Notes: Flemmynges, Hans Beerpot, Thirsty Actors And An Odd Crusade

A bit of a jumble, this post. First, here’s an interesting 15th century slag:

Ye have herde that twoo Flemmynges togedere
Wol undertake or they goo ony whethere
Or they rise onys, to drynke a baralle fulle
Of gode berkeyne; so sore they hale and pulle
Undre the borde they pissen as they sitte

Those Dutch – they get so drunk they just urinate under the table as they sit their beer! These sweet poetic thoughts are from Libelle of Englyshe Polycye, a short treatise in verse from the 1430s pumping up mercantile jingoism. I came upon it in the book Representations of Flemish Immigrants on the Early Modern Stage looking for references to a slightly later form of anti-Dutch slag, the stock theatrical character Hans Beerpot. We still have loads of lingering anti-Dutch sentiment in the English language hidden in phrases like “Dutch courage” (drunkenness) and “double Dutch” (lying) and even “going Dutch” on a date (formerly being cheap, now perhaps egalitarian) but I presumed they arose in the 1600s when England and the Dutch battled for naval domination of the North Atlantic and the North Sea. I was two hundred years too late in my thinking.

Point? This all ties into my recent noodlings about the question of when the English first brought beer to North America – which I presume depends on when beer first got to the ports of England from which expeditions to North America disembarked.* And the life in those ports was fairly beery in the first half of the 1400s. In “The Civic Franchise and the Regulation of Aliens in Great Yarmouth” by Liddy and Lambert, we read at page 131:

Cornelius Shipmayster, who also went by the name of Cornelius Ducheman, mariner, kept a hostel in the 1440s; his wife was fined for being a tippler of beer, and it is probably that she sold the beer her husband brewed. Beer production rose substantially in the autumn, to cater to the visiting merchants from the Low Countrys and during the quiet season men such as Robert Phelison were able to pursue multiple trades: a resident of the south leet, he brewed beer, ran an alehouse, and owned a fishing boat, which was arrested for naval service in 1437. In this multi-occupational community, hostelling and beer brewing were often practiced together.

Which leads to an observation: you have to slag someone’s nationality for being beer drinking drunkards only after observing them being beer drinking drunkards. So for the Dutch or Flemish or other sorts of low country aliens to be the focus of slagging they needed to be (i) present in England, (ii) drinking hopped beer and (ii) disorderly drunk.  The stereotype is framed in Hans Beerpot from the 1550s play Wealth and Health.** He arguably plays no function other than to arrive in the plot as a stranger, drunk, singing in Dutch and (as an additional sixteenth century touch) representing military menace. But that’s all a bit late for my purposes. I’m interested in earlier things.

Context. The War of the Roses came to a head in the 1450s just when the Hundred Years War was ending with English loss of French possessions, including Bordeaux where (as mentioned a few posts ago) Bristol had had a thriving wine trade.  There was still a spot of the plague going about. Normal ties, internal and external to England, were being disrupted as the very question of being English was being framed. No wonder aliens were being registered. No wonder the ways of the Dutch amongst them were being observed.

Anyway, this is about beer, right? Let’s go a little earlier.  Three records of the Cofferers’ Accounts of the Gild Merchant of Reading, Berkshire from 1420, 1424 and 1427 indicate payment to theatrical players in terms of beer: seruicia or ceruisia in Latin. A later similar record from the 1452 accounts of St George’s Chapel of Windsor, Berkshire again for the part payment of actors states:

Et in ceruisia data lusoribus recitantibus ludum habitum in Collegio erga donatoris festum.

Were these all Dutch actors? Maybe. They were likely travelers, at least. But that makes an odd parallel pattern. Flems in port towns and actors liked hopped beer in the early 1400s. So, to find more similar patters, searches for variants of the root of the now familiar cerveza might be in order to see what might be up.***

And we find some in the 1390 accounts of the expedition led by then Earle of Derby, later Henry IV (reign 1399-1412),  crusading through Prussia and, surprisingly, on to Lithuania. In a sort of code mixing English, Latin, French and plenty of numbers you see plenty of  interesting references. When the force passes through the friendly lands of the Hanseatic ports en route, Derby’s clerk of the buttery starts buying beer along with wine and sometimes mead. As a result and for example, in September 1390 we read this sort of expense (amongst hundreds) being recorded:

Clerico buterie super beer per manus Gylder, pro j barello de beer, pro portagio et tractagio beer et vini…

Looks to be a bill for the beer, for the barrel in which the beer sit as the hauling of the beer as well as wine. There a lot of accounts like that. A lot. Which is interesting. Because here we have Englishmen drinking a hell of a lot of beer over a long period of time. Well before beer is considered to have been consumed much in England by Englishmen. Never thought to look for that sort of thing before.

Flems in England in the 1430s, actors in England in the 1420s and English crusaders in the 1390s. All having hopped beer very early in the timeline. I have to think about what this might add up to, if anything.

*This approach entirely sets aside the question of Viking brewing hundreds of years earlier in what is now Newfoundland but bear with me on that.
**See “Toward a Multicultural Mid-Tudor England: The Queen’s Royal Entry Circa 1553, and the Question of Strangers in the Reign of Mary I” by Scott Oldenburg – and especially the discussion around pages 110 to 115. The character also appears in the 1618 play Hans Beer Pot, his Invisible Comedy of See me and See me not by Daubridgecourt Capability Belchier.
***Examples of treachery in such matters abound. Consider the 1417 appendix to a will in which the summary states beer was to be brewed but the details make it clear it’s ale that being ordered but the future deceased.

 

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 £82 and a bottle of gin set you back and astonishing £73.

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. 

Beer and Art: The Harvesters, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565

Nosing around the Met‘s digitized collection a bit more, I came across “The Harvesters” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder from 1565. Not hard as it was on the front page. I have posted a few times about paintings by his son, the imaginatively named Pieter Bruegel the Younger, over the years but this one struck me as perhaps illustrating a few things worth thinking about.

Look at the scale of the people compared to the height of the grain. One of the characteristics of Battledore barley two hundred years later in Britain was that it had a short stalk. It could survive hail or wind better than other varieties but didn’t provide all that useful straw that we learned about in relation to beer in New York before the switch to barley from wheat. The stalk was in itself important to the community as a multi-purpose material for mattress stuffing to looser wheat mash spargings. In “The Harvesters” the stalks are tall and entire stooks* are taken from the field with care. The stooks are strong enough to serve as a bench for the workers having their meal.

Harvest time is big stuff. The image is a narrative of agricultural economy in the Renaissance. If you click on the image at the met site, you can zoom in quite closely. Look at how the topography is used to illustrate the economic activity. The field being harvested is on the top of a hill. Scythed and stooked, it is carried one by one to the bottom of the hill where it is loaded on a cart and carried away. There are three communities in the painting. The hilltop has a church to the upper left seen through the trees. Down below there is a manor of some sort where some are swimming while others are killing a tied up goose as a blood sport. In the far distance, there is a coastal town with ships in the harbour. Is one point of the painting’s structure that the grain gets exported?  Or is beer made from the grain getting shipped out?  I should cross reference the painting with Unger.

Where is this place? The blurb attached to the image by the Met says:

Bruegel’s series is a watershed in the history of western art. The religious pretext for landscape painting has been suppressed in favor of a new humanism, and the unidealized description of the local scene is based on natural observations.

But is this really a local scene or an imaginary one? Where is it? Bruegel lived in coastal Antwerp, Belgium a city of about 100,000 at the time and the richest in Europe. He was born in the river town of Breda, another community now in the Netherlands but then also in the Duchy of Brabant. Perhaps one of those two centres is in the background.  Could you find the field and stand where the artist stood?

But what about the beer? As one commentator notes, the scene is about producing and consuming. Or – if you are the goose – producing, torturing then consuming. The workers are eating bread and cheese as well as pears that one guy is shaking from the tree to the upper right. And they are drinking. A central character is a man carrying two large jugs up the path. Another man in the circle having a meal drinks directly from a jug. A fourth jug with what looks like a loaf of bread on top sits in the uncut wheat to the lower left.

We are told by Markowski that saison and biere de garde were brewed for centuries in the Low Countries and northern France to attract and retain workers. Farmhouse beers. The scene in “The Harvesters” is smack-dab in the middle of that culture, in the saison zone that included Brabant. Unger explains that particularly in the sixteenth century, tax records indicate a wide number of names for various grades of beer: “… dun and scheynbier and volksbier and scharbier and scherbier all turn up. No matter the name, it was always cheap.”** Was that what was in the jugs? We can’t reach back to ask those in the picture what they called their drink or even if it was in fact beer. But it could be and, frankly, likely was so… it is what it was. Day drinking 1565.

*I use the SW Ontario usage, spelling and pronunciation of the in-laws.
**at page 129.

The Steelyard, Stillyard, Stylyard and Spelling

hans1561map1633sm

Ah, the Hanseatic League. I posted about the Hanseatic League earlier this year, pointing out how it was likely the conduit for the first introduction of hopped beer into England – and, by implication, not the Dutch. I think that might be the case for no other reason that the Dutch were introduced to hopped beer by shipments from the Hanseatic League, the Renaissance corporate port towns of the Baltic which had that handy corporate navy with corporate cannon to enforce its idea of open trade.

Renaissance and Elizabethan brewing and drinking in England is particularly interesting as the period ties a lot of later things together…. or founds them… or whatever. For example, Hull was a 1600s brewing town that also was a Hanseatic depot. Hull ale was a contemporary of Northdown as being a premium drink in London in second half of the 1600s. It’s a coastal ale of the sort that governs until the canals reach deeper into the countryside releasing the odd sulfurous and maybe hoppier beers of Burton in Staffordshire upon the national and international market. Like the railways in the mid-1800s Ontario that gave rural Labatt and Carling the opportunity to explode out into the world, England’s canals of the early 1700s also placed brewing at scale nearer the grain fields, likely cutting out middlemen and displacing premium coastal brewing perhaps by undermining existing price. Theory. Working theory.

What was displaced was the model set by the Hanseatic League. Renaissance Hamburg was the greatest brewing center in the history of beer – 42% of the workforce was involved in brewing. The Hanseatic depot at King’s Lynn still stands, one of the branch locations of Hanseatic activity. London was the Kontor with its headquarters of import / export operation located just west of London Bridge on the north shore of the Thames where Cannon Street station now stands. One of the coolest thing is that there have basically been two owners of that site since perhaps 1250 as the vestigial Hanseatic League interests in Lübeck, Bremen and Hamburg sold it to the South-Eastern Railway Company in 1852. The presence of the Hanseatic League cannot be minimized at the critical point in the 1400s. Consider this passage from 1889’s bestseller The Hansa Towns by Helen Zimmern. It has a certain ripe Victorian style but does explain things like this:

Nor was London by any means their only depôt. It was the chief, but they also had factories in York, Hull, Bristol, Norwich, Ipswich, Yarmouth, Boston, and Lynn Regis. Some mention of them is found in Leland’s “Itinerary.” Under an invitation to the Hanseatics to trade with Scotland we find the name honoured in legend and song of William Wallace. In John Lydgate’s poems we also meet with our Hanseatics. In relating the festivities that took place in London city on the occasion of the triumphal entry of Henry VI, who had been crowned king at Paris some months previously, the poet narrates how there rode in procession the Mayor of London clad in red velvet, accompanied by his aldermen 196 and sheriffs dressed in scarlet and fur, followed by the burghers and guilds with their trade ensigns, and finally succeeded by a number of foreigners.

“And for to remember of other alyens,
Fyrst Jenenyes (Genoese) though they were strangers,
Florentynes and Venycyens,
And Easterlings, glad in her maneres,
Conveyed with sergeantes and other officeres,
Estatly horsed, after the maier riding,
Passed the subburbis to mete withe the kyng.”

A love of pomp and outward show was indeed a characteristic of the Hanseatics in England who thus perchance wished to impress upon the natives a sense of their wealth.

Henry IV was crowned the King of England in 1399. Hanseatic League ambassadors are in the procession when he enters London for the first time. They are somebodies. And they are powerful. They had a wee war with England from 1469-74… and won entrenching their right to trade. Hopped beer was not introduced to England by a few straggling sailors showing up at a few coastal towns. It was brought along – even imposed perhaps – by a massive commercial and military complex. Let’s look at some maps at how the Hansa QH has been described:

hans1561map1633lg

hanselizmap1720

hanslondon1667

 

 

 

 

The illustration to the left is a detail of the 1633 reprint of the 1561 Agas map. You can see the location of London’s Hanseatic Steelyard in blue to the west of London Bridge. Above way at the top of the text is a much finer detail of the site. Notice it is referred to as the “Stylyarde.” In the middle is a 1720s map of Elizabethan London. Notice the site is now referred to as the “Stillyard.” And to the right is a diagram of the site of the Steelyard itself in this case called the “Stahlhofes” – as it was in 1667 according to a late 1800s German atlas. So, we have four ways of spelling the name of the site. Which means that each needs to be run through the dark Satanic
research mills if we are going to have an idea of what’s going on. In a note to the discussion of John Stow‘s Survey of London (editions from 1598 to 1603), British History Online has an extended discussion in a footnote on the variously described Stillyard / Steelyard / Stilliard / Stelehouse / Steleyard which states that there was a trade presence from Cologne there as early as 1157. It also indicates that the German version Stahlhof that appears rather early on means a stall hall – a marketplace. Stow himself describes the site and operations at length in his narrative map of London including the following:

Next to this lane, on the east, is the Steelyard, as they term it, a place for merchants of Almaine, that used to bring hither as well wheat, rye, and other grain, as cables, ropes, masts, pitch, tar, flax, hemp, linen cloth, wainscots, wax, steel, and other profitable merchandises.

Interestingly, as Stow notes, past the intervening church, near the Steelyard in Haywharf Lane in the late 1500s there was a “great brew-house” operated in the past by Henry Campion and then by his son Abraham. Life in the district was… lively. In the poem by Isabella Whitney (1548–1573) “The Wyll and Testament of Isabella Whitney” we read the following:

At Stiliarde ſtore of Wines there bée,
your dulled mindes to glad:
And handſome men, that muſt not wed
except they leaue their trade.
They oft ſhal ſéeke for proper Gyrles,
and ſome perhaps ſhall fynde:
That neede compels, or lucre lures
to ſatiſfye their mind.

So, as we see on the image to the right, there is a wine house. I assumed it was a wholesale depot but it appears to be an Elizabethan retail party palace where lads and lassies mingle as they consider drink, lust and lucre. February 1582 government orders issued by the Privy Council to the Lord High Treasurer show the Stillyard being excused from certain taxation – right under another order allowing the export of 1,000 tuns of beer from London. Elizabethan brewing and trading at scale. You don’t hear about that often. Leaping ahead into the next century, Samuel Pepys, diarist and high government official, records a number of visits to the site in the 1660s. On Friday, 13 December 1661 he wrote:

…to the office about some special business, where Sir Williams both were, and from thence with them to the Steelyard, where my Lady Batten and others came to us, and there we drank and had musique and Captain Cox’s company, and he paid all, and so late back again home by coach, and so to bed.

On Monday 26 January 1662/63 he stated that he was “up and by water with Sir W. Batten to White Hall, drinking a glass of wormewood wine at the Stillyard… while on Sunday, 2 September 1666 he uses it as a location in his description of the Great Fire of London. Perhaps most gloriously, he gives us this image of a part of his day on Wednesday, 21 October 1663:

Thence, having my belly full, away on foot to my brother’s, all along Thames Streete, and my belly being full of small beer, I did all alone, for health’s sake, drink half a pint of Rhenish wine at the Still-yard, mixed with beer.

Rhenish mixed with beer. There’s a challenge to today’s sense of yum. Thankfully, he also drank Northdown and Hull so it was not all weird for Sammy. I am going to leave it there but to review, then, what we have seen is that the Hanseatic League was a massive trading partner which had a huge export trade in beer in the 1400s. It had a very significant governmental foothold in the middle of London which was recognized from at least 1399 to the 1660s as something to be reckoned with. The business presence stretched for 700 years from the 1150s to the 1850s. They ran a retail and entertainment hall of some sort exactly when beer is coming into England at the same time that they operate the largest brewing center in the world at Hamburg.

Suffice it to say, there is more to be found about the role of the Hanseatic League and the history of hopped beer in England. Does it support the rough overlapping sequence Haneastic hopped beer (say Hamburg and later Flemish 1300s to 1600s) => coastal hopped beer (like Hull and Northdown, say, late 1400s-1712) => canal based hopped beer (Burton after 1712)? Could be. Need to find out.

Is This One Way Big Craft Might Be Dying?

hansunger1

There is nothing more certain about the brewing trade more than the history is defined an extraordinary limited set of patterns. Those who think that the owners of big craft breweries are special, well, know nothing about the rise of lager in the late 1800s as a premium even healthy drink – and know nothing about the rise of Albany Ale from central New York in early the middle third of the 1800s or the rise of Taunton Ale from southwest England as probably a premium even healthy drink in the last quarter of the 1700s. I suspect Northdown Ale was the premium even healthy drink in the lower Thames valley in the third quarter of the 1600s, too. There are, in fact, only a limited number of things you can say about beer to make people buy it other than that it’s tasty, cheap and gets you a tremendous buzz. They are: (i) it’s premium and (ii) it’s healthy. Check out social media today. The spin doctors are still at it. That quote up there? That is from the fabulously fabulous Dr. Richard W. Unger of UBC. More particularly, it is from his essay “Beer: A New Bulk Good of International Trade” in the book Cogs, Cargoes and Commerce: Maritime Bulk Trade in Northern Europe, 1150-1400. It’s actually the ending. Sorry. Spoilers. It reminds me of craft. Or rather big craft.

Just at the moment, big craft is going through a time of change that is not unlike what happened to the beers of Hamburg in the latter 1400s and early 1500s. Hanseatic Hamburg’s hopped beer as a technology went through an era when it was considered premium, rare and difficult to make. Roughly from 1250 to 1350. Neighbouring markets raised import duties to keep it out or just enough to equalize the cost with local producers. Because Hamburg during that time was the greatest brewing center in the history of beer. 42% of the workforce was involved in brewing. 15% of all Swedish exports were hops sent to the breweries of Hamburg and its allies. Read ye some Unger if you have any doubts. These trading communities had their own warships and a trust based commerce that overcame North Sea and Baltic piracy and storm. A commercial empire. And it all went away. At least the brewing did. They switched to trading in the ultimate beer concentrate – grain.

Here in Canada we are undergoing much more accelerated change at the moment. The collapse of the oil market and the sad performance of the Canadian dollar against the American version means no one in their right mind is even thinking of buying US craft beer either by a quick flip over the border or as an import. Yet there are around 550 craft brewing kettles in the land. As a result, while I can buy 2 litres of Pilsner Urquell for 10 bucks and decent Ontario craft for maybe 12 bucks the equivalent volume of beer in a six pack of fairly pedestrian Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is selling for a silly $15.50 and will likely soon cost more given our new 68 cent dollar. Who needs it? Few if the stock that sits on the shelves is any indication.

This is an accentuated version of what is happening in the US itself. Being well north of 4,000 breweries in the US means fans of good beer in the US are no longer dependent on those Hanseatic Hamburgers of big craft who ship coast to coast. People are making their own better local beer now just as the Netherlands did around 1450 and England did starting in 1520. Big craft is losing sales just as its handmaid bulk cider is. Who needs it? If you are looking for something rare and interesting – premium and maybe even healthy – who needs to go to a grocery store or gas station shelf to buy the beer trucked in from out of state? Fewer and fewer.

The economies of scale in good beer are having their way with the market. Not large scale. Small scale. The era of the great white male multi-millionaire brewery owner is over. The nameless nimble newbie hoards have learned the tricks of Hamburg, leaving the old fests cancelled and the old men the option to sell out, shut down or sit around wondering what happened. Same as it ever was.

Sad News Of A Beer Fan’s Passing Earlier This Summer

ckaI took down the little logo for the Cracked Kettle beer store in Amsterdam today. I removed it after getting an email advising that the shop closed a few months back and that owner Jeff Cunningham had died in June after a few months of terminal illness. Sad news. I never met Jeff but had worked with him now and again since the late fall of 2006. His shop paid for the ads in beer shipped to me and other writers then populating the blog as proof of how fine the service was. Knut, micro-famously, had to sit around waiting for a delivery and then got hit by the Norwegian tax man. They also sent care packages to me, to the States and to England, too. In 2008, Lars won a t-shirt from Cracked Kettle in the Christmas photo contest. Ah, for the days of free style happy go lucky beer blogging.

Jeff, along with partner Andy, ran a shop that struck me a something of a ground breaker even if it was only six years ago. Rereading his emails, it is easy to see how he was really excited to be stocking some of the great beers of Europe, providing solid service – and figured he had managed a way to make airlifting it direct to beer fans make sense. And bringing US craft to Europe before others. From the Wayback Machine, it appears that the shop started as a plan to make a micro-brewery in Amsterdam in 2003. Sad to hear of his passing. Some beer fans left their thoughts over at RateBeer.

Book Review: The Economics Of Beer – Swinnen, ed.

oxeb1I bought this because Simon told me to. Simon said.

This book is a series of essays related to the 2009 conference of The Beeronomics Society. It says on its back cover that it “is the first economic analysis of the beer market and brewing industry” but that is just silly puffery. There have been loads of economic analysis of the beer market and brewing industry. Frankly we have been weighed down by them. Don’t make me review Tremblay and Trembaly again. Do you remember those graphs and tables?

This book is a lot like one of my favorite sets of essays, the papers from the “Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture.” It is also a lot like Beer and Philosophy, a set of essays which included one from me on the underlying philosophy of beer regulation in Canada. What they all have in common is that they are a collection of papers tackling aspects of a general topic from various points of view. In the TEOB you will find 18 papers from the 2009 conference organized under the four topics of history, consumption, industrial organization and the new beer markets. With any luck, as with the annual baseball conference but unlike Beer and Philosophy, the followup second conference of The Beeronomics Society will issue another volume of essays reflective of the topics covered in September 2011.

So is it worth getting? For a book nerd like me, sure. I was a little uneasy with the superficiality of the first essay “A Brief Economic History of Beer” given it covered so much of time and culture so quickly. However, when I saw that there was an essay by Richard Unger, everyone’s favorite beery medievalist and Renaissance man, I was won over. And the essay “Recent Economic Developments in the Import and Craft Segments of the US Brewing Industry” by the manical graph-huggers¹ T+T may serve as something of an update of their 2005 book. Best of all, each submission comes with its own bibliography alerting folk like me to other papers and texts that might be out there just waiting to be added to the book shelf.

Published, too, by Oxford University Press, this book is another sign that we fans of beer and brewing live in lucky times. If I have more intelligent comment after reading a bit more, I will add it in the comments. But at this point this, too, looks like a good buy for the serious beer nerd.

¹ There are seven graphs and four table in just 18 pages!!!

What A Perfect Day For A Meta-Meta-Discussion!

An interesting comparison today between two communities of beer bloggy types. With a hearty hat tip to Stan, I see, Mark Dredge in England considers the hobby of amateur writing about professional beers and brewing to be incredibly important. Sure, he is yet to come down after a successful conference he just helped organize but he seems honestly sincere so that is good. Yet… “Things are changing,” he says. Changing? What have I been doing for eight years, I wonder in reply.

By contrast, across the North Sea, Knut reports, the eve of the Copenhagen Beer Festival is upon us… as is a massive slagging fest amongst beer hobbyists about ripping people off in the name of a supposedly greater cause. My Danish is limited to teak side tables so I had to use Google translator to learn this:

But now comes the full story. For Tuesday there was a communication from the Danish Beer Enthusiasts land board, where you actually like 100% with Beerticker.dk. I had already made it clear that the consequence would be that publication. Because treatment of Beerticker.dk now is completely ludicrous compared to what is Danish Beer Enthusiasts primary purpose – to promote the beer case.

I am not sure of what all that means but Knut advises Peter Myrup Olesen accuses the organisation the Danish Beer Enthusiasts of not following up on promises of sponsorship and of stealing content from his site to use both online and in their printed magazine. Having had a taste of infringement myself (not to mention the difference in views between myself and a sponsor as to what $100 earns them) I have every sympathy.

The good and the bad laid bare before us. Like most things, especially things involving money, good beer and good beer writing attracts its fair share of each.

Important Conference Sources Fact Update: apparently at the UK conference “…Pete Brown said posts should be no more than 300…” words. I like Pete plenty but, seriously, that’s a load of crap. Pete writes far longer posts quite often. My rule of thumb? Don’t forget the letter “e” in any post.

… and a note from the Dutch contingent: a certain level of incredulity from the Netherlands if Google translates for tone. I like this bit:

And your mouth is exactly what not to do as a blogger. You find something, you have an opinion, you let us hear. Tell everyone what you think about everything around you. Is anything good? Shout it from the rooftops! Is something not good? Yell as loud. If you are afraid to lose all your free beer then you do something else. Only if you’re critical, your opinion is relevant.

Interesting point. Am I afraid of losing all my free beer? Fortunately for my ethics, few brewers get samples to Easlakia. I wonder what it would be like and I would be like if I lived the easy life of an urban center beer blogger wallowing in cheques and love letters?

Trying To Recall Cafe Wim

I don’t know why I woke up and asked myself what it was I liked to order at the long shut Cafe Wim on Sussex near the market in Ottawa in the mid-90s. I was awake the best part of an hour involuntarily trying to remember. There are enough references on the internet but I can’t find a picture of the large Dutch flag flapping out front facing the HQ of Revenue Canada. I think it might have just been the pot…no, basin of cafe au lait, open faced sandwishes on rye with thin onion, the college lassies in black and bulky sweaters reading and smoking, pre-wi-fi, the mismatched furniture and the staff who exuded accusations of poserism as they themselves posed. In the back there was the semi-abandoned odd dark split levels of Expo-67-meets-Holland furnishings, beyond that a patio. I was there the weekend before the last Quebec Referendum. It was like this but this is not it. It was a stage on a Saturday afternoon before ending at Irene’s.

Holland: Struis, Brouwerij ‘t IJ, Amsterdam

I have a sticker on my hand that says “$6.20” and on my desk I have a 330 ml bottle of Struis. In the US, that price gets the best part of a decent six pack of craft beer. In Ontario, it gets you half a six of Unibroue’s Trois Pistoles or a large Chimay Premiere. So, for my dollar, this beer from Brouwerij ‘t IJ has got some pretty good competition and really has some explaining to do.

Richly clinging pale pine lumber head over orange amber ale, much muddier after the final pour and yeasty shake. On the nose a hop basket – your Grannie’s knitting basket that is as these have a haunting waft of musty attic. On these mouth, it starts to make sense. This is like Orval taken up a notch or two with 9% alcohol and a bigger maltier profile. Rather than cover up the booze with malt, this one blends it in with the orange peel, twiggy and lavender hops giving a aged spicy effect. This sits over fig and raisin malt. Steely finish. My creaky Dutch tells me the label’s claim of biobeer as well as ongefiltered and ongepasteuriseerd refers to some organic status, unfiltered and unpasturised. Imported to the US by Shelton Brothers, there is strong but not universal BAer support.

Is a small bottle like this worth it? For a try, sure – go ahead. After a try, if you love it, why not buy more? But if it is not the beer you absolutely love, I see the price point as a real issue for this one when you consider it sells for the same price as a 330ml Chimay Premiere at the fine bottle shop Cracked Kettle in Amsterdam. Where’d that price difference come from in mid-Atlantic transit?