As January 2019 Dies Off Another Set Of Beery News Is Born

A surprisingly long set of links face me in my inbox today. Folk send me suggestions all the time… well, some of the time… OK, once in a while. Honestly, for the most part to make this weekly update of the news in good beer I just email myself links as I notice a story through the week. Usually there are seven or nine by early in the week. This week, I had over twenty by Monday. And, yes, emails. So… let’s dive right in.

First off, if you are in Toronto this evening (and I will be if only passing through via VIA) you can pop over to this fabulous fundraiser for an important cause to witness some top notch curling action (like that to the right from last year) at the Beer Sisters’ Charity Hopspiel:*

On January 31st, brewers from across Ontario will gather at the Royal Canadian Curling Club in Toronto’s east end. Clad in array of plaid, denim, light-up shorts, toques and matching jerseys, 24 brewing industry teams will face-off to raise money for the Native Women’s Resource Centre in Toronto. The Beer Sisters’ Charity Hopspiel, hosted by beer writers and educators Crystal and Tara Luxmore, is in its 7th year. The event has raised over $32,000 for the centre, and the sisters hope that this year they’ll cross the $40,000 mark.

Fabulous! And at the Royal Canadian Curling Club! An actual place I am assured, not just a mid-range brand of rye whisky from the 1950s.

Next, Katie wrote a wonderful piece on heritage barley published in Ferment that explores the use of Chevallier, the darling English malting from around 1820 to WWI. I immediately started badgering her about joining my Battledore revival crusade.

Note: Victorians represented in under 1% of the graph and the most striking thing is not their habits so much as the near replication of the feat right before the economic meltdown of 2007-08. Nonetheless, a very handy set of charts and who doesn’t like handy sets of charts?

Not journalism.  Or at least not good journalism.** Just badgering. Easy enough to get a quote from someone but it usually requires letting them speak.

An clear and accurate guide to tipping in Canadian tavs, pubs and bars.

Beer Ramen. Kill me now.

Update: We’ve had an actual update on #FlagshipFebruary and I couldn’t be more grateful for the clarification:

…it is in our and the industry’s best interest if we take a moment occasionally to appreciate the flagship beers of the industry’s foundational breweries…

So, the brewery has to have continued through the good beer era and the current flagship is the brewery hallmarks to recognize. Andy Crouch wrote a wonderful dense poem of a tweet on the same topic:

Revisiting long established flagships tastes of antiquity, success, failure, unfulfilled dreams of resurrection, and ultimately nostalgia. A place in time to momentarily revisit if only to remind you how far you’ve come but rarely a place to linger long.

I noticed this statement in a piece on German brewing culture and I thought it was extraordinary for suggesting agricultural capacity of a landscape is not the governing factor in whether beer was made or not:

Alsace is on Europe’s religious faultline. Beer is often thought of a drink of the Protestant north, but the facts don’t really bear that out. Belgium, Bavaria and Bohemia are historically Catholic (even if that religious attachment has faded); only Britain, of Europe’s foundational beer cultures, is Protestant. Does this suggest beer is less Protestant than thought? Perhaps, but I also think Catholic cultures are (as you might assume) better at preservation.

Well, I suppose someone has created a jam/jelly faultline based on religion. Me, I’d suggest many western and central European brewing traditions were pretty much established before the Reformation.

The effect of the US government shutdown on the brewing trade is measurable. Why the difference in processing wines and spirits? I blame the slackers attracted to a career in the beer label branch.

Gary’s piece on Watney’s Red Barrel as experienced in eastern North America at the time contains plenty of those links to contemporary primary documents that leave you persuaded. By way of contrast, this could really be read in two entirely opposite ways:

“I actually am mystified myself,” says Jeff Alworth. He should know…

Fine. I’ve held on long enough. Let’s talk Fuller’s or at least the highlights of the discussion. Promethean Jordan found a very helpful Brexit angle on the timing based on last year’s visit. Martyn argued convincingly that the whole sale spoke of business success and a strong future going forward. Then he added a bonus history of Asahi to deal with, you know, the legitimacy issues. Jeff at distance took it as a hefty body blow and mainly sees that it poses great risk to the English cask ale scene. Boak and Bailey wrote from their semi-characteristic personal perspective, supposing they are facing another long goodbye to a treasured relationship. Matt sided with the corporate success group and then started blatantly and publicly gambling with Boak and Bailey over the matter. Pete wrote first about his lack of levelheadedness when faced with the news and then got level headed and then sorta wobbled again in the semi-revisionist Book of Genesis stuff.***

My take? First, Fuller’s has been masterful in building up its reputation with good beer conversationalists over the last ten years. Remember how fun it was when @FullersJohn started tweeting? How beer writers were brought in and got their names on the label? What is really being noticed now is how the emotional credit Fuller’s they earned through that clever outreach has been truly a rich investment. And notice how none of the commentary comments upon that even though it was all done openly and with integrity.  Second, the only constant about the beer business over the centuries has been the goal of continuous growth, merger and acquisition. Brewing has two great outputs: beer and wealth. This is just the latter being successfully served after a long stretch merrily servicing the former.

I love this tweet by Jancis R:

Never ceases to amaze me when we get messages like this: ‘We’d like to find out how to go about having our wines scored by Jancis Robinson, as well as the costs involved.’ Who charges to taste wine?

Who charges to taste beer? I know some but it would be rude to mention, no? Conversely, there is a craft beer fraudster working the US south:

“The phone rang and rang and rang…I checked the house and it was empty. The door was unlocked,” Brandon Oliver says. “His chickens were still in the backyard…about 90% of his clothes were gone…he left as if he only had six hours to leave.” Foster left his tools out at the unfinished beer garden. He and his family left town overnight.

The abandonment of the chickens is a sweet detail.

As someone with hearing that will never get any better, I really like this inordinately nice idea from a campaign under the heading Quiet Scotland:

Ever left a shop or been unable to enjoy a meal or drink because the background music has been so loud? Don’t like complaining? Try leaving one of our polite cards to get your point across.

An email went around from NAGBW HQ about the impending demise of the All About Beer web archive and I first thought it was an oddly presumptuous thing to send… and then I thought it was kind to alert me. I did not save any of my own work as anything I pitched was not dubbed worthy – which made me happy. I really hate editors and others paid to make things duller. But I did save Stan’s story How Craft Became Craft for very obvious reasons.

And, finally, let’s just watch this**** and listen to the screams of those precious darlings witnessing a part of their personal emotional foundations, the rebellious idols of their youths, being washed away out from underneath their feet:

That’s it! A big week in the contemporary detritus of good beer culture. Please check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday for more sensible and refined responses to the week in good beer.

* For those not in the punny know, see Bonspiel.
**Which is quite another point we never explore when a writer claims the journalism label… or at least the helpful bits. Seldom the adoption of the concurrent ethics lead at that moment.
***“Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale began life as an attempt to imitate Fuller’s ESB.” Really? How many beers is SNPA an clone of? Ballentine IPA. Burt Grant’s work. What else?
****And this, for that matter.

Your Thursday Beer News Notes For The Week Winter Showed Up

I should not complain about having to shovel snow on the 20th of January when its the first real snow of the winter. It’s not that tough a life. Five weeks to March today means it won’t be all that bad from here on out. What effect has this on my beer consumption? Not so much in volume but now is the time when a pint of stout and port is added to any sensible diet. I say “a” pint with care given the concoction should be somewhere in the area of 10% alc. Yowza. But when does great reward comes without some risk?

Not long after last week’s deadline for news submissions, Ed tweeted that he had “[j]ust been sent an excellent article on rice malt beer 😉” The study describes the potential of rice for brewing and sets out an optimized malting program allowed water saving.  Which is cool. But it is also cool that it is about the use of rice which, except for corn, is the most hated of fermentables. This is despite the fact that rice beer came to Canada about 93 years ago – well after it was brewed in the U. S. of A. – a fact which has been fabulously preserved for us all in the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the case The King v. Carling Export Brewing & Malting Co. Ltd., [1930] S.C.R. 361 at page 373 about the production of beer during the era of US prohibition:

I do not think we can accept the suggestion that there was no market for lager beer in Ontario. The learned trial judge dwells upon the fact that rice beer is peculiarly an American taste, and infers that it is not sold in Ontario. The evidence in support of this does not proceed from disinterested sources and I wonder whether the boundary line so sharply affects the taste in illicit liquor. In truth, it is stated by Low that it was not until some time in 1926 that the respondents began the manufacture of rice beer, and we are not told at what date, if ever, in their brewery, rice beer wholly superseded malt beer.*

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we stopped calling it “American-style lager” and just called it rice beer… or corn beer as the case may be? Will it take another century to pass for good beer to admit this fundamental reality of North American brewing culture?

Beer at the Post Office? Thanks Vlad!

I am still not sure what to make of #FlagshipFebruary.** Like a lot of you, I have been making up alternative hashtags like #GoldenOldieAles, #FlogshipFebruary and #PartyLikeIts1999. But it’s earnestly offered and, you know, as long as there isn’t a secret spreadsheet being sent around to members of the good beer PR-consulto class prearranging who are going to each write about this or that fabulous flagship as a way to artificially drum up interest and maybe future paying PR gigs, I think we might actually come away with a reasonably good taste in our mouths.

It reminds me a lot of by far the most successful of such hashtags, #IPADay created in 2011 by this blog’s friend Ashley Routson aka The Beer Wench.*** But (and this was not really the case in 2001 so laugh not) I would argue was easier to determine what an IPA was in 2011 than figure out what “flagship” mean today. As I am l not clear what a flagship really is, I asked some questions like if the Toronto brewery Left Field consider their oatmeal brown Eephus (1) their foundation (2) their flagship (3) both or (4) neither. They wrote:

We’d be comfortable calling it a foundational beer. We don’t really refer to any beer in the lineup as a flagship. Along with a few others, it’s one of our year-round offerings.

Seefoundational does not (usually) mean flagship. More evidence? Consider this September 1990-ish beer column on the state of affairs in Lake Ontario land. It mentions the venerable and largely forgotten Great Lakes Lager. Foundation? Sure. Not the flagship. That’s now Canuck Pale Ale. You know, flagship might also even be a slightly dirty word in the trade. A tough row to hoe for the industry marketers behind this scheme. But hope lives on eternally in such matters as we learned from the new CEO of Sierra Nevada who, faced with the task of turning things around for the musty ales of yore, stated:

…he’s bullish on Sierra Nevada’s prospects heading in 2019 and he’s projecting 5 percent growth. He believes that advertising will help turn around Pale Ale’s negative trajectory, and that continued growth for Hazy Little Thing, combined with increased focus on Hop Bullet and Sierraveza, will propel the company forward this year.

Advertising! How unlike beer macro industrial crap marketeers!! If that is the case, me, I am launching #FoundationAlesFriday come March to get my bit of the action. Join my thrilling pre-movement now.

Beer so horrible that it can’t really be called beer is rising in popularity in Japan as sales of the real stuff and the semi-real stuff drops.

Elsewhere, I tweeted this in response to the wonderful Dr. J and I quite like it:

Well, the multiplication of “style” to mean just variation leads to a dubious construct that bears little connection to original intent and leaves beer drinkers more and more bewildered when facing the value proposition of fleetingly available brands however well made.

Let’s let that sit there for a second. Fair?

Send a furloughed US Federal employee a beer. Or help with some unplanned bridge financing for an out of luck new brewery.

Even elsewhere-ier, Matt Curtis is to be praised and corrected this week. Corrected only in the respect that he wrote the utterly incorrect “in true journalistic style I was too polite to say” in his otherwise fabulous piece**** on what it was like going booze free for three weeks:

As I walked down Shoreditch High Street on my way to an event from the British Guild of Beer Writers showcasing alcohol free beers I passed some of my favourite bars and restaurants. I found myself pining to sit within them, simply to soak up the atmosphere. In that moment I felt that merely the sound of conversation and conviviality would sate my urge to drink more than any can or bottle of low alcohol vegetable water that has the indecency to call itself beer.

Lovely stuff.

Note: an excellent lesson in what it means to understand beer.  “It’s what [XYZ] told me…” is never going to serve as reliable research. Just ask, beer writers! Ask!!! Conversely, this article in The Growler serves as an excellent introduction to the 18 month rise of kveik on the pop culture commercial craft scene. I say pop culture commercial craft as it has been around the actual craft scene for a number of hundreds of years. Much more here from Lars.

How’s that? Enough for now? Winter getting you down? Remember: things could be worse. I think so. Don’t forget to read Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday if you want to stay on top of things. Perhaps he will update the impending contiguous v. non-contiguous acreage rumble we’ll all be talking about in a few weeks.

*Buy Ontario Beer for more fabulous facts like this!
**Though I do like the concept of the pre-movement.
***Note: I make no comment on the wide variety of beer “wenches” or “nuts”… or “foxes” or “man” or any such other monikers. At least they don’t claim to be an expert.
****The current edition of Boak and Bailey emailed newsletter contained this bit on Matt’s experiment: “…it all seemed pretty reasonable to us. But even if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be any of our business. We did wince to see people in the business of beer berating him for his decision, and winced even more deeply when we saw people nagging at him to break his resolution.” I agree that this is sad and, I would add, smacks of the nags shouldering the alky’s burden themselves.

 

“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.”