Warm Weather And The Taxes Are Done Early May Thursday Beer News

Is there any news now that the temperature is over 20C? Isn’t that the real news? Is there any other news to cover? Sure there is the mule making process* being experimented with again, the comminglings this time happening at the #CBC18 event. A magic time with all sorts of attractions. One might find some news there… but how to do that (i) at a distance resistant to the back-slappy back-scratchy and, you know, (ii) sober? What idealism. That’s not how the news is gathered. Buddy up and hit the free bar!

LAST MINUTE ADDENDUM: an hour and a half long video of Ron going on about brewing in the 1700s at a US university. [Gotta fisk and fact check…]

Elsewhere and perhaps from another universe, the best tweet of the week was this one by Dominic Driscoll who berated a beer festival for attracting nothing but the same old “rip-off street food and only hipster attendees.” Actually, I found the selection of shades of grey in this image attached to his tweet rather compelling. Perhaps not all that #CBC18 but still a worthy gathering.

Check your trousers for flying monkeys. Boston Beer had a good quarter.

You know what? I bought three types of cloudy ale variants last weekend as well as a brett saison for takeaway from Ottawa’s Flora Hall Brewing and I was happy to report to myself, once I settled in back home, that I quite liked them. One was even a NEIPA. Nothing like the SunnyD stuff labeled NEIPA crap that I have been handed before. This was cream and fruit and grain all a bit like your morning yogurty muesli. Which is something I like to eat. So why not? I bet they would even pair well with my morning yogurty muesli.

Conversely – and sadly – this story does not live up to the headline as “Adnams Makes Beer from Leftover Marks & Spencer Sandwiches” is really just about recycling the crusts of sliced sandwich loaves. Not anywhere near as disgusting as I had hoped so therefore not anywhere near as fun. Still… it might pair well with recycled crusts of sliced sandwich loaves.

Speaking of which, “Today’s Beer” makes much more sense than “Modern Beer” as a descriptor, given styles are shifting at the speed of a fruit fly family’s genetic fingerprint. A few years from now it will be more like “This Afternoon’s Beer”… maybe.

While, yes, this beer may have nothing to do with Washington it is still sad to have to say the actual history of brewing in the 1700s colonial and independent America was vibrant, clearly full of good beer, brewed at a generous scale and sometimes exported – and porter was even cellared and aged.  Looks like a case of becoming what you berate. Click a few links to the right starting here if you want to know the real story. If you want to, that is.

Back to today, remember when cable TV companies complained about all that convergence happening on the information superhighway? Same:

One could argue that alcohol consumption may have decreased nationwide, but the way the study controlled for countries that had specifically introduced recreational pot, before and after, seems to provide strong evidence that access to weed on some level replaces a degree of alcohol consumption. The results of the study also reportedly “take into account age, race and income data.” They confirm similar findings from two previous professional studies on the same topic, all of which have suggested a link between marijuana legalization and a decrease in alcohol sales.

Which means tomorrow’s Today’s Beer might not even be beer. Don’t worry. Just like brewing history, craft can bend the words so deftly that tomorrow’s today’s beer could actually be not beer and, yet, still be called beer.

I like this story in The Washington Post and not only for the admission that the interest in non-alcoholic beer is due in large part to the author’s alcoholism. My problem is that rather than hunting out non-alcoholic beer when I don’t want the booze, I like to hunt out drinks simply without alcohol. Pear juice. Yum. Assam tea. Ahh. Ginger ale. I am mad for good ginger ale. And it illustrates the problem with folk who say they are really only into craft beer for the flavour: there are masses of other flavours out there to be explored elsewhere, well away from the ethyl alcohol. Summary? If you don’t want or can’t have a beer… why have a bad beer?

I also like this incredibly detailed bit of research in something that is likely not connected to The Wall Street Journal but I have no idea why it was undertaken. Now I know that North Dakota out drinks South Dakota in terms of beer. By a tenth of a gallon of beer. I think that might be a nonfact. Or is it an unfact. A true thing that matters not a jot. Not a sausage. I do like how it show little meaningful correlation between taxes on beer and consumption of beer.  North Dakota has the 17th highest taxation level. Think about that. 17th. Boom. Don’t even mention Rhode Island. Just don’t.

One more thing. I was happily reading an article today and then got blind sided by another one of a sort of weird but typical editorial choice showing up in beer periodicals. I’ve been holding back. This is something that I have found to be somewhat embarrassing for years. Let me share my pain. It is illustrated to the right in the sub-tile kicker (or whatever journos call it) beneath the headline for this article on mead in the latest issue of that CAMRA mag. “Fire breathing dragons and armies of the undead…“?!? What unmitigated cheese. But then you see the same thing in the same article above a very nice piece by Boak and Bailey: “…the lost art…“! It’s all a bit ripe. Holiday cheese ball ripe. What am I complaining about? It’s that weird junior high basement dungeons-and-dragons grade ancient, mystical, medieval claptrap. You see it everywhere. It’s a bit there in that Raiders of the Lost Ark OG cover, too. Makes you feel like you should be drinking your beer from a pre-raphaelite vase while discussing hobbit culture as Houses of the Holy plays quietly on a slow loop somewhere down a hallway.** You see a hint of it anytime brewing is referred to as a “mystery” or “alchemy” even though it is the opposite of that – just a very common practice undertaken regularly for millennia by a large number of ordinary people. Would we  discuss, say, the “alchemy” of shoes? Or the “lost art” of, errr, growing reasonably ordinary tomato varieties in a nice terracotta pot bought at the hardware store? No. No, we wouldn’t. It’s like that loser “rock star brewer” crap of the X-treme beer era but, unlike that, it never seems to have the decency to go away. Never ever. No matter how stupid and laughable it all is. Does anyone actually get the slightest wiff of “mystical magical alchemy” mumbo jumbo at all from beer? Do you? Or is it just lazy cliché layout copy?

OK, that is it. The week that the BA plays BB right down to the big screens and the group hate on the evil other – terrible bad majoritarian popular beer.  It’s over. That week is done. And like every week, a new week begins each Thursday at noon. See you at the end of the next one. Go!

*Don’t get me wrong. The mule has wonderful attributes: “more patient, hardy and long-lived than horses, and are described as less obstinate and more intelligent than donkeys” according to wikipedia. Thick skin and and natural cautiousness. But they are just not… natural. The result of a meeting that would not otherwise occur. Who loads the Wikipedia entry for “Mules” anyway?

**Many is a word
That only leaves you guessing
Guessing ’bout a thing
You really ought to know, ooh…
(…you really aughta know-a-woe…)
[Fade out on twiddly electronic stoner keyboards.]

Some Thursday Beer News After The Whole Green Flash Thing

I love the map above, a 1881 Isochronic Chart showing travel time from London under optimum conditions. Which should help understanding the travel time for casks of British beer from that year and perhaps quite a few decades before. Or at least it can be adjusted by a factor. In 1732 the ship Ann crossed the Atlantic, from London to the not-yet colony of Georgia in 88 days. Note how in 1881 Nova Scotia and a bit of Newfoundland are green, meaning transit could occur under ten days. Or about an eleventh of an Ann. Neato. More here.

Gary: Bass master… not Bassmaster. Got it?

Archaeologist Merryn Dineley, is making some great points on Twitter these days about the lack of respect and role of malt and malting through time, both today and and in particular in relation to the study of Stonehenge.

Yup.

Ha ha! Stone sued a party that had nothing to do with it. Will they pay their legal costs? Is that the reason for the delay?

The forces of “don’t worry, be happy” are out in force this week given that the news broke that the assets of Green Flash, the 43rd largest US craft brewery, have been sold off. As the Full Pint reported on Tuesday, this is part of the official memo that Green Flash President and CEO Mike Hinkley sent to over 100 shareholders:

On behalf of myself and the Board of Directors of GFBC, Inc. (the “Company”), I am truly sorry to report that the Company’s senior lender, Comerica Bank, has foreclosed on its loans and sold the assets of the Company (other than the Virginia Beach brewery) to WC IPA LLC through a foreclosure sale which closed on March 30, 2018.  As such, the Company no longer owns the Green Flash and Alpine businesses.  Comerica Bank is currently conducting a separate process to sell the Virginia Beach brewery. After a general slowdown in the craft beer industry, coupled with intense competition and a slowdown of our business, we could not service the debt that we took on to build the Virginia Beach brewery — and in early 2018, the Company defaulted on its loans with Comerica Bank.  

Note a few things. The shareholders were not aware of the decision made apparently by the main shareholder, the lender whose loan bounced. The were told after the fact. I expect that indicates that the lender got the power to do that in a loan agreement. It also might indicate that this was not the first loan agreement as gaining that short of shareholder control is not the stuff of ordinary loan agreements.  The failing of the business has being going on for some time. Also, these are asset sales.  This is not a foreclosure of the business.* The brewing company has not been sold off, just the assets of value. Including the “businesses” which would include the brands, the goodwill if any is left and all operational aspects.  So, the corporation has been stripped to pay the bank. Reason? Forget the other stuff – over extension of debt to move into the branch plant business. The only question that matters is whether others will be found to be in the same boat.

Craft was in the news for other reasons. The Wall Street Journal declared craft beer was “big business.” [Note: “big craft” was discussed in 2014.] I like this plain language sentence in the WSJ piece in particular: “[r]ecent years have seen a world-wide wave of beer consolidation.” No “sell out!” No “got gobbled up!” Just a plain language description of the business of beer doing what it has done for hundreds of years – consolidate.

One example of a consolidation was examined in far greater detail by the Chicago Tribune in Josh Noel’s excellent article “Goose Island Aims to Shake Off Rough Year with New Beers, Ad Campaign.” The only thing I didn’t understand was this passage:

Goose Island’s story is therefore returning to Chicago — an effort to tie the brewery not just to its hometown, but to cities in general: urban and bustling, with a dose of cosmopolitan and hip. “It’s something that can be owned and is differentiating for Goose Island,” Ahsmann said. “Think about it: Can you think of any other nationally distributed craft brewer based out of a city?” There are others, of course — Brooklyn Brewery, Boston Beer Co. and Anchor Brewing in San Francisco — but none that owns the idea of city in the way that Corona is beach or Coors is mountains. Ahsmann wants Goose Island to be that beer. 

If that is what Goose Island is doing under AB InBev it’s not speaking to me. I just thought Goose Island was about geese on an island. Monsieur Jonathan, Le Beerinateur, clarified on Twitter that is was a district of Chicago. Who knew? Without that context, there is no way I would think “gooseness” + “islandness” = “urban and bustling, with a dose of cosmopolitan and hip” because that math just doesn’t work for me even though I have been having the odd Goose Island IPA** since maybe 2010.  [Did all you all know this and not tell me?]

Is the lesson of both Green Flash and Goose Island that US craft and local/regional are more closely tied than big craft thought? Notte note: “It’s a fine lesson…

Celebrator ends its print run. I blame MySpace.

This is an interesting story. It’s about Catalonia’s burgeoning craft beer scene. It’s from March 2013. One key thing was left unexplored then: local sausages. No idea how they measure up compared to the sausages of other regions of Spain. That is not the point. You know, it would be nice to know what each junket sponsoring jurisdiction requires in its funding agreement by way of social media follow up content. That is for another day. Today, I am fascinated by the sudden fascination with Catalonian sausages.

You want a real beer vacation? Three words: Bavarian… theme… park.

My two favourite April Fool’s pranks: “Brewers Brace for Brettanomyces Shortage” and ^Greg, the Sunday intern for Boak and Bailey.

That’s it. I am down to the cheap shots and gags. It wears one down. More next week. Sure thing. You bet. Perhaps cheerier. No promises.  No comment.

U*This could be another aspect of the over all plan.
**Or something or other under that label.

All The Good News Beer News For 03Q218

What day is it? The meds are making for a blur. Without getting overly graphic, the other day there were four hands within inches of my nose and two of them were working a thread and needle. Gums were tightened. Rearranged. Anyway, it’s not been a time for gulping buckets of ales and lagers but it has been a great time to wallow in both mild misery and brewing related social media with a slight sense that things are either not right or, you know, the meds… so…

First off, given Vlad’s news in the lead up to the Russian performance art event mimicking an election that he now controls a nuclear powered cruise missile as well as a submarine bomb that now hover and skulk amongst us all ready to strike if we… what… say bad things about him… well, in light of that the news about Russian barley seems a little less important. But, it is interesting to read how Russia has become a key bulk exporter of our favorite grain. I don’t expect this to directly change much – but indirectly, the overall market might get shifted in a way that benefits the Western beer buying public due to new malt quality barley flooding the market.

While we Canadians are (i) subject to the Crown-in-Canada and (ii) members of the Commonwealth, I can’t imagine setting the opening hours according to somebody’s wedding. Do my UK readers care?

Lew blogged.

Next, if you click on the thumbnail to the right, you will see a promotional photo for BrewDog* from, I am told via Stringers on Twitter, the year 2014. Yet neither of the Google Image searches for “BrewDog sexism” and “BrewDog feminism” are otherwise particularly productive. So… keep all that in mind as you read on about their great new PunkNotWorthy class PR stunt (coming just days on the heels of their million beer giveaway PR stunt) and then their still a teensie-weensie bit odd apologetic confessional. Why mention the “talented team of women at BrewDog” as you ask to be excused for an admittedly botched stunt? Being newbies to taking an actual stance on an actual thing exterior to their imperial corporate existence, it seems they also borrowed this from (or at least failed to heed the failings of) the sexist / not sexist stratagem behind last week’s gaff by Stone. The best that can be said now might be that it is bad if superficial marketeering. The best we can hope upon reflection is that it was an entirely miscalculated act of sincerity by a corporation that is fairly immune to simple sincerity. Further comment: Mhairi McFarlane, Craft Queer, and many more. And M. Noix Aux Bières made an interesting observation:

There’s something badly wrong with the beer media when a company messing up its marketing gets more coverage than their announcement, in the same week, that they messed up one of their recipes.

Is that all there is? Big bulk craft. Getting it fairly wrong. Again? Leaning on the PR. Again. Because that’s what big bulk craft does. Does anyone care about these globalists anymore? It’s great route to medium term millions but the long term often see weirdnesses arise. The yeasty yogurt non-movement of 2016, for example. If you need any further proof of that reality, look at the news released on Tuesday that Sierra Nevada is changing direction, dropping innovation, getting back to lean on its flagship SNPA and hiring a PR firm to flog it.  Subtext: branch plant expansion hasn’t panned out, sales have dropped, panic setting in, “let’s not let SNPA turn out like Sam Adams” muttered around the executive committee room during breaks even as they set out on that same path.

There is another way. A more thoughtful path. This interview of Francis Lam, host of NPR’s The Splendid Table contained this interesting tidbit about the relationship between good drink and food:

There are people who have a beautiful wine with every meal, but for a lot of people that act signifies something special. You have to eat, but you don’t have to drink, so the idea of having something at the table that is there, almost purely for pleasure, is meaningful. I think for a lot of people that signifies that we’re here to actually enjoy, rather than just feed.

This is an aspect of the beer and food pairing discussion does not focus on, giving all the attention as it does to restaurant settings. Simply gathering and enjoying. How rad. It is even more interesting when considered along with this column from the ever excellent Eric Asimov of The New York Times in which he discusses how austere herbal old school value Bordeaux go so well with food even if not separate sipping. It would be interesting to see unloved or less understood beers highlighted alongside foods served at home that bring out their better natures… but that would require craft beer and pop beer writers to admit (i) value matters and (ii) some prominent beers are, you know, sorta duds.  But you are not a slave to either trade associations or the other voices who would control you, are you. Have some pals over, treat them swell and see what works over dinner. After all, this is only beer we are talking about.

Infogramtastic news! This important NEIPA tasting graphic passed by my eye this week. Click for a larger size for the full details. This decade’s wide leg jeans.

Celebrity newbie brewer or local newbie brewer?

And finally, Pete added a strong contribution to the discussion about pay-to-play in beer writing** as sort of a wrapper around a disclosure statement about a drinky junket to Catalonia:

I’m going because I’ve been keen to check out the explosion in Spanish craft beer for several years now and think there will be some genuinely interesting stories, but haven’t been able to afford to do it under my own steam. Will my reporting of the trip be influenced by the fact that I’m being given hospitality? I don’t believe so (beyond the fact that I’m actually there, of course.) But any story I write about it will carry a disclaimer explaining that it’s been paid for by someone else, so the reader can make up their own mind.

While we have never met,*** Pete and I have gotten along as web-pals for well over a decade but don’t really see eye to eye on this in each instance… but we see the same questions the situation raises so it was good to read his commentI was wondering what your reaction would be!” For me there are two things: self-certification and subject matter control.

As I have said before, it is not up to the writer to suggest that they are the self-certifying measure of any reliability. Only the reader can judge the result. But as long as there is disclosing, the judgement is informed. When I hear of folk presenting as beer experts or, worse, journalists quietly running review-for-pay schemes or side-gigs as law firm holiday tap takeover party as partnering hosts but not openly disclosing, I tend to place their other work in, umm, context. I am entirely sympathetic to the need to make money in a minor niche like good beer but one person simply can’t be all things. Promote and influence or research and write. The key word being “or” of course.

The bigger problem is one Pete might be implying in passing: “…beyond the fact that I’m actually there, of course…” It’s not, in fact, that he is there. It’s that he is not somewhere else. Where no one else is. Where no trade or tourist association pays the bills for travel and hotel. Where the beer isn’t free. I put it this way:

I need to better unpack your thoughts. You sit near a line. Main general quib? Lost stories of the unjunketed topics. Explorations. The work of @larsga is best example. Deep down, though, perhaps I never admired you more than when you were mid-Atlantic alone on a container ship!

Lars Marius Garshol, without a doubt, has done more to exemplify what researching in the service of understanding beer and brewing should be than anyone else in this decade. He has spent what seems to be every spare moment and every dime on seeking out the rural, secret brewing patterns lurking in the countryside of the northern third of Europe from Norway to Russia. These sorts of creative efforts and the resulting independent focus is what leads to innovative, interesting and reliable writing.  He sets a very high standard for not only me, the playboy amateur armchair historian, but even places more driven and diligent traveling researchers like Robin and JordanBoak and Bailey, Ron and (yes, of course) Pete**** in rich context. But it is a shared context. Pete makes that very clear, sets out the whole picture and places himself in that picture at his own angle of repose. We all do that. It’s just that some do it better and more openly than others while a few don’t at all. It shows.

There. Another week in the books. Please also check out Saturday’s take on the news from BB2 as well as Monday’s musings from Stan. I look forward to their corrections and dismissals and outright rejections of some or all of what sits above. It’s no doubt what’s needed.

*Disclaimer: I got boxes of BrewDog samples a decade ago. And I think I may have bought one small can of their beer coming up on five years ago on this trip.
**Disclaimer: I got boxes of BrewDog samples a decade ago. And I think I may have bought one small can of their beer coming up on five years ago on this trip.
***Because I hardly ever go anywhere…
****In fact, if I had the money, I would fund them all to chase after narrow and likely hopeless projects knowing they would come up with some of the best finding and writings as a result.

This Mid-February’s Beery News Stories The Cool Kids Are Talking About

Starting with more Olympic beer news, apparently Team USA has jumped into the spirit led by Canada with it’s own variation, Olympian’s drunk Dad. Well played.

Speaking of drunk Dads, Ben has written extensively and not without a bit of flair on the endearing awful bars which he insists can be distinguished from the more hipster friendly dive bar:

They have cheap wing nights, karaoke, a clock counting down to St. Patrick’s day. Big corporate branding shamelessly adorns every sticky surface; a tacky plastic archive of years of visits from beer reps with expense accounts and a few kegs to unload. They’re the kind of places where the food is almost never what you want and exactly what you expect: big, fried, heavy, and available with inappropriate amounts of sauce for drizzling/dipping/Buffalo-ing. Where they serve Pepsi in heavy, branded 16oz shaker pints and they scoop the ice right out of the well using the glass…these bars appeal to a baser part of me that remains from a time before I knew better.

I tend to think of such bars (“dumps” in my parlance) fondly if I recall them in safety of the theater of my mind. The dumps of my youth. Ah, the places my pals passed out in. But… you know, now I actually hate a bad meal, a sticky surface. My pals passed out in a place like this! And, then,  it’s a vicious cycle as snooty Oldie Olson beats himself up a bit inside for being such a loser. I can’t appreciate an actual unselfconscious bar anymore. But maybe that is OK – as they are often just grim bars for the unconscious.

Again, the everlasting “good people” question. Personally, I have seen no evidence of better or worse. Elsewhere, the media analogously sift clues. Because that is what they do.

No. No, I actually wasn’t.

I have absolutely no way to account for its sales growth” is an odd thing for a good writer to write. [Not anywhere nearly as bad as the too often otherwise stated “trust me” but… still.] For me, the reasonable or at least knee-jerk answer is that seeking all-purpose axioms are a bit of a mugs game.* The only fact needed to be known is that Two Hearted Ale is lovely. By way of comparison, have a look at what wonderful wine writer Janis Robinson wrote about the problem with typicality. I like how she points out that focusing on type is a distracting problem caused by a conservative approach and mainstreaming. Yet, Jeff is right that a pattern seems to be offended by the beer’s success. Does noticing such things reflect a natural desire for the means to account for such things, for the seeing of sub-species, for the hope for “some sort of convention in naming and labeling“? Just because it is a weak draw for me and some… is it so wrong for others and some?

Next, it is either quite hard to find an exclusively all-male WASP panel these days or, I suppose, quite easy:


Finally, as we all heard at the first end of the week, Stone has brought a trademark action to defend its branding against MillerCoors for certain presentations of its Keystone branding. As you can imagine, the actual law is dull as dishwater – as it should be. The only attention grabbing is the needy “He’s Hip, He’s Cool, He’s 45” stuff from that annoying member of of Stone’s ownership group.  Bryan Roth has a very good roundup of a number of  legal perspectives on the case, summarizing views ranging from “it seems like a pretty decent case” to the arguments are “a bit thin.” Like others, I emailed one of those quoted, Brendan Palfreyman, to ask questions. Turns out he’s in Syracuse about 90 miles to my south and we now know we know people. He assured me that the wild eyed hyperbolic form of claims made by Stone in the court filings are actually normal forms of pleading in the States. Have a look yourself. Sad. The Queen would never have it. Apparently, MillerCoors could move to strike a bunch of the junior high puffy but it would actually be unusual – unlike here in Canada where we lawyers operate with that cool clinical confidence that the Crown requires. Bond-like. That’s us. So… we can probably expect a second helping of a whole heaping pile of knuckle headed rang-dang-doo in the Statement of Defence which could be issued as soon as a month from now. That should be fun. My take? There is no confusion ever going to be had in the marketplace between the two products which have co-existed now for about twenty years.

Oh… not beer: the history of slavery on Prince Edward Island.

*See “good people” concept above.

The Two Year Dead “Craft” Is Still Dead And Might Be Expecting Company

This graph… err… table to the left right was posted on the internets today by Jeff Alworth. It is tied by him to the piece in GBH by Bryan Roth about the meaning of IPA – which has the wonderful and likely most accurate thing about IPA or even craft I have read: “IPAs are what people want from me, you kind of have to give them what they want…” Jeff posted a piece himself on the now stone cold demise of of “craft” – an event I sent my funeral wreath and condolences in relation to over two and half years ago. Oliver Grey wanted it put out of its misery even further back.

The main point to focus on today, however, is not the disutility of the terms but the disutilty of the graph. It goes to a notion of abstraction and levels of abstraction. The graph offers a fabulous illustration of the failure to align levels of abstraction. You will see, yippee, that IPA wins in the race to top the craft beer style race.  The problem is not whether this is correct or not as we all know people who know nothing about craft beer who ask for an IPA. It’s the chardonnay of white wine circa 1999 in that respect. Code for (i) something that the drinker will like (ii) that the bartender will understand (iii) because the bar likely stocks it. Because “…you kind of have to give them what they want…”

The problem is that IPA is an umbrella term, even if a useful one. Consider the other terms in the list. “Craft Scottish,” “craft porter,” “craft dark beer” and even “craft amber” might for the average person reasonably all fit into “craft brown beer” as an umbrella term. “Craft IPA” on the other hand is known to include unspecified styles like IPA itself, DIPA, TIPA, BIPA, WIPA and any number of other Franken-styles designed primarily to ram the three letters “I” and “P” and “A” onto the label to ensure that the code speaking person in the bar orders one thus making the sale. Does this mean IPAs are not the most popular category? No. Does it mean I always know what I will get in the glass when I order one? The answer, compared to say pilsner, is also no.

As the ripples on the lake into which “craft” was flung a few years ago spread out to their limit and fade, we should be aware of how its fate was tied to it becoming an abstract concept prone to influence, interest and malleability. For me, IPA is half way down that same slippery slope.* I look for other words to guide me beyond the relative hop intensity flag that it waves. As has happened over and over, hop intensity itself fades as either or both an offering or a preference. You see it starting in the fruity murk that I have been, frankly, fooled a few times into ordering. As in the past, what is an IPA might be now or in the future be quite forgotten for the very reason that graph unintentionally demonstrates.

*…because, see, before badly used words are flung into the lake they slide down a slippery slope. Presumably there is a ramp involved near shoreline.

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’t 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?

Fascists, Racists, Pinkos, Brewers And…

Not much inclined to write for the last week or so. Late 1970s nuclear fear retro followed quickly by 1930s Nazi fear retro. Seems our neighbours to the south hired a moron and he is turning out to be a fabulous moron attracting other morons to flit about his flame. Like last summer, one barely knows what to reach for but, perhaps unlike last summer, one knows one might need to. What to do in these troubled times? Perhaps explore how fascism, communism and racism (perhaps bundled as “totalitarian supremacism“?) has been known to brewing over time? Let’s see.

Earlier this year, Hungary witnessed a bit of a political controversy over the appearance of Heineken’s red star – which Hungarian law considers a totalitarian symbol. As might have been expected, it was apparently as much as anything about contemporary politics and the time-honoured role brewing money plays in that game.

Totes Supps can also show up in more unexpected ways. In 2016, a brewery in Bavaria was accused of offering a Nazi friendly lager named Grenzzaun Halbe, or Border Fence Half. Priced at 88 euro cents a bottle, it was considered code for HH or Heil Hitler. The brewer in the usual way explained “insisted the name and slogan were not directed against migrants, but referred to defending Bavarian culture“* but, oddly, also said they had lent resources to the refugee influx.

Then there are the old boys who, you know, just say those sorts of things. Yesterday, Jason Notte provided a bit of a walk down memory lane offering the legacy of US brewing mogul Bill Coors who was apparently quoted in 1984 for providing such comments as “…one of the best things they did for you is to drag your ancestors over here in chains…” and “…they lack the intellectual capacity to succeed, and it’s taking them down the tubes” though the resulting libel suit against a newspaper that had the gall to report his words was dropped. The old git is still with us apparently, turning 101 the other day. Other similar substantial claims were made against the brewery in those days. Interesting, then, that three years later this was an opinion reported by the Syracuse Herald-Journal of February 10, 1987 just when Coors was entering the CNY market:

“When you buy their product you are, in effect, inviting the Coors people into your home,” said Joseph Welch, executive secretary of the Greater Syracuse Labor Council. “I think anyone with a conscience wouldn’t want those kind of people in their homes.”**

But these brewers can also be ingrained into the movement. If we go back a bit further, one can look at what brewers did during the time when fascists were actually in the ascent. To the right is a very handy graph with the somewhat vague title “Birra Peroni’s strategic response to institutional pressure” from the 2016 book Accounting and Food: Some Italian Experiences by Sargiacomo, D’Amico and Di Pietra. I say vague given it illustrates, in part, this business decision from 1926 to the regime’s fall:

…the Fascist government tried to control production and balance demand and supply by controlling the supply side…. In this context, the company’s strategic response may be viewed as a compromise. Giacomo Peroni, former president of the earlier Unione Italiana Fabbricanti di Birra (Italian Brewers’ Union) was put at the helm of the new association. As the managers of the new association, Giacomo could act as an institutional entrepreneur and therefore bend the institutional change to his own and his company’s interests. In fact, despite the need to reduce the company’s production volume as imposed by the Fascist government, in his role Giacomo Peroni managed to avoid such cuts and toss them off on his competitors. This is suggested by the fact that it was precisely in those years that the company increased its production volume and sales. 

Suggested?*** Hmm… Apparently, Peroni also fed demand from what are described as the “new African colonies” aka the invasion of Ethiopia. Nothing like a captive audience. Note: Peroni continues as a brand now owned by Japanese brewer Asahi, achieving apparently some recent success.

And we do also recall that the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch did lead to the army being called out, an arrest, a trial and a five year term. Well, then someone gave Hitler a pen in jail and he wrote down his evil which was shared after an early release.

What does all this prove? Well, as you can see in the footnotes, we can laugh at it. We can also support the democratic processes that stand against it. But that totalitarian supremacist is going to keep popping up. No point in pretending, offering a beer and dreaming that people are good. Some people are very bad. Having lived though an number of genocides at the youthful age of 54 – from Cambodia to the Balkans – I don’t expect that evil to change. But if we understand that it is an insidiously corrosive, inveigling tendency we should be aware that it needs being watched out for and given proper response.

*See here for more.
**See here for more.
***See here for more.

 

When Steam Was King… It Was Common

Two years ago – well, 23 months ago, I wrote a brief passing thing about the concept of “steam” beer in a post about another thing, cream ale, but given this week’s sale of Anchor, makers of steam beer who proudly proclaim they are San Francisco Craft brewers since 1896,  to an evil dark star in the evil dark galaxy of international globalist beverage corporations, I thought it worth repeating and expanding slightly. Here is what I wrote:

Adjectives from another time. How irritating. I mentioned this the other day somewhere folk were discussing steam beer. One theory of the meaning is it’s a reference to the vapor from opening the bottle. Another says something else. Me, I think it’s the trendy word of the year of some point in the latter half of the 1800s. Don’t believe me? Just as there were steam trains and steamships, there were steam publishers. In 1870 there was a steam printer in New Bedford, Massachusetts. A steam printer was progress. Steam for a while there just meant “technologically advanced” or “the latest thing” in the Gilded Age. So steam beer is just neato beer. At a point in time. In a place. And the name stuck. That’s my theory.

And here is what I would like to add. To the right is a news item from the Albany Gazette of 10 March 1814. As I have looked around records from the 18o0s for example of the use of “steam” I describe above, I found this one describing a steam battery both early and entertaining. I assumed on first glance that this was some sort of power storage system. In fact it is for a barge loaded with cannon. 32 pounder cannon which are rather large cannon indeed. Well, all cannon are large if they are pointed at you I suppose but in this case they are significant. For the nationalist vexiologists amongst you, I can confirm that the proposed autonomously propelled barge system of cannon delivery was reported six months before the Battle of Baltimore. Were they part of the sea fencibles? Suffice it to say, as with steam publishing and steam train engines you had steam based warfare by battle barge.

Next – and again to the right – is a notice placed in the New York Herald on 11 September 1859 indicating that John Colgan was selling three grades of ale and perhaps three grades of porter after “having made arrangements with W.A. Livingston, proprietor of steam brewery…” This appears to be an example of contract brewing where Livingston owns the brewery and contract brews for the beer vendor, Colgan. Aside from that, it is a steam brewery. Livingston’s operation was listed in the 1860 Trow’s New York City Directory along with a number of other familiar great regional names in brewing such as Vassar, Taylor and Ballantine. And it lists over two pages a total of four steam breweries, including Livingston’s. Which makes it a common form of industry marketing.

“Steam” is quite venerable as a descriptor of technology. If you squint very closely at this full page of the Albany Register from 29 January 1798 you will see steam-jacks for sale. It is also a term that moved internationally. In the New York Herald for 15 September 1882, you see two German breweries named as steam breweries. And again in the Herald, in the 10 August 1880 edition to the right, we see the sale of the weiss brewery at 48 Ludlow Street details of which included a “steam Beer Kettle” amongst other things. One last one. An odd one. If you look at this notice from the Herald from 14 June 1894 you will see a help wanted ad seeking a “young man to bottle and steam beer.” Curious.

What does any of it mean? Well, steam beer and common might have a lot more to do with each other than the just the name of a style.

 

 

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’t 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.

The Intern’s Beery Links For Mid-July

Ah, the mid-July week off. Nothing teaches you more about how life is a fleeting interim stage than July. The poppies and irises are already in the past. The last of the early radishes have long been dug under. Time is passing. One day you wake up and discover you are a 54 year old intern for some guy named Stan. Hmm.

What’s gone on this week in beer?

When The Selling Out Game Has Some Weird Players

The BeerCast has posted an excellent unpacking of the sale of the discount shelf of London Fields (mothballed) brewery by an experienced guest of the Queen to those oddest of flatmates, the Danes of Carlsberg and the Empire State folk at Brooklyn Brewery. Expect a shedding of everything associated now with the name and then a massive leveraging of the name. For a mere four million pounds, most owners of craft beer won’t get out of bed in the morning. Given the situations of all involved, this deal looks like and smells like money all around.

Cheery Not Niceness

I enjoy these teletext messages from Matthew Lawrenson on Twitter. They retain his snappy direct humour but it’s like the words are coming out of the mouth of Tinky-Winky. I love the format he is developing. Thirty years ago visiting family in Scotland, I would sneak into the TV room to play with the remote, exploring teletext. Checking the weather forecast for Skye in multi-colour dot matrix… then checking out the soccer scores. All while the TV plays on underneath the text info. Magic. As a form of brewing and craft commentary this singular and effective. This one was posted Friday morning my time here in North America. Note the author. And the cheeky image.

Being Nice

I am less certain about this conversation one Twitter – while making no comment on the particular conversation.  It’s the pattern. You see it quite often, a double form of delicacy. The desire to speak discretely of a brewery or bar doing something wrong being jumped upon for either (1) not name the names or (2) raising the real issue without naming the names. I am never quite sure what makes folk more upset, not getting all the juicy gossip or finding fault with a craft community member without first satisfying a level of procedural test for bringing evidence before a criminal court. Yet, it is only beer. I dunno. Folk seem happy to slag airlines and coffee shops. It seems a particularly southern Ontario concern but you see it pop up in England, too. In this case, the misapprehension that brewery or bar staff have some deep loyalty if not a monogamous bond with the boss seems the root of the problem.

Oliver Grey expanded on this concern mid-week. He primarily discusses the tribal divide between big craft and big beer, framing it from the perspective of Campbell’s narrative structure:

I get it, the hero of the story needs a villain to triumph over. I wrote about it at length. But it’s important to remember that to the villain, the hero can often look like a terrorist. For every story a perspective, for every perspective a truth. Therein, the issue slumbers.

Seeing as he has to deal with fools like this, I get the point. But there is the greater risk that is engaged with far too much in beer – the Hosannas, all the Hosannas. Given alcohol makes you initially feel good, it is not unexpected that people like saying nice things about it but taking the next steps of treating it like something beyond criticism and discord has always struck me as a bit weird, leaving ideas and interests unexamined. Give me cheery naughtiness anytime.

Mentioning the Bad

Jeff Alworth made a promise on Friday that definitely borders on the niceness question:

…enough of the excuses: Boak and Bailey are right, I should be writing about bad beer more often. I’m actually going to start looking for them. Rather than just writing scathing reviews, though, I’ll use it as an opportunity to discuss why I think the beer is bad, because “bad” is in many dimensions an objective evaluation. A good brewer may fail to execute on a vision, which is one kind of bad. A mediocre brewer may compose an uninspiring recipe, a different kind. Or the beer may have faults and off-flavors, a kind of bad that is now rarer, at least in these parts. Beer may be bad because of technical, aesthetic, or other reasons–and there’s actual value in discussing the nature of the problems.

I am delighted by this declaration, if only because it is framed as contrary to the Jacksonian model we have inherited. I would note that it is not what was first given that was inherited but what was later devised. Change is good. Let’s change some more, please.

Jet Setting

In an effort to bite the hand that feeds me (not), I wonder about this tweet:

It’s not that I equate this sort of event with junketeers who dash off to lap up the gravy and PR before regurgitating some or all, then claiming to be clever. My question is whether this is simply another form of the internationalization of commodity craft, that globalist mono-culture that leaves nothing local in its wake. I would be thrilled to hear about what local beer questions and successes were discussed in South Africa by South Africans. Not sure I will.

Other Stuff

Interesting to see that Diageo via Guinness USA has a money flow to another beer site on the internets. GBH calls it underwriting. Beervana calls it sponsorship. This pays for interesting writing. Good. Also interesting that this goes largely uncommented upon especially compared to other funds flowing from other big drinks empires into smallish bank accounts. Just to be clear, I have happily spent sometimes shockingly generous sums for running ads on this website and its predecessor. To be fair, they were largely from outside the brewing world due to my (way back then) huge following. I call them ads. In the glory days, it paid for a lot of travel. Still, interesting quiet little pay packet play.

Yes, Mirella. Very good tee.

And finally, the best use of a GIF ever. Thanks Zak. This is going to end up dumber than “crafty” isn’t it.