The Blink And May Is Gone Edition Of Your Beery News Links


To start, I have done what every good beer writer does – I have stolen something. The image above is the lower slice of the cover image used by Boak and Bailey for last Saturday’s edition of “News, Nuggets & Longreads” and it snapped my head immediately to attention. Wow! See what is going on there is in the anonymous 1890s pub? Careful readers will recall my 2012 search for better drinking vessels and in particular my love for my pewter quart pot* which is happily put into periodic use. When conducting that search care of Messers E & Bay**, you see these quart pots with spouts that I figured were altered and re-purposed for household reuse after the era of quart in the pub normality left this Earth.  But NO! They are for pub use, the buyer purchasing a quart measure but serving himself with it but drinking from the smaller glass instead of the pot. No wonder the spouts are all at 9 o’clock to the handle’s 6 o’clock. So the right hand can pour to the left. A jug built for serving someone else is always spout at 12 o’clock to the handle’s 6 o’clock. Perhaps this was a quart of strong ale compared to to a quart of a lighter weight beer? Now I want one of those, too.  And so should you all.

James Beeson on a year writing about beer from the rare perspective of journalism. Also see Jeff on the same. J + J are both correct.  Certain brewers and many PR folk have an issue they have to deal with. We might call it “greater society.”

One week until the vote is in for Ontario’s election and NDP leader Andrea Horwath has given us another “candidate with a beer” photo. The scene is Brothers Brewing in Guelph. I prefer the Canadian standard “politician beer pour” pics personally but seeing as this was actually tweeted on the official party feed, I’m more than pleased. Unlike the last national election in 2015, beer is an inordinately active topic in the election so far – and is being picked up by the news organs covering the race. In fact, they are being even so clever as to seek out knowledge such as in this article where Macleans magazine quotes from and even includes a hyperlink to the blog of Jordan St. John! In one of the oddest Ontario election promises ever, conservative leader Doug Ford has promised the return of buck-a-beer cheap lager. That was a thing until 2010. Jordan unpacks the many many ways that this is never going to happen. My tweet:

Ontario’s “buck a beer” went away when a big corporation bought a smaller corporation, shut it down and sold off the equipment. Not a policy matter. And government can’t force brewers to make cheaper beer.

Mr Ford may well be our next premier but no one has accused him of being all that bright. Five years ago, The Globe and Mail*** accused him of  selling hashish for several years in the 1980s but no one has accused him of being all that bright. Dumb.

Hail in Bordeaux on May 26th. One-third of Blaye heavily hit. Drag.

Martyn Cornell posted about running ads on his blog. I used to do that a decade ago. Good money. Folk are always seeing us there is a way to recoup the cost of all this. And they should. Hilarious observation in the comments from a reader remarking on folk jabbing about the ad selection:

Other posters — the ads you see *might* be determined by cookies on your machine indicating what you’ve previously been viewing so maybe be a *bit* careful before announcing what’s showing up for you…

Me, I don’t really care about the financing of this here publication any more as digital historic research is less expensive than my other hobby, sewing suspender buttons on trousers for work.****  Seeing as, me, I don’t travel and don’t hang out in pubs I really don’t have a love-hate relationship with my problem writing anymore. I have a backyard. I have a rec room with an old Lay-Z-Boy. It’s all working out.

Note: any brewery drawing water from the Great Lakes south of Sarnia is pretty much making a dilute processed sewage water beer as well. Not to mention it all being DINOSAUR PEE!!!!

Folk are still waiting for the apology that will never likely come. See, Beavertown has been talking to Heineken after all. As noted in your May 17, 2018 edition of the Thursday news, those who saw this coming were “rumour mongering” and spreaders of “falsehood” – which have to be two of the most infantile over-reactions in hard scrabble beer consulto history. Way to go. The fun continues as Beavertown lands a deal with Tottenham football club serviced no doubt with approval of Heineken, the club’s official beer sponsor – but wait! One tiny voice shouts “HOLD THE PRESSES!!!”:

Nothing has been confirmed. Could be completely unrelated – collaboration could be within the stadium only – but there are no sources saying either of these things are true.

And monkeys might be circulating in trousers. What a mess. Having negotiated sports stadium bevvy deals, it is pretty obvious that there is a connection… as it would be to most. Does anyone think that Beavertown or Heineken have two law firms isolating these sorts of deals with the same parties from each other? Yeah, that make sense. Plenty of sense. But no: the last few weeks’ simmering sneer of discredit suddenly has an implicit claim of special access “the sources“! And, suddenly, now rumour mongering is in!! The core self-branding strategy prime directive is pretty obvious… still, I like to read along these sorts of aggrandizement cub reporting mongers with the sound of a teletype or stock ticker clacking along in my mind. It helps.

By contrast, the ever excellent Ben Johnson has written about a wonderful new addition to the Ontario beer scene – the Toronto East End brewers collective. One of the dumber things about the “independent” aspect of the craft beer movement is how it depends on followers aligning into lock step with messaging coming from the tenured staff of centralized national scale trade associations located far far away. The Orwellian scenes at the keynote speeches of the annual Craft Beer Conference look like something out of a mass reeducation session. I hear they chanted “Gose is Good! Gose is Good!” at the end of one of these back in 2016. Newsflash: it often isn’t. Far better it is, then, to read how some are fighting back against mindless homogeneity even in a local scene:

“Most of the breweries in Toronto who have been the beneficiaries of media hype (deserved though it may be) are all clustered in the west end,” he says. “There’s already this ridiculous ‘cultural divide’ that makes people in the west end feel like traveling east of the Don Valley requires a full day of logistics planning and we’re hoping to dispel much of that nonsense.”

Fight the power. Fight the good fight. Fight! We need more of this. Dump those who aspire to “big and controlling” whether in association or in distribution or beer writing or whatever. This nano-political statement is the next logical step for “local” and it is welcome if not long overdue.

And with that, I leave you. Once again the goodness in craft is defined by the local, ungrasping, interesting and kind. Alcohol and money have their powers for sure – but peril lies that way. Both for those who speak in that fashion and those who bother to listen. Much more fun is the real. Next Thursday is election day! I even have an orange sign on the lawn.

*You do all know that a tankard has a lib but a pot does not, right?
**Stolen this time from Norton of Morton.
***Toronto’s national newspaper.
****Good set of buttons costs about $3.50. Tops. Lots of colours and sizes, too. Don’t get me  started on vintage buttons made of deer antler…

The Post Victoria Day Blues Edition Of Your Beery News Notes

Erg. I have post Victoria Day general body disorder. When one is a young adult in Canada, the May 2-4 weekend can lead to the three day hangover version of VDGBD but in my case it is merely a case of too much gardening. Joining the overwintered leek, kale, parsley, parsnip, garlic and green onion are new seedlings of red lettuce, beets, basil, romaine and radish. Hoeing and mulching and mowing and digging sessions along with timid pruning of the Pinot Noir filled the weekend after which a few well placed Sam Roberts Band ales from my local Spearhead brewery store hit the spot. I have no comment on the concept of the collaboration as that only affects what is outside the can as opposed to inside but as a nice brown ale at 4.5% it did the trick.

Gardening was on my mind in another way this week. If you don’t read the wine writer Jancis Robinson you are missing something. I say wine writer but for my money she is the best drinks writer working today. Consider this column she wrote on “premox” or premature oxidation as currently found in premium white Burgundies. There is a massive raft of information embedded in the writing  including very firm opinion – “One wine, a Boyer-Martinot Meursault Charmes, was as dead as a dodo…” to details on how global warming might affect the value proposition as to grape growing acreage in the Burgundian geography. Fabulous. When I tell Stan that wine making, for me, is at least as complex as brewing, this (along with working my own current second vinyard-ette) is what I mean.

Book news. Jeff says Barrel Aged Stout and Selling Out, the new history of Goose Island by Josh Noel, is a something of revelation, framing important things for we who are sitting as we are now here in this one year seemingly just minutes after the era of the great craft buy-outs:

Throughout the book, people on both sides think there’s a way to square this circle, to bring the best of craft and big beer together. The second half of BASSO lays bare why that was never possible. The good and bad of each approach are actually just the positive and negative qualities of the same thing. It’s just not possible to be both revolutionary and cautious. As the story plays out, these cultures clash, and one comes out triumphant.

Sounds pretty fabulous. Go buy the book.

Blogs are back! As with Jordan two weeks ago, ATJ renews his pledge to his blog and post a tale.  Blogging is totally back, baby. Jordan has even doubled his output with this tale of salty nuts. Totally. Back.

From the twitter feed “Picture this Scotland” comes this view of Glasgow in 1980:

Better than a Bill Forsyth film, that up there. Memories flood in. I remember my father when I was seven giving us a tour of the areas of Glasgow which were still bombed out from the war. Up there with the time when I was fourteen he took us to the square in his hometown of Greenock at noon on a Tuesday to watch the drunk men eat mittfuls of chips while simultaneously falling down. Did I mention Dad was a minister of the cloth? Note: The Squirrel has some history and seems to still be… active.

Well… except for there being no beer in California in 1927 and there being plenty of US dark lager both before and after prohibition…

The Chicago Tribune published an excellent article in the form of real beer business journalism on the fall and possible rise of Constellation’s billion dollar bauble, Ballast Point, a beer brand for me which always screamed “price too high!” for the quality one received. Apparently others agreed:

Michigan-based Founders Brewing Co., best known for its lower-priced, lower-alcohol All Day IPA, was roughly the same size as Ballast Point in 2015, but could end up shipping twice as much beer to wholesalers this year. Founders CEO Mike Stevens called the Ballast Point decline a “perfect storm” of high price point — a six-pack of Sculpin regularly sold for $15 — and what he believes to be a fading trend in fruit-flavored IPAs. “They were obviously just screaming to the top of the peak, riding that price point, riding their fruit IPAs. … Right when that (deal) went down, we kind of all knew that they were going to have to fix the price points because the consumers were going to lose interest,” Stevens said.

Mmm… fruit beer. Expensive fruit beer… Not sure I need a resurrection of that anytime soon. What’s next? Andy is lobbying for a gimmick free summer. That would be nice.

Conversely, news out of central New York… err… the Capital Region… finds the clock actually being turned backwards as a bricks and mortar brewery, Shmaltz reverts* to being a contract brewer – just as they had been prior to 2013. I was a regular buyer of their beer a decade or more ago so it’s certainly a brewer whose brands never suffered from someone else owning the steel. Happy story likely in the making. Maybe?

Ales Through the Ages II looks fabulous. Might I get there?

Ontario election time beer update! Suddenly serious contenders to lead the next government, the New Democratic Party, might review the rather slim introduction of beer, cider and wine into a handful of grocery stores across the province. Current Premier and solidly slipping third-place candidate Kathleen Wynne says expanding beer to more privates stores is just… just… well, “it’s not sensible”! And Doug “Did I Just Peak Early?” Ford says – beer sales everywhere! That ain’t happening but at least, as shown above, he wins the prize for the first beer pour at an election stop, part of Canada’s great “politician pouring beer” heritage. Note: someone’s angry. Note2: Ben says none of this matters. Two weeks to election day. Stay tuned.

Well, look at that. That was largely a fairly positive week, wasn’t it! No inter-consulto insult fests. No big craft hyperbolic pontifications. Am I growing up or something? That would be weird. Don’t forget that the beer news never sleeps and check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday. Stan is on holiday somewhere south of the equator… again. “Good Old South of the Equator” Stan. That’s what they call him. He’s posting from there. But not on Mondays in June. No, sirree. Not “Good Old South of the Equator” Stan.

*As reported by Deanna Fox, someone I have actually met.

The Session 135: Recollections Of Beer Things Lost

For this month’s edition of The Session, Alistair Reece of Fuggled has answered the emergency alarm as Boak and Bailey have put it so well:

The Session, when bloggers around the world get together to write on the same subject, is a fragile thing, only ever one dropped ball away from disappearing altogether. This month’s was looking dicey until Al at Fuggled stepped in heroically to save the day, proposing for Session #135 the topic ‘Sepia Tones’….

You cannot be as much a crank as I am without having a solid point of reference for comparison. Actually, I don’t accept all that “Al the Curmudgeon” stuff by the way. In fact just this week, while watching  Rowan Atkinson in a much delayed broadcast of the first episode of Maigret this week, I was struck  by how much like his portrayal of the main character I am.  Much more the cool yet vulnerable observer of life who plays a quiet role keeping you all somewhat safer while, myself little observed, I move down wide chestnut-shaded avenues like him wearing fantastic grey flannel suits and fedora leaving the scent of modest yet fabulous pipe tobacco floating behind me. Knowing that… it is sad – or perhaps just self-congratulatory – that I used up the title “À La Recherche Du Bière Perdu” in March when I was contemplating a then mouth full of stitches so I can’t even layer this post with an entirely appropriate Proustian gloss as that would be repeating myself.  And I would not want to do that. My new inner Maigret would not do that.

Memory, as I learned in my days twenty years ago when I worked as a criminal defense lawyer initially of little brain, exists in the present and in the mind. We are bits and pieces gathered together in a shape like sea glass in a jar. A 8 mm film replaying a record of the past crudely spliced and haphazardly edited with our own conscious interjection only half guiding the process. We are in ourselves a fiction. Which is, one might suggest, why we drink. Not so much to forget as to pleasantly fill in the gaps. Which may be what Alistair is alluding to when he asks us to “get melancholy, drag up memories of good times gone by, and join us in this month’s Session.

The fiction we find each ourselves placed within is not all that different from the fiction good beer finds itself in. Today’s false claims of pink sludge in a stemmed glass, the phony history and personality cult aggrandizement driven and jockeying with the story tellers’ middle aged cramped ambitions for a reasonable retirement which outstretch any realistic opportunity for most.  The sins of a pleasure trade are always laced with compromise and money making. Was it better when I was young, pure and fresh? When discovery was in fact possible, when the new brewing was laced with something actual new?  I don’t know.

I can only know that it was my youth. Perhaps. The gang of pals out in our regular loud hot Halifax port city taverns. The bars in foreign lands. My first tripel served in a dimpled mug in a beer of the world outfit in France in my twenties when, again, backpacking through cheap hotels and hostels. My father passing me a half-pint of shandy in Ely in 1977 when I was 14 and, again, him handing me a full pint of cold lout three years later in a pub on Sauchiehall Street down from the sports store up the stairs, the same pub that I walked past three years ago but didn’t enter for fear of both having that memory disturbed and re-edited and, honestly, also the fear of a pub like that in Glasgow late on a Saturday afternoon after all the matches are over.

The sepia tones cannot fix certain things. Not the cringing inducing dumb things done when young, the thin boasts made to and of oneself, hovering too late at night or too late in life at the party. Those bits of medical advice recommending changes one picks up as the years pass. And, if we are honest, sepia can’t improve upon another clear headed early Saturday’s morning coffee enjoyed now far more often than a Friday night out at my age.

Does beer every actually grow up? Can it? Or is it a cheap Peter Pan promise of the Neverland injection that should last a few hours but, if you are unwise, the very thing that can trap you for years… or more… or even less.  But there I go again, post-Bean observing.

Remember When We All Believed In The J-Curve?

What is it in alcohol that makes people so strident, so binary? Oh, I forgot. It’s the alcohol. Which is what I thought again to myself as I read many of the reactions to the news from the UK’s leading medical journal, The Lancet, that a diet that includes a rather moderate amount of regular alcohol intake is not a very good diet if you like the quantitative aspect of life. Here is the summary of the study’s findings:

In the 599 912 current drinkers included in the analysis, we recorded 40 310 deaths and 39 018 incident cardiovascular disease events during 5·4 million person-years of follow-up. For all-cause mortality, we recorded a positive and curvilinear association with the level of alcohol consumption, with the minimum mortality risk around or below 100 g per week. Alcohol consumption was roughly linearly associated with a higher risk of stroke (HR per 100 g per week higher consumption 1·14, 95% CI, 1·10–1·17), coronary disease excluding myocardial infarction (1·06, 1·00–1·11), heart failure (1·09, 1·03–1·15), fatal hypertensive disease (1·24, 1·15–1·33); and fatal aortic aneurysm (1·15, 1·03–1·28). By contrast, increased alcohol consumption was log-linearly associated with a lower risk of myocardial infarction (HR 0·94, 0·91–0·97). In comparison to those who reported drinking >0–≤100 g per week, those who reported drinking >100–≤200 g per week, >200–≤350 g per week, or >350 g per week had lower life expectancy at age 40 years of approximately 6 months, 1–2 years, or 4–5 years, respectively.

The great thing about this study is that it is a study of all the bad stuff. In addition to using grams of alcohol instead of some useless “standard unit” measure, it does not cherry pick. From time to time you will see a beer trade consultant argue that there is a health benefit to drinking alcohol that leverages the idea up there of the log-linearly association with a lower risk of myocardial infarction. Heart disease. To dress it up, the talking head will reference “the J-Curve” to impress that this is a masonic like bit of secret information that has to be received on the basis of trust rather knowledge.* Belief over fact. Sometimes the idea actually is presented compellingly.

The most important thing to understand is that it is both true and not true at all. The J-Curve requires having a preference to not suffer from one particular set of diseases related to the heart. I know of no one who thinks that way: “I don’t mind recovering from this mid-60s bout of cancer but I will be damned if I have that mild heart attack that sets me back for a bit until I get my house in order.” But, just as craft loves to award itself first prize when it comes to harm avoidance, the booze trade loves the J-Curve.

No, it’s about overall health and the balancing of it off against overall fun. I turn 55 next week and have had my share of boozy fun, happily more and more in my further past. It’s nice to have the memories – even some of the ones that make you cringe – because the alternative to having the memories is not all that great. I had an acquaintance twenty years ago who was a regular smokey-drinky after work guy. Bob. Bob hit 50 around 1996 and would say he liked to live his live as he wanted. He’d bring that up, between phlegm sputtery coughs, most times I was out in his company. He died around age 52. No J-Curve miracle for Bob.

Max, as usual, has the more realistic view, expressed on Facebook this morning:

I don’t think having a drink every now and again is bad for you, any more than it is having a fag or a joint every now and again, but I am not convinced it is any good, either (at least physiologically) and I am equally skeptical about the conclusions of the linked article as I am about those from pieces touting the health benefits of having a pint or a glass of wine a day. And yes, I drink more than I probably should, but I do it because I like it and not because I expect any health benefit.

It’s a trade-off. Which is what the study in The Lancet is saying. If you have 200 grams of alcohol a week, well, on average that’s going to knock half a year off your life span. That’s about a 12 pack of 5% beer in 12 ounce bottles. Double that amount to about 24 bottles a week and you might be looking at a life that is shortened by four years or eight times that six months.

Now, without getting too much into the details, I have had the opportunity to work with the older and, occasionally, the dying as part of my career. I have taken a death will from someone who passed 30 minutes later. Not fun. Yet, quite important to that person and quite humbling for me. My impression is that once one gets to a certain point in years the “fun v. years” trade-off is worth it. You think “so maybe I die in October and not next April… I’ve had a good run.” My own father basically said that, even though the cause in his case was not the perils of alcohol but the perils of being freckled and living within the range of the sun’s rays. I might even go so far as to say that magic number for this sort of reflection might kick in when you get in view of your eightieth birthday – or perhaps it’s getting to 90% of your expected longevity based on your relatives. Not the Bob-span. Much more than that.

Yet note one other thing. This is from a twitter discussion amongst stats geeks reading the report in The Lancet:

Of 100 people drinking 14 units a week, 99 people will not die due to alcohol and 1 will. That 1 person loses 37 years of life. The remainder obviously lose 0 years. The average across the 100 people comes out at 0.3 years lose.

The distribution of the ill effects of too much drink is not consistent, not fairly distributed, whatever fair means. So much more important than either the J-Curve effect and even the average number of drinks is luck of the draw. You know you are shortening your life but the degree to which it is shortened is case specific. Based on you. And whatever it is you did. [What did I do? Yikes!]

Sometimes I ask myself whether at some point in my retirement I might take up smoking. Or add much more unctuously satisfying animal fat to my diet. Statistically, if I get to 73 or 76 I might as well as I won’t shift my likely outcome in terms of the quantity of my remaining years all that much. I fancy sticking a pipe in my pocket, a leather pouch of a cherry infused tobacco. Once in a while. Not Bob-like smoking. Something more sensible. No rush. That’s a couple of decades off yet. If I make it. If I haven’t already played all the strong suit cards I was dealt.

I think there is a lot of good news in this report. While the overall detrimental effect on health is steady, the line on the graph does not take off at an entirely unexpected pace. And, as the graphs do  not record longevity into the triple digits, there is a implicit reminder that we are all ending up in the same place eventually. So, it is a “fun v. years” calculation. Finding that point of balance. Unless it isn’t about fun for you. Or if you are a Bob. Or Bob. Good stuff to consider, maybe even over a beer or two this weekend.

*Trust me. I am a lapsed Mason.

All The Beer News That Matters For The Middle Third Of April


Matters? None of this really matters all that much. Fine. Maybe posts like this are just the stuff you need to get you to – or through – the stuff that matters. Let’s go with that. It’s OK. A quiet week now and then is nice. No need to puff it up with claiming this post is a “deep dive” into this or that. Is that why so much get the head scratching these days? Is there actuallyan increase in beer media types tweeting about beer just because they want freebies“? Does that really matter? Yet… who thought that, by Wednesday, the TV ad up there from 1995 would matter so much now, twenty three years later? But it does as it’s a matter the center of a lawsuit that might end up maybe marking the end of an era. More below. Deep down there.

Before that – first, but not exactly unrelated – I find a certain sort of post, illustrated this week by one Pete, a bit… odd. You may not agree – which is fine – but let me express myself for just this one instance.  Please. What I don’t get is while he concludes that what he finds odd is an article motivated by the desire to “create specious claims” he spends a lot of time saying things like “that’s certainly food for thought” and “there are certainly some interesting points” which, for me, leads to the critique of the article sounding a lot like a sibling of the article. Which leads me wondering why the article, the one he didn’t like, would matter to Pete that much. It’s not like I don’t sympathize. I was shocked when I read about “The Secret Brewery Battle That Could Kill Manchester’s Booming Craft Beer Scene“! but then couldn’t believe my eyes when I read about “The Secret Brewery Battle That Could Kill Wales’ Booming Beer Scene“!!! Clearly there is less than 85% overlap between the two articles so… journalism can’t be dead! [Note: intracraft warfare now clearly out in the open with the use of “beer bullies” by one local Mancunian know-it-alls. Well… sometimes they do know something, right?]

All I mean is what we are all seeing around us is far more interesting : the expansion of craft by including and retaining anything claiming to be craft; freakshake pastry stouts, the churn of increased brewery closures aligning with the uncertainty tiny brewers bring; and the seven year itch that, yes, is hitting the craft beer monogamists. Being a spectator in a ripe time of transition behooves us all to spectate. Which sounds a lot like speculate but it’s really quite a different thing all together. Let’s just sit and watch for a bit. There. That’s better. [Note: if you love something let it go.]

Perhaps conversely… but maybe not, my own dear old hometown newspaper ran an article on my own dear old undergrad alma mater’s historic brewing studies – and it’s perhaps the most honest bit of beer related journalism I’ve read in yoinks. [Note: Apparently, we usually can’t handle the truth.] So much of what was made sounds horrible. Did anyone get an F for their project?

In an even more real case of matter… and perhaps even anti-matter,  I think we can all agree that we don’t need to check out the Royal Oak in Wigan. Don’t go. The back streets of Ron’s Amsterdam, however, are where the clever should aim there feet.  [Note: Ron hit the exact sweet spot for mushy not mushy this week. Govern yourselves accordingly.] And speaking of travel and also as a matter that surely matters, I would still be mesmerized even if it turned out that Lars has been stringing us all along, weaving an entirely fictional fraud upon us all with his northern farmhouse ale studies. “Koduõlu, the traditional farmhouse ale from the large Estonian islands in the Baltic“? Who researches that? Lars!

What else? Well, given my recent doubts as to the point of taproom fever, it has been playing the role of interesting subtext of the week. What is a taproom anyway? Beeson, J. is of the opinion that if the beer is not brewed on site surely it’s just a bar. Yet the utterly venerable Laxfield Low House in Suffolk clearly has a taproom yet does not brew. It is the room where casks are tapped and served on gravity. [Note: it has a taproom but is not a taproom.]  The Royal Tavern here in Kingston, Ontario has a sign over the door that says “Tap Room” but – even though the establishment predates Canada and was a haunt of our first Prime Minister – it’s just a bit of a hard dive.  Not Wigan Royal Oak hard… mostly… mainly. [Note: it has no taproom and is not a taproom but claims a tap room.] I suspect taproom is like curate, code for “modern thing or action which needs not be investigated and considered so much as put up with and outlived.” [Note: Did I mention I turn 55 next week. Does it show? If you call it “double nickels” it sounds way cool, too, just like “curate“!]

You know what matters? You, the kind reader. And this has to be the most heart warming response to a weekly newsy notes post ever:

OK, then. I will.

Finally, that matter at the top of the page. That 1995 TV ad way up top… that’s actually referenced in the Answer and Counterclaim filed by MillerCoors in the Stone vs. Keystone lawsuit archived at Syracuse, NY attorney Brendan Palfreyman’s website.  Much of US-based beer social media was humming about the contents of the Answer as well as Brendan’s analysis on Twitter. The bottom line is this. Stone launch a court action a couple of months ago claiming a bit of the moral high ground. But, as I noted last February, there is plenty of evidence of the use of “Stone” related to Keystone beer before their trademark was registered and under US law this is important. As stated at paragraph 29 of the Answer:

…Coors’ use of STONE and STONES predates Stone Brewing’s use of STONE. When co-founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner decided to adopt the moniker Stone Brewing in 1996, Coors was already selling Keystone beer nationally in cases labeled STONES and running marketing campaigns advertising Keystone beer as STONE. MillerCoors did not “verbatim copy” Stone Brewing’s trademark. If anything, it is much more likely that Stone Brewing copied the STONE name from Coors, since Keystone beer was already advertised as such in the market.

It sounds like bravado but at section 23 of the Answer, it states that Koch said the following in an interview about Keystone’s 1995 “Bitter Beer Face” ads (like the one up there at the top of this post):

Basically it was a misinformation campaign. It was designed to tell the American public ‘You’re not sophisticated enough.’ Let’s try to tell you that you don’t want better beer. It’s really a form of oppression. There’s just nothing short of it.

This is an amazing bit of evidence. Needs to be proven in court but, funny enough, that is what MillerCoors apparently is going to do. Watch the TV ad again. I had no idea there were “anti-hoppy” ads running in the mid-1990s. What is not to love about that ad? Well, maybe not if you like that bitter puckery micro beer. Which might cause a mid-1990s upstart with oddly strong impressions about what oppression means to take aim at the gargantuan brewery making fun of your dreams on the TV.  Wouldn’t that be funny if over two decades that attitude were now to come back to bite someone. Sometimes a particular stone is the best means to clarify what is real. Who knows? Let the court decide, I say!

So there you go. What looked like another dull week explodes again by my Wednesday deadline to send this baby to the printing shop… boom. No doubt there will be even more for you to consider from Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday.

The Session 134: Beer In The Garden Does Not A Biergärten Make

For this month’s edition of The Session, host and Expos successionist Tom Cizauskas has asked us to think about beer gardens:

What is a beer garden? Or what isn’t a beer garden? Or what should a beer garden be? Or where is a beer garden? Is a beer garden a place of foliage and shrubberies? Or is it a plot of concrete with umbrellas? Is a beer garden an outdoor bar? Or an outdoor Biergarten pavilion with Gemütlichkeit und Bier? Or is a beer garden to be found at a brewery with a hop trellis de rigueur?

My problem is I have never been to a beer garden. Not really a Canadian thing. Oh, folk will talk to you about a patio but that is completely different.

So… I will mention two things. The first is that Joe Stange has written a particularly wonderful entry for this month’s contribution on the joys and, umm, realities of taking your family to an actual German Biergärten. It’s the sort of great writing that an editor of a beer magazine would reject and its publisher never pay for. It’s that good! The second thing is that while I have never been to a beer garden I have written about in the past, including this piece below from 2011 “Saturday Afternoon Beer As I Smoked Meat By The Shed” which, amongst other things but especially as the southern end of the yard has lost its lovely tree, reminds me how I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can fix up the shed roof, clean the place out, set up a chair and have some Saturday afternoon beer as I smoked meat by the shed as I listen to a baseball game drifting in and out on my tiny AM radio.

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After two weeks off that saw a lot of road, it was good to have a Saturday to commune with 5 pounds of pork and 5 hours next to the Weber set up as a smoker. As perfect a summer day as ever there was, the fire sparked quickly given the subtle breeze. I dry rubbed the joint for only an hour or so and then settled in for a long afternoon’s watch.

 

 

 

 

Despite the moment, I took a few scribbled notes:

⇒ Mill Street Organic Lager is a beer that had been mainly offered in an irritating 10 ounce bottles but is now available in 500 ml cans. It has a nice body for a 4.2% beer – some pale malt roundness framed by slightly astringent hopping leafing to an autumn apple finish. one of the few Canadian better sort of sessionable beers. Good beer at a good price that lets you have a few.

⇒ I should be grateful to have a Rickard’s Blonde in the fridge – because I happily downed the first two samples sent and then had to go back and ask for more. It’s a slightly sweeter lager than the Mill Street, a bit darker with a slightly peachy tone supported by heavy carbonation. Its light astringency is present from first sip onwards leading to a bit of a rougher hop finish. Its sameness from the sip to swallow got me thinking but it is quite worth buying for what it claims to be.

⇒ Hop Devil is an old pal that served as a change of pace mid-smoke. It pounds that crystal malt that some English beer commentators now suggest is overkill. The hops have black pepper and pine tree with maybe a bit of menthol. A beer I would happily have on hand anytime.

⇒ The Samson came my way care of a pal who was traveling through Quebec and found this at the Government SAQ store up in Gaspé on the Atlantic coast. Apple butter with molasses notes open up into black cherry. Bready and bready crusty make me think of the drink that Dr. Pepper wishes it was allowed to be. No need of this to be held out for the few and the easterly. Nothing Earth shattering but more evidence that Canada needs better beer distribution.

Shed. Beer. Shed beer. They held me in good stead as the afternoon wore on. Slow smoked the pork and slow passed the hours as I day dreamed about the human condition as well as the drawing to the end of holidays.

À La Recherche Du Bière Perdu

Sitting here with benignly received stitches in my mouth, it’s not only that I look back with fondness on that time before a week ago that I could have a drink. It’s looking back with fondness that I could have anything pretty much not in paste form. I did have a bun the other day. Took me 27 minutes to eat it. Which reminds me of other looking back fondly at the joyful consumption as with this archaeological dig in England:

Once at the cutting edge of Oxford University, the friary building was either torn down or at least fell into disuse during the mid 1500s when the Franciscans fled the country during the dissolution of the monasteries. Built over for many centuries, it is only thanks to redevelopment for a new shopping centre that archaeologists have been able to delve into the treasures it contains. ‘Greyfriars’, as it was known, was home to both the friar lecturers and scholars and their students. So far the archaeologists have found thousands of artefacts, many hundreds of which – in true student fashion – are related to alcohol.

i remember when I could be related to alcohol, too. There is plenty more detail over at this site for Oxford Archaeology which appears to be the firm working with the developers to clear the site. The discovery of a 13th century tile floor was an unexpected surprise. Not unlike my surprise when I learned hummus and yogurt could be an entire meal.

There is much more detail in The Independent. Seems like the monks, unlike me at the moment, had a rich and varied diet:

Mutton, lamb, pork, beef, chicken, geese and song birds were all on the menu, as were sea fish (cod, whiting, haddock, herring, eel, gurnard, conger, grey mullet, thornback ray, salmon and sea trout) and freshwater fish (especially roach and dace). The archaeological investigation has also revealed that they had a liking for oysters and mussels – and for hazelnuts and walnuts. For making pottage – a thick mainly vegetable stew – they used wheat, barley, oats and rye.

They also found “hundreds of medieval beer mugs” – hundreds. The monastery is described as being one of the seats of “super friars” with great academic and political influence which is one of the things, I suppose that lead Henry VIII to getting rid of them. The order reestablished itself in Oxford a bit over a century ago. Their kitchens were apparently preserved in good condition… for archaeology… but I am not sure if they established whether the monk’s ale was brewed within that facility. Medieval Oxford not only had a brewer’s guild starting in the 1400s but they also had a Brewers Street so who knows.

So, there you go. A little light learning for a Tuesday.  From a guy with stitches in his mouth. Did I mention the stitches? I did? Oh, good.

All The Good News Beer News For 03Q218

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

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

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

Lew blogged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity newbie brewer or local newbie brewer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session 133: Hometown Proud?

For this month’s edition of The Session, host Gareth of Barrel Aged Leeds has asked us this question:

For this month’s edition of the Session, the proposed subject is ‘Hometown Glories’. Take this and run with it how you wish, but when thinking about possible subjects I had in mind an imminent visit to the place I spent my formative years and blogging about it’s highlights and wider beer scene. 

Being a gent of a certain age, I was struck by how similar this topic was to Session #15 “How Did It All Start For You?with a heavy dose of Session #9 “When Beer And Music Shaped My Life added for good measure. Which is fine but there is another problem. I am not sure I have a hometown. Our family moved when I was age 7, 8 and 15 before I went away to university at 18 to a city where my parents moved to when I was 21. As an adult I have received my mail and wages in eight communities including long stretches in Poland and the Netherlands – not to mention of months long patches of slumming around the UK with friends and family half-heartedly looking for work. So what to do?

Recently I realized that there was more to the story. I was trying to make sense of the storeroom in the basement. There are boxes and boxes of my late parents’ things down there and, working my way through the papers, I came upon my birth certificate. Oh. My. God. They lied to me and took it to their graves. I was horrified. Even though I spent my first years in Mississauga, turns out 55 years ago I was born next door… in Toronto. TORONTO?!?! The shame. The confusion. Yet, now I know why I love Johnny Bower so.

So, I am drinking a Pompous Ass tonight from Great Lake Brewing, Toronto’s other gift to Canadian beer… you know, other than me. At $2.65 CND it’s the right choice, fresh value craft from a legendary micro in its 31st year. One of the things that makes me hometown proud.

One Other Problem With The Young White Males…

One of the nice thing about being a child of Scots immigrants who ended up in Nova Scotia is I am quite comfortable not being white or WASP even if I am privileged. Stealth immigrants’ progeny. Growing up in Nova Scotia in the 1970s, I never fully understood some things like the way other Canadians ate. Corn flakes? Coffee? Strawberry jam? We were more into oatmeal, tea and marmalade even if the sun rose over the Atlantic instead of setting. We were in a class with a few others of the similarly situated. One pal who married a lovely English lady later told me that our family was good training for meeting his in-laws. Like them, we apparently were the only people he had met who could all sit around the same room in armchairs reading newspapers or books. Quietly. Drinking cups of hot milky tea. Quietly. Taking turns making it. Quietly.

Which is something I think about when I read about “white people” these days. I used to think that they were just people who didn’t know their great-uncle’s names or why the different sausages existed and meant something. “White” was not a culture so much as an absence of personal family culture. Don’t misunderstand. There was no missing the strong Acadian, Black Nova Scotian, Caper, LGBT, Lunenburg German, Valley Baptist or indigenous Mi’kmaq experiences and their battles for equality in the particular time and place of my upbringing. The fight was so visceral that “white” (that sad default setting) spoke to as much to a fundamental lacking of something core as it spoke to a political and commercial privilege. It was a grey space in a vibrant landscape with robust variety and political tension. But for beer that sort of “white” is now a looming problem without much upside:

“Generation Z marks a turning point, being the first generation to prefer spirits to beer,” analysts led by Javier Gonzalez Lastra wrote in the report. However, one segment of Gen Z still prefers beer to other types of alcohol: white men. For a long time, beer companies only needed to appeal to white men to grow sales. White men have historically made up a hefty part of the American population. They also drink more alcohol on average than women of all races, as well as more than men who are not white.

So… in addition to buying into a systemically discriminatory construct, the persistent dependency on these privileged dolts might have resulted in something of a hollowing out of long-term customer base prospects. Is an unspoken flaw of the “beer people are good people (are people like me)” construct not only the wonky dependency on the heralds heralding  “doot-dah-doooo!” long-trumpetingly from the ramparts of majoritarian bastions but willful blindness to a key expectation supporting those bastions has long been undermined? It’s not so much that beer has failed to be inclusive as it has more fundamentally missed the fact that “white male youth beer culture” will now never again appear in any college level Demographics 101 class syllabus as representative anything like a majority.

The actual majority of the market – and the growing population defining that market – is not white or male or young… let alone “and” and “and”… which is a problem. Like the place I grew up in, it is filled with others who are now off and doing what they feel like freely. Which is good. And which makes me ask… if I was investing in a new crafty brewery in any kind of competitive setting why would I even market to the  white and male and young if I had any interest in surviving into the mid-2020’s? That market has already been locked in and is going to fade. Like the damp corner of a basement carpet that’s where the unwanted saturation is. Why would I not entirely aim my focus on the others, the actual majority? Or, you know, open a craft distillery?