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began the manufacture of rice beer, and we are not told at what date, if ever, in their brewery, rice beer wholly superseded malt beer.*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.

See, foundational 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 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 UppĂ„kra, Sweden“!

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

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

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

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

One eye on the beer, one eye on you!†

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In an effort to make their country healthier, authorities in Qatar have introduced new taxes. But with the World Cup just round the corner, fans around the world will be raising their eyebrows almost as high as the new prices for booze. That’s because the Gulf state has added 100% to the cost of alcohol – seeing a crate of 24 beers now retail for ÂŁ82 and a bottle of gin set you back and astonishing ÂŁ73.

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

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

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

The First Week Of December Finds Every Child’s Mind Drifting To Beery News Notes

This week’s big news saw me and mine on the road. I was up in the nation’s capital over Saturday and Sunday and took part in my kind of beer tourism. By that I mean actually doing normal things while noting beer around me and having one when the more important things in life were not imposed upon. We took in an hour at the National Gallery of Canada and spent time in the Canadian exhibits, where I came across this painting, Manitoba Party, from 1964. Cheery and folk artsy, right away I noticed the kegs and beer distribution smack dab in the middle. More detail below.

 

 

 

 

Speaking of Canada, Frank Zappa once said that you can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. Canada obsesses about such things, often when there is little in the news other than, you know, affirmations. Mr. B has picked up the theme:

I’ve no idea what Canada’s national beer style might ultimately be, whether it will be hop-focused or yeast-based or feature some ingredient that it true to the Canadian spirit. 

Not sure that is a big worry of mine. Zappa went on to that that it also “helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.” We have our own form of football. And, really, the good neighbour has enough of those bombs. Art, however. That works for me.

Looking back on the rest of my week, I find I have to take something back* from last week’s news notes. I wrote that we would have to spend a “happy early December without an edition of #TheSession” but Stan is giving us one last kick at the can with the topic “One More For The Road” in which we are asked to:

Pick a beer for the end of a life, an end of a meal, an end of a day, an end of a relationship. So happy or sad, or something between. Write about the beer. Write about the aroma, the flavor, and write about what you feel when it is gone.

Not particularly Yule-drenched but there will be a few weeks afterwards to get oneself back in the spirit. With any luck, the responses will give J. Wilson some cheer, given his tweet this week which is about as broadly grim as one might get:

Sometimes I worry about the future of beer since so many beer lovers today don’t even like the taste of beer.

Me, I am more hopeful than that – especially given how beer and brewing has survived any number of false gods and dead ends over the centuries.  December is actually an excellent time to get back in touch with the classics and leave the NEIPAs and other alcopops to the amateur drinkers. Alistair of Fuggled fame has offered us one route to set things back in their proper order:

…it seems that Craft Beerℱ Advent Calendars have been all the rage in recent years and I thought I’d jump on the old bandwagon. Only one minor issue, I have an aversion to having stuff curated for me, I much prefer to survey what’s available and make my own decisions, yes I can be something of a contrarian, I know. The plan as it currently stands is to buy 24 bottles of seasonal beers, drink one each day of Advent, and then write a blog post about it…

Wonderful. A blog plan. Nate has also offered us a route forward for his beer blogging for 2019 and beyond:

…I gave up on the Beats element about music years ago as I stopped listening to so much music, and frankly, my music reviews weren’t very good at all. So, I needed to replace Beats with something and given my love for professional wrestling, why not change it to Beatdowns and write about wrestling since I watch so much of it? So, from now on, this blog will be known as Booze, Beatdowns and Bites.

There was a university radio show near me that I liked a decade ago named something like “Hardcore Grooves and Wrestlin’ Moves” so this should work for me.

Here’s an interesting twist on the recreation of one historic brand of beer – the rights to brew Syracuse NY’s Congress beer were acquired by the local historical society!

In more real news, BarMas that objectified human point of fascination of mine – for his superhuman chore doing and vernacular booze production skills – has posted about his new orchard:

Originally, the ends of every row had cherry trees, which our current plot is missing, so we will gain, I think, 5 very large cherry trees. Inside the cherry trees, each row then had a few pear trees, and this is repeated a thee ends of the rows we are purchasing. Mostly they seem to be conference, mirroring the ends of the current rows, but there are a few other varieties, like BĂŒrgermeisterbirne/Köstliche aus Charneux, and I hope some perry pear trees and more Williams Christ.

Wow.  Riddled. Jealousy.

The serious news in the business of beer as it affects Canada and beyond has been reported upon by my pal Josh Rubin in the Toronto Star:

DME, a P.E.I.-based equipment manufacturer with facilities in B.C. and South Carolina, was in receivership, with more than $18 million owed to RBC and an unspecified amount to other creditors, including the company’s own 250 employees. The company’s directors have all resigned, and a B.C.-based receiver has been appointed to explore either a liquidation or sale of the company, with offers due by Jan. 7.

Big news. And a bit strange news. First, though, gotta tell you. I know folk involved, the lawyer bringing the receivership and even the judge granting it,** and have no doubt as to the realities but the effect is going to be widespread. Josh*** got Jason Fisher**** on the record to explore what losing a $800,000 deposit means to him and his brewery. What gets me is that the required cash injection was allegedly only $5,000,000 which seems like a paltry sum in the face of 250 jobs – that’s just $20,000 a job  – and especially given the work they were getting including being a supplier to the new Guinness brewery in Baltimore. Where is the ACOA money? Where was Wade… who I also know… former law school prof. Also, before you buy brewing equipment, here is some reasonable advice on securing your deposit.

There. By next week will be another one gone and one closer to Yule. I am more of a Dec 15th to Jan 10th sorta holiday season person. Other versions exist. Many are US Thanksgiving to Dec 25th holiday-ers, immediately stripping the house of tree and tinsel thereafter and, presumably, getting a bit drunk on New Years Eve then staring out the window waiting for spring.  Not me. I want to realize that the sun has made at least three weeks worth of its way back to equinox before I come around to reality.  Then, I want be out in the winter woodland to hear the chickadees calling out for mates and, well, we all know about chickadees, right?

I am sure there still will be beer news throughout. Just like Boak and Bailey know and report out on each Saturday.  Feel nostalgic? Go check out some Xmas contest entries from Yuletides past. Link to the right…

* No, not what caused this weird blurt… which looked like a 1.3 violation with perhaps a 1.2 twist.
** I practiced law in PEI from 1998 to 2003. Respectively (i) co-associate pal and (ii) respected partner of another firm and colleague of my counterpart respectively.
*** Who I know in the fellow beer writer sense.
*** Who I don’t know but think I had a brief flame war with once.

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 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.

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

Listen up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 cafĂ©s 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.

Your Beery News For A Holiday Thursday With Plenty Of Jingoism Stats And Other Fibs

There. Vacation. That’s better. Not vacating. Stay-cating. Hopefully play-catin’ but there are chores that have been deferred. Weed-cation. A trippy jaunt to the hardware store to check out bathroom faucet repair options. Others in beer have been thinking about a bigger world of beer this week, far bigger than any I expect to see. I’ll be lucky to see the back lawn with all the work I’ve left myself. Let’s see what’s being said.

First, a sad loss of someone who made sure folk got out and about for all the best reasons. Jeff posted an excellent remembrance of Chris “Podge” Pollard, the beerman who did as much as anyone to teach Brits about Belgian beer in the best way possible – by getting them in country, on the ground and through the front door:

His guidebooks were wonderfully well-researched and a great insight into the cities he chose. Most of all, he was just a good lad.

Ed posted some interesting thoughts on the far more generic use of national descriptors for beer styles when confronted by friends from outside the beer bubble:

I had to explain that in the world of beer the name of a country is often used as a flavour descriptor, not a statement about where the beer is made. “American” means made with citrussy hops, “Belgian” with phenolic yeast, and in the case of “New Zealand” it’s the hop flavour again. It hadn’t occurred to me until I saw their confusion that this might be considered slightly odd. 

I suppose I am more of a regionalist than a nationalist when it comes to these things. Not that they are meaningless but, as The Tand shows, the hallmark of a sort of beer can be quite local. I suppose the point is we need to remember these things are code.

You know, statistical triumphalism is a bit odd but the source is fairly normal summary stuff:

Domestic beer used to make up 87.7% of total consumption in the US, and it fell to 67.6% in 2017. Foreign and craft beers together made up just 12.3% of US consumption in 2000, and has now increased to 32.4%. US consumers are trending away from abundantly available domestic brews and are reaching for foreign imports instead. Instead of Budweiser, Heineken and Coors, people are choosing Corona, Modelo and Dos Equis. 

It’s interesting from the point of view that in the 1980s microbrewing was not always so welcoming and even antagonistic to imports. In a December 20, 1987 article in the Syracuse Herald American, we read:

Kirin has “all the flavor of a European import, without the bite,” Palmer said. But F.X. Matt II, who heads the F.X. Matt Brewing Co. in Utica, calls Kirin “bland and undistinguished. When you’re as big as Kirin, you’re interested in making a beer that offends no one and is bland,” Matt said.

In a June 1987 article in the Syracuse Post-Standard, Kevin Townsend of the still operating Buffalo Brew Pub was interviewed and put it this way:

Townsell’s Buffalo Brew Pub is one of about two dozen tiny brewery pubs in the country, most of which are on the West Coast. But as the demand for quality beer grows, the number of brew pubs is increasing. “`One hundred years ago, we had breweries in every city and town, with local delivery,” said Bud Lang, editor of Anaheim, Calif.-based All About Beer magazine. “Now we have a few huge breweries and 18 wheelers delivering beer nationwide.” Townsell’s 1,500-gallon monthly production makes his the only brewery in a region that was once the nation’s fourth-largest beer producer. Between 1811 and 1972, 350 breweries opened, operated and closed around Buffalo. “Beer lovers, home brewers, any first-generation Europeans are attracted because what we say we’re going to offer is a fine, quality, full-bodied product, which is similar to an English or a German product than it is to any American mass-produced beer,” Townsell said.

Like nationalism, pointing at stats misses the point. Is your beer delivered by 18 wheeler? A lot of craft is now. Is it bland and undistinguished? The vast bulk of beer being made ticks that box. Whether it comes from across the nation, from another country or in the neighbourhood – isn’t it only about if you like the stuff in your glass? Wasn’t that the point of micro and then craft? Frankly, the statement “instead of Budweiser, Heineken and Coors, people are choosing Corona” is about as mind-numbingly pointless as they come. And, of course, being the fanboy of “elsewhere” or “craft” for that matter usually means you are not noticing the realities, even the ugly.

Thoughts from Canadian wine writer David Lawrason might be related:

The more educated we become however the more we want different flavours, styles, places, stories and grapes. And this is what the next generation is bringing to the discussion and eventually, I think, to the marketplace.  We longer term (senior) writers may tend to pigeon-hole the next gen of natural and orange wine advocates as hipsters making political and personal statements, but in fact – as in anything – there are those who genuinely care and those who have jumped on the band wagon. Many people do thirst after meaning in wine. They are bored with replication and homogeny and are searching for difference and authenticity.

What are people searching for anyway. The Beer Nut linked to a story that reminds us that, for most, the world is not all that different from 1987. In the particular, the Irish don’t care much for anything but a “normal” pint glass:

The 20-ounce serving remains “the barometer for value”, he says. “What’s the price of a pint? It’s how people equate it. The beer culture that we’ve tried to establish 
 when you’ve a 10-percent beer you’re not going to charge people €14 for a pint of it. Generally, the cost of Irish beers isn’t an issue, said Conwell. “Most of them would be reasonably priced. Foreign imports are usually the ones that hit you in the pocket, hence the smaller serving size.”

Hmm… more problematic foreign stuff. I better leave it there and go have a coffee… from Central America. At least it’s fair trade and rain forest  grown. Because that’s what the label says, right. Hmm… And while you are scratching your head along with me, don’t forget that B+B has more news on Saturday just like Stan does each Monday.

 

A Thought About The Proposed Changes To Canada’s Law Of Beer

Gary threw his two cents in and I hooked my pal Jordan up with my other pal Jordan who wrote a “Jordan quotes Jordan” article on the proposed changes to Canada’s federal government’s regulation on the nature of beer. As Jordan the journalist (“JTJ”) pointed out there is one aspect of the proposed changes which appear sensible but, at least for me, are a critical problem:

No longer would beer be required to “possess the aroma, taste and character commonly attributed to beer” or be categorized into different styles or types like ale, stout, porter and malt liquor. Instead, officials are proposing to set limits on sugar content and simplify language around the use of additives that would define what is a beer.

Now, as might be argued a rarity, the actual Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement to my mind actually states the intention a bit more clearly:

In addition, the current requirement to “possess the aroma, taste and character commonly attributed to beer” would be removed in recognition that different beer styles or types have different attributes. This element is proposed to be replaced in part by a limit in the percentage by weight of residual sugar in final products. This change would maintain the integrity of beer and provide a more objective measurement.

Sadly, this proposed change is based on a misunderstanding of the use of the word “commonly” in the regulation. See, it can be taken to mean that (i) the attributes have to be common to all beer but I read the line to mean that (ii) people commonly understand that the attributes of the beverage before them are included in the concept of beer.  Consider this twitter exchange this morning between Jeff Alworth and John Holl. Holl had posted a photo of a glass of something he described in this way:

…the strawberry rhubarb wheat topped with the same beer (plus extra strawberries) pumped through a slushy machine.

Jeff asked in response whether in “…a blind tasting, could you have identified it as a beer?” and John’s response was interesting:

Yes. There is enough hop content, and the aromatics are on point. The finish is bone dry. There’s a lot of runway to play with this style and from social media posts there’s a lot of breweries joining the fold each day.

Rather than chastising Jeff for being a luddite and not being hip with the cool kids’ juice, John took the observation seriously and set out some attributes that he would commonly associate with beer: “enough hop content” and on point aromatics. Fabulous. He entirely understood the point being made.

The current wording of the regulation also understands the point. Just this week in my lawyering day job I solved a rather large problem by determining whether something was a “significant” deviation from “normal” – not all that different from the idea of establishing what “commonly” means.  I had no difficulty as it required me to review real life examples and explain degrees of things as well as expectations of things. Easy.  Words like this pose no problem to understanding.

Further, words like this are not locked in. By this I mean the law can reflect reasonable expectations in the future as long as the legal drafts-person does not attempt to tie down the wording to an understanding that exists in the present.  As John Holl noted, there’s “a lot of runway to play with this style.” His only fault is defaulting back to the until recently relevant concept of style which has only realistic application to the beers from perhaps the late 1980s to perhaps 2014-15 at the latest. Too many walls have been broken down since then to force the square peg of style into the round hole of beer.

What John might better have said was there is a lot of play within beer. Beer is in fact great like that. And people can be trusted to know what is and what is not a beverage we can commonly include in the concept of beer. As soon as you lay down more specific attributes you exclude anything which does not have those attributes.  One of the things that ended the concept of style – in addition to the insane exponential expansion of style categories – was the ever tightening nose of attribute allocated to each of those dizzying styles. The current regulation wording avoids that nightmare. The proposed wording runs towards it, arms wide open. JTJ actually quoted Jordan the Beer Writer (JTBW) on an associated point:

The most important thing you could do if you’re a craft brewer would be to get a handle on how to add ingredients these lists,” said Jordan St. John, co-author of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide. “The labelling component and making sure people understand what they’re getting — that’s really beneficial for the consumer. It’s just that getting there is going to be a bit of a pain.

Jordan is saying to brewers if your favorite ingredient is not on the list, it is out.  My argument is that if there is a kitchen sink clause allowing for beer to be what is commonly understood as beer  – not exclusively or even primarily – then the beer is in fact beer. That is good law.

This will be the gist of  my comment back to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). You can make comments, too, by following the instructions on the CFIA website here. Go ahead. Participate in democracy. About beer. Do it.