“For Drink”: Searching For Something Requires Knowing Something About That Something

Just a bit of a note on how annoying it can be realizing that if you want to find out something you need to know something about the thing you need to find out more about. Not unlike my problems with records or, say, the adjectives of the past.

For example, from time to time I have a habit of hunting through the digital mess of Google Books looking for references to “malt” in lists of ships’ provisions for some sort of expedition or another to see what I can find. I have learned that I have to include a search for “mault” or other variations in the spelling. This is how as I found out about Frobisher’s provisions for his 1577 Arctic expedition by searching for “biere” rather than “beer.”  In that same way, I realized recently that I should also be hunting just for not multiple spellings but also phrases – as the phrase “for drink” in these examples show.

1557: in Tusser‘s domestic text set in verse, Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry we read in the section on morning work,

Let some to peel hemp, or else rushes to twine
To spin or to card or to seething in brine.
Grind malt for drink,
See meat do not stink.

1585: in Volume 2 of Calendar of the Carew Manuscripts at document #591, we can read in the requirements for setting up English plantations in Munster, Ireland that a farmer requires six quarters of “oats for drink” while a copyholder needs four and a cottager just two.

1597: in the Calendar of the State Papers Relating to Ireland, perhaps due to the failure of the previous plan noted above, we see that the military need to receive better supplies instead of just beef, including:

…cheese and salted fish, and with some malt for drink for the soldiers, who I see daily to perish for want thereof, against the rule of Christian compassion…

1623: in the records of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, we can read a note by Sir John Coke, a listing of provisions which includes “malt of barley for drink” and “malt of oats for drink.”

1624: a book on Puritan settlers of America indicate in quotations that their preparations need to include “meal for bread, malt for drink” as they should not expect to “meet neither with taverns nor alehouses.”

1688: in a summary sort of document recording aspects of Communications of the Board of Agriculture, a summary sort of acreage chart entitled Quantity of land necessary to subsist 8,000,000 of people in England, according to the present mode of living:

Bread corn – –  – – – – – – –  – – 3,000,000
Barley, for drink – – – – – – – – -1,500,000
Potatoes –  – – – – – – – – — – – -500,000
Grass land, for butcher’s meat – 12,000,000
Grass land dairy – – – – – – – – -4,000,000
                                                    ————-
                                                              21,000,000

Nothing too profound about it all. Just worth noting that you… that I… have to be open to understanding that the short forms or cliches of others in the past are not the shorts forms of today. All very irritating. Except that you notice that over 7% of all English acreage in the late 1600s was used for beer making and then you think that, hey, that is sorta cool.

The “I HATE YOUR THANKSGIVING!!!!” Edition Of Thursday Beery News Notes

I am the sad Canadian. I hate the week when Thanksgiving comes around late every November. It is the one holiday Canadians don’t get to participate in any way, even through analogy. Face it. Our early October Thanksgiving  is the least fun combo that vague residual churchiness and storage squash could muster up. And, yes, we have bonus days off like Boxing Day and Easter Monday – but what do we do with them as a culture? Nothing. Today to the south, Americans seem to plan to get hammered to cope with dodgy distant cousins while setting off exploding turkeys launched from vats of hot oil.  And not one of them in any way took seriously the advice on what beer to pair with their family festive feasts. I want a US Thanksgiving, too. Until that day, I am a sad Canadian.

That being said, Josh the Owner of Spearhead has spoken of one of the few things we have… or rather should have… that Americans can’t have…  but, in fact, he ain’t getting his hands on it at all:

Hey it’s been over a month since you opened. I made an order @ 6:45 AM on October 17. Still has not arrived. How do you ever expect to shut down an illegal market with such poor customer service?

You know what they say: Hayters gonna hayte.*

Early afternoon update: How did I miss this? Look at this fabulously transparent statement from the Beer Sisters on what working in what they call the beer sommelier gig looks like. No dubious claims to being independent and certainly not journalists. An excellent measure against which others should be measured.

While the US has had a truly horrible run of natural and man-made disasters to cope with, this call from Sierra Nevada to respond to the wildfires in its part of California stresses the need to respond to crisis by supporting the actual neighbourhood as you can:

“Although Chico and the Sierra Nevada brewery were spared, the Camp Fire has devastated neighboring communities where many of our friends, families and employees live,” said Sierra Nevada founder and owner, Ken Grossman. “This community has supported us for 38 years and we’re going to do everything we can to support them back.”

Speaking of fire, the maltsters Muntons tweeted out informative information about a fire at their premises that should be trotted out and thrown at anyone lost for words who blames Twitter as a communications platform:

Local Fire Services arrived quickly at the scene with 8 Fire appliances and a high-level access platform… Muntons have a robust Business Continuity system in place that has been tested annually and proven very effective… For further information please contact: Nigel Davies, Technical and Sustainability Director…

Speaking of the simplicity of malting barley for drink, I’ve been reading a bit in the southern media about the horrible prospect of jacked up prices for craft beer but up here in the true north strong and free that all adds up to good news according to the Western Producer:

Looking ahead to 2020, Watts showed data forecasting relatively steady beer production in the United States compared to 2015, with craft beer rising from 29.1 million hectolitres to 39.0 million, while non-craft beer declines from 194.5 million to 183.9 million hectolitres. However, due to the increased malt usage in craft beer production, the total U.S. malt demand will grow from 2.014 million tonnes in 2015 to 2.211 million tonnes in 2020.

Money, money, money. Speaking of prices getting all jacked up, one should note that GIBCS 2018 is not for keeping… apparently:

…a fellow beer writer who tasted this beer with me, said he wishes there was more of the soft, Tootsie Roll-esque flavors that have characterized past versions. Again, this is total nitpicking. This beer is better than 90 percent of the bourbon barrel-aged stouts other breweries are putting out.

Hmm. Spot the suspicious things with that assertion. Speaking of which, Gary Gilman places the singular success of Belgian beer this week in the lap of the now long late Mr J:

Stella Artois is of course today a growing force in the premium international lager segment, so Unibex was right in a sense, but that growth came in the wake of the romance Jackson created for Belgian beer. Without that groundwork, Belgium would be one of a number of European countries vying for sales internationally and likely well behind Germany, Denmark, and Holland with no cachet, moreover, attached to its beers.

I can’t buy it. Aside from the fact of the continuation duration of his particular death, the general fiction of the few founders in the micro/craft tale – and the necessity of the GWH – is how we would have to believe that no one else would have noticed… whatever. In this case, it requires us to believe that no one would have noticed the indigenous beer culture at any time during the 40 years since Belgium’s brewing.** Not happening. Romance? Nope – it’s been big beer driven, moolah motivated and, frankly, much of the export expansion came just far too late along the timeline for the Jacksonian touch of the hem: “…exports to the USA have risen tremendously from a mere 2 million litres in 2005 to over 130 million litres in 2009.” Stella! Stella!!!

I love this speedy 1983 BBC guide to speedy home brewing.  Notice how it ends with a simple “yum”?  It gave me nostalgic pause. And there was an interesting juxtaposition with that to be observed, drawing both from this ying to this other yang. I don’t know why in particular it struck me other than the first being the small mutual affirmation pool while the other was a powerful personal kick against construct. Which persuades you more? And do either give more pleasure than the happy man of 1983 enjoyed?

Finally, as the next few weeks drag on, each day shortening before the winter equinox, remember to lay off the sauce – as at least one Scottish medical man recommends:

He said: “We now have new evidence that the weather, and in particular the temperature and amount of sunlight that we are exposed to, has a strong influence on how much alcohol we consume. Furthermore this weather-related alcohol consumption is directly linked to our chances of developing the most dangerous form of liver disease – cirrhosis – which can ultimately end in liver failure and death.”

Death! I understand that is even worse than Stella.

Another week has passed. Soon it will be December – but before then we get to gather as a nation and watch the Grey Cup this Sunday. Bet just knowing there is three-down football to the north ruins many a US Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t let it. Be yourselves. And check out Boak and Bailey this Saturday where no doubt they will have an update on the UK’s plans for Grey Cup celebrations.

*For years I have wandered this earth waiting for the right moment to use that particular Dad joke. Notice I did not write “Hayter’s gonna hayte” as that would be rude.
**Whatever that in fact means.

 

Your “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” And Other Beery News Update

The beery discussion this past week was woven with tales of travel. Don’t get me wrong. I think the whole idea of beer tourism is weird. If I travel, I save maybe 15 minutes every second day for thoughts about a beer. I like museums, beaches, shopping, seeing friends and family, wandering and napping too much to centre a trip around beer. But… that doesn’t mean you need to be like me. Going elsewhere to find new spaces to roughly replicate drinking at home and roughly familiar bars is great. And, as Nate above shows in the tweet of the week, it can be something that opens the door to lederhosen-based public silliness opportunities and “the best photo of me that’s ever been taken!” Which is good.

Jordan St. John went on one last Euro trip before the UK is, what, given the boot… turns its back? And he went to Brussels… which he found rather odd:

When travelling, you want to try to be positive, so putting this thought out of my head, I ambled along through bustling groups of tourists, instagramming along with them. It is in the nature of the tourist focused district to be reductive and sure enough every fourth store sold waffles and every fifth store sold chocolate. It took only a moment to realize that every sixth store sold beer and the dawning realization came upon me: “Oh, I’ve been rooked.” I’m not referring to the quality of the beers on offer, lest you think I’ve come unmoored. It is the depth, complexity, and overwhelming success that the brand of “Belgian Beer” has on a uniform basis.

Me, I was in Brussels for a week staying at a pal’s place in 1986 but stuck to the Jupiler and Guinness. Seemed all a bit heavy handed to me. Was told by a police officer in a long black leather trench coat to move along after the bars shut. Oh, and he had a machine gun. Still, Jordan also bought me a tie which I got in the mail and it was lovely so I thank him publicly. It says “Ind Coope Sales”! So his trip was not all for nuttin’.

Boak and Bailey have shirked their weekly new nugget obligations (again) while roaming around the land of lederhosen. I like this observation particularly:

Despite looking to British eyes like the garden of the nearby pub-restaurant, people were tucking into picnics they’d brought from home, unloading Tupperware and supermarket paper bags from rucksacks and baskets. (With typical German clarity, most of the beer gardens we visited had large signs explaining the rules pinned to trees: sure, bring your own food, but buy the drink from us, or be cast out of your community.) The garden itself also had a barbecue and a pretzel window. The chef tending the former rang a bell every time a rack of ribs was ready and seemed to be selling out, while even those who had brought their own tea were buying giant pretzels to go with it.

Travel writing needs more of this and less of the “my sponsor’s business is the best” stuff. Knowing where it is OK to have a beer in public and where you can eat a sandwich without offending is vital data.

Still on the travel theme, fellow Haligonian Rebecca Pate headed north to Iceland for an Arcade Fire show – and took a mo to report, as an aside to the main feature, on the state of the Reykjavíkjavíkian* bar scene:

The recent emergence of a craft beer culture in Iceland is tied into the country’s drinking history. Prohibition came into force in 1915 and effectively lasted until 1989. The original blanket ban on drinking became entwined with a sanction on beer specifically, as beer was closely associated with Denmark and the Danish way of life – it was therefore seen as unpatriotic for Icelanders to enjoy a pint. The day that the law was changed, the 1st March, is now celebrated annually as Beer Day (Bjordagur).

Perhaps most heroically of all, Lars went deep into rural Russia and undertook what might better be called “beer exploration” as opposed to beer tourism:

The village looked like any other village in Russia, really: a cluster of traditional wooden houses, neatly arranged in rows, with wide, grassy spaces (the streets) in between. The fields were ranged around the cluster of houses. We went down a couple of streets before finally we stopped in front of one of the houses that looked exactly like the others, except Marina was standing in front of it, waiting for us.

You know, every time someone writes a puff piece and calls their work a “deep dive” on social media I think to myself “that ain’t no frikkin’ deep dive – Lars is the deep dive.” Example. Note how Marina malted her own grain: “the malts are dried in a similar trough on top of the oven. So she makes very pale rye malts.” Which should be enough to put the  now well-dismissed “there was no pale malt before coke” fibbery to bed. The process is fabulously described. I want to now try this at home.

One last point on travel. Noticing a lot of people noting they are not traveling to the GABF. Is anyone still going? Why?

Not travel. I had this article about a new brewery in NH shared with me because of the headline but, as I also work in construction for a fair share of my time, this story is refreshing as it has the underlying theme of brewing beer as slowing down as opposed to adolescent manic passion. And the use of “local” rather than “independent” or other such PR claptrap is always good.

Fabulous footage of 1972 hop picking action.

And, finally, this sort of pointless picking apart of alcohol related health advice that is really verging on obsessive compulsive.  If you really prefer to die from a liver disease other than cancer, take comfort and keep pounding back the booze.

There. Another week’s update done. That was all very cheery, other than for the wee fibs o’craft stuff. As per. Want more? If Stan doesn’t pick it up again, if Boak and Bailey never get back from holiday you might want to check out what appears to be a German-sourced English language period update from Bier, Bars & Brauer now in its 23rd edition. Until next week , exeunt!

*No, really… it is… look it up… HA HA MADE YOU LOOK!!!

If It’s Lazy And Hazy These Must Be Your Beer News For A Thursday

Late July. The fifty seventh muggy day of the summer. In Africa and California the temperature hovers in the mid-120s F. A beer fest in Oregon has been postponed due to the heat. A couple of years ago, I wondered out loud if it was too hot for beer, if gin or white wine was called for. Not sure I am so worried about that anymore as it’s ice water I want. Soon it will be cold compresses to the wrists and the back of my neck. I am far too danty for this weather.

The photo up there as borrowed from here solely for consideration of the shape of the glass. Have we moved far past the days of stemware or the minutely differentiated special IPA glass? I have actually noticed my betters in social media posts, the writers who I assume care more than me, using these fairly jolly beer can shaped beer glasses. Is this something that might indicate something of a relaxation of attitude?

Next up, Nate drank three old beers that were past it and two that were great. Lesson? Malt is better than real fruit filling. And lesson two? Generic stemware is certainly still out there.

There was an interesting profile published in Drinks Retailing News on the new head of the UK health lobbyist group Alcohol Concern – one Richard Piper – who seems to want to move away from a hard line pushing abstinence (if that is a fair characterization of their past) to something more middling and measured:

“The guidelines are useful up to a point,” he shrugs. “If you’re drinking 70 units a week they’re easy to dismiss, but at 45 units they may be the perfect message.  I don’t dispute the science behind them, but I’d like to see an alternative discourse. It’s a more significant risk reduction, for instance, if you cut your drinking from, say, 42 units to 28 units than it is to go from 28 to 14, so we’d like to focus more somewhere up the consumption curve.”

His proposed approach reminds me of the highly successful MADD Canada public service announcement strategy which focuses on not driving if you are going to drink as opposed to lecturing on the drink.

Apparently… (i) there is a beer style more people like than you might have imagined and (ii) some breweries have shut while others have been bought. Oh, sorry…. those things aren’t news.

Merryn reported on an Anglo-Saxon malthouse discovered an archaeological dig:

The settlement was Christian and it is believed the malt house was not something organised by the local inhabitants but was part of a much wider integrated system. “I think here we are seeing the hand of the church. The church is the super state and it had access to all the latest technology and engineering skills anywhere in Europe,” said Dr Jolleys.

A bit of scale, then. Fabulous. I was wondering if the Angles and Saxons ever thought they would just end up hyphenated all the time. Not much related, one thousand years later, Glaswegian students were very very bad in the 1700s.

Last Friday, The New York Times reported that radiation from the 2011 explosions at that nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan had now shown up in California wine. Apparently this is reasonably common as “certain nuclear events would leave unique signatures based on time and proximity to the grapes.” The levels of radiation are below normal background standards so this is more about noticing the footprint than the first ten minutes of the movie THE WINE THAT KILLED CALIFORNIA… but that is no reason not to worry in the back of your mind in the middle of the night about what really might be going on, the things that no one is telling us…

The North American Guild of Beer Writers has announced that entries are now being accepted for the 2018 beer writing awards and will continue to be through Sunday, Aug. 19.  There are a semi-boggling thirteen categories in this year’s competition. While I am not sure about the “Best Short Form Beer Writing” (which includes beer writing from any publication, online or print, that contains fewer than 600 words as that would include 90% of the other category submissions) mine is but a quibble. Get yourself and your writing in there and – hey! – see how you fare.

Flux. More discussion on Twitter of a favorite topic, the success / failure of regional US craft brewers branching out and the greater scene. BA Bart indicates that it’s the tiny brewers who are expanding at this time. The context of the North American retail market at the moment is quite dynamic. Macro craft is on the move. Budget priced Wicked Weed at $5.99 a six-pack.  Goose Island being moved on a “buy one get one free” basis or a 15-pack for $11.99.  Not all beer consumers check price but how does the small scale folk or, rather, the mid-sized firms survive? Jason adds a twist: “keep opening new breweries in the wake of those that close.” We are somewhat immune from price fluctuations here in Ontario… and immune from even twenty years of inflation apparently. Where do you put your money? Where should ambitious craft brewery owners put theirs?

That is it. A bit less than this week than most but I have a range of complaints (which I could share with you if you like) upon which I base this week’s rather thin offering. I know you want more so I will remind you check in with Boak and Bailey on Saturday and again with Stan next Monday. Three separate nations. Three distinct sources of beer news. Two hundred and eleven other nations to go.

Some Beery News Links For The Sudden Coming Of Spring

It is obviously a tough time here in Ontario and in Canada. The mass murder on Yonge Street in Toronto on Monday has struck hard and will affect many for years to come. It has come so soon after the  Humboldt tragedy. And for our house, a neighbour – dearly liked, always been good to the kids – passed suddenly. It’s a rotten end to a hard winter. Ten days we were in a two day ice storm and now suddenly it’s warm. It’s a hard segue, like any sudden transition. Yet when I read Jon Abernathy’s thoughtful warm memorial to his own father who also passed away recently again with little warning, we are certainly reminded there are bigger things in life than beer yet – as Jon put it – it’s hard but we are doing OK. I hope.

So, this weeks links are offered to give some lighter thoughts. One delightful small thing I saw this last week is this tiny 12 inch by 12 inch true to scale diorama of the old Bar Volo on that same Yonge Street in Toronto. It was created by Stephen Gardiner of the most honestly named blog Musings on my Model Railroading Addition.  I wrote about Volo in 2006 and again in 2009. It lives on in Birreria Volo but the original was one of the bastions, a crucible for the good beer movement in North America. The post is largely a photo essay of wonderful images like the one I have place just above. Click on that for more detail and then go to the post for more loveliness.

In Britain, after last week’s AGM of CAMRA there has been much written about the near miss vote which upheld the organization’s priority focus on traditional cask ale. Compounding the unhappiness is the fact that 72% voted for change – but the change needed 75% support from the membership. Roger Protz took comfort in how high the vote in favour of change actually was. Pete Brown took the news hard, tweetingcask ale volume is in freefall.” He detailed his thoughts in an extended post.  And B+B survey the response and look to the upsides that slowly paced shifts offer. The Tandly thoughts were telling, too. While it is not my organization, I continued to be impressed by the democratic nature of CAMRA, the focus on the view of consumers rather than brewers as well as the respect for tradition. I am sure it will survive as much as I am sure that change will continue, even if perhaps at an increasing pace and likely in directions we cannot anticipate. Q1: why must there be only the one point of view “all good beer all together” in these things? Q2: in whose interest is it that there is only that one point of view?

While I appreciate I should not expect to link to something wonderfully cheering from Lars every week, I cannot help myself with his fabulously titled post, “Roaring the Beer.”  In it he undertakes a simple experiment with a pot and rediscovers a celebratory approach to sharing beer that is hundreds of years old. Try it out for yourself.

Strange news from Central Europe: “In 2017, the Czech on average drank 138 litres over the course of the year, the lowest consumption in 50 years.” No doubt the trade commentators will argue self-comfortingly “less but better!” while others will see “less but… no, just less.” Because of course there’s already no better when we’re talking about Czech lager, right?*

As a pew sitting Presbyterian and follower of the Greenock Morton, I found this post at Beer Compurgation very interesting, comparing the use of Christian images in beer branding (usually untheologically) to the current treatment of other cultural themes:

To try and best create an equivalence I have previously compared being a Christian in modern England to being a Scottish football fan in modern England… On learning your love for Scottish football people in general conversation would automatically make two assumptions: 

a) You believe domestic Scottish football to be as good as domestic English football; 

b) You believe Rangers and Celtic (The Old Firm) are capable of competing for the English Premier League title…

The accusations and derision came from assumptions of your beliefs and the discussions would continue this way even after explaining that their conjectures were false. Talking about Christianity here is similar. By existing I am allowed to be challenged directly about my thoughts on sexuality, creationism, mosaic period text, etc.. and people often assume they understand my attitudes beforehand.

Personally, I think the Jesus branding is tedious bu,t thankfully, all transgressors all go to hell to burn forever in the eternal fires… so it’s all working out!

Homage at Fuggled to the seven buck king.

Question: what am I talking about in this tweet?
Hmm. Oh yes! The news that Brewdog is claiming they have brought back Allsopp India Pale Ale. First, it appears that someone else has already brought it back. Weird. Second, as was noted by the good Dr. David Turner last year, this can only serve as a marketing swerve for the hipsters. AKA phony baloney. Apparently, the lads have been quietly cornering the market in some remarkable intellectual property including, fabulously, spontaneity! My point is this. You can’t recreate a 1700s ale until there is 1700s malt barley and a 1700s strain of hops. [Related.] Currently, I would say we can turn the clock back to about 1820 if we are lucky given the return of Chevallier and Farnham White Bine. There is no Battledore crop and I couldn’t tell you what the hops might be even though there was clearly a large scale commercial hop industry in the 1700s, not to mention in the 1600s the demands of Derby ale and the Sunday roadsfull of troops of workmen with their scythes and sickles,”. The past is a foreign land, unexplored. Perhaps Brewdog have found a wormhole in time that has now overcome that. Doubt it but good luck to them.

Well, that’s likely enough for this week. Remember to check in with Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday for their favourite stories and news of the week that was.

*Note: see also the work of CAMRA and the protection of cask ale.

Your Mid-March Beer News For The Winter That Won’t Go Away

Andy Crouch captured the mood with this tweet on Tuesday:

We are tired. We are tired of slipping. Of sliding. We are tired of corduroy. [Except me. I’m not hating on the cords – just trying to fit in here – gimme a break.] Otherwise, it’s been a really quite week. Not one brewery has done anything stupid since last Thursday.  Well, Stone seems to be having shelf space quality control issues in Europe but, well, that’s par for the course for big international craft. And St. Patrick’s Day is coming up on the weekend but that will be ruined but 827 beer writers working for exposure and samples lording over the fun of drinking green bulk lager… but that’s for next week.

Deeply into the now, Mr. B has a new book coming out, Will Travel For Beer. Like any numbers book there is a hyper-inflationary aspect to the idea of going on 101 vacations about beer but I am sure there will be more than a few ideas worth planning one or two trips around.

It’s not the one beer a day I couldn’t manage but who can stop at the third chip?

This is an odd story. Apparently MillerCoors in the US has created a new demographic category for 21 to 24 year olds and is intent in trapping them for life in a haze of weird macro-made beer like things:

The purpose is to sell more beer, which has been losing business to wine and hard liquor for a decade. MillerCoors, the U.S. division of Molson Coors Brewing Co., is gearing its marketing to 21- to 24-year-olds, a slice of the population the company characterizes as “curious,” “pragmatic” and still virginal when it comes to drinking beer… MillerCoors says there are important differences between millennials and the new generation the beer maker created but hasn’t named.

Apparently, the answer for these poor fools is a fluid called Two Hats described as “a light beer imbued with fruit flavours.” Which (i) we have seen in one form or another before such as the cited Bud Light Lime-A-Rita yet (ii) still sounds uniquely horrible. Pity the short term career path of the team that came up with this one.

Did I ever mention I really can’t get too excited about the unhappiness of the good monks who otherwise play quite happily in the commercial marketplace? Think of the extra good work that could be done if one of the recipes were given to big beer to milk  for all it’s worth with all licensing residuals going to good causes. No, reselling is fine by me. If I can buy Harris Tweed, an actual craft product, from some one on eBay – why not beer? I mean, who would deny the joy of the best beer thing of the week – also found on eBay?

Boom! Now that we have dealt with matter haberdasherrific, be careful. This post from B+B may find you wanting to stroke your screen. Lovely images of malt being made 50 years or so ago.

If we are honest, GBH is now sort of on a different planet, no?

Finally, as Jeff notes, the US Brewer’s Association has put out its annual biggest 50 craft brewery and biggest 50 brewery list… except it’s not the biggest 50 breweries but the biggest 50 brewing companies. Which is odd for an organization supposedly celebrating small. EcoBart explained that the lay of the corporate landscape no longer allows for simply listing breweries – but then offered a tweek that might see number of brewing facilities listed under each FrankenKraftenCorp. Which gets to be confusing. TBN certainly was confused. I’ve plunked the entire list into this post down there at the bottom for your review. Look at it. Look!! The inclusion of Duvel Moorgat certainly sticks out. Andy hailed it all as the revenge of the East. Me, I applaud Bell’s for sticking with “Inc.” while all the world rushed to “Co.” Two years ago or so, the annual list was a helpful tool in following the breweries which had sold out. We don’t talk of selling out anymore. It is all too confusing. Which is another reason to buy from your local actual small brewery at the taproom where you can talk with the owner and the brewer.

Remember: Boak and Bailey Saturday, Stan on Monday.

Newsy Beery News For The Thursday That Starts February

Tra-la! It’s February. Said no one ever. Now is the season of our discontent. And it affects the beer writing world. People are unhappy about this and that and writing posts mainly about “hey – it’s beer so just get through all the greater social issues and go back to where we were in 2012!!” I am not sure I am inspired. The blinkers sit tight on most beer writing. For years I have seen folk belittled not only for their gender but their state of mental health, their independent view, their stand on ethics, their hardscrabble decisions… I am inclined not to link to any of this for two reasons. First, it doesn’t seem very inspiring in that there is an underlying theme that somehow “craft” as a prime directive needs to be insulated from investigation or treated with kid gloves. Second, I keep coming back to the common thread in all the dysfunction is alcohol. Beer seems to have its fair share of bigotry and thoughtlessness but does that extra kick fuel the fire that bit brighter? Some of the comments at Ron’s alone makes it hard to debunk the addled nature of the discussion.

I did get some faith back from this post by Melissa Cole. She often swings widely but, in addition to a welcome and generous use of “we” as poised to “they” in this piece, in this particular paragraph she neatly makes a point well worth remembering:

There needs to be a clear acknowledgement that the male voice is still all-powerful in nearly every aspect of society. So perhaps it’s a good idea to think about using yours at a softer volume. Or to use it merely to amplify the vital messages women are sending about how we are frequently pushed aside or patronized or harassed in beer festivals, brewery taprooms, and bars—even if you think people really don’t want to hear it.

For additional points and a very informed approach to considering sexism in beer, the ever excellent braciatrix has provided a start for your library.

Not beer: Santos-Dumont.

The funniest reaction I have seen to this article on the looming hops glut was the one Stan mentioned from the BA econo-PR committee basically saying don’t worry be happy. I await Stan’s further thoughts.

The saddest truest footnote ever.

If anyone ever again says that Twitter is a poor medium for explaining anything, point them to this thread from Mr. B where he makes a clear argument in favour of a dowdy beer that has been reimagined. Speaking of Mr. B, he was a panelist on a TVO (Ontario’s public broadcaster) public affairs show, the Agenda, on the role of alcohol in society. While it was fair and represented a wide range of views, it was an example of how the concerns inside the good beer bubble are fairly irrelevant in the greater discussion – particularly in light of the partner interview broadcast on the same night. He did well but we need to stop mentioning the debunked J-Curve stuff. Folk don’t drink because they are sick. Not the other way around.

Finally and as proof we can all have a big hug Tinky-Winky moment, Mr. Protz has the news about the introduction of Chevallier barley malt into British brewing. Martyn has more on the background in this post from 2013. I have challenged the folks involved to get me some Battledore porter.

That’s it. A bit late today. But hey – tra’ la! It’s February!!!

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.”

Oh, For A Mug O’ Fern Ale To Keep Strangers Away

Ron got me thinking. He was making fun of something written by Horst Dornbusch today, the “man of a million unfounded claims,” when I noticed something about pale ale coming into being around 1800 when coke was first used. I knew that was wrong so I started digging around for references to straw dried pale malts. There is something about the lack of industrialization that makes for a lack of a record of things and I thought the Coke Makers Association of The English Midlands may well have diddled the books, created history around their own inventions. And there it was… sorta… in The London and Country Brewer from 1737:

Next to the Coak-dryed Malt, the Straw-dryed is the sweetest and best tasted: This I must own is sometimes well malted, where the Barley, Wheat, Straw, Conveniences, and the Maker’s Skill are good; but as the the fire of the Straw is not so regular as the Coak, the Malt is attended with more uncertainty in its making, because it is difficult to keep it to a moderate and equal Heat, and also exposes the Malt in some degree to the Taste of the smoak.

OK, the pro-coke lobby is firmly entrenched but the quotation is from 63 years before Horst so that is worth noting. But then I notice this comment further down page 14:

The Fern-dryed Malt is also attended with a rank disagreeable Taste from the smoak of this Vegetable, with which many Quarters of Malt are dryed, as appears by the great Quantities annually cut by Malsters on our Commons, for the two prevalent Reasons of cheapness and plenty.

Interesting. Commonly used and rank. The author likes his descriptors of bad tasting: “rank disagreeable Taste” is joined by “most unnatural” and, my favorite, “ill relish.” Yet there is it – fern beer. What was fern ale like? We spend so much time hybridizing a new hop or injecting a new chili pepper extract into our beers we have forgotten the humble fern, maker of widely consumed if rank ales. In 1758’s Volume 3 of A Compleat Body of Husbandry by Thomas Hale, a bit more hope is given to the prospects for the taste of a fern ale:

The amber may be straw dried, but ’tis not nearly so well. As to wood and fern they are used in some parts of the kingdom, and custom makes the people relish the beer brewed from such malt; but to a stranger there is a most nauseous taste of smoak in it.

At least the locals liked it.

Lord Goog in the end gave up what I was looking for. In an edition of A Way to Get Wealth by Gervase Markham from 1668, a book first published in 1615 or about 200 years before the start date picked by Horst, we have an opinion on the preference for straw… and not just any straw:

…our Maltster by all means must have an especial care with what fewel she dryeth the malt; for commonly, according to that it ever receiveth and keepeth the taste, if by some especial art in the Kiln that annoyance be not taken away. To speak then of fewels in general, there are of divers kinds according to the natures of soyls,and the accommodation of places-in which men live; yet the best and most principal fewel for the Kilns, (both tor sweetness, gentle heat and perfect drying) is either good Wheat-straw, Rye-straw, Barley-straw or Oaten-straw; and of these the Wheat-straw is the best, because it is most substantial, longest lasting, makes the sharpest fire, and yields the least flame…

Look at that. We are in a different world compared to both today as well as the mid-1700s. Back to an agricultural age. “She” is the maltster. And the specific qualities amongst four classes of straw are known and ranked. After these light grain straws come fen-rushes, then straws of peas, fetches, lupins and tares. Then beans, furs, gorse, whins and small brush-wood. Then bracken, ling and broom. Then wood of all sorts. Then and only then coal, turf and peat but only of the kiln is structured to keep the smoke out of the malt.

Why? The whiz kids at Wikipedia tell us that:

In 1603, Sir Henry Platt suggested that coal might be charred in a manner analogous to the way charcoal is produced from wood. This process was not put into practice until 1642, when coke was used for roasting malt in Derbyshire.

So, coking turns out an early industrial practice that only first considered halfway through the life of Gervase Markham who lived from 1568 to 1637 and only applied to malt after his death. Coke is used to perfect – but not create – pale malts.

Pale malts and pale ales would have been around for some time well before 1600 even if in the effort to make them some became, as Markham writes at page 166, “fire-fanged.” I am sure that a fern fire-fanged ale may well have been an ill relish. But what of those whose custom made them love them all the same? Right? It’s a style just waiting to be reborn. Right? Markham would have none of it. At page 181 he states:

To speak then of Beer, although there be divers kinds of tasts and strength thereof, according to the allowance of Malt, hops, and age given unto-the fame; yet indeed there can be truly said to be but two kinds thereof, namely, Ordinary beer and March beer, all other beers being derived from them.

Got it? Fern ale is not a kind of beer, just a taste. There are two kinds of beer, ordinary and March. Everything else is showing off.

National Six-Pack VIII: Raftman, Unibroue, Quebec

You think it is February. Nothing will surprise you in February when you are as many weeks from Yule as you are to spring. Month o’ the rut. Then, you try a brew that you have never gotten around to trying and the world is all sunshine and love…or at least has one more good brew to tell folks about.

I really like this ale. Likes it, I do. 5.5% at a pretty basic price at the Beer Store. It is like a cross between a great Belgian witte and a great Canadian pale ale. A bit spicy, gingery orangey/lemony but also a big husky grainy profile as well. There is a yeast deposit that tastes decidedly spice-a-lee Belgian but a careful pour leaves the ale bright in the glass. The colour is more deep dark straw than amber – no red to my eye. The head stays around in a nice lively fine foam. It is the kind of beer you could smell for an hour, sticking half your face in the glass – you could if your wife or pals or children would not laugh at you for being a dork.

The brewery, Unibroue says of one of its lighter offering Raftman:

Launched in March 1995, Raftman is a beer with a coral sheen that is slightly robust. It contains 5.5 percent alcohol and combines the character of whisky malt with the smooth flavours of choice yeast. It has a subtle and exceptional bouquet that creates a persistent smooth feel. Raftman complements fish, smoked meat and spicy dishes. It is brewed to commemorate the legendary courage of the forest workers. These hard working men knew when to settle their differences and share their joie de vivre with a beer and a whisky.

The brewer twice notes “smoked whisky malt” as a part of the mash but it is a pretty subtle smoke if it is there at all. Still, it is Big Joe Mufferaw ale. Ale for men in plaid. Beer for lumber bars like Fred’s in Chapeau or the Silver Maple back of Shawville. Click on the photo for a plaidly scale version. The beer advocates do not go all rang-dang-do ever it but lots like it.So far, tied best of the National Six-Packs along with St-Ambrose Pale. Two Quebecers leading the pack. Who knew?