It’d Be Nice To Get More Actual Spruce Beer Brewed

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Your Vital Links To Beer News For Wednesday Half-Day

craigbbcTwo days back off holiday and I am already taking an afternoon off. Slacker. Well, there was a need to do so but not really to do anything other than mind the wee one. Fortunately there’s afternoon baseball to watch online and lots of beer news to catch up with.

=> First, the best news of all is that I may have figured out a cure to the spam war. When I was in Maine I opened up the comments page on the admin to find myself facing over 5,000 pending comments needing manual deleting. I rolled up my sleeves and figured out a few new things. Result: no evil bad comments for a few days now. Even though the blog’s FB page has neatly stepped in, I can now state with confidence that the comments will be open… as long as this keeps working.

=> Jordan made an excellent point in passing over of FB which needs repeating: “I hope they take about ten percent market share. They will then be eligible for beer store ownership. That’ll put the cat amongst the pigeons.” He’s talking about SABMiller’s enthusiastic return to the Ontario beer market. While I remain unmoved, the petite reform MOU does state that “ownership of TBS will be open to all brewers with facilities in Ontario.” Get it on, SABMiller. Get it on.

=> I was not able to get my butt back down to Albany after driving through the last two weekends coming and going from Maine. Sad as one of the great leaps forward was held yesterday as the BBC programme “Great American Railway Journeys” was in town filming and included the Albany Ale Project as part of the story of its New York episode. As you can see, Craig aka “Showtime” had as natty a sports jacket as host Michael Portillo. Plus I got an email that read “I have spoken to my Director, Tom, and he doesn’t plan on you being on screen on screen on this occasion..” I should have known partnering with a former hand model would end up like this…

=> Another excellent edition of the “Drinker’s Digest” appeared over at Stonch’s place triggering a rather zesty discussion beginning with: “Tandleman has a point there will be certain people with vested interests who won’t be happy to hear it…” Tandy carried forth himself today. Which is associated with this comment on food blogging’s latest ethical crisis by a noted wine writer. As I mentioned in the alternative format, with all due respect, it isn’t at all just about disclosing receipt of resources and benefit as part of one’s writing. That’s just the entry point for the discussion unless you don’t care or don’t understand how it appears to reasonable people when writers accept resources for what they write from the subject matter of the writing.

=> Maureen speaks for me in relation to 80% of the beer books put out in the last five years: “Routson’s beer primer is no better and no worse than 50 others I’ve read in recent years. The usual suspects parade the pages: beer styles, brewing process, cooking with beer, pairing food and beer, “science-y numbers” with which to impress your pals, and tasting notes aplenty.” Personally, I would have used the line a bit ago when we were all supposed to care which beer went with the chilled shrimp and avacado wrap. Note: Jeff gets special dispensation as his book sat with the publisher for two years for some unknown reason. But we can stop with the identa-texts now, right? Write only original beer books starting… NOW!

That’ll do for now. It’s summer. There’s baseball to watch. And a new beer to try. Not telling which. I paid for it myself. No need to tell you anything about it. Bet it will be great. Not telling why.

Who Was Joseph Coppinger, Early 1800s US Beer Geek?

coppinger2The trouble with finding an old text in isolation like the one I wrote about yesterday is establishing some context. Without it, you are at the whim of the person’s claim to fame as opposed to his or her place. It’s as true today as it was in 1815 when Joseph Coppinger published his book on brewing. The context is totally dissimilar. Right now we are still in the era when folk can assert craft beer expertise, isolated from critical assessment due to the flux. We have to take comfort and grounding in the knowledge that few are. In the years leading up to 1815, America was similarly in a time uncertainty. The British were not yet allies again and the lands beyond the east coast’s highlands were not secured. Drifters abounded. I was thinking about this when I was thinking today about Coppinger. How the heck do I know he didn’t make up all that in his book? How can we establish he is reliable? So, I looked to see what I could find out about him. Fortunately, he liked to write letters to the famous and left a bit of a trail:

1800: claims in his 1810 letter to President Madison that, prior to emigrating from Ireland to the US, he published a paper in the reports of the Bath and West of England Society on an improved method of the drying of malt.

1802: Coppinger writes two letters to President Thomas Jefferson. He wrote from New York on the subject of naturalization and the need for him to become a citizen to patent an invention. He is an Irish Catholic recently arrived in the New World;

1802-04: Coppinger appears in Pittsburgh on the frontier partnering in a brewery operation located in and even made out of the former Fort Pitt known as Point Brewery;

1806: Coppinger enters into partnership to establish a brewery in Jessamine County, Kentucky. It never comes into operation and a law suit is begun. The dispute is settled through the intervention of the Rev. Stephen Theodore Badin, the first Roman Catholic priest ordained in the United States;

1807: Coppinger wrote from St. Louis a letter to Benjamin Rush, Revolutionary leader. Rush is a pre-Revolutionary anti-slavery activist and a medical doctor. The letter is not about beer so much as a scheme to use public resources to help raise employment levels;

1810: Coppinger wrote to President James Madison describing a list of inventions and also proposes the establishment of a national brewery at Washington. His inventions include an improved threshing machine and a better method of distilling. He gives his address as No 6, Cheapside Street, New York. Says he has been in the brewing trade for twenty years;

1813: An advertisement for Coppinger’s book is published in a Philadelphia newspaper, the Aurora General Advertiser; and

1815: Coppinger writes to former President Thomas Jefferson. He gives his address as 198 Duane St., New York. Jefferson wrote back a couple of week later quite interested in Coppinger’s ideas, noting “in my family brewing I have used wheat as we do not raise barley”.

1815: Coppinger’s publishers, Van Winkle and Wiley of New York, are quite respectable and at the leading edge of the first wave of homegrown American literature. In this same year they publish An Introductory Discourse delivered before the Literary and Philosophical Society of New York, on the fourth of May, 1814 by De Witt Clinton, then Mayor of New York, later state Governor. It is a treatise on the improvement of society.

A brief biography of Coppinger appears in the footnotes to this letter to Jefferson. In his later years he writes two more books: 1817’s Catholic Doctrines and Catholic Principles Explainedand in 1819 On the Construction of Flat Roofed Buildings, Whether of Stone, Brick, or Wood, and the Mode of Rendering Them Fire Proof. He passes away around 1825 after 23 years in the young United States of America. He looks good if a wee bit intense. But, then again, he is a participant in the making of the country, making the world anew. Does this mean he is to be trusted in his description of how to make Dorchester Ale? Not at all. But he has a very good chance of being trustworthy with a bit more digging.

Dorchester Ale: Esteemed When The Management Is Judicious

 

coppingerFabulous. I think my new best friend is Joseph Coppinger. Sure he published his book The American Practical Brewer and Tanner 200 years ago… but so few people come by these days I don’t care to notice such things. Like Velky Al did a couple of years ago, I came across an online copy of the book as I was looking for something entirely different. [No. No, not that.] And when I did I immediately – well, right after checking out the tanning section – noticed there were a number of recipes for beers. Styles of beers even. A listing of styles. In a two hundred year old book about beer. Odd. I thought that was invented in the 1970s by that Jack Michaelson chap. But, more importantly, he included this:

Dorchester Ale

This quality of ale is by many esteemed the best in England, when the materials are good, and the management judicious.

54 Bushels of the best Pale Malt.
50 lb. of the best Hops.
1 lb. of Ginger.
¼ of a lb. of Cinnamon, pounded.

Cleansed 14 Barrels, reserving enough for filling….This mode of brewing appears to be peculiarly adapted for shipping to warm climates; the fermentation being slowly and coolly conducted: it is also well calculated for bottling.

Yes, there is more. I just used those three dots to keep you focused. He goes on and on in fact. Over thirty sorts of beer and a few diagrams like the one above. A few things. First, it’s a description of how to make Dorchester Ale. The careful – or perhaps the caring – amongst you will recall that two years ago while waiting for Craig in Albany to go for a beer, I wandered into the New York State Library HQ and found a large number of mid-1700s newspaper notices for British ale coming into the new world. And a few of those ads referenced Dorchester ale. So there you have it. Dorchester was a top quality ale with a bit of ginger added. Sounds like quite nice stuff. Second, yes, the book was published in 1815. And it was published in that year by the firm of Van Winkle and Wiley located at No.3 on Wall Street. It is a guide aimed at the trade. Aimed at the trade that wants to know about shipping to the warmer climes. Which means exporting ale from New York state. Two hundred years ago. Third, he goes on. And on. The book has a lot of data. I need to get into it to find out what.

I believe this illustrates a point: the problem with records. Believing you know what things were once like based on the available records is a dodgy game. Things like (i) Gansevoort’s adin 1794 asking for barley for ale as the old state in the young nation was coming out out famine leading one to leap to (ii) a prosperous local brewery to the south in 1808 connecting you to (iii) this guide in 1815’s NYC on how to brew for export (iv) all might lead you to understanding that there was in fact a vibrant but little understood brewing trade waaay before the US Civil War and waaay before the advent of lager’s supremacy. But you have to watch that sort of thing. Because records are dodgy things. But at least we may well know what Dorcester ale was. Maybe. Sadly, no reference to Taunton. Maybe. Probably out of style by then in the New York market. That might be it. Maybe.

Beautica Club… Beautility Beer…

beauticaAh, Utica Club. Craig brought Utica Club. He brought a few other beers. Beers that even came in caged cork topped bottles. But he brought Utica Club. It’s a funny beer. An old school macro lager made by a regional craft brewery. Is it hidden craft? Faux macro? Whatever it is, it’s five bucks for three litres at central NY gas stations. Summertime beer. Maybe even a cure for the summertime blues. Maybe. We talked over a pint or two before turning to a few more complex beers. Sweetish with a well placed jagged edge. Everything in its proper place. Nothing off or awkward. A beer for craft’s endtimes. Both pure and XX. According to the label. We talked of these endtimes. I blame Boak and Bailey, writing that non-derivative book that no one else will match. Takes the wind from the sails, didn’t it. So much for no one ever going beyond what’s gone before, been done before. Things get confused once those sorts of things get going. Not knowing your place. Can’t tell heterodox from orthodox. Hard to find which side of the map is up. Things go round and round. The saison driving north from Virginia or the Carolinas was wonderful after the cork popped. But so many are in a similar way, aren’t they.

A Week Off In April To Get Things Done

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It’s either a sign of a well organized life or one with not enough in it. The spring holiday to get the taxes done, straighten out the gardening, fix the step and have some naps. And opening week baseball. Maybe some first round playoff hockey, too. The one thing I am not doing is writing a book. This time last year I was in the middle of writing three books each of which has turned out to be, err, cult classics. Happy readers. Low sellers. Good reviews. Niche huggers. I should have known. Beer writers are either fat or thin. Both from the same cause – anxtity yips. Told a pal once his mistake was doing for a job what I do for a hobby. Beer may still pay for itself. It just doesn’t take me all that far anymore when it does. That’s fine. Been since 2010 that the prospect of a truly idle summer lay before me. I was reading about brainy books back then five years ago today. Probably gave me ideas. Planting some carrot and lettuce seeds will help with that. Tiny seeds in the cold early spring soil don’t give you ideas. Just salad.

New York: Last Bar Seat, Allen Street Pub, Albany

allen3I have to say. I didn’t expect it. Don’t get me wrong. I have known for a long time that I love neighbourhood bars in the US. I spent a great summer evening a decade ago with pals of a pal in Maine watching the All-Star game in a place down by the working wharves. The place was the shape of a cinder block and was made up entirely of cinder blocks. I drank Allagash White and then PBR before the money ran out. I love the idea of walking down the block to a place for a beer even though it does not exist in much of Canada outside of the cities where green things don’t grow. Doesn’t exist in much of any place where the planners have played a role. But there it was. And there I was, too.

The photo above is from the end of the bar at the Allen Street Pub in Albany, New York. That’s it. If I was a cheese eating school boy, I might insert some sort of pretendy disclaimer but let’s be honest – free beer is “money + alcohol” innit. Paul gave us the run of the taps though I hope the tipping went some way to match the beers poured for us. There is no avoiding the history of the western world. The bar is owned by Craig’s pal of decades. Paul. The place opened right after prohibition ended and sits among houses on a side street. A municipal planner’s nightmare. It’s filled with local memorabilia with a definite lean towards Albany’s history of military service. It’s also filled with folk from nearby having a beer. Normal. Beer in a normal place.

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Here’s the thing. Over the few hours we were there I came to the understanding that this was one of the greatest times in a bar I have ever had. It was perfect. It was so perfect that while one in our group was keen to take me on at an argument about craft beer, I realized I was sitting in a dark tiny pub in a foreign land sucking on a rosemary laced saison as Led Zep’s “Kashmir” roasted out the speakers. While, yes, dark and tiny it could serve as a test site for the Bose speakers Paul had installed. The narrow bar had five distinct spaces: cans in the rear, the cooler with its kegs and bottles, back of the bar plus the old bar top and the new one. If you look at that photo above you will see the division. Before he took it over and expanded, the tavern was just that bit at the front – maybe 18 by 30 feet tops. When we got in the place, we grabbed the back bar with its four seats. The front two-thirds of the place was already well settled by guys drinking macros or a shot or both having a good Friday night. Mere feet away I was having a pint of Black IPA with a balancing splash of brown ale handed to me. And then something else. Again, let’s be honest: I was not conflicted. I had given in. Only an idiot wouldn’t.

What did it all mean? It was more like a village pub in some place where I have family in Scotland than most places I had been in North America. Think I had only seen a place this small on this side of the Atlantic maybe in Newfoundland. No dive and not even a joint. A place in the neighbourhood. Normal. Three beer engines, too. He plans to add more. Paul is even running a cask festival in a few weeks. I expect to be in Canada when that is on. Probably in my basement watching TV. A couple of bus rides away from the next nearest good place to hang out. Thanks a lot, fifty years of urban design.

Notes On Turning Into A Book Fair Carny, Etc

nowayI had not expected to make myself into a book fair carny but forty-five quiet minutes into the four hour book booth manning at last weekend’s NY State Brewers Association Festival I looked at Craig and said something to the effect of “we better think of something quick or we are going to hate each other around three hours from now.” It’s not that the fest wasn’t swell so much as it was a beer fest, not a book fest. So… I stood up and began to shout “GETCHA BEER BOOKS… GETCHA BEER BOOK HERE!!!” until I was quite hoarse. Sales picked up rapidly. And they continued to pick up as folk drank more beer. So, two tips for the beer book selling public for the price of this one post: (i) act like an idiot and (ii) act like an idiot in front of folks getting drunk. Which leads me to a few other thoughts:

=> “To grangerize: to illustrate with material taken from other published sources, such as by clipping them out for one’s own use.” Isn’t this what beer blogging really is?
=> Thirty-four dollars and ninety-nine cents!?!? I am sure some young aspiring consulting craft beer mixed revenue dreamer has a grab bag of cliches by which such things are justified but… thirty-four dollars and ninety-nine cents!?!? Seen at the Cicero, NY Wegman’s grocery store.
=> Chad was more sensible. He had some beer, too. I just shouted a lot.
=> I consider the fear of sweetness and the denigration of crystal malt to be hallmarksof this era which shall be mocked in the new future after the paradigm collapses. But I can say that about a lot of things.
=> I have no idea about how many pubs or taverns represents a crawl but some people have very fixed ideas. Having done one, as one must, by taxi in Toronto in the last year I would accept a walking four-stop crawl in two small neighbouring villages myself.
=> Words that beer bloggers might have recently chosen not to use: intended, unravelling, instantly.
=> My answer? Use the machines – whether you own them or not? You’re a “brewery” while the others can use “brewing” or “beer company” or something else.

There. Monday notes. It’s thawing out there. We are a long way from warm but the dripping roof has created the driveway trickle which leads to the gurgling roadside drain.

Session 97: A $40 Room And Maybe Free Beer

sessionlogosmWe are asked to write about up and coming beer destinations for this month’s edition of The Session but I wonder if I’m living the rougher and readier reality. Beer travel? From what I see it often includes some sort of relapse into undergrad lifestyle. I am having bit of a creeping feeling that this two star hotel on the old four-lane route out of Albany, New York might be serving that up for me this weekend. But the room ain’t bad and soon pals will arrive. The solvent againt will prove to be the bond.

See, as I mentioned, I am attending the New York Brewers Association fest and conference at some other fancy pants hotel without $38 CND rooms. And to be fair I got this deal in Hotwire weeks ago. But it illustrates one of two ways beer and travel interact for me. I go to beer events or I find beer wherever I go. I have never traveled to find only beer. But that was covered in Session #93 four months ago. Not to mention sorta during Session 29.

Beer destinations? You may want to have a good look in the mirror if you dwell too much on the idea. You will find good beer on life’s highway if you are good at noticing stuff. You will also find other good stuff if you keep you eyes open for that as well. And if you don’t want your grand children to think you were an alcoholic back in the day get some photos of that stuff, too, when you travel. Travel gives you perspective. Or at least it should. Jeff knows. Go hicking in Franconia and you’ll find some good beer along the way. And, if not beer, wine or rum or even a nice cup of tea. It’s a big world out there. Don’t let the grandkids down.

I Never Go To Beer Fests… Except This Week!

uhvb1aThis weekend will find me at Albany attending the New York State Brewers Association second annual Craft New York Brewers Festival. The most exciting thing is that it is being held at a place called The Desmond Hotel. It is exciting because I love 1960’s first wave ska and, according to my notes, every band had to have a guy called Desmond in it. At least the great ones did. I am going to head south for the first time since September to man a chair at a table to see if I can help Craig spread the good news about our history of Albany ale as folk spin around the dance floor to these sorts of song stylings.

The Craft New York Brewers Festival will bring together 40 New York Breweries (and brewers) from every region of the state featuring up to 90+ hard to find and award winning beers. To make this very special event more exclusive, we will feature food sampling and pairing from local Albany restaurants and food vendors to go along with each brewery attending at no extra cost! This is a great opportunity to meet the NYS brewers that make the beer, and the owners of the local food scene in the Capital District that are such an important part of the community.

So, what do I do with the opportunity? I am not all that keen on fests as drinking sessions but I do look forward to having some decent conversations with folk in the trade. Its tied to the Association’s winter meetings. What to do? I might ask for a glass of gin. I might try an informal survey on what beer to pair with Anjou pears. Always wondered about that. Perhaps I might inquire as to what business strategies they have to better support better arm’s length beer business writing. Might expect the answer to be “what the hell is that?!?” though, mightn’t I. Frankly, the real question I want answered this weekend is whether anyone has been subject to section 3.11 of the NYSBA’s bylaws: Membership in the NYSBA, may be revoked by a majority vote of the Board of Directors for non-payment of dues, conviction of a felony or crime of moral turpitude, or willful violation of any other provision of the By-Laws of the NYSBA.. Crimes of moral turpitude? What the heck is that? Wonder if any of the members know. Might walk around asking members if they know anything about that. Perhaps it has some thing to do with unholy collaboration projects. That sort of thing. Evil.

Say hello if you are around the Des. After 8 pm, I understand, known as El Des.