Your Thursday Beer News Notes For The Week Winter Showed Up

I should not complain about having to shovel snow on the 20th of January when its the first real snow of the winter. It’s not that tough a life. Five weeks to March today means it won’t be all that bad from here on out. What effect has this on my beer consumption? Not so much in volume but now is the time when a pint of¬†stout and port is added to any sensible diet. I say “a” pint with care given the concoction should be somewhere in the area of 10% alc. Yowza. But when does great reward comes without some risk?

Not long after last week’s deadline for news submissions, Ed tweeted that he had “[j]ust been sent an excellent article on rice malt beer ūüėČ” The study¬†describes the potential of rice for brewing and sets out an optimized malting program allowed water saving.¬† Which is cool. But it is also cool that it is about the use of rice which, except for corn, is the most hated of fermentables. This is despite the fact that rice beer came to Canada about 93 years ago – well after it was brewed in the U. S. of A. – a fact which has been fabulously preserved for us all in the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the case¬†The King v. Carling Export Brewing & Malting Co. Ltd., [1930] S.C.R. 361 at page 373 about the production of beer during the era of US prohibition:

I do not think we can accept the suggestion that there was no market for lager beer in Ontario. The learned trial judge dwells upon the fact that rice beer is peculiarly an American taste, and infers that it is not sold in Ontario. The evidence in support of this does not proceed from disinterested sources and I wonder whether the boundary line so sharply affects the taste in illicit liquor. In truth, it is stated by Low that it was not until some time in 1926 that the respondents began the manufacture of rice beer, and we are not told at what date, if ever, in their brewery, rice beer wholly superseded malt beer.*

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we stopped calling it “American-style lager” and just called it rice beer… or corn beer as the case may be? Will it take another century to pass for good beer to admit this fundamental reality of North American brewing culture?

Beer at the Post Office? Thanks Vlad!

I am still not sure what to make of #FlagshipFebruary.** Like a lot of you, I have been making up alternative hashtags like #GoldenOldieAles, #FlogshipFebruary and #PartyLikeIts1999. But it’s earnestly offered and, you know, as long as there isn’t a secret spreadsheet being sent around to members of the good beer PR-consulto class prearranging who are going to each write about this or that¬†fabulous flagship¬†as a way to artificially drum up interest and maybe future paying PR gigs, I think we might actually come away with a reasonably good taste in our mouths.

It reminds me a lot of by far the most successful of such hashtags, #IPADay created in 2011 by this blog’s friend Ashley Routson aka The Beer Wench.*** But (and this was not really the case in 2001 so laugh not) I would argue was easier to determine what an IPA was in 2011 than figure out what “flagship”¬†mean today. As I am l not clear what a flagship really is, I asked some questions like if the Toronto brewery Left Field¬†consider their oatmeal brown Eephus (1) their foundation (2) their flagship (3) both or (4) neither. They wrote:

We’d be comfortable calling it a foundational beer. We don’t really refer to any beer in the lineup as a flagship. Along with a few others, it’s one of our year-round offerings.

See,¬†foundational does not (usually) mean flagship. More evidence? Consider this September 1990-ish¬†beer column on the state of affairs in Lake Ontario land. It mentions the venerable and largely forgotten¬†Great Lakes Lager. Foundation? Sure. Not the flagship. That’s now Canuck Pale Ale. You know, flagship might also even be a slightly dirty word in the trade. A tough row to hoe for the industry marketers behind this scheme. But hope lives on eternally in such matters as we learned from the new CEO of Sierra Nevada who, faced with the task of turning things around for the musty ales of yore, stated:

…he‚Äôs bullish on Sierra Nevada‚Äôs prospects heading in 2019 and he‚Äôs projecting 5 percent growth. He believes that advertising will help turn around Pale Ale‚Äôs negative trajectory, and that continued growth for Hazy Little Thing, combined with increased focus on Hop Bullet and Sierraveza, will propel the company forward this year.

Advertising! How unlike beer macro industrial crap marketeers!! If that is the case, me, I am launching #FoundationAlesFriday come March to get my bit of the action. Join my thrilling pre-movement now.

Beer so horrible that it can’t really be called beer is rising in popularity in Japan as sales of the real stuff and the semi-real stuff drops.

Elsewhere, I tweeted this in response to the wonderful Dr. J and I quite like it:

Well, the multiplication of “style” to mean just variation leads to a dubious construct that bears little connection to original intent and leaves beer drinkers more and more bewildered when facing the value proposition of fleetingly available brands however well made.

Let’s let that sit there for a second. Fair?

Send a furloughed US Federal employee a beer. Or help with some unplanned bridge financing for an out of luck new brewery.

Even elsewhere-ier, Matt Curtis is to be praised and corrected this week. Corrected only in the respect that he wrote the utterly incorrect “in true journalistic style I was too polite to say” in his otherwise fabulous piece**** on what it was like going booze free for three weeks:

As I walked down Shoreditch High Street on my way to an event from the British Guild of Beer Writers showcasing alcohol free beers I passed some of my favourite bars and restaurants. I found myself pining to sit within them, simply to soak up the atmosphere. In that moment I felt that merely the sound of conversation and conviviality would sate my urge to drink more than any can or bottle of low alcohol vegetable water that has the indecency to call itself beer.

Lovely stuff.

Note: an excellent lesson in what it means to understand beer.¬† “It’s what [XYZ] told me…” is never going to serve as reliable research. Just ask, beer writers! Ask!!! Conversely, this article in The Growler serves as an excellent introduction to the 18 month rise of kveik on the pop culture commercial craft scene. I say pop culture commercial craft as it has been around the actual craft scene for a number of hundreds of years. Much more here from Lars.

How’s that? Enough for now? Winter getting you down? Remember: things could be worse. I think so. Don’t forget to read¬†Boak and Bailey on¬†Saturday¬†and then Stan on¬†Monday¬†if you want to stay on top of things. Perhaps he will update the impending¬†contiguous v. non-contiguous acreage rumble we’ll all be talking about in a few weeks.

*Buy Ontario Beer for more fabulous facts like this!
**Though I do like the concept of the pre-movement.
***Note: I make no comment on the wide variety of beer “wenches” or “nuts”… or “foxes” or “man” or any such other monikers. At least they don’t claim to be an expert.
****The current edition of Boak and Bailey emailed newsletter contained this bit on Matt’s experiment: “…it all seemed pretty reasonable to us. But even if it didn‚Äôt, it wouldn‚Äôt be any of our business. We did wince to see people in the business of beer berating him for his decision, and winced even more deeply when we saw people nagging at him to break his resolution.” I agree that this is sad and, I would add, smacks of the nags shouldering the alky’s burden themselves.

 

A Guide To Maxing Out Your Upcoming #FlagFeb Experience

While I suggested in the last Thursday update that I cannot find much drive within myself to take on¬†the call¬†to celebrate the flagship beers of yore in February I am not being a grump. As you can clearly see to the right, both the shed and I like flags. And I recognize that¬†Master Polk and Mistress Polk, for example, appear to be positively¬†enchanted. The Fuggled folk are all a’giggle. So, it is perhaps useful for me to see what I can do to assist even if I do not jump on the bandwagon.¬†Let’s start with a clarification of terms. Mr. B. wrote this about #FlagshipFebruary on Facebook deep down on a thread:

Flagships are, I think, the beer that formed the foundation of the brewery… not necessarily its current best-seller. I’m sure there are brands that outsell Central City’s Red Racer Pale, for example, but I would certainly list that as the brewery’s flagship. Ditto Deschutes Black Butte.

There are a few things to unpack there. It’s not a beer that founded craft era so much as the brand for each brewery. So the brewery, practically, has to be old and its given candidate brand needs to be something of a survivor. And its not necessarily the most loved today which means you may need to do a little sleuthing unless you are going to stop at Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Sam Adams Boston Lager. So how are you going to do that?

Act like a historian. One handy resource that you can start with are the Past Winners’ records for the Great American Beer Festival. So, if you look at the first awards list you see that in 1983 SNPA was the overall winner while SABL won top dog in ’85 and ’86.¬† Fine. But look at 1984.¬† Yakima Brewing won first and second place for an imperial stout and a Scottish ale. Hmm. Now, look at 1987 where SABL won as best “Continental Pilsner” as opposed to “Continental Amber Labers” – really.

The brief study of these records raises a few more questions. Is the brand’s recipe or even branding sufficiently similar now as it was then when it served as a foundation? Were those really the hops they use back then? Are you really experiencing the same thing? Does it even exist? Also, do these flagships actually represent the brewery’s foundation or are they just the lucky ones that now have survived the obstacle course of time, those whims of a succession of a beer fads and trends. Does its current status actually reflect its actual history or is it, like the beak of the finch, the one which by luck could accommodate unforeseen future? Figuring out that might take a little work.

My thoughts? Not that this initiative is any sort of minefield that we will fail at but that this is a great opportunity to consider the relationship between the micro brewing phase of approximately 1983-2003 and the craft phase from 2003 to the present. How much of craft’s history is made up and heavily laced with retrospective rosy coloured glassware? Plenty, I’d say. How much is even based on the lessening status of the great old white male brewery owner? Maybe a bit? So… if you really want to celebrate the actual foundation of the good beer movement, look at the structure of the early medal categories and go get yourself some stout, an amber or a porter. Find a Fuggle.

Use #FlagshipFebruary. Use it to explore and enrich your own understanding. Sours, fruit beer, barrel aging and even heavy hopping are developments largely from later in the second half of the history of your hobby. You may need to accept that what is actually the old and foundational is actually new and novel to you. Which is good. So do it.

 

 

If Mid-November Were More Exciting Would You Be So Happy With Your Thursday Beer News?

So. Here we are again. This is a bad week. Traveling around central Canada. Long meetings. Hotel rooms. Fortunately, I am working on my Korean food skills as part of this road show. My newly increased obsession, kimchi is… well… it’s like¬†a hipster Scot would have invented if Korea hadn’t done it first. Peace food. Other than that, its all hotel breakfast buffets and minivans fully of cheery engineers. Bounding down the highway balanced on a buffer of spicy exotic cabbage.

First off, I was alerted by someone no doubt more attentive that I am, given my kimchi induced food coma, that there has been a shock wave hammering those writing about the history of saison. You see, ¬†has shared his thoughts of a fact-checking mission he undertook on the “2004 book¬†Farmhouse ales, and especially the contribution it includes by Belgian brewer Yvan De Baets” and YdB is not too thrilled but sadly fell back on what looks like a status based defense in his extensive comments offered in response:

This is your website. By definition you will have the last word on it. Cool. I will not start a debate here anyway. I have more to say about some of your claims but I don’t have nor the time nor the desire to do it: not only I strongly dislike the ego battles, but more importantly the first tanks of our new brewery are arriving in a few weeks and I have to prepare them a nice nest.

Remember: watch out for expertise transposition. Few brewers are actually all that acquainted with the means and methods of the historian. Its not in the nature of the gig. Likewise, vice versa. Dig it? For me, however, I think the real problem is assuming anything written in 2004 is going to represent an exhaustive examination of a topic involving beer. A decade and a half is a long time for research to advance – especially when that decade and a half saw the explosion of the digitized historical records. That being the case, taking a strong stance either in favour or against such stale dated research is likely a mug’s game.

More convivially, Eric Asimov of The New York Times (who I like a lot) wrote a piece about the ciders of the Hudson Valley (which I like a lot):

All share a deep-seated desire to understand the traditions, nuances and complexities of apples and ciders. They are the latest wave of a great cider revival in the Northeast, reaching through New England, out to the Finger Lakes in western New York, and down through the Appalachians. For anyone used to most commercial ciders, which are often made from concentrate, sweetened and sometimes flavored, these serious ciders are a revelation. They are mostly bone dry, with the flavors of apples and of the region. Apples, too, it turns out, express a sense of place, what wine lovers call terroir.

Less authentically, apparently what was a contract brewery is now an app that the deal did not include. Figure out that one if you will… and this one for that matter:

Drinking at taprooms isn’t just en vogue, it‚Äôs a permanent part of today’s industry that now drives about 10% of Brewers Association-defined volume.

Permanent? You misspelled “today’s top fad” darling. Not unconnectedly, Matthew Curtis announced his retirement from the collective blog¬†Good Beer Hunting. One never know what is behind “effective immediately” but one hopes its nothing too drastic. I line it up in my mind with the tweets about breweries hiring passionate beer comms for their passionate beer comms needs. All in all, a very tough row to hoe but hiring Rebecca¬†would be a smart move, for example:

Hi guys! I’ll be looking for some freelance/ad hoc work after this month. I’m an accredited Beer Sommelier and was even nominated as Best Young Beer Writer this year by the (!).’

You know, Pete Brown used to be a beer comms guy but he is no longer working for this sort of work. He is working on being a better Pete* – which is great – but once in a while loses his marbles most wonderfully:

Oh fuck off. I’m sorry (I’m trying to rein in the bad language and anger and be more professional) but fuck the fuck off. Even the most cursory reading of the history of pale ale/IPA shows this simply isn’t true.

Like others, I don’t really even care what he was writing about when he got so deliciously rude… but in case you are curious it was about a disappointing relaunch of Bass Ale.

Czech beer drinking in a slump.

Tandleman has an opinion on the four Cloudwater cask offerings pending according to a tweet – as well as a very nice new profile photo of himself as you can see. He must have a good social media consultant.¬† I wonder what social media consultants like that cost…

These days, calling anything¬†“one of the most important beers in modern American brewing” is a bit silly but the Chicago Tribune found cause to so publish in relation to¬†Allagash Brewing‚Äôs Coolship Resurgam. I remember about a decade ago getting in a handbags match over someone claiming one US brewery or another was the first to do something to which I replied something something about the Allagash coolship – which Ron will correct correctly as being a “cooler” in English. These things get heated. Fortunately, even the shock of the new is past us now given we live in hyperspace and no one really cares, knowing that next week’s new thing will in turn be stale by the following weekend. Just hope the Allagash beer is tasty.

As noted last week, readbeer.com is up and running. We now can see the output of 63 different sources of online beer writing. That will grow and with it the decentralized, leveled goodness of blogs will return. One of the great things about the former RSBS was how access to ideas was not being filtered through the gauze of self-proclaimed expertise or assertions of journalism. Access was immediate and it was up to the reader to sift clues.  Soon there will be 630 feeds. Best to keep up.

Well, that is enough for now. I am closer to home for most of next week so maybe this will be more considered. Maybe something big will happen that will fill the thousand words with one long observation. Maybe I will sit and count the days to first Christmas and then Spring Training.¬† That’s more like it. In the meantime, check in with Boak and Bailey for the regular Saturday update.

* Fab.

Session 137: In 2005, I Had Seven Hefeweizens

One of the great things about the internet is the Wayback Machine. When I had to do some fancy footwork in 2016 to move the content of 13 years of two blogs in a matter of weeks, I spent hours and hours determining what I needed to save before the deadline hit and the server was unplugged. Months later I learned that it had all been saved, warts and all, care of the Wayback Machine, part of the Internet Archive project.

Which makes this entry for this month’s edition of The Session – ably hosted by Roger’s Beers – a few things: (1) a reminder that internet beer writing did not start in 2013 or so, (2) a celebration of non-fruit filled or gak-laced adulteration of a style and (3) a reminder that a fairly broad range of the style was available to Ontarians 13 years ago. Wow. Look at those photos. I really cared. Wow.¬†Look at those spelling mistakes I just fixed. I really didn’t care all that much.

++++++++++

A real surprise was in store when I hit the LCBO the other day preparing for a dinner party on a stinking hot summer Saturday. They had actually brought in a bunch of extra hefeweizens, southern German wheat ales with a measure of yeast left in.

Rogue Half-E-Weizen: a loose rich white head falls to a white skim leaving generous lace over a slightly cloudly yellow straw body. Coriander and hops balance well, their bittering leaving some astringency while the lightly creamy yeast with its presence of banana intercedes. A medium light version of the style without the German commitment to full bore clovey creamy goodness. $5.05 for a 22 oz bottle.

Erdinger Weizen:¬†I am a little unsure if this¬†is a real hefeweizen as the labeling is “weissen” but the little neck sash says “mit feiner hefe in der flasche gerfeift” which in my hack German I take as “with fine yeast left in the bottle”. Even with that the nature of this beer still leaves me wondering a bit. White foam over cloudy yellow leaving no lacing. Light body without the phenol of banana or spice that indicate the style. A clean cream yeast without complexity but very refreshing.

Schneider Weisse:¬†This is the business. One of my favorite beers that for some reason screams “lunch” with a cold cut sandwich. How many things scream that in life? It is rich and creamy good with lots of cloves and banana. A fine white head over medium brown with almost a greyish tinge. As befits the style, very moreish and heat-wave cutting.

Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen: this hefeweizen pours a tall egg white meringue over cloudy straw ale. A layer of hop astringency cuts and to a degree hides the yeasty phenol of banana and clovey nutmeg. Not as rich as others from Germany in the style though richer than the American cousins here. Lemony grapefruit in the finish.

Edelweiss Weissbier Hefetr√ľb:¬†white foam over dark yellow or light brown cloudy ale. Simply lovely. Lighter than the Schneider Weisse with a lemony brightness it does not share. Clove aroma and banana-clove in the mouth. The brewery has had only 530 years to get it right. Clean finish with a nice drying hop astringency.

Saranac Hefeweizen:I am quite surprised by the quality of this beer. Not as creamy a yeast strain as the others but much truer than the other US version of the style from Rogue above and¬†Harpoon’s version¬†tasted in April. It would be worth comparing to¬†Paper City’s Cabot Street. White fine rocky head over cloudy straw coloured beer. Quite pronounced clove over banana. Worthy yet the label says limited edition.

Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse:¬†The last of this set, perfect on a summer warm evening with a game from Fenway on the tubes, soothing to aches and pains from old timers soccer. Neither lemony or particularly creamy, this is quite a grainy rendition of the style with both banana and clove as supporting class. Massive rich white head over cloudy dark straw beer verging on orangey. There is something savory as well in the palate, making me thing of soaking a pork roast in this one. Of the selection above, most like the Rogue with that beer’s untraditional use of coriander but the notes of spice here are in the yeast. Another amazing expression and, for what it is worth, one of the best logos in all of commercial trade.

What an enjoyable inquiry. Hefeweizens are, what, the Rieslings of ale? Like Rieslings with their minerally edge, hefes take a little time to learn about but they are a world unto themselves. And they both go with sausage and sauerkraut – a beer for both summer and fall.

Tales From The Crypt Of Early Micro

I am working on a relatively new database to me, a newspaper and magazine archive covering a little over the last thirty years. Grinding common¬†beer words through the search engine of any new database is always fun but in the shadowy world of the recent past it can also be surprising.¬†I don’t actually write all that much about the origins of of the micro brewing industry but, as we know, the shifting sands and rearguard revisionist retelling of all the genesis stories should be enough motivation for anyone. And it turns out¬†there are interesting tales to be told from the point in time when “micro” was battling with “mini” and recently deceased “craft” was just a gleam in some PR committee’s eye.

First, set the scene. In Albany, New York’s¬†Times Union of 16 July 1986 we have the staff byline story “Abrams Sues Big Breweries” – this particular Abrams being New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams:

The state attorney general filed an anti-trust suit in federal court Tuesday charging the four major beer breweries and their distributors have virtually suffocated competition and created unnaturally high 6-pack prices. The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn names Anheuser-Busch Inc., Miller Brewing Co., G. Heileman Brewing Co. Inc. and the Stroh Brewery Co. breweries and the New York State Beer Wholesalers Association, which he charged control 80 percent of the New York state beer market. The four companies distribute almost every big-name beer in New York, including Budweiser, Michelob, Miller, Schlitz, Schaefer, Colt 45 and Schmidt.

The story states that the lawsuit, which charged distributor and breweries were engaged in an actual conspiracy to control the beer market prices. The interesting thing is that this is the sort of thing that big craft suggests it triggered but this story is effectively pre-micro.

In another tale from that same month we read, again in the Times Union, a story of accusation. In the 7 July 1986 edition, we can find the headline “Boston Beer Seller Claims 3 European Imports Impure” which is pretty funny given there have been false and well proven accusations about competition in the brewing industry since, well, pretty much since beer was invented. The story by Bart Ziefler of the Associated Press starts in this way:

A tiny Boston beer company is taking on two giant international brewers, claiming the top European imported beers couldn’t be sold in West Germany because they don’t meet that nation’s beer purity law.¬†In a series of radio and newspaper ads, Boston Beer Co. has challenged the the quality of the Beck’s, St. Pauli Girl and Heineken beers sold in this country.¬†Beck and Co. of Bremen, West Germany, which brews Beck’s and export- only St. Pauli Girl, denies the claim. Netherlands-based Heineken, brewer of the No. 1 import, acknowledged that its contains corn and they don’t try to sell it in West Germany, according to the Boston Business Journal.¬†“It’s sort of common knowledge among brewers that the beers are doctored,” said James Koch, whose company began selling Samuel Adams beer a little more than a year ago. “If you’re going to bring beer from that far away and have it drinkable, you’ve got to do something to stabilize it.”

Really? Corn as the crisis in craft? Excellent.¬†Can‚Äôt we just admit we like corn sometimes? Is this PR campaign where the phobia related to the one ingredient “whose name may not be spake” came from? Sweet last line in which Koch states that he said he hoped to make Sam Adams truly a Boston beer next year by opening his own¬†brewery. Correct me if I am wrong but, according to wiki wisdom, the brewery wasn’t bought for another eleven years and it was located in Cincinnati.

The Buffalo News of 8 November 1991 included a particularly excellent “state of the nation” report¬†by Dale Anderson¬†from the¬†1991 Microbrewers & Pubbrewers Conference at the Hyatt Regency in that fair City… two months before, in September. Under the lengthy headline “A Little Beer – Microbreweries, Producing Specialty Beers in Small Quantities Are The Talk Of The Industry” we learn a lot of things… and not just that there was the term “pubbbrewers”:

1. “Two American breweries — Sierra Nevada in California and Red Hook in Washington — actually have outgrown the “micro” designation.”
2. “The biggest concentration of brew-pubs on the continent, meanwhile, is in nearby Ontario, where there are about two dozen in the Toronto area alone.”
3. “These small-scale operations have little effect on the big brewers… Instead, they have moved in on the imported specialty brands.”
4. “One reason Queen City chose to brew at Lion is that it could put foil wrapping on the necks of the bottles and other breweries couldn’t. “We sat back and said we didn’t want to run a microbrewery with a pub attached,” Smith says, “so we followed the path of Jim Koch with Samuel Adams in Boston. The tough part is predicting four or five weeks ahead of time what we’re going to need.”

You can click on the article for more but it is interesting that the acknowledgement of out-growing the category as well as contract brewing was so openly stated and presented simply as a sign of success.

Less familiar perhaps than the other stories is the weird 2002 tale of the¬†“Sex For Sam” sponsored by Samuel Adams Beer in which “prizes were awarded to people who had sex in unlikely public places.” Unlike the many references to Mr. Koch the Ascendant in the media of the time, this is not one that weathers the passage of time so well. In the New York Post of 7 November 2003, ¬†William J. Gorta and Bill Hoffmann reported the story a year later after events in question – when the resulting criminal processes were concluded:

The Virginia woman who scandalized St. Patrick’s Cathedral by having sex in the pews as part of a sleazy radio stunt that revolted the city will not go to jail.¬†Loretta Lynn Harper, 36, was sentenced to 40 hours of community service as part of a plea deal in which she admitted to disorderly conduct. Prosecutors took pity on Harper because her boyfriend, 38-year-old Brian Florence – her sex partner in the church tryst – died suddenly of heart failure last month.

Turns out the great idea was a joint project between Boston Beer and the soon to be fired WNEW-FM shock jocks Opie and Anthony. An FCC fine of $357,000 was levied against the radio station. The final two lines of the story is classic:

WNEW had no comment on the sentencing. A rep for Opie and Anthony and Sam Adams President Jim Koch did not return calls.

Wise. But a little more detail is provided in a gossip column in the New York Daily News of 29 August 29, 2002 which I provide in full for reasons of review of the delightful manner in which the gossipy tidbit was framed:

Opie and Anthony had a beer buddy rooting them on in the studio while they encouraged the St. Patrick’s Cathedral sex stunt that got them canned.¬†Jim Koch, the head of Boston Beer Co., admitted he was on hand during the taping and issued an apology on the company’s Web site Monday.¬†“We at the Boston Beer Co. formally apologize to all those upset or offended by the incident on the Opie and Anthony show and by our association with it,” wrote Koch. His company backed the show’s “Sex for Sam” contest, which promoted a trip to Boston to the company’s annual festival for couples who had public sex.¬†The Samuel Adams brewer even called Lou Giovino, the Catholic League’s director of communications, to apologize. “I spoke with him twice since Monday,” Giovino told us, “And we’re satisfied with his apology.”¬†But Giovino didn’t seem content when we told him he could listen to Koch’s studio hooting on the Smoking Gun’s Web site.¬†“Oh, boy,” he sighed.

The past is a foreign country – they do things differently there.¬†“Oh boy,” indeed.

One last tale. A little less… ripe and perhaps more in tune with where the future was actually going. In the 2 November 1996 issue of¬†Newsweek¬†magazine, there was a short piece headlined “Hobbies – It’s Beer O’Clock” in the regular Cyberscope column authored by Brad Stone and Jennifer Tanaka.

Seems like it’s hardly ever Miller time anymore. Now that America has developed a taste for microbrewed beer, The Real Beer Page (http:realbeer.com) should find a natural audience. It’s a one-stop destination for dozens of links to¬†microbrewery¬†home pages, beer Web zines and a database of brew pubs with a search engine to help you find one in your neighborhood. Cheers.

Dozens! Imagine. Particularly sweet is the note that the caption to an accompanying image was “Suds on the Menu” because no one loves an early web pun more than me. I also like the reference to “beer Web zines” which what I really should have called this place – A Good Beer Web Zine. Where are my Hammer Pants?

Your Monday Beer New Links For The Return To Office Work

It’s not like I dislike office work. It’s just that I like a week off in summer better. Drove too much. ¬†About 2500 km all in all. Did home repairs and lawn stuff. Took trousers to the tailor. Visited a tiny new brewery. Yes, that one right there. I expect to post on the beers I dragged home hidden amongst the kids’ camp and cottage crap. What else went on this week?

Flying Dog Quits The Brewers Association

The recently Maryland-based brewery Flying Dog announced it had quit the Brewers Association and folk quickly took sides or at least thought a bit about which side they might take. Nothing better than when libertarians and progressives face off over something even though the both have a thing for tie-die shirts. The press release is pretty clear about what’s behind the move:

The BA’s new Marketing & Advertising Code is nothing more than a blatant attempt to bully and intimidate craft brewers into self-censorship and to only create labels that are acceptable to the management and directors of the BA. By contrast, Flying Dog believes that consumers are intelligent enough to decide for themselves what choices are right for them: What books to read, movies to watch, music to listen to, or beers to consume (and whether or not they like the labeling).

What’s really interesting about this is how it is tied in as part of the new optional (and seemingly stalled at about 20-25% buy-in) logo thing. And… freedom!!! Or just licence… or debauchery… or something co-opted. J. Notte summed it up this way on Sunday: “BA sees itself as a parent setting the rules, Flying Dog sees BA as a roommate who just set a fire in the living room.” ¬†What I don’t understand was where the BA membership outreach and committee work was on the logo and the code of conduct? Was this all actually just imposed without any trial balloons? More to the point, will others quit, too?

The Economist Noticed Craft Beer!!!

I found this story entitled “Craft Beer in America Goes Flat” interesting, pretty cool in fact as The Economist¬†isn’t this micro focused [Ed.:¬†get it? An economics pun!!]¬†usually but it gets to the point: “the number of brands has proliferated, the number of drinkers has not.” [Ed.: sweet attention to that verb structure, too.] It might have been a link for last week but the lack of chit chat about the story since it came out is interesting in itself. I am sure if we ever see a retraction in US craft beer we’ll have months and months and months of explanation of how it’s not a retraction from all the smart people with careers invested in the expansion of US craft beer.

Why Even Call It “Contract Brewing”?

Ben Johnson expanded on his article in Canada’s newspaper, The Old and Stale, with a blog post that unpacks the contract beer situation in a pretty clearheaded manner. Me? I take nothing from the argument that consumers don’t care given that labeling laws don’t require that anyone tell consumers that a beer is brewed somewhere that isn’t the little sweet Grannie’s cottage the branding would make you think… but the other arguments are pretty good.

Let’s be clear. The firm that brews the beer bought on a contract is a “contract brewer.” Other folk in the retail supply chain are maybe a “beer company.” Nothing wrong with being a beer company. Also, it obeys English as one who does not brew can’t also be brewing. Doubt me? Ask one of them to change the yeast strain to improve the batch. Oh, not allowed. By whom? Oh, the actual brewer.

And the Co-opting Of “Punk” Started A Decade Ago

Good to see, as reported by Matt C., a Sussex-based brewery¬†Burning Sky… a wee actual-ish crafty brewery has back away from BrewDog’s weird insistence that they are somehow connected to “punk.”¬†[Ed.: they are only getting that in 2017? It’s like your nerdy accountant cousin Ken who likes to pretend he gets that hop-hip all the kids are listening to.] Anyway, BrewDog is great at marketing, aiming to be wonderful at opening branch plants globally as well as a chain of bars and half their beers are even sorta OK. But, let’s be honest, it’s hardly craft anymore let alone punk. A fledgling lawyer and his pal, a very successful brewer, dreamed up a way to get rich through beer with a smidgen less – what? – less of something… than even¬†Malcolm McLaren‘s relationship to the actual invention of punk. Tellingly, Matt could only find a managing director for the BrewDog bars division to get a quote from. Small. Traditional. That’s it. Keep in line. Punks do that. Keep. In. Line. And… err…¬†something co-opted.

Other Things of Great Importance

Jeff Bell posted a lovely short vignette of an encounter on the streets of London with a man sharing his beer.

Tweet of the week? From Matthew Osgood who neatly summed up the irritation posed by craft beer evangelists who just won’t stop it what with their knocking at the door fun, pamphlets in hand:

…my issue is that I don‚Äôt need a six-beer tasting session every time I come over to watch a game.

Jeff Alworth was exploring what things were like ten and twenty years ago in his fair town of Portland, Oregon care of a tweet and one of his best posts ever. Recent history benefits as much from reliance on records as much as the far dimmer past I wallow about in.

Rebecca Pate¬†reported on her visit to our mutual hometown, Halifax, where she had a Pete’s Super Donair and… visited 2 Crows. Which is interesting as “crows” was a slag in my years at our mutual undergrad college.

Is Andy Crouch the first beer writer to actually pay with his own money when visiting Asheville? Seems incongruous.

And last but certainly not least remember to follow Timely Tipple for the weekly brewing history links.

Some Words For Beer In The NY Times Over Time

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Interesting to see that “craft beer” is such a post-2007 term – and one that has never quote achieved the heights that “microbrewery” did in the late 90s. “Gourmet beer” never did nuttin’ for no one. Thank God. Glad to see “good beer” has the staying power that simplicity and accuracy assures. Play this game yourself.

My Wee Experimental Brewery

Not quite this much yeast…

I was going to call this another project but I think that might be a wee bit too much so “My Experimental Brewery” (or MEB) will have to do. I have home brewed in two periods of my life. In 1987 I visited the Pitfield Beer Shop that Knut visited in 2005 but which recently shut. I picked up some books, a few collapsible kegs and backpacked them back to Halifax, Nova Scotia for a stretch of kit brewing with my recently graduated pals. From 2000 to about 2003 I part-mashed about 100 gallons a year, mixing extract and a small mash. I was pretty good and used the best ingredients I could find. I also got a bit heavy…heavier…which has put me off brewing for a while.

But recent comments here plus thinking more about beer and culture plus a colleague with an interest in brewing got me thinking – including thinking about about all that excellent yeast I have been pouring down the drain as I rinse out the bottles for the recycling bin. I’ve probably tossed back or poured down the best part of a half litre of saison yeast in the last year and another of top barley wine leavings. That can all be farmed, reused and renewed. And half the magic is in that yeast as we all know. So I put together the makings of a semi-demi-pico brewery and plan to make tiny ten litre batches of all-grain brews. Maybe a pumpkin porter with Fant√īme yeast from Belgium. Maybe an imperial Scots heavy with the mixed yeasts of dubbels and Traquair to help give comfort to a few of we Scots who never got to have that empire. Maybe I will pull down that book by Tayleur that I picked up in 1987 and make something out of what I grow this summer in the garden.

So what would you make if you could make just five six-packs at a time?

C’est What, Toronto, Ontario

cest5I was in Toronto for a few days this week and was able to stop by a brewpub called C’est What. I have some notes to add later after I dig through my stuff but wanted to get these pictures up.

cest7The Next Day: I appear to have sprayed my things with notes-be-gone so I’ll do this from memory. I tried two of their own ales with my Porter Beef Ribs and like both a lot. The first was the redundantly named Brown Mild Ale. While it is true there is a style of that is a light coloured mild, it is rare enough that it is an exception to the general principle that mild is brown. At 3.3%, it is the right strength for a session of supping. The beer menu said it was nitro dispensed meaning instead of being pushed by the normal CO2 there is a measure of nitrogen added. This is the same idea behind cask flow ale in a can that leaves a tiny fine head. With this real ale, it works very well giving a creamy head that incorporates many of the flavours of the yeast. The beer was creamy with chocolate and walnut flavours. The hops were subdued giving a bit of structure to the finish. Very nice.

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At the heart of the ale there is fresh clean water, exactly right for the style. This beer alone would bring me back to this pub. It is a beer that every brew pub should offer, that and/or ordinary bitter, a low alcohol version of a hopped light ale. My only complaint is that it costs the same as the other stronger ales. As 60% of the ingredients go in, ther should be some accomodation in the final cost I pay. That being said, $5.18 CND for a quality real ale pint is a good price.

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The second ale I tried was their hemp ale. This is a favorite of mine whenever I have had it, the hemp replacing or adding to the hop effect. Depending on the amount and selection of hooping, the tastes can be quite different. In this version, it is basically a basic best bitter of 4.5% to 5.0% in terms of mouthfeel which has a layer of sweet green vegetableness added to it. And the green tastes like…fresh broad beans. Should gross but it is not. Quite good with the ribs. cest3The ribs themselves were worth attending again, though the were a smidge underdone for my liking. Meat should fall off ribs and the inner tissue should have essentially melted away. There was a bit too much of a gnaw to the meal but in terms of flavour and texture it was spot on. Served with a spring salad overly drenched in dressing and tastey fine cut herbed french fries. You can order extra ribs and I did, hence the Freddie Flinstone pile on the plate.

This is the second time I have been to C’est What and each time I think there is something less manic about brewing that I would think normal. Less brewiana-esque than most and a little cool or, better, laid back. But I suppose that is the market they are playing to. Odd to see errors like the menu saying Black Sheep Ale is from Scotland when it is from Yorkshire. Nerds usually do not get that wrong. That being said, the quality of the beers – especially in terms of the yeast selection – is as good as I have every tried.

Two From Youngs, London, England

I do not appear to have provided much by the way of information about Young’s. Just Dirty Dick’s and their Double Chocolate Stout – and even that last one was just the barest note. How sad.

Young’s are a local brewer in London that has done very well in the export market. Not that long ago that were somewhat hard to find even in England. David Line in his early and important homebrewing guide from 1978 called Brewing Beers Like Those You Buy – a novel idea 27 years ago – says this about the Special Bitter:

Youngs has existed since 1831 but beer has been brewed on the site of its Ram brewery 1533. Even as recently as the late 1990s, the brewery’s history speaks of adding a bottling line to satisfy supermarket demand. This is still no macro-brewer despite its age and reach.

Special London Ale: This beer pours a quickly dissipating tan head over slightly russeted orange ale. There is a strong mineral rich aroma as soon as you open the top. Very distinct with orange apricot marmalade fruit, a tiny touch of black malt toastiness, a distinct yeast strain that is more dry cracker than biscuit and very twiggy hops with a sweet floral background. Very complex and pleasing. You know, I think that Mendocino’s Eye of the Hawk Select Ale is something of a respectful imitation. All BAers but few respect.

Oatmeal Stout: this is a fantastically good stout with a rare roast malt nuttiness. It pours a mocha cream head over black garnet stout. The yeast is rich chalky cream over which sits a halo of mint hop, Northern Brewer I would think. The black malt toastiness is subdued, balanced with a figgy note. Rich but not sweet. Perfectly balanced…and perfect. Almost sherry, a glass took me an hour and a half to sip. The 1% of BAers who say nay speak of a nitro-can version. This was not.

I promise to do better covering this brewery’s ales. I really do.