Your Beer News For The Week The Red Sox Moved Past The Yankees

This was a home week. Every second week I am in a hotel at the other end of a Great Lake figuring out how to spend 1,500 times my annual wage on a fascinating project. Every other week I am in my basement watching sports TV on a Wednesday evening, having made soup, planning an early night. The soup was good and had about 37 ingredients including our turkey stock from the weekend. It was more complex than craft beer. I thought about that for a bit. Then I created #IsYourCraftBetterThanSoup, a new global public interest group. Might do a GoFundMe with this one.

Anyway, Jordan was here last Friday. We walked into exactly five establishments with him, although two were only for surveillance purposes. He was sifting clues. He does that. I was just wandering, doing a little day drinking and enjoying a Friday off. I share the chalk board from Stone City Ales as they presented it to the bar flies of noon on that fine day for a purpose: to note their wet hop ale, this one with hops from nearby Prince Edward County. Entirely yum. Largely speaking an eastern Lake Ontario zone vernacular. As I noted about ten weeks ago (again) I like my local to be quite localized and infused with locality. I have even pitched my experience to those with more, those trying to solve the “wet” v. “fresh” hop unhappiness. I did so by suggesting the more direct “unkilned” for greater certainty. It received one yea, many boos.

Less locally and further to last week‘s mention of the Cask Report, Old Mudgie worked a few numbers and found a sad result. On average, UK pubs that sell cask ale sell only 40 pints a day. Meaning as many sell 60 pints as 20. Meaning a good chance its been sitting around. This is not a problem with the beer. This is a problem of a lack of gravity dispense firkins on pub counter tops.

UPDATE: I like this piece on how to slink away from Ben which was posted after the newsy notes went to the coal-fired presses.

This is interesting stuff from the US branch of the wine world. The Board of Directors of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas issued a press release on Tuesday:

The Board of Directors found sufficient evidence that the tasting portion of the 2018 Master Sommelier Diploma Examination was compromised by the release of detailed information concerning wines in the tasting flight. The Board unanimously voted to fully void those results to protect the integrity of not only the examination process but also the reputation of the Court of Master Sommeliers and the title Master Sommelier.

Wow. While craft beer is trying to figure out if it’s OK to say both good and bad things about a fairly pointless BrewDog press release, wine is chucking out the exam results. Boom! Good beer beyond craft sometimes has such standards – and Stan is leading the way, especially when it comes to my fears for turning kveik into some sort of craftardization of itself:

Just my opinion, but to support Lars I suggest a) retweeting him, b) pointing others to his posts, c) reading everything he writes 3 times, and d) when somebody refers to kveik as if it is a style remind them it is a type of yeast.

I weedled this irritation a bit by pointing out that I have been sold a beer framed as a “kveik” to which Lars pointed out that “[i]f you go up to one of the brewers at the festival and ask him for kveik, he will give you dried chips.” Toronto’s Bellwoods seems to be doing it right. Remember. Kveik is not a beer. Not a style. It means a family of yeast strains. So, if you see a craft brewer holding out one of their beers is kveik, ask whose kveik it is and where it comes from. Tell them Lars sent you. Fight!

Less seriously, a beer drinking fish.

More seriously, Brendan Palfreyman has unpacked the law suit under which Founders is alleged to have discriminated against a former worker based on race.  Interestingly, he notes that the defense has carefully (“artfully” he states) admitted some of the allegations. Pretty awful allegations in terms of a poisoned work environment. It’s bad news at a very basic level – not good if the evidence shows he was “written up” for being one minute late while others were allowed to be more lax. Remember, craft beer is fun. Reason enough for me to pass on Founders until more is known.

Speaking of legal issues, one Ontario brewing four-person partnership faces a partner facing criminal chargesRobin is righteously outraged. Me, I have done criminal defense work. I am a big fan of their Ukrainian Dunkel. And I am righteously outraged, too.

Finally, I don’t often find myself moved by the save the pub advocacy but this one rings a bell – a Tudor era location with a reasonably consistent presence as an establishment located on East London river frontage. The history as claimed is venerable:

The first pub on the site probably originated during the Wars of the Roses in the 1460s and was called The Hostel. During more peaceful times in 1 533 it became known as The Red Cow, a reference to the bar maid working at the time. The notorious Judge Jeffreys was caught outside the ale house as he tried to escape disguised as a sailor on a collier bound for Hamburg after the Glorious Revolution of 1688; which overthrew King James II. 

The location is at least as impressive. It would have spent most of its live at the edge of the city, to the east of London Tower. In a guide from 1890 we read:

“The Town of Ramsgate” hostelry has a bulging bay window which offers a moderate view of the river, but with this exception reserves its allurements for Wapping High Street, where a conspicuous board at the entrance to the passage draws attention to the attraction of the place. The intelligent tourist, I am told, occasionally makes his way here. 

A winning cause. Or at least one worth fighting. Me, I am off for a nap. The Thursday news gets put to bed Wednesday nights. Before I head to bed. Beerless. Last night the beer was not in the head but at the head. Upside? The Red Sox won. Downside. Only that guy without his beer. Bad call. Good call? Seeing if I come up with something to write about mid-week next week. From that Holiday Inn by the highway. See you then.

Even On A Thursday In Mid-August You Need Your Beer News

That’s the photo of the week. The storage room at Fuller’s as tweeted by Brewers Journal magazine… or journal, I suppose. There is plenty of beauty to go around in good beer if you remember to have a look. Jordan found a slice of it when jet lagged in an London pub:

“How the hell are you, Frank,” says the first of the day’s regulars. “Old and weary,” says Frank, limping slightly towards the cask engine as that ritual badinage continues.

No, you can look up “badinage” for yourself.

Less wonderfully, J.Surratt discovered something about a brewery owner being like Jesus and the offending Twitter presence soon was deleted, the website now password protected.  Perhap’s it’s being reworked as “The Hobo Of Craft” with heavy appropriation of Red Skelton’s lovable clown character,  Dodo Delwyn

Brewers! Answer Jeff’s survey. While you are at it, send in your entries to the annual NAGBW awards.

Lars made the front page. I made the front page in Albany once. Craig needed a quote that wasn’t from him so he just sent an email to the paper saying it was from me. Works for me. I have the greatest coauthors. A pal in NY State government phoned to ask me how the hell I got a quote on the front page of the paper of record. I giggled.

Stan beat me to the “craft beer ham slice” photo taken at a UK Tesco grocery store but it bears some discussion. This may either be a sign of successful infiltration of the brand or, you know, a sign of the end times. I am in the latter camp but to be fair if you need every product in your fridge, pantry and bathroom cabinet to have the words “craft beer” on the label, this one is for you. If, on the other hand, you understand the need to protect your brand, moderately priced sandwich meat might not be your best friend. Does anyone buy that margarine with cold pressed olive oil?

Your fabulous brewing history post of the week came from Martyn… again. The joppen/joppen debate has reared its ugly head and I have an inking that the answer is to be found in the vaults and archives of the Hanseatic League, the swellest league of them all. Consider this:

Turns out Pryssing is actually the old Danish/Swedish/Norwegian name for Prussia, which in the modern languages is Preussen, the same as it is in German. Ping! On comes a lightbulb. The old English name for Prussia was Spruce – Chaucer called the country “Sprewse”, and it was still being called “Spruce-land or Prussia” as late as 1697. The “Spruce beer”, beer from Prussia, that appears in an English poem in 1500 and was on sale in London in 1664 is clearly the same drink as Pryssing. (The “spruce tree”, first mentioned in 1670 by John Evelyn, was so called because it was the fir from Spruce.)

My ticking thought is not that the spruce came from Prussia but Prussia was the inheritor of Hansa and that shipping empire brought in spruce and other lumber from deeper into the east, from the Baltic States and Russia, shipping them as early as the 1200s into England and other seaside Euro-nations. The mariners of Hansa were heavily involved, according to Unger, for bringing hoppy beer west.

Constellation brands: lays off craft division sales force and then invests $5,000,000,000 in Canadian dope sales. Somehow this all places rec drugs in a bit of contexts.

Ben pointed out that self-promoter and formerly craft brewery focused now gas station alcopop manufacturer, Mr. Koch, has sidled up to Donald Trump. I can’t think of a less Boston thing to do in 2018. Maybe wearing a Yankees hat – but even that is not this bad. My thought? What do you expect from the man who believes dry yeast mixed with yogurt keeps you from getting drunk and who gave us “Sex for Sam“?

This is the worst one yet from the GBH blog. The formula of (i) pre-determined conclusion and (ii) quotes from lots of people benefiting from the pre-determined conclusion is familiar. No, in this time of tiny brewers and local malt and hops the norm of questioning authenticity and sourcing is not “quaint” and this might as well come from planet Mars:

“These gypsy brewers have no roots, the argument goes. They are hardly brewers. They are marketing companies. They don’t make anything, whereas ‘true’ craft brewers do. These arguments place gypsy brewers outside of the craft beer industry and into the nebulous service sector.” Ironically enough, as with so many things in 2018, none of this seems to matter anymore.

Where do they get this stuff? Sweet rhetorically passive aggressive improper application of “irony” too.

This was posted later today than the usual 5:53 am Thursday pre-set. I am happily working on a project that is worth about 1347 years of my annual income and someone has to write the deal! Me. So, I wrote most of this at a highway side hotel near an engineering firm that I am working with. Very fun stuff. Rebar. Really top quality rebar. Might as well be Lego and Tonka toys. Is that a bad attitude for a lawyer?

With that, I leave you for another week. Remember to check out B+B on Saturday and Stan on Monday. The beer news never sleeps.

Your Thursday Beer Newsy Notes For Six Weeks From Autumn

I miss corduroys. Don’t you? Eight months a year they are your best pal. One day a year they feel like your lower half is actually a roast chicken in a plastic bag baking in a 450F oven. I haven’t seen a leaf turn yet but the grapes out front are starting to ripen into show purple. The barley was ripened in the fields when I visited MacKinnon Brothers Brewing on Monday. I haven’t fully captured above how literally golden the fresh cut stalks were – pretty much beer-coloured.* There were a few big beer stories this week but none more important than a good barley crop coming in. Some are not so lucky.

Jeff created a lovely portrait of a small shaded corner. Boak and Bailey found a similar scene from 60 years ago. If there is one thing I like as much as the surprise hue of cut barley it’s scenes like these of actual people and how they enjoy their beer.

Here in Ontario, the big news is how the new Provincial government has launched a “buck-a-beer” initiative – including by lowering the minimum price to, you got it, one dollar. The response has not been a warm one from craft brewers and commentators. Great Lakes Beer spoke to CBC Radio while others were interviewed on TV news broadcasts. Jordan took some time before his UK-Euro vacation to set the tone, explaining how the policy change makes little business sense. Crystal pointed out how one brewery, Dominion City, is responding by donating a dollar from every sale to immigration agencies. Other efforts from the charitable to sarcastic response are underway. I’m sure this one is going to build towards the promised release of the new cheap beer for Labour Day. Question: wouldn’t that beer have to have been in production before the policy announcement?

I don’t recall ever craving no-lo alcohol beer other than to cut beer down to 2.5% or so by pouring half and half. Dad liked it as it was a way to get around his diabetes medications. Not sure the new wave of tasty water would fit any particular one of my needs but that is me.

Beer fests. I found the idea of not taking photos of drunk people a bit weird. Why not other than it’s tawdry. Fest organizers and the drinkers put themselves in positions of risk voluntarily. A few images might load social media with something opposing that other weirder idea promoted by the industry – people not drinking craft beer to get drunk. In other fest news, Ben asked if folk were willing to spend $120 for a three hour drinking session. Not a chance, I said. And James B. reported on the continued sexist crap at the GBBF. So… drunken, expensive and being stuck in the same room as sexist pigs. Not exactly my kind of fun. And it’s all a shame when I think of someone like the Tandyman behind the scenes, working to ensure these sorts of things don’t go on.

I really enjoyed this perspective from BeerAdvocate on wholesale beer buying in the US craft market. Thirty years ago I was a wholesale produce trader for a bit and the story rings true, especially the need to respond to demand rather than try to set trends at the supply side of the equation. Consider this:

“The guy at the shop asks, ‘Where are you opening?’ I tell him and he says, ‘Oh, you’re going to be selling gospel music.’ I was an alternative, metal, New Wave kind of guy. I thought, ‘I’ll never sell gospel music!’ I opened my fledgling store with no money and three or four of the first 10 people in the door asked for gospel music. Guess how long it took before I started selling gospel music?” That experience stuck with Singmaster. “You set something up, but then you follow what the customers do if you’re smart,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what I like or what you like… it only matters what the customers [do].”

When I express my unhappiness with the concept of beer “curation” go back and read that passage.

Ed gave us this bit of fabulousness: “Not everyone like lambic…

That’s it for this week. No need to link to the usual bland beer travel puff, beer pairing puff or puff-packed beer style announcements. A shorter summary of the news as you would expect from early mid-August but still enough real news to keep it interesting. Don’t forget to tune in to the internets for Boak and Bailey every Saturday and Stan on Mondays.

*Really? No, I had no idea. Thanks so much for the feedback!

Photo Album: Three Wineries And Four Breweries

The day started early and I bombed past MacKinnon Brothers – the farmstead brewery in Bath, Ontario – to see if the barley was coming in. No one seemed to be around so I headed along. Probably got themselves all out into the fields at 4:45 am or something as city folk like me snored.

Following a route I took in April 2015, I grabbed the Glenora Ferry and headed past Picton into wine country. As the law demands no one sells before 11 am, I used the time getting miles behind me. Off the Schoharie Road, I headed down a familiar gravel road and  grabbed local Chardonnay at Closson Chase and Gewürztraminer at Lacey Estates. I chatted with owners Liz and Kimball Lacey about the challenges of the heat that had pounded the region as well as the lack of rain. Their main fields sit on a hill back of the Closson Road. He said it was about 37C out there before taking the humidity into account

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After that, I headed south to find Karlo Estates where we discussed the poor season of 2017 and how some wineries were having a difficult go. At this local level, it is the realities of farming plus the lack of tax advantages others enjoy that make or break a year. Rieslings made with grapes from Devil’s Wishbone back from near the ferry as well as a rose were stashed as I headed off.

 

 

 

 

555 Brewing Co. is at the west end of Picton’s downtown strip. It has one of the most attractive patios that I have seen attached to a brewery, out front. Lots of families were having lunch as I grabbed some beers, mentally noting to spend more than six minutes in the place.

 

 

 

 

At the northeast end of Picton, I grabbed a six of cream ale at Prince Eddy’s Brewing Co. which was just setting up for the day. The BBQ smelled very good but I had miles to go before I could rest in the shade of my own backyard, given the humidex was pushing 40C. Again, my six minutes on site were not nearly enough. But I was shopping and driving today.

About 5 km to the north of Picton, Parsons Brewing sits back from the road at a curve on County Road 49. There were beehives beyond the parking area. Chatted for a bit with co-owner Chris Parsons as he ran a very busy bottle shop. We swapped Japan related Warren Cromartie anecdotes. I grabbed some beers. In the dining area and out on the lawns, families were having lunch as kids played.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having filled the cooler and then some, I turned east again through Napanee and on to MacKinnon again to the north of Bath. Driving south on County Road 7, I crossed over the railway tracks and came upon their red combine harvester taking in the barley. The fresh cut stalks shone gold. Dan at the bottle shop told me it wasn’t a field of malting barley but they had 50 acres of the beery stuff out there waiting to come in. The brewery is part of a family seed grain operation. You remember Dan, right? The brewing gent who stabbed Craig Gravina for historical purposes back in 2015.  I had a sample of Dan’s new wheat ale. Lovely stuff. Here are a number of tiny moves of combining the barley: one, two, three and four.

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.”

The Tale Of Two Harvest Ales

You will recall my slight obsession with MacKinnon Brothers Brewing Co., located a mere 20 km to my west in the Loyalist town of Bath, Ontario. Attentive readers will recall that brewmaster bro* Dan joined me to represent Canada at the 1780 Challenge organized by Craig three years ago, back in the spring of 2015 in central NY, where two brewers used cut straw stalks as part of the wheat beer mash just as we discovered they did back then. A fun day. In fact below, in the leftmost thumbnail, you will in fact see Dan MacKinnon mock inviserating Craig Gravina in one of the greatest “brewer gets back at blogger” moments in recorded history. I’m getting verklempt.

Well, this week I got an email and then a box at the door both from Laura Voskamp, the rapidly expanding brewery’s media contact. The box came two half growlers labeled “Batch #1” and “Batch #2”, two bags of malt labeled “2016” and “2017” along with a note. The image above and to the right is the note. Below in the middle thumbnail are the bags of malt in the cool clinical laundry room light. I did my part to share the news of their first 2016 release of the Harvest Ale which was generally received as one of the best beers to come out of Ontario. Jordan and Robin dubbed it “estate beer” which works for me. So, very much looking forward to this bit of a beery performance art piece in a box.

 

 

 

 

Ivan MacKinnon** added a bit more information by email. Both malt sample were  Munich malt made from the Metcalfe barley strain malted at Barn Owl. The 2017 is darker, quite clearly stained.   In both cases, the quality is excellent but their differences reflect the growing season, mainly. Rain and insects hammered the 2017 crop while the 2016 basked under the sunny sun.  Out of the situation, as stated above to the right, MacKinnon made two batches of Harvest Ale out of their 2017 barley. The first, straight up bug and rain reality and the second a blend of four-firth 2016 malt cut by one-fifth of the 2017. Batch #2, the blend of 2016 and 2017 is lovely. When I wrote my notes on Friday night, I waxed poetical:

Light copper coloured ale. Approaching the colour of that good French cookware. Taste: Brewery characteristic apple richness while still a level of dry attenuation. Mid- mouth prominent note of smoke wells up but more like unsliced rye than just sootiness. Hefty note yet woodsy. If this is harvest, it’s late in the season. A sensation leaf pile. October not late August. Even a fattiness that remind me of my favourite Polish Krakowska sausage. White pepper.  Leek and wild mushroom sauce on venison. And a jug of this. Then it fades – a diminishment of the rustic. In the finish as apples and nut flair up to stand with it. Malt smoke russet apple in quick succession. With, then, light toffee plus a hint of  an unfiltered McDonald Export A green label tobacco as a last lingering hello. Your uncles coat including the hard candy he’d slip to you if you were a particularly clever pest to your parents. Earthy sweetness. Their Crosscut making the big leagues? Lovely.

Hmm. I suspect the sample may have contained alcohol. The pure laine uncut Batch #1 from 2017 is not as lovely. While the brewery describes it as phenolic off-flavours, I would say celery and cumin. Which is not what many are looking for in a beer and to be honest, on a Sunday morning doing laundry while skipping church, it’s a very spicy dry experience. But the underlying malt sweetness is there and this clearly has the brewery’s house style. So, it’s an educational moment rather than one poetical.

Still, it has its use. Not a drain pour. I am having a bit with Brie on a bun as T-Rex plays on the turntable while the clothes get done.*** And it is being bashed into the crock pot of baked beans I have gurgling away in the oven, dry beans I grew myself out in the garden. Batch #1 is perfectly geared to sit along with the mustards, molasses, ancho pepper, ginger root, Seed to Sausage saucisson sec from just north of here and all the good other things I threw in there. Local barley. Local malting. Local sausage. Very local beans. Local terroir aplenty.

*An actual bro, by the way.
**Also an actual bro.
***Turntable dust matching dryer lint. One side of the LP matching the wash cycle almost exactly. No doubt this lifestyle is exactly what Bolan meant when he said “born to boogie.”

For The True Beer Gent, A Hopsack Suit Perhaps?

From Sessional Papers, House of Lords, 1840

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The following was recorded in evidence at the Old Bailey on 9th December 1778 in a case of grand larceny.

Mr. PETER CORBETT sworn.

I am Bengal warehouse-keeper to the East-India Company. I have in my hand the invoice of the Duke of Portland; this was delivered to me from the company when the ship arrived, and it is my duty to see that every thing comes out clear from these packages into the warehouse agreeable to the invoice sent from the company’s servants at Bengal . In the second page, here is a No. 4. S. Taffety, which means striped taffety. Upon the opening of this chest, the servants under me gave me what we call a piling bill; they found only 176 pieces and a small bale containing ten, and this piece, which was kept for evidence. These goods were in a strong chest, nailed down, and there was a strong gunny or hopsack sewed upon it.

Hopsack. I know a bit about hopsack now as I own a blue blazer made of the stuff as well as a pair of black trousers. Neither Mr. Corbett in 1778 nor Mr. Lidbetter likely did. For them hopsack was definitely a packing or wrapping material. It’s formed by making your cloth in a basket weave. Often wool for clothes. Hemp and jute for bagging. Made into a jacket, it’s light summer weight cloth, the open weave letting the air flow. Fine fashion by the 1890s. For sacks and bags it’s strong, perhaps a grade or two above burlap.

The House of Lords was inquiring into the general economic circumstances when it was considering hopsack during its 1840 session, J. Mitchell, Esq., LL.D., Assistant Commissioner of the Hand-Loom Inquiry Commission reporting from the east of England. They learned about sacking and floor-cloth weaving in Reading, Berkshire and specifically Mr. William Harris of the delightful address, the “Hit or Miss beer-shop in Boarded-lane” who described the sad local state of affairs:

In the year 1815 there were as many as 11 masters and about 200 looms; now there are not 12 looms. The trade began to fall off in 1821, and has gradually become less and less, and when the old men, the present weavers, are gone, it is supposed this trade will be at an end in Reading. No person has learned the trade for years past. The price paid for weaving in 1815 was 2 J d. the square yard; this was reduced to 2 4 d., and afterwards to 2 d. per square yard. The sacking is three-quarters wide, or a little more. There is a great deal of time lost for want of regular employment.

There is now only one loom at work making floor-cloth. The web is six yards broad. There are looms which make floor-cloth eight yards wide, and even 10 yards wide. The cause of the want of employment in this branch is inability to manufacture the goods, and come into the market at the same price as the manufacturers of Dundee. The local advantages of that town in obtaining the raw material, in spinning and weaving and sending the goods to market, are such as to leave no chance for competition. The remnant of the business still lingering in Reading is the supply of the neighbouring farmers with sacks. There is no remedy, and with the present race of weavers the trade becomes extinct.

As stuff in demand, locally made Reading coarse packing cloth was on the way out. Why? Trains. It’s always the trains. Or the canals before them bringing in that cheap Dundee sacking… or a cheaper or tastier strong ale. Secondary manufacturers making the packing for the primary producers don’t need to be local when the trains can bring in stuff that’s as good for less. Mr. Lidbetter up there up top? He seemed to still be bucking the trend. He had a market the lads of Dundee couldn’t crack:

There is one article in which there is a decided advantage, that is hop bagging. The town is the very centre of a rich hop district. The consumer, therefore, is close at hand. The hop bagging is made very substantial. As it is the custom when the hops are sold to pay by the pound of the gross weight, hops and bag together, the hop grower has no interest in using a slight fabric. 

See the trick? Heavy sacking for the hops, higher price for the sack of hops. You don’t get that advantage by the train load.

Divisive “Local” Craft Culture Clash Marketing

My own favorite local.
 

Stan linked to this story a few days ago. It got me thinking… but not fast, “get me to the keyboard” thinking. It was this bit at the beginning that got me mulling:

I was watching a video online when it was interrupted by a commercial for Budweiser. The name of the spot was “Do You Know Where Your Beer Is Brewed?” Soft guitar music played while clips of idyllic landscapes and sunrises peaking over breweries slid across the screen. Nothing out of the ordinary there. The gentle voice of the narrator says, “With 12 breweries spread all across the United States, your next Budweiser is closer than you think.” Budweiser hangs its hat on the fact that it can produce the same beer at 12 facilities and it will always taste exactly the same no matter where you drink it. No small feat, to be sure. But then the voice adds, “You might even say we’re America’s largest local brewer.” My eyes narrowed and my brow furrowed. ‘What in the heck is this?” I exclaimed. “That is our word!”

Our word? There’s a lot of weird words in there. Not the least of which is “our” – whose the hecks is that referring to? Don’t get me wrong. I like the work of the author Jeff Baker just fine. He’s the manager of the Farmhouse Bar and Grill in Vermont. Nice place. Real nice. Just not my local. Because “local” can mean that, too. The distance of the drinker from the drink.

But that’s not his point. It sorta illustrates mine but that’s not really the goal of where I am going. He is asking about local ingredients. If you want that world, go back 200 years and have a look at the Vassar day book with local beer being made of local grain and hops being sold back in small batches to the farmers and tavern keepers of the central Hudson Valley just getting back to some sort of normal after the devastation cause by the Revolution. This is the mid-1830s book but in the 1808-11 book the economies of beer are clearly still defined by the cart horse. That is actual local brewing. Are we willing to go there? Doubt it. You don’t really want local. You want some local. Now and then. But you want the global economy beer made with the best ingredients brewed on the newest, bestest equipment. Right?

Craft beer and macro are not all that far apart in this respect. Brewed on computerized stainless steel to a scale and upon a recipe that meets the needs and budgets of their respective clients. The only actual local thing that is reliably present at the brewery is the staff. Hard to be a brewer who lives over 45 miles from the brewery. There’s a hint by the way. If the person discussing the beer in your glass doesn’t live about that close, not a brewer. Sales guy, likely… owner, sure… but that’s all. Both use good foreign malt and distant, shipped in hops. Both tweek their water and yeast to match those found elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong. I like “local” just fine. It just means, for me, the bok choi and beets I have growing out there in the yard. Not beer.

When anyone in beer – whether Bud or craft – claims a word like “local” or “small” or “real” there is marketing going on – even if only to a small circle. Even if only to the speaker. It’s all unnecessary. When I think of Bud, I think of the brewery at Baldwinsville, New York to my south where local people earn a decent wage. If I have a decent hoppy IPA, I think of the three nations and seven generations needed to make the beer exist. Beer is global and has been since at least the 1400s when the Hanseatic League was beginning to ship Baltic brewed hoppy beer to the Low Countries. Except for odd examples like postwar agricultural collapses like Vassar faced in 1808. Except for that, it’s been beer or large parts of it hauled out from the hold as often as not since the Dark Ages. Good non-local beer.

NCPR On Hop Farming In Ferrisburgh, Vermont

My local public radio station, North Country Public Radio, had a great story today as part of it’s series on Faming Under 40 that runs all this week. Today’s installment is called “New Direction for an Old Farm” and described how the next generation on a 210 year family mixed farm is trying out hops:

…last year Joe’s youngest son, Ian, approached him with an idea to grow hops in the lower field. Ian is 26 years old and his friend, Fletcher Bach, 23, had gotten him interested in brewing beer. They wanted to try growing hops – which flavors and preserves beer – instead of buying it. “We started with sixteen plants,” Ian Birkett said. “We were like, these are growing really well here. So we kind of put our heads together, wrote a business plan, and now we are on year two and we have 850 plants.”

The operation is called Square Nail Hops Farm. It has a Facebook page. They are getting in touch with the right advancement programs. They are getting involved with academic research. And they are selling to craft brewers. A great story.