Your Thursday Beer News Update: Buy-Outs, Bad Press And Bisulfite Bother

Ah, April. As lilacs breed out of the dead land, we watch baseball beginning. Seven months ahead of baseball baseball baseball. People get spring fever and, as a consequence, sometime buy very big hats. Craig has been brewing Albany Ale again with local brewers C. H. Evans, fabulously holding up the side for the project. I think that collaboration dates now back over five years when his hat was not so tall. I also captured the moment by celebrating the very nice breakfast that I had the next day. All so excellent.

Best boozy April Fool’s Day joke. Best letter to the editor.

I find this bit of craft amnesia really strange. The idea that Allagash White stood alone with haze without reference to Pierre Celis and Hoegaarden is a bit sad. Like people suggesting that sparklers weren’t invented as a way to flog poor beer, I suppose.  Or the idea that micro/craft didn’t start beyond the USA. But, as an entire counterbalance… an antidote even, consider Nate’s incidental beer pictures in the Czech Republic or consider Lars live-baking the mash on so-me or, best of all, consider Martyn finding an ad for US hops being sold in the UK in the 1790s! Wow! I am renewed. Redeemed. You can see that I am a sensitive I might not be alone.

A sensitive man…

I am not alone. Jeff at Beervana is a bit fed up, too, with some of the latest news. He captured the mood of these buy-out PR notices with his Mad-Libs, fill in the gaps form for any craft brewers planning to take advantage of any moolah-laced opportunities:

[ _______________ ] announced today an agreement to acquire a majority interest in [ ________ ]-based [ __________ ] Brewing Company.

I found this refreshing, especially in the context a so much fretting about “rumours” which seem to the UK blogging English for knowing something but living under slightly less freedom of speech than we enjoy in North America, if we trust (as I do) the theme as illustrated by @totalcurtis. I blame an over concern with the interests of lawyers, as perhaps illustrated by Boak and Bailey. I’ve never heard of bloggers facing legal problems over sharing trade information but, well, that’s what it feels like on my side of the gown and wig.

They do raise another point: “…the question of people’s feelings.” I usually don’t put that much stock into this personally* either but then I was reminded of the thought when I read this in a review in The Guardian of Pete Brown’s new book:

Brown moved from advertising into “beer writing”, which is not much of a shift. Beer writing purports to be a branch of consumer journalism. Producer journalism would be more apt. He is forever being invited to judge competitions (beer of course, and cider, veg, pies, cakes, anything). He goes to tastings. He opens food festivals. He attends events…  The proximity of writer/critic to maker or artisan is worrying. Beer or wine or food writing often becomes a sort of dissembled advertising, or advertorial, which doesn’t announce itself save by its gushing enthusiasm and self-congratulation.

Now, even if I am a sensitive man, I point this out for the general concept not the particular. My copy of Pete’s book will come to my house in a few weeks as the release has been delayed in Canada. And I won’t review it because it’s not a beer book. But I do think the review in The Guardian was extremely mean spirited. And not in the A.A.Gill, a hero of mine, sense of mean spirited. Not even in the Pete Brown sense of a teensie mean spirited.  It was actually a bit cruel. Demeaning even.* But the general observation on beer writing set out above? Not too far off the mark for a sadly significant part of beer writing. As you know I have thought and written about for years so don’t… just… OK, fill your boots – what the heck. You gotta be you, too.

Independence.

In other news, Garrett Oliver made The Sunday New York Times. And then an interesting discussion broke out on Twitter between him and Matt C. on the meaning and value of “local” including this comment:

It’s complicated for sure. But there is an extent to which asking a brewery to “double-down on local” is like asking a 12 yr old to “double-down on adolescence.” These days “local” can mean only breweries from your own neighborhood. I can walk to five breweries from my house…

I like the point. But is it what people want today? And isn’t that the only point? The discussion started with this from Matt C and goes along through a large number of threads. Worth thinking about.*** And worth thinking about in the context of all the above and below which is really about how a wide range of writing about beer takes many forms. It’s all fairly robust even if we collectively have not caught up to that realization.

Picking hops in 1800s Wisconsin.

Confession time. I am down to maybe having one or two beers a week. Work pressures? Health concerns? Nope. Allergies. Now I am a sensitive man so I am comfortable sharing with you that more and more I am having histamine reactions from beer like many folk get with red wine. The problem has always been there but I managed it by avoiding naturally high sulfate beers like Burton IPAs or anything Burtonized.  For example, I get a headache during the first Sleemans. Always have. Hard water brewery. Then, as with one really good eastern Ontario Porter,**** I started noticing a reaction from some craft breweries that I put down to smaller newer places using sodium metabisulfite (the pink powder home brewers use) as part of the cleaning regime. That one gives me a set of thrilling achy reactions down the throat. But, recently, I have noticed a new class of randomly sulfate laced beers: some of the ones with fruity flavours added. For decades, I avoid anything that is a flaky pastry treat  that’s foil wrapped  for freshness and boasts of “real fresh fruit filling” because that stuff has actually put me in the hospital a few times. Has anyone else noticed this? I know… I am a sensitive man. And it’s not that I mind. Good for the wallet and the waist. Great sleeps, too.

Not unrelated.

That must be enough for this week. This busy week. The week that BeerAdvocate magazine wrapped it up for good. Where will we end up? Back here?

But the bartender is not quite
so sensitive as I supposed he was
the way he looks at me now
and does not appreciate my exquisite analogy

Now, it was brought home to me a long time ago that beer poems and beer history and critical essays about drinking culture will not really buy beer or flowers or a goddamn thing…

and I was sad
for I am a sensitive man

Uncertain how to cope with it all? Read Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday. That might help.

*Honestly, without being the slightest bit pointy fingery, I could not imagine writing “imagine how those team members feel learning the news from Twitter, or on some poxy beer blog” myself but that is why they are they and I am me and, beyond that, there are far more vulnerable voices out there. Too sensitive. But what can you do. Beer is made of flowers.
**Compare to this review in The Observer. Covers the same ground but seems to have no grudge. Odd. And, as I say, cruel.
***And worth hauling out again when someone once again says with a vapid flourish that you can’t explain thing in detail or have a civil discussion on Twitter.
****Which I mention only after I have had the reaction corroborated by someone else I recommended the beer to who had the same odd response.

Your Thursday Beer News Notes For The Week Winter Showed Up

I should not complain about having to shovel snow on the 20th of January when its the first real snow of the winter. It’s not that tough a life. Five weeks to March today means it won’t be all that bad from here on out. What effect has this on my beer consumption? Not so much in volume but now is the time when a pint of stout and port is added to any sensible diet. I say “a” pint with care given the concoction should be somewhere in the area of 10% alc. Yowza. But when does great reward comes without some risk?

Not long after last week’s deadline for news submissions, Ed tweeted that he had “[j]ust been sent an excellent article on rice malt beer 😉” The study describes the potential of rice for brewing and sets out an optimized malting program allowed water saving.  Which is cool. But it is also cool that it is about the use of rice which, except for corn, is the most hated of fermentables. This is despite the fact that rice beer came to Canada about 93 years ago – well after it was brewed in the U. S. of A. – a fact which has been fabulously preserved for us all in the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the case The King v. Carling Export Brewing & Malting Co. Ltd., [1930] S.C.R. 361 at page 373 about the production of beer during the era of US prohibition:

I do not think we can accept the suggestion that there was no market for lager beer in Ontario. The learned trial judge dwells upon the fact that rice beer is peculiarly an American taste, and infers that it is not sold in Ontario. The evidence in support of this does not proceed from disinterested sources and I wonder whether the boundary line so sharply affects the taste in illicit liquor. In truth, it is stated by Low that it was not until some time in 1926 that the respondents began the manufacture of rice beer, and we are not told at what date, if ever, in their brewery, rice beer wholly superseded malt beer.*

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we stopped calling it “American-style lager” and just called it rice beer… or corn beer as the case may be? Will it take another century to pass for good beer to admit this fundamental reality of North American brewing culture?

Beer at the Post Office? Thanks Vlad!

I am still not sure what to make of #FlagshipFebruary.** Like a lot of you, I have been making up alternative hashtags like #GoldenOldieAles, #FlogshipFebruary and #PartyLikeIts1999. But it’s earnestly offered and, you know, as long as there isn’t a secret spreadsheet being sent around to members of the good beer PR-consulto class prearranging who are going to each write about this or that fabulous flagship as a way to artificially drum up interest and maybe future paying PR gigs, I think we might actually come away with a reasonably good taste in our mouths.

It reminds me a lot of by far the most successful of such hashtags, #IPADay created in 2011 by this blog’s friend Ashley Routson aka The Beer Wench.*** But (and this was not really the case in 2001 so laugh not) I would argue was easier to determine what an IPA was in 2011 than figure out what “flagship” mean today. As I am l not clear what a flagship really is, I asked some questions like if the Toronto brewery Left Field consider their oatmeal brown Eephus (1) their foundation (2) their flagship (3) both or (4) neither. They wrote:

We’d be comfortable calling it a foundational beer. We don’t really refer to any beer in the lineup as a flagship. Along with a few others, it’s one of our year-round offerings.

Seefoundational does not (usually) mean flagship. More evidence? Consider this September 1990-ish beer column on the state of affairs in Lake Ontario land. It mentions the venerable and largely forgotten Great Lakes Lager. Foundation? Sure. Not the flagship. That’s now Canuck Pale Ale. You know, flagship might also even be a slightly dirty word in the trade. A tough row to hoe for the industry marketers behind this scheme. But hope lives on eternally in such matters as we learned from the new CEO of Sierra Nevada who, faced with the task of turning things around for the musty ales of yore, stated:

…he’s bullish on Sierra Nevada’s prospects heading in 2019 and he’s projecting 5 percent growth. He believes that advertising will help turn around Pale Ale’s negative trajectory, and that continued growth for Hazy Little Thing, combined with increased focus on Hop Bullet and Sierraveza, will propel the company forward this year.

Advertising! How unlike beer macro industrial crap marketeers!! If that is the case, me, I am launching #FoundationAlesFriday come March to get my bit of the action. Join my thrilling pre-movement now.

Beer so horrible that it can’t really be called beer is rising in popularity in Japan as sales of the real stuff and the semi-real stuff drops.

Elsewhere, I tweeted this in response to the wonderful Dr. J and I quite like it:

Well, the multiplication of “style” to mean just variation leads to a dubious construct that bears little connection to original intent and leaves beer drinkers more and more bewildered when facing the value proposition of fleetingly available brands however well made.

Let’s let that sit there for a second. Fair?

Send a furloughed US Federal employee a beer. Or help with some unplanned bridge financing for an out of luck new brewery.

Even elsewhere-ier, Matt Curtis is to be praised and corrected this week. Corrected only in the respect that he wrote the utterly incorrect “in true journalistic style I was too polite to say” in his otherwise fabulous piece**** on what it was like going booze free for three weeks:

As I walked down Shoreditch High Street on my way to an event from the British Guild of Beer Writers showcasing alcohol free beers I passed some of my favourite bars and restaurants. I found myself pining to sit within them, simply to soak up the atmosphere. In that moment I felt that merely the sound of conversation and conviviality would sate my urge to drink more than any can or bottle of low alcohol vegetable water that has the indecency to call itself beer.

Lovely stuff.

Note: an excellent lesson in what it means to understand beer.  “It’s what [XYZ] told me…” is never going to serve as reliable research. Just ask, beer writers! Ask!!! Conversely, this article in The Growler serves as an excellent introduction to the 18 month rise of kveik on the pop culture commercial craft scene. I say pop culture commercial craft as it has been around the actual craft scene for a number of hundreds of years. Much more here from Lars.

How’s that? Enough for now? Winter getting you down? Remember: things could be worse. I think so. Don’t forget to read Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday if you want to stay on top of things. Perhaps he will update the impending contiguous v. non-contiguous acreage rumble we’ll all be talking about in a few weeks.

*Buy Ontario Beer for more fabulous facts like this!
**Though I do like the concept of the pre-movement.
***Note: I make no comment on the wide variety of beer “wenches” or “nuts”… or “foxes” or “man” or any such other monikers. At least they don’t claim to be an expert.
****The current edition of Boak and Bailey emailed newsletter contained this bit on Matt’s experiment: “…it all seemed pretty reasonable to us. But even if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be any of our business. We did wince to see people in the business of beer berating him for his decision, and winced even more deeply when we saw people nagging at him to break his resolution.” I agree that this is sad and, I would add, smacks of the nags shouldering the alky’s burden themselves.

 

The Government-Shutdown No-Deal-Brexit Why-Kids-Don’t-Drink Version Of Thursday Beer Notes

Woot!!! Holding up the roof since 1693!!!!

So… two weeks and a bit until #FlagshipFebruary* begins… meaning the inevitable rebound to #TrendyMarchMania will see some of the dry,  those off the sours for almost nine weeks hitting the bottle extra hard. You know, we really need to full year calendar to keep all this stuff straight – given we also have #MildMay and #DecemberIsForAmataurs, too.

As I mentioned a few updates ago, the US government shutdown has caused all approvals required by brewers from the  Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. I clucked at the time that at least this halted the manic pace of biere nouveau but – and with a hefty h/t to @beerinator – it appears that the permitting process is far more intrusive that that:

In a suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in D.C., Atlas notes that the government has approved labels for its cans of The Precious One, an apricot IPA, but not the labels for its kegs, known as “keg collars” before the shutdown began. Those kegs can’t be shipped out for sales outside of D.C. without label approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau: Doing so would violate federal law.

Who knew that “permitting” included such minor matters?***1/2

Next but disconnectedly so, here is an excellent primer for buying wine for a crowded restaurant table. Note the following statements:

I simply order what I most fancy eating and what I’d most like to drink, that’s what gives me most pleasure — even if the combination may seem bizarre to the sommelier… Do you worry about which cheeses to pick off a cheeseboard? I’m sure you don’t, so don’t worry about the wine…

Fabulous advice. Applies to beer, too.**

Unrelatedly, wonderful views (see above) of a +335 year old pub structure in Dublin, Ireland. Here is some backstory from 2016 on the efforts to save the structure:

“The astonishing skeletal grid of ceiling beams and joists is still intact on the ground floor, as well as early brick walls with ancient embedded timbers… With all of the modern partitions and ceilings now removed, the ground-floor shop retains all the grand scale one would expect of a public inn of the post-medieval period, complete with typical corner chimney stacks…”

Not connected at all, good to see some wonderful news of Young’s in England taking a stand on saving its affected staff from the fallout caused by Brexit. More here on the business reasons behind this sensible move:

The boss of pubs firm Young’s on Thursday cheered higher sales, but warned that hiring staff is tougher. Patrick Dardis said around 38% of his 5000-strong workforce are EU nationals, and added: “More workers [from Europe] are leaving here than coming. The recruitment and the retention of top talent is increasingly difficult.

Whiplashedly, ScienceDirect published this so it must be right. It’s a research paper entitled “Why are young people drinking less than earlier? Identifying and specifying social mechanisms with a pragmatist approach” which sets out a number of reasons why my children are apparently smarter than I was as a kid:

Recent analyses of surveys of youth drinking in Sweden have found a strong decrease both in rates of abstinence and in levels of drinking among drinkers. For instance, alcohol consumption among 15- to 16-year-olds has fallen more than 50% between 2000 and 2012. At the same time, the abstention rates among boys and girls have increased from about 30% to more than 50% . Moreover, heavy episodic drinking has decreased from 34% to 18% among boys (ibid.)…  Similar declining trends of alcohol consumption among young people have been identified in other European countries, North America and Australia…

Virtigo inducingly, the Tand himself has posted about how craft sees cask and it’s good enough to have a whole month dedicated to the #MarchOnCraftFibs campaign. It starts fabulously thusly:****

Yesterday there was a Twitter post that caught my attention. It referred to an opinion piece in Imbibe Magazine by Jessica Mason in which she claims that “We’re on the precipice of a cask revival”. The article goes on to explain her thinking which can be summed up – more or less – that cask can revived – wait for it – by modern brewers adopting Golden Ales. Well I exaggerate, but I hardly agree either with the way the article says “cask is becoming ever more exciting, flavoursome and stylistically broad” as if we’ve all been drinking flavourless crud for all these years and can only be saved by innovative craft brewers rescuing us from our own stupidity. 

And utterly conversely, I finally figured out what I don’t get about GBH writing style. This piece by Roth is pretty good even if it needs editing down to get some control of the subject. It’s like there is a need to give each source equal space.  And the obvious extra access to New Belgium, an acknowledged sponsor, is there, too. But those are the problems with the subject matter presentation. That’s normal middly stuff. No, it’s the fact that the letters “GBH ” actually appear 22 times within the text of the story. Twenty-two! Breakout the flashing neon font. Enough already. One is enough. Three is cloying. But referencing your own publication 22 times in a story is weird. Needy. And too bad. It’s an important story and would have been much better if it was just cleaned up with a lashing of confidence.

One last thing: stunning stats on pub waste.

That’s enough for now. My neck hurts. Odd. Mid-January is quiet time. I actually typed all this while balled up in family quilts watching VCR recordings of cooking shows from the 1990s. Seriously. Who has time for -26C, Sunday’s promised nighttime high?  I want it over. You want it over. Like Brexit, we know the next few weeks are just going to be ugly and we need to get them out of the way. Need relief along the way? Check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday for a well earned break.

*Hmm. Now not thrilled with the hinted need to seek to attach a big old lumbering craft revenue stream to what is basically a hashtag.
***1/2Not sure what this footnote is for… it’s even out of order.
**Have another cold Big Mac, you big carrot-headed lardass! [Note: as a distant cousin of Mr. President, I reserve the right to call him a big carrot-headed lardass.]
***So much of wine pairing advice these days is based on relaxing and not worrying while beer pairing advice is so anxious.
****We really do need to acknowledge what a clear focused writer the Tandy One is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Thursday Beery News Updates For 2018

Not the last updates, just the last Thursday updates.* Don’t hope for much. But, given this my weekly function, is dependent on the efforts of others, well, I blame you. Me, I’ve been getting my calories elsewhere – roastie totties soaked in herby olive oil, fruit cakes and cookies.  And actual pheasant gravy made by me which I am now adding to my diet on a regular basis.** I trust you had your sprouts. Photo of the week, above, is from Old Mudgie of the cat awaiting its sprouts. By the way, I hope you are enjoying your holidays if you are having holidays. And enjoying them more than this sad lad who wrote a letter to The Telegraph.

Matty C in NZ posted his best or favorite of 2018, including beers. Which crystallized a concern of mine. Or at least a question. Like 99% of you, I had no access to most of these drinks. Reviews, as a result, are fairly useless to me practically speaking. I thought about how most pop culture events are defined by mass participation. Being a fan of a musician or a addict for a certain sports team – even a minor league one – means you have something in common with others. Not quite so with good beer. Yet, beer has not quite fragmented into the natural local scene and discourse. There’s a thought for  2019.

Roger Protz shared some wonderful news this week. Black Sheep Brewery of Yorkshire has saved its neighbour the York Brewery by taking it over:

The acquisition, which was facilitated by joint Administrators, Steven Muncaster and Sarah Bell of Duff & Phelps Ltd, builds on a positive year for Black Sheep, which returned to profit in 2018. Andy Slee, chairman of Black Sheep… says: “This acquisition fits perfectly with our strategy of developing our presence in our Yorkshire heartland and owning pubs. 

Black Sheep not only used to show up at the LCBO but it featured on a fabulous episode of the Two Fat Ladies twenty years ago – and I own a York Brewery necktie. So my joy is utterly natural.

Andy Crouch, whose word I generally take, praises a beer podcast of all things. Joe Stange, whose word I generally take, is involvedOne More Road For The Beer focuses on one beer locale at a time and promises not to be about drive-by slightly appropriative beery tourism by people who do not live in the locale.

So much for the eternal revolution:

Police in Greater Manchester have told a pub to take down its picture of Che Guevara, a landlord has alleged. Geoff Oliver, who owns The Sportsman in Hyde, claimed at the weekend that he may face a criminal investigation for displaying a photo of the revolutionary in his pub window.

Apparently complaints had been made about the displaying of an image of a terrorist. Who amongst us have not admired someone that is labeled by another? I assume there are Che Guevara themed pubs hidden up allies and behind trees world wide. And Maggie Thatcher ones, too. I was once a parade spectator in nearby northern NY and witnessed a children’s parade led by someone dressed as Napoleon leading the whole thing! No one got my suggested comparisons to similarly inappropriate 20th century military dictators.

No you don’t, not in Nigeria’s Kano State:

The Kano State government’s Hisbah Board has seized and destroyed more than 30 trailer loads of beer. The board’s Public Relations Officer, Malam Adamu Yahaya, disclosed this in a statement in Kano yesterday. Yahaya said that the cartons of beer were destroyed on Monday evening after interception at Kalebawa on Danbata Road in Dawakin Tofa area.

I might point out that 30 trailer loads is a lot of beer but I think you might have noticed that already. Perhaps related.

Like 87% of the planet, I have been following The Times of London reporter Katie Glass tweeting her travels from Moscow to Beijing which started Christmas Eve as I stuff my gob with fruit cake and sherry. While all her “wows!” over the Siberian landscape only make me ask the question of why this person has never visited northern New Brunswick, I was particularly taken by her photos from a shop at one minor train station stop east of Novosibirsk and the blend of international and national  beer brands in the fridge. Because, I suppose, while I do not care for drive-by slightly appropriative beery tourism by people who do not live in the locale I must like train-by slightly appropriative beery tourism by people who do not live in the locale.

Ontario’s LCBO and The Beer Store have branches open this Boxing Day. I hate this idea. Boxing Day is for panicked scrounging as we lock down all commercial and even community activity. Time was no money exchanged hands from 3 pm on the 24th to 9 am on the 27th. I assumed the dry vermouth industry was behind it, given that was all the liquor that was left by late on the 26th.

As viewed from the outside, US craft stands in existential crisis at year end:

If you needed any further proof of the difficult straits in which the craft beer industry finds itself, look no further than the latest change to the Brewers Association’s definition of craft beer. No longer must a brewery use the traditional ingredients that have laid at the heart of brewing for so long — now it just needs to make beer in some quantity. Otherwise pretty much anything goes.

Exactly: “…just needs to make beer in some quantity…” Sort of a twin, a bookend for the news that regulatory near beer has ended in Colorado.

Bonus Update: pub bans “saboteurs or vegans” and then receives the grief from vegans. No word from saboteurs.

And, well, that is where the year ends for me.  Have a Happy Hogmanay! I hope you don’t get too loaded and embarrassing this New Year’s Eve. Be good instead. I personally expect to be in bed by ten, scarred as I have been, ever since the 12:00:01 AM 1 January 1999 live version of “Auld Land Syne” by Gordon Lightfoot on CBC TV.  The horror…

*Check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on New Year’s Eve.
**One frozen $20 bird seems to have made a big contribution to three meals.

Your Days Dwindling Down To A Precious Few Beery News Notes

Well, it sure is getting quiet out there. I put off gathering together my thoughts until Wednesday night and, still, it felt like I’d only posted the last weekly update the day before. Christmas is a-comin’. Right off, however, I need to show you the photo of the week. To the right, tweeted out by Joe of @whatjoewrote after he wrote “making a sacred pilgrimage to a golden place today.” I love a lot about the image but probably the best is that Orval font.

Next up, Stan is finally back. Free loader Stan. Stan the travelin’ man. Stan the guy who drifts into work at 10:45 am saying wide-eyed “what? whataaa?!?” to the questioning stares.  His final roundup for The Session begs the question of why we don’t have one mega-blog and pay him to edit. Why?

Quere: if two contract brewers merge in the forest, does anybody hear?

Nothing says Yuletide like bankruptcy law news. Turns out DME, the eastern Canadian brewing equipment manufacturer, is now confirmed to be $27 million in debt of which $18 million is owed to the Royal Bank of Canada:

The entire list names more than 700 creditors between DME’s operations in Charlottetown and Abbotsford, B.C. The creditors list includes companies from around the world, along with individuals and government agencies. More than 50 of the companies owed money are on P.E.I., along with approximately 140 people with Island addresses… Around $1 million of that is listed as being owed to P.E.I. companies. However, nearly half of the companies and individuals named in the creditors document don’t have dollar amounts listed. Those numbers still have to be determined. The final amount DME owes could change.

So far, as I mentioned last week, these are old stomping grounds and I know the receiver’s lawyer and the judge, now have fed the press backstage and even recommended counsel to international interests. And I am not even involved. Here is the list of the additional unsecured creditors. Their own lawyers are owed around $435,000. Wow. Note that the Indie Alehouse deposit is there but without a noted value. The Toronto Star reported it as being worth $800,000. Many other breweries with deposits are all there but also without a noted value. Sift the clues. Go ahead.

Responding to the news from two weeks ago that Norm was  moving away from beer, Jason Notte has posted a thread of tweets that shares his views on the affect of alcohol on the health of writers, including this one:

A few years ago, the great told me something I wasn’t ready to hear: Craft beer isn’t a trend story and beer consumption isn’t just an industry. When you see rising beer consumption and “drunkest states” listicles, there’s some hurt behind those numbers.

It’s true. You might not like it but it is true. Along those lines, perhaps in miniature, Boak and Bailey recorded a brief conversation overheard in a UK pub:

“My plan is to get back to the office after lunch absolutely hammered.”
“Blimey, careful, mate.”
“Nah, it’s fine — it’s December!”

Yikes. Yik even. To make us all feel as we should – distracted – Mark Dredge has posted some fabulous photos from Vietnam. Fabulous.

A bit less fabulously, I don’t particularly have that particular hate on for “listicles” that those never asked to write one have but this one works for me, 25 from Fortune magazine. It expressly contextualizes the selection well and also notes price. Happy to see that the Ontario’s price for #2 is 50% of what is suggested by the list. I will have my fill over the next few weeks. Ha ha! Sucks to sucks if you don’t live here.

If your brain is like mine, you might like this. Issue #163 of Brewery History has been released from behind its paywall for everyone to enjoy. The article on 15th century brewing in England is of particular interest to me but there are a range of articles to explore.

I came upon this article, no doubt funded by shadowy interests*, that argues that US tariffs on aluminum have led to an increase in reliance on US made beer cans:

President Donald Trump’s aluminum tariff won’t make beer taste better, but it’s succeeded in boosting the economy, according to a report published on Dec. 11 by the Economic Policy Institute. The research argues that tariffs imposed on aluminum and steel have led to increases in U.S. employment, production and investment.

Finally, in his big comeback** Stan did note something I myself should also address:

Boak & Bailey recently explained how they choose what to put in their Saturday lineup. In the interest of transparency, my rules are pretty arbitrary. I include links here to stories I think you should enjoy reading, either because the writing is terrific or the ideas within merit thinking about, or both. I also include links to stories I simply want to comment on.

Me?  I don’t really think of you. I think of the news as something that develops and needs tracking. Beer news needs its own aggregation. So I keep graphs. I make tables. I smoke a pack and then smoke another as Wednesday night turns into Thursday morning. I am even thinking about how Putin and Xi have minions and how once one maybe stumbled across my social medial presence. I know I am being watched. Help! No?  Look, I realize this is mid-December filler but if you think about it from my perspective, well, maybe it will make a little sense. Just a little?

That being said, there is only one more roundup before Christmas and two before this year is dead. Dead dead dead. Let’s think about that a bit before we get pounded at lunch, shall we?  A good time to reflect on things. Things like pasting together a weekly charade of a commentary on the brewing industry. Things like concerning myself more with the roasts to come rather than the giving one ought to give.

Enough from me! B+B on Saturday and Stan next Monday.

*Note: “The EPI advocates for policies favorable for low- to moderate-income families in the United States.
**What? You want every footnote to mean something?

The “I HATE YOUR THANKSGIVING!!!!” Edition Of Thursday Beery News Notes

I am the sad Canadian. I hate the week when Thanksgiving comes around late every November. It is the one holiday Canadians don’t get to participate in any way, even through analogy. Face it. Our early October Thanksgiving  is the least fun combo that vague residual churchiness and storage squash could muster up. And, yes, we have bonus days off like Boxing Day and Easter Monday – but what do we do with them as a culture? Nothing. Today to the south, Americans seem to plan to get hammered to cope with dodgy distant cousins while setting off exploding turkeys launched from vats of hot oil.  And not one of them in any way took seriously the advice on what beer to pair with their family festive feasts. I want a US Thanksgiving, too. Until that day, I am a sad Canadian.

That being said, Josh the Owner of Spearhead has spoken of one of the few things we have… or rather should have… that Americans can’t have…  but, in fact, he ain’t getting his hands on it at all:

Hey it’s been over a month since you opened. I made an order @ 6:45 AM on October 17. Still has not arrived. How do you ever expect to shut down an illegal market with such poor customer service?

You know what they say: Hayters gonna hayte.*

Early afternoon update: How did I miss this? Look at this fabulously transparent statement from the Beer Sisters on what working in what they call the beer sommelier gig looks like. No dubious claims to being independent and certainly not journalists. An excellent measure against which others should be measured.

While the US has had a truly horrible run of natural and man-made disasters to cope with, this call from Sierra Nevada to respond to the wildfires in its part of California stresses the need to respond to crisis by supporting the actual neighbourhood as you can:

“Although Chico and the Sierra Nevada brewery were spared, the Camp Fire has devastated neighboring communities where many of our friends, families and employees live,” said Sierra Nevada founder and owner, Ken Grossman. “This community has supported us for 38 years and we’re going to do everything we can to support them back.”

Speaking of fire, the maltsters Muntons tweeted out informative information about a fire at their premises that should be trotted out and thrown at anyone lost for words who blames Twitter as a communications platform:

Local Fire Services arrived quickly at the scene with 8 Fire appliances and a high-level access platform… Muntons have a robust Business Continuity system in place that has been tested annually and proven very effective… For further information please contact: Nigel Davies, Technical and Sustainability Director…

Speaking of the simplicity of malting barley for drink, I’ve been reading a bit in the southern media about the horrible prospect of jacked up prices for craft beer but up here in the true north strong and free that all adds up to good news according to the Western Producer:

Looking ahead to 2020, Watts showed data forecasting relatively steady beer production in the United States compared to 2015, with craft beer rising from 29.1 million hectolitres to 39.0 million, while non-craft beer declines from 194.5 million to 183.9 million hectolitres. However, due to the increased malt usage in craft beer production, the total U.S. malt demand will grow from 2.014 million tonnes in 2015 to 2.211 million tonnes in 2020.

Money, money, money. Speaking of prices getting all jacked up, one should note that GIBCS 2018 is not for keeping… apparently:

…a fellow beer writer who tasted this beer with me, said he wishes there was more of the soft, Tootsie Roll-esque flavors that have characterized past versions. Again, this is total nitpicking. This beer is better than 90 percent of the bourbon barrel-aged stouts other breweries are putting out.

Hmm. Spot the suspicious things with that assertion. Speaking of which, Gary Gilman places the singular success of Belgian beer this week in the lap of the now long late Mr J:

Stella Artois is of course today a growing force in the premium international lager segment, so Unibex was right in a sense, but that growth came in the wake of the romance Jackson created for Belgian beer. Without that groundwork, Belgium would be one of a number of European countries vying for sales internationally and likely well behind Germany, Denmark, and Holland with no cachet, moreover, attached to its beers.

I can’t buy it. Aside from the fact of the continuation duration of his particular death, the general fiction of the few founders in the micro/craft tale – and the necessity of the GWH – is how we would have to believe that no one else would have noticed… whatever. In this case, it requires us to believe that no one would have noticed the indigenous beer culture at any time during the 40 years since Belgium’s brewing.** Not happening. Romance? Nope – it’s been big beer driven, moolah motivated and, frankly, much of the export expansion came just far too late along the timeline for the Jacksonian touch of the hem: “…exports to the USA have risen tremendously from a mere 2 million litres in 2005 to over 130 million litres in 2009.” Stella! Stella!!!

I love this speedy 1983 BBC guide to speedy home brewing.  Notice how it ends with a simple “yum”?  It gave me nostalgic pause. And there was an interesting juxtaposition with that to be observed, drawing both from this ying to this other yang. I don’t know why in particular it struck me other than the first being the small mutual affirmation pool while the other was a powerful personal kick against construct. Which persuades you more? And do either give more pleasure than the happy man of 1983 enjoyed?

Finally, as the next few weeks drag on, each day shortening before the winter equinox, remember to lay off the sauce – as at least one Scottish medical man recommends:

He said: “We now have new evidence that the weather, and in particular the temperature and amount of sunlight that we are exposed to, has a strong influence on how much alcohol we consume. Furthermore this weather-related alcohol consumption is directly linked to our chances of developing the most dangerous form of liver disease – cirrhosis – which can ultimately end in liver failure and death.”

Death! I understand that is even worse than Stella.

Another week has passed. Soon it will be December – but before then we get to gather as a nation and watch the Grey Cup this Sunday. Bet just knowing there is three-down football to the north ruins many a US Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t let it. Be yourselves. And check out Boak and Bailey this Saturday where no doubt they will have an update on the UK’s plans for Grey Cup celebrations.

*For years I have wandered this earth waiting for the right moment to use that particular Dad joke. Notice I did not write “Hayter’s gonna hayte” as that would be rude.
**Whatever that in fact means.

 

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.

The Baseball Playoffs And Work Have Taken Over 98% Of My Brain… But What’s Left Is Just For Beer News

Early October. Canadian Thanksgiving coming up on the weekend. I know you are up for that. The gas stove in the basement now gets going on most mornings before the sun comes up. Leaves turning. School is well into first term. And each and every beer is needing to provide a bit more comforting malt even if it might sing with the bounty of the harvest. Sickly sweet kinder-obsterlich-biers and thin sours should be getting nudged to the side right about now if the universe is to have any meaning.  Does the news reflect the season in the same way? Let’s see.

Speaking of back to school, did you know it is illegal in Canada to walk the street with an “open beer” but soon you will be able to roam the sidewalks and parks of Ontario smoking a doobie? Sucking on the wacky-tobacky? That is just weird. Pretty sure we are not collectively ready for the spliffy scents and scenes but it’s coming real soon.

It appears to have been #WorldNoAlcoholDay on Wednesday. I missed the parade. Did you know that Canada has a favorite 1980s pop-rock song dedicated to sobriety? Kim Mitchell’s “Go For Soda”.  It’s great and hits all the right 1980s points. Big hair. Cable TV. Youth smoking. Horrors in the news. And having a nice soda is just part of the fun. The vid is like an SCTV skit, the last pop moment milestone before microbrewing hit.*

This is the best tweet-form semi-snub of the day – a gin and tonic men’s cologne. I bet out pals Misery and Death up there got a giggle our of it.

The tweet from SIBA reads “Incredibly worrying ‘craft / not craft’ slide from Heineken’s On-Trade category controller Andy Wingate…” but the reality is hardly incredible. It’s quite credible in fact – and only worrying if you like working against trends. See, the trend is really that beer drinkers latch on to what matters to them in the seven seconds they spend caring and they like to leave brewers scurrying to catch up, cramming the square peg of wants into the round hole of style – neither making much sense.  Is anyone really surprised that trendy labels including Guinness and Goose are lumped along with Cloudwater while the dull dowdy old stuff sits to the right? Duvel? Totes dowds. “Craft” now means now-fad. Did it ever not?

Building upon the Cask Report’s findings for this year, Martyn asked some excellent questions about why cask is so often so bad in the UK and came up with many useful answers:

Cask beer is a perishable product: it loses its best qualities very quickly, certainly within a few days. Most pubs ignore this, and as a result most cask beer is sold a long way off from peak condition. Paradoxically, there is also a big problem of pubs selling beer too young. Almost three in five publicans confess to putting beer on sale before the recommended three days of cellar conditioning. So there is a fair chance that just as your pint is finally coming into condition, it’s already past its best because the cask has been open too long.

In this week’s “globalization corner” I give you Lars (again) and his fabulous find of a three-way wedding day drinking vessel puzzle from Estonia. I figure the way to drink from it is the husband and wife share two sided by side in the back while mother-in-law pushes up the middle from behind to get her fair share.  If you have a better idea or, you know, an actual authoritative source to cite please leave me a comment.

Trump never had a beer. As if it matters. Again, the world spits its cocoa on the keyboard. The Beer Nut has had a number of beers. And he rightly reminds us that the proper name for New England IPA style beer is murk. And, I don’t know about you, but six euros for confused murk seems like a basis for complaint to me.

This is how it works for many of the booming number of craft brewers in New York state: A couple of friends decide to turn their beer passion into a business. They start off small, usually with no employees and often, like the guys at Stout Beard, hanging on to other jobs with decent pay and benefits. Many will eventually grow, sell more beer, add space and equipment and hire employees. But make no mistake: Few of these start-up craft breweries are suddenly going to rival Anheuser-Busch, or even Genesee or Saranac, in the volume of beer, size of the payroll or reach of their sales efforts. A rare few might even close.

Fabulous. It’s great to read about reality with the craft beer business. I can’t remember the last time I was able to to that but, yes, it is always great. While we are at it, spend a minute to think of poor John Keeling, formerly of Fullers. Out of a job, nothing to do. There but for the grace of God go I.

And “go I” I go as that’s enough for this week. Hopefully I will do better next week. I really hope I do. Meantime, check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then tap the breakfast table over and over on Monday saying quietly to your coffee “when is Stan coming back… when is Stan coming back…” When?

*See our book Ontario Beer for the EP version of this point.

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.