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.

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.

How The Red Sox Might Have Collapsed Last Month

It was quite a thing to watch. Forget the numbers involved in the drop from first to playoff observer. It was clear something was wrong when Lester didn’t care enough to throw strikes in his last Yankee games. Today’s Boston Globe sets out one interpretation of what happened, based largely on anonymous interviews:

By all accounts, the 2011 Sox perished from a rash of relatively small indignities. For every player committed to the team’s conditioning program, there was a slacker. For every Sox regular who rose early on the road to take optional batting practice, there were others who never bothered. For every player who dedicated himself to the quest for a championship, there were too many distracted by petty personal issues.

Blame is placed on Francona’s health and marriage, too. But, a bit oddly, the most blame is placed on forcing a Saturday doubleheader against Oakland to avoid a hurricane coming through. Seems a bit of an odd thing to ditch a season over but the trio of Beckett, Lester, and Lackey are suggested to have done just that. Called a hatchet job, it’s probably not the whole story but the idea that a team of millionaires who only have to play a game could get this sour and uppity is amazing.

No wonder Epstein’s with the Cubs now.

Sackets Harbor NY Vintage Base Ball Tournament 2011

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This year’s vintage base ball game was remarkable. The weather was so hot I thought that I was going to faint when I slowed into second on a couple of doubles. The team had a few new faces but was as keen as ever and took both games after never winning a single game in the USA in the four previous seasons. Well, there was 2008 when the game was rained out. We declared that we had not lost by default.