The US Mid-Terms Of Thursday Beery News Notes

Did anything really important happen this week? The USA slid a bit to the left on Tuesday. But only a bit. Me, I slid to the west and the north, taking time to visit two breweries over the last seven days. MacKinnon Brothers of Bath, Ontario and Brassiers du Temp of Gatineau, Quebec. Each had a harvest ale. MacKinnon’s is its third edition and is called Harvest Ale 2018 while BDT’s is Obwandiyag.* Each was all about local ingredients. Plaid as well as toques were seen in each tap room.

One other thing that happened, as reported in the Watertown Daily Times of mighty and nearby Watertown, New York was the delivery by sea and seaway of “vats” for an unnamed central New York brewery. I assume this means fermenting and aging tanks for FX Matt but I could be wrong.

Annoyingly, this image of London Bridge from 1632 flew by on Twitter this week. Annoyingly, I say, as the painter seems to have framed the left of the image on the eastern property line with that proto-German trade mission called the Steelyard, the likely location of the first hopped beer consumed in England no doubt by Hanseatic sailors perhaps as early as the thirteenth century.  It does, however, wonderfully set the immediate scene.

As a man who has high hopes to get much much older, I found this discussion of  the role of the UK pub in addressing adult male loneliness fab:

As the UK population ages, the number of older people at risk of social isolation and loneliness is on the rise, which can have a detrimental impact on physical and mental health outcomes for older adults. Evidence for ‘what works’ in reducing loneliness and social isolation among older people is limited, especially for men. Hence, we turned our focus on the role of pubs and their potential to reduce loneliness and social isolation for older men.

Speaking of old men with high hopes, I thoroughly enjoyed this interesting post from Mudgie and a vibrant conversation in the comments – all on the way changes have caused his well loved local to go off track:

None of these are in themselves showstoppers, except when United or City are on the telly, but added together they make it a pub that I find much less congenial than it once was. If I was showing someone around the area, I’d take them in there for a pint, not least to show them the largely unspoilt interior, but I don’t personally care to drink in there. 

Conviviality. Is that what we want? That and little more, I’d say. Certainly not being chained to a pub. This week… relatedly… perhaps… somewhere… I saw a link to a chestnut of Pete‘s from an OG recent past and I was a bit shocked to see this:

Beer helps us express ourselves and mould our identities. It doesn’t need dancing bears and croaking frogs to do that.

Oh, dear God. No. If beer is shaping your identity you may be a entirely earnest struggling** beer bubble beer writer… or an alky [… or both!] Isn’t even loneliness better than that? But I would hope that you, like me, think of beer like maybe having a cheesecake or perhaps going to see a movie once a week. Or getting, like Jeff, engaged politically. Beer? A momentary escape perhaps but certainly not something core to identity. Life is too short for that.

Dear God, no #2: non-bubbly spiked ‘seltzer’!

Pura Still is a malt-based beverage, like beer but without the color or the hops. It contains a “splash of coconut water” and hints of fruit flavors. It will launch next month in three flavors: Mango, Blackberry and Mandarin Orange.

Western civilization just out-suckered Sucker Juice!! Somewhere some wannabe influencer is trying to figure out how to be the leading authority on non-bubbly spiked seltzer. While they still can, guidance officers really need to help our high school drop outs so that they don’t end up doing that sort of thing. Best of all, given it is malt based and non-traditional, it now qualifies as craft beer!

Update: Beer news item of the week. From the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times:

A Ribble Valley beer writer and BBC Radio Lancashire beer enthusiast has been shortlisted for the British Guild of Beer Writers Young Writer of the Year award. Clitheroe-based beer writer Katie Taylor has reached the shortlist of the prestigious awards, alongside highly-regarded writers from across the industry.

While the use of ripe adjectives is a well-known hallmark of the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times, the extended copy explaining Katie Taylor’s particular interest is fabulous and also unpacks a bit more about the process than the BGBW has. I particularly appreciate the use of “entrants” by ATJ rather than “nominee” given that the process is based on submitting one’s own name. Well done @Shinybiscuit !

There is no doubt as to the photo of the week as shared by BlogTO. Both infuriating and comical, it perfectly captures an aspect of Canadian life – the desire to be correct tied to an abiding interest in not actually being all that concern with being correct. The scene is Ontario’s liquor control commission, the LCBO, and the object is a mass produced sales promotion flier. Now, I can’t say for sure that the LCBO produced the promo-product but it would have had to pass through the hands of about 16 bureaucratic conception, design and approval committees on its way to the retail floor. Oh… Canada.

A bit of a shorter post today. I’ve been on the road as I mentioned and it’s the week of our 26th so, you know, I have been away having my identity moulded by things other than intoxicating liquors. Remember – Boak and Bailey put me to shame most Saturdays with their weekly news nuggets.

*aka the great Pontiac of whom another particular hero of mine, Major Robert Rogers, met and wrote in 1765 : “I had several conferences with him, in which he discovered great strength of judgment, and a thirst after knowledge.
** This, the better sort of GBH thingie, comes to mind.

Your First Thursday Beery News Notes For November

Does anyone love November? The World Series has been won, the leaf lettuce took a hard frost and all the Halloween candy was handed out last night. What was left of the evening has shrunk into the afternoon now that the clocks have been changed in the UK and will change again in North America over the coming weekend. The end of October is really the end of the year. The next two months should be their own season. Good winter. Purgatorial autumn. Like driving through New Brunswick, you just want get past November even if it’s 1/12th of your life. Just look at that slightly out of focus photo of my salad from my eastern Ontario garden, picked just a few days ago. Now everything on the plate is dead – except the kale.* Kale, the salad green of death. Bringer of children’s tears. Can the news in beer turn us all away from thoughts of kale and the grave? Let’s see.

First, one can go out like and when one wants to go out through preemptive liquidation:

Honestly my heart hasn’t been in it since the premises move, we expanded to the wrong size, and Gaz’s creativity has been missed.

Speaking of the heart not being in it, the US Brewers Association is apparently going to change the definition of “craft” again (as if they control the concept) by ditching “traditional” as a formal requirement. Keeping in mind that the one thing that divides “craft” from earlier “micro” is the practical abandonment of traditional practices, this is not a big change but, still, this is pretty sad:

According to the BA’s current definition, which has changed three times since 2007, a craft brewer must be small (less than 6 million barrels), independent (less than 25 percent owned by a non-craft brewer), and traditional (a majority of its total volume must be derived from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients). It’s the last pillar, traditional, that is under review, in part because an increasing number of craft brewers are already experimenting with non-traditional beer offerings such as flavored malt beverages and hard seltzers. A growing number of BA members have also expressed interest in creating beverages infused with THC and CBD, Wallace wrote.

So, in response to the BA, it should be clear there is now room for, you know, a traditional brewers association that actually has an interest in beer and not just profiteering from a collective brand. Just don’t call it anything related to craft. That’s for factory beer now. The reasons for doing this are, frankly, less than honourable and so personal reactions seemed to divide into two groups:

(i) those who consider craft beer to be made of craft brewery owners – these folk who then love this because they seem to get a vicarious joy from seeing these brewery owners get richer;** and

(ii) those who consider craft beer to be made of… beer.  These folk laugh at bulk ciders and soda pop being called “craft” anything but know why it’s being done.***

Conversely, I have been cheered by the Beer Nut’s notes on his fluid fueled travels  at the end of the summer throughout Ontario and Quebec, the very parts of Canada most nearest me and myself. He posted about a side trip to Quebec City during which he was caught breaking the law and otherwise up to no good:

Two mouthfuls in, our friendly Via Rail conductor came by to tell me to chug it. Turns out train beer, or at least drinking your own beer on board, is illegal in Canada. Yes it said that on my ticket so yes I should have known, but it’s still downright barbarous. No wonder passenger rail is underused. What’s the point if you can’t have train beer?

Ha ha!!! Other than his response to regulatory infractions, I am quite interested in his thoughts on the local beers I am quite familiar with: “…certainly like an IPA from the olden days“… “I approve. Isn’t it good to know that “unfiltered” doesn’t have to mean mucky?“… “Overall an absolutely benchmark modern IPA.” The entire set of quite independent reviews is his gift to the nation… err, nations…

Speaking of Ontario, Ben wrote an excellent piece on a side project highlighting the process breweries can follow when pestered by bars who illegally demand freebies in return for access to their taps.

The system of graft for tap lines is so ingrained in the hospitality industry, fighting it sometimes feels futile… And so, inspired mostly by all the emails I was getting, I launched a website that allows people to post anonymously and share the emails from bar owners they were previously sending me. It’s called Dirty Lines and it does still get some occasional action. I take no responsibility for the content there, incidentally. I don’t investigate any claims. I don’t vet submissions. It just lives there as a mechanism to vent, essentially.

Speaking of the End Times, I love this lyrical new rule of craft beer:

Efficiency in the managing of seasonal product requires an integrated approach to bring uniformity to how seasonal items are identified so that all contributors in the supply chain reap the benefits.

This lengthy tale by a fellow Oldie Olson might bemoan something things but as it is TL;DR you will have to figure out if that is the case.  I would note one thing: if you label yourself as “cool” either (i) you are really not at all or (ii) you are Miles Davis. And he’s dead.****

Digging around in the past, Geoff Latham has uncovered a description of an English spiced ale from 1554. There is a great conversation in the responses to his tweet from people who know that there is nothing that can’t be explored usefully in that concise shared medium. Speaking of digging around in the past, Nicola the mudlark of the Thames found a wonderful clay pipe at low tide marked with the sign of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes  – and shared that it may well have been a pub freebie of centuries past. Fabulous.

A few legal notes to finish with. Beer retail franchisor Craft Beer Cellar was in a law suit with an employment review website over negative employee reviews but the claims appear to have been recently thrown out. See here and here:

The plaintiff argued that Glassdoor created/developed the reviews because it removed a review and then allowed it to return. The court disagreed: “Glassdoor’s decisions to remove the ‘review,’ and to permit an updated version to be re-posted, constituted the exercise of a traditional editorial function. Without more, Glassdoor cannot be deemed responsible for creating or developing the content.”

And Brendan P over at FB has posted an FYI which was a bit on the QT so I am acting PDQ:

Did you know that you can get every cent you pay in NYS excise tax on your beer back as a production credit against taxes owed? For example, let’s say you sell 2,000 BBL in 2018. At NY’s excise tax rate of $0.14 per gallon, that’s $8,680 in taxes. Just fill out form CT-636 or IT-636 and you can get the full $8,680 as a credit against your taxes…

DO IT! LISTEN TO BRENDAN AND DO IT!!!

Well, that is it for now. I am up to over 1345 words! Every one a gem. I am off to dig into the one youngest child’s trick or treat candy before she wakes. It’s what I like to call “me time” but I expect you all approve. Remember to check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday to see what has happened since I cut and pasted this all together. Perhaps Stan will even post another teaser for the new month. Until next week, as the Beer Nut said to his train beer plans – au revoir!

*Miraculously, the red lead lettuce sprang back up after the frost and was completely unharmed. Fabulous. I know you would have wanted to know.
** See Messrs B.Roth and J.Notte.
*** See Messrs J.St.John and A.Crouch.
**** Unlike my leaf lettuce.

Beery Notes From The Third Third Of 2018

Time flies but don’t tell the weather that. First day of school traditionally saw the new corduroys out in force but this year we are having more heatwave. This does not bode well as a step towards global warming. You can see how quickly the environment can flip into a new level of temperament.  Hop regions will be lost and barley crops shall fail if this keeps up. How’s that for curmudgeonly beer blogging?

John Keeling has written an gushy mushy ode to cask ale in the Brewers’ Journal that bears attention:

I started drinking properly in 1973. My first pints were in a Whitbread pub. I tried Trophy, Tankard, lager, lager top and shandy. After experimenting with all those I discovered, along with my friends, Boddingtons and Robinsons. Cask bitter, I have loved you ever since and nothing, not even the finest Pilsner nor the toastiest stout, can capture me for long. I will always return to you.

I wonder how he feels about his dog?

The Beer Nut has traveled from Ireland to Quebec and he does not like the steak tartare.  He finds a mid-sized cornfield vast and likes the first class lounge of our train system. Classic commentary on the Canadian way.  He appears to be heading east but I am not sure, as usual, how far he intends to take it. Will he enter Atlantic Canada? Stay tuned.

Next time someone tells you that the smaller glass ware is suited to the style, remind yourself of how the Brewers’ Association has confirmed its really about getting more money from drinkers’ pockets per barrel by up-selling “experience”:

These changes resulted in an 18 percent increase in revenue, with only a four percent increase in customers. In addition, the number of brands on checks went from an average of two to four. We were making more money for the same work, while also exposing guests to more brands! As an added benefit, the overall sentiment of the guest experience, conveyed in person and online, improved. Many online reviews mention the ability to create your own four-ounce flight as a reason for making the trek to our out-of-the-way bar and beer garden.

Speaking of the new frontiers of newbie sucker juice, a fabulous listicle of ten ignored classic beers was published at Don’tDrinkBeer about the ten top beers that the recent kinderbiere set do not understand. I like it. The groundwork laid down at the outset is worthy of the Tale of Ale and Max:

In a beer scene increasingly dominated by monoculture acid bombs, trubtastic slurrycans, and flabby batterwater, many iconic beers have fallen by the wayside. New palates have neither the time nor attention span for these outdated beers from the past. These beers represent the educational arc that many beer enthusiasts would imbibe on their way to honing their palate. We now exist in an instaRone paradigm, where learning is passe and not knowing is vulnerability. Now the beer journey begins and ends with a 16% double barrel pastry stout and new beer palates don a jaunty expert cap and instantly dislocate their rotator cuff patting themselves on the back.

Me, I have retreated from, literally, the Kool-aid experience as I have too often now been disappointed by what is labeled as an IPA turning out to be something sucked by straw on an elementary schoolyard at recess. I buy comforting brown ales or, yes, the classics. Avoids needing to know “exactly” why craft can cost so much – especially when asking about the expenses is never part of the inquiry. Cooking Lager made an excellent observation on the current state of affairs in a somewhat related comment:

Craft beer is no different. Most of it is just beer concentrate. It’s an acquired taste not a natural taste anyone is born with. You acquire it if you spend time doing so. Drink enough DIPA, eventually you’ll start to like it. The booze rewards the pleasure centres and eventually you will not only forgive the taste but convince yourself you like it. We all acquire tastes. If I compare my own reaction of pleasure to a strong black coffee to my 10-year-old nieces’ wince if she sips it, it is because I acquired the taste, not because she is too stupid to get it. I acquired the taste because I liked the pick me up. Then I started to like the drink. Then I took notice of different roasts, beans and countries of origin. Then I wondered why I was buying a £4 cup of poncey coffee when Greggs do a really good Americano.

The folk who consider that the beer market is broken into teams and that they are contesting with each other will take offense (again) but this is key: “the booze rewards the pleasure centres.” Is the idea that this is all about flavour PR spin? Notice how often the same gurus complain about their hangovers on social media. No, it’s all about finding a sort of palatable alcohol because the selling of palatable alcohol is quite profitable. And makes people happily buzzed. Sometimes it takes complexity to coax the wallets open, sometimes facile flavours. The brewer’s ultimate goal in each case includes the same motive – which is fine as folk are quite happy to spend in response.

Finally, Tim Webb* has written a wonderful eulogy to Chris “Podge” Pollard:

…it was his brilliant eye for detail and for knowing what makes a place great that set him aside.  Despite penning six books he did not claim to be a beer writer, yet his pithy descriptions of cafés came so fully formed that they put you there at the bar, often armed with priceless information, such as “The Dalmatian is deaf.”

There you are. The dearly departed, the great and good – and the not so great and good. Another week in the life of beer as we know it in 2018.  B+B will have more news on Saturday and I shall be back next week.  Here’s hoping for a new crisis to pick at as well as the discovery of a new wonder to behold. See you then.

*Not as the byline states, editor Ted Hampson. My error.

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!!!

The Final Beery News For This Winter Olympiad

Did I mention I planted peas and radish seeds outside the other day after shoveling a patch in the snow? I have hope and I have trust. Spring is keeking around the corner surprisingly early this year. There isn’t a day in the 14 day forecast with a high temp mark below freezing. March is upon us. And I made the news today… well, me amongst many others. Spring training games start tomorrow. And a good brewery is opening a fifteen minute walk from my house and I am off to the opening this evening. So, it’s a happy time.

Hmm. What is else is going on? Well, now that we are in the merrily saturated market, now that the local supply is diverse and inclusive, fabulous and fresh… what do we do when we consume the ales and lagers of others? Foreign beer is not necessary very now. But still it show up and often finds a place for no other reason than that its comfortingly foreign. I even bought eight Guinness the other weekend. Something something rose coloured glasses something… something something “stupid European boyfriend“…

One for team? Taken.

Speaking of teams, as shown to the right, Ben Johnson* won the Canadian beer Olympic social media moment with his screen shot and tweet of the spouse of Rachel Homan, one of our Olympic curling team members.** It is a fabulous image, the subject displaying his Canadian-ness in a number of key ways: the clothes, the way the hat is jacked down, the wide balanced relaxed stance and his “third and fourth” two-fisted macro lagers. Ben posted his tweet on Sunday evening and by Tuesday morning it had over 6,000 retweets and even made it into the realm of actual media. 8,000 retweets by Wednesday 7:00 am. Nutty.

Not beer: Slovenian wagon cart bits from 3,000 BC.

Web 2.0 update: not a good look.

News that England’s Fuller’s bought a smaller brewery broke on Tuesday morning and, in an amazing display of speed guru-ism, within minutes tribes were forming, one asking “why is this OK?” as the other says “it is OK!” – which is pretty much normal and not much turns on it. The acquired Dark Star charmingly tweeted

Yes, I predict we’ll do more one-off, small batch beers this year than in our history with their investment in our operation. Same brewers, same passion.

…which could be true but could also mean they’ll be shut by summer. Or not. A seemingly wise man considers the Otley alternative, you know the formerly award winning brewery, the former darling that disappeared late last week. Then the longer pieces came out within 24 hours. Another churned out rushed bit at GBH. A longer, substantive*** piece by Pete pops up… yet with the familiar assurance that Fuller’s is “a minnow in the world of corporate beer.” Hmm.  Yes, “weasel words” and then already “some redundancies in sales and accountants.“**** Yet, there is a sameness to it all.  And there’ll be more. Not just (or even primarily) in the ideas – not the content but in the pattern of comment. I can’t put my finger on it. Is that all there is?  If only someone was keeping track of the promises of the bought out and the later reality. And remember around 2013 when people were going to write fiction about craft beer? Have we dropped playing at being Hemingway to playing at being U.S. News & World Report circa 1993? Content. And plenty of it. Ever notice content sounds a lot like stuffing? You just know somewhere someone is writing another identical style guide for the Christmas market – and another twenty are writing articles to congratulate the long dead man for guiding it all still today, the hand reaching out from the grave. Creepy needy. Me, I am reminded of the stack of thumbed, even greasy magazines at the barbershop when I was a kid, only the top few being touched by those waiting.

There is another view. Ron gave a glimpse with this gathering of 1950s brown ale adverts. The prosaic hiding the poetic. Yet… still rose-tinted, no? Next? More art – this time a brief drama:

Craft Beer: Haha! Young kids today hate macro crap beer!
Macro Beer: Haha! Young kids today just hate beer. How’s your cash reserves, craft?

Interesting. The things you learn when you aren’t listening to a staff PR guy posing as an economist. Speaking of bad news, these are hard times in the lives of the one of the saints:

…Samuel Adams beers and Angry Orchard ciders hurt business… We remain challenged by the general softening of the craft beer and cider categories… A late-2017 survey of beverage retailers by Wells Fargo named Boston Beer as the year’s least innovative alcohol company.

Which isn’t exactly praise right there coming from Barron’s. Hmm.  How would you write a comforting column adopting the language of minnow based on that?***** Should we expect some redundancies in sales and accountants? Maybe. Because that is sorta where we are at as Q1 2018 looks out and sees Q2 coming on fast.

One final reminder: as you likely know, two other weekly news summaries are available with Boak and Bailey posting their round-up every Saturday morning UK time whilst Stan Hieronymus offers his thoughts on Mondays with little old me now plodding along mid-week. I have elbowed my way back into this clique over the last year so am quite grateful for their quite different weekly perspectives on this finite set of stories and should be back with more cheery thoughts of my own next Thursday… in March!

Update: bonus non-beer Quebec content because the phrase “…and it tastes like feet.

*Yes, the socialite Ben Johnson but not that Ben Johnson.
**Traitor curler!!!
***Beefy even. Based on actual experience. And much to be said about simply being interested in something more than others.
****Must have lacked passion.
*****But… but… passion!

What? More Monday Links? Why? Why Oh Why?

Not that I wanted to start up paying attention to the news about beer for this century again… but the time it takes to get one of these early modern posts out sorta leads me to wanting to provide some in-fill. I mean it is exciting stuff but how many tales of hegemonic Euro-explorer types getting scurvy half way across the Atlantic can you take? So…. here is some more Monday in-fill!

First, note that “Grainews is written for farmers, and often by farmers” and late last week they published a fairly detailed article on hop growing in Canada’s easterly and fairly northern province  of Quebec. An interesting and practical introduction to growing at the edge of viability. Note: “Craft brewers want good quality, but are not worried about consistency year to year…” Somewhat self-evident but interesting to see it confirmed at the farmyard stage.

News this morning has come that two huge Canadian conglomerates have swapped dozens of local and regional papers… and then promptly shut down many of them. And with those papers go a large number of columns including the excellent one on good beer in southwestern Ontario published bi-weekly by Ben. Sad to see but, as you can see from the list, this is a bigger shift hitting a wide range of communities, not just beer geeks.

I trust that no one cares about this.

Whenever I read about how awful UK beer prices are I stop and think how wonderful it would be to be pay what they pay for beer in the UK. We seem to have over 50% higher prices for decent beer and, given we tip, that prices is likely pushing 75% over the course of an evening out.

Prepare ye for the new style “sub-session” if this proto-fad gets traction:

With session beer having taken off in the US and the low-alcohol sector on the rise, Grundy and James hope that their new beer, with a lower ABV than is traditionally associated with session beer, will deliver in flavour what it lacks in alcohol. The pair are launching two new lager beers into the UK market: a Pilsner-style lager made with British malt and Saaz hops (2.1% ABV) and a dark lager (1% ABV) described as having “dark berry fruit on the nose” and a “coffee-like palate and smoky finish”.

Hmm. I fully expect this will be gak but, as we have learned from certain things named New England, selling gak with a backstory seems to be suddenly compelling to a significant sector of the beer drinking public.  My advice? If you want something with a coffee-like palate and smoky finish go to a diner that still has a few old guys sitting in the smoking section and have some joe.

Finally, the continuing testiness over who should write what about good beer has led to this fairly incoherent tweet from an other wise semi-reliable largely sensible source. Belief-based expertise extrapolation is a dangerous thing. But this sorta stuff breaks out regularly. Consider this from 2009 as well as this along with this from 2016. I sense we are in a slightly counter-reformation moment in which a retrenching is occurring, a rejection of a wide range of opinion is being played out. These are tight times. The other day, I responded to a known name over a spat involving another known name and my first observation was that I presumed one of the parties was stone broke. S/he was. Remember that and take it into account when these things flair. For all the niceness of good beer, the lack of the overall trade’s generosity to the thoughtful and independent writer is a bit astounding.

Well, that is it for now. Maybe I will do this again next Monday, too. Might the foray lose its rarity? Who knows?

Beer And Art: Bruegel’s “Return From The Inn”

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A couple nights in Montreal leads to a lot of good things. A number of forced marches for the family through an alarmingly frigid city to this meal or that shop. Buying beer in a grocery store. Five new pairs of Converse sneakers for distribution across the clan. And a stop at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts where I saw this, “Return from the Inn” by Pieter Bruegel the Younger (again with the PBtY) … or is it Return from the Inn? Such things elude me. It’s not the greatest image in terms of sharpness but a larger scale image is clickably before you if you want a closer look.

Aside from all the allegorical stuff, I noticed the two items related to brewing right away: the massive sacks of grain on the untended cart as well as the sign of the wreath indicating, I understand, that strong drink is on offer within. I would expect the birds pecking away at the spilled grain which has fallen to the ground would be a sign of decadent waste to someone 400 years ago. Not sure if the load has been left by carters now inside filling their bellies with ale or whethers it’s the inn’s own supply. Lot of snow on those wheel spokes.

I suggest you ignore all the brawling gifts swinging agricultural tools and the steamy suggestions of sexual faithless. Reminds me too much of the final half hour of a craft beer fest. A rather snazzy explanation of the whole thing can be found here. The image is from around 1620 or just when various European nations are setting up colonies in what are now Quebec, New York, Delaware and Boston. This would be what normal would look like to those earliest colonists, the way they would have approached – or avoided – this sort of inn if out looking for a beer of an afternoon.

Did Father Duplessis Brew Quebec’s First Beer?

1608habitation_de_quebecYou may recall that a couple of months ago I wrote a post about the first brewing of beer in New France describing how in 1617 Louis Hébert became the colony’s first private land owner, farmer and a brewer. He is generally accepted as the first brewer. But what’s been tickling at the back of my head has been the footnote that I quoted. It’s from a bit of writing about life in the earliest years of New France. The footnote included this tidbit from 10 August 1620:

Nous avon du grain suffisamment pour faire du pain and de la bière

The sentence to which that footnote is attached goes on to suggests the Recollet missionaries themselves were brewing at Quebec before 1620. How many years before 1620? The interesting thing about the early bits of anything is how little data there is to work with. This is admittedly compounded by reliance on (i) my crappy French and (ii) the internet. Yet… I think I like where I am going. One of the reasons there is only a little data to work with is there were only a few Recollets in North America at the key point in time. In 1615, four show up with Champlain: Father Denis Jamet the first superior along with Fathers Le Caron and Jean Dolbeau and Brother Pacifique Duplessis. Jamet appears to have written first impressions of life in New France that was sent to New France in July 1615. Haven’t seen that record yet. Some are just not on the internet. And some don’t last. Le Caron’s records were destroyed likely around 1632 when his possessions were burned due to him catching a bad case of the plague. The earliest fullish record of the Recollets in New France I can lay my hands on appears to be that of Brother Gabriel Sagard who only showed up in 1623.

From what I can see, La Caron spends the first winter far to the west in what is now central Ontario with the Huron people. After he returns to the settlement at Quebec, he and Jamet then leave New France in the summer of 1616, returning in 1617. Dolbeau stays from 1615 to 1617, spends the winter of 1615-16 to the northeast down river among the Montagnais, and returns as well after a year away. Brother Duplessis lives in New France from 1615 to 1618 and seems to be the one who sticks closest to home. Before becoming a priest in 1598, Duplessis was a practising apothecary and he seems to continue using that skill as a Recollet. He stays at Quebec from the spring of 1615 to 1617 which is when Louis Hébert, also an apothecary, shows up. Which means, unlike what is generally understood, Hébert was not the first apothocary at Quebec.

So, what is an apothecary in New France at that time? Mainly a pharmacist but with a good dose of gardener and herbalist along with amateur scientist. Part of the work of Duplessis from 1615 to 1618 includes tending to the sick. Alcohol is generously available – pervasive even – in New France and is used to treat infection and other medical purposes. Could it be that for two years when Quebec is being established that Duplessis might have turned his hand to brewing before Hébert arrives as part of his work as an apothecary? While the colony seems to be awash with imported wine and cider, brewing beer still seems to fit in the overall plan. By 1623, as Sagard describes, the colony has its own orchards and is making efforts to have a diversity of local crops, to attain as much self-sufficiency as possible. The Recollets had their own building at Quebec from the date their arrival in 1615 and Duplessis seems to be working there for much of his two years there. They farm the land. Which means Hébert was not the first farmer, either. And a few years earlier, Champlain specifically noted the presence of hops in the St. Lawrence valley. Just the sort of thing an adventurer apothecary farmer missionary might notice, too, over the course of a two year stay.

That’s all I know. It’s speculation so far even if plausible. But with local hops on hand, using a few pounds of grain to make a fresh ale is not the most absurd thing someone might turn their hand to to pass the time. Maybe.

Update: The next day I found this document which includes a quotation from Jamet’s report presented to the French King dated 15 August 1621… or 1620. Google Translate and I have tag-teamed of translate the description of the first Recollet building in Quebec in this way:

When we arrived, we learned that the Sieur du Pontgravé, captain for merchants in the community, had started to build us a house, which since our arrival we have completed… The main building is well made, strong frame and between a wall of large pieces 8 to 9 inches (20 to 23 cm ) to its coverage; it has a length of thirty-four feet (10.3 m), width of twenty-two feet (6.7 m); it has two stories. We divided the first floor into two – one the half we made our chapel until something better; the other a beautiful large room, which will serve as a kitchen and which will house our people (ie workers ). The second floor has a nice big room and four smaller ones, two of which we have built slightly larger than the other [with] chimneys to place the diseased so that they are alone. The wall is made of good stone, sand and good lime – better than that which is done in France. Below is a cellar twenty feet square and seven deep.

Workers, a kitchen and a cellar. Hmm. As a bit of background if only for Bailey as to where I am going with this, I am comparing the Recollets with their lack of records who were in New France from the mid-1610s to the late 1620s with their replacements, the Jesuits, who were very good record keepers. The roles of beer with the latter group is well illustrated in their reports of life into New France for 1636, in the form of reports back to France describing the life, work and needs of the young agricultural community:

Twenty men will clear in one year thirty arpents of land, so clean that the plow can pass through it; if they had an interest in the matter, perhaps they would do more. There are some places which are much easier than others. The usual task for each man is an arpent and a half a year, if he is not engaged in other work. As rations, each one is given two loaves of bread, of about six or seven pounds, a week,—that is, a puncheon of flour a year; two pounds of lard, two ounces of butter, a little measure of oil and of vinegar; a little dried codfish, that is, about a pound; a bowlful of peas, which is about a chopine [pint],—and all this for one week. As to their drinks, they are given a chopine of cider per day, or a quart of beer, and occasionally a drink of wine, as on great fête-days. In the winter they are given a drop of brandy in the morning, if one has any.

In the next decade, skilled brewing becomes established in the colony. In 1646 the Jesuit records state: “Our brother Ambroise was employed, from the 1st of May till the 20th, in preparing barley at notre dame des Anges, and the beer.” So if the Jesuits were splashing around the beer and other drink in the second quarter of the 1600s, should it not be reasonable to assume the Recollets were doing so in the first quarter, too?

“Grain Suffisamment Pour Faire De La Biere”

hebertThe footnote quoting a text from 10 August 1620 actually reads in full:

Nous avon du grain suffisamment pour faire du pain and de la bière

That statement was written by Denis Jamet, Récollet missionary at Quebec in New France. When I wrote the bit about New France in Ontario Beer a year ago, I only thought to state that beer “came to New France at the latest in the 1630’s with Jesuit priests who brewed as part of their daily duties.” Hadn’t thought of the Récollets. The Jesuits come along a little later and, by 1634, they have a full brewery was being planned but in Quebec the Récollets were here first. I’ve been reading about their entry into the extremely sparce European population along the St. Lawrence Valley in the early seventeenth century in Champlain’s Dream by D.H. Fischer. In 1617 when there were 50 or 60 male residents of New France, there were four Récollets, three at Quebec and one further west at Huronia in what is now central Ontario. Denis Jamet was one of them. He came to New France for a second stint on board Champlain’s spring 1617 sailing from France to the new world.

Early New France did not do without strong drink. As part of their provisions, every year “they imported generous quantities of eau-de-vie, wine and cider.” People were arriving, too. Along with Denis Jamet, in 1617 the first permanent colonial family arrived in New France: Louis Hébert and Marie Rollet along with their three children. Hébert takes up planting, serving as apothecary to the settlement and starts over the next few years to create some economic stability and wealth for his small clan. He dreams of being on a stamp one day. He dies in January 1627 but not before he he becomes, as noted, also associated with “une chaudière à brasserie” – a brewing kettle. This document mentions it arriving in 1622. Which means, if Jamet is to be trusted in that first bit I quoted up there, the first colonists were making beer at least two years before the kettle arrive. Makes sense. Raw ale was a thing. And these technologies like kettles took time to all get in place. Apparently the plough Hébert requested showed up a year after he died.

Which leads to a bit of a puzzle for me. When Jamet made that statement, who is the “nous” – the Récollets only or the population of New France as a whole. Perhaps just the priests yet this brewing history of Quebec seems to indicate that both Hébert and the Récollets were brewing in or before 1620. None of this will win the prize as to the first beer brewed in what is now Canada as that was clearly going on in Newfoundland at Cupids in the early 1610s and was likely also being done for a few decades before that by summering West Country English fishermen on the Newfoundland shores who brought along barrels of malt. I do think, however, that Hébert and/or the Récollets may be the first to grow their own grain for beer making, to take control of the whole process. Hébert is understood to be the first wheat farmer in New France.

He was also the apothecary. You will recall that I posted a while back about Richard Whitbourne, who was in Newfoundland around the same time and described how “many of our Nation finding themselues ill, haue brused some of the herbes and strained the iuyce into Beere.” One of the things folk were struggling with was how to survive in North America. Baffin and his crew get hammered by scurvy in the Arctic 1616 and in the years before that Champlain loses many early overwintering explorers to the disease. He thought that it had to do with having access to fresh meat. They are working out new Baroque era medical science on the edge of known world. And likely experimented with the properties of their beer as part of that process.

What is not to like? Exploring farmer scientist educated devout brewing adventurers. What did you do today?

Quebec Beer-Drinkers Cardiomyopathy?

This article at the CBC.ca website answers a question about a major event in Quebec’s brewing history:

One of the first published reports on cobalt intoxication was in 1967. Called “Quebec beer drinkers’ cardiomyopathy,” doctors described 44 men in their 40s to 60s who were heavy drinkers who died unexpectedly. “There was a suspense element to the story,” recalled cardiologist Dr. Yves Morin of Quebec City. “It took a lot of time and effort to find a cause of the disease.” It turned out the men all drank beer made at the Dow brewery in Quebec City. The brewery had added cobalt to stabilize the beer’s foam.

Here is the actual medical journal from the 1960s on the outbreak. I had heard more about that the brewery had denied responsibility and dumped its inventory in the river than they were putting cobalt in the beer. Cobalt. Yum.