The Session 143: How Was Dryanuary Anyway?

Before the death of #TheSession, I posted some thoughts and indicated that I was not willing to entirely let the idea go:

I was so strongly moved by the idea of shutting down the sentence that I tweeted out my congratulations to Stan and Jay on their retirement, as opposed to that of The Session – the monthly collective writing exercise that has been a constant in the last 7/8th of the history of beer blogging. But then Stan and Jay wrote to tell me it really was time to let go. I wonder if they are right. They might be.

Jay also sent an interesting and positive email in response which I don’t need to share or anything but the idea is to see if we  (meaning “I”) play with the fabulous concept of collective theme writing without having the same structures that, over time, became perhaps a bit burdensome. Make it hostless, for one. So, not quite the Avignon Papacy but exploring a slightly different path. Think of a 1990s TV special a year after the show was cancelled.  Or maybe Star Trek’s The Wrath of Khan.

That being the case, here is an idea. We have heard a lot about #Dryanuary and folk like Matt have already posted a summary. I am suggesting a hybrid on the topic might be useful if only to record an overall statement on what the phenomenon of January 2019 meant to good beer culture generally. By hybrid, I mean a collection of new tweets and blog posts, links to big media articles  and any other form of opinion gathering might be interesting.

So, how about it? How was your dry or wet January? Did the campaign actually change your behaviours in any way? Or is it just good to reflect on the idea of alcohol and health and this is a great way to do it? Send your thoughts to the comments below, to beerblog@gmail.com or do your own think with the added hashtag #TheSession. I will gather it together as I can and post something either separately or on the following Thursday as part of the weekly update.

My Own Golden Pints For 2018

Spurred on by the demise of The Session, I have this suspicion that beer blogging needs to be a wee bit more intentional about adhering to its own traditions. Like The Session, the Golden Pints were born in the UK during the golden age of beer blogging before anyone had a book contract and no one could sell an article to the press if their life depended on it.  I am pretty sure that I would find a version of my Golden Pints from years past if I hunted through the Wayback Machine (where much of the incidental archives of this blog sits) but Boak and Bailey have restated the format in their thoughts for 2018 so I am going to just poach and adapt their structure and see what I come up with. 

Best English… err… Local Spot. I have to admit that I have a new darling but it is not so much a pub as what really is a gastro pub: Red House West. Inventive food, a great selection of beers with a heaping measure of eastern Ontario craft, a bustling sometimes loud tone, $13 Eggs Benedict on Sundays and its in our end of town. And Labatt 50 always on tap just in case.

Best Establishment Further Afield. Like 2017, I actually did not leave the country this year. Work and college kids have their implications. I have, however traveled and was extremely pleased with Brothers Beer Bistro in Ottawa earlier this month. While not quite Quebecois in its embrace of less traditional ingredients, their two rabbit dishes I tried were fabulous and the beer selection was shockingly good.  

Best New Beer of 2018: Hmm… with so much fad and sideshow with the glitter and the brut and the haze, it really has not been a year with a lot to recommend it in terms of the new entries.  If I were to report on any change to my buying habits it’s the wave of new simple vernacular Ontario ciders made from just Ontario apple juice. Like Forbidden Dry Cider by Coffin Ridge near Owen Sound. And amongst those Millennials I actually know, a far more common preference than anything beer glittery, hazy or sour.

Best Beer Value of 2018: While at Brothers Beer Bistro, I landed first on a $9 CND Rochfort 8, a fantastic price for when one is out. We get this beer brought in by our state monopoly for wines, spirits and most imported beer for under $4 CND (under $3 USA) and is about as fine a value as you are going to find in beer. I would also give honourable mention to Napanee Brewing‘s Blacklist.

Best Blog or Internet Publication: Boak and Bailey. No real challengers. Earnest places like Beer Advocate or GBH might suggest themselves as a supply of beer journalism but never reaches the level the B+B offer seemingly from their kitchen table. Plus they provide the weekly round up, the wit, the history, observational vignettes and many other forms of writing. I suspect these two are actually about seven people backed by some shadowy investment consortium. 

Best Beer Book: There is only one this year, Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out by Josh Noel. Important beer business journalism expressed in very long form without a hint of agenda or interest. Here is my review from July. And it is thoroughly devoid of food pairing suggestions, style guide parroting or three or four figure numbers ending in “1” in the title. 

Best Beer Twitter: It’s a bit boring saying, ho-hum, @thebeernut but he’s really that fun to follow. So, that being said, I am going with Katie of @shinybiscuit – especially for her tweets about Tom. And her ever changing hair colour.

Biggest Brewing News: I think it might be the collapse of North American brewing equipment manufacturer DME if only because (1) they have sold their gear so widely, (2) there is an aspect of the role of Chinese steel in the market that needs greater understanding and (3) I have a suspicion that there is more to the story – something perhaps salacious even – than the early somewhat formulaic explorations at a distance seem to suggest.  As I noted, I know a number of those involved in the circle around the issue but there are some significant gaps still needing to be explained like why was there no provincial business development intervention… and where did all that cash go?

Best Work Done In The Cause Of Good Beer: Lars Garshol. If Boak and Bailey seem to pull of all they do from the kitchen table, Lars never seem to be home. He has discovered and described the entire works of traditional northern European kveik brewing. He is so central to the entire topic that I created #TheLawOfLars and, surprisingly, it almost made sense!

Other comments on 2018: I can’t recommend a magazine or other publication as there seems to have been a definite slump in that area. A bit of a relapse into trade PR for my tastes, no out reasonably due to those involved being constantly on survival mode. Interestingly, there has been a concurrent set changes such as magazines folding, columnists being let go, personal departures from trying to write for pay, personal writing for health reasons. A certain realism struck after years of somewhat irrational exuberance. Yet, still sad for those stuck in the middle of the problem.  

So, there you are my thoughts and, to other beer bloggers, a gauntlet drop. Let’s see what others think about the year gone by.

Your Days Dwindling Down To A Precious Few Beery News Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session 142: The End Is Over And Now There’s Nuttin’

So, here we are. The end. Stan has asked for one last kick at the can and asks us to consider:

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.

Beer for an ending? What about the end of beer? Or maybe just the end of a beer. I was never fully convinced by Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting or rather Bernie’s lyrics, the wanting to rock, the wanting to get a belly full of beer:

A couple of the sound that I really like
Are the sounds of a switchblade and a motorbike
I’m a juvenile product of the working class
Whose best friend floats in the bottom of a glass…

It seemed a bit 1970s comfy rec room faux dystopian. But I remember it every time I look down at the dregs. Now often sated, even with a little relief. When I was young maybe a bit of tension. Tastes like another but wondering if I could afford a next… and a next. Goodbye to all that? To my surprise, over 15 years of this beer blogging seen many endings. The long goodbye. Endings I had not anticipated. People coming into view and then some time later departing, stage left. Switching to PR, quitting writing, quitting beer, moving along, falling apart, passing away.

A beer for all that? Clearly Orval. Simon H. Johnson‘s passing was over five and a half years ago now. He loved his Orval. And he had one Derby Bimble before he left. Amazingly, his blog is still all there. It’s hard to describe how influential he was, how his cheery insistent popping of each and every balloon was what we, what I wanted to read. If I could find a bottle of Orval I would have it now, before morning coffee. But this is Canada so I can’t just get one when I want it. Oh, sorry… this is a beer blog. There. Wonder what’s at the bottom.

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 Beer™ 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 Bürgermeisterbirne/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.

Session 141: The King Is Dead! Long Live The King!!

My reaction was immediate when I heard the news:

At first I was afraid, I was petrified…
Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side…

In fact, I was so strongly moved by the idea of shutting down the sentence that I tweeted out my congratulations to Stan and Jay on their retirement, as opposed to that of The Session – the monthly collective writing exercise that has been a constant in the last 7/8th of the history of beer blogging. But then Stan and Jay wrote to tell me it really was time to let go. I wonder if they are right. They might be.

My problem is not that beer blogging is one type of writing in a broad range of formats.  It’s the only one that provides for long form creative writing on anything that strikes the author’s fancy, without concern for pay or editorial intrusion. The Session was one way that the fellow minded stayed in touch with each other. Interestingly, Jonathon Surratt is reviving another old tool – the very former RSBS – with the same goal through his new beer aggregator, readbeer.com.

I think there is a place for such things. Folk new to writing need encouragement. Folk with opinions need a venue when their writing is more personal or quirky than editors will pay for. Despite more ways for more people to express their thoughts about beer, there is an unfortunate drive to homogeneity driven by the unreasonable hope of some day making some sort of living from beer writing. Wasn’t likely when The Session was new. Likely less likely now. It’s a side gig for 98% of us. A fun gig, sure. But that is sorta it.

There is nothing wrong with this. Writing is a pleasure. Sharing your writing is a way to make that experience richer. Maybe Jay’s work on The Session will continue in another form. Maybe not. Either way link you writing to readbeer.com so as many people as possible can find it. If you have enough interest in writing you should have interest enough in putting in it front of a few more eyeballs. Sign up.

Session 137: In 2005, I Had Seven Hefeweizens

One of the great things about the internet is the Wayback Machine. When I had to do some fancy footwork in 2016 to move the content of 13 years of two blogs in a matter of weeks, I spent hours and hours determining what I needed to save before the deadline hit and the server was unplugged. Months later I learned that it had all been saved, warts and all, care of the Wayback Machine, part of the Internet Archive project.

Which makes this entry for this month’s edition of The Session – ably hosted by Roger’s Beers – a few things: (1) a reminder that internet beer writing did not start in 2013 or so, (2) a celebration of non-fruit filled or gak-laced adulteration of a style and (3) a reminder that a fairly broad range of the style was available to Ontarians 13 years ago. Wow. Look at those photos. I really cared. Wow. Look at those spelling mistakes I just fixed. I really didn’t care all that much.

++++++++++

A real surprise was in store when I hit the LCBO the other day preparing for a dinner party on a stinking hot summer Saturday. They had actually brought in a bunch of extra hefeweizens, southern German wheat ales with a measure of yeast left in.

Rogue Half-E-Weizen: a loose rich white head falls to a white skim leaving generous lace over a slightly cloudly yellow straw body. Coriander and hops balance well, their bittering leaving some astringency while the lightly creamy yeast with its presence of banana intercedes. A medium light version of the style without the German commitment to full bore clovey creamy goodness. $5.05 for a 22 oz bottle.

Erdinger Weizen: I am a little unsure if this is a real hefeweizen as the labeling is “weissen” but the little neck sash says “mit feiner hefe in der flasche gerfeift” which in my hack German I take as “with fine yeast left in the bottle”. Even with that the nature of this beer still leaves me wondering a bit. White foam over cloudy yellow leaving no lacing. Light body without the phenol of banana or spice that indicate the style. A clean cream yeast without complexity but very refreshing.

Schneider Weisse: This is the business. One of my favorite beers that for some reason screams “lunch” with a cold cut sandwich. How many things scream that in life? It is rich and creamy good with lots of cloves and banana. A fine white head over medium brown with almost a greyish tinge. As befits the style, very moreish and heat-wave cutting.

Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen: this hefeweizen pours a tall egg white meringue over cloudy straw ale. A layer of hop astringency cuts and to a degree hides the yeasty phenol of banana and clovey nutmeg. Not as rich as others from Germany in the style though richer than the American cousins here. Lemony grapefruit in the finish.

Edelweiss Weissbier Hefetrüb: white foam over dark yellow or light brown cloudy ale. Simply lovely. Lighter than the Schneider Weisse with a lemony brightness it does not share. Clove aroma and banana-clove in the mouth. The brewery has had only 530 years to get it right. Clean finish with a nice drying hop astringency.

Saranac Hefeweizen:I am quite surprised by the quality of this beer. Not as creamy a yeast strain as the others but much truer than the other US version of the style from Rogue above and Harpoon’s version tasted in April. It would be worth comparing to Paper City’s Cabot Street. White fine rocky head over cloudy straw coloured beer. Quite pronounced clove over banana. Worthy yet the label says limited edition.

Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse: The last of this set, perfect on a summer warm evening with a game from Fenway on the tubes, soothing to aches and pains from old timers soccer. Neither lemony or particularly creamy, this is quite a grainy rendition of the style with both banana and clove as supporting class. Massive rich white head over cloudy dark straw beer verging on orangey. There is something savory as well in the palate, making me thing of soaking a pork roast in this one. Of the selection above, most like the Rogue with that beer’s untraditional use of coriander but the notes of spice here are in the yeast. Another amazing expression and, for what it is worth, one of the best logos in all of commercial trade.

What an enjoyable inquiry. Hefeweizens are, what, the Rieslings of ale? Like Rieslings with their minerally edge, hefes take a little time to learn about but they are a world unto themselves. And they both go with sausage and sauerkraut – a beer for both summer and fall.

The Session 135: Recollections Of Beer Things Lost

For this month’s edition of The Session, Alistair Reece of Fuggled has answered the emergency alarm as Boak and Bailey have put it so well:

The Session, when bloggers around the world get together to write on the same subject, is a fragile thing, only ever one dropped ball away from disappearing altogether. This month’s was looking dicey until Al at Fuggled stepped in heroically to save the day, proposing for Session #135 the topic ‘Sepia Tones’….

You cannot be as much a crank as I am without having a solid point of reference for comparison. Actually, I don’t accept all that “Al the Curmudgeon” stuff by the way. In fact just this week, while watching  Rowan Atkinson in a much delayed broadcast of the first episode of Maigret this week, I was struck  by how much like his portrayal of the main character I am.  Much more the cool yet vulnerable observer of life who plays a quiet role keeping you all somewhat safer while, myself little observed, I move down wide chestnut-shaded avenues like him wearing fantastic grey flannel suits and fedora leaving the scent of modest yet fabulous pipe tobacco floating behind me. Knowing that… it is sad – or perhaps just self-congratulatory – that I used up the title “À La Recherche Du Bière Perdu” in March when I was contemplating a then mouth full of stitches so I can’t even layer this post with an entirely appropriate Proustian gloss as that would be repeating myself.  And I would not want to do that. My new inner Maigret would not do that.

Memory, as I learned in my days twenty years ago when I worked as a criminal defense lawyer initially of little brain, exists in the present and in the mind. We are bits and pieces gathered together in a shape like sea glass in a jar. A 8 mm film replaying a record of the past crudely spliced and haphazardly edited with our own conscious interjection only half guiding the process. We are in ourselves a fiction. Which is, one might suggest, why we drink. Not so much to forget as to pleasantly fill in the gaps. Which may be what Alistair is alluding to when he asks us to “get melancholy, drag up memories of good times gone by, and join us in this month’s Session.

The fiction we find each ourselves placed within is not all that different from the fiction good beer finds itself in. Today’s false claims of pink sludge in a stemmed glass, the phony history and personality cult aggrandizement driven and jockeying with the story tellers’ middle aged cramped ambitions for a reasonable retirement which outstretch any realistic opportunity for most.  The sins of a pleasure trade are always laced with compromise and money making. Was it better when I was young, pure and fresh? When discovery was in fact possible, when the new brewing was laced with something actual new?  I don’t know.

I can only know that it was my youth. Perhaps. The gang of pals out in our regular loud hot Halifax port city taverns. The bars in foreign lands. My first tripel served in a dimpled mug in a beer of the world outfit in France in my twenties when, again, backpacking through cheap hotels and hostels. My father passing me a half-pint of shandy in Ely in 1977 when I was 14 and, again, him handing me a full pint of cold lout three years later in a pub on Sauchiehall Street down from the sports store up the stairs, the same pub that I walked past three years ago but didn’t enter for fear of both having that memory disturbed and re-edited and, honestly, also the fear of a pub like that in Glasgow late on a Saturday afternoon after all the matches are over.

The sepia tones cannot fix certain things. Not the cringing inducing dumb things done when young, the thin boasts made to and of oneself, hovering too late at night or too late in life at the party. Those bits of medical advice recommending changes one picks up as the years pass. And, if we are honest, sepia can’t improve upon another clear headed early Saturday’s morning coffee enjoyed now far more often than a Friday night out at my age.

Does beer every actually grow up? Can it? Or is it a cheap Peter Pan promise of the Neverland injection that should last a few hours but, if you are unwise, the very thing that can trap you for years… or more… or even less.  But there I go again, post-Bean observing.

The Session 134: Beer In The Garden Does Not A Biergärten Make

For this month’s edition of The Session, host and Expos successionist Tom Cizauskas has asked us to think about beer gardens:

What is a beer garden? Or what isn’t a beer garden? Or what should a beer garden be? Or where is a beer garden? Is a beer garden a place of foliage and shrubberies? Or is it a plot of concrete with umbrellas? Is a beer garden an outdoor bar? Or an outdoor Biergarten pavilion with Gemütlichkeit und Bier? Or is a beer garden to be found at a brewery with a hop trellis de rigueur?

My problem is I have never been to a beer garden. Not really a Canadian thing. Oh, folk will talk to you about a patio but that is completely different.

So… I will mention two things. The first is that Joe Stange has written a particularly wonderful entry for this month’s contribution on the joys and, umm, realities of taking your family to an actual German Biergärten. It’s the sort of great writing that an editor of a beer magazine would reject and its publisher never pay for. It’s that good! The second thing is that while I have never been to a beer garden I have written about in the past, including this piece below from 2011 “Saturday Afternoon Beer As I Smoked Meat By The Shed” which, amongst other things but especially as the southern end of the yard has lost its lovely tree, reminds me how I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can fix up the shed roof, clean the place out, set up a chair and have some Saturday afternoon beer as I smoked meat by the shed as I listen to a baseball game drifting in and out on my tiny AM radio.

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After two weeks off that saw a lot of road, it was good to have a Saturday to commune with 5 pounds of pork and 5 hours next to the Weber set up as a smoker. As perfect a summer day as ever there was, the fire sparked quickly given the subtle breeze. I dry rubbed the joint for only an hour or so and then settled in for a long afternoon’s watch.

 

 

 

 

Despite the moment, I took a few scribbled notes:

⇒ Mill Street Organic Lager is a beer that had been mainly offered in an irritating 10 ounce bottles but is now available in 500 ml cans. It has a nice body for a 4.2% beer – some pale malt roundness framed by slightly astringent hopping leafing to an autumn apple finish. one of the few Canadian better sort of sessionable beers. Good beer at a good price that lets you have a few.

⇒ I should be grateful to have a Rickard’s Blonde in the fridge – because I happily downed the first two samples sent and then had to go back and ask for more. It’s a slightly sweeter lager than the Mill Street, a bit darker with a slightly peachy tone supported by heavy carbonation. Its light astringency is present from first sip onwards leading to a bit of a rougher hop finish. Its sameness from the sip to swallow got me thinking but it is quite worth buying for what it claims to be.

⇒ Hop Devil is an old pal that served as a change of pace mid-smoke. It pounds that crystal malt that some English beer commentators now suggest is overkill. The hops have black pepper and pine tree with maybe a bit of menthol. A beer I would happily have on hand anytime.

⇒ The Samson came my way care of a pal who was traveling through Quebec and found this at the Government SAQ store up in Gaspé on the Atlantic coast. Apple butter with molasses notes open up into black cherry. Bready and bready crusty make me think of the drink that Dr. Pepper wishes it was allowed to be. No need of this to be held out for the few and the easterly. Nothing Earth shattering but more evidence that Canada needs better beer distribution.

Shed. Beer. Shed beer. They held me in good stead as the afternoon wore on. Slow smoked the pork and slow passed the hours as I day dreamed about the human condition as well as the drawing to the end of holidays.

Session 133: Hometown Proud?

For this month’s edition of The Session, host Gareth of Barrel Aged Leeds has asked us this question:

For this month’s edition of the Session, the proposed subject is ‘Hometown Glories’. Take this and run with it how you wish, but when thinking about possible subjects I had in mind an imminent visit to the place I spent my formative years and blogging about it’s highlights and wider beer scene. 

Being a gent of a certain age, I was struck by how similar this topic was to Session #15 “How Did It All Start For You?with a heavy dose of Session #9 “When Beer And Music Shaped My Life added for good measure. Which is fine but there is another problem. I am not sure I have a hometown. Our family moved when I was age 7, 8 and 15 before I went away to university at 18 to a city where my parents moved to when I was 21. As an adult I have received my mail and wages in eight communities including long stretches in Poland and the Netherlands – not to mention of months long patches of slumming around the UK with friends and family half-heartedly looking for work. So what to do?

Recently I realized that there was more to the story. I was trying to make sense of the storeroom in the basement. There are boxes and boxes of my late parents’ things down there and, working my way through the papers, I came upon my birth certificate. Oh. My. God. They lied to me and took it to their graves. I was horrified. Even though I spent my first years in Mississauga, turns out 55 years ago I was born next door… in Toronto. TORONTO?!?! The shame. The confusion. Yet, now I know why I love Johnny Bower so.

So, I am drinking a Pompous Ass tonight from Great Lake Brewing, Toronto’s other gift to Canadian beer… you know, other than me. At $2.65 CND it’s the right choice, fresh value craft from a legendary micro in its 31st year. One of the things that makes me hometown proud.