Beery Notes From The Third Third Of 2018

Time flies but don’t tell the weather that. First day of school traditionally saw the new corduroys out in force but this year we are having more heatwave. This does not bode well as a step towards global warming. You can see how quickly the environment can flip into a new level of temperament.  Hop regions will be lost and barley crops shall fail if this keeps up. How’s that for curmudgeonly beer blogging?

John Keeling has written an gushy mushy ode to cask ale in the Brewers’ Journal that bears attention:

I started drinking properly in 1973. My first pints were in a Whitbread pub. I tried Trophy, Tankard, lager, lager top and shandy. After experimenting with all those I discovered, along with my friends, Boddingtons and Robinsons. Cask bitter, I have loved you ever since and nothing, not even the finest Pilsner nor the toastiest stout, can capture me for long. I will always return to you.

I wonder how he feels about his dog?

The Beer Nut has traveled from Ireland to Quebec and he does not like the steak tartare.  He finds a mid-sized cornfield vast and likes the first class lounge of our train system. Classic commentary on the Canadian way.  He appears to be heading east but I am not sure, as usual, how far he intends to take it. Will he enter Atlantic Canada? Stay tuned.

Next time someone tells you that the smaller glass ware is suited to the style, remind yourself of how the Brewers’ Association has confirmed its really about getting more money from drinkers’ pockets per barrel by up-selling “experience”:

These changes resulted in an 18 percent increase in revenue, with only a four percent increase in customers. In addition, the number of brands on checks went from an average of two to four. We were making more money for the same work, while also exposing guests to more brands! As an added benefit, the overall sentiment of the guest experience, conveyed in person and online, improved. Many online reviews mention the ability to create your own four-ounce flight as a reason for making the trek to our out-of-the-way bar and beer garden.

Speaking of the new frontiers of newbie sucker juice, a fabulous listicle of ten ignored classic beers was published at Don’tDrinkBeer about the ten top beers that the recent kinderbiere set do not understand. I like it. The groundwork laid down at the outset is worthy of the Tale of Ale and Max:

In a beer scene increasingly dominated by monoculture acid bombs, trubtastic slurrycans, and flabby batterwater, many iconic beers have fallen by the wayside. New palates have neither the time nor attention span for these outdated beers from the past. These beers represent the educational arc that many beer enthusiasts would imbibe on their way to honing their palate. We now exist in an instaRone paradigm, where learning is passe and not knowing is vulnerability. Now the beer journey begins and ends with a 16% double barrel pastry stout and new beer palates don a jaunty expert cap and instantly dislocate their rotator cuff patting themselves on the back.

Me, I have retreated from, literally, the Kool-aid experience as I have too often now been disappointed by what is labeled as an IPA turning out to be something sucked by straw on an elementary schoolyard at recess. I buy comforting brown ales or, yes, the classics. Avoids needing to know “exactly” why craft can cost so much – especially when asking about the expenses is never part of the inquiry. Cooking Lager made an excellent observation on the current state of affairs in a somewhat related comment:

Craft beer is no different. Most of it is just beer concentrate. It’s an acquired taste not a natural taste anyone is born with. You acquire it if you spend time doing so. Drink enough DIPA, eventually you’ll start to like it. The booze rewards the pleasure centres and eventually you will not only forgive the taste but convince yourself you like it. We all acquire tastes. If I compare my own reaction of pleasure to a strong black coffee to my 10-year-old nieces’ wince if she sips it, it is because I acquired the taste, not because she is too stupid to get it. I acquired the taste because I liked the pick me up. Then I started to like the drink. Then I took notice of different roasts, beans and countries of origin. Then I wondered why I was buying a £4 cup of poncey coffee when Greggs do a really good Americano.

The folk who consider that the beer market is broken into teams and that they are contesting with each other will take offense (again) but this is key: “the booze rewards the pleasure centres.” Is the idea that this is all about flavour PR spin? Notice how often the same gurus complain about their hangovers on social media. No, it’s all about finding a sort of palatable alcohol because the selling of palatable alcohol is quite profitable. And makes people happily buzzed. Sometimes it takes complexity to coax the wallets open, sometimes facile flavours. The brewer’s ultimate goal in each case includes the same motive – which is fine as folk are quite happy to spend in response.

Finally, Tim Webb* has written a wonderful eulogy to Chris “Podge” Pollard:

…it was his brilliant eye for detail and for knowing what makes a place great that set him aside.  Despite penning six books he did not claim to be a beer writer, yet his pithy descriptions of cafés came so fully formed that they put you there at the bar, often armed with priceless information, such as “The Dalmatian is deaf.”

There you are. The dearly departed, the great and good – and the not so great and good. Another week in the life of beer as we know it in 2018.  B+B will have more news on Saturday and I shall be back next week.  Here’s hoping for a new crisis to pick at as well as the discovery of a new wonder to behold. See you then.

*Not as the byline states, editor Ted Hampson. My error.

The Very Last Thursday Beer News For August 2018

So how did your summer go? Mine was fine, thanks, even if I did have to work a lot. Finally got a real week off and I have been lazing about. Might go our to a favorite posted late last week on Twitter, Jasper Johns, “Ale Cans,” 1964. I like it. I have been just sitting here looking at things I like between stretches of doing things I like. Which is pretty good for a holiday.

More beer health news. Nice to see that “minimal risk of harm” has replaced the silly J-Curve as a reasonably expression of the limited impact that moderate alcohol consumption has won out. Here is a good analysis of the study. The semi-paid semi-amateur trade spin doctors may still be out in force but the general rule is still minimal harm from minimal consumption… statistically. The always relevant question, as Jeff pointed out recently, is how minimal is your consumption… really.

I liked Andy’s tweet as it tied in with issues related to value and supply:

Going into a liquor store these days to buy beer is like stumbling into an episode of the Walking Dead. Zombie beer brands just sitting warm and dead on store shelves waiting to attack the unsuspecting consumer.

Layer on that the fun folk at The Sun had asking normal folk about some heavily priced UK craft brands:  (i) “I work in a bar and have tried a lot of beers – and this one, from Evil Twin Brewing, is awful. I wouldn’t even pay a pound for it, let alone 12. On the tin it says it tastes of honey but I think it tastes more like sewage“; yet (ii) “I like a dark beer and this is pretty good from Evil Twin Brewing. We drink a lot of dark beer where I come from. In the background you can taste a burnt biscuity, caramel flavour which is nice.” The semi-paid semi-amateur trade spin doctors were again out in force defending… something… but I thought they were reasonable “person on the street” comments.

Then – get this – comes the news… nay, admission that the main brewery participating in the Back to the Future style buck-a-beer government program is losing money on the process. The biggest retailers has already backed out after mere days according to BlogTO (via Crystal.) What I think Andy, The Sun and this article are all noting is how little understood the value of beer is. I might suggest that it is because there is alcohol in beer and its price serves the intended of the consumer in given contexts but that would be opinionated of me.

Speaking of opinion, Josh Noel in the Chicago Tribute explored how US craft is expressing its opinion(s) of the current US Federal government:

In the Trump era, more than a few Chicago bar and brewery owners have worn their left-leaning politics on their sleeves. With an openness unseen in most corners of the hospitality industry, bars and breweries have openly worked on behalf of immigrant rights, gay and lesbian equality, transgender rights and even that third rail of politics, abortion.

Nice to learn from a link in that article, too, that Jim Koch‘s support of the President led to a boycott in his appropriated state of choice:

“Marketers really haven’t had to deal with something like this for 50 years — since the Vietnam War,” said Robert Passikoff, president of the New York consulting firm Brand Keys. “There is no win on this thing. There’s only dealing with it,” he added. “Now, everything is political.” Koch and Boston Beer have faced a backlash on social media driven by figures such as Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone , who pledged in a Twitter post to “never drink Sam Adam’s beer again!” In the physical world, a Jamaica Plain teenager and his father hung a spray-painted sign within sight of the company’s Boston brewery reading, “SHAME! SAM ADAMS [heart] TRUMP SHAME!”

Now, no need to just do a Koch pile-on when we have BrewDog. I don’t need to actually link to their latest failed marketing strategy (which I have a certain familiarity with being myself an early marketing strategy) but I would like to link to Carla Jean who unpacked their sexist and racist junk.

And Stan‘s last weekly update contains an excellent extended extract on the means by which Henry King (who served as president of the United States Brewers Association from 1961 to 1983) made sure the industry as a whole did not take a wrong step in marketing or brewing – he acted in the best interests of the trade and consumers:

“We beat the federal government by seven weeks. We reported the cobalt problem, we were out of it and no longer had production seven weeks before the Food and Drug Administration even got their act together on it.” He acted decisively not just because it was good for the beer industry, but because it was right. When the nitrosamine proved to be a carcinogen in the 1970s, King again moved swiftly. 

Hero of beer!

There. Another week done, another month done and another summer almost done. Damn good thing I am immortal or I’d be getting all anxtity over this passing o’time stuff. B+B has more news on Saturday as always but I was going to also remind you that Stan will be back Monday… but he won’t!  I was thinking of moving this summary of the news back a day or two. I will see how that goes…

Thursday. Beer. News.

News? You want news? Let’s get into this right away. Is this the worst thing ever done to beer? According to a stranger to me*, this is a pint of Guinness and Sprite, half and half sold in Seattle USA. It wasn’t his drink but someone else’s down the bar who explained  “it’s very English.” Yik. Good photo. Bad drink.

Lars is my hero:

A few years ago I put together a description of how to brew keptinis based on ethnographic sources. Martin Warren followed my instructions, but ended up with just black, unfermentable water. So when Simonas invited me to come to Lithuania to see keptinis being brewed, he didn’t need to ask twice.

Keptinis! 

Into the bucket ran what looked like porridge. The pressure in the keg was so high that what came out was pure foam…

Keptinis! Keptinis!!

A small controversy was set off in Ontario by new branding released by Steam Whistle – as noted by Jordan. The brewery announced its branding in this way:

While nutritional labels are not required on beer in Canada, Director of Marketing Tim McLaughlin says that Steam Whistle is “proud of what goes in our beer, and almost more importantly what doesn’t go into our beer.” The labels follow federal standards and display the beer’s ingredients – “pure spring water, select Canadian malt, European hops, Brewer’s yeast” – as well as calories, vitamin content, and other nutritional statistics.

The implication that Jordan sees is the one hidden in the phrase “what doesn’t go into our beer” – suggesting as it does that others may put other things in their beer. In fact, Jordan received a pestering email from the brewery “suggesting that I use the hashtag to discuss the relatively purity of Steam Whistle.” You know, many brewers do put other things in their beer. And many recognize that us of only water, malt, hops and yeast is just one approach to beer. In other news, I had a Steam Whistle Pilsner in 2005.

Modern Toss on modern beer. And BBC Archives on British Beer in Germany in 1974.** While I am no sure I can fully subscribe to the holistic romance of Jeff’s post on a purposeful meaning of “craft” (mainly because beer is functional) that last link makes a strong argument in favour of the argument.

In the “Worst Idea Ever, Worse Than Guinness and Sprite Even…” a line of wines has been produced, the branding based on The Handmaid’s Tale:

The product descriptions for the wines, dedicated to Offred, Ofglen and Serena Joy, are about as ill-conceived as the idea itself, a real achievement when taking into account the fact that wine matters as much to The Handmaid’s Tale as women (and gay people) do to Gilead. Yes, the show goes down easier with a healthy pour. But maybe not one memorialized with the white bonnet and “Of-insert-husband’s-name” formulations that viewers associate with torture and tyranny. 

Who would possibly think this was a good idea? Stupid thoughtless people, that’s who.

Interesting news from the courts. Most interesting because Beau’s did not participate in the trademark litigation brought against it. For those who would argue that beer and wine are different markets, this is a helpful and clear statement from the ruling:

…the parties’ goods would likely be sold in the same stores and restaurants in various provinces. For example, in 2015 and 2016, the LCBO sold both products. In addition, both products would be considered to be in the premium category given their prices; Steelbird’s wine is sold for $34 or $35, and Beau’s Kissmeyer beer is priced at $6.45 per bottle.

Speaking of rulings, one of those dumb marketing schemes rolled out by BrewDog was help to be inappropriate by the shadowy Portman Group, as The Morning Advertiser reported. Stung, one representative of the brewery’s Department of Poor Ideas suggested folk missed the nuance. Lesson: if you have to explain or even use the word “nuance” in a response, it likely never was nuanced.

Fourpure? Don’t care. Except could someone tell craft brewers that they can skip this stuff and admit it is about scale, wealth and ambition?

They see Fourpure and our beer as a primary focus here in the UK and as their sole production brewing facility we will benefit from all the time, expertise and investment required to succeed, and that means that everything around the brewery will be a little bit easier and a little bit better.

Life as a rich person usually is a a wee bit easier, little bit better yes.

I hope you’ve been enriched. More of the same next week. Don’t forget to catch up with all the beer news on the weekend with Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then find out what happened in good beer and a few other things over the weekend with Stan next Monday.

*Ross Maghielse, Manager of audience development at Philadelphia Inquirer.
**Note the driving gloves. Fabulous.

Your Early July, Stinkin’ Hot, Off For The Week, World Cup Round o’16 Thursday Beer News

I tried to avoid the internet on the afternoon of Tuesday, 3 July, given every English beer blogger was (i) drunk and (ii) getting a little jingo-tastic. Not to mention getting ripped off. Good to see they didn’t choke… again. I’ll have the Saltire, the Lion Rampant as well as the blue and yellow Nordic Cross for their next game, Saturday.  If I can get out to the yard to set up the flag poles. It’s supposed to be well into the 30s Celsius today, over 40 C with the humidex.* That’s well past beer weather in my books. Pint o’ club soda with a splash of gin weather. Maybe.

The funniest thing of the week was when the BA “liked” this tweet from me about the BA wasting its lobbying resources efforts on personality politics.

Speaking of bad BA decisions, the idea of partnering  with a classic big macro, fast food chain at the Great American Beer Festival has boggled minds.  Nothing says “craft” like shopping mall food court quality chicken wings. If you read the book,** you would understand that the goal of the transition from micro to craft in the mid-2000s was using discourse control for the great cause of money. So, the idea that big craft could pass on an opportunity to team up with a firm like Buffalo Wild Wings is what we call a poor idea. There’s a lot of SNPA to sell in them there parking lot restaurant. Actual small craft might have many questions. My question is (i) did they put the opportunity out to the market?; and (ii) what did Applebee’s bid? OK, two questions.

Update: Of two minds. On the one hand, struggling to be pleasant while in a bit of a tight spot. On the other, marbles lost but quite likely for good reason.

Better news. Love the campaign. Need the change. Not sure about the accreditation. Who are the scrutineers? How many will be on the ground? What does accreditation cost a pub? If it does cost something (and how can’t it if it is to be done properly) who heads the scrutineers, oversees the standards and hears appeals to determine if allegations are valid. Who gets sued when the process goes wrong? Like when a pub, falsely rebuked, left with its reputation harmed? Does this overlap with a Human Rights Commission mandate?*** Managing this important process well is as important if not more to the integrity of the cause as raising the issue in the first place.

Better still. The Morning Advertiser published James Beeson’s strong argument for the one proper use of the term terroir in relation to beer:

In Tongham, Surrey, Hogs Back Brewery grows 15% of the hops used in its beer on the farm site – including an historic local variety not grown anywhere else in Europe – and sources a further 50% from within three miles of the brewery.

Fabulous. Fortunately, as the keen eyed might have noted, I live usefully close to one of the best examples of local focused brewing, MacKinnon Brothers. Best? They grow the barley, too. Best.  Wonderful. Makes me spend my money. How do you set yourself apart as a local brewer? The sort of brewer that doesn’t partner with BWW? Grow your own damn barley.****

Reminder: #TheSession is this Friday and the subject is German Wheat Beers. That is tomorrow. Tomorrow, folks…

Hmm… How to sell beer to anyone? Just like with the example of the Buffalo Wild Wings deal, the restructuring of good beer culture and concurrent redirection of focus from consumer protection to trade advocacy is almost complete. The latest NAGBW newsletter asks us to “spot great industry coverage” and the BGBW has only one category left for “Citizen Communicator” – whatever that is. I will have to have a word with Pete. Andy noted this sort of creeping problem as far back as 2008. In 2010, the BGBW goal was “to reward the very best beer writing, irrespective of where it comes from or where it’s going.” In 2011, there was only one BGBW award category with the focus on “the excellent work to promote beer which is produced by or on behalf of brewers, pub companies and other related organisations.” Not sure that is the case now.

Why do I care to have, you know, an opinion? Primarily because it all leaves the impression that good beer writing requires you to quit your job, chase the dough and either find a position in the brewing trade or at least go freelance which inevitably requires the junket to tell the naturally compromised junket’s tale. Original independent consumer-oriented personal interest writing is far more… interesting, no? Who are the best? Who needs to be celebrated a bit more? Not me. I can’t even get my Holls and Halls straight.

Conversely and for equal time, “why draw lines in the sand?” asks Matt. Isn’t the answer now and forever “Buffalo Wild Wings”?

Speaking of praising fabulous things, I think this is one of The Beer Nut’s***** finest posts, even though I am sure I say that every seven months. There are only two reasons that one should not post beer reviews on line: (i) you have read The Beer Nut and know you are never going to come close and (ii) you are a ‘fraidy cat who thinks “hmm… maybe I need to quit my job, chase the dough and either find a position in the brewing trade or at least go freelance…” Fat chance that sort of mindset is going to ever come up with this sort of sweet honesty:

The mere 4.6% ABV is further evidence of inauthenticity, but it really kicks in from the aroma: sweet and sticky like a lemon meringue pie. The flavour is pretty much the same, adding a touch of banana foam sweets. The whole thing is weird and artificial. Contrived; and bound to upset any Germans who come to Bar Rua looking for a weissbier. This experiment didn’t work out.******

Oh, that image up there? Best. Of. All. Elephants being fed buckets of Bass ale in 1931. What is not to love about the image of elephants being fed buckets of ale in the mid-war era? Whenever and wherever there is a schism in the good beer world I shall be on the side of images of elephants being fed buckets of ale!

What a week! I wonder if there will be any more soccer coming up on the TV… I wonder if Neymar has another limb to get amputated mid-match. Remember: you can catch up with the news on the weekend with Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then find out what happened over the weekend with Stan on Monday.

*Hey, that’s Canadian!
**Or read this blog… ever…
***Our human rights laws in Ontario protect against discrimination in the provision of services and provide a cheap, professional and transparent process to bring a claim of discriminatory treatment in a retail business setting like the drinks trade. Employment situations, too, as with this example.
****Isn’t it time to pick sides in the craft schism? Isn’t it?
*****Surely one of Ireland’s greatest fluids-based pleasure writers. Anti-Jacksonian.
******Conversely, see the knots that can get tied over calling something “fine.”

Book Review: Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out, Josh Noel

My copy of Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch, and How Craft Beer Became Big Business came in the mail from Amazon this week and I happily started into it while watching preteen softball on a June mid-week evening. The book, as the cover image to the right explains, is a history of Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company, creator of the barrel aged stout and most infamous of the craft brewers to cash-out.

The book covers the span of over three decades, tracing an arc from brewpub making English style ales to regional production microbrewery to big craft reject to brand asset within the portfolio of an international global conglomerate. It’s quite a remarkable thing.  Before I knew it I was 120 pages in. It is clear that author Josh Noel, a journalist with the Chicago Tribune covering a broad mandate, benefits from his skill as an investigative reporter but also as a native of that fair city. The beer and book both convey a sense of place as well as event.

It also, refreshingly, paints realistic portraits of the key players, warts and all – without the slightest bit of an unseemly tone. My first impression from the book, in fact, was that none of the players behind the rise and fall and then rise and fall of Goose Island were all that attractive. As Noel tells it, brewery founder John Hall comes across as a bit of an angry nutcase who came up through the corporate rat race, starting out as a cardboard box salesman. We read at page 79 that as early as 1996 Hall is described as planning to sell out to big beer. But he’s also someone who took a change with his accumulated wealth on a reasonable if calculated risk so the attitude makes sense.

Less sensible is the image created of John’s son Greg: drifter turned alcoholic brewer turned egotist face of the business.  To the mid-2000s, he frankly comes off as a poor little rich kid, even if politely described. Even Michael Jackson is given an cameo and a slag at page 30:

Jackson was a good message guy. He wouldn’t hesitate to criticize Big Beer. But when a small brewery released a flawed beer, no one knew it from Michael Jackson.

The point of these observations is not to be just unkind. As a result of such honesty – rare among craft narratives – the reader is provided with a basis for trust in Noel’s work.  That trust is bolstered by Noel’s deft description of the factors behind the mid-2000s shift from micro-brewing to craft brewing as the US gospel of good beer.  While Noel does unfortunately buy into the back dating of “craft”* to an earlier point when it was not either the ethos or in general use, he does explain how the first efforts of the Brewers Association starting with its formation in 2005 were aimed at control of the discourse through control of the language. Noel suggests it needed to do this for internal reasons:

By the early 2000s, craft beer was splintering into identities. It was cool, it was hip, it was counter culture, it was “you’re not worthy”…

Not to mention it was when brewers and society at large were uncomfortably witnessing 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.” Yik. Noel unpacks the tone of the times, unpacks the tension which existed between cottage industry “craft” and what the founders of the Brewers Association were really after and later accomplished: the creation of a single story of large efficient breweries where quality and consistency are the hallmarks. Thus the creation of heterogeneous and hegemonic big craft as an act of sheer control.

Tied to the BA’s interest in market control, efficiency and scale – a goal would have made E.P. Taylor glow with pride – are Noel’s observations on profit and wealth as a fundamental underlying goal. Be clear on this point. All beer has this as its goal and it applies to macro, old school micro, big craft as well as today’s  tiny taprooms. So we read that Goose Island’s 312 beer is a hit as much for the retro black telephone tap handle as the taste.  And that Matilda was pushed as it had twice the profit margin of 312! And you thought it was all about homage to the great brewers of Belgium. Chumps.

I am enjoying this book greatly. I may even post another follow up as I have in the past when faced with a book on beer that sits so far above the rest. If you have not bought this, skip a couple of six packs and get your copy now. Like right now. Now.

*Not to mention perpetuates the tooth-achingly saccharine phrase “cast of industry all-stars” at page 124 thus, likely unintentionally, appearing to trip over the line from keen observer to fan-boy-ish insider.

If This Is Thursday That Must Be Columbia… Or Tunisia… Or The Beer News!

Big day around these parts as the lad graduates from high school today. Victory! Burn the text books!!! He’s outta there!!! Speaking of ceremonies, let’s just jump into the good news this week with that fabulous photo of a Great Lakes Beer* delivery to a wedding party last weekend. You ever notice the breweries you really like are, you know, really likable? Great customer service.

Speaking of fabulous, M. Lawrenson issued a fabulous edition of “News in Brief” last Friday and coined a classic: “Bud Gear Hunting“! I giggled all weekend over that one.  It is a wonderful thing to watch one man battle the humourlessness that good beer has fallen into. You know how people keep having to say “remember – beer is supposed to be fun!“? That sorta thing is needed to be said because it isn’t always much fun. And if you label this or that cynical, well,  you really need to get a fish.

Speaking of needing to get a fish, this vacuous response to a well placed query about shelf life QC was stunning… or stunned. Apparently (1) it is up to consumers to monitor the problem of stale dated beer on behalf of big craft (ie the ones with money enough) and (ii) the proper response to queries about why big craft can’t manage shelf life QC is:

And speaking of Collabs, that’s something we’ve been doing since 2004 or 2005. We’ve helped some awesome small breweries get attention they deserve, and have worked with some of the best in the biz. Super stoked to think about all the fun and great beer we’ve had over the years.

Now, that’s a wee bit cynical. Almost as cynical as attempting a pile-on while blurbering incoherently about “being indie” as if anyone cares. Folk should just try for likable more often. Who cares about “indie”? Better ti be likable. It is nice to be nice. Did you know Great Lakes Beer takes care of their own shelf stock to make sure that it’s fresh? Plenty of local brewers do. Because they can. That’s nice of them, isn’t it.

Refreshingly, there are actually clear headed people out there getting to the point of what makes for a great moment out in a pub and having a beer, people who are able to tell you what it is we really love about this whole obsession:

The result was a beer that warmed and lost its head too fast and by the end tasted like something that had been left on the bar for two hours. Of course, this poor bloke was alone and incredibly busy so he could be excused. Bollocks! No, I was the only client inside that pub and there were only two or three people outside.

Speaking of nice, the Drunk Polkaroo has been tweeting poetry.  “Open. Pour. Drink. Repeat.” is amongst his finest works. Ah, beer poetry. Beer Haiku Daily was a favourite of mine. Remember that? That was great. When people enjoyed just clean beer fun.

Here is an inordinately detailed discussion of Untappd that unpacks that craft-specific phenomenon of reluctance to acknowledge customer opinion. I’ve never bothered with Untappd but if you had you might want to have a look.

I am with Jason. As I said last week, it takes a bit of craft-quality amnesia to not understand that the microbrewers and then the craft brewers from the late 1970s to the early years of this decade were largely cloning the styles of Europe including, largely, the ales of Britain. So, while Matt is correct to suggest auslanders are reluctant to embrace UK craft, the diagnosis is not as suggested.  UK cask is one of the foundations of US craft and, frankly, UK craft has taken on wee too much cloning to stand that much apart. And hyperventilating. A bit of that, too. Not unrelated, there now is a Trappist brewery in England.

Serious but strong thoughts from Dr. Jackson-Beckham.

Finally, an actual serious story about the passing in Atlanta of Minnesotan Todd Keeling, a beer dispense system inventor, that Tom brought to my attention:

A fast-talking tinkerer and father of four was at SunTrust Park to install his beer tap invention when he died, his family told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday… Kuchta said her nephew was excited to learn that another MLB stadium wanted his beer tap technology, Draftwell, which was going to cut down pour times at SunTrust from a 14-second average to five seconds.

We engage in health and safety considerations throughout all the construction work I am involved with and we are always aware how dangerous familiar workplaces can. That is as true in all aspects brewing as any other industry. Very sad.

I will leave you on that note for this week. Remember to check out Boak and Bailey with the news on Saturday as well as Stan on Mondays.

 

*The one with the Great Lake being Lake Ontario and the location being Etobicoke and not the one with the Great Lake being Lake Erie and the location being Cleveland.

The First Thursday’s Beer New For World Cup 2018

I have to admit, few of my teams made it. I think sports allegiance needs a personal or familial connection. Land of my birth, Canada? Never had a chance. Land of my fathers and mothers, Scotland? Squandered any chance they had. Hmm… I worked in the Netherlands in 1986… but they didn’t make it. So POLAND! Aka “land of love” where me and herself met in 1991. That’ll do. Right? Except… it’s now slipping deeper under a super-simmering nationalist movement. Hmm. Gotta think about this theory of mine.

Note: Moscow might not have enough beer for the World Cup. Nizjnij Novgorod doesn’t either. The lads above might be less happy soon. Related: Beavertown Brewery is dependent on an dwindling artificial CO2 supply. Other craft brewers, too.  I love these unknown traditional aspects of craffy beer. Let them drink cask!

Elsewhere, supplies are abundant. Jeff triggered a fulsome discussion on Twitter on Monday on the word “godesgood” and whether it was used all that often. Like the mythical “no one drank water before public health” line, there are many familiar fibs that are rightly challenged. My contribution was in favour of barm, including this quote from a 1430s text:

For, whan the ale was as fayr standyng undyr berm as any man mygth se, sodenly the berm wold fallyn down that alle the ale was lost every brewyng aftyr other, that hir servawntys weryn aschamyd and wold not dwellyn wyth hir.

Almost 600 years ago. Nothing to be ashamed about this year’s British #NationalBeerDay, which unlike the 217 other national beer days every year, gave us at least this great photo set of the first four actors to play Doctor Who having a beer.

Apparently, according to the brewers the only way to return to cheap beer in Ontario is to lower taxes. Except, even if you do that, Ontario brewers are not interested in making cheap beer.

Warning: this article in The Guardian on the US starting to embrace British ale brewing requires readers to be completely unaware of the brewing of good beer by microbrewers and craft brewers from the late 1970s to the early years of this decade during which years the craft beer movement was largely driving by cloning the styles of Europe including, largely, the ales of Britain.  Example: Clark’s… oh, and hundreds of other places.

Ugly news from what had been one of my favourite local wineries – and an apology in response with some details about the greater response. Reaction. Reaction.

Far less seriously, these two tweets by very thoughtful people remind me again how – like “pairing” – I could not care less about beer label design other than (seriously again) to get rid of all the sexist, racist and otherwise bigoted content one finds on them. Honestly, I have a very hard time thinking of a label that gives any sort of Pavlovian effect, triggering the memory of a flavour one might find within the container. But I only speak of me. I judge no one. I suppose that comes with me being of an age when there were fifty brands and one flavour of beer. I find artsy labels just force me to squint more to figure out what is actually on offer. They are the Flash animation laced intro web pages of the beer world. Still – more signal, less noise please.

Lastly but somewhat related, Andy has spotted a wee trend that I can’t figure out whether it is signal or noise. Brewers are ditching “born on” dating for “best before” due to obsessives looking for only the very newest batches – even if it means engaging in style infanticide.

There you have it. A shorter post for a bit of a quieter week – some interesting news, some tough news. But mainly a week of international kicky ball, drinky beer. More will be revealed in the coming days. Especially if you take to time to catch up with Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday.

Here’s A New One To Me – “Virtual Beer”

The CBC has posted a story gleaned from interviews at last week’s Canadian Brewing Awards and Conference held in my old hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia  that breaks the mold of “fourth line Jr B hockey player” level PR skill that we usually here out of these sort of revival tent meetings. The problem? Contract brewers:

Mistry says he tries to work with clients who already know something about brewing and, in many cases, they eventually move on to build their own brewery. The contract batches are just a chance to get a foothold in the marketplace without having to risk too much on capital investments up front. But he concedes that since craft beer has become so popular, some people contract brew as a hobby or vanity business venture. “There’s a lot of bankers out there that start their brands, so they have no scientific background,” said Mistry. “There’s one guy we deal with who [has] a marketing company.”

Mistry is Jamie Mistry, operations manager at Common Good Brewing Company in Scarborough, Ontario. It’s a pretty blunt statement in a pretty blunt report. Apparently all is not well in the Canadian brewing scene. Brian Titus, owner of Garrison Brewing in Nova Scotia appears to be quoted as saying there’s the worry that contract beers flood an “already saturated market, while also diluting the strength of the craft beer brand.” Hard to disagree with that sentiment. Sam Corbeil of  Sawdust City Brewing Co. in Gravenhurst, Ont. said called the idea on contract brewing was originally “appalling” to him. Appalling!

Strong stuff. But what most caught my eye was the use of the phrase “virtual beer” to describe the phenomenon. It states contract brew is (i) referred to in the industry as “virtual beer”and (ii) that this is a concept mostly unknown to the public. A Google search for the term finds not a lot of back up for the assertion that it is a thing. There was a weird iPhone app around 2006 by the name. Plus it’s code for well earned praise amongst coders.

So, I am not sure it’s really a term that is really used in craft beer. Is there really that level of disgust or at least distrust? Not sure the phrase works, myself. If anything, it would be better to reference the practice as “virtual craft” if the goal is to make an oblique slag to the integrity involved.  Unless the online knitters have already cornered that market.

Your Mid-May Beery News Links Of Note

Did you see the game? I don’t know or really care what game it was but May is all about the games. Big ball games. I never am sure what the rules of big ball actually are but it sure is exciting this time of year. I think about that when I read about things like that it is America’s Craft Beer Week and think – how dull is that? And even nine years after “Hooray for Everything” it is still pretty much stuck in that same rut. What is it about beer that makes its promotion either offensive or deathly dull? I love that the vision for the event-like thing used to be:

…the week to inspire beer enthusiasts to declare their independence by supporting breweries that produce fewer than 2 million barrels of beer a year and are independently owned…

…given, you know, that the whole “fewer” thing is out the door and “independence” is such a dodgy concept it had to be converted into branding to patch over the difficult questions. Unless Andy is right and the schisms as just beginning. Anyway, to each their own. I suspect the real value is in brewery staff pep rallies, hot dog cannon sales and boosting the pamphlet manufacturing trade… that sort of thing.

What else… or, rather, what is actually going on? By the way, have you lost the ability to waste time on the internet?* Good question. Not me! Evidence? This weekly post. Further evidence? How about an immediately early morning bonus update mid-paragraph to highlight this amazing piece on how to do nothing in Chicago** for a whole day.

Ruh-ro: Saudi beer caps.

Yikes! “Microplastics in beer is no small deal” is real news. The Great Lakes seem particularly hit. I live next to a Great Lake. I drink its waters. It’s in the tap water. And therefore in me. I expect to hear it is very bad… or overblown. But not as bad as this was feared, I hope. I just can’t wait for the beer trade PR semi-pros to start handing out the medical advice on this one.

Gentle razzing amongst new urban central Canadian beer mags was received concurrently with emails describing the reorganization of the excellent third such publication launched just last year.  Offering best wishes feels a bit like hoping the kid will learn to ride that bike without losing a tooth or ending up in a cast at some point. Who will actually survive? Will any make it to issue four? Worth noting an utter lack of fidelity amongst the writers. Everyone seems just to write for everyone. Did I expect anything else?

Ontario.

Fabulous observation from the world’s most honest publican:Well… what is success anyway? BrewDog provides comparison and have again highlighted the now long-past-death of craft with the announcement that they are closing in on billionaire status… well, Canadian billionaire.  Sure the fingers get pointed at dear old semi-demi-delusional Humphrey but as far as UK craft brewing magnates go these days, Watt and Wham… err, Dickie… are leading the pack.

I was going to not bother with this Beavertown*** story as it is rather boring being another small brewery making the move to being much bigger on the way to being very much bigger. I figured Boak and Bailey would know more and get to it Saturday. But then they got to it on Tuesday… and then they got to be bizarrely labeled as both vaguely biased and, oddly but not uncharacteristically, apparently not biased enough… again vaguely. Non-story mock outrage. Sad. Nate gets it. Fan fiction of a sort, I suppose. Except I can only presume, as usual, it was preceded by a phone call and a back scratch. Which Cloudwater, jumping in on clumsily (and somewhat anti-democratically), seemed to prove. Nice bit of poor widdle cwaft performance art.****

Rather conversely, some real news here about the application of the law under the heady New York Post title “Winery owner busted for ‘illegal moonshine operation“:

“The discovery of an illegal moonshine operation in the heart of Brooklyn is nothing short of shocking, given how easy and inexpensive it is to obtain a distiller’s license in New York state,” said SLA Counsel Christopher Riano. Snyder was led away in handcuffs following the Wednesday raid, authorities said, and was charged by the city Sheriff’s Office with the illicit manufacturing of alcoholic beverages. The class-E felony is punishable by 1-4 years in prison.

Frankly, I am surprised we have not seen more of this, especially given the pervasive false “new e-conomy of 1996” style promise of the drinks PR trade: “don’t worry, it’s craft!” The handcuffing was a sweet touch.

Happier news: a piece on Valley Malt by Mr. Matthew Osgood. We used their product when we created a version of Vassar Ale with Beaus in 2012 which was, to be fair, a case of inspiration more than replication. Still, exceptionally yum.

Speaking about perhaps not journalism,*** sad to see the UK’s Morning Advertiser getting suckered into this bit of PR puff about “blockchain beer” – a tale not unlike the phony “open source beer” story that got me quoted back in 2005***** in The New York Times, an organ which I like to think of as the world’s newspaper of record. Bar-coding for provenance is also pretty much “new e-conomy of 1996” style. I remember being in a presentation twenty years ago for using it to prove where potatoes were grown. Amazed-balls! Decentralized server authentication through embedded cryptography is entirely different. But, you know, beer journalism so… whatever.

Wednesday, Pete wrote about alcohol in The Guardian this week but then I had to recalibrate my expectations early on when I hit this bit of health and politics:

This means we live in an age of alarmist misinformation about the perils of booze, with a growing belief that any level of consumption of this “poison” is potentially harmful. 

Unfortunately, Pete’s article turns out to not be about the effects of alcohol but the phases of a single drinking session. There is a phrase you need to keep in mind when working on electricity transmission contracts: “you have to obey the electrons.” Likewise, when you consider health and alcohol, you have to remember you are sitting in a human body and not a magic consumption machine. So, I am more inclined to think of this by Pete or this from Jeff than I am to buy into an idea that there is too much alarmist misinformation about the perils of booze.

Hmm. Seems like an inordinately unhappy set of notes up there. Remember when people used to call good beer a social lubricant? It was going so well for a few weeks but – whammo! – so much getting it wrong in so many ways.  Graft, innuendo and dipsomania all in one place together. Is this the end? Has something run its course? Or is the sign that something new is just around the corner? Well, for answers to those and many more questions you will have to wait until next week to see. Or tune into the internets on Saturday to visit with the, seriously, much more creative and informed, pleasant and positive Boak and Bailey.

*Can we even recall what it was like?
**Hint.
***Admittedly, the name alone poses a challenge to any Canadian. Not to mention this.  And… the icky.
****None of this was about “journalism v. opinion” with all due respect.  So, what do we call it? The assertion of status for some reason or another is a part of what I see. Which leads to the broader question: what is the point of following this sort of transient semi-contrived issue-skirting promotional writing if the point is, in an way, not ultimately what is written? Fortunately, having written inordinately about the Georgian era, I can see an attempt at a status-based construct over a merit-based construct from the next valley.
*****Have I ever mentioned that I was quoted in The New York Times in 2005? I have? Could I share more details with you?

Finally – A Quiet Week In Beer Thursday Links

Quiet. So quiet Stan is taking a month off. You know what he does in these little gaps of his? Not judging. No. Not me.  It’s election time in Ontario all of a sudden but, again like in 2014, I expect a quiet sleepy time for beer as debating point on public policy. That is our current Premier Kathleen Wynne performing the obligatory pouring of the beer back in the last 2014 campaign. Oddly, she chose an iconic brand from another province far far away. I shall make no such error. I am announcing my committment to offering you the best politicians pouring beer photos throughout the next month of campaigning.

Was it really quiet this week? OK, there were some spats. Folk not liking folk calling folk out. I don’t get into these personality things much so I can’t speak to the dynamics. These are all strangers to me. And then there was that whole “Monday of the Glitter Beer” argie-bargie. While there are good intentions involved, my position remains clear:

I really should have written “silly” and not “stupid”* for niceness’s sake… but my point would have really been the same. You dull a beer with murk and then add adulterating if likely benign elements to make up for the loss of beer’s natural jewel like gleam? But isn’t the real thing folk should understand is that it just doesn’t matter at all? I was a bit surprised by the glitter as a thing women use association argument as I think of glitter as a thing children use. Stuff on the craft shelf like the Elmer’s glue and construction paper. Hmm. Maybe it helps to be Canadian with pals in upstate New York. Let me explain. In upstate New York, adults eat hot dogs. I get it. I even do it when I am there. There is a rich history of ultra-local hot dog loyalties. But in Canada hot dogs are the food of a child. Like racing all a giggle towards a teeter-totter in the park. Or excitedly wearing a new ball cap with Thomas the Tank Engine.** That’s what hot dogs are. And glitter. Doesn’t mean its not worth taking pleasure in. Fill your boots! [I understand folk like to play “name the hops in the beer” too.] Frankly, any reason for a good schism is reason enough for me.

Jordan has been quiet. Now he says he will no longer be as quiet.

Hmm. Even though I have unjustly received the sting of the Protz, this situation is a bit odd.  A newspaper… well, a newspaper-like-thing sneakily reconstructing an apparently new interview and story from an old interview and story. How odd.

What else is going on? Kara Loo and Kelissa Hieber posted a good summary of events at this year’s US Craft Brewers Conference from the positive party line point of view. I say US even though the BA seems to be silently absorbing the Ontario craft movement and maybe other Canadian craft brewing regional discussions. Is that happening elsewhere, too? Me, I find the “Stronger Together” stuff a bit weird. One ring to rule them all. Who would have thought independent and small mean homogenization and centralized authority? Jeff likes “independent” but I just don’t get it at all. Hard to think of a vaguer word to frame a potentially stalling trade’s rebranding campaign around.

There is a good reason no one goes to watch three-legged races. The rope tying up the participants. I think of that often when I read folk trying to describe the economics of craft brewing while carefully avoiding any discussion of the owners’ take from these businesses. It’s all very well to tell sad tales of the actual hardships families of brewing staff face but why is that not partnered with the story of the lifestyles, cottages and fishing boats of the established and emerging craft brewery owners?

Speaking of quiet, will what might have been called in the 1950s or 60s eastern mystical mindfullness and beer be a thing? Well, it is a thing already – one that’s called “laying off the hootch” but you see my point, right? Andrew Jefford poses the question as it relates to wine in this way:

I would simply point out that there are, in fact, many points of similarity between the general practice of mindfulness and that of wine tasting.  You can indeed be a mindful wine taster; wine tasting at its most subtle and rewarding is a ‘mindful’ activity par excellence.

I get it. It’s about the immediacy of now. But I just end up having a good nap when I am achieve this sort of state of mind. Or staring at an ant crawling through the lawn. Up and down the blades of grass. Or reading a few travel posts by Ron. Why add alcohol? Isn’t the cool spring air sweet enough?

The Low House in Laxfield, England has been bought by the community just eleven years after it was the subject of a post on this here blog. Just eleven years. Coincidence?

Another month, another stage in the  case of Stone v. Keystone… and this is the point in the litigation that the non-lawyers eye will start to glaze over. See, Stone has moved to dismiss the counterclaim rather than answer it with a statement of defense to the counterclaims. Got it? Bored yet? You know, I took Civil Procedure from Tom Cromwell, a wonderful professor who later became a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada… and even I am getting a bit bored. Mind you, I think it was a Friday 8:30 am class so I likely only went maybe once every five weeks. As always, legal brain*** Brendan in Syracuse unpacks the situation.

Not beer: Living Colour.

Oh – and I did have a few beer.**** I especially am enjoying a small stash of Brouhaha, a nut brown ale from Refined Fool out of Sarnia over by Michigan. Lovely. He who is tired of nut brown ale is tired of life.

That’s it. Laters.

*I did poll the drinking age women in our house and they did go with “stupid” so…
**Not to mention, giving equal time,  1 Corinthians 13:11.
***He is such a brain.
****Remember – in Canada, the plural of “beer” is “beer” – like moose. OK?