Great Summing Up Of The Shadowy Portman Group

The news last week of the shadowy Portman Group‘s abandonment of its efforts to “remove interestingness caused by the more clever smaller competition”¹ from beer shelves of Britain at least in relation to one beer, Orkney’s Skull Splitter, is neatly summarized by Roy Beers in The Publican today, including this telling passage:

It mattered nothing to the Portman Group that (“Mr, to you”) Skull Splitter – nickname for Thorfinn Hausacluif – was historically the 7th Viking jarl of Orkney; or that he has as much right to have a beer named after him as, say, Harald Godwinson or Hereward the Wake. Or William the Bastard. It didn’t signify, either, that the typical Skull Splitter drinker is over 35, possibly a member of CAMRA, and has exceedingly good taste in the matter of high quality strong beer. Of the sort you can savour by a great log fire. Exactly why it has taken the Portman Group so many years to discover this potentially havoc-wreaking brand is a mystery, but perhaps what’s most encouraging about the story is the overwhelming support for the brewery and its beer, with prominent politicians joining the clamour for Skull Splitter’s survival.

I would also add this: why did it take the shadowy Portman group that many years to discover Britain has a Viking history. I am an immigrant’s kid over here in Canada and I – by my name and the village of my mother’s birth – was well aware that Skull Splitter was a reference to the actual Viking history of the actual people in the actual land. That is the thing about your self-appointed betters – if they were actually your betters, you wouldn’t need the self-appointment because they would carry the authority that comes with making good sense.

¹Not quite the actual charge laid in the case.



BrewDog And Skull Splitter Face Humourless Tribunal

Following up on a story we discussed last May, tomorrow’s edition of The Independent tells the sad tale of how both BrewDog and the Orkney Brewery, makers of Skull Splitter, have had a ruling made against them by the shadowy Portman Group – described by The Independent as a self-regulating industry body. Which sounds a lot like another way of saying their competition. Their larger duller competition.

It decided Rip Tide’s description as a “twisted merciless stout” would be associated with antisocial behaviour, while the claim that Hop Rocker was a “nourishing foodstuff” and that “magic is still there to be extracted” implied that it would enhance physical and mental capabilities.

The wisdom did not stop there. Apparently, Orkney’s Skull Splitter “was associated with violence and also could be a reference to its effect on the drinker’s head.” However silly, these macro-saft makers with gavels actually have the power of persuasion and can use that power to affect the marketplace they and their powerless competition work within. Can you see a problem with that? Orkney has issued a press release that says this turn of fate may lead to the brand being pulled even though it is a former Champion Winter Ale of Britain. The BBC has more on the Skull Splitter story.

BrewDog is taking the even higher moral ground by calling for the shadowy Portman Group to be scrapped, according to this story. James Watt, managing director of BrewDog is quoted as saying ‘”[i]t is alarming that an unelected, unrepresentative industry cartel can simply crush the foundations on which our democracy is built.” Can I have an amen? I believe reference to the Declaration of Arbroath is of comfort to we Scots in moments like this.

Full disclosure: James Watt writes me emails once in a while, is named after my Dad’s hometown’s favorite son and is giving prizes for the photo contest. And I like him and his company more than the shadowy Portman Group.

Who Was The Last Slave In Ontario Or Kingston?

levi1Right: Levi Veney, ex-slave who lived in Amherstburg, taken at J. D. Burkes’ store, 1898. Archives of Ontario. Click for large view.

I am not one of those anti-MSM, “the boogiemen are just round that corner now that Democrats are here” sorts of persons that have been so tediously active in the blogosphere in the last 24 hours…but when I heard a self-congratulatory reference in a CBC radio piece suggesting Canada not having a history of race issues as had the USA, it did grate on the ears. Reminded me to switch stations. But it got me thinking…there must have been a last slave in Canada. We traded in human souls with the best of them before a certain date, before the long path to today began. Google Books to the rescue with the 1869 book History of the Settlement of Upper Canada (Ontario), with Special Reference to the Bay of Quinté by Wm. Canniff. where we read at page 574:

…when the British Act of Emancipation was passed, in 1833, setting free the slaves in all parts of the Empire, there was no slaves in Canada, Upper or Lower. Thirty years previous had the evil been crushed in Lower Canada, and forty years before Upper Canada had declared that it was “highly expedient to abolish slavery,” and had enacted laws to secure its abolition…

The story goes on to mention the slaves of of the first Loyalist familes who settled along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario and down the St. Lawrence and, at pages 576 and 577 there is this extraordinary statement:

We have before us the copy of an assignment made in 1824 by Eli Keeler, of Haldimand, Neweastle, to William Bell, of Thurlow, of a Mulatto boy, Tom, in which it is set forth, that the said boy has time unexpired to serve as the child of a female slave, namely, ten years, from the 29th Feb. 1824, according to the laws of the Province ; for the sum of $75. Probably, this was the last slave in Canada whose service closed, 1835.

It appears from that reference and a few others that a child of a slave was a slave until majority during the transitional period. So who was the last one alive? Probably not this gentleman, given Mr. Veney above, but he is worth mentioning now as Canniff did at page 577:

In the Ottawa Citizen of 1867, appeared the following: A BRITISH SLAVE — An old negro appeared at the Court of Assize yesterday, in a case of Morris vs. Hennerson. He is 101 years of age, and was formerly a slave in Upper Canada, before the abolition of slavery in the British possessions. He fought through the American war in 1812, on the side of the British; was at the battles of Chippewa and Lundy’s Lane, and was wounded at Sacket’s Harbour. He is in full possession of all his faculties. He was born in New York State in 1766, and was the slave of a TJ. B. Loyalist, who brought him to Canada. He was brought to this city to prove the death of a person in 1803, and another in 1804.

If he was wounded at the 1812 Battle of Sackets Harbor (there was another in 1813) that means he was at least in Kingston then as the British force was based here, a generation before the Martellos were built. I will have to see if that case is reported, if it actually gives his name.

Another Variation On Nutty Nutty World Of Fearmongery

This stuff is too unbelievable to not post for your consideration – with a big tip to Paul:

In a letter to the company, the Portman Group has warned that BrewDog’s products are potentially in breach of its official code of conduct. David Poley, the Portman Group’s chief executive, told The Scotsman: “We have asked this company to take remedial action to address potential problems that have been highlighted to them. “If a company fails to remedy the perceived breach, the matter will be formally referred to our independent complaints panel and, if a case is upheld, we will issue an alert advising retailers not to stock the product until it has been amended.”

Whew – what’s that smell?!? The only issue I have with the article is the claim that BrewDog’s beers are in Canada but as to the rest of it, crazy. Note that the Portman Group is a trade organization which will mainly represent firms who may be losing market to the innovative if cheeky lads from BrewDog. A very good point is made as well as to who is responsible for making cheap booze available to the market – other members of the Portman Group.

You know you are doing something right when this sort of stuff comes crawling out of the woodwork. Read BrewDog’s full response here.



Beer And Philosophy: The Book Is Out!

bapIt is either out or I have just received my copy but either way it is all quite exciting to have a book in my hand with a chapter written by me. So, of course, I read my chapter first and found myself thinking that I could have written most sentences better and that I hoped I didn’t lose all the legal footnotes…though I suspect the sensible editing was afoot on that one. Then it strikes me – I don’t know – can I do a proper book review when I wrote about one-fifteenth of the thing? I don’t have any percentages deals or anything. But I can be pure of heart with the best of them can’t I? So let’s see.

Price? Reasonable. This is a trade paperback meaning it’s going to cost you a decidedly reasonable $13.57 on an Amazon pre-order. The book covers a lot of ground, partitioned as it is into segments entitled “The Art of Beer”, “The Ethics of Beer”, “The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Beer” and “Beer in the History of Philosophy”. Fascinating stuff. And with chapters by Garrett Oliver and Sam Calagione (not to mention me) as well as a forward by the late Michael Jackson (no mention of me) there is plenty of familiar names for the average beer geek.

But it is when the book goes beyond the expected that it gets really interesting. Except for the crew named above, the rest is written by Phds (pronounced “fudds“, professors and a dean. Egads! I See Eggheads! Yet, they bring the egg down off the head and…and…OK, I can’t finish that analogy but rest assured this is interesting stuff. An example: in the chapter by Rex Welshon, Chair of a Philosophy Department in Colorado, explores Nietzsche’s relationship with the drink opening with the philosopher’s observation that a “single glass of…beer in one day is quite sufficient to turn my life into a vale of misery.” I recall my philosophy professor recounting his wife’s observation that she was not so much disappointed that Nietzsche thought all those things so much as that he wrote them down. Perhaps the same might be said about him having that beer. Another example? Neil Manson, a professor from Mississippi has his bio right next to mine (which falsely claims he can drink more than me and you. Lie – I simply choose not to), has provided a dialogue of the Socratic sort (I think) on “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Beer” which seems to talk about God a lot as three characters drink. Neato. It’s like what you think your dinner parties were like the foggy-headed next morning. And there are about ten more of these sorts of chapters.

So…bottom line…get this book. I earn nothing more from saying so yet you will gain incalculably from the procurement.

Is Wisconsin The Continent’s Beervana?

Slumming around the internet, I came across this article about beer and Wisconsin which made me wonder whether it is the beer friendliest jurisdiction in North America.

From handing out free samples at grocery stores to shunning a proposed tax increase, Wisconsin lawmakers love their beer. One of the first bills they passed this year made sure bar patrons didn’t lose drinking time when the clock jumped back an hour this spring. Other pro-beer bills are brewing.

Free beer at the grocery store! Good Lord. There are places in Canada where they hold exorcisms for folks who think like that. But then there is this: “Wisconsin is also one of only a handful of states that allows parents to purchase alcohol for their children to consume in their presence.” Holy Moly. I had no idea. Well, sure, this is progressive and good and all – especially if you believe like most conservatives that the family is the source of the best instruction and all that stuff…but I had no idea. Who knew?

Knut Goes Nowhere And Hangs Around His Mailbox

[This post was written by Knut Albert Solem aka “Knut of Norway”]

knutOn the outskirts of Europe there lives a peculiar tribe of people. Like most other nations, they feel that they have the solution to every problem on the planet. Other small nations have had to bow to the necessity of adjusting to their surroundings, but Norway had the curse to find oil and gas in the 1970s, giving them the possibility of constructing their own reality.

One of the inhabitants of this country is a contributor to A Good Beer Blog, sending his impressions from his travels across Europe. When the generous editor Alan managed to find some sponsors for his blog, he wanted to share some of the spoils with his contributors. One sponsor is the Cracked Kettle in Amsterdam, and Alan figured that they could probably send a few beers to two of his European contributors. Packages were dispatched in early February, and the one sent to England arrived within days. Here is what happened to mine:

The package to Norway was first returned because the shipping company couldn’t deliver outside the European Union. Fair enough, they found an alternative.

Two weeks later, I get a letter from the Norwegian Postal Service, Posten. They can tell me that they have received a package from abroad, and that they can do the customs clearance for me. For a fee, of course. I sign a form authorizing them to do so, and wait for the package to arrive.

Another two weeks, and they send me a new letter, telling me that I should provide them with a receipt, an invoice or similar documentation for the package. I reply with a short handwritten note that this is a gift, and I do not know the value of the package.

Another two weeks, until yesterday. A new letter, cheerfully telling me that I must fill in a form. This is an application that has to be processed by the Directorate of Health and Social Affairs, which decides if I should be allowed to receive the gift. In the instructions following the form, I am told that the maximum amount of alcohol I can receive in this way is 4 liters. Luckily the package only contains 2 liters. For more information, see the back of the page. The back of the page is blank.

I do not know which criteria the Directorate of Health and Social Affairs use to determine if I should be allowed to receive the package or not. Will they check if I have been prosecuted for bad behaviour in public places? Will they ask the neighbours if I beat my wife? The answer is probably written in invisible ink on the back of the form, or possible posted somewhere in a basement as in the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I faxed over the form today. If the Directorate of Health and Social Affairs decide in my favour, I will then receive a permit to import the beer. This permit will then be mailed to Posten, who will then talk to the Customs people.

It would be interesting to find out how many hours of work it will take for various government employees to process this package containing two litres of beer. And I have a strange feeling that there might be more efficient ways of combating drunkenness and alcohol abuse. But what do I know?

It Is Right And Proper To Dislike FIFA

I am greatly saddened by the whole soccer head scarf debate surrounding one girl who wants to play. Playing is good and as we learn over and over FIFA is bad. It is not a difficult or even controversial statement. It is simply so. Feel good about thinking FIFA bad. Does anyone shed a tear for the Olympic Committee or any other private unelected mens’ clubs that organize sport to rake in personal privilege and benefit? It is only right and good to lump FIFA in and, frankly, place them up at the top of the lump.

Let us review some facts. Here is the essential part of the rule…sorry the law of football that is engaged in this case:

A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewellery).

All items of jewellery are potentially dangerous. The term dangerous can sometimes be ambiguous and controversial, therefore in order to be uniform and consistent any kind of jewellery has to be forbidden.

Players are not allowed to use tape to cover jewellery. Taping jewellery is not adequate protection.

Rings, earrings, leather or rubber bands are not necessary to play and the only thing they can bring about is injury.

You might be confused. You might be asking yourself what a rule about jewellery has to do with a head scarf. You would be right except this is the core prohibition in the rule being cited by FIFA:

Soccer’s legislators have ruled that no player can wear a head scarf on the field. The International Football Association Board was asked at its annual meeting Saturday to adjudicate on a decision to ban an 11-year-old Muslim girl from playing in a tournament near Montreal last weekend because she was wearing a head scarf. “If you play football there’s a set of laws and rules, and law four outlines the basic equipment,” said Brian Barwick, chief executive of the English Football Association, which is one of the IFAB members. “It’s absolutely right to be sensitive to people’s thoughts and philosophies, but equally there has to be a set of laws that are adhered to, and we favour law four being adhered to.” Law four lists the items a player is entitled to wear and head scarves are not mentioned.

That last sentence added by The Globe and Mail is not entirely true as Law Four goes on to state:

Modern protective equipment such as headgear, facemasks, knee and arm protectors made of soft, lightweight, padded material are not considered to be dangerous and are therefore permitted.

A headscarf is light, soft and in this instance one understands is protective of modesty according to the standards of the player. As her leggings are. By any reasonable understanding they are allowed. By any reasonable standard they are an entire non-issue.

But remember who you are dealing with. FIFA considers soccer players – you know…the people who play the game – as something between figures on paper and Subbueto players. Uniformity in uniform is about central control. This child might have been Amish or had a skin disease requiring covering. It just so happens that this one child is honouring her Islamic faith. It could as easily be any other thing. For FIFA that is not really important as she is fundamentally not acting FIFA-n. She is displaying unFIFA-like personal characteristic. That is anti-FIFA and that cannot be tolerated.

Why is this? First, FIFA wants to dominate world sport. To do this, there must be one game defined by one set of laws imposed by one bureaucracy. This means the other games to be driven out – it must be so if FIFA is to achieve the power and benefit that uniformity brings. We do not need to get to the level of cheese rolling or other local games or group play-like traditions. We just have to keep in mind there are many football games that sprung from the mid-19th century. When more organized games were formed between, say, 1850 and 1920, the lack of communication and the greater interest in the local meant no one worried that Gaelic football was different from Canadian rugger or from what has become Aussie rules. But FIFA now cares and cares very deeply as one of the forms of sub-global football, NFL style, has the notion of also being a global game. That must be stopped just as all other deviation must be stopped.

This is not about that keen young lady or her particular faith. It is about the primacy of the primates of FIFA. Hmmm…the phrase “the anti-Christs of play” just popped into my head for some reason. It is enough to say for now that FIFA is anti-play and therefore anti-KSPC. For that reason we shall be kicking a ball about this summer around here without any sidelines to which someone can tell me or mine to go sit. I expect it to be fun.

When Is Theft OK?

If I never read the Boingsters, I probably would never encounter the “right to take” as a great new idea. But two recent posts point out something of the hypocrisy and the case-by-case arbitrary judgement that really is at the core of the arguments against respect for authorship – let’s call them the “anti-authorship” group – who call themselves “copyfighters” and part of the “remix” culture:

  • On June 29, 2005 Boing confirms that big Nike stole little rock band’s imagery without payment. The taking of the stuff of others wrong.
  • On July 6, 2005 Boing praises an essay in Wired which states that the new era of takery is here:

The remix is the very nature of the digital. Today, an endless, recombinant, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of creative product (another antique term?). To say that this poses a threat to the record industry is simply comic. The record industry, though it may not know it yet, has gone the way of the record. Instead, the recombinant (the bootleg, the remix, the mash-up) has become the characteristic pivot at the turn of our two centuries.

So because it now can be done, it must be ok…except when we like the band and the company that takes is big. The sad thing is that people by what Boingsters like Cory Doctorow and Wired and they say about the appropriation of copyrighted material because he has successfully leveraged status rather than successfully argued the point. It is a tyranny of the self-described cool, which is a very weird tyranny. Sadder still is that there may be good arguments for specific accommodations of digital media which are lost through this broad and craptastic “remix culture” pap that sounds so neato…until it is your website layout, your icon, your text, your music and your art that is taken.

Russia v. Green Bay

Beer teaches. At least in the sense that you learn a few things when hunting for beer stories. Consider this latest decree from Vlad Putin:

A ban on consumption of beer in public places came into effect in Russia this month, but no one knows how effectively it can be enforced. President Vladimir Putin ordered the ban following months of parliamentary debates. Supporters of the ban, coming shortly before World Health Day Apr. 7, argue it could help rising alcoholism and indiscipline, particularly among the young. The new law bans consumption of beer in places like recreational parks, sports buildings, educational establishments, medical institutions and public transport. The fine for violation would be the equivalent of 3.50 dollars. Legislation passed in August last year had banned advertisement of beer. But consumption of beer, considered by many to be a soft drink, continues to soar.

Compare that to a 110 year old prohibition that continues in part of Green Bay, Wisconsin:

In a city with an image of pubs full of Packer fans enjoying a pint while watching the game, one neighborhood has firmly stayed dry. Not an ounce of alcohol has been legally served in public anywhere in a three mile-by-two mile area on the city’s west side where a 110-year-old law still bans the stuff out of fear that saloons might degrade the neighborhood. But area business leaders say the ban has crimped development. They hope voters opt to scratch the booze ban in a referendum Tuesday, when more than 20,000 residents will be asked whether to let restaurants and hotels serve alcohol.

Obviously there is a lot of middle ground but it would be interesting to see 50 people from each land dropped into the other.