Your Beery News For A Thursday Now That The Cardigan Is Finally On

It’s World Series time. When I started putting these notes together, the first game hadn’t been played. By the time it is posted, two games will be in the books. [Ed.: Oh, the Sox won game one!] I hope the idle Stan has time to catch a game or two… not a certainty given his global gallivanting seems to be continuing. This week, he sent us all this wonderful holiday post card of a photo (above) from Crosby Hops of Oregon. Respect beer. Keep the chain oiled, but respect beer.

Wine drinkers unfairly punished by UK taxes” says wine writer Jancis Robinson responding to a discussion on the implications of Brexit. Has anyone been writing about the implications to the UK beer trade? My hope is that a currency crash and tariff increases might bring on a golden age for Fuggles. There is this point, however:

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) has warned that exiting the EU without finalising an Irish border solution is expected to cost €364m worth of drinks trade between Ireland and the UK. The outcome would restrict an estimated 23,000 cross-border truck movements and attract additional new tariffs on supply chains.

To be fair, it’s not like the €364m worth of drinks will not be bought and drunk. It will just be domestic bevvies from each side of the border. Does Guinness rebuild its UK operations? Probably. [Ed.: Wait – that’s not what a good blogger does.] DEFINITELY! Diageo to return to the United Kingdom by Q3 2019.  You heard it here first.

Speaking of wine, look at the size of those servings! Wee lassie sniff-a-wine is pre-gaming for the twentieth century, I’d say.

Are we actually concerned that there are too many references to cannabis in craft beer branding? I hadn’t really noticed it but now that weed is legalized in Canada, I have not been too sharp on the ball. It’s all like a hot box here, the entire country. Have you ever seen a moose in the woods smile dreamily? You can now.

It’s been an interesting week for comments about writing about beer for magazine money. Boak and Bailey in their monthly newsletter (which you really should sign up for) shared that they are done with it for the foreseeable for  very reasonable reasons including frustrations of pitching pointlessly, frustrations with not getting paid, and frustrations when articles are not published. I’ve avoided the crutch of pop beer mag writing for the most part but was quite disheartened when MASH mag went under without publishing my third article on early Canadian brewing… as in early 1600s brewing. BB’s comment – “Can you make it more appealing to Americans?” has worn us down rather – is telling, too. A variant on the too often seen editorial theme of dumbing down. The wonderful @Shineybiscuit shared another curse of the gig:*

Months of pitching a national about the great pubs in my area has resulted in a TV food critic getting to write the piece instead. Love my job.

Yikes! I hope Boak and Bailey still spare a thought for Original Gravity which, while it tends to work “the romance of beer that everyone feels on their fourth pint” as editorial stance, still offers great value for money. And it’s made it to the 20th issue which is worth celebrating in itself.** Very few do, usually with good reason. You can read it here for free.

A fabulous bio of Carol Stoudt got a Lew link and I link on. I love this paragraph:

As the craft beer industry blossomed around her, Carol smelled the roses — and detected the need “to deepen the trenches” in her home state, she says. “As more local breweries pop up, there’s no need for me to be in those markets.” She pulled back distribution around 2015 to bring her beer closer to home. “I never wanted a factory,” she says. “I like small. It’s kind of my philosophy.”

That’s captures what I have been trying to say for about a decade. If you can’t say “I never wanted a factory”, well, I’m not all that interested in what you are brewing. “Factory-made beer” is a wonderful slag against all pretenders of all label levels.

Jordan posted an interesting essay on his experiences returning to England after five year, following up on his piece [… which I have linked to somewhere around here…] what was it called… “Belgium Sucks More Than They Tell You“?… no, couldn’t have been that. Anyway, I liked this point in particular:

Here are some changes that happened when I was away: St. Austell Proper Job in cans. Apparently this is a 2018 development and six packs are available through TESCO. You know how the LCBO changed the market in Ontario by demanding 473ml cans? Well, this is a similar development and something of a standardizing influence between young startups and larger regional legacy brewers. The retailer isn’t quite king, but the 500ml bottles do look a little dated and the deep bottle discounts for multiple purchases do influence the consumer. Cans at least move volume without sacrificing the perception of value.

What is not often noted in the hack writing about “crushable” and the art on cans is their actual benefit as a flexible friend: lower investment, more control, and still that sense of value. Jordan’s other comment about Beavertown Gamma Ray – “there are a couple of dozen better American Pale Ales brewed in Ontario” – was also welcome. It is not, after all, about the quality of the beer, just the quality of the blessed “experience“… which a pop beer mag can tell you all about in a sentence and a half at the rate of about 17 cents a word.

Don C of CNY has penned an interesting article on the return of the (tiny) NY Prohibition Party:

The state’s “pro-alcohol policies are making New York sicker, poorer, and more highly taxed,” the Prohibition Party leaders  said. “Those in state government should come to their senses and end state support for the alcohol industry, or the people should vote to replace them with public servants who will.”

“Should” is the dumbest word in the language. Makes people think what isn’t is what ought to be. No “should” with Pete as he continues his considerations on cask in the UK again and in particular he discusses price. Let me ruin his ending for you:

Price is a thorny topic to get to the bottom of. As a cash-strapped drinker, of course I don’t want the price of beer to go up. But as an adviser to brewers and pubs, I’d say there’s a lot more potential margin in cask if you want it – and if the quality is good. 

The important thing to note is that a lower price is what is being offered and what is being paid. The market is what the market says it is. Which means if folk are happy with lower-price lower-quality cask, well, that might well be the product they want. Hard to capture that as a PR consultancy message*** but it might well be why what is… is what is.

Well, that is it for me for this week. The lettuce patch has not yet suffered a killing frost even if the last green tomatoes have been brought in to ripen on the window sill. The furnace doesn’t run all night but it sure gets turned on before I make the coffee. Winter is coming – but it ain’t here yet. Weekend readings? Day dreaming again, wishing that Saturday was as fun as a Thursday? Fret not. Find your next beer news fix at Boak and Bailey.

*Then removed with well-worthy self-asserted defiance! Fight!!!
**Not the Canadian… err… Toronto edition of OG which seems to have gotten stuck at issue #1.
***Though I am quite fond of my new open source media campaign on the topic “Cask: Reliably Highly Unreliable at a Reliable Low Price!”

Your Monday’s Thoughts On The Latest Beer News

Ah, Monday. And a Monday after a quiet weekend on the beer blogging scene hovering just at the cusp of the holiday season. Dreams of Victorian veteran carvers are starting to dance in the head.* Nothing from 1600s or 1700s brewing history is nibbling at my brain at the moment. So, I turn to that other older thing I did on the blog and give a few news items less attention than they deserve. I think something picked up as Stan’s summer intern might be to blame. Enough! Too much self examination leads to bad things like supposing one might need an editor or running off chasing another hobby. No need of that. Here’s the news.

First, Martyn has posted his findings related to a trip to Norway in search of the meaning of kveik. I initially thought this a bit odd given the voluminous obsession with the subject that has been the last few year’s work of Lars Garshol including this post from just a few weeks ago entitled “‘Kveik’ – what does it mean?” But I quickly understood what what going on – a helpful summary and transposition of sorts: kveik for dummies… like me.  Once you read Martyn’s piece, I recommend you set aside a few evenings to go back through the research results posted by Lars. The idea that a third branch of brewing yeast has been quietly living on in rural settings to the north and east of the Baltic is fascinating.

On a far smaller scale, over the weekend I tweeted a tweet:

Thoughts on a can of GK Abbot Ale. Incongruous messages about cold black tea, caramel, whisky malt, potters clay in a body with oddly flat fishy stickiness. Still… relatively cheap.

That got me thinking about how consequential each beer one pours in a glass must be. The beer in question cost $2.30 which translates to £1.38 or $ 1.80 US. If I had not been paying intentional attention, it would have passed by my mind without much comment. That weird little nod to clay would not have raised itself to my consciousness. Yet just 50 cents more would have bought me a fine example of the low end of excellent regional craft. Can we still care at all for bulk imports?

Imagine – taking money to offer a favourable opinion on a beer.  Who saw that coming?

Next up, I have one itchy thought about the whole – let’s be honest – kerfuffle going on in Portland, Oregon between a brewery and the City over the use of a leaping stag logo which has appeared on a beloved landmark sign for decades. Jeff has described the issue from the perspective of one side of the debate, which is a very important one given the small brewery actually is the party that has held the trademark since 2012. But before the trademark, there was copyright. The classes of intellectual property are distinct. The craft brewery did not create the image. The sign permit was acquired in 1940 and, as authorship immediately creates copyright, someone created the image then. So, someone must own or owned the copyright in the design of the stag which is separate from and prior to the trademark. Can one trademark someone else’s design? Apparently so – but does that extinguish the copyright? These sorts of things can vary, but if (according to Wikipedia) the sign was built and owned by Ramsey Signs from the 1940s to 2009 when the City bought the sign from them, did the underlying copyright to the sign design not also pass to the City? Dunno. I once represented a man who argued he owned 25% of Times New Roman font as he owned one of the original sets of hand made typeface. Not everyone agreed but I recall he said he did receive royalty cheques. So, who first drew the leaping stag?

I think following Ypres Castle Inn means you are of a certain age.

Finally, I do tire of references to temperance as code for everything one does not like in beer regulation. It’s up there with anxieties over lack of wine world respect. Face it – public health is a key foundation of modern western civilization. Who would chose to go back to the pre-temperence society? Even when the do gooder sociologists in their laboratories get it wrong no one in their right mind wants them stopping doing their work. Give the church its gruitgeld!!!

PS: boring big craft pretending that it’s pretty much the same as taking outside investor money and the attached strings. Somehow related.

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: Project Salvation

OK – so the issues are being worked out. And I had one Doggie Claws last night and it was infanticide, loverly but really under carbonated and cloudy. It struck me like a homebrew that I popped at two weeks rather than waiting for five to pass before I invaded its space.

As a result, we are going to work on a little experiment. In the lower box are 18 Doggie Claws under the drywall board which are under 12 Freds which is under drywall boards which are under 8 litres of water. So all in all there is about 30 pounds of weight on the lower beer and 20 on the upper. That should assist in keeping the caps in place and the seals secure.

Aside from those hibernating 30 beer, there are still seven Doggie Claw left without the weights and, after a little sharing and a little more tasting, the Fred has six unweighted bottles left some of which have very low fill lines. The best of these remaining bottles may get a wax seal to see if that can increase the carbonation or at least stop air getting in and spoiling the brew.

Click for a bigger view.

Update: An update on Project Salvation after eight months. Had a Fred last night and the yeast held up, keeping the air out at the start and the weights on top of the caps has maintained a thin line of cap to glass contact. And the beer is still quite wonderful.

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!

Oregon: Chocolate Stout, Rogue, Newport

I mentioned in a post below how I am amazed how the LCBO – Liquor Control Board of Ontario – cannot stock shelves better than a decent corner store in the USA. With the monopoly of 12 million people behind it, the LCBO is the greatest buyer of beer, wine and spirits in the world. The biggest used to be Sweden until that was privatized. Now it is where I live. What drives me nuts about it is the LCBO’s ability to master routes of distribution, bring in wines that sell for 20 USD and put them on our dinner tables for 12 Canuck bucks yet they cannot go out and obtain good ales and lagers with the same intellegence. It sells Genesee Ice but not Cream. That in itself is an indictment.

Another is the mere presence of a product by Rogue, one of the great US brewers, without sharing shelf space with five or ten others. At Halloween we get a small number of Dead Guy Ale and in March their St. Patrick’s day issue dry stout. For the rest of year, nuttin’.

So it was with excitement I saw the quart of Rogue’s Chocolate Stout before me. Rogue is a producer of perfection. Click on the picture below right and see for yourself the pride in product – they actually tell you what’s in it. They tell you what happens when they put what’s in it together: 19 IBU is a measure of bitterness, “international bitterness units”; 15º plato is a measure of potential alcohol strength at the start of fermentation; and 135.45º L is a measurement of darkness of hue. This tells you is is moderately strong, quite bitter and very dark.

What it does not tell you in itself is its loveliness. This beer could be reduced over low heat to make a syrup you could bake into a cake, it could stand alone as a marinade for ribs and it could fill an evening with friends whether in front of the TV or as a fine dessert over nuts and blue cheese. It is fulsome in its chocolate flavour but bitter like a fine dessert chocolate cheese cake, the bitterness laying entirely in the natural hops chosen by the brewer – woodsy, rich. The style is an odd one little brewed, being an offshoot (maybe what apple orchardists would call a “sport”) of oatmeal stout. Youngs of England has a famous one, Double Chocolate Stout, that takes pride in its natural manipulation of the barley, through malting and roasting to create chocolate malt, a nuance of flavour that needs no extract or kidding one’s self. Of its own version, Rogue says:

The recipe for Rogue Chocolate Stout was created several years ago for export to Japan. The exported twelve ounce Chocolate Bear Beer bottle label is in Kanji and features a teddy bear with a pink heart on his belly. Chocolate Stout was released for Valentine’s Day in 2001 in a twenty-two ounce bottle for the US market. The label features a Roguester (Sebbie Buhler) on the label. The bottled of Chocolate Stout is available on a very limited basis in the US, so get it while you can! Hedonistic! Ebony in color with a rich creamy head. The mellow flavor of oats, chocolate malts, and real chocolate are balanced perfectly with the right amount of hops for a bittersweet finish…. .

This is an amazing drink. Painted bottle, too. Beauty. Beer Advocatonians approve.