Perhaps A Very Short Version Of Thursday Beer News.

I say “very short” up there as I never know where these things are going. I am like a one man Brexit in that sense. Suffice it to say, mustering the time and content for this post differs from week to week but, unlike Brexit perhaps, is always the source of joyous surprise.  I couldn’t imagine anything could be more screwed up than 1970s Canadian constitutional conferences – shown live on TV all day in my youth. But Brexit is it! I know some of you are actually living under this nutty-nutso situation so I will not go on. Excecpt to wonder what a backstop really means to @thebeernut.

So what is up in reality land? First, Geoff Latham has an interesting question: what does this record from a brewing session that occurred in September 1848 mean? It appears to show someone dabbling in early hipsterism, employing unholy techniques when it comes to hops. Click on that thumbnail. Can you read the text and help with the mystery?*

Interesting. Second, now Stan has a question:

I think I’ve only asked a variation on that question one other time — in this case the more open ended, “What is the most important hop ever?” — and Jason Perrault of Select Botanicals and Perrault Farms said to give him a little time to think about it. I haven’t pressed him on it since, but now might be time.

My answer – and I am sticking to it – is the one in the beer on the ships that had the cannons of the Hanseatic League 1300 to 1500. Likely proto-Saaz.

Home brew for three pence a pint! What year would that have been? That was my own Burco dream back in the middle of the 1980s. Speaking of the 1980s, great news of  Mendocino Brewing Company, care of a Tom tip. An early micro brewing icon is being revived:

Though the beer is not being produced inside the cavernous, 65,000 square-foot facility, Krauss and his team have high hopes about the future, to the delight of local beer drinkers and fans of the legendary brews. “Red Tail Ale and Eye of the Hawk are back,” smiles Krauss. The beers have recently been revived by the brand’s original brew master, Don Barkley, and can currently be purchased on tap at a few inland Mendo locations: in Ukiah at Crush, Cultivo and the Sports Attic; in Hopland at Campovida; and once again, where it all began, at the Hopland Tap, where the ales were originally served more than three decades ago.

Right on. Moving on, we find some odd responses to the idea of more craft beer going into the UK supermarket chain Tesco. Apparently, the Tand is still the clearest thinking person in beer culture:

This should surprise nobody. Breweries are businesses and while keeping it cosily in the bubble is nice for fans, it don’t pay the milkman. Big beer and big business want a share and they know how to go about it. Expect much more of similar.

The odd thing for me is the twin ideas that (i) for some reason we beer writers are supposed to be boosters for a bigger market slice for the  brewers that self-identify as preferable and yet (ii) we want to keep those precious brewers human scale as if this all is some sort of personal relationship. Note: never has this occurred in all of human history.

Similarly, Paste magazine has listed some of the contract beers they sell under house names – and then unpacks who is actually making them like this entry for Mission Street Pale Ale:

Attributed to Steinhause Brewing in CA, this pale ale actually comes from California’s own Firestone Walker, who also makes a handful of other Mission St. styles like blonde and black ales as well as a hefeweizen. They’re also behind Trader Joe’s Fat Weasel Ale, Jumping Cow Amber, Frugal Joe’s Ordinary Beer, and the Gila Monster Amber Lager.

I had heard years ago that Unibroue up here in Canada made all their Belgian ales. Makes sense. Why sell bad beer in your store when you can rebrand good stuff? And why be a brewer competing with chain branded beer when you can brew it yourself? Everyone wins.

Speaking of beer on the move, Josh Rubin has a great story in The Toronto Star on the ambitious expansion of one Ontario brewery into the Big Apple including one non-traditional and interesting comment from a craft brewer:

Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, was puzzled but welcomes the new arrival. “It seems like an awfully strange move, but then again, we’d probably happily open in Paris or Tokyo, so maybe it’s the same for everyone these days,” said Oliver. “If they make great beer, people will come. And I can walk there from my house. Brooklyn once brewed 15 per cent of all the beer in the United States, so I’m sure that one more brewery/taproom will be just fine,” Oliver said.

Clever people. I hope they make a go of it. Sadly, elsewhere apparently stupid is still a part of craft beer culture:

“We understand it is a bit risqué, but it’s in good humor, comical, and consensual.  We have received good feedback from when we have showed this to many” said Brady.

Jeff obviously was not part of that early feedback loop. Really, I hope you don’t bother looking at the underlying story. Morons. Particularly swell that they are ‘splainin’ sorts who unilaterally assert something is consensual.

Finally in far happier branding news, big craft brewer Stone has lost its motion for a preliminary injunction in that trademark infringement case against cheery micro macro Miller. I say happy because the court has confirmed that the case between Stone and Miller over beer brands is all about money and not some sort of special status. I say happy, too, because it places Dr. Johnson squarely back in the midst of it all, as we observe again with him the unassailable truth that brewing offers and perhaps even inflicts the curse of “the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice” upon those who are not careful, who over reach.  Brendan has more in his Wednesday afternoon tweet-fest of the court’s ruling.

Well, that’s it. Not as short as I had thought – and not even all that pointless! More good news than sad. Not a bad week. The dirty snow has already faded to the lump here an there on the north side of things. Desperate for more? You know the drill: Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday. See ya next week, unless that real job of mine gets in the way. Think I am out at meetings on Tuesday and on the road Wednesday night. Uh oh.

*Ooops… forgot I hate any use of “mystery” as it relates to beer and drinking culture.

England’s Increasing Concern Over Beer Brewing, 1430s to 1580s

I have a thing for a beer I have never had. Double Double. As I understand it, this beer was made by recirculating perfectly good wort and rebrewing it through a new batch of malt. In the mid-1500s, it was a great bother for the nation, it even gets a mention in Shakespeare,* somewhat in open view. In 1560, Queen Elizabeth became directly involved as the supply of single beer was tightening.  She ordered that brewers should brew each week “as much syngyl as doble beare and more.” Hornsey discusses a 1575 letter from the Earl of Leicester discussing a trip he took with Elizabeth, a summary of which from another source is noted above. When she wanted refreshment, she found her ale was as strong as Malmsey, heavy sweet strong Madiera wine. Not pleased.**

In the article “The London Lobbies in the Later Sixteenth Century” by Ian Archer, published in 1988 in The Historical Journal the resulting legal restrictions on brewing double double within and near to London was discussed:

The parliamentary diarist Cromwell describes a bill in 1572 “restraining the bruing of double double ale or doble double beere within the Citie or iij miles thereof, and no beere to be sould above 4s. the barrel1 the strongest, and 2s. the single beere.”

Archer explains that the goal of the regulation of ‘double double’ beer was supposed to ensure that the most intoxicating and expensive of beverages were not available to the poor, while also limiting the consumption of grain. To that, we might also add the waste of wood. England in the mid and later 1500s was not only facing speculation in malt  was having a fuel crisis. Whole forests had been lost. Double double requires not only the loss of volumes of single ale and beer to the production process but also a second firing of fuel. The Common Council of the City of London had regulated double double for years before the statute of 1572 was considered. In 1575, as we can see above to the right, another general statute against the brewing of double double throughout all of England was before Parliament. Notice, too, that it was the brewing of both double double beer as well as double double ale that was being reined in by the law. The hopping of the beer in itself was not key to the question.

Beer brewers themselves were a bit suspect at this time. Strangers. Archer states that the Brewers’ Company was an unpopular group dominated by aliens and thought to be profiteering at the expense of the poor. As we saw a few weeks ago, “aliens” or “strangers” were foreign nationals who were subject to being recorded in a  form of census. Yet, of the 1400s mood one can state that “stranger beer brewers found the Crown to be an ally throughout the fifteenth century because of their ability to supply beer to the military.” We also remember that Henry VIII created a beer brewing complex in 1515 at Portsmouth to supply the needs of his navy. Prior to that, the English navy had to buy beer from a group of 12 brewers in London. Probably including many alien beer brewers.

The role of hopped beer in military victuals continued.  In 1547, the supplying of the Scottish town in England, Berwick, required a steady provision of beer by the tun. Likely in support of the army of Edward Seymour, maternal uncle of Edward VI, who upon the death of Henry VIII became Lord Protector. The expedition culminated in the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in which 8,000 Scots were killed to 250 English. All too reminiscent of the outcome of that 1513 misadventure at Flodden when 10,000 Scots died and the English leader Lord Howard noted:

The Scots had a large army, and much ordnance, and plenty of victuals. Would not have believed that their beer was so good, had it not been tasted and viewed “by our folks to their great refreshing,” who had nothing to drink but water for three days.

In a letter dated 29 January 1587, James Quarles, the surveyor general of victuals for the navy sets out his request to regularize the supply of provisions as England prepared to face the Spanish threat. He requests continued control of Her Majesty’s brewhouses, bakeshouses and storehouses and then sets the standard for a pottle of beer per seaman a day, at a price of 1 and 3/4 pence per day. Interestingly, he also notes that a tun of beer had increased in price by about 50% from the 1540s to the 1580s, from 18 shillings to 26 shillings 8 pence. As noted above, resources like fuel and malt were tightening.

While both the armies and navies of England depended on hopped beer, the civic beer brewers were not only suspect but, like the state run beer breweries of the later 1500s, they were busy. As we noted before, Kristen D. Burton in this 2013 article describes the scale of brewing being undertaken in the whole of the City of London during Tudor times:

The beer brewers of London established England’s capital city as the leading producer of beer throughout Europe by the end of the sixteenth century; a notable feat considering the late arrival of hopped beer to England. In 1574, London beer brewers produced 312,000 barrels of beer and by 1585 that had increased to 648,690 barrels…

Scale. So, it may be that beer brewing was more welcome or less of a concern to England in the middle of the 1400s than in the latter 1500s. Or perhaps it was too critical to the nation. This might go a bit against the existing narrative. Perhaps that is because it was first a fairly benign practice in harbour towns supplying the immigrant community. Hops being imported from the continent, just a few bales at a time as in 1480. One hundred years later, it has gone from being perhaps a local port town quirk to a key military asset to a danger to social order if let loose without controls on its supply, strength and price.

If that is all correct, one of the keys to the advancement of hopped ale was not consumer preference so much as military demand. Beer was stable where ale was transitory. Beer could be held on a ship or in preparation for a battle on the field. Ale needed constant production. It also needed rationing if that was the case. And Double Double, perhaps the sucker juice of its day, was no part of a rational rationing program.

Its last sighting was in Schenectady, New York in 1820 of all places and times.  A few weeks ago, Craig unpacked the history of the brewers of that beer. They were men in transit during the great push west, the brewing of a Double Double apparently also transitory. Will I ever have one? I expect so. Perhaps Jeff is right and we are ripe for the wheel turning again. A massively malty beer would be just about right for a return to garage punk band brewing, shrugging off this era of discontent, this time of disco brewing of Franken-beers as foreign to ale as Malmsey.

*Conversely, Shakespeare gives “good double beer” a fairly respectful mention in Henry VI, Part 2, Scene III care of that unforgettable character, the Third Neighbour: “And here’s a pot of good double beer, neighbour: drink, and fear not your man.” Also note that it is beer, not ale. The play is set in around the last half of the 1440s so very little beer going about, one would have thought. Perhaps an anachronism? Or maybe a coy cultural reference to something lost to time.
**Not a wine without an unblemished past in court circles.

Putting The Cat Under The Cow For #MoneyMakerMarch

I didn’t plan to make every post for #MoneyMakerMarch build upon an idea set out in William Least Heat Moon’s foundational article on the micro brewing movement, “A Glass of Handmade” from the Nov’ 1987 issue of The Atlantic, but today I thought of this passage:

The New Albion Brewing Company, of Sonoma, California, the first true American micro, went under because it began bottling before it was financially able to produce beer in quantity. In distribution Jonah must face the leviathan. An industrial brewer can make distribution very difficult for a small brewer (sometimes by illegal means). One solution: eliminate distribution altogether by running beer from the maturation tank to the customer’s glass, or, as The Venerable said, “Put the cat under the milk cow.”

What a fabulous image. Put the cat under the cow. And what was the boom of brewpubs in the late 1980s is now the boom in taprooms. So, it was with huge interest that I followed up on Stan’s tweet this morning leading to a post at the The Mad Fermentationist, the semi-official news outlet of Sapwood Cellars of Columbia, Md. on just exactly how they are making money running their brewing and taproom operations to maximize a reasonable return. And what honesty do they bring to the discussion:

Most of our IPAs and DIPAs work out to $100-150 per ½ bbl keg. Self-distributing these beers for $200-250 there would be no way to make enough to cover rent, pay ourselves, and fund expansion. However, being a retailer of our own beers means we get $800-900 for that same keg sold by the glass and growler. It makes sense for us to charge a reasonable price ($7-8 for a 14 oz pour in a 17 oz glass) and have consumers return rather than charge a dollar or two more and end up having to self-distribute kegs (with the added effort).

Read the whole thing. Then consider how this is an example of open book brewery operations, giving secrets away to the competition. And to the drinker.  Now I know that $.80 of Whirlfloc and six cents of Zinc Sulfate Heptahydrate go into every 10 barrels of their Pillowfort ale. Didn’t before. There is really no reason for any brewery not to take this step in eager transparency. They even go so far as to say that while other breweries stick to percentage markups, they do not. Competitive advantage? It is now.

Any other open book brewers out there? Let me know so we can spotlight them as part of #MoneyMakerMarch. Meantime, go read the post. It’s fabulous.

In Like A Lamb And Out With A Better Sense Of The Money Makers

In the article “A Glass of Handmade” published in the November 1987 issue of The Atlantic magazine, William Least Heat Moon along with a character called The Venerable explored the then early micro brewing scene in the USA. It’s one of the original sources of my interest in good beer, dense with keen observation and quotes from players now in their fourth decade past the interviews. One, Buffalo Bill’s Brewpub owner Bill Owens,  was quite clear about his business model:

Owens brews six barrels every Monday, about three hundred barrels a year. “For a hundred and thirty dollars’ worth of ingredients I can make a twenty-five-hundred-dollar profit. A glass of lager – that’s all I brew now – costs seven cents. I sell it for a dollar and a half. Compare my profit on a bottle of commercial beer – forty cents.”

Making money. Along with brewing history, it’s one of the more interesting aspects of good beer but one rarely discussed these days by beer writers. In my conversations with small brewery owners, it’s something I often bring up much to their amusement. I remember the look on Ron‘s face a few years back when I started asking one upstate New York small brewery owner how much this bag of malt cost, how much he made of that keg. I don’t get it. I got answers. Yet no one seems to go there. You can think of as many reasons for that as I can but it’s annoying that such an obvious critical element of the trade is set aside or even hidden behind suggestions that there isn’t any money in making good beer.

For such a successful, now well established industry, well, that sure would be weird. I get it – and there are a couple of folk dabbling with macro-economic observations but getting particular brewers to unpack what they are up to, what the situation they are facing is more immediate. So, inspired by #FlagshipFebruary, I thought it would be good to explore my interest in the green, the black and the red and look to see who is out there doing the same thing. The balance scale and the small scale. Micro brewing micro-economics.

This month, I have a few interviews lined up and might see if anyone else is interested in having a look see wherever they are. #MoneyMakerMarch. Sure, it maybe started as a joke. But then it ended up making me think. And made me remember one of the things I was first interested in when it came to good beer, that seven cent per glass cost. Let’s see if anything comparable to that sort of gross revenue before taxes and other expenses is in anyway still possibly true. These days I take apart the price of multi-million dollar projects for a living.  Let’s see if I can apply any of that experience to come up with anything unexpectedly interesting.

 

Putting The 1390-91 Crusade Beer Buying Notes Through A Latin Translator

Now, as you know, I did take one year of Latin in undergrad but it’s not like I learned anything. So, the other day, when I found the notes from the provisioning of the English forces in the 1390-91 crusade eventually against the Lithuanians, I knew it was provisioning notes in Latin but there were plenty of assumptions. For example, when I read this from the 10 September 1390 provisioning records:

Clerico buterie super beer, pro iij barellis de beer emptis ibidem, xxx scot. Et pro ij barellis beer emptis ibidem, xxij scot. Et pro portagio dicte beer…

I made at least one error in relation to “emptis” and its variant conjugation siblings as well as the various declinations of “ibid…” “Emptis” is not related to empty beer barrels. It’s the verb for purchasing. And the final “j” in numerals is just a “i” like the rest. I thought it might be another indicator for a five. So, the translator give us this:

Clerk buterie the beer, the beer purchased for three barellw place, thirty Scot. He bought beer for two barellw place, twenty Scot. And portagio said beer …

Which I might clean up as:

The Clerk of the Buttery bought three barrels from the same place. He bought two barrels from the same place. And delivery for the beer…

I left out the price. Notice that the three barrels cost “xxx” thirty currency units but the two barrels cost “xxij” or twenty-two units. Different grades of beer? The currencies are also odd. Nearby we read “Clerico buterie super beer pro iij barellis beer emptis ibidem, j marc. vj scot.” which seems to suggest three barrels were bought at the same place for one marc and six Scots – which means one mark is worth 24 of those Scots thingies if the price for three barrels were stable. Consider this note of wine and beer purchases on 26 August 1390 which may give a hierarchy of currency units:

CLERICO buterie super vino per manus eorundem pro vino ibidem empto, ij marc. xxij scot. ij s. pr. Clerico buterie super beer, pro beer empta ibidem ix scot., viij d.

Marc. > scot. > s. > d.? The last are likely shilling and penny but what are “marc.” or “scot.”? All seem to be abbreviations given they are followed by a period. Crack that question and this document is a playground for anyone trying to work out beer prices on the eastern Baltic markets in the 1390 during an inflationary setting such as a crusade.

Oh… that might be just me.

OK – various sources of the currencies must be being described. A Hanseatic  League mark? Or a Scottish merk? “Scot.” could well be the Scottish pound which was worth 1/12th of an English pound and 150% of a merk – and made up of 20 shillings with 12 pence each.  Which makes it more sensible as the price point of a barrel of beer. But were they are actually using Scots money? No. Here is a helpful table from the introduction to 1894’s hit text Expeditions to Prussia and the Holy Land Made by Henry Earl of Derby (afterwards King Henry IV.) in the Years 1390-1 and 1392-3Being the Accounts Kept by His Treasurer During Two Years, Volume 52

So, they are using local money as they are fighting along side the Teutonic Order against then mighty Lithuania just prior to the formation of the very mighty Polish-Lithuanian alliance.

Going to leave it there for now. Internet getting dodgy. Wind storm and thunder in February. Odd doings.

UPDATE: Interesting chat on Twitter pointed out that “cervisia”* would have referenced ale, not hopped beer.  This is more directly illustrated by the contemporary Dunster Castle household accounts kept by John Bacwell, Steward, from 27 June 6 Henry IV, to 27 June 7 Henry IV (or 1405-1406) in which the word is included in this record from 11 June 1406:

In factura 6 barelles pro cervisia imponenda 2s, Et pro 1 eerda et 2 citulis’ prope novum fontem faetum emptis 2s.

So, if that word ceruisia was ale and that word appears in the accounts for the 1390 expedition, then the same account kept by the same clerk of the buttery using the word beer should be expected to mean another substance. And logically that substance would… beer. Local hopped beer.

*Or as Martyn noted a decade ago, a variant of that spelling.

Your Beery News For A Thursday Now That The Cardigan Is Finally On

It’s World Series time. When I started putting these notes together, the first game hadn’t been played. By the time it is posted, two games will be in the books. [Ed.: Oh, the Sox won game one!] I hope the idle Stan has time to catch a game or two… not a certainty given his global gallivanting seems to be continuing. This week, he sent us all this wonderful holiday post card of a photo (above) from Crosby Hops of Oregon. Respect beer. Keep the chain oiled, but respect beer.

Wine drinkers unfairly punished by UK taxes” says wine writer Jancis Robinson responding to a discussion on the implications of Brexit. Has anyone been writing about the implications to the UK beer trade? My hope is that a currency crash and tariff increases might bring on a golden age for Fuggles. There is this point, however:

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) has warned that exiting the EU without finalising an Irish border solution is expected to cost €364m worth of drinks trade between Ireland and the UK. The outcome would restrict an estimated 23,000 cross-border truck movements and attract additional new tariffs on supply chains.

To be fair, it’s not like the €364m worth of drinks will not be bought and drunk. It will just be domestic bevvies from each side of the border. Does Guinness rebuild its UK operations? Probably. [Ed.: Wait – that’s not what a good blogger does.] DEFINITELY! Diageo to return to the United Kingdom by Q3 2019.  You heard it here first.

Speaking of wine, look at the size of those servings! Wee lassie sniff-a-wine is pre-gaming for the twentieth century, I’d say.

Are we actually concerned that there are too many references to cannabis in craft beer branding? I hadn’t really noticed it but now that weed is legalized in Canada, I have not been too sharp on the ball. It’s all like a hot box here, the entire country. Have you ever seen a moose in the woods smile dreamily? You can now.

It’s been an interesting week for comments about writing about beer for magazine money. Boak and Bailey in their monthly newsletter (which you really should sign up for) shared that they are done with it for the foreseeable for  very reasonable reasons including frustrations of pitching pointlessly, frustrations with not getting paid, and frustrations when articles are not published. I’ve avoided the crutch of pop beer mag writing for the most part but was quite disheartened when MASH mag went under without publishing my third article on early Canadian brewing… as in early 1600s brewing. BB’s comment – “Can you make it more appealing to Americans?” has worn us down rather – is telling, too. A variant on the too often seen editorial theme of dumbing down. The wonderful @Shineybiscuit shared another curse of the gig:*

Months of pitching a national about the great pubs in my area has resulted in a TV food critic getting to write the piece instead. Love my job.

Yikes! I hope Boak and Bailey still spare a thought for Original Gravity which, while it tends to work “the romance of beer that everyone feels on their fourth pint” as editorial stance, still offers great value for money. And it’s made it to the 20th issue which is worth celebrating in itself.** Very few do, usually with good reason. You can read it here for free.

A fabulous bio of Carol Stoudt got a Lew link and I link on. I love this paragraph:

As the craft beer industry blossomed around her, Carol smelled the roses — and detected the need “to deepen the trenches” in her home state, she says. “As more local breweries pop up, there’s no need for me to be in those markets.” She pulled back distribution around 2015 to bring her beer closer to home. “I never wanted a factory,” she says. “I like small. It’s kind of my philosophy.”

That’s captures what I have been trying to say for about a decade. If you can’t say “I never wanted a factory”, well, I’m not all that interested in what you are brewing. “Factory-made beer” is a wonderful slag against all pretenders of all label levels.

Jordan posted an interesting essay on his experiences returning to England after five year, following up on his piece [… which I have linked to somewhere around here…] what was it called… “Belgium Sucks More Than They Tell You“?… no, couldn’t have been that. Anyway, I liked this point in particular:

Here are some changes that happened when I was away: St. Austell Proper Job in cans. Apparently this is a 2018 development and six packs are available through TESCO. You know how the LCBO changed the market in Ontario by demanding 473ml cans? Well, this is a similar development and something of a standardizing influence between young startups and larger regional legacy brewers. The retailer isn’t quite king, but the 500ml bottles do look a little dated and the deep bottle discounts for multiple purchases do influence the consumer. Cans at least move volume without sacrificing the perception of value.

What is not often noted in the hack writing about “crushable” and the art on cans is their actual benefit as a flexible friend: lower investment, more control, and still that sense of value. Jordan’s other comment about Beavertown Gamma Ray – “there are a couple of dozen better American Pale Ales brewed in Ontario” – was also welcome. It is not, after all, about the quality of the beer, just the quality of the blessed “experience“… which a pop beer mag can tell you all about in a sentence and a half at the rate of about 17 cents a word.

Don C of CNY has penned an interesting article on the return of the (tiny) NY Prohibition Party:

The state’s “pro-alcohol policies are making New York sicker, poorer, and more highly taxed,” the Prohibition Party leaders  said. “Those in state government should come to their senses and end state support for the alcohol industry, or the people should vote to replace them with public servants who will.”

“Should” is the dumbest word in the language. Makes people think what isn’t is what ought to be. No “should” with Pete as he continues his considerations on cask in the UK again and in particular he discusses price. Let me ruin his ending for you:

Price is a thorny topic to get to the bottom of. As a cash-strapped drinker, of course I don’t want the price of beer to go up. But as an adviser to brewers and pubs, I’d say there’s a lot more potential margin in cask if you want it – and if the quality is good. 

The important thing to note is that a lower price is what is being offered and what is being paid. The market is what the market says it is. Which means if folk are happy with lower-price lower-quality cask, well, that might well be the product they want. Hard to capture that as a PR consultancy message*** but it might well be why what is… is what is.

Well, that is it for me for this week. The lettuce patch has not yet suffered a killing frost even if the last green tomatoes have been brought in to ripen on the window sill. The furnace doesn’t run all night but it sure gets turned on before I make the coffee. Winter is coming – but it ain’t here yet. Weekend readings? Day dreaming again, wishing that Saturday was as fun as a Thursday? Fret not. Find your next beer news fix at Boak and Bailey.

*Then removed with well-worthy self-asserted defiance! Fight!!!
**Not the Canadian… err… Toronto edition of OG which seems to have gotten stuck at issue #1.
***Though I am quite fond of my new open source media campaign on the topic “Cask: Reliably Highly Unreliable at a Reliable Low Price!”

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 Very Last Thursday Beer News For August 2018

So how did your summer go? Mine was fine, thanks, even if I did have to work a lot. Finally got a real week off and I have been lazing about. Might go our to a favorite posted late last week on Twitter, Jasper Johns, “Ale Cans,” 1964. I like it. I have been just sitting here looking at things I like between stretches of doing things I like. Which is pretty good for a holiday.

More beer health news. Nice to see that “minimal risk of harm” has replaced the silly J-Curve as a reasonably expression of the limited impact that moderate alcohol consumption has won out. Here is a good analysis of the study. The semi-paid semi-amateur trade spin doctors may still be out in force but the general rule is still minimal harm from minimal consumption… statistically. The always relevant question, as Jeff pointed out recently, is how minimal is your consumption… really.

I liked Andy’s tweet as it tied in with issues related to value and supply:

Going into a liquor store these days to buy beer is like stumbling into an episode of the Walking Dead. Zombie beer brands just sitting warm and dead on store shelves waiting to attack the unsuspecting consumer.

Layer on that the fun folk at The Sun had asking normal folk about some heavily priced UK craft brands:  (i) “I work in a bar and have tried a lot of beers – and this one, from Evil Twin Brewing, is awful. I wouldn’t even pay a pound for it, let alone 12. On the tin it says it tastes of honey but I think it tastes more like sewage“; yet (ii) “I like a dark beer and this is pretty good from Evil Twin Brewing. We drink a lot of dark beer where I come from. In the background you can taste a burnt biscuity, caramel flavour which is nice.” The semi-paid semi-amateur trade spin doctors were again out in force defending… something… but I thought they were reasonable “person on the street” comments.

Then – get this – comes the news… nay, admission that the main brewery participating in the Back to the Future style buck-a-beer government program is losing money on the process. The biggest retailers has already backed out after mere days according to BlogTO (via Crystal.) What I think Andy, The Sun and this article are all noting is how little understood the value of beer is. I might suggest that it is because there is alcohol in beer and its price serves the intended of the consumer in given contexts but that would be opinionated of me.

Speaking of opinion, Josh Noel in the Chicago Tribute explored how US craft is expressing its opinion(s) of the current US Federal government:

In the Trump era, more than a few Chicago bar and brewery owners have worn their left-leaning politics on their sleeves. With an openness unseen in most corners of the hospitality industry, bars and breweries have openly worked on behalf of immigrant rights, gay and lesbian equality, transgender rights and even that third rail of politics, abortion.

Nice to learn from a link in that article, too, that Jim Koch‘s support of the President led to a boycott in his appropriated state of choice:

“Marketers really haven’t had to deal with something like this for 50 years — since the Vietnam War,” said Robert Passikoff, president of the New York consulting firm Brand Keys. “There is no win on this thing. There’s only dealing with it,” he added. “Now, everything is political.” Koch and Boston Beer have faced a backlash on social media driven by figures such as Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone , who pledged in a Twitter post to “never drink Sam Adam’s beer again!” In the physical world, a Jamaica Plain teenager and his father hung a spray-painted sign within sight of the company’s Boston brewery reading, “SHAME! SAM ADAMS [heart] TRUMP SHAME!”

Now, no need to just do a Koch pile-on when we have BrewDog. I don’t need to actually link to their latest failed marketing strategy (which I have a certain familiarity with being myself an early marketing strategy) but I would like to link to Carla Jean who unpacked their sexist and racist junk.

And Stan‘s last weekly update contains an excellent extended extract on the means by which Henry King (who served as president of the United States Brewers Association from 1961 to 1983) made sure the industry as a whole did not take a wrong step in marketing or brewing – he acted in the best interests of the trade and consumers:

“We beat the federal government by seven weeks. We reported the cobalt problem, we were out of it and no longer had production seven weeks before the Food and Drug Administration even got their act together on it.” He acted decisively not just because it was good for the beer industry, but because it was right. When the nitrosamine proved to be a carcinogen in the 1970s, King again moved swiftly. 

Hero of beer!

There. Another week done, another month done and another summer almost done. Damn good thing I am immortal or I’d be getting all anxtity over this passing o’time stuff. B+B has more news on Saturday as always but I was going to also remind you that Stan will be back Monday… but he won’t!  I was thinking of moving this summary of the news back a day or two. I will see how that goes…

Your Thursday Beer Newsy Notes For Six Weeks From Autumn

I miss corduroys. Don’t you? Eight months a year they are your best pal. One day a year they feel like your lower half is actually a roast chicken in a plastic bag baking in a 450F oven. I haven’t seen a leaf turn yet but the grapes out front are starting to ripen into show purple. The barley was ripened in the fields when I visited MacKinnon Brothers Brewing on Monday. I haven’t fully captured above how literally golden the fresh cut stalks were – pretty much beer-coloured.* There were a few big beer stories this week but none more important than a good barley crop coming in. Some are not so lucky.

Jeff created a lovely portrait of a small shaded corner. Boak and Bailey found a similar scene from 60 years ago. If there is one thing I like as much as the surprise hue of cut barley it’s scenes like these of actual people and how they enjoy their beer.

Here in Ontario, the big news is how the new Provincial government has launched a “buck-a-beer” initiative – including by lowering the minimum price to, you got it, one dollar. The response has not been a warm one from craft brewers and commentators. Great Lakes Beer spoke to CBC Radio while others were interviewed on TV news broadcasts. Jordan took some time before his UK-Euro vacation to set the tone, explaining how the policy change makes little business sense. Crystal pointed out how one brewery, Dominion City, is responding by donating a dollar from every sale to immigration agencies. Other efforts from the charitable to sarcastic response are underway. I’m sure this one is going to build towards the promised release of the new cheap beer for Labour Day. Question: wouldn’t that beer have to have been in production before the policy announcement?

I don’t recall ever craving no-lo alcohol beer other than to cut beer down to 2.5% or so by pouring half and half. Dad liked it as it was a way to get around his diabetes medications. Not sure the new wave of tasty water would fit any particular one of my needs but that is me.

Beer fests. I found the idea of not taking photos of drunk people a bit weird. Why not other than it’s tawdry. Fest organizers and the drinkers put themselves in positions of risk voluntarily. A few images might load social media with something opposing that other weirder idea promoted by the industry – people not drinking craft beer to get drunk. In other fest news, Ben asked if folk were willing to spend $120 for a three hour drinking session. Not a chance, I said. And James B. reported on the continued sexist crap at the GBBF. So… drunken, expensive and being stuck in the same room as sexist pigs. Not exactly my kind of fun. And it’s all a shame when I think of someone like the Tandyman behind the scenes, working to ensure these sorts of things don’t go on.

I really enjoyed this perspective from BeerAdvocate on wholesale beer buying in the US craft market. Thirty years ago I was a wholesale produce trader for a bit and the story rings true, especially the need to respond to demand rather than try to set trends at the supply side of the equation. Consider this:

“The guy at the shop asks, ‘Where are you opening?’ I tell him and he says, ‘Oh, you’re going to be selling gospel music.’ I was an alternative, metal, New Wave kind of guy. I thought, ‘I’ll never sell gospel music!’ I opened my fledgling store with no money and three or four of the first 10 people in the door asked for gospel music. Guess how long it took before I started selling gospel music?” That experience stuck with Singmaster. “You set something up, but then you follow what the customers do if you’re smart,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what I like or what you like… it only matters what the customers [do].”

When I express my unhappiness with the concept of beer “curation” go back and read that passage.

Ed gave us this bit of fabulousness: “Not everyone like lambic…

That’s it for this week. No need to link to the usual bland beer travel puff, beer pairing puff or puff-packed beer style announcements. A shorter summary of the news as you would expect from early mid-August but still enough real news to keep it interesting. Don’t forget to tune in to the internets for Boak and Bailey every Saturday and Stan on Mondays.

*Really? No, I had no idea. Thanks so much for the feedback!

The Mid-June Edition Of Thursday Beer News

June. The middle of June. Or, as we called it as children, the miggle. I am in the middle of a “very important thing” in my “real job” so my attention has been solidly on the hobby news.  Jordan said the nicest thing the other day when I mentioned I bought a pair of p’raps 1970s casual trousers* which used to be owned by the late financial manager of the Rolling Stones:

Alan, the cool thing about you is that beer is not even in your top five strangest hobbies

So true. Except I am not cool. I have teens so I am clear on that point. Yet… beer and drinks is a hobby to me. As it should be. A sauce upon a hobby. Life’s drizzled sauce upon an idle hour. No more. June. June lets you know that’s true. Hours and hours of idle are waiting for you in June. You can sit out in the yard and see five species of bee in June. If you know what you are looking for. As you sip on a beer. I have books about bees. And a pair of casual trousers which used to be owned by the late financial manager of the Rolling Stones. Life is good.

The big news around here (meaning on this planet) is how the wee Donnie T totalitarian love fest found the great big orange thing attacking Canada for acting like an actual nation state. “Boycott!” is being chanted in the streets. High school and undergrad soccer team pal o’mine, political journalist Steve Maher suggested a boycott of US drinks. It’s an easy matter these days given the excellent craft beer we brew not to mention our own Ontario wines.  I’ve probably been boycotting for weeks without noticing. I do have a bottle of bourbon in the wee cabinet – but it gives me a wicked headache, frankly. Five months until mid-term elections. Just five months.

Anthony Bourdain’s loss was deeply felt among good beer fans even though he summed up the state of craft beer with characteristically vicious wit when he coined the phrase “Mumford and Sons IPA” a couple of years ago. Let us remember that and use those words wisely with gratitude. Lesley Chesterman wrote a wonderful remembrance in the Montreal Gazette on Bourdain and her city. This set of thoughts illustrates how, for a certain set within a certain generation, Bourdain may have been as influential as Michael Jackson was for another certain set within another certain generation; the younger swapping the elder’s illusive (and now known insufficient) dream of establishing a unified theory for all beer, perhaps, for the illusion of the meaningful visceral peripatetic existence.** Each offering a route to being somebody. I say illusion, which you may take as deeply unkind, but I am also deeply mindful of the thoughts shared by chef David McMillan who actually knew him and saw the corrosive effects of his addictions:

“Sure, it all looks so glamorous when you see it as a one-hour TV show. But the one hour we did in Newfoundland took 15 days to shoot. We spent countless hours sitting in cars and planes, or just waiting in a tent in the rain. And we’re drinking every day — which is a constant state of the ingestion of depressants, and you can slowly get yourself into a depressive state.” McMillan knows from what he speaks. He did a stint in rehab and gave up drinking five months ago. “I was going down the same road as Tony,” he says. “I got to a point where I had really dark thoughts about five times a day. I used to think about it once a week, then once a day. Then five times. I decided that was enough. I was drinking like a Viking, every day of the year. I have three daughters. I wasn’t being a great father. I had to change. I’m 47. I want to be around for my daughters.

Which gives one an uneasy feeling when you read: “it was seeing those same qualities in Anthony Bourdain that gave me some hope for myself.” Or even seeing this.*** McMillan called Bourdain the captain of his pirate ship: “we were all the pirates … drug addicts, alcoholics, a motley crew of humanity from all quarters, especially those of us marginal kitchen workers.” Which makes you wonder whether we should really care about the price of beer around the world if you have to give up so much to actually need to know. Regardless, a sad loss. But be careful out there. The hobby sauce can make you dream.

Illusion. Chris Conway, a gift from Newfoundland to Toronto now seemingly re-gifted in return, considered a can of craft-brewed Milkshake IPA as one sat on an eastern Liquor Commission shelf and saw a possible perhaps unwelcome future:

Seeing this next to the mudslides and hard lemonade at the NLC makes me wonder if the destiny for Milkshake IPA is malt based alcohol juice/puree or a gateway to beers that taste of malt, hops, yeast, or water in any way. Can Molson make a Milkshake cooler that tastes like this?

I think Chris’s thought illustrates why this consideration of myth and wine (equally applicable to good beer) is hooey: “…the fact that propaganda doesn’t really matter: the stories add value to the experience beyond their demonstrable truth.” Consultant types might like you to believe this is true but, for me, there are enough fabulous facts about good wine and beer that we can confidently ditch the romantic tales. You have to wonder if it is the alcohol that makes the desire for myth?****

This, now, is an actual real thing. You see this in the TV sports highlights every week or so. The baby not dropped to catch the ball all while clasping the plastic cup of beer in ones teeth. The guy who chested the foul with a beer in one hand and a plastic tray of nachos in the other as he protected the young family, spilling nothing. Someone will no doubt note that she chose a darker ale. Craft lady baseball foul beer catcher. That is my nickname for her.

In your “somewhere it is 2004 now” update… hmm… a brewers’ advocacy group that meets a whopping two times a year in a tiny wee jurisdiction of 135,000 or so souls smacks of nothing so much as the need to spend a government grant. The timely reporting of the group’s first meeting is particularly sweet.

Boak and Bailey published a fabulous, extended and entirely interesting interview titled “Davey Jones, the Man Behind the Real Ale Twats” in which they explored a cartoon strip in Britain’s satirical magazine Viz. Jones described how he thought up the lead character:

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in pubs and the characters are sort of composites of types that I encountered. There was a bloke who used to come into my local in Newcastle who had a big beard and a beret and always seemed to be carrying several shoulder bags. He may not even have been a real ale enthusiast – I don’t think I ever heard him speak – but he had the right look, so I drew him. Probably very unfairly.

Probably accurately, too. Or at least characteristically… which is what you really want in a character. Did someone say character? I have a bit of that. And the trousers of the man who knew Mick’s money.  Lucky lucky me.

That’s it! Remember, if you find this lacking or even offensive, there is more weekly beer news to be enjoyed for the firm of the firm of Boak & Bailey each and almost every Saturday as well as my candidate for the Stan with the finest Renaissance-era Low Country last name each and less than every Monday. I might see him this fall.

Be safe. Be happy. But if you can’t, be safe. Laters.

*Troooo-saaaahhhssss!!!
**Congratulations. You have navigated to the end of that sentence. My grade 8 English teacher will be receiving comment cards for the next 30 days.
***Never quite sure who plays Christ in this analogy.
****Hobby sauce! Hobby sauce!!!