It’s Your Mid-October Beer News For A Thursday

Another Thursday, another week of watching the ticker tape of tweets go by. I turn 55 and 1/2 today. Because it’s my brother’s birthday and he was born a year and a half to the day before me. That’s some sort of news. Or at least cause to buy myself a treat. I bought one yesterday, a carrot pale ale from the Oakville, Ontario branch of the 3 Brasseurs brewpub chain. It was quite yum.  Lovely and thick like a medieval beer fan would want.

The really big news this week was, I suppose, the death of All About Beer magazine, as wonderfully eulogized… almost pre-eulogized, in fact… by Jeff:

…as recently as a couple years ago, the magazine was in the midst of its most impressive period of content. The magazine looked great and Holl had the best writers in the business working on excellent, deeply-reported stories. The design of the magazine—never its strength—was also rich and interesting. And, Holl told me, “Even as online news became the standard, when I was editor we saw print subscriptions rise.” The problem wasn’t editorial—it came from the business side.

This blog was in AAB a few times for which I am entirely grateful. The old Christmas photo contest was supported by the magazine during the Julie Johnson Daniel Bradford era with prize packages and the winning entry even published on a couple of occasions. I also think a book review written by Holl of Ontario Beer graced its pages. If I had any complaint it was how, at a critical moment, a lot of the attention granted to the writings of beer bloggers was transitioned four or five years ago into those AAB blog columns – for which the writers were certainly paid but it also set up the expectation that there was money in writing about beer. I have not only thought this belief to be suspect but also undermines excellent amateur writing where I find the depths are actually explored. But, even if that was true…even if my semi-snark had a point, there was certainly no lack of nobility in the efforts behind publishing AAB all those years and many previously isolated writers were encouraged as a result. It is a loss to us all. Where will its digital archives go?

Ben has written about another sort of ending, his speculations starting on the wrong track upon hearing the news of what ended up being the retirement of the last of the three founders of Ontario’s Steam Whistle:

My tweet that started a conversation today predicted today’s Steam Whistle announcement might be about either a buy-out or a cannabis venture. And while that’s not what this announcement was, in light of Heaps’ departure, I actually feel a little more strongly that one of those outcomes might now be possible. Big beer companies tend to have better luck putting a dollar amount to a brewery when the people who built that brewery aren’t around any more…

If you don’t follow the tweets of @BarMas you are missing his adventures in German village life including his recent morning out in the orchard with his odd semi-tractor thingie, illustrated under the thumbnail to the right, gathering apples so that he can make insane amounts of cider. We all need odd things that keep us sane. Being odd is good. Me, I like tweed and I buy flags off some guy in India who gets them off cutting yard ships. Barry’s include this green semi-tractor. What are yours? You better find one or two or you will just mainline beer obsession, which is never good. Beer needs companion oddnesses to keep it in its place.

Conversely, what is the value of excitement over an experience only one in a billion can enjoy? If its enjoyable at all, that is. So, beyond self-affirmation through defeating the fear of losing out appears to be self-affirmation through abandoning the fear of losing out through accepting… losing out:

The Macallan 60-Year-Old 1926 takes this rarity to a higher level and is the zenith for collectors of The Macallan whisky. Sir Peter Blake (the renowned artist responsible for the album cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) and Valerio Adami were asked to design a label each for this special bottling, and 12 individually numbered bottles from each artist were released. 

Perhaps relatedly, I was never so pleased to read about a pediococcus infection as when I was reading tweets between Garrett O. and Lars G. on the subject:

This is a pediococcus infection. The bacteria forms a mucilaginous substance in the beer, often forming long strands. The old term for such beer is “ropy”. In lambics, this substance is eventually broken down by Brett. In the meantime (or otherwise) horrible.

See, Lars finally met a beer made with kveik (actually a muri) that he did not like. Thick in the way an ale should not be thick. And I, as a result, finally learned exactly what “ropy” means… after reading about it for years in all those pre-modern texts.

The talk of cask goes on. Matt C took some exception in fact to some of the talk of cask:

Cask ale is no more difficult to make than any beer. Good cellar-ship with cask, like with keg, is a skill, and requires due care and attention, but it’s not that difficult. As wonderful as it is, I wish people would stop romanticising a dispense method in this manner.

Well, it is more than dispense but it is romanticized. Care of the cellar is fundamental to the success of the dispense. And being careful and taking time is not something we value as we should. As we should value tweed, orchards and flags salvaged from scows beached on an India ocean scene. But not too much. Jack Duckworth kept a cellar, after all. Besides, what’s so bad about layering on a little romance?

You know, saying a sad goodbye to All About Beer isn’t over romanticizing things either. Nor admiring the semi-tractor in a field Teutonic. Baking a mash and knowing it’s keptinis and not kveik isn’t romanticizing either, even if its a bit nerdy. We are all nerds. We are folk who might admire a vintage bus rally now and then. Accept it. Me, I have just cut and pasted a whole bunch of links related to early North American colonies and especially the failed 1587 colonizing expedition by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, all to see if I can coax enough for a nerdy post out of it all. The romance of it all is real even if there is an ultimate lack of substance. Or is there? Perhaps this is all what is real.

I’ll have to think about that when I am not day dreaming about 1587 over the week ahead. I hope you have something to fill the idle hour until then, too. As you do, check out Boak and Bailey for more beer news on the weekend. That’ll help.

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.

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.

All The Good News Beer News For 03Q218

What day is it? The meds are making for a blur. Without getting overly graphic, the other day there were four hands within inches of my nose and two of them were working a thread and needle. Gums were tightened. Rearranged. Anyway, it’s not been a time for gulping buckets of ales and lagers but it has been a great time to wallow in both mild misery and brewing related social media with a slight sense that things are either not right or, you know, the meds… so…

First off, given Vlad’s news in the lead up to the Russian performance art event mimicking an election that he now controls a nuclear powered cruise missile as well as a submarine bomb that now hover and skulk amongst us all ready to strike if we… what… say bad things about him… well, in light of that the news about Russian barley seems a little less important. But, it is interesting to read how Russia has become a key bulk exporter of our favorite grain. I don’t expect this to directly change much – but indirectly, the overall market might get shifted in a way that benefits the Western beer buying public due to new malt quality barley flooding the market.

While we Canadians are (i) subject to the Crown-in-Canada and (ii) members of the Commonwealth, I can’t imagine setting the opening hours according to somebody’s wedding. Do my UK readers care?

Lew blogged.

Next, if you click on the thumbnail to the right, you will see a promotional photo for BrewDog* from, I am told via Stringers on Twitter, the year 2014. Yet neither of the Google Image searches for “BrewDog sexism” and “BrewDog feminism” are otherwise particularly productive. So… keep all that in mind as you read on about their great new PunkNotWorthy class PR stunt (coming just days on the heels of their million beer giveaway PR stunt) and then their still a teensie-weensie bit odd apologetic confessional. Why mention the “talented team of women at BrewDog” as you ask to be excused for an admittedly botched stunt? Being newbies to taking an actual stance on an actual thing exterior to their imperial corporate existence, it seems they also borrowed this from (or at least failed to heed the failings of) the sexist / not sexist stratagem behind last week’s gaff by Stone. The best that can be said now might be that it is bad if superficial marketeering. The best we can hope upon reflection is that it was an entirely miscalculated act of sincerity by a corporation that is fairly immune to simple sincerity. Further comment: Mhairi McFarlane, Craft Queer, and many more. And M. Noix Aux Bières made an interesting observation:

There’s something badly wrong with the beer media when a company messing up its marketing gets more coverage than their announcement, in the same week, that they messed up one of their recipes.

Is that all there is? Big bulk craft. Getting it fairly wrong. Again? Leaning on the PR. Again. Because that’s what big bulk craft does. Does anyone care about these globalists anymore? It’s great route to medium term millions but the long term often see weirdnesses arise. The yeasty yogurt non-movement of 2016, for example. If you need any further proof of that reality, look at the news released on Tuesday that Sierra Nevada is changing direction, dropping innovation, getting back to lean on its flagship SNPA and hiring a PR firm to flog it.  Subtext: branch plant expansion hasn’t panned out, sales have dropped, panic setting in, “let’s not let SNPA turn out like Sam Adams” muttered around the executive committee room during breaks even as they set out on that same path.

There is another way. A more thoughtful path. This interview of Francis Lam, host of NPR’s The Splendid Table contained this interesting tidbit about the relationship between good drink and food:

There are people who have a beautiful wine with every meal, but for a lot of people that act signifies something special. You have to eat, but you don’t have to drink, so the idea of having something at the table that is there, almost purely for pleasure, is meaningful. I think for a lot of people that signifies that we’re here to actually enjoy, rather than just feed.

This is an aspect of the beer and food pairing discussion does not focus on, giving all the attention as it does to restaurant settings. Simply gathering and enjoying. How rad. It is even more interesting when considered along with this column from the ever excellent Eric Asimov of The New York Times in which he discusses how austere herbal old school value Bordeaux go so well with food even if not separate sipping. It would be interesting to see unloved or less understood beers highlighted alongside foods served at home that bring out their better natures… but that would require craft beer and pop beer writers to admit (i) value matters and (ii) some prominent beers are, you know, sorta duds.  But you are not a slave to either trade associations or the other voices who would control you, are you. Have some pals over, treat them swell and see what works over dinner. After all, this is only beer we are talking about.

Infogramtastic news! This important NEIPA tasting graphic passed by my eye this week. Click for a larger size for the full details. This decade’s wide leg jeans.

Celebrity newbie brewer or local newbie brewer?

And finally, Pete added a strong contribution to the discussion about pay-to-play in beer writing** as sort of a wrapper around a disclosure statement about a drinky junket to Catalonia:

I’m going because I’ve been keen to check out the explosion in Spanish craft beer for several years now and think there will be some genuinely interesting stories, but haven’t been able to afford to do it under my own steam. Will my reporting of the trip be influenced by the fact that I’m being given hospitality? I don’t believe so (beyond the fact that I’m actually there, of course.) But any story I write about it will carry a disclaimer explaining that it’s been paid for by someone else, so the reader can make up their own mind.

While we have never met,*** Pete and I have gotten along as web-pals for well over a decade but don’t really see eye to eye on this in each instance… but we see the same questions the situation raises so it was good to read his commentI was wondering what your reaction would be!” For me there are two things: self-certification and subject matter control.

As I have said before, it is not up to the writer to suggest that they are the self-certifying measure of any reliability. Only the reader can judge the result. But as long as there is disclosing, the judgement is informed. When I hear of folk presenting as beer experts or, worse, journalists quietly running review-for-pay schemes or side-gigs as law firm holiday tap takeover party as partnering hosts but not openly disclosing, I tend to place their other work in, umm, context. I am entirely sympathetic to the need to make money in a minor niche like good beer but one person simply can’t be all things. Promote and influence or research and write. The key word being “or” of course.

The bigger problem is one Pete might be implying in passing: “…beyond the fact that I’m actually there, of course…” It’s not, in fact, that he is there. It’s that he is not somewhere else. Where no one else is. Where no trade or tourist association pays the bills for travel and hotel. Where the beer isn’t free. I put it this way:

I need to better unpack your thoughts. You sit near a line. Main general quib? Lost stories of the unjunketed topics. Explorations. The work of @larsga is best example. Deep down, though, perhaps I never admired you more than when you were mid-Atlantic alone on a container ship!

Lars Marius Garshol, without a doubt, has done more to exemplify what researching in the service of understanding beer and brewing should be than anyone else in this decade. He has spent what seems to be every spare moment and every dime on seeking out the rural, secret brewing patterns lurking in the countryside of the northern third of Europe from Norway to Russia. These sorts of creative efforts and the resulting independent focus is what leads to innovative, interesting and reliable writing.  He sets a very high standard for not only me, the playboy amateur armchair historian, but even places more driven and diligent traveling researchers like Robin and JordanBoak and Bailey, Ron and (yes, of course) Pete**** in rich context. But it is a shared context. Pete makes that very clear, sets out the whole picture and places himself in that picture at his own angle of repose. We all do that. It’s just that some do it better and more openly than others while a few don’t at all. It shows.

There. Another week in the books. Please also check out Saturday’s take on the news from BB2 as well as Monday’s musings from Stan. I look forward to their corrections and dismissals and outright rejections of some or all of what sits above. It’s no doubt what’s needed.

*Disclaimer: I got boxes of BrewDog samples a decade ago. And I think I may have bought one small can of their beer coming up on five years ago on this trip.
**Disclaimer: I got boxes of BrewDog samples a decade ago. And I think I may have bought one small can of their beer coming up on five years ago on this trip.
***Because I hardly ever go anywhere…
****In fact, if I had the money, I would fund them all to chase after narrow and likely hopeless projects knowing they would come up with some of the best finding and writings as a result.

A Few (Hah!) Additional Tudor Calais Brewery Tidbits

The Tudor resources over at British History Online are a wee bucket of gold. The last few posts under the 1500s tag are largely from the Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1, 1509-1514 pages. Rather than string these last fragmentary references to beer and brewing into a likely false and certainly shallow narrative due to my lack of wider historical context, let’s just plunk them down chronologically for your consideration to see what might be made of them. Remember: rushing to any conclusion is the hallmark of disastrous pseudo-history jampacked with inauthenticity. Once I lay them out upon the table, you may feel inspired to criticize and/or praise – whether in the comments or on social media at some later date. Prehaps catch up a bit with the last few posts on the brewing plans of Henry VIII.  Or just to lay upon a sofa thinking, as if you were Billy Wordsworth considering those daffodils. Feel free. Live it up.

First up, on 24 June 1509 the coronation of King Henry VIII is recorded and with it there is a list of the members of the royal household with their functions. John Knolles, yeoman “brewer” is noted under the pantry staff. Edward Atwood, yeoman “brewer” falls under the group managing the cellar. Within the buttery we find William Kerne, yeoman ale taker as well as both Thomas Cooke and William Bowman who are groom ale takers. I might suppose that these functions relate to the distribution of ale throughout the household seeing how they are located and described. Is it a case of ale at home, beer abroad? Let’s see.

In February 1512, we read of numerous royal grants of position. Grants of ecclesiastical office, grants of land to the widow of an earl. And also

Thomas Loye, brewer, of London. Protection for one year; going in the suite of Sir Gilbert Talbot, Deputy of Calais. 

This is Gilbert Talbot. He traveled with his own brewer. England controlled Calais from 1346 to 1558 and Henry VIII early in his reign seems to have an great interest in ensuring it is well resourced.

On 1 October 1512, we have another record indicating the broad and integrated nature of the economy of the royal enterprise:

Account of “the victuals provided by John Shurley, cofferer of the King’s most honorable household, and John Heron, supervisor of the King’s customhouse in London, the 1st day of Oct. the 4th year of the reign of King Henry the VIII.th, for a relief of victual for the King’s army upon the sea in whaftyng (wafting) of the herring fleet upon the coast of Norfolk and Suffolk where divers of the French ships of war lay.”

Provisions with costs, viz., biscuit 72,325lbs. at 5s. the 100, and straw to lay them on, from 39 bakers named; beef, from 6 butchers in Eastcheap, 11 in St. Nicholas Fleshambles, 2 in Aldgate, total 112 pipes; beer, from 12 brewers, at 6s. 8d. the pipe (p. 11); fish “gret drye code Hisselonde fishe,” at 38s. 4d. every 124, from 2 fishmongers (p. 13); freight to 8 masters of vessels (p. 14); petty costs (p. 16); remanets (p. 19).

So, you have a navy to protect the fishermen from the French fleet and supply the fishing fleet and navy with food – including fish – to ensure the supply of fish.

Next, on 12 May 1513, The Privy Council of Henry VIII received new of a fairly particular concern related to West Country ale as preparations are made for  the needs of a great army:

Since the Admiral’s coming, he has given orders, notwithstanding the King’s and Council’s commands, that no more beer is to be made in the West, as, being made of oaten malt, it will not keep so well as that made of barley malt. The soldiers are not as willing to drink it as the London beer brewed in March, which is the best month. Nevertheless, when in Brittany, they found no fault with it, but received it thankfully, and since they have been in Plymouth they have drank 25 tuns in 12 days; but now so much beer is come from London that they will not drink the country beer. My Lord of Winchester has written to the Admiral that he shall henceforth be sufficiently furnished at Portsmouth from time to time….”The quantity of victuals provided by them in the West is as follows. In Plymouth, 200 pipes of beer, 46 pipes of flesh, 20 pipes of biscuit; besides bread, biscuit, flesh and beer spent by the soldiers on land the last 12 days, for which they paid. At Dartmouth, 60 pipes of biscuit, 24 pipes of flesh, 150 pipes of beer, 300 doz. loaf bread, 200 of fish. At Exeter and Opsam, 50 pipes biscuit, 600 doz. loaf bread, 160 pipes of beer, 40 pipes flesh, 1,200 of fish.

That passage is fascinating just on the basis of the ratio of beer in the dietary demands of an army alone, but note that the news is being spread that better beer is to be had out of the recently constructed mega-brewery at Portsmouth. You also have three classes of beer described: country oaten beer from the West, City beer from London and industrial mega-brewing at Portsmouth.

Just nine days later, on 21 May 1513 the need for pipes or barrels for the beer was identified as being in short supply. Thomas Wolsey, then the chief almoner to Henry, was advised by his former master at court and soon-to-be if not now servant Richard Fox(e) as follows:

The Captain of the Isle of Wight desires Wolsey’s favor in the matter now before him. Some of my Lord Lisle’s captains desire wages for their folks that shall attend on their carriages to Calais. John Dawtrey will write the rest. Wants empty pipes for the beer. “I fear that the pursers will deserve hanging for this matter.” There shall be beer enough, if pipes may be had, “which I pray God send us with speed, and soon deliver you of your outrageous charge and labor; and else ye shall have a cold stomach, little sleep, pale visage, and a thin belly, cum rara egestione: all which, and as deaf as a stock, I had when I was in your case.”

The fear of failure was both personal and in relation to the enterprise at hand.

In June 1513, also as part of the preparations for Calais, we have this lovely specific reference to a particular person:

Wm. Antony, the King’s beer brewer. Commission for six months to provide brewers for the King’s beer brewing at Calais for the great army about to go beyond sea. 

In August 1513, we see a record under the heading “The King’s Horses” of oats for horses being sidetracked to a brewer who seemed to be not exactly involved with Henry’s horses:

Account of prests (in all 25l. 4s. 8d.) and payments (in all 22l. 6s. 8d.) for hay, oats and beans sent to Calais. Some of the oats were sold to Master Alday at Sandwich, for his beerhouse. 

In that same month, we also see references to the carriage of beer to Calais which indicates that the brewing there on the continent had not reached a scale allowing for local self-sufficiency. Interestingly, the beer seems to be flowing in a number of directions – (i) to ships, (ii) to Calais as well as (iii) from Calais:

“The Dockette of William Ston’s Boke,” being jottings and calculations of payments due for carriage of beer and victuals for ships including his own wages at 18d. a day for 218 days, and at 10d. a day for four days when occupied in receiving beer from Calais.

All the efforts to bolster Calais were occurring in the context of (imagine!) a war with France as I noted in the last post. As part of that larger war, Scotland did as Scotland did (oh, my people!) and decided to undertaken yet another (imagine!) suicidal adventure.* As Henry was fighting to the south, he himself at battle on the continent, Lord Howard raced to deal with an invasion of Scots and associated northern border folks. Disaster ensued for the invaders which you can read about in Howard’s report to Henry provided on 20 September 2013:

On the 9 Sept. the King of Scots was defeated and slain. Surrey, and my Lord Howard, the admiral, his son, behaved nobly. The Scots had a large army, and much ordnance, and plenty of victuals. Would not have believed that their beer was so good, had it not been tasted and viewed “by our folks to their great refreshing,” who had nothing to drink but water for three days. They were in much danger, having to climb steep hills to give battle. The wind and the ground were in favor of the Scots. 10,000 Scots are slain, and a great number of noblemen. They were so cased in armour the arrows did them no harm, and were such large and strong men, they would not fall when four or five bills struck one of them. The bills disappointed the Scots of their long spears, on which they relied. Lord Howard led the van, followed by St. Cuthbert’s banner and the men of the Bishopric. The banner men won great honor, and gained the King of Scots’ banner, which now stands beside the shrine. The King fell near his banner. (fn. 9) Their ordnance is taken. The English did not trouble themselves with prisoners, but slew and stripped King, bishop, lords, and nobles, and left them naked on the field. 

“Would not have believed that their beer was so good” is perhaps the grimmest tasting note in the English language. Over 10,000 Scots died at Flodden even though they outnumbered the English. The English lost 1500.

In March 1514, once the wars to the south and north as settling or settled, we see more stability. And there is a very handy account for victualing for Calais which contains my favourite 1500s reference – malt. When they are shipping malt it means there is brewing at the destination – if not sometimes even on board the ship in transit. Meaning there is stability and perhaps peace:

John Miklowe, Thomas Byrkes, and Brian Roche. Release of 20,910l. 16s. 10d., received by them through Sir John Daunce, for purveying provisions for the army with the King beyond seas; and of 392l. 15s. received by sale of a part of the said provisions; and of various quantities (specified) of flour, wheat, casks, malt, oats, beer, flitches of bacon, &c., received by them from William Browne, junr., Richard Fermour and George Medley, merchants of the Staple of Calais, John Ricrofte and John Heron, surveyor of customs, &c., in the port of London. 

Another even more detailed account including some similar names was sent the next month, April 1514:

Received of John Daunce 500l. Of Ric. Fermor, Wm. Browne and Geo. Medley, 1,000 barrels of flour at 10s.; 3,611 barrels 4 bushels 3 pecks at 8s. a barrel; 40 qrs. of wheat for brewing beer at [10]s. the qr.; empty beer barrels, 408 tons at 5s. the ton. Of John Ricroft, 7, 845 qrs. 1 bu. malt, at 5s. 4d. a qr. Of John Heron of the Custom House, London, 150 tons of beer, 150l., and 180 flitches of bacon, 13l. 10s. Received from John Daunce, for wages, by John Myklawe, Thos. Byrks and Brian Roche, 2,710l. 16s. 10d.; and by John Myklowe, and Wm. Briswoode, 3,000l. Receipt by the guaves of malt: Myklowe, Byrks and Roche charge themselves of every qr. of malt received by them “at Calais and there sold and uttered to be guaved,” 7,845 qrs. at 12d. a qr. Total received by them for victualling, wages and carriage, as appears in three books of accounts, 25,625l. 6s. 6d. Paid by them for empty foists, &c., 1,745l. 13s. 5¾d. on victuals remaining unspent, 2,235l. 11s. 8d. Losses of victuals, 2,929l. 11s. 8d. In hand, in debts, obligations and ready money, 12,574l. 3s. 4¾d. Wages of war, conduct money and jackets, for officers, artificers, carters, &c., 2,674l. 7s. 2d. For the carriage of victuals to Saint Omesr’s, 3,429l. 9s. 9¾d. Total, 25,588l. 16s. 10d. Arrearage of this account, 36l. 9s. 8d.

Interesting that the “wages of war” sometimes just meant the payment for folk and stuff to wage war with. Also, there is wheat specifically for brewing mentioned. I have not idea what “guaves of malt” are. I could not find that term listed as a unit of measurement. Seems connected to the reselling of the malt – meaning there is private brewing going on at Calais. Note also the shipment of empty beer barrels which would have, I assume, been of a specific size and perhaps durability.

On 29 May 1514, there is another reference indicating the brewing at Calais was being established at a certain scale:

Indenture witnessing delivery at Calais, 29 May 6 Hen. VIII., by John Ward to Wm. Pheleypson and Th. Granger, of 20 “myln” horses for the beer houses and 80 cart horses for the victualling of the King’s army royal.

Are “myln” horses used in the milling process?

On 12 August 1514, we have more accounting for the shipment of empty beer barrels as well as a lovely note for another necessary for beer – hops:

Giving amounts, persons by whom delivered, &c., of flour, malt, bacon, hops, bay salt, empty beer barrels and cart and mill horses. Signed: per me Thomam Byrkes.

Attentive readers, all two of you, will recall that three years ago we looked at a early modern word search tool and saw how “hops” or “hoppes” came into far more common use on a very particular date roughly around 1518.  So this use of hops not only and early one in English culture but also, given this is state enterprise in the form of the industrial military complex, it is very timely… very early in the timely if you ask me. Also, goes some way to dispel the idea that Henry was against hops – he just didn’t want them in his ale.

In the miscellaneous records related to 1514, we see a few records that seem to be reconciling expenses related to the French war now that things had settled down. In particular we see records related to one  John Dawtrey, only described as “a captain of the army” which must have been a more important rank than we would understand today:

Money advanced by John Dawtrey.—Payments for “land wages of the King’s army by sea”; for the army mustered before the commissioners at Portsmouth, to serve in campaign of 6 Hen. VIII.; “for wages of the army upon sea, the 6th year”; for provisions, ordinance, masts and other necessaries; for taking up a great chain; for wages of “captains, petty captains and soldiers called Swcheners when they were in the Isle of Wight,” for 5 months from 30 Dec. 4 Hen. VIII.; for fitting out The Soveraigne; for the carrack called The Gabriell Royall; for beer and bake-houses at Portsmouth; for making two gates (?) at the castles, and repairing the ditches there; and for repairing the ships.

These expenses appear to be broken out or added to in “a letter from my Lord of York to John Dawtrey.” Total: 2,100£. Or $2,369,137.42 USD today.

“Petition for sundry payments for which the accomptant has no warrant”; viz., payments for biscuits and western fish “in a great storm lost”; to Nich. Cowart, for loss in sale of wheat after the wars, and for his wages as “supervisour and having the charge of the byscuett,” and purveyor of wheat, from 24 Jan. 4 Hen. VIII. to 7 Nov. 6 Hen. VIII.; for wages of John Dawtrey and his two clerks, from 16 April 3 Hen. VIII. to 12 Sept. 6 Hen. VIII.; for carriage of money remaining in the hands of John Dawtrey from Hampton to London, &c.; for biscuits in the hands of Nich. Cowert and John Dawtrey; to Hen. Tylman of Chichester, brewer, for beer; to Rich. Gowffe of Chichester, baker, for biscuits; to _ Serle of Brighthempston, for barrels; for remainder “of wood vessels, carts, leighter and divers other necessaries,” in the charge of Rich. Palshed, at Portsmouth. “Money paid and advanced by Richard Palshed”:—for wages of brewers, millers, beer-clerks, mill-makers, coopers, surveyors, master-brewers, horse-keepers and smiths, attending upon the King’s brewhouses at Portsmouth, 5 and 6 Hen. VIII., and of certain brewers and mariners from 22 Aug. 6 Hen. VIII. to 31 March following; for expences in carriage of beer, for rent of houses, for building a great store-house at Portsmouth, for repairing the King’s garners and beer-houses at Portsmouth, for loss in sale, “after the war was done, of mill and dray-horses, wheat, malt, oats and hops; for wheat, malt, hops and beer lost and damaged at sea, and for wages of the said Rich. Palshed and his two clerks.”

Turns out Dawtrey was the Overseer of the Port of Southampton and Collector of the King’s Customs so sending him all the bills makes sense. He appears to be in charge of building and operating Henry’s four great brew houses as well as Lord Howard’s beer barrel storehouses at Portsmouth as well as paying for beer brewed by others like Henry Tylman of Chichester as well as Richard Palshed who we saw referenced as “Palshid” and “Palshide” in that brew house post. Palshed must have been the general manager brewing operations as well as likely a Member of Parliament.

Two decades on, the brewing operations at Calais are still going… sort of. In the Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic of the Reign of Henry VIII: Preserved in the Public Record Office, the British Museum and Elsewhere in England, Volume 9 we find the following from 27 December 1535:

Petition of Jas. Wadyngborne, of Calais, to Cromwell, chief secretary. His brewhouse at the Cawsey in the marches of Calais was destroyed in the last wars, and he then bought a house in the town standing over against the King’s Exchequer. At the King’s last being at Calais, he bought this house and others “in the said quadrant,” to the petitioner’s great loss. Bought a new house in the Middleway near the town for more than 200l., and daily brews for the town, paying excise and other charges as if he were within. ill be compelled to cease brewing in consequence of a late Act concerning the woods in the Marches, unless Cromwell obtain for him the King’s license to brew as heretofore.

There you go. Lots to chomp on. Life truly is a gas between the wars.

*See, for example, Darien.

Rebus Drinking In Scotland and England

bow1

Something very odd has happened to me over these last two months, August and September. I am reading novels. Rebus novels. I haven’t read novels for years. Decades. For some reason, I was driven off fiction by being an usher at a playhouse in undergrad. Perhaps watching plays repeatedly had the same effect as watching sausages getting made. Don’t know. Then a career in reading and writing masses of pages every week put me off pleasure reading of any sort for a long time. I’d browse through histories, graze upon articles and essays and write plenty. Hunting for clues in newspapers of the Georgians to Edwardians took a big part of my time. But undisrupted cover to cover novel reading? Never.

Then we traveled to Scotland twice in a year, spending time with family, looking out the windows of pubs. I’ve since added BBC Scotland to the regular radio playing in the background as life goes on around the house. Followed the news. And then one of the Rebus books came as a gift. Detective fiction set near to the Firth of Forth. I was little worried about it when I unwrapped it. I work with police so I was thinking it wouldn’t be much of a break from working life so it sat from spring to summer. I am now on my sixth novel in seven weeks. Consider this:

In a large pub near the tube station, a barn of a place with walls painted torrid red, Rebus remembered that he had not tried the local brews since coming south. He’d gone for a drink with George Flight, but had stuck to whisky. He looked at the row of pumps, while the barman watched him, a proprietorial hand resting on one pump. Rebus nodded towards this resting hand.
‘Is it any good.’
The man snorted. ‘It’s bloody Fuller’s, mate, of course it’s good.’
‘A pint of that then, please.’
The stuff turned out to have a watery look, like cold tea, but tasted smooth and malty. The barman was still watching him, so Rebus nodded approval, then took his glass to a distant corner where the public telephone stood.

That passage up there is from an early novel, 1992’s Tooth and Nail. Even though it’s from the one book in England, it’s typical of the tone. Plain. Observational. Often a dark corner. Always menace. Always drink. My cousins kept telling me to get to the Oxford Bar when I was in Edinburgh, the favourite of the stories’ main character. Haven’t made it there yet. Plenty of other good pubs saw me crossing the doorstep. Plenty that show up in the Rebus stories, too, both high and low. Well written recognizable realistic descriptions of unadorned pub life. Not always pretty.

It’s the sort of writing that gives you hope. So much that is written about the ordinary course of things – and especially about beer and pubs – is either pumped and puffed up or made stark to attract an audience. And certainly the Rebus stories do the latter through their narrative and pace. But not the setting. The fresh baked baps glow warm in the hands of the officer returning home after a night shift. The pubs have smells. The streets chatter. One hint. I’ve spent reasonable lengths of time in Edinburgh on five or six occasions so far in life so I have a sense of some of its parts. But not others. Bob Steel’s Edinburgh Pub Walks – with its photos, maps and pub descriptions – places a lot of the action in the Rebus novels directly into context. As good a companion guide as I might want even if unintentional.

David Shrigley’s “My Beer”

I heard this yesterday on BBC 6 at about 3:30 in the afternoon. On Iggy Pop‘s show. Afternoon off. Snoozing on a summer day. Or was it folding laundry. Catching up with chores or closed eyelids. David Shrigley is a Glaswegian, five years younger than me. He works in various media including short animated movies. He’s done one about laundry. I’ve worked in short film myself. And astronaut art.

I love it. While “beer communicators” are off being told what to write by brewery publicists who can’t believe their luck, “My Beer” an expression about beer. It’s about what the one drinker thinks – or perhaps might think – if he or she thought about beer. The film is an animation of Shrigley’s piece by the same name from his 2004 book Let’s Wrestle.

Your Saturday Morning News Not From Boak And Bailey

Six thirty Ay Hem. That’s what you get when you go to bed early on a Friday. After having a nap around supper time. That’s how I think of myself on this sort of Saturday. Okocimiski.

Three elections in a row this week plus, you know, the life of a desk jockey did me in. The first election last Monday in my former tiny jurisdiction of PEI saw my old law school prof get in as Premier. The next on Tuesday in the western Canadian home of the conservative puritans saw a landslide by the socialist hoard. And in the Old Country Thursday the nationalist lefties beat out the unionist pinkos to send the aysmetrical quasi-federation into a dither. The combined effect of many split votes in the last one caused the astounding “great victory of no more votes” – quite an accomplishment. What’s this got to do with beer? Not that much. But I work in governance so am aware that some things do actually matter. What else has been going on?

=> Jim Koch is cashing in some of his shares. Note that his balance of equity seems to be worth around 63.4 million. Sure, it’s a small brewery. Sure it is.

=> In one post, Ron has explained the point of Asheville NC far more clearly than the output of 1,000 subsidized junkets. That he got there via a milk run back country bus was a deft bit of contextualization even if he had to sit on his luggage… no, his actual luggage.

=> It’s been three weeks since beer retailing in Ontario was reformed and absolutely not one thing has actually changed. Classic boondoggling. And no one is complaining. Classic Ontario. Perhaps by 2028 we’ll be allowed to hold our beer bottles with our left hands in public. After all, what really matters is the posing. Like calling something “a game changer”, Toronto has a wee problem calling itself “world class” like the needy kid back in kindergarten who told you his uncle went to space. The phenomenon is described by the term world classy.

=> Go read BB. And then do it again. Where don’t their tentacles reach? It’s like they are becoming a vast industrial complex. [Thankfully, we can trust they did not write “here’s how to unearth the ‘ultimate’ session beer” in that header.] Note: their post on May Day celebrations at Padstow in North Cornwall is one of their best ever.

=> This is funny. In far western British Columbia:

The final report of the B.C. Liquor Policy Review recommends the government consider establishing a quality assurance program for craft beer and artisan-distilled spirits, similar to the VQA, or Vintners Quality Alliance, program — which currently guarantees wines are made in B.C., with 100 per cent B.C. ingredients.

Trouble is no one checked that “local” and “craft” in beer bear scant relationship to wine so… they are left with the same sort of fibs and platitudes we always see – which led to the refreshingly honest admission: “that’s kind of thrown a wrench into the ability to focus on what the next level would be.

=> Just realized that if I started my own periodical I could name it “Al About Beer.” I would have to work on my ra-ra superlatives so maybe not.

=> Might I suggest unless one is extreeeeemely certain that a surprise beer and brunch pairing for Mother’s Day is only one thing: a quick route to the dog house. Don’t be stupid. Just because the love of your life puts up with your dependency / “hobby” it does not mean she likes it. Not at all.

Saturday. And maybe a stinking hot one as well. It was +25C¹ after deep into dusk last night. That means gardening. Letting more lettuce seed buried. Or drinks in the yard. Might get a bit Okocimiski. Jest Sobota Okocimiska? Może. Or I could just go get a growler. You have to remember that they sell lettuce at the grocery store in July, too, you know. Enjoy your Saturday. 7:45 am. People are starting to get up. Better make coffee.

¹ Disclosure: in Canada in spring there are a few days when you have to still make clear you are talking about +25C and not -25C.

Looking Out The Window Of A Pub

4820

It’s one of my favorite things to do, sitting looking out the window of a pub. This was last Monday afternoon. The Bow Bar in Edinburgh. I was just getting used to the time zone and would fly out the next day. Two guys standing at the bar in the small one room space were providing the background track to the seat with a view. Apparently, the Bow Bar is packed on weekends but who sits in bar staring out the window on weekends? It’s something to do when your colleagues are at work. When you could be writing a report. Making plans. Paying bills.

Back From That Trip To Scotland That I Mentioned…


edinburgh

I was away for a week on a business trip to Scotland. A whole week? Well, as I am the son of two of those Scots who took to the four corners of the world, I did add a couple of days of vacation but, much to my surprise, it also took 33 hours of travel to get from where I am to where I was going and then, for unknown reasons, well over 20 hours to get back. Evil ocean. Where are the supersonic subs I was promised in comic books as a kid? So while the jet lag isn’t as bad when traveling west, I still need to put things in order. A bit of a photo travelogue, then, tonight. A slide show.

image254image252image251

 

 

 

 

image250image249image248

 

 

 

 

I had not sought out the Bow Bar in Edinburgh before but if there was a ticking habit in my life I feel my one pint in the corner was one big check mark on page one. image247I was not actually hunting it out and had it in entirely the wrong place in my mind, over at the west end of Rose Street. Probably something else wonderful that I am unaware of is over there. We found ourselves standing next to it when I was hunting out a shop to buy things made of wool. I had a pint of their 3.8% house Bowhemian Ale brewed for them by Alechemy Brewing. It was testimony to the pointlessness of beer over a certain strength. Lots of body. Refreshing in the middle of a march around the town. Interesting with plenty to think about.

image253image253image244

 

 

 

 

image260image268image262

 

 

 

 

The day before the goal was well understood. We headed directly to the door of the Cafe Royal near Waverley Railway Station where we had stood in the summer only to be told the kids could not come in. The laws on kids and bars in Scotland can get quite frustrating but do allow one to consider leaving them behind on another continent with the in-laws. The place is magnificent. The opposite of the study in plainness that is the Bow Bar.

image263image264image265

 

 

 

 

image257image258image258

 

 

 

 

That was good, having the night before been at an event at Glasgow City Chambers where I sat down to dinner with – I kid you not – a Sir, a Lord, a Lady, a High Commissioner, two Right Honourables, a Baillee and… a Baroness. Got piped in and everything. image261The Cafe Royal is second only to the rooms in that municipal palace for grandeur. Not a word I use often. Grandeur. Back at the Cafe Royal, I had cullen skink as well as some smoked salmon along with a couple of pints, ROK IPA as well as an Edinburgh Pale Ale. The latter was a gem. Just 3.4% with a black tea malt lingering finish there was plenty of malt in the body. The tiled art on the southern wall of the bar is quite the thing. It appears to be a selection of great moments in science’s benefits to mankind. More on those tiles here.

The Piper Bar off George Square in Glasgow and into a weird flashback into pop metal of the 1980s and ’90s. I had a couple of pints of Bitter and Twisted as we head bobbed along with the crowd to Metallica, Iron Maiden and AC/DC. It was pretty refreshing after an evening at the high table. There were airport beers, too. A 4% Camden Pale Ale at Heathrow on the way home and an 8% Wellington Imperial Stout on the way there at Toronto Pearson. The CPA was more expensive. A lunch at The Beehive Inn on Grassmarket to the south of Edinburgh Castle featured whitebait. I want whitebait all the time now. It’s like smelt. But more like smelt-lettes. French fries made of the whole body of a tiny fish. A cheery 4.2% Crofters’ Pale Ale by An Teallach Ale Company of Camusnagaul, Dundonnell, Little Loch Broom went down with that. Just enough to get me out the door and, about an hour and a half later, into the Bow Bar.

image3

image1

image245

 

 

 

 

image272image273

 

 

 

 

What to make of all this? Certainly that there is plenty of good beer to be found even when you are not hunting it out if you are in the right sort of community and know what to look for. No sessions. Just one here. Another there. And certainly there is plenty of good beer well under the 5% lower limit that is so common in much of North America. Think I am going to head over to my local brewery and propose a collaboration. Which is code for pushy beer writer who wants a beer he can’t get. That’s it, right? Anyway, home again. Where the houses are larger and warmer. Where the grass is not a lovely shade of green in January. Where you don’t have to tip the help because it’s your teenager.