The Thursday Beer News For Seven Weeks To March… Just Seven Weeks To March…

These are the cruel weeks. I’ve shared my dislike of the bleak mid-winter, haven’t I? I’m a bad Canadian in this respect. I have krazy karpets, skates, cross-country skis and even snowshoes but they all stay at home, down in the space under the basement stairs. We sorta even fear the toboggan. I don’t remember ever liking the coldest part of the year and I suspect I caught it from my mother whose town in Scotland has palm trees growing on the front. One thing I am not planning to do is wallow in strong ale, a traditional remedy or perhaps just response. Another reason #Dryanuary, in part or whole, makes a bit of sense and saves one from a shock.

I saw this chart (to the right) the other day and it gave me pause. See, it basically states that the top US macro brands added up to around $20 billion US in sales revenue in 2018. But here is the thing: if those top 10 are worth around $20b in sales and all of US craft is worth about $26b… what is the other 55-60% of the value of the US beer market made up these days? All of which illustrates either: (i) why I have issues with any numbers get thrown about in the triumphalist discourse or (ii) how easily I might miss perhaps obvious things. Help in the form of an explanation appreciated.

Here’s an interesting story, illustrating the conflicts that can arise among progressive constituencies and the need for serving staff to be extremely aware of complex matters of identity:

… the barwoman informed her she was banned because of the clothing item, which was considered as ‘transphobic and not inclusive’… The 34-year-old backs the feminist group Fair Play For Women, which opposed a Government consultation to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA)… [a]  member of staff… told her she could not stay at the pub as she had been upsetting other customers… [one] took to Twitter to speak of his distress. He posted: “When you’re trying to relax in your fave pub and there is a TERF [trans exclusionary radical feminist] wearing an anti-trans T-shirt… it’s disgusting and I’m so upset by it…”

Next, I like this article on craft and fad by Matt C a lot but, as I noted to him via tweet,  I was not sure that I agreed. Consider this passage:

“NEIPAs were waiting to happen,” McMeekin says. “Take the West Coast IPA, an amazing hoppy style of beer; soften it, plump it up, give it a unique hazy look and you’ve arrived somewhere that’s different, just as good, and still approachable.” Like Brut IPA, it’s a style many brewers have been falling over themselves to replicate, and yet it feels as though NEIPA has been around long enough to transcend mere trend and become something more meaningful.

See, for me none of this has been waiting to happen. It’s not natural. There has been nothing as intentional as the ramping up of US craft style fad over the last few years. As I recall, Craft Brewing Conference side seminars on barrel aging and newer and newer hop varieties beginning around a decade ago might have been the start of it all. A profitable route forward for all. Reasonable dream as dreams go, I suppose. Now, however, I see it as a dangerous game to present more and more rapidly shifting fashions to a well trained public. Dangerous given the level of investment required of small brewers to keep up with the chase.

Not unrelated, one last 2018 retrospective from Jacob Berg,* if only for this observation:

I saw a local brewery charge $65 for a bottle of stout at a pop-up event in the city. Not for a case of stout, but for one 500ml bottle. Do what you want with your money, but that’s foolish.

Jeff has posted a very good post on three themes, including the plight of writers. I agree and entirely sympathize with his point of view except that he references writers “augmenting their income with the kind of work… that journalistic ethics once forbade.” My quibble is only this: that ethical construct still forbids them. It reminded me of the slightly cringe inducing line in the latest NAGBW newsletter:

Like our work as journalists, there are always ways we can improve what we do.

“Our”? I get it but a long time ago when we discussed these things, it was pretty clear actual beer journalism was a rare bird. But, like “expert,” it is an attractive and compelling form of calling card inflation that gets trotted out from time to time. Remember only this: it is good** to be a beer writer as that includes many wonderful categories: historian, novelist, PR, essayist, commentator, poet and journalist amongst many others.  Many folk undertake more than one style of writing and, yes, many do take on journalism from time to time. But it is still a relatively rare bird compared  to the overall scene. If we accept that, then we can release ourselves from the ethical quagmire and relish the prospect of spending time with Evan Rail like he tweeted about this very week:

I just gave a fun Prague tour to a lovely American couple. And last month I spoke about Czech beer to 20 US & Canadian brewers on behalf of the Foreign Ministry. If you’d like me to talk to your group, host a tasting or take you on a tour, please get in touch. We’ll have a blast.

Beer journalist Josh Noel has shared news of a Goose Island brewery contest in response to the hometown Bears gut wrenching loss on a missed field goal on Sunday:

The brewery announced on social media Monday night that it would do its part to help fans understand the difficulty of nailing a 43-yard field goal. The prize? A free case of beer each week for a year for anyone who makes the kick.

I tweeted how this was something exactly up my alley, being a fat middle-aged 1970s field goal kicking survivor myself. Interestingly, two tweets on the question of journalism are more to the point than my glory days dreaming. First, there was a direct discussion between the Michael K or the social media intern at GBH which was more than a little clumsy and ham-fisted leading to the wonderful response: “[w]hatever else you do, please keep calling me Joel.” And then  less directly we had this slightly cryptic comment ending with “[b]ut that’s JOURNALISM for you“*** which I am sure I am too young to understand fully. My point (again) is only this. It is one thing among others. It is by far not the only thing and perhaps the thing you do not want to aspire to with your writing.

Enough!!! A few short items to close with:

 – Science: by 1967, someone had created a beer can tab opening resistance testing machine.

 – Predictions for 2019 are now coming in, like this one from BeerCrunchers2.0 blog suggesting the death of certain things, like high lactose beers, is either certain or, like Brut IPA, certified too soon. See, too, this wish list from @beerwithnat.

 – ATJ wrote a wonderfully lyrical vignette for the Telegraph of London on a pub named The Barley Mow.

 – The BBC Culture has provided us all with a bit on the Green Man, explaining the name behind many pubs.

 – One last look at the best of 2018 from Retired Martin with some extraordinarily Dadaesque photos.

 – A h/t to Merryn for “Botanical evidence of malt for beer production in fifth–seventh century Uppåkra, Sweden“!

 – I cannot find much drive within myself to take on Mr. B’s call to celebrate the flagship in February (given I am pretty sure we started giving them up for a reason) but your mileage may differ. Master Polk, for example, is positively enchanted.

There you have it. Busy. Another week on and soon it will be mid-month. Get your garden seeds now. In a couple of weeks it will be too late to start your asparagus patch for 2022 harvesting. You know how long they take to establish, right? Meantime, check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday.

*Librarian.  co-editor.
**And, frankly, good enough.
***And the story (more essay than journalism) itself is quite good although we perhaps still suffer from the GBH two sides (“…You can have no issues with burlesque. It’s feminist expression, that’s fine…“) even when we are talking pretty obvious sexist piggery. It all reminds me of CBC 2015 at Portland where sexism seemed to be cool and apologists were many.

The First Thursday Beer News, Resolutions And Gnawing Regrets For 2019

One eye on the beer, one eye on you!

Wasn’t that fun? New Year’s Eve = The Worst Holiday Eh Ver. I had promised myself I would be nicer again this year* but I honestly found this holiday more boring than usual. Was it because it was on a Monday? Because it rained? I was holiday-ed out? You decide. I did drink a wee bit but we stayed in. I sipped on an insanely** cheap Belgian beer throughout the day and shared a swell bottle of Ontario Riesling in the evening.  Defrosted grocery store pastries shared about the family room. Wooo!!!

Anyway, here we are: 2019. Big news so far? The Trump shutdown of the US Federal government has halted the breakneck manic approval of more and more, newer and newer transient ephemeral brands of craft beer, the amnesiac mainstay of the trade over the last few years. So he can’t be all bad. Not unrelated, David Frum also linked Trump to craft crusaders this week. Slightly related, U.S. Sen. and potential Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren appears to have done herself a beer-related injury.

I am absolutely gutted that I did not follow the DrinkablongwithRon 2018. What sort of animal have I become? I even had string. I did notice that noted British beer writer Jeff Evans announced he is pulling the plug on his website:

A short message re Inside Beer. After ten years, I’ve decided to close the Inside Beer website, due to other pressing commitments. The site will stay live for a few more weeks but will not be updated. This Twitter account remains open. Thanks to everyone for their support. HNY!

I note this not only for the update but to capture Martyn’s keen observation: the move is related to Jeff getting a more attractive opportunity. No doubt more to come on what that turns out to be.

One thing I did do in 2018 was avoiding Brut IPA altogether… along with glitter beer, that one month flashpoint. Never had nuttin’ of neither. I’m still coping with kettle sours. The New York Times, being generally more useful, has provided us with a helpful if brief study of its local BeePah action:

It’s taken a little over a year for Brut I.P.A., a new style of India Pale Ale, to sweep through the craft-brewing community. The name is a reference to brut, a dry Champagne. By all accounts, it was created by Kim Sturdavant, the brewmaster of Social Kitchen and Brewery in San Francisco, who used amyloglucosidase, or AMG, to remove the sugars in an I.P.A. AMG is an enzyme usually added to make light beers and to balance big beers like imperial stouts.

More of the best of the new? Ed posted the most honest Golden Pints ever. Mashtun and Meow’s were filled with fun and gratitude. More GP18 here. In other beer writing news and opinion, Matt is laying off the sauce. Crystal is off the sauce, too. BeerAdvocate reminded each of us to ask ourselves… why not lay off the sauce?  And Tandy Man asked about another sort of laying things aside:

It has been a very quiet year for the blog for many reasons. I have had the passing of my mother to contend with, been very busy with beery things here in Rochdale, Oldham and Bury and latterly in Manchester for Manchester Beer and Cider Festival. But I don’t think it the main reason. I just couldn’t be bothered. Little inspired me frankly.  Some things interested me, but overall, just all a bit flat. Like a London pint.

I suppose it’s been obvious that creative beer writing has not been quite as interesting over the last couple of years as it was in its hay day (given all the jostling to be Bernstein and Wordward, pretendy or otherwise) but it’s important to be OK… be just OK, like the man above,† with the idea that one can be neither a craft PR type pushing for greater collective boosterism or sitting looking in the mirror, finding yourself admitting you are are cutting back for health reasons. While Stan may be right, that beer reading has been rather spare the last couple of weeks, there is still that great big middle ground to write about and it is full of interesting things worth exploring and sharing your ideas. So while I won’t be confused anytime soon for a #beerpositive**** supporter, Polk is on the right track.

Say – speaking about drinking and health, this is an excellent article worth considering because it’s written by a wine writer and judge who is also a liver disorder specialist. He poses the question this way:

I believe advice that everyone should have at least two alcohol free days a week is a well-intentioned effort to combat the enormous adverse impact that alcohol has on some individuals’ health and well-being. The question, of course, is whether that strategy will be effective in reducing the well-known damages of excessive drinking to individuals and society: liver disease, neurologic problems, socially unacceptable behaviour, and driving under the influence, to name just a few.

See that? “Well-known”… which means if you don’t believe it you are participating in something like climate change denial.***

New booze laws for 2019? That’s what you showed up for, right? I left it for last. Big news is how the crowds at the next World Cup will face plumped up booze taxes:

In an effort to make their country healthier, authorities in Qatar have introduced new taxes. But with the World Cup just round the corner, fans around the world will be raising their eyebrows almost as high as the new prices for booze. That’s because the Gulf state has added 100% to the cost of alcohol – seeing a crate of 24 beers now retail for £82 and a bottle of gin set you back and astonishing £73.

Other new laws include unintelligible changes to craft distiller operations in California, relaxed retailer rules in Tennessee and Colorado, tougher drink driving laws in Ontario, and a booze crackdown in Turkmenistan.

Well, that’s enough for now. Can’t give away all the good stuff on the first Thursday. Predictions? What will happen in 2019 otherwise? Ask me in 12 months. What’s happening Friday and on the weekend? Go ask Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Friday.

Don’t be looking for the linked connection down here…
*I don’t mean that I will be even nicer, just that again I promise… only to fail.
**I have no idea how this gets shipped to Canada for such a low price. Does it come by tramp steamer with no guaranteed delivery date?
***And for God’s sake stop taking about a J-curve. You just look silly.
****#beerrealism is much more interesting. #ThinkingAboutDrinking, too. And I need to get my own butt in gear. Frankly, more than anything, I blame me.
*****Ben predicts on three topics, and does so rather well. On the most interesting topic, DME, the main question I have is not one really asked yet except in discussions on the QT. Something is afoot – as the story so far is not right. The other question I have I will ask: how much of the deposit money was borrowed and how much was actual saved cash. If the former, the ripples will spread much more widely. Who will lend for such equipment now? If the latter, perhaps spare me a full throttle application of the broke craft owner motif next time we meet. But, as Ben’s gathered threads ask by implication, think on the fate of Texas’s Big Bend Brewing Co., now closed due to $1 million lost to DME and the others who may soon follow. 

Merry Christmas Beer News Updates Everyone!

This is going to be great. A weekly news update laced with the holiday spirit. Everything is going to be wonderful and swell. The one and only problem seems to be that I seem to have some sort of new sys admin tool on the bloggy app of mine so bear with me if this all ends up looking like a dog’s dinner* or… thinking of this season of Yule… the day after Christmas dinner with distant cousins!  Footnotes and embedded images seems to be a hassle. Fabulous.**

Anyway, the first gift I offer is the photo of the week above, found on Twitter under the heading “Matchbox Covers Depicting Drunk Cats by Artists Arna Miller and Ravi Zupa.” Cats have always struck me as a struggling species. You can find more images of beer loving hardly coping cats with serious drinking issues by Miller and Zupe here.

Next up, the new government of Ontario has its own gift for us all – a plan to distract us all from the important business of the day to ask us how liquor retailing should be changed! Wow!! The survey even comes with a dumb name, “Alcohol choice and convenience for the people”… which has everyone wondering when the same survey is going to be rolled out for, you know, squirrels and chipmunks.  Or drunken barely coping cats. Fill it out if you like. Even you! Apparently  they are interested in views from beyond Ontario, given that is one of the possible responses. Thanks for skewing the responses to my detriment.

I like this video of Garrett Oliver plunked on YouTube by Epicurious magazine. He demonstrates a wonderful ease with explaining beer. It is unfortunately presented in a way that suggests it’s macro v. micro. I’d prefer some crap craft bashing. He also talks about relative value – but presents some some odd arguments. No, a craft IPA does not cost $4 rather than $1 because of the hops. And a good German malty beer is not double the price of a poor one due to the cost of the malt. There is much more to price and, yes,  not all as easy to explain – but his general argument that good costs more is there and welcomingly well presented. 

Jeff has unpacked how Beervana pays its way:

A little less than two years ago, I began running an experiment here when I took on Guinness as a sponsor. In July, we signed a contract for a third year of sponsorship, which will run through June 2019. This is a slightly different model than the subscriptions Josh describes, but the upshot is the same: the idea was to find a partner who saw value in the site and wanted to reach my very specific, engaged readers.

This is good. Open and honest. And we few remaining actual bloggers need to support each other, knowing how hard it is to make a buck writing one of these things… or just finding the time or accessing the resources you want for the research you want to do. Not unrelated: self-inflicted expertise extrapolation? Heavens to Betsy! Let the man think out loud.

Speaking of supporting our fellow bloggers, Robin ran into Canada’s newest jam blogger in the market the other day. He’s very keen on new content creation

The British Guild of Beer Writers has published a list of the best beer books of 2018. The trouble is it seems to be a list of all the beer books published by guild members from 2018. There’s twenty-six books listed, some of which were published years ago – even under other titles. Decisive selection. The best book of the year is not included. 

Conversely, Max in a single not necessarily beautiful image posted on Facebook has told a thousand words… and then added a few words: “…’twas good. ’twas very good, and the second one too. Pivovar Clock Hector at Pivni Zastavka…” The only thing that defies scientific knowledge is how the glass shows multiple lacy rings, each matching a gulp while we all expect that he downed it in one go.

It is an important observation on how useless the US Brewers Association’s definition of “craft brewer” has gotten that it acts as filler for the weekly update only after I have hit 750 words. Jeff notes how it is now entirely related to accommodating one non-craft brewer. Wag that I am, I retorted *** that it no longer requires a brewer to actually brew very much beer.  There. That’s all it means. 

Related: an honest man in Trumps new America or the root of the problem?

This week, Merryn (i) learned not to want to be a medieval farmer and (ii) linked to a 2013 web-based data presentation about Viking brew houses which I am linking to here for future Newfoundland reference but it’s totally today…  so there you go.

Finally, how about some law? This speaks nothing to the people or the business involved but I have no idea how I might determining whether to consider sending string-free cash to a cause like this one:

We know that the decision to invest your hard-earned money is not to be taken lightly, no matter how big or small your contribution may be. We would gratefully use the funds to assist with legal fees, as we continue to protect ourselves, our name, our businesses, and our team. We are looking for and in need of building a legal fund that will provide for our past, present and future legal demands, as a rapidly growing grassroots craft beer franchise system. 

The legal issue appears to be mainly legal dispute with their franchiees. I have no idea who is right and who is wrong. Craft makes it extra blurry. Having advised upon franchise agreements in my past private practice, I would not want to suggest where the right sits. Often in the middle.

Relatedly perhaps, Lew asked about unionization and proper wages for craft brewery workers and got an ear full on Facebook.

Well, on that cheery legal note, I will leave you for now with Jay Brooks description of how “T’was The Night Before Christmas” is really about beer. And, please dip into the archives to remind yourselves of Christmas Photo Contests past. Ah, beer blogging. Remember how fun that was? Until then, Boak and Bailey have more news on Saturday and, the Great Old Elf himself, Stan has more news on Christmas Eve. Ho. Ho. Ho. 

*where is the basic HMTL editor I knew and loved? I can’t even indent this footnote or make the asterisk a larger font than the text. What sort of animals are running WordPress??? Hmm…
**There. Killed if all by installing a “classic editor” widget.
***Yes, retorted.

Sing Along With “Dorchester Beer” Circa 1784

The note in the fourth issue of The Vocal Magazine to the Compleat British Songster at Song 455 says it was written by the editor “and occasioned by his drinking some extraordinary fine Ale with his Friend J. Morris, Esq. brewed by  Mr. Bower of Dorchester” which is fabulous as we now have the name and time of brewing of an eighteenth brewer of Dorchester beer. Attentive readers will recall how Dorchester’s ale was regarded by Joseph Coppinger in 1815:

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

And, in another thirty years, we read in a document called The Ladies Companion And Literary Exposi 1844 in an article entitled “Summer Excursions from London” we read the the following exchange.

A lady, who had been my fellow passenger, turned to me as we drove up the avenue, and said, “ I suppose, of course, you mean to try the Dorchester ale, which is so celebrated.” “ Is it very fine ?” I asked.

“Dear me, have you never tasted Dorchester ale?” “No, madam, nor have I ever been in this town before.” She looked at me in some surprize, as my speech was not Irish nor Scotch. When I told her I came from the United States, she gazed upon me with the greatest curiosity…

So, now we know that good things were said of Dorchester’s brewing for around seven decades before and after the turn of the eighteenth century. It’s mentioned in the sometimes very suspect The Curiosities of Ale & Beer: An Entertaining History as being pale and as good or better than our old pals of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the ales of Hull, Derby and Burton. Coppinger claims it had ginger and cinnamon in it. Is he to be trusted?  Don’t know but it is clearly worth singing about. And here is what they sang:

In these troublesome times, when each mortal complains,
Some praise to the man is most certainly due.
Who, while he finds out a relief for their pains.
Supplies all his patients with good liquor too:
Then attend to my song, and I’ll make it appear,

A specifick for all is in Dorchester-beer.
Would our ministry drink it, instead of French wine.
The blessed effects we should quickly perceive
It would sharpen their senses, their spirits refine.
And make those— who now laugh at ‘their  folly— to grieve.
No Frenchman would dare at our councils to sneer,
If the statesmen drank nothing but Dorchester-beer.

But should they (for statesmen are obstinate things)
Neglect to comply with the wish of my muse,
Nor regard a true Briton who honestly sings,
Our soldiers and sailors will never refuse:
And, believe me, from France we have little to fear.
Let these but have plenty of Dorchcester-beer.

E’en our brethren across the Atlantick, could  they
But drink of this liquor, would soon be content:
And quicker by half, I will venture to say,
Our parliament might have fulfilled their  intent.
If, instead of commissioners, tedious and dear.
They had sent out a cargo of Dorchester-beer.

Then let each worthy Briton, who wishes for peace
With America’s sons, fill his glass to the  brim,
And drink — May our civil commotions soon cease.
And war with French perfidy instant begin!
May our friends never want, nor our foes e’er come near,
The pride of Old England, good Dorchester-beer.

There you go. Apparently, the entire American Revolution could have been solved had the right people had had the right beer at the right time. Britons licking their wounds? Or maybe the implications had not set in yet. The song might even pre-date publication by a few years. Things were still fairly fluid geopolitically so… beer and ales might as well be as fluid as well.

Sadly, unlike the song Nottingham Ale as published six years later, no tune is given. You will have to make up your own.

The Mid-June Edition Of Thursday Beer News

June. The middle of June. Or, as we called it as children, the miggle. I am in the middle of a “very important thing” in my “real job” so my attention has been solidly on the hobby news.  Jordan said the nicest thing the other day when I mentioned I bought a pair of p’raps 1970s casual trousers* which used to be owned by the late financial manager of the Rolling Stones:

Alan, the cool thing about you is that beer is not even in your top five strangest hobbies

So true. Except I am not cool. I have teens so I am clear on that point. Yet… beer and drinks is a hobby to me. As it should be. A sauce upon a hobby. Life’s drizzled sauce upon an idle hour. No more. June. June lets you know that’s true. Hours and hours of idle are waiting for you in June. You can sit out in the yard and see five species of bee in June. If you know what you are looking for. As you sip on a beer. I have books about bees. And a pair of casual trousers which used to be owned by the late financial manager of the Rolling Stones. Life is good.

The big news around here (meaning on this planet) is how the wee Donnie T totalitarian love fest found the great big orange thing attacking Canada for acting like an actual nation state. “Boycott!” is being chanted in the streets. High school and undergrad soccer team pal o’mine, political journalist Steve Maher suggested a boycott of US drinks. It’s an easy matter these days given the excellent craft beer we brew not to mention our own Ontario wines.  I’ve probably been boycotting for weeks without noticing. I do have a bottle of bourbon in the wee cabinet – but it gives me a wicked headache, frankly. Five months until mid-term elections. Just five months.

Anthony Bourdain’s loss was deeply felt among good beer fans even though he summed up the state of craft beer with characteristically vicious wit when he coined the phrase “Mumford and Sons IPA” a couple of years ago. Let us remember that and use those words wisely with gratitude. Lesley Chesterman wrote a wonderful remembrance in the Montreal Gazette on Bourdain and her city. This set of thoughts illustrates how, for a certain set within a certain generation, Bourdain may have been as influential as Michael Jackson was for another certain set within another certain generation; the younger swapping the elder’s illusive (and now known insufficient) dream of establishing a unified theory for all beer, perhaps, for the illusion of the meaningful visceral peripatetic existence.** Each offering a route to being somebody. I say illusion, which you may take as deeply unkind, but I am also deeply mindful of the thoughts shared by chef David McMillan who actually knew him and saw the corrosive effects of his addictions:

“Sure, it all looks so glamorous when you see it as a one-hour TV show. But the one hour we did in Newfoundland took 15 days to shoot. We spent countless hours sitting in cars and planes, or just waiting in a tent in the rain. And we’re drinking every day — which is a constant state of the ingestion of depressants, and you can slowly get yourself into a depressive state.” McMillan knows from what he speaks. He did a stint in rehab and gave up drinking five months ago. “I was going down the same road as Tony,” he says. “I got to a point where I had really dark thoughts about five times a day. I used to think about it once a week, then once a day. Then five times. I decided that was enough. I was drinking like a Viking, every day of the year. I have three daughters. I wasn’t being a great father. I had to change. I’m 47. I want to be around for my daughters.

Which gives one an uneasy feeling when you read: “it was seeing those same qualities in Anthony Bourdain that gave me some hope for myself.” Or even seeing this.*** McMillan called Bourdain the captain of his pirate ship: “we were all the pirates … drug addicts, alcoholics, a motley crew of humanity from all quarters, especially those of us marginal kitchen workers.” Which makes you wonder whether we should really care about the price of beer around the world if you have to give up so much to actually need to know. Regardless, a sad loss. But be careful out there. The hobby sauce can make you dream.

Illusion. Chris Conway, a gift from Newfoundland to Toronto now seemingly re-gifted in return, considered a can of craft-brewed Milkshake IPA as one sat on an eastern Liquor Commission shelf and saw a possible perhaps unwelcome future:

Seeing this next to the mudslides and hard lemonade at the NLC makes me wonder if the destiny for Milkshake IPA is malt based alcohol juice/puree or a gateway to beers that taste of malt, hops, yeast, or water in any way. Can Molson make a Milkshake cooler that tastes like this?

I think Chris’s thought illustrates why this consideration of myth and wine (equally applicable to good beer) is hooey: “…the fact that propaganda doesn’t really matter: the stories add value to the experience beyond their demonstrable truth.” Consultant types might like you to believe this is true but, for me, there are enough fabulous facts about good wine and beer that we can confidently ditch the romantic tales. You have to wonder if it is the alcohol that makes the desire for myth?****

This, now, is an actual real thing. You see this in the TV sports highlights every week or so. The baby not dropped to catch the ball all while clasping the plastic cup of beer in ones teeth. The guy who chested the foul with a beer in one hand and a plastic tray of nachos in the other as he protected the young family, spilling nothing. Someone will no doubt note that she chose a darker ale. Craft lady baseball foul beer catcher. That is my nickname for her.

In your “somewhere it is 2004 now” update… hmm… a brewers’ advocacy group that meets a whopping two times a year in a tiny wee jurisdiction of 135,000 or so souls smacks of nothing so much as the need to spend a government grant. The timely reporting of the group’s first meeting is particularly sweet.

Boak and Bailey published a fabulous, extended and entirely interesting interview titled “Davey Jones, the Man Behind the Real Ale Twats” in which they explored a cartoon strip in Britain’s satirical magazine Viz. Jones described how he thought up the lead character:

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in pubs and the characters are sort of composites of types that I encountered. There was a bloke who used to come into my local in Newcastle who had a big beard and a beret and always seemed to be carrying several shoulder bags. He may not even have been a real ale enthusiast – I don’t think I ever heard him speak – but he had the right look, so I drew him. Probably very unfairly.

Probably accurately, too. Or at least characteristically… which is what you really want in a character. Did someone say character? I have a bit of that. And the trousers of the man who knew Mick’s money.  Lucky lucky me.

That’s it! Remember, if you find this lacking or even offensive, there is more weekly beer news to be enjoyed for the firm of the firm of Boak & Bailey each and almost every Saturday as well as my candidate for the Stan with the finest Renaissance-era Low Country last name each and less than every Monday. I might see him this fall.

Be safe. Be happy. But if you can’t, be safe. Laters.

*Troooo-saaaahhhssss!!!
**Congratulations. You have navigated to the end of that sentence. My grade 8 English teacher will be receiving comment cards for the next 30 days.
***Never quite sure who plays Christ in this analogy.
****Hobby sauce! Hobby sauce!!!

Your Ontario Election Day Good Beer Blog Thursday News

Wow. We are here finally. Just a few weeks ago we got our first campaign photo of a leadership candidate pouring a beer. The best thing is there is a  chance that someone who got the second most votes to become the leader of his party will go on to lead that party to the second most votes to lead that party to election victory to become Premier of Ontario* for the next four years. See how nice and accommodating we Canadians are?** Actually, just with a good night in a pub, it is all about seat distribution. All so excellent. I trust by this time next week I am not an involuntary freelancer as a result.

Midday Update: I must have lost my marbles during the hazy dilerium brought on by that anthem to the province as I have forgotten to mention not only that you will need to check out Boak and Bailey’s pépites des actualités on Saturday but also failed to recognize Stan’s (i) return to the Northern Hemisphere but also (ii) his return to the Monday beer news correspondent’s desk.

Such confusing times. Confusion is all about the news these days. Did you know that in New Brunswick Moose Drool beer has to be called Moo Drool beer? Did you know, as my fellow Esq. reports, that the Oakland Athletics are legally objecting to a craft brewer of sorts for misuse of the word “athletic”? My main issue in the latter one is how you cannot have no-alcohol craft beer. It’s an impossibility to impose that technique and remain true to anything resembling a traditional process. Much more ominously, a careful eye has noted that a craft brewer in England has adopted reasonably identifiable fascist imagery and name branding. Denials ensued – but how thick are folk?

In a more tangled pit of legalese, we learn of this story coming out of a court process in North Carolina:

A lawsuit brought by Charlotte’s largest craft brewers has uncovered illegal activity amid efforts to overturn North Carolina’s self-distribution laws, according to an attorney representing them. Initial discovery exposed a “secret agreement” between Anheuser-Busch and distributor R.A. Jeffreys that gives sales of those beers priority over all other products — illegal under a 1989 state law, says Drew Erteschik, co-counsel for The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, NoDa Brewing Co. and the Craft Freedom initiative. 

I love secret deals in that you often find if you do a little research they were actually reasonably discoverable at the time… BUT THE POINT STAYS THE SAME NOW!!! Secret anti-craft factions lining up against us all. How will craft survive… err, maintain its place… err, resist massive continuing expansion?

Sad wine news from Nova Scotia as frost in June hammers the grape crop.

Speaking of craft expansion, Evil Twin Brewing has called out the hidden shadowy practice of private equity’s grasp upon the ankles of craft beer, including this in lamentation to a voice speaking for the cause of money – a dirge to what is and what should never be. Oddly, this is all raised in response to the expansion of the Mikkeller corporate empire. Being owned by, I now assume, more evil twin.

Note: extremely interesting connection drawn by one US craft brewer between the discussion above, the underlying state of affairs and its refusal to participate in the central authority hugging “IndePendeNt” seal*** issued by the Brewers Association.

This tweet reminded me that it is good to remember that, while Canada may be relatively young, Ontario retains a number of Georgian taverns like the 1830s Black Bull Tavern of Queen Street in Toronto.

Tank Stella“? Please tell me that is code for something.

Jeff pointed out something very interesting when he discussed whatever something called “rosé beer” is:

No. Rosé is just a name applied to preexisting beers to move product. Hibiscus goses? The first of those appeared nearly a decade ago. This is not a new style, it’s just a way to make people there’s something new here.

It relates to a point The Beer Nut made over here in relation to east coast IPA. The death of style being accompanied by confusion as to the continuing lingering existence of what was formerly perceived as, you know, a style. I have never understood “east coast IPA” since people stopped praising east coast IPA circa 2007. Harpoon IPA is the model. Malty and less hoppy and perhaps still available  at Fenway… or wherever else no one cares about your Cicerone server badge. Rosé beer? Quebec’s Rosée D’Hibiscus has had reviews posted on BeerADvocate since at least 2007 including this linguistic wizardry:

It’s pink, an orange pink colour with a finger of foamy pink head. Pinkest beer I’ve had. Some lacing as the beer goes down.

Sounds pretty damn rosé to me. Which, for me, illustrates a key element of craft beer boostering today – amnesia. Or a profound dedication to not researching anything.  Can’t be an expert without a strategy to adopt unknowing.  “Waters of Lethe” might actually be a good name for a Midlothian beer bar, come to think of it.

Bizarre: if this is the weaving of “the science of craft beer into story telling like no other” then isn’t all pretty much lost? Nice puff piece, maybe, on the use of ingredients to add fruit flavours. Maybe.

HardKnott Dave doesn’t have amnesia. And he seems to be equipped with an honesty attachment as well. His piece on the role of moolah and line placements in UK pubs is fabulously clear:

They contacted me a couple of months ago as they were negotiating with suppliers of their major brand lager. It seems that they were being offered a cash lump sum for a two year exclusivity deal. They were being offered £2k cash to kick our Intergalactic Space Hopper off the bar. Apparently it isn’t just one major beer producer that is doing this, it is most of the big multinational brands and is looking a little bit like a cartel and anti-competitive action.

Preach! Too bad 99.9999% of people in the know are not sharing. Reasonable to assume anyone downplaying this is on the take one way or another themselves.

By the way, this post marks the 3000th post in the upgraded version of A Good Beer Blog launched in October 2016. If you ever want to glory in the original 2003-2016 site and the 1,500 or so extra posts over there that I never quite got brought over here it is sitting there at the Wayback Machine just waiting for you. I do love that old school tab with the 2004ish beery emoticon. Mucho mucho gracias for all the clicks over all the years!

*This oddly spaghetti western themed tune was rolled out to us when I was in kindergarten in 1968, we sitting lined up neatly, a couple hundred souls cross-legged on the gym floor getting our dose of political propaganda.
**Well, most Canadians…
***whatever… ;D

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.

Finally – A Quiet Week In Beer Thursday Links

Quiet. So quiet Stan is taking a month off. You know what he does in these little gaps of his? Not judging. No. Not me.  It’s election time in Ontario all of a sudden but, again like in 2014, I expect a quiet sleepy time for beer as debating point on public policy. That is our current Premier Kathleen Wynne performing the obligatory pouring of the beer back in the last 2014 campaign. Oddly, she chose an iconic brand from another province far far away. I shall make no such error. I am announcing my committment to offering you the best politicians pouring beer photos throughout the next month of campaigning.

Was it really quiet this week? OK, there were some spats. Folk not liking folk calling folk out. I don’t get into these personality things much so I can’t speak to the dynamics. These are all strangers to me. And then there was that whole “Monday of the Glitter Beer” argie-bargie. While there are good intentions involved, my position remains clear:

I really should have written “silly” and not “stupid”* for niceness’s sake… but my point would have really been the same. You dull a beer with murk and then add adulterating if likely benign elements to make up for the loss of beer’s natural jewel like gleam? But isn’t the real thing folk should understand is that it just doesn’t matter at all? I was a bit surprised by the glitter as a thing women use association argument as I think of glitter as a thing children use. Stuff on the craft shelf like the Elmer’s glue and construction paper. Hmm. Maybe it helps to be Canadian with pals in upstate New York. Let me explain. In upstate New York, adults eat hot dogs. I get it. I even do it when I am there. There is a rich history of ultra-local hot dog loyalties. But in Canada hot dogs are the food of a child. Like racing all a giggle towards a teeter-totter in the park. Or excitedly wearing a new ball cap with Thomas the Tank Engine.** That’s what hot dogs are. And glitter. Doesn’t mean its not worth taking pleasure in. Fill your boots! [I understand folk like to play “name the hops in the beer” too.] Frankly, any reason for a good schism is reason enough for me.

Jordan has been quiet. Now he says he will no longer be as quiet.

Hmm. Even though I have unjustly received the sting of the Protz, this situation is a bit odd.  A newspaper… well, a newspaper-like-thing sneakily reconstructing an apparently new interview and story from an old interview and story. How odd.

What else is going on? Kara Loo and Kelissa Hieber posted a good summary of events at this year’s US Craft Brewers Conference from the positive party line point of view. I say US even though the BA seems to be silently absorbing the Ontario craft movement and maybe other Canadian craft brewing regional discussions. Is that happening elsewhere, too? Me, I find the “Stronger Together” stuff a bit weird. One ring to rule them all. Who would have thought independent and small mean homogenization and centralized authority? Jeff likes “independent” but I just don’t get it at all. Hard to think of a vaguer word to frame a potentially stalling trade’s rebranding campaign around.

There is a good reason no one goes to watch three-legged races. The rope tying up the participants. I think of that often when I read folk trying to describe the economics of craft brewing while carefully avoiding any discussion of the owners’ take from these businesses. It’s all very well to tell sad tales of the actual hardships families of brewing staff face but why is that not partnered with the story of the lifestyles, cottages and fishing boats of the established and emerging craft brewery owners?

Speaking of quiet, will what might have been called in the 1950s or 60s eastern mystical mindfullness and beer be a thing? Well, it is a thing already – one that’s called “laying off the hootch” but you see my point, right? Andrew Jefford poses the question as it relates to wine in this way:

I would simply point out that there are, in fact, many points of similarity between the general practice of mindfulness and that of wine tasting.  You can indeed be a mindful wine taster; wine tasting at its most subtle and rewarding is a ‘mindful’ activity par excellence.

I get it. It’s about the immediacy of now. But I just end up having a good nap when I am achieve this sort of state of mind. Or staring at an ant crawling through the lawn. Up and down the blades of grass. Or reading a few travel posts by Ron. Why add alcohol? Isn’t the cool spring air sweet enough?

The Low House in Laxfield, England has been bought by the community just eleven years after it was the subject of a post on this here blog. Just eleven years. Coincidence?

Another month, another stage in the  case of Stone v. Keystone… and this is the point in the litigation that the non-lawyers eye will start to glaze over. See, Stone has moved to dismiss the counterclaim rather than answer it with a statement of defense to the counterclaims. Got it? Bored yet? You know, I took Civil Procedure from Tom Cromwell, a wonderful professor who later became a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada… and even I am getting a bit bored. Mind you, I think it was a Friday 8:30 am class so I likely only went maybe once every five weeks. As always, legal brain*** Brendan in Syracuse unpacks the situation.

Not beer: Living Colour.

Oh – and I did have a few beer.**** I especially am enjoying a small stash of Brouhaha, a nut brown ale from Refined Fool out of Sarnia over by Michigan. Lovely. He who is tired of nut brown ale is tired of life.

That’s it. Laters.

*I did poll the drinking age women in our house and they did go with “stupid” so…
**Not to mention, giving equal time,  1 Corinthians 13:11.
***He is such a brain.
****Remember – in Canada, the plural of “beer” is “beer” – like moose. OK?

Fascists, Racists, Pinkos, Brewers And…

Not much inclined to write for the last week or so. Late 1970s nuclear fear retro followed quickly by 1930s Nazi fear retro. Seems our neighbours to the south hired a moron and he is turning out to be a fabulous moron attracting other morons to flit about his flame. Like last summer, one barely knows what to reach for but, perhaps unlike last summer, one knows one might need to. What to do in these troubled times? Perhaps explore how fascism, communism and racism (perhaps bundled as “totalitarian supremacism“?) has been known to brewing over time? Let’s see.

Earlier this year, Hungary witnessed a bit of a political controversy over the appearance of Heineken’s red star – which Hungarian law considers a totalitarian symbol. As might have been expected, it was apparently as much as anything about contemporary politics and the time-honoured role brewing money plays in that game.

Totes Supps can also show up in more unexpected ways. In 2016, a brewery in Bavaria was accused of offering a Nazi friendly lager named Grenzzaun Halbe, or Border Fence Half. Priced at 88 euro cents a bottle, it was considered code for HH or Heil Hitler. The brewer in the usual way explained “insisted the name and slogan were not directed against migrants, but referred to defending Bavarian culture“* but, oddly, also said they had lent resources to the refugee influx.

Then there are the old boys who, you know, just say those sorts of things. Yesterday, Jason Notte provided a bit of a walk down memory lane offering the legacy of US brewing mogul Bill Coors who was apparently quoted in 1984 for providing such comments as “…one of the best things they did for you is to drag your ancestors over here in chains…” and “…they lack the intellectual capacity to succeed, and it’s taking them down the tubes” though the resulting libel suit against a newspaper that had the gall to report his words was dropped. The old git is still with us apparently, turning 101 the other day. Other similar substantial claims were made against the brewery in those days. Interesting, then, that three years later this was an opinion reported by the Syracuse Herald-Journal of February 10, 1987 just when Coors was entering the CNY market:

“When you buy their product you are, in effect, inviting the Coors people into your home,” said Joseph Welch, executive secretary of the Greater Syracuse Labor Council. “I think anyone with a conscience wouldn’t want those kind of people in their homes.”**

But these brewers can also be ingrained into the movement. If we go back a bit further, one can look at what brewers did during the time when fascists were actually in the ascent. To the right is a very handy graph with the somewhat vague title “Birra Peroni’s strategic response to institutional pressure” from the 2016 book Accounting and Food: Some Italian Experiences by Sargiacomo, D’Amico and Di Pietra. I say vague given it illustrates, in part, this business decision from 1926 to the regime’s fall:

…the Fascist government tried to control production and balance demand and supply by controlling the supply side…. In this context, the company’s strategic response may be viewed as a compromise. Giacomo Peroni, former president of the earlier Unione Italiana Fabbricanti di Birra (Italian Brewers’ Union) was put at the helm of the new association. As the managers of the new association, Giacomo could act as an institutional entrepreneur and therefore bend the institutional change to his own and his company’s interests. In fact, despite the need to reduce the company’s production volume as imposed by the Fascist government, in his role Giacomo Peroni managed to avoid such cuts and toss them off on his competitors. This is suggested by the fact that it was precisely in those years that the company increased its production volume and sales. 

Suggested?*** Hmm… Apparently, Peroni also fed demand from what are described as the “new African colonies” aka the invasion of Ethiopia. Nothing like a captive audience. Note: Peroni continues as a brand now owned by Japanese brewer Asahi, achieving apparently some recent success.

And we do also recall that the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch did lead to the army being called out, an arrest, a trial and a five year term. Well, then someone gave Hitler a pen in jail and he wrote down his evil which was shared after an early release.

What does all this prove? Well, as you can see in the footnotes, we can laugh at it. We can also support the democratic processes that stand against it. But that totalitarian supremacist is going to keep popping up. No point in pretending, offering a beer and dreaming that people are good. Some people are very bad. Having lived though an number of genocides at the youthful age of 54 – from Cambodia to the Balkans – I don’t expect that evil to change. But if we understand that it is an insidiously corrosive, inveigling tendency we should be aware that it needs being watched out for and given proper response.

*See here for more.
**See here for more.
***See here for more.