town where I live. We are expecting over 20,000 extra people to come to our downtown to watch the show on a massive outdoor screen or in one of the bars that will all be simulcasting the TV show. Drinking beer. Lots of beer. Bars will be as packed as for a World Cup final in a football mad land. Rec room beer fridges will be loaded as if the college reunion was on. Because the day is both wonderful and just plain rotten.

The event has taken on a cathartic tone nationally, not so much denying or defying the situation as embracing it in a celebration mixing maturity about mortality with the decision there is nothing else to do but party here in their home town or across the continent’s northwherever we live. Through work I was happily if tangentially involved with small aspects of the preparations but over the last few days I have been wondering what it all means and what the intended collective intoxication, alcoholic or otherwise, says about us all. Roads will be closed. Buses are free and running late into the night to safely accommodate the only response we can offer. Because it’s the natural response to the shock of the unwelcome news.

What are we doing? A joyful wake before the passing? Or just one last chance to be with the band who have helped frame our national character in ways that other countries do not get, whose song “Courage” has become an anthem for facing everything over tears and beers from personal rejection to coping as a nation with the deaths of soldiers in foreign wars. Well, perhaps a few get it, get us. The autonomous city state of Buffalo where Ethan and everyone else at Community Beer Works are paying their respects in fine style, too. Respect.

I hope the overshadowed solo sport Olympian running for Canada far from home understands and fights as hard or harder today.

After Sunset At Syracuse Last Sunday

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We always seem to get lucky with the conditions at baseball games. Well, except for the condition of the guy nearby in the crowd at Blue Jays games. Always the drunk idiot. Otherwise, it’s been swell. Like last Sunday. Hoffman coneys. Empire Amber. I’ve cream for the kids just as a decade ago. An attentive crowd. Knew when to ooh and when to ahh. I am now rooting for Rochester’s Jorge Polanco. He looked like he had it all going. Their first baseman is already gone. Kennys Vargas is already back up in the show. Afterwards there were fireworks and patriotic songs. Is that what sets them apart from us? Patriotic songs? Maybe. Even at the mall the next day Ray Charles was singing about America as I shopped for shoes.

E.& J. Burke And A Barrel Of Straw And Stout

ejburkebaseballThis post is just an excuse to post this picture from 1889. Careful readers will know that I play a game or two of 1860s base ball each summer. One of the players on our team, Jordan Press, forwarded this post from MLB historian, John Thorne, on baseball – and even base ball – in art. An early sports themed brewery endorsement, the man on the left is Buck Ewing catcher for the New York Giants. He was one of the first six players to be entered into the Baseball Hall of Fame fifty years after this ad was first produced.

But notice a few things. He is drinking stout. And not just any stout but Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. Jess Kidden has a bit of the story about the relationship between Guinness and its NY importer, E.& J. Burke. But notice a few other things. Five bottles lay about the ground. The beer is being enjoyed. And it’s been delivered packed in a barrel of straw. Over on Facebook, Ethan asked about the use of the word “hamper” in an ad from 1774. In another recent post, I discussed a 1790s ad for a NY porter vault where the drink was available by the “tierce” of quarts. I understand in both these cases the thing being described in the barrel of bottles which is stuffed with straw to keep them from breaking in transit. I think Buck Ewing is working his way through a tierce. Or at least having his fair share.

My favorite quantity of beer… well, after the pottle.

Is There Anything Sadder Than The Law Not In Force?

monkey4Despite having two law degrees as well as 20 years under my belt in practice, the law can still confuse me. Consider this:

Note: On a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor, section 62.1 is repealed by the Statutes of Ontario, 2006, chapter 32, Schedule D, subsection 7 (2) and the following substituted…

62.1 (1) A municipality may pass by-laws extending the hours of sale of liquor in all or part of the municipality by the holders of a licence and a by-law may authorize a specified officer or employee of the municipality to extend the hours of sale during events of municipal, provincial, national or international significance. 2006, c. 32, Sched. D, s. 7 (2).

That is a cut and paste job of a section of Ontario’s Liquor Licensing Act and it follows a provision that currently reads “The City of Toronto may pass by-laws extending the hours of sale of liquor in all or part of the City…” Notice the difference? The current law only applies to that city at the other end of the lake. The portion I quoted from above is a pending amendment to the law. Pending. Pending as the law has already passed the legislature, The decision has been made by the law makers. We are just waiting for the proclamation. We are waiting for the paperwork. Excellent.

Excellent? See, there is a big game tomorrow morning at 7 am in which the national pride of Canada is on the line. The gold medal game in men’s Olympic hockey. It’s our World Cup final and we hope to beat the Swedes. People are excited. Churches will be empty. Some provinces are allowing early morning tavern openings and some are not. Which is fine as it is up to each Province to make up its mind in these matters under the division of powers under our constitution. But in Ontario, Toronto has been granted the power to make local decisions but every other municipality is prohibited. The results are obvious. Confusion and a bit of annoyance. The City of Kawartha Lakes council thought it was within its rights and passed a special bylaw last Wednesday only to be advised by the bureaucracy that the action was void. Because someone forgot to proclaim the amendment. How’s that for a salute to democracy?

Personally, I am not missing out on anything. Even in Ontario’s tightest period of alcohol control in the early 1920s, we were subject to a form of regulated temperance which allowed home drinking and even home brewing. So, if I want a drink that early in the morning nothing is stopping me. But – solely because someone forgot to proclaim the amendment – only if I was in Toronto could I go out and have a beer at 7 am like normal people elsewhere do all the time. Most irritating is having to read Josh’s tips for drinking in Toronto tomorrow morning. Nice to know, however, that the general rule that you can be wrong when drinking beer has reared its head. Me? If I can have unsweetened grapefruit juice along with hot sauce on my eggs, I think I might be able to handle an IPA in the morning, Mr. B. If I was allowed.

The Day Ended With The Game At Fenway With Andy


Spent the evening with Andy Crouch watching the Yankees play the Red Sox at Fenway. The only thing missing was a New York loss. Like all the best baseball games, it was a morality play on the fields and in the stands. I was looking down the first base line from our seats in the right field corner when A-Ro(i)d got absolutely pegged square in the upper back by good guy Canuck pitcher Ryan Dempster. But that was when the Sox were winning. Next time up? A-Rod hits a long lingering homer.

Oh, yes. This is a beer blog. Andy suggested we meet at Citizen Public House just by the ball park. Excellent choice. The best sort of blend of good beer and drink, interesting food and comfortable but stylish setting. He was a little delayed so I was given the time to have a few Jack D’or by Pretty Things. And I added another species to the list with a flounder dinner. Once in the park and once the surreal feelings of walking into the TV that may only be experienced by a sports fan who has not seen his team at home since he was 10 years old, we sat. And talked about a lot of things. We both work in the law but in different fields and under different constitutions.

And we talked about beer. At the park, there was the feeling that a page had been turned back. Long Trail pale ale, Harpoon IPA and Wachusett Green Monster were on offer at nine bucks for a 12 ounce pour. Solid beers but not the range you might find in other parks. We touched on an idea I raised in passing the other week on Twitter, retro-craft. I wonder whether, once this era of over hopping, over souring and, frankly, the sort of over producing that reminds me the relationship between R+B and disco… we shall have retro-craft. Well balanced beers highlighting the main components of water, malt and yeast with hops returning to their proper job of framing and cutting the cloy. Will it happen?

There was another sort of good beer future on display elsewhere in town on Sunday. We were out on a forced march for the kids through the MIT campus in Cambridge looking for a little something something when we came upon a team of volunteers shredding and slicing pumpkins at the CBC. Got to speak with brewmaster Will Meyers a couple of times as the kids enjoyed the part of the vacation known as “Dad at the Beer Related Business”. We talked gourds, Will describing how he was looking for sugar pumpkin flavour, not pie and not even so much spice. This meant ensuring the pumpkins had limited fermentables, so the beer became an expression of the fruit, not a mirror of a dish made with pumpkin. The growing season was late so the crop was brought in from an Amish farm near Augusta, Maine. One of the group, Lee Movic of Belmont’s Craft Beer Celler, in passing called the beer they were help make was a fresh pumpkin ale. I will post some photos of the scene in a bit. I am still figuring out how to post images on the new iPad.

So, what is the take away? Three scenes: one comfortable, one a bit higher end and one all about exploring possibilities.

Your Friday Night Beer Blog Reading Highlights

It’s a distracted time. The game between Toronto and Boston is interfering with the game between Toronto and Boston. The first thunderstorm of the spring is moving through giving parched seedlings out in the garden as heavier duties of life nibble at the back of the mind. Yet, it is a warm Friday evening. The kids are out. The smells of that season we Canadians call “not winter” float in through the one open window as the first large drops pat pat pat on the bags of compost waiting to be settled into their plots on the next dry day. As good a time as any to see what’s going on out there on the internets.

→ In two weeks or so, I have a chance to hit the one orchard estate perry maker I know of in Ontario. Which makes me utterly jealous of Pete Brown. A folk music, cheese and perry/cider fest. Pleasures unimaginable.

→ Please just leave Bieber alone. In Canada, he is now a grown up… sorta.

→ Jeff makes some very good points on the impending reaction from big beer should what’s been considered (for about five years now and still maybe a few more to go) as craft beer not eat itself or, who knows, actually gain a significant market share… as in something approaching 20%. Me, I am quite comfortable knowing that big brewers will quite happily flood the market if need be with cheap and excellent beers inseparable from those offered by the current profitable puritans of craft marketing. I do like his idea that the approach is to add more flavour to lagers but I think this is but one prong of attack. Watch your flank, big craft.

→ Boak and Bailey started early and didn’t have to deal with the thug.

Stan then Craig reacted to a xenophobic article on how US craft brewers woujld teach Germany a thing or two by being boring and hoppy and achieving <1% marketshare. No consideration on the role of Mosel in the overall equation. Much hand wringing over ugly American interventions but, believe me, far better than dealing with the ugly side of Canadians.

There. The hockey is 1-0 in favour of my team at 8:23 pm while the baseball is the same score for… my team. JINKS! Better quit while I am ahead.

Ontario: Eephus Oatmeal Brown, Left Field Br’y, Tra’na

I think I only dislike one thing about the prospect of drinking this new beer. I have a strong suspicion that Jays fans made it. Have I mentioned I really dislike the Toronto Blue Jays? Years ago when I bounced in a bar in London, Ontario there was another bar down the road all done up with Detroit Tigers memorabilia except for signs that said “Jays Suck” which I loved. See, as an Expos fan since ’67 when I was a toddler with a cap and ’73 when I saw the Yanks lose at Fenway, I have had a dual allegiance. One sadly past. One present. Yet… I love baseball. The season starts this weekend. Spring, summer and fall all lay before me again filled with baseball. See, I have done this. I have hit doubles in America in recent years as a rather fat man off a better player than me. I have hand lathed bats. So, the baseball theme chosen for Toronto’s new Left Field Brewery has me.

But how about the beer itself. Start with the bottle. Note the Mississippi mud hue of the label’s background tone. I have a ball in that hue from the day I watched the Sox smoke the Jays. A one pitch knuckle ball with the Wakefield fingertip inprints and the Vernon Well’s pop up all marked. Far defter branding than Coopertown‘s even if I do have the yellow t-shirt. The aroma is date and brown bread. Lots of molasses but something herby spicy, too. Verging on Abt 12 with half the alcohol. Mohagany ale with mocha cream lacing foam and rim. Lots going on in the swally. There is that smoothness one associates with oat but also enough placement points of hop over the arc of the quaff that you are aware this is not someone’s take on Peculiar. Yet, that dripping brown malt. The blackstrap. The nut. The bread crust, dry cocoa and black tea. It is also a rejection of all those trendy needy nanos. It’s, bear with me, reminding me of the intention behind the Whale. Beer for people who like the taste of beer. And a bigger beer than its strength. I had an oatmeal stout from Quebec’s Le Castor earlier and was only disappointed with its heft. None of that here. Heft to lend.

I am given to understand from one young pup to my west that this bottle is not actually for sale but zooped up for samplin’ and reviewin’. It can be bought around town on tap in the Big Smoke. I don’t go there much. Next time I am there, I am finding me some of this.