Is Good and Craft Beer Really A Form Of Temperance?

Yesterday, Jeff reviewed the stated purposes of Oregon’s Liquor Control Act of 1934 as part of an exploration of the regulation of strong drink in his state. Lew has been writing along a similar line for some time on his separate blog Why The PLCB Should Be Abolished. Cass has been running a similar campaign here in Ontario at FreeOurBeer.ca. I like these campaigns as anyone should who lives in a jurisdiction with a sensory lab. It is, after all, just beer.

But one of the odder things about the good beer discussion is sometimes a bit of pressure to sing of the same song sheet. When I posed a category titled “Beer Bloggers Against Drunk Driving” there is a bit of a chilly response, the idea that one ought not to introduce anything negative into the conversation. One should not have a strong opposite view that asks why good beer might be a wee bit obsessively too central to the world view of those who write about it. It is, after all, a drug.

All that comes to mind for me when I look at the values Oregonianites captured in that law of 1934, we see words that sit in a middle ground, that challenge me to ask how I think about them now almost 80 years later:

(a) To prevent the recurrence of abuses associated with saloons or resorts for the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
(b) To eliminate the evils of unlicensed and unlawful manufacture, selling and disposing of such beverages and to promote temperance in the use and consumption of alcoholic beverages.
(c) To protect the safety, welfare, health, peace and morals of the people of the state.

I have been thinking about words like these a bit lately. They don’t seem to me as bad as the discussion might have led us to believe. In the comments following his post, Jeff raised the spectre of that darling of pre-WWI American prohibitionists, Carrie Nation. I noted that Carrie Nation was not a proponent of temperance but of abstinence. See, my point is that preventing abuse, promoting temperance as well as protecting peace and morals is pretty much what much of western culture wants when it goes to work or mows the front lawn or sends the kids to school. Which may mean we have to consider that in the end maybe temperance won and much of western culture is the better for it. None one advocates for abuse, intemperance, peacelessness and immorality. Of course not, no more than you would support other scourges of 1800s life like child labour or lack of public health. We underestimate or dismiss how more widespread and heavier drinking was then compared to now and how it may have come smashing into conflict with industrialized urban life.

So, is good beer the natural descendant of the temperance movement? Just as lower alcohol lager was presented as a temperance drink in the latter 1800s, is tastier beer now conveying the notion that mass produced beer need not be mass consumed? This is not to say that the liquor control boards should not be undone. I want to buy my beer in cornerstores and gas stations in Ontario like I can in nearby Quebec and New York. But should we reject all? What values can you not support? What regulations would you keep?

Hair Of The Dog: A Couple of Difficult Cases

This may turn out to be an epic. It may end in tears. Whatever it is you can click on each picture for a bigger image.

In the early fall – actually on September 28th 2006 just after noon – I jumped into my first LCBO private order, two cases from Hair of the Dog brewery in Portland Oregon being organized by the excellent gents, those Bar Towellers out of Toronto. I faxed through my deposit of $51.60 CND on a total order of $197.96 CND. I ordered one each of Doggie Claws and Fred, two 10% or so barley wines from one of North America’s top boutique brewers. I had a Fred when I was at Volo earlier this year. And then I waited. And waited.

Around the first of December, the order came into Toronto, I paid the balance and waited for it to make its way 220 km or so east to Kingston. Then there were rumours of issues with the capping. Excellent, I thought – bottle variation. The curse of decent wine. Jon Walker, a Bar Toweller, noted:

This thread worries me. As a result I went in to check on my stash of HOTD and indeed many of the caps are not fully crimped onto the bottles. Most flair at their base and do not fully grip the lip of the bottle. I was actually able to press up on one with my thumb and get the gas to release in the “PPST” common to uncapping. What do I do know? I don’t have a capper to close the caps properly (if they actually CAN be sealed, perhaps they are the wrong size???). I’ve got just shy of 70 bottles left and I’m loathe to believe I might lose some to oxidation due to loose caps.

The cases showed today, 21 December 2006, about 12 weeks after they were ordered which is really not that bad seeing as I think the beer was still in the tanks when the order was originally placed. But there was an obvious problem from one look at the case of Fred that seemed to echo Jon’s words above.

 

 

 

 

When I got home I decided to have a look inside and what I found was not pretty. The inside of the box was soaked. Ten bottles were seriously uncapped with significant beer loss with mostly empty necks like above at the right. In addition, twelve were showing little beer loss and two showed some promise. All were irregularly capped in the same way. Some caps show some rubbing and wear like there was a mechanical issue when they were put on.

It looked as though it was shipped upside down as there is plenty of yeast in the necks and a fair amount of beery sneakery out from underneath the caps. No violence to the box, just seeping. This may actually be a short term saving grace. The smell is also rich and clean, not sour like a bar on Sunday morning. I will have to have one. I am a little depressed, a little pissed off and a little curious. I have not even looked at the box of Doggie Claws.

 

 

 

 

Much to my surprise, the beer, picked from the worst group of ten, opens with a loud Pfffft!!The yeast had created a seal inside as you can see below to the right and it pours with a huge head. It is huge and lovely and lively. Hallelujah! Christmas is saved. Christmas is saved. And the Doggie Claws show no sign of leakage at all with the same location of the irregular capping as the Fred but with a lot less severity.

So it will likely be a crap shoot one a bottle by bottle basis but if that yeast cakes up it may last throughout the holidays at least. “Pour slowly to allow sediment to remain in the bottle” it says on the back. What can you do? That yeast is my best friend right about now, the life in the ale securing what the dim-witted capped and shippers could not. I would hope the legal saying “buyer beware” is popping into readers’ minds right about now.


J’accuse!