Book Review: Terry Foster, Beer Writer

Terry Foster is one of my favorite beer writers and the most interesting thing about him as a beer writer these days is he does not have a website. I don’t know how you can exist without a website these days. How else will all the Google bots be able to share your daily musings. Google bots…bots…Google…[Ed.: Giving author a good shake] Oh, right…there is no money and no audience in a website and others are doing it already so why bother. Good point.

I encountered Terry Foster as a home brewer. He is the author titles #1 and #5 in the Classic Beer Style Series published by the Association of Brewers, a US company promoting the homebrew industry. Pale Ale is the first in the series and Poer the fifth. These books are now over a decade old but recently I noticed that Foster has been writing articles for Brew Your Own magazine regularly as well. These sorts of writings as well as my years of one hundred gallons of output have convinced me that the appreaciation of beer is uniquely advanced by learning about and undertaking its production.

A number of the early homebrewing authors started me on that path and it would be my suggestion that Terry Foster is a continuation of that line of thinkers and writers about beer. In April 1963, month of my birth, the British Government ended the taxation of homebrewing under the Inland Revenue Act of 1880 which required records to be kept and a one ound license to be paid. As W.H.T. Tayleur states in his text Home Brewing & Wine-Making (Penguin, 1973) at page 15:

This legislation reminaed in force for eighty-three years, but although at first many thousands of private brewing licences were taken out the number of home brewers steadily declined over the years until by the middle of this century, and after shortages of the necessary ingredients caused by two world wars, hardly any of the few that were left bothered to take out licences.

By removing the need to license, the government created an industry and changed brewing, to my mind, for two reasons. First, self-trained home brewers became self-trained micro-brewers as the opportunities to make money with the skill became apparent. Second, consumers gained access to well-made home brews which were much cheaper and much tastier than the standardized industrial kegged beer the 1960s were foisting upon people. Without men like the 1960s authors C.J.J. Berry and Ken Shales as well as David Line in the 1970s, all writing primarily through Amateur Winemaker Publications, many a brew-pub or craft brewery on both sides of the atlantic would simply not exist.

C.J.J. Berry, Ken Shales and David Line

Foster is perhaps the last of this tradition of British home brewing writers – and not just because his slicked back hair, styled in common cause with them. His two books, Pale Ale and Porter each provide a history of the style, a description of the elements, a guide to making them and a discussion of the commercial examples. Like those earlier authors he provides the context of the style and also deconstructs the mystery of how the brews can be made. Context and technique are two things modern industrial commercial brewers would like to shield from their customers – they more they were to know about what is out there and what it costs, the less likely the concept of brand loyalty might hold the customer.

Foster’s recent articles in Brew Your Own magazine continue this tradition. I have copies of the following articles:

“Pale Ale”, BYO September 2003, page 30.
“Old Ales”, BYO, September 2004, page 27.
“Anchors Away – A History of Malt Extract: Part 1”, BYO October 2004, page 30.
“Let’s Get Rid of the Water – A History of Malt Extract: Part 2”, BYO, November 2004, page 34.

As is the mandate of the magazine, Foster provides context and technique, showing how historical styles can be recreated with confidence. For example, in the third article he discusses how the British Navy invented malt extract in an effort to provide beer to sailors as a necessary food while in the fourth he describes how later extracts were used to avoid the stupidities of prohibition.

Foster’s style is attractive in that he is a plain speaker. In a world of where reputation and brand is all important, he can write of Yuengling’s Pottsville Porter:

…this is in some sense a classic porter, although it is bottom-fermented. Unfortunately, although it has many adherents, I am not one of them as I find it a little disappointing.

Not only is he not looking for the next PR opportunity when he writes, he is a bit folksy while also well researched. He is a trained chemist and has been a professional brewer for over 40 years, according to his BYO bio. He is interested and as a result interesting.

Rev. Whillans’s War

The father of my Owen Sound connection was a chaplain in the First World War, Rev. William James Whillans of Winnipeg. This evening, hunting through photos, I came across a post card sent from the front as well as a few others. He is the jaunty gent in the lower right of the first photo.Rev Whillans at a WWI hospital on a postcard

Reverse of postcard above

This is an example of the postcards I discussed in an earlier post. As you can see from the photo below, he was involved with those doing the fighting.

…with a few of the saved from the trenches
...and with some of his work

…in the trenches… just a bear

…and Rev. Whillans with one particular bear brought from Winnipeg during WWI.just a bear

 

Arthur

Wow. I gather you scanned those pictures?

Alan

All but the photo on the lower left which is portion of a digital photo of a picture on the wall at my grannie-in-law’s.

Robert Paterson

Great Pics Alan – My most treasured possession is a menu for a dinner held every year until the last of them died of the gunners in Montreal who were at the 2nd battle of Ypres on Feb 1915. Inside the menu, the diners have left us their signatures. There is Currie, MacNaughton, many officers including my Grandfather who was in france from Feb 1915 to September 1918, and several enlisted men. Only the CEF would have had that perspective. I can’t scan it because I have had it framed!

Reminds me though of a story. Currie had moved to Montreal after the war, he had grown up in BC, and became the president of McGill. He did not know any plumbers and had a burst pipe. He asked if some one knew someone who could fix things and was told to call Luther Sutherland, my great Uncle. Uncle Luther was one of the top engineers in Canada and owned a huge construction company. Currie thought that he was calling a handyman. Luther arrived directly from his club, in his Rolls, in evening dress and fixed the pipe. He admired Currie so much and they became good friends

Frank WHILLANS

Alan, I am a member of the Guild of One Name Studies, researching Whillans worldwide, so I would be delighted to receive jpg/tif/pict copies of those shots involving the Rev Whillans. Is there any possibility?

Alan

You should be able to save the shots off this site by right clicking and selecting “save picture as”. Does that not work?

Eileen Whillans

Hello – I enjoyed seeing your pictures for two reasons. 1. We have met “James” son Morley and wished that we could have seen more of him before he passed away and 2. my husband spent 25 years in the Canadian Engineers (Army). Thanks for sharing the pictures.

Alan

My wife wants to know if you are a relation and whether you met Morley’s sister Evelyn?

Eileen Whillans

My husband is a round-about relation and no, we have not met Morley’s sister Evelyn. We live on Vancouver Island and met up with Morley in Victoria. We do have a “hot plate” (? for putting your teapot on) that James made and gave to Norm’s father Robert who lived and died in Vancouver.

Sylvia Rehling

thanks Alan. i copied and pasted the photos if anyone else wants copies they can try that. I have a great love for history and seeing a family connection is great. if you have any other family history info i would love to have copies.

Paul Tim Whillans

I have my grandfather James Whillans´ diary from 1917 and the complete photograph from “in the trenches”. That photo was widely publicized at the time
Best regards from Colombia Paul Tim

Die Fax Die

The other day I got an email returned with a reply. Except it was a handwritten reply and the answerer had printed off my email, written his answer on it and faxed it back. It’s folks like that who are ensuring that fax machines continue to clog our lives – pushing up usage 40% in the last year alone.

When will the fax machines die off joining the Gestentner, mother of all ‘zines, itself now hiding its own toxic legacy.

The Internet of 1945

The interview with Tim Berners-Lee at BBC news this morning includes reference to the work of Vannevar Bush.

…the idea of hypertext and links had actually been invented some time ago. In fact it was 1945, I think. Vannevar Bush wrote a great paper about how it could be done. But he imagined it all being done using microfilms and electric sensors and mechanics because he didn’t have computers and he didn’t have the internet then, and then Ted Nelson invented the idea of hypertext.

The Atlantic has a 1945 article by Bush on his ideas here where he “urges that men of science should then turn to the massive task of making more accessible our bewildering store of knowledge”

Faskinatin’.

Andy Blair and Relatives

Leaf in LiverpoolYou may have noticed I am not camping in New York or attending Bread Day at the state fair. Colds have struck. So I am rummaging.

The gent to the left is Andy Blair who in June ’29 was enjoying his first summer as a NHL player after finishing his rookie year with the Leafs. My grannie-in-law, then Evelyn Whillans, his 1st cousin, took the photo as a 13 year old spending some of her teen years in Liverpool. I wonder what the building behind him is. Later Blair would provide the Whillans Saturday night tickets including the opening of Maple Leaf Gardens as well as the longest NHL game in history. Her father, a minister, kept getting up to go saying that it was crazy, that he had a sermon to give in a few hours, only to sit back down at the roar for another close play.

Another five cousins, all Drydens of some relation, made the NHL including Murray Murdoch (Rangers left wing: ’26-’37, then coach at Yale for about 30 years) who I spoke with on the phone about a year before he passed away as the then oldest NHL alumnist, a very sharp mind in its late 90’s. Murdoch grew up in Winnipeg and said he was the best player in the City until Blair, two years younger, showed up during the depression. Both played for the University of Manitoba in the early 20’s.

Four years to Mr. Hitler's gamesGrannie-in-law also relates being at the front of Maple Leafs Gardens with another cousin, Syl Apps (the kinda gawky 17 year old in the white pants to your right, my left) and Blair the day Apps signed for the Leafs. Blair, an All-Star for the Leafs in ’34, was telling him to sign anywhere but Toronto as they treated players badly. Apps started his Leafs rookie year in 1936 after representing Canada at the Berlin Olympics. Blair was traded for cash to the Blackhawks on 7 May 1936. I wonder if the windows were open a few floors up.

In the 1936-’37 season, three cousins played on three teams: Leafs, Hawks and Rangers (two All-Stars, three Cup winners, one Calder and Bing and another the first Lester Patrick winner). In the early 70’s three (two being brothers) played again for three teams – the Sabres, Habs and Penguins: Dryden, Dryden, Apps (all All-Stars but not in together in one year…and one also earned some hardware).

Asleep on the Beach

 

I've grown in so many ways in the last 17 years

As my life as PEI resident comes to a close – the water test was clear – I thought I would pull an old chestnut out of the photo album from one of my first “” experiences in the Province.

Taken in 1986, it shows your gentle correspondent in repose on the beach at dawn after about 14 hours of wild-eyed pintin’ at the shore at a cottage in the Darnley area. You will see in the foreground both an empty Keiths and a film case laying next to my sandy head. Through the night I took about 5 rolls worth of pictures of the 30 or so of us which, care of the tripod, came through the event far clearer than I did.

This photo was taken by my buddy Jonny with the last frame of the last roll before he himself keeled over one night, one summer seventeen years ago.

Kołobrzeg! Kołobrzeg!

When looking through the web stats, I got to wondering why, outside of North America, Holland would be the hotbed of the greatest number of my readers when I realized it is the Google effect. Having used the word Nederlands and therefore been linked by a few Dutch blog trolling spiders or bots or whatever they are, I get a bit of a boost on Dutch Google and, bob’s your uncle, I stand tall in the low countries. So…can this be manufacturered?

My wife and I met in Ko³obrzeg, a resort city on the Baltic Coast of Poland where the Nazis met a well-deserved, nasty fate at the hands of the Red Army on the beaches after running out of both land and options in the spring of ’45. The ever patient Ellen and I both taught ESL there and, unlike most others who travelled to Eastern Europe to teach a decade or so ago, briefly enjoyed a rather splendid if corney luxury lifestyle – Bulgarian wines, tinned elk and boar, first walkman in the province, at $400 a month an income 3 times that of a doctor. A sense of the place can be seen in some of its websites for a sanitorium/spa, a hotel/spa, spa-tourism, spa-fishing-poets, spa-investment, yacht-spa, people at the spa town…I suppose I could go on…Anyway, this is an open invite for discussion of all things Ko³obrzeg. What the hell.

PS – if your computer shows a small raised “3” between the two o’s of the name, it is spelled Kolobrzeg with a little bar across the “L” kinda pronounced “e-u”: “Ł” or “ł”

[Update in 2016: proof of the finding of Kay…]

2002 C.J.J. Berry Obituary

[Source not recorded]

It is as though a chapter has closed in the annals of the winemaking movement with the death of Mr. Cyril Berry in Spain on the morning of Friday, 8th November 2002.

Cyril was a wonderful man, as anyone who knew him well will endorse. Without doubt he did more for the winemaking fraternity than anyone else. In fact there probably would not have been the unison of so many winemakers in Great Britain and overseas had it not been for his energy and acumen.

After World War II, when sugar came off the ration, Cyril founded the Andover Circle, which still flourishes today and of which he was still a member. Then Cheltenham, Bournemouth, Harrow and Hertford Circles sprang to life and gradually the bubbles of wine spread all over the country. Clubs learnt about each others’ events through a little magazine which Cyril and his dear wife Peggy produced in the upstairs bedroom of their house in Andover. This was for sale to Clubs at 6 pence a copy.

Cyril had an ebullient personality and energy which not only embraced his family and social life but also gave him the courage at a mature age to give up his safe, professional life as Editor of a local Andover paper in order to concentrate on producing the Amateur Winemaker magazine on a National scale. He also wrote the best-ever selling winemaking book ‘First Steps in Winemaking.’ Not only was the title very clever and appealing but it gave people the chance to make wines from fruits, flowers and vegetables in an easily explained manner. Yes, the recipes were ‘country’ style, often using a lot of sugar, but they gave the encouragement necessary to try them out and, in those early days, it was THE book to own. When a chicken was really a treat to be eaten just at Christmas and a bottle of wine had to be sought out and afforded only once in a while, the idea of making one’s own wine was very attractive. No rows of wine in Supermarkets then.

The main names at that time which readily come to mind after Cyril were Cyril Lucas of Bournemouth, Ben Turner of Harrow, ‘Andy’ Andrews of Hertford; they and some others got together to form a nucleus to start the National Conferences. A little later, after a Conference in Brighton, the Amateur Winemakers National Guild of Judges was formed (now N.G.W.B.J.) In those very early days Cyril was asked to assess vast volumes of competition wine at one sitting, which he manfully attempted. No wonder the Judges Guild was formed!

Clubs proliferated and prospered, friendships all over the country were cemented, winemaking graduated from granny’s country brew to commercial quality counterparts, all in essence due to Cyril Berry’s original initiative and drive. Winemaking queries were answered, informative articles published and Club News kept everyone informed. Someone once sent in to the Winemaker a recipe for a Yorkshire Pudding wine as a joke (Jack Dixon I believe – now no longer with us) and to keep the joke going Cyril printed it. He was taken aback some months later, however, when a member of the Andover Circle asked him to taste just such a ‘wine’! Many books associated with wine and beer making evolved from Cyril’s printing presses until he eventually retired and bought a holiday flat in Nerja, Spain, so as to enjoy the winter sunshine.

Although Peggy, Gay and Natalie, their daughters, and the grandchildren, were the heart of Cyril’s life, he found time for other interests such as gardening, viticulture, music and painting. He even had time to be on the local Council and received the honour of being Mayor of Andover at one time.

He was a warm, friendly, very special person, who will never be forgotten by those who loved and admired him – always with a smile and a joke on his lips – truly the Father of the winemaking movement. Blessed he was to leave us, sitting having a pre-prandial drink in the Spanish sunshine, but our heartfelt sympathies must go to Peggy and his family for his passing and the abruptness of this sad farewell. May he rest in peace.