Your Beer News For The Week The Red Sox Moved Past The Yankees

This was a home week. Every second week I am in a hotel at the other end of a Great Lake figuring out how to spend 1,500 times my annual wage on a fascinating project. Every other week I am in my basement watching sports TV on a Wednesday evening, having made soup, planning an early night. The soup was good and had about 37 ingredients including our turkey stock from the weekend. It was more complex than craft beer. I thought about that for a bit. Then I created #IsYourCraftBetterThanSoup, a new global public interest group. Might do a GoFundMe with this one.

Anyway, Jordan was here last Friday. We walked into exactly five establishments with him, although two were only for surveillance purposes. He was sifting clues. He does that. I was just wandering, doing a little day drinking and enjoying a Friday off. I share the chalk board from Stone City Ales as they presented it to the bar flies of noon on that fine day for a purpose: to note their wet hop ale, this one with hops from nearby Prince Edward County. Entirely yum. Largely speaking an eastern Lake Ontario zone vernacular. As I noted about ten weeks ago (again) I like my local to be quite localized and infused with locality. I have even pitched my experience to those with more, those trying to solve the “wet” v. “fresh” hop unhappiness. I did so by suggesting the more direct “unkilned” for greater certainty. It received one yea, many boos.

Less locally and further to last week‘s mention of the Cask Report, Old Mudgie worked a few numbers and found a sad result. On average, UK pubs that sell cask ale sell only 40 pints a day. Meaning as many sell 60 pints as 20. Meaning a good chance its been sitting around. This is not a problem with the beer. This is a problem of a lack of gravity dispense firkins on pub counter tops.

UPDATE: I like this piece on how to slink away from Ben which was posted after the newsy notes went to the coal-fired presses.

This is interesting stuff from the US branch of the wine world. The Board of Directors of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas issued a press release on Tuesday:

The Board of Directors found sufficient evidence that the tasting portion of the 2018 Master Sommelier Diploma Examination was compromised by the release of detailed information concerning wines in the tasting flight. The Board unanimously voted to fully void those results to protect the integrity of not only the examination process but also the reputation of the Court of Master Sommeliers and the title Master Sommelier.

Wow. While craft beer is trying to figure out if it’s OK to say both good and bad things about a fairly pointless BrewDog press release, wine is chucking out the exam results. Boom! Good beer beyond craft sometimes has such standards – and Stan is leading the way, especially when it comes to my fears for turning kveik into some sort of craftardization of itself:

Just my opinion, but to support Lars I suggest a) retweeting him, b) pointing others to his posts, c) reading everything he writes 3 times, and d) when somebody refers to kveik as if it is a style remind them it is a type of yeast.

I weedled this irritation a bit by pointing out that I have been sold a beer framed as a “kveik” to which Lars pointed out that “[i]f you go up to one of the brewers at the festival and ask him for kveik, he will give you dried chips.” Toronto’s Bellwoods seems to be doing it right. Remember. Kveik is not a beer. Not a style. It means a family of yeast strains. So, if you see a craft brewer holding out one of their beers is kveik, ask whose kveik it is and where it comes from. Tell them Lars sent you. Fight!

Less seriously, a beer drinking fish.

More seriously, Brendan Palfreyman has unpacked the law suit under which Founders is alleged to have discriminated against a former worker based on race.  Interestingly, he notes that the defense has carefully (“artfully” he states) admitted some of the allegations. Pretty awful allegations in terms of a poisoned work environment. It’s bad news at a very basic level – not good if the evidence shows he was “written up” for being one minute late while others were allowed to be more lax. Remember, craft beer is fun. Reason enough for me to pass on Founders until more is known.

Speaking of legal issues, one Ontario brewing four-person partnership faces a partner facing criminal chargesRobin is righteously outraged. Me, I have done criminal defense work. I am a big fan of their Ukrainian Dunkel. And I am righteously outraged, too.

Finally, I don’t often find myself moved by the save the pub advocacy but this one rings a bell – a Tudor era location with a reasonably consistent presence as an establishment located on East London river frontage. The history as claimed is venerable:

The first pub on the site probably originated during the Wars of the Roses in the 1460s and was called The Hostel. During more peaceful times in 1 533 it became known as The Red Cow, a reference to the bar maid working at the time. The notorious Judge Jeffreys was caught outside the ale house as he tried to escape disguised as a sailor on a collier bound for Hamburg after the Glorious Revolution of 1688; which overthrew King James II. 

The location is at least as impressive. It would have spent most of its live at the edge of the city, to the east of London Tower. In a guide from 1890 we read:

“The Town of Ramsgate” hostelry has a bulging bay window which offers a moderate view of the river, but with this exception reserves its allurements for Wapping High Street, where a conspicuous board at the entrance to the passage draws attention to the attraction of the place. The intelligent tourist, I am told, occasionally makes his way here. 

A winning cause. Or at least one worth fighting. Me, I am off for a nap. The Thursday news gets put to bed Wednesday nights. Before I head to bed. Beerless. Last night the beer was not in the head but at the head. Upside? The Red Sox won. Downside. Only that guy without his beer. Bad call. Good call? Seeing if I come up with something to write about mid-week next week. From that Holiday Inn by the highway. See you then.

The Beer News You Need To Know Before The Corduroys Take Over

Listen up!

This was either a quiet week or a busy one. Busy in the sense that it was too busy to spend time on writing about beer. Did anything strike you in particular? Not that much attracted my attention from the #GABF. Usually something of note comes up out of that event. The only blip was the inclusion of the previously outcast, given the BA has learned it’s OK to take their money. And the odd regional unhappinesses. Other than that and as illustrated, apparently plenty of people went, did similar things and a thousands bunch sat similarly uniformed in neat rows to staring at a stage hearing about this year’s new core message from the same people as always. Now, that’s what independence means to me! But, even that, is something we’ve heard before, isn’t it. So, it’s off to the edges of the week to see if we can dig up some actually interesting things.

First, go read Jessica Mason‘s excellent personal essay on how the pubs was instrumental in allowing herself the opportunity to turn a crisis in her life around:

The realisation that my boyfriend had begun seeing a married woman had knocked the life out of me. I looked up her husband and we agreed to meet at the pub — to cry into our beer and to compare stories. The next time we met, he helped us find somewhere to live. He was fast becoming my friend and his consideration was real.

Speaking of pubs, this photo essay exploration of the Commercial Tavern in the Spitalfield district of London, England by Retired Martin is wonderful in its consideration of a forgotten nugget of pure retro tat:

With no conversations to overhear, I made do with admiring the wallpaper, which reminded me a bit of a nightmare I had in my own bedroom in 1975. 

His thoughts on the newest version of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide are worth reading, too.

More happy tidings. Stan won the inaugural NAGBW Fred Eckhardt Award for Critical Beer Writing which is very good news as Stan is very good at winning things and really should win more things.

tl;dr take -> suck’kin ale. Perhaps a similar thing could have been said about Canadian light beer in the late 1970s.

Hadn’t thought of this before – the potential for economic discrimination which inherently along with the cashless bar or pub:

It needs to be made clear we are not discussing cashless payments per se. They are a growing feature of the financial landscape, and obviously it makes business sense for many pubs to accept them. But to refuse to accept cash entirely is something entirely different, and comes across very much as an attempt to practice social selection of your clientele.

CNN published something of a neg nag on Oktoberfest in Munich for, apparently, reflecting German today:

It is remarkable that all these politicians have long felt comfortable promoting a “festival that emphasizes its German origin with strength and power in every aspect,” as the official website claims. But even this idea of Germanness lacks a certain authenticity. The kinds of dirndls and lederhosen worn at the festival have little to do with German history. Dirndels and lederhosen were not even worn in Bavaria when the festival first took place.

Deutche Welle has a far more positive if a bit stilted take on the fest from three of its foreign correspondents. It’s interesting to me mainly for the mundane aspects of the incidental video – the shots from the fair grounds.

Similarly, I was really taken by Boak and Bailey’s post “Incidental Lager, Pubs and Breweries in Photos of Edwardian London” in which they noted incidental lager, pubs and breweries in photos of Edwardian London… which is exactly the sort of thing I have wasted innumerable lunch breaks at work doing because my brain works in exactly the same way.

Not similarly, Jordan’s mother (the far more sensible between the two of them) wrote about her foray into hops as well as herself:

Jordan has been either blessed or cursed with very eccentric parental units. To see the development of this, and if you are a reader of the blog of long standing you may remember the blog post of long ago wherein the teenaged Jordan learned about Weird Old Broads. We have not become more centrist as time has gone along. In fact the oddness may now be worse.

I find the same for myself is true. The oddness is getting worse. So I best wind it up for another week. Try to be more volatile, eccentric or combustible over the next seven days wouldja beer world? Boak and Bailey seem to have got themselves back into the habit so check out their newsy nuggets this weekend. Other than that, see you in October.

A Pennyworth Of Beer For Each Pallbearer From The Departed, Mother Wells

Mother Wells. Her death was important enough to be noted in the New York Gazette of 28 May 1767.  The story of her mot famous conviction and branding was recorded in 1873’s A History of Enfield in the County of Middlesex…* in this way:

Above a century ago a very mysterious affair happened in that part of Enfield known as the Wash, which caused great excitement in the country. The circumstances are here briefly stated: Elizabeth Canning, a servant girl, had been on a visit to her uncle, and on  her return in the evening was attacked, in Moorfields, by two men, who robbed her, and gave her a blow which made her insensible; they aftenwards dragged her along the high road until they came to the house of one Mother Wells, at Enfield-wash, where, she said, one Mary Squires, an ugly old gypsy, confined her in a room after being shut up there twenty-eight days, and fed upon nothing but bread and water, she at length effected her escape. On arriving in London she told her tale to two gentlemen, with whom she had lived as servant ; she made a deposition before a magistrate…

Enfield is now a borough in northern end of Greater London within which there is a sections called Enfield Highway or Enfield WashWikipedia tells us “Mother Well’s house was opposite the Sun and Woolpack public house, formerly the Sun and Punchbowl.” The Sun and Woolpack is still there. Canning’s walk home after escaping would have been ten miles long. The allegations became a popular scandal but apparently her evidence was not given consistently, charges flew back and forth and the “story which divided the country into two parties, called the Egyptians** and the Canningites.” Mobs gathered, outrages occurred and even the Lord Mayor had his windows broken. All of which is very interesting but I am actually more interested in the idea of Mother Wells and her house of infamy for both “highway gentlemen and highway ladies” – what or rather who were highway ladies?

Canning, initially the supposed victim, was herself tried for perjury due to the confusion of here evidence and the record of the case at the Old Bailey from 24th April 1754 gives a number of tidbits about the house of Susannah “Mother” Wells. According to testimony, it had:

– a main room or parlour on the street level
– a kitchen
– several smaller rooms upstairs with rough furniture and windows
– a hay-loft, work shop or long room with hay also on the upper level
– a shed or “penthouse” attached with a sloping roof

And the Hereford stage went past the rough house as she viewed it through gaps in the planks covering the window. The route to Herefordshire through Enfield is now the A1010.*** There are a few more details of the building in the records of the 21st February 1753 trial of Wells who, along with Mary Squires, were held jointly responsible for the detention and robbery. One of the witnesses is a lodger. The kitchen is described as to the right of the main door and it was below the room in which she was held. Canning herself stated: “there was another room in which I heard a noise at nights…” The door to the room she was detained in had a quarter inch crack you could look through. There were only four or five steps upstairs and the second story window was only eight to ten feet off the ground. So, it is a tumbledown low sitting public or common rooming house.

For their efforts, Squires was sentenced to death while Mother Wells was branded and imprisoned Newgate for six months. The tale, however, turns and Canning is herself charged for making up much of the story. Her evidence of the layout of the highway-person’s and itinerant lodger den of infamy never seems to be quite accepted even though it is described by a number of folk in the evidence before court. It appears to be a sort of informal boarding house if you were of the sort of public that likely would not get much welcome at the Sun and Punchbowl across the road.

The magistrate taking the evidence in the first instance and gets it wrong? Novelist Henry Fielding. The Mayor who takes up the case of unattractive falsely accused highway-folk? Notedhumanitarian and freeman of the Brewers’ Company named Sir Crisp Gascoyne (1700-61).” [I knew this would get back to beer sooner or later.] Gascoyne held a lengthy inquiry into what would normally be an unnoticed matter, one which included 119 witnesses and gained attention of the relatively young press. An airtight alibi was established for Squires and the now branded Wells – and the final outcome proved to be a milestone on the path towards consideration of the merit of the case over the status of the parties.

So, was this the mid-1700s version of a speakeasy? A den of thieves? Or just a poor person’s boarding house. I don’t know. It’s clear that the owner’s notoriety continued for sometime as not only was her death and the parade of pallbearers to every pub in Enfield reported in 1767 but the story was repeated in newspapers in the 1820s and again in the 1850s. A tale of justice being served for the lowly. Those beers at every pub along the route for the pallbearers? One last “up yours” from the little-loved, falsely branded hard case in the casket? Probably.

*A history of Enfield in the County of Middlesex; including its royal and ancient manors, the chase, and the Duchy of Lancaster, with notices of its worthies, and its natural history, etc.; also an account of the church and charities, and a history of the New River; the church history by George H. Hodson, and the general history by Edward Ford…
**I wrote a paper of the English law as it related to the Romani while I was in law school. “Gypsy” is short for Egyptian. Apparently the Romani people arrived in England in Tudor ties ad were assumed to be from Egypt. They were subject to many specific discriminatory restrictions until the reform laws of the mid-1800s.
***The same route was the setting for the comic poem from 1782 by William Cowper,  “The Diverting History of John Gilpin Shewing how he went Farther than he intended, and came safe Home again” meaning Canning was held in a dwelling along a main route.

 

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 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?

Some Beery News Links For The Sudden Coming Of Spring

It is obviously a tough time here in Ontario and in Canada. The mass murder on Yonge Street in Toronto on Monday has struck hard and will affect many for years to come. It has come so soon after the  Humboldt tragedy. And for our house, a neighbour – dearly liked, always been good to the kids – passed suddenly. It’s a rotten end to a hard winter. Ten days we were in a two day ice storm and now suddenly it’s warm. It’s a hard segue, like any sudden transition. Yet when I read Jon Abernathy’s thoughtful warm memorial to his own father who also passed away recently again with little warning, we are certainly reminded there are bigger things in life than beer yet – as Jon put it – it’s hard but we are doing OK. I hope.

So, this weeks links are offered to give some lighter thoughts. One delightful small thing I saw this last week is this tiny 12 inch by 12 inch true to scale diorama of the old Bar Volo on that same Yonge Street in Toronto. It was created by Stephen Gardiner of the most honestly named blog Musings on my Model Railroading Addition.  I wrote about Volo in 2006 and again in 2009. It lives on in Birreria Volo but the original was one of the bastions, a crucible for the good beer movement in North America. The post is largely a photo essay of wonderful images like the one I have place just above. Click on that for more detail and then go to the post for more loveliness.

In Britain, after last week’s AGM of CAMRA there has been much written about the near miss vote which upheld the organization’s priority focus on traditional cask ale. Compounding the unhappiness is the fact that 72% voted for change – but the change needed 75% support from the membership. Roger Protz took comfort in how high the vote in favour of change actually was. Pete Brown took the news hard, tweetingcask ale volume is in freefall.” He detailed his thoughts in an extended post.  And B+B survey the response and look to the upsides that slowly paced shifts offer. The Tandly thoughts were telling, too. While it is not my organization, I continued to be impressed by the democratic nature of CAMRA, the focus on the view of consumers rather than brewers as well as the respect for tradition. I am sure it will survive as much as I am sure that change will continue, even if perhaps at an increasing pace and likely in directions we cannot anticipate. Q1: why must there be only the one point of view “all good beer all together” in these things? Q2: in whose interest is it that there is only that one point of view?

While I appreciate I should not expect to link to something wonderfully cheering from Lars every week, I cannot help myself with his fabulously titled post, “Roaring the Beer.”  In it he undertakes a simple experiment with a pot and rediscovers a celebratory approach to sharing beer that is hundreds of years old. Try it out for yourself.

Strange news from Central Europe: “In 2017, the Czech on average drank 138 litres over the course of the year, the lowest consumption in 50 years.” No doubt the trade commentators will argue self-comfortingly “less but better!” while others will see “less but… no, just less.” Because of course there’s already no better when we’re talking about Czech lager, right?*

As a pew sitting Presbyterian and follower of the Greenock Morton, I found this post at Beer Compurgation very interesting, comparing the use of Christian images in beer branding (usually untheologically) to the current treatment of other cultural themes:

To try and best create an equivalence I have previously compared being a Christian in modern England to being a Scottish football fan in modern England… On learning your love for Scottish football people in general conversation would automatically make two assumptions: 

a) You believe domestic Scottish football to be as good as domestic English football; 

b) You believe Rangers and Celtic (The Old Firm) are capable of competing for the English Premier League title…

The accusations and derision came from assumptions of your beliefs and the discussions would continue this way even after explaining that their conjectures were false. Talking about Christianity here is similar. By existing I am allowed to be challenged directly about my thoughts on sexuality, creationism, mosaic period text, etc.. and people often assume they understand my attitudes beforehand.

Personally, I think the Jesus branding is tedious bu,t thankfully, all transgressors all go to hell to burn forever in the eternal fires… so it’s all working out!

Homage at Fuggled to the seven buck king.

Question: what am I talking about in this tweet?
Hmm. Oh yes! The news that Brewdog is claiming they have brought back Allsopp India Pale Ale. First, it appears that someone else has already brought it back. Weird. Second, as was noted by the good Dr. David Turner last year, this can only serve as a marketing swerve for the hipsters. AKA phony baloney. Apparently, the lads have been quietly cornering the market in some remarkable intellectual property including, fabulously, spontaneity! My point is this. You can’t recreate a 1700s ale until there is 1700s malt barley and a 1700s strain of hops. [Related.] Currently, I would say we can turn the clock back to about 1820 if we are lucky given the return of Chevallier and Farnham White Bine. There is no Battledore crop and I couldn’t tell you what the hops might be even though there was clearly a large scale commercial hop industry in the 1700s, not to mention in the 1600s the demands of Derby ale and the Sunday roadsfull of troops of workmen with their scythes and sickles,”. The past is a foreign land, unexplored. Perhaps Brewdog have found a wormhole in time that has now overcome that. Doubt it but good luck to them.

Well, that’s likely enough for this week. Remember to check in with Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday for their favourite stories and news of the week that was.

*Note: see also the work of CAMRA and the protection of cask ale.

I Don’t Understand The Taproom Math

There other day there was another one of those triumphalist announcements from someone or other on Twitter that brewery taprooms were changing US beer culture forever. Don’t get me wrong. I like them and fully understand this sort of outlook as described in The Guardian:

British craft beer makers are reviving the tradition of brewery tap rooms as an antidote to the national trend of pub closures and the dominance of big brewers. About a third of small breweries now run a tap bar, which lets drinkers sample their wares, according to a report by the Society of Independent Brewers (Siba), which also highlights a burgeoning micropub scene as brewers take over empty shops on their local high street.

That makes sense. It’s new* and there is nothing craft beer likes more than novelty. But the idea that taprooms are going to alter the basic landscape is problematic. Say we have 6,000 US breweries each with the potential to have a taproom. They will have on average likely no more than fifty seats. And if we are honest on average they likely have less than thirty seats. There are many tiny new breweries which, as I noted last week, are where the only real growth is occurring.

I shall now do the dangerous thing and apply some math.** Even going with the higher number, fifty seats times 6,000 breweries is 300,000.  In the whole of the USA.  Let’s say we get to 10,000 breweries in a few years. That would make it 500,000 seats. For 325,000,000 people. One taproom seat for every 65,000 people. I once lived in Pembroke, Ontario where there were 13 large taverns for 13,000 people. It was a reasonable estimate that there was one seat in a tavern for 10 to 15% of the community’s population at any given time. And on Friday night it was self-evident. That town liked to go out.

For taprooms to even hit a 10% level of community coverage, the US would need 325,000 craft breweries with a taproom average of 100 seats each. Fantasy. Never happening.  Which is good. Good beer is always going to be a niche product with a position and price point set by general market forces as well as reliable percentage of reasonably high functioning dipsomaniacs. That being the case, they really fill a spot like high-end cake shops or the fancy butchers folk go to only for a holiday roast.

Why do I care? My concern is, while there is certainly rural and small community infill opportunity, there are fewer and fewer opportunities to come into the market in the way that new breweries might come on line just two or three years ago. The best serve food which makes them really a brewpub but they all can’t offer the same thing, let alone afford the infrastructure of a kitchen.

One stat I would like to see tracked beyond openings and closures is the average duration of a craft brewery’s life cycle. Has the life expectancy shortened as many new players join in the game? As opportunities become more limited, as shelf space ceases to be an option it would be good to know how long a taproom focused establishment can expect to exist. And, accordingly, whether the investment is worth it.

*OK, newish… well, not really all that new.
**Please refer to the title of this post before you wag a digit. And even if I am off by an entire base ten order that sill means 32,500 breweries. Nuts. 

The Space Left Behind When Jordan Stood Up

Jordan was in visiting his old home town. We had a very pleasant two hours in my favourite spot, a block away from my work. I started with an excellent thick smoked oatmeal stout from Black Oak. But it wasn’t the beer or even that we were in the Kingston brew pub, which I have written about before – including this post from 2005 – but we had snagged one particular booth by the front windows. Another view of the seat, in a bit neater condition, is one of the photos that scroll up above in the header area. I first sat in the spot twenty-five years ago when, before children, my wife and I would take weekend holidays in this small eastern Ontario city where we later ended up settling. The brew pub was our home base out from which we would explore the old town or, staying in warm and dry, watch a blizzard whip by on a Saturday afternoon.

Jordan had his own memories. He thought it might be where, underage, he was first served a beer.  He effectively had a tab a few years later when he was a regular after the late shift. The space still surprised him. We discussed what was behind it and chatted a bit with the manager, too. The way the selection of Ontario craft beer was not actually strongly highlighted was a key feature we landed on. No more mentioned than the fine whisky selection or the house smoked BBQ. The pub itself was the main attraction. There is nothing particularly self-conscious… dare I say “curated”… about the place. Good brisket on the nachos, a great selection of good beer both reflecting both craft and micro sensibilities, Dwight Yoakam on the speakers surrounded by decades worth of British and US breweriana coating every flat surface displaying thirty years of beer culture, gathered extemporaneously there like a jar of beach glass.

After his drive arrived and Jordan headed out, I sat there by myself for a few minutes, afternoon giving way to evening, until a large group came in. I motioned them to fill the booth as I moved to sit on a chair to the side. We had a couple of minutes as they shared their own thoughts about the place. Then my own ride was there outside the big windows because it was suppertime.

This Mid-February’s Beery News Stories The Cool Kids Are Talking About

Starting with more Olympic beer news, apparently Team USA has jumped into the spirit led by Canada with it’s own variation, Olympian’s drunk Dad. Well played.

Speaking of drunk Dads, Ben has written extensively and not without a bit of flair on the endearing awful bars which he insists can be distinguished from the more hipster friendly dive bar:

They have cheap wing nights, karaoke, a clock counting down to St. Patrick’s day. Big corporate branding shamelessly adorns every sticky surface; a tacky plastic archive of years of visits from beer reps with expense accounts and a few kegs to unload. They’re the kind of places where the food is almost never what you want and exactly what you expect: big, fried, heavy, and available with inappropriate amounts of sauce for drizzling/dipping/Buffalo-ing. Where they serve Pepsi in heavy, branded 16oz shaker pints and they scoop the ice right out of the well using the glass…these bars appeal to a baser part of me that remains from a time before I knew better.

I tend to think of such bars (“dumps” in my parlance) fondly if I recall them in safety of the theater of my mind. The dumps of my youth. Ah, the places my pals passed out in. But… you know, now I actually hate a bad meal, a sticky surface. My pals passed out in a place like this! And, then,  it’s a vicious cycle as snooty Oldie Olson beats himself up a bit inside for being such a loser. I can’t appreciate an actual unselfconscious bar anymore. But maybe that is OK – as they are often just grim bars for the unconscious.

Again, the everlasting “good people” question. Personally, I have seen no evidence of better or worse. Elsewhere, the media analogously sift clues. Because that is what they do.

No. No, I actually wasn’t.

I have absolutely no way to account for its sales growth” is an odd thing for a good writer to write. [Not anywhere nearly as bad as the too often otherwise stated “trust me” but… still.] For me, the reasonable or at least knee-jerk answer is that seeking all-purpose axioms are a bit of a mugs game.* The only fact needed to be known is that Two Hearted Ale is lovely. By way of comparison, have a look at what wonderful wine writer Janis Robinson wrote about the problem with typicality. I like how she points out that focusing on type is a distracting problem caused by a conservative approach and mainstreaming. Yet, Jeff is right that a pattern seems to be offended by the beer’s success. Does noticing such things reflect a natural desire for the means to account for such things, for the seeing of sub-species, for the hope for “some sort of convention in naming and labeling“? Just because it is a weak draw for me and some… is it so wrong for others and some?

Next, it is either quite hard to find an exclusively all-male WASP panel these days or, I suppose, quite easy:


Finally, as we all heard at the first end of the week, Stone has brought a trademark action to defend its branding against MillerCoors for certain presentations of its Keystone branding. As you can imagine, the actual law is dull as dishwater – as it should be. The only attention grabbing is the needy “He’s Hip, He’s Cool, He’s 45” stuff from that annoying member of of Stone’s ownership group.  Bryan Roth has a very good roundup of a number of  legal perspectives on the case, summarizing views ranging from “it seems like a pretty decent case” to the arguments are “a bit thin.” Like others, I emailed one of those quoted, Brendan Palfreyman, to ask questions. Turns out he’s in Syracuse about 90 miles to my south and we now know we know people. He assured me that the wild eyed hyperbolic form of claims made by Stone in the court filings are actually normal forms of pleading in the States. Have a look yourself. Sad. The Queen would never have it. Apparently, MillerCoors could move to strike a bunch of the junior high puffy but it would actually be unusual – unlike here in Canada where we lawyers operate with that cool clinical confidence that the Crown requires. Bond-like. That’s us. So… we can probably expect a second helping of a whole heaping pile of knuckle headed rang-dang-doo in the Statement of Defence which could be issued as soon as a month from now. That should be fun. My take? There is no confusion ever going to be had in the marketplace between the two products which have co-existed now for about twenty years.

Oh… not beer: the history of slavery on Prince Edward Island.

*See “good people” concept above.