By the end of 2016, this part of the internets will be no more. The blog posts are being moved to the new home of A Good Beer Blog but this place, this tool that has done such a good job helping me share my thoughts will be turned off. After 3,431 posts and over 13,000 comments on this one blog, time has done what time will do. The server is old. It sits in the offices of my pals, former clients and former co-workers at the web development firm silverorange. For almost 14 years, they have been the greatest server masters a boy could wish for. They have taught me much - and also taught me to figure it out by myself when needed. I will be forever grateful.
2016-10-13T23:37:00+00:00Two bits of related US big craft beer industry news this week. First, Japan's Kirin has acquired about 24.9999% of Brooklyn Brewery for an undisclosed sum on largely undisclosed terms. Second, Stone Brewery is laying off 5-6% of their workforce. How about we look at the latter first. Part of the news release states in part:...the onset of greater pressures from Big Beer as a result of their acquisition strategies, and the further proliferation of small, hyper-local breweries has slowed growth. With business and the market now less predictable, we must restructure to preserve a healthy future for our company...This is interesting. For some time I have been going on about the schism in craft beer. So long I bored myself with the obviousness of it. This statement confirms it. There are three sorts of craft: macro craft, big craft and micro craft. The one in the middle has the shortest shelf life. Boosters will deny it, but the sales slump for big craft has been a thing for a while. So steps have had to be taken and this is what it looks like after things change at the heart of a business. They are not alone. Remember, just last April, Stone tried to suggest that the outside investment funds they took on were "craft" investments. Silly PR committee. No one believed it. The immediate response today from Jason Alstrom reflected what might be going on: "Typical corporate response ... Does not sound like Stone at all. They are having a tough time wearing those bigboy pants." The CEO is blamed but the Board and ownership set out the tasks for the CEO to complete. Likely for very good reasons given the tired brand and founders.In the other notable story, Brooklyn has taken Kirin's cash. The transaction's obvious and awkward effort to avoid hitting the 25% share level led me to review the Brewers Association's definition of craft. An American craft brewer must be independent and to be independent... Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.Notice that careful placement of "or" in that definition. Clearly, it is possible to control more of a craft brewery than owning the same relative measure in shares. How does that occur? By the transaction for the sale of shares including a shareholders' agreement that effectively bars the corporation from doing many things without consent of the otherwise minority shareholder. As a result, the BA's 25% ownership rule is meaningless in the world of creative financing and investment. Strings shall be both pulled and used to tie things down. Jason Notte commented on Twitter on the distinction between ownership and control as a factor in establishing the independence of a brewery:I often wonder how deeply @BrewersAssoc dives into the details. They have a lot on the plate without auditing every deal. The Devil is in the details, they say. If the Brewers Association is not able to keep up with the implications of the realities of business like investment terms why bother having the definition at all. Maybe that is the plan for 2017. These are, after all, the days and months of change. The big names of big craft are mostly moving out as the money moves in. It seems that only the man of yogurt is sticking around to bask in the twilight of these dusky days for big craft even after cashing out in his own way. He must be holding out for something more - but what?[...]
2016-10-08T14:01:00+00:00This month's edition of The Session sees host Derrick Peterman of Ramblings of a Beer Runner asking everyone to write about the "German" sour beer style Gose:I choose the Gose style in particular since it can be approached in so many different ways. Want to talk about the history of the Gose? How about how American breweries are taking this style and running wild with it with different spice and fruit additions? How else has the Gose manifested itself outside its German homeland? Is the Gose here to stay or will it go the way of the Black IPA, once the hot style but slowly becoming a largely irrelevant curiosity? (OK, that might not be your opinion of the Black IPA, but you get the idea.) Of course, we're all on the look-out for a good Gose, so if there are any you particularly like, we'd love to hear about them.You will see that I put German in quotation marks. Gose isn't really a German style any more than Black IPA has anything to do with India. One of the most telling things about gose was set out in a recent tweet by Ron Pattinson:Changing times. I used to wish more Goses were brewed.Ron pretty much reintroduced at least the English-speaking world to gose with his 2007 post "Gose" but what he described as gose in that post is not really what is called gose today. Does it matter? I live in a town, a region without regular access to Gose. When I think of comparables, I have always ensured I have backup gueuze in the stash but I have never hoarded gose. Not because gose is not interesting. It's just that most gose is not gose. It's a Gatorade alcopop. In just 2010, I could describe gose as "now lost" in my review of a book by Stan - though it was beginning to make craft brewery appearances in a truer form months later. In 2011, it was noted by Pete and Stan that the Oxford Companion to Beer missed, among many things, any reference to gose, though Garrett explained. Then the word "gose" - if not the beer - took off. It was already worth ridicule in 2012. By 2014, I was being offered low alcohol, salty Sunny D in one of the best beer bars in Toronto. Infantiled fruity gak. By 2015, it is the sign of the end times.I have had lovely light, tangy, sea pinched gose. When it is done with respect, it is singular. Sadly, as with too much with craft beer, the low path is too often taken. The easy option selected. In the hands of a thoughtful brewer with a sense of tradition there is a memorable play of wheat, salt and herb that satisfies. It is fulfilling in a way that never attracts the idea of moreish. If I could I would put a small clay jug of cool real gose on the Thanksgiving* table this weekend to drink along with the turkey and cranberry. If I dared trust the word on the label. Which I don't. So I likely won't. If I could find it.*Of which the New York Times is suddenly obsessed.[...]
2016-10-03T16:00:00+00:00Confession. I have fed Stan in my home. I have been asked by Stan why he bothers discussing things with me. My name appears in this book. I am very fond of Stan. All of which may influence my opinion of his writings, of this book. Along with the fact that this was a review copy kindly forwarded from the publisher. Can't help it. Heck, if I run the photo contest again this Christmas I might just give it away as the only prize. I'm like that.But let's work around that for the moment. As with his other books for the Brewers Publications series, Stan has written a practical guide. Starting with the second half of the book, we see it contains discussions on foraging, a directory of ingredients one might consider adding to a beer to capture locality in the glass and, then, a collection of brewing recipes - including one for an 1835 Albany Ale supplied by Craig which has its roots in a report to the New York State Senate from that year which I discussed now over six years ago. It is flattering but at the same time something I consider important. Beer and brewing in the north end of the Western Hemisphere has a history which goes back at least 439 years - not counting the Viking expeditions. You would think it was invented by the immigrants who moved here after the varying successes of the 1830s revolutions in Europe. It wasn't.Much to his credit, Stan goes even further back and documents one beverage of one of the peoples who were here before European colonization: corn-based tiswin of the Apache. He also ties late 1800s Okalhoma choc with the Choktaw people who were relocated in the genocidal trail of tears two generations before. There would have been others - but they were not by any means pervasive according to a Senacan cultural botanist pal of mine. Yet it is hard to believe that the brewers of New Sweden in the 1650s making beer from local pumpkins, corn, persimmons and watermelons didn't learn something from the locals.What the depth and breadth of Brewing Local conveys is a picture of a complex and largely unexplored understanding of indigenous vernacular brewing on this continent. It is an exciting time to have an interest in such things. Stan emailed me earlier this year that he would have included my idea of "four eras of cream ale" had he come across it in time. I suspect I hadn't even written it in any proper manner before he saw it. Months later, I got to hunting around "cream beer" dating back to the early 1800s with the hints of its pre-lager existence, its earlier German immigrant foundations and its potential links to later 1850s Kentucky Common. All of which might also be worthy of a footnote or two in this book. Had I written it. Had someone - anyone - looked it up. There is so much yet to be pursued.Which is a good thing. Which makes for a very good book. Because the book is both history and guide, both a "how to" and also a "why" which ties a lot of things together in a way that hasn't been done before. It's a part of a bigger collective work in progress. [I don't find fault that Stan, for example, doesn't mention the reason I think steam beer is called steam beer but that is also part of the bigger working out of things. I could be dead wrong.] Does this make it a milestone book in North American brewing history? Could be. I'll have to read it a more few times to form a full opinion on this book. You should, too. [...]
(image) The tweeted response from Nickel Brook Brewing this morning read "how bout them pumpkins?" It was sent in reply to today's hurried announcement of A Good Beer Blog's Pumpkinness Assurance Certificate Program. The program was launched after many many minutes of study and consumer outreach consultancy upon reading this post by the venerable Boing Boing which explains:
Pumpkin is too watery and stringy to can, and the USDA has an exceptionally loosey-goosey definition of "pumpkin," which allows manufacturers to can various winter squash varieties (including one that Libby's specially bred to substitute for pumpkin) and call it "100% pumpkin."
WHAT??? Boing Boing was/were just quoting an article at Food + Wine which contains this bombastic statement: "pumpkin puree is not pumpkin. It’s squash." Oh gourd - no... we live in a land of LIES!!! Now, as Stan testified a few days ago, pumpkin beers are more popular than the chorus of complaints would have us understand. He told us to look at what people are putting in their shopping carts. Sounds like he should have told us to look at what brewers are putting in their mash tuns.*
(image) How many pumpkin ales are actually being made of this year's pumpkin patch crop as opposed to last year's bucket of miscellaneous variety gourd glop? How many other ingredients in your beer could be treated with such callous disregard? I posted a tweet bearing witness to the scene at Cambridge Brewing Company near MIT in Massachusetts on 18 August 2013. You can click on that thumbnail to see the volunteers at work. How many other craft brewers put in the effort that Nickel Brook and CBC are putting in? Speak up! Do you know of one? Send in some compelling evidence and we can issue an official Proof of Pumpkinness Assurance Certificate Notification. For an unnecessarily large fee I am sure I could even draw, sign and mail a certificate to someone. And make sure you ask to see the paper before you buy your next pumpkin ale. Accept no imitations.
*By the way, I get it. I have seen a Blue Hubbard Squash. I have even grown them. Ugly as sin even if tasty as all get out. No wonder they keep them hidden from view. Might make the greatest ale in the history of mankind but no one is putting that on the label.
One unfortunate consequence has arisen, as far as I see, from the relatively (or perhaps just otherwise) good thing that is the swapping out of amateur beer blogging for fewer paying opportunities for the writing. I wonder whether its only me but over the last year or so I have seen more and more comments like a topic being too nuanced for open discussion or, worse perhaps, the idea that one's research is too personally important set out in a blog post. Concurrently, I have seen a lot of interesting voices drop away from the discussion even as, yes, some other interesting ones show up. Makes me wonder.
A few unfortunate things seem to have resulted. The research never ends up getting presented - or perhaps even finished - which makes us all the worse off simply through lack of information sharing. Publishers don't turn out to be that interested, I guess. Then, because it is already labeled as important, when it is published there is an implication that it is not open to scrutiny. The good beer discourse seems especially immune to the normal sort of semi-academic rigor that other topics normally attract. Third, there seems to be a resulting shift such that the cleverness now sits in the person rather than on the page. It never does.
This is not an accusation. Just an observation. It may just be something driven by a tinge of regret that the golden age of beer blogging - and the inherently zesty dynamics - are more than a few years past us. It may be the bleat of the buggy whip salesman seeing his first automobile. Pity me. Yet, there is a more recent combination of homogenized perspective and disengagement that saddens a bit.These things do not seem to be happening in other areas of pop culture like baseball or music. I can openly proclaim that I think the Blue Jays suck but who speaks against the new hops?
Perhaps it's just an intermediate stage. We may be at a point at which risks are too great so things naturally get clenched. Maybe its just part of a greater thing. While I was talking about the sorts of stories that appear in an daily Google news search for "beer" when I rushed off the footnote the other day, I wonder if I might have as easily created a similar list for beer writing. I hope that isn't the case.
Happy to hear other views, by the way. If anyone is left who does that sorta thing. And links to interesting new writing most welcome.
She accidentally spilled Mangeya’s drink and he became angry and violent, threatening to beat us up. He shouted obscenities at the top of his voice. He eventually calmed down after some shoppers spoke to him and we reimbursed him $1 for his drink and promised to buy his water glass,” said Miss Mary Shumba, one of the workers at Regal Supermarket. She said Mangeya went away but later came back with some explosives that he connected to power cables while he was sitting at the entrance to the shop.
It is unkind to make light of events in distant and less secure lands. Yet there are only four sorts* of news stories left about beer, one being variations on the theme of beer and crime. And of all those wicked stories blowing up a shopping complex has got to be up there as the greatest over-reaction I have ever seen. The use of "lost his marbles" in an actual report of a thwarted crime of this scale is just an added bonus.
As discussed last year, tales of true crime and beer are a venerable part of our social discourse. Those three mugs of beer for the servant girl in 1729 illustrate the opposite end of the same old measuring stick. For better or worse both moralists and felons often associate beer and crime. Do we deny the truth with the fervour of a semi-amateur craft PR consultant sensing something that might compromise his revenue stream? Or do we embrace the seamy reality as part of beers role in life's rich pageant?
*1. "Beer Fest / Bar / Micro / Wet Hops Coming To Town!"; 2. Interview (with no corroborating fact checking) of Great Figure in Craft Brewing (yogurt optional); 3. Travel Piece on "Wherever The Junket Money Sent The Author"... and it was Amazeballs!; 4. Beer Crime.
It was the opinion of my father, as I have recorded, that all the Baltimore beers were poisonous, but he nevertheless kept a supply of them in the house for visiting plumbers, tinners, cellar-inspectors, tax-assessors and so on, and for Class D social callers. I find by his bill file that he paid $1.20 for a case of twenty-four bottles. His own favorite malt liquor was Anheuser-Busch, but he also made occasional experiments with the other brands that were then beginning to find a national market: some of them to survive to this day, but the most perished under Prohibition. His same bill file shows that on December 27, 1883, he paid Courtney, Fairall and Company, then the favorite fancy grocers of Baltimore, $4 for a gallon of Monticello whiskey. It retails now for from $3 to $3.50 a quart. In those days it was always straight, for the old-time Baltimoreans regarded blends with great suspicion, though many of the widely-advertised brands of Maryland rye were of that character. They drank straight whiskey straight, disdaining both diluents and chases. I don't recall ever seeing my father drink a high-ball; the thing must have existed in his day, for he lived on to 1899, but he probably regarded its use as unmanly and ignoble. Before every meal, including breakfast, he ducked into the cupboard in the dining-room and poured out a substantial hooker of rye, and when he emerged he was always sucking in a great whiff of air to cool off his tonsils. He regarded this appetizer as necessary to his well-being. He said that it was the best medicine he had ever found for toning up his stomach.
Not to mention this one:
...there are still oyster-roasts in Baltimore on Winter Sunday afternoons, and since the collapse of Prohibition they have been drawing pretty good houses. When the Elks give one they hire a militia armory, lay in a thousand kegs of beer, engage 200 waiters, and prepare for a mob. But the mob is not attracted by the oysters alone; it comes mainly to eat hot-dogs, barbecued beef and sauerkraut and to wash down these lowly victuals with the beer. The greatest crab cook of the days I remember was Tom McNulty, originally a whiskey drummer but in the end sheriff of Baltimore, and the most venerated oyster cook was a cop named Fred. Tom's specialty was made by spearing a slice of bacon on a large fork, jamming a soft crab down on it, holding the two over a charcoal brazier until the bacon had melted over the crab, and then slapping both upon a slice of hot toast.
I probably read that passage about that crab and bacon toast sandwich as well as those thousand kegs of beer thirty years ago and it still makes my mouth water. My kind of pairing and breakfast in the free state, indeed.
(image) Ah, my least favourite glass ever meets my favourite brewery of 2016. I got the Kwak glass likely the best part of a decade ago and had to wash a decade's worth of dust off it to celebrate or mark or mourn today's news. I am not sure I deeply care as I have never liked the beers of Bosteels all that much - though I liked Kasteel in 2004. Jeff has some of the early reports. Suffice it to say that the Great Satan now has a maker of muted B grade Belgian malty things in its portfolio. My world has not altered.
Which is not what I said when a number of mid-central Ontario's Sawdust City beers started showing up in tins placed on retail shelves here in south-eastern Ontario. Great value at about $2.75 CND each, they all have more then held up their end of the bargain. This 4.5% ale pours a swell yellow gold with a rich white head. On the nose there's plenty of weedy herb along with a fair chunk of white grapefruit rind over a cream background. The swally is interesting. A brightly ringing bitterness elbows out a modest lemon cream cake foundation. Lots of dry white grapefruit pith from the four hops named on the side of the can. Busy but still attractive. Especially on a day that is hitting 102F with the humidity.
You know, I'll pour the next beer in another glass and put this monstrosity away likely until I hit my sixties. It's all more than a little overdone, pointless marketing for a brewery that really hid in a safe spot in the market. Now owned by the forces of evil. Or of the future. Or just of reality. Gnashing over it all is a bit like being angry about that goldfish that died back in junior high. Things change. Things you have ultimately little to do with. Good beer, however, keeps showing up. Like this one from Sawdust City.
2016-09-02T19:17:00+00:00This month's edition of The Session sees Joan of Birraire asking us all to consider this:The discussion at hand is "The Role of Beer Books". Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. There's also the bad role of books that regrettably misinform readers because their authors did not do their work properly. There are many different ways to tackle this topic.These are good things to think about. I have co-written three books about beer and also written, imagine if you can, 3,421 posts on just this one beer blog. That is a nutty amount of writing. Which means I must value writing about beer. I must, right? Over 13 years ago in May 2003 my first beer blog post was actually titled "Books About Beer" and it was about the 27 books on my bedside table. I copied the post over from my earlier blog, the one about everything else I thought about. Because in those days that was what I was thinking about, looking to figure stuff out about my interest in home brewing and how this internet thing might help me out. I do not read that many books about beer any more even though I have many times as many at hand. Books suffer from a lot of challenges when it comes to a topic like beer. It is difficult to hit on a new universal topic that holds up its interest from first draft to publication. Plus publishers want something plenty will want to buy. So we have a glut of samey style guides as well as yawn inducing food and pairing guides. "Shrimp and avocado wrap? Brilliant!" These sorts of challenges were discussed in a comment placed by Martyn Cornell under a post I wrote later in 2003, my review of his book Beer: The Story of the Pint. It is jam-packed with so many good thoughts I thought I would lift it from the archives for reconsideration here:Thank you for giving me the luxury to respond at length to some well-meant criticism, a privilege authors almost never get. First, I would say that the two Peters and I were trying to do rather different jobs in our takes on the history of British beer brewing and drinking: mine was meant to be much more specifically about the brewers and the beers they brewed, rather than a concentration on the social context in which beer was made and drunk. That is why you will find plenty of stuff in my book not only about the beers of the past, their likely strengths and tastes, but stuff on the rise and fall of the pub brewer, the crises that hit the family brewers in the 20th century and so on that you won't find in Haydon or Brown, and much less in my book about pubs. Theirs (particularly Haydon) are histories of pubs and drinking rather than beers, brewers and brewing. Both Haydon and Brown use their books for polemics about the state of the British beer and pub scene today: I wanted a pure history book. (I do the current analysis thing in another place, as editor of a yearly guide called Key Issues in the UK Pub and Bar Market.) Second, I set out deliberately to ensure an accurate account, to destroy the dozens of myths that have encrusted the history of beer, with one chapter devoted to some of the worst errors. If I couldn't verify a story from original sources I wouldn't print it. You will see my version of the Great Meux Brewery Beer Flood of 1814 and Pete Brown's are rather different. He took his more spectacular account from Alan Eames's Secret Life of Beer, an American book that came out in 1995 (which, curiously, gives the wrong date for the flood, October 16 – it was October 17.) My facts came from contemporary issues of The Times newspaper and the Gentleman's Magazine. Where Eames got his version from I don't know, but none of the stuff about people being crushed in the rush for free beer, riots in a nearb[...]
2016-08-28T13:01:00+00:00That is a notice placed in the New York American of 22 April 1825. Letters Patent were issued for the device in 1811 and 1812 (nos. 3493 and 3575 respectively). James Needham is listed as the inventor, described as a brewer in Islington a district of London, England. In a book whose title starts but is not completely stated as The Literary Panorama, being a Compendium of National Papers and Parliamentary Reports, illustratives of the History, Statistics and Commerce of the Empire... from 1811 we learn a bit more from the summary of that year's patents:James Needham, Islington Green, Middlesex, Brewer and Corn Dealer, for a portable apparatus for brewing beer and ale.Portable! How wonderful. In the same year's publication of the Philosophical Magazine Series 1, Volume 38, Issue 163 it noted that the machine makes the beer from malt and hops and that the patent was issued on 23 September 1811. Curious as to the details? Well then get on your knees and thank God for the blessings imparted by The Repertory of Arts, Manufactures, and Agriculture: Consisting of Original Communications, Specifications of Patent Inventions, Practical and Interesting Papers, Selected from the Philosophical Transactions and Scientific Journals of All Nations, Volume 22 from 1813 which contains the entire four page declaration of the invention as submitted for the patent including diagrams: [Never mind the wheely thing to the left of the illustration. That's the previous patent for Robert Bill's clothes washing machine.] Needham's application indicates that its standard operation was to make eighteen gallons from two worts drawn from a bushel of malt and a pound of hops. There is also references on the internets to an 18 page document published in 1813 entitled Directions for Brewing with Needham, Rawlins and Co.'s Patent Family Brewing Machine but I am not having any luck placing my hand upon a copy. In the April 1813 edition of The Tradesman an article sets out addition and improvements to the patent were described including these comments under the heading "Observations of the Patentee":The superior advantages of this machine, both in form and method of using it, are these. It unites the fire-place, copper, mash-tun, under-back, hop-back, and working-tun, in one compact portable utensil; simple in its construction, and convenient both in shape and the ease with which it is managed. It is made of tin: most durable and wholesome materials, and kept in order with little trouble. The method of brewing with the machine is easy and certain in its operation, and requires but little labour; the consumption of fuel is small, and the steam is condensed. It produces an abundant extract from both malt and hops, without the necessity of mashing; and the extract is also of a superior flavour, being obtained by a progressive degree of heat (from cold to boiling) given to the water, which infuses the malt and hops at one time in separate compartments of the vessel, yet affording an opportunity for the extracts to mix freely; thereby assimilating their component parts, fixing and preserving their essential and volatile particles, and thus completing the brewing in a few hours. The wort obtained by this process is so congenial to fermentation, as to produce (after a short time keeping in the cask) a transparent and highly-flavoured malt liquor, superior in quality to any that can be produced by other methods.So, the miracle that Needham blessed us with was the idea of no mash home brewing. Sounds all a bit dodgy to me. And who is Rawlins? Bet he was the money man. He shows up in 1813 given that the 18 page directions booklet carries his name. The booklet is described in this list of cookery books acquired by Princeton University in 2012 including a passage from the preface:NEEDHAM,[...]
2016-08-21T15:37:00+00:00Ah, Mr. Chimphead. A serious point must be about to be made. But being August, there is not much out there to read, not much worth writing about. People rightly have other things to do. But Bryan Roth has posted a useful examination of the use of the word "bubble" that gets the juices flowing. He did so hard upon Stan posting a piece pleading (maybe rhetorically) for the cause of "craft" based on its persistent use. And he did so perhaps not coincidentally after Lew was quoted extensively on the need to kill off the word. For Stan, the mere fact of use conveys a certainty of some meaning. For Lew, there is simply no need for the word: "I'm holding a smart phone in my hand. If I want to know, I just thumb it in." To be honest, I find these sorts of conversations appear amongst the All About Beer set rather regularly and I usually assume they are fillers until a real topic comes along. Quantity sometimes is a quality. What we have at this moment, however, is an opportunity to discuss how words are used to see if we can see what might actually be going on. So... let's do just that.I have looked back into this blog's archives and those of others to see what can be found of assistance - not to mention making sure I did not write something entirely contrary to what I am suggesting here. It is easy to trace to way that "craft" was thrown away. It's illustrated in one sentence from 2012 that I discussed here: The large, multinational brewers appear to be deliberately attempting to blur the lines between their crafty, craft-like beers and true craft beers from today’s small and independent brewers. "Craft" was botched by the Brewers Association in two main ways. First, it was made mutable. It could be uniquely redefined by their sole higher authority - and then was redefined regularly. Second, as we see above, like the man who lends his rake to the new neighbour never to see it again the BA extended "craft" to big beer by attaching a mere "y" to it. And the BA did not just give large multinational brewers the gift of "crafty" but they reinforced the point by creating the concept of "craft-like" too. Prior to that point no legitimate voice on the small brewer side was admitting that big beer was making a product similar to the beers of BA members. Then their very voice of authority confirmed that some of the Evil Empire's beers were like craft. No one remembered the underlying intention of drawing a line. As Jordan wrote two years ago there is no such thing as an evil milkshake. All that the BA achieved with "crafty" was bringing macro into the club. Way to go.Since then, we have seen "craft" not only extend to include these beers of big brewers but also things which were not considered well-crafted beer just a few years ago. Beers with facile fruit flavours to attracts folk who have no interest in beer. Beers made so poorly that the question is now legitimately discussed as to whether "murk" is now a style. The concept of "craft" takes in such a wide range of beverages now - even casually invading the distinct realms of cider and sake by times - that its meaning has been diluted and dissipated. It now includes so much meaning - so many meanings - that it no longer has little specific meaning. If you doubt that such a thing is possible, look up the word "jack" in the dictionary."Bubble" is starting to reach "craft"-like meaninglessness. Look again at Bryan's post. In it he discusses, quite acceptably, that the measure against which the posited "craft beer bubble" is to be judged is the growth in the number of craft breweries in the United States and their ability to sell expensive beer. He does not mention the ability of most of those brewers to sell and actually rely upon revenues from relatively inexpensively priced good beer. He [...]
2016-08-20T14:12:00+00:00Is there anything sadder than a life's work geared to one event that gets swept away by another bigger event on short notice? Our national public broadcaster has rightly determined that the last evening of Olympic coverage is going to be restructured and cut in order that we can all watch a live feed of the last concert of the tour by the band The Tragically Hip - because the beloved lead singer with the most Canadian of all names, Gord, is terminally ill. The tour's final concert being held in the town where I live. The band is from the town where I live. We are expecting over 20,000 extra people to come to our downtown to watch the show on a massive outdoor screen or in one of the bars that will all be simulcasting the TV show. Drinking beer. Lots of beer. Bars will be as packed as for a World Cup final in a football mad land. Rec room beer fridges will be loaded as if the college reunion was on. Because the day is both wonderful and just plain rotten.The event has taken on a cathartic tone nationally, not so much denying or defying the situation as embracing it in a celebration mixing maturity about mortality with the decision there is nothing else to do but party here in their home town or across the continent's north wherever we live. Through work I was happily if tangentially involved with small aspects of the preparations but over the last few days I have been wondering what it all means and what the intended collective intoxication, alcoholic or otherwise, says about us all. Roads will be closed. Buses are free and running late into the night to safely accommodate the only response we can offer. Because it's the natural response to the shock of the unwelcome news.What are we doing? A joyful wake before the passing? Or just one last chance to be with the band who have helped frame our national character in ways that other countries do not get, whose song "Courage" has become an anthem for facing everything over tears and beers from personal rejection to coping as a nation with the deaths of soldiers in foreign wars. Well, perhaps a few get it, get us. The autonomous city state of Buffalo where Ethan and everyone else at Community Beer Works are paying their respects in fine style, too. Respect.I hope the overshadowed solo sport Olympian running for Canada far from home understands and fights as hard or harder today.[...]
(image) Twenty-four bucks? What was I doing last decade? I have only a few of these aged big bottles left. I gave up a long time ago on trying to keep the cellar up. One of the few beers left from the days of glory, the era of beer blog ad revenue. I was throwing around the cash like a madman. Pretending that I mattered like some current era communicator. Stan actually mocked me about this beer in particular. But that was back in the day when folk weren't questioning the fleece. Or at least when 2000 brewers weren't making something good and sour for half the price. You know, the 75 comments under that post from some pretty interesting names are all... pretty interesting - but it's as if they thought we would all be drinking $60 beers by now. Really? How did that turn out? Market forces thought otherwise. Bulk fine craft FTW!
It's 40º C out there. Seven week drought might end tomorrow. Worst summer for rain since 1888. Nutty. I just need a reasonably interesting beer. I just need it not to suck. I pulled it out of the cellar, stuck it in the fridge by the orange juice and the milk bags. [Canada. Go figure.] Hey... it doesn't. It's good. Still and a bit thick but in no sense off. Fresh with a lighter lingering finish than expected. The colour of aged varnished pine. An orange hue at the edge. On the nose, warm whisky sweet with autumn fruit, brown sugar and grain as well as a fresh Worchestershired yogurty hum. Pear and fig. The baked fruit crisp you dream of. The second half pint pour generates a lovely subdued tang when rinsed about the gums. Like 90% barley wine with maybe 10% old gueuze. Or less. Just a hint. And all those whispers of rich deep malty grain huskiness still there. Lovely.
Am I glad I spent $24 for this nine years ago? I'm sure I don't care. Do you know how much I have spent on diapers and winter tires since then? It makes me want. And I just want a thick bacon sandwich. I have asked a child younger than this beer to bring me a chunk of the slab of Vermont cheddar we are working on. Fabulous. Rewarding. The espresso of a grain field. Big BAer love and deservedly so.
This month's edition of The Session sees Allistair Reece asking us about pilsners.
I know zippo about pilsners. I never went on one of those five-day long weekend holidays to Prague that made me a drive-by insta-expert. I never lived there spreading the cultural imperialism of English as a Second Language either. When I was teaching overseas after university standing before a group of sweaty ignorant teens in 1991-92, I went to northern Poland and drank Gdanski. So I can tell you all you might want to know about tripe soup and how to say bad words in another Slavic language. When I worked in Aalsmeer in the Netherlands in 1986 I drank a lot of the local big named stuff - Grolsch, Amstel and Heinekin - and even learned how to pronounce the first one "[hork]-rols-[hork]"... but I am not sure that is what Alistair is thinking about. It's not like I pretended. When I needed Czech-based pilsner content, Evan wrote a post. Why pretend? It's not that I haven't experienced beers branded as pilsner. But I've never heard the mermaids sing about it. Is it maybe that pilsner gets lost in the shuffle of the more generic "lager" thing now and in the past? It has suffered indignities at the hands of craft even when others make honest efforts.
You know, in 2006 I made something of an admission when I wrote "I just can't imagine when I am supposed to crave steely stoney dry grassiness." Is that it? It's just not my thing?
2016-08-03T00:30:00+00:00...by "handsome" I presume you mean the "other" one... Here's the thing. There is only so much I can lay out to support this idea so I might as well do it and admit that it is something of a reasonable hypothesis. To be fair, I rarely take a position that I can't later extract myself from. I am squidly like that. But today I am almost extracting myself at the same time I make the assertion. Which assertion? That cream beer in 1820 may well be the forefather of cream beer today and that neither has anything to do directly with cream ale. Three people worldwide just fell off their chairs. How did I get there? First, I submit two biographical statements for two people - John and Mary - who were each children of German-American immigrant brewers, Philip German and Christian Frederick Haas: ...GERMAN, John W., was born in Harrisburg, October 27, 1851. He is the son of Emanuel S. German, who was born in Harrisburg in 1821, whose father, Philip German, a native of Germany, came to Harrisburg in 1800, and established a brewery, celebrated for its "Cream Beer," and conducted it for many years... ...Mrs. Maltzberger was born in Zanesville, Ohio, where her father had removed in 1833. He was a native of Germany and emigrated to America early in the nineteenth century, being a brewmaster by trade, brewing what was known in the early days as cream beer. While in Zanesville he purchased much valuable real estate, and owned a brewery, and hotel. He was a very prominent man, and was highly esteemed by all who knew him...If you go to page 1219 of this text you will see that Mrs. Maltzberger was named Mary and her father was Christian Frederick Haas. Both Haas Sr. and German Sr. come to the young United States early in the 1800s, establish a cream beer brewery and do very well. Convinced of anything yet? Me neither. So, let's look at this passage from the April 1900 issue of The Pennsylvania-German a magazine "devoted to the history, biography, genealogy, poetry, folk-lore and general interests of the Pennsylvania Germans and their descendants.” At page 42 in a travelogue piece, we read the following:In Nantucket it is safe to address every man as captain, and his return salutation, if he wishes you to enter his home, is “Come aboard.” So we say. “get aboard,” and let us resume our journey westward toward Middletown, so named because it was midway between Carlisle, then an outpost, and Lancaster. Leaving the centre square, we cross the Conoy Creek, which empties into the river at Bainbridge, and gives its name to one of the townships. That old brick house, just across the bridge, used to be Pfaff’s brewery, where cream beer, or Lauderschaum, was brewed more than half a century ago. It was a pure malt, wholesome and non-intoxicating. The art of making is lost, for you see none on the market.OK, so again cream beer is placed in the early 1800s in a German immigrant context. It also now has a German name, Lauderschaum. I am advised that schaum is German for foam. Based in part on this incredibly detailed essay on the word lauter I am going to suggest that the lauder- in lauderschaum in fact lauter- and means "pure" or "honest" or even "only" which makes cream beer pure honest foamy beer. Buying anything yet? OK, how about this. It is a memoir of a gent, George Farquhar Jones, who lived from 1811-1887 in both Providence, Rhode Island, and Philadelphia and contains this recollection at page 231: Rich, cool, in Pennsylvania and no longer in existence when the book was published in 1887. Hmm... Another? OK, look at this: It's another passage from a second memoir - this one about one Colonel James Worrall, Civil Engineer. [...]
2016-07-31T14:00:00+00:00Brewing was seasonal in the early 1800s east coast towns. You see it in the Vassar logs from Poughkeepsie NY and again with the brewing logs of Francis and William Perot of Philadelphia of 1821-22. Ed Carson was good enough to scan them last fall and I am drawn back to them by this question about what "cream beer" might be at that moment. That "B" up there is potentially very important. "Cream" is a word that gets used in a number of ways in brewing over the years so being fairly tight on what is being described is a good approach. In this exercise, I am trying to think about what it meant attached to "beer" in Philadelphia and also NYC in 1820 to 1925 or so. It is clear from the newspaper notices discussed last time it was (i) a novelty, (ii) desirable and (iii) local to Philadelphia. But what else can this year's worth of notations tell us even though "cream" is never mentioned?First, who is Perot? Highlighted above is the first log entry for the 1821 to 1822 season from the brewery of Francis and William Perot. Francis becomes quite accomplished. He was known for his cream beer.. His summary biography states: Francis Perot (1796-1885) was apprenticed in 1812 to the 5th and 6th generations of Morrises (Thomas and Joseph). In 1818, Perot started his own brewery and malt house on Vine Street between 3rd and 4th Streets, bringing other family members into the business and marrying Elizabeth Morris. The Morrises turned their business over to Francis Perot. T. Morris Perot and Elliston Perot represent the 7th and 8th generations in the business -- an unbroken line of descent in the business.*More needs to be written and researched about Perot. For today's purposes, we can stick to this one brewing year's worth of log entries. I will post the log pages is a bit for purposes of your rebuttals and accusations but for now I see the following:=> In 1821-22, all but one of the 87 brews of draft beer are noted as "home consumption." But his ale is either mild (1/3) or "long keeping" (2/3). One batch of draft beer is shipped to Virginia;=> As Ed pointed out, "the "Dft B" is less hoppy with 1 lb of hops to 3-5 bushels of malt, while the ale is .5 to 1+ lbs per bushel. And the Porter is the strongest with a hop rate of 1 to 1";=> In addition to the 87 batches of "Dft B" they brew twenty-one of Ale and eight of Porter. Like the Ale, their Porter has notes as to whether the batches are mild or for long keeping. They also each have, for certain batches, the notation "hops boiled twice".=> They brew doubles and singles off a single batch and in some cases three separate runnings. They appear to be kept at least initially separate as they are accounted for by number of barrels of each.=>The log records that 57% of the bushels of barley went into the "Dft B" but it accounted for 75% of the batches produced. I have to count up the barrels for each batch as Perot does not total them but they do not appear to skew to the same ratio. It may well be that it is beer is lighter in strength than the Ale and Porter. Gotta do a bit more looking at that...What to make of it? In the summary page, Perot uses the full term "Draught Beer" as opposed to "Porter" and "Ale" but what is odd is that low hopped brewing results in the "beer" which is the opposite of the normal usage of the word, isn't it? By fifteen years later, we see regular ads for "cream ale" but at this point whatever is coming out of this Philadelphia brewery is called beer, looks like what gets called "cream" beer - and it has half the hops of their ale. Later: The 1821-22 Perot Logs Page 1 and 2 - 19 Sep 1821: Page 3 and 4 - 1 Nov 1821: Pa[...]
2016-07-28T01:54:00+00:00Look at that. Just look at that. It is a notice in the New York Gazette from 30 October 1821. James H. De Lamater had brought in a supply of Larer's Superior Cream Beer. Imported by the sloop David. Shipping is not any sort of surprise. Beer and ale was shipped all over the place by the Georgians. This beer, however, is likely being brought in to NYC at this time as this is the era when the good water started to disappear. The 1820s were the decade when "the remaining wealthy residents fled." Last fall, I wrote about how "cream ale" began to show up in some ads in the 1830s in New York City and Albany. But here is that word cream again from the outset of the previous decade - and this time describing a beer, not an ale. There appears to be four breweries by the name "Larer" that operated out of Philadelphia from 1805 to 1843. This beer comes from the second, the Melchior Larer & Son John Brewery. Lamater's address, 9 William Street, is still there. Down in the southern tip of Manhattan amongst the towers in what was the original Dutch settlement. Now have a look at these notices from a few years later. To the left, there is an ad from New York's Evening Post of 10 December 1823. G.W. and W. Smith, brewers at 131 Chatham Square, promise that their "Fine Cream Beer" is similar to that of Philadelphia. In the middle we see a year later in the 30 October 1824 edition of the Evening Post that G.W. has lost his partner "W." and relocated to the corner of Anthony and Broadway but he assures that his "rich Cream Beer" is still similar to that of Philadelphia. In the right hand notice, one Thomas Smith brewing out of James Street placed a notice in the 30 December 1826 New York Daily Advertiser offering his Double Ale and Cream Beer. So, in the first bit of the 1820s, "cream beer" is a thing in both Philadelphia and New York. There are a few things to note other than the Smith-centric nature of the stuff.* Notice how, as far as I can tell, "cream" in this use is the first time I see a quality of beer - as opposed to a technical aspect as in double ale - being used in the classification of the beer. In 1798, NYC notices for porter could describe it as "ripe and brisk" but it is not "Brisk Porter" in the way the drink in these notices are consistently offering "Cream Beer" along with other known styles like. Notice also how it is "rich" and "fine" in the descriptions. The three adjectives would be conveying meaning to the buying public. Just as "ripe" and "brisk" would have to those earlier Federalist porter drinkers of the 1790s clinging on to the British style, if not her Crown. It's also likely not the later cream ale, either. Folk could tell a beer from an ale in these days. Nothing to do with Genny Cream either. It was a new thing - a nativist beer for the post-recession era, the promise of the Era of Good Feelings fulfilled in a glass. Was it the first truly American beer?*Another Philadelphia brewery that ran from 1832 to 1888 was started by a Robert Smith, a Londoner who trained at Bass - according to Rich Wagner in his excellent Philadelphia Beer. Francis Perot born of brewers who himself began brewing in 1818 was known for his cream beer, too - "far and wide." [...]
That is from the 3 April 1820 edition of the Albany Gazette. Harkening back to an earlier era when Albany ale had a reputation - "a great and high character" - in the West Indies and the southern states. I think this both confuses and confirms a number of things. Not sure. It's located in the schedules to a report of the Commissioners appointed to devise a plan for improving navigation on the Hudson river. It's in a list of products that could be shipped were the river just improved. So, yes, it's about a bit of the brag up - but it's still a curious thing:
1. Who was brewing the better beer before 1820 that was called Albany ale? Le Breton only posted his first ad in 1803 and it's two years later when "Albany ale" was used for the first time as far as we knew when the book was written. Is 17 years enough to justify such a harkening back to an earlier era?
2. Who was shipping it to the West Indies way back in that golden era? We know that NY City brewed porter was shipped to the West Indies in the first years of the 1800s but did we know that about Albany ale?
3. What's the dip in reputation? In an article in the Albany Argus about LeBreton passing through town in 1822, we are told "the repuation of the Albany brewers has long been established in New York." Does the report writer mean that the West Indies markets were lost as opposed to the beer went off?
This is obviously a plea fro Craig and Gerry to pipe up and have a think. Is this just the same old 1820s river navigation improvement consultant talk? Does it just relate to the general post-war economic decline? Or does it actually mean something specific?
2016-07-15T01:42:00+00:00Even starting to type this post initially weighs upon me in my pre-coffee haze.* Really? Has it come to this? Thinking about beer writing again? I suppose I am somewhat insulated from the quandary by being well past it. Few people consider the comfy role of the post-popular writer. Sure, it is as much a self-imposed circumstance as one caused by market forces but I am decidedly not as interested or interesting as I once thought. Yet... does this not also free me up? I mean, I actually like to think about ethics, having written codes of conduct and advised regularly on how to keep on the right side of many lines. Actually, you know, working with the stuff. Still, I've liked to keep away of such things around here... at least since around 2008. Haven't I? But, then, Jessica and Ray today sent out a newsletter this morning which contains this:A couple of newsletters ago we wrote about disclosure, advertorials and so on, suggesting among other things that beer writers and bloggers ought to make a statement of ethics on their websites so that readers know where they stand. We're pleased to say (though we take no credit for it) that a few such pieces have shown up since... You might not personally agree with the positions those writers or organisations take in each case but setting out a position is in itself an ethical act. Good stuff.First ethical question. I am under the simmering impression that what happens in a newsletter is supposed to stay in a newsletter. While publicly shared with subscribers, it's not pasted on the front page of a blog. But their newsletter isn't like.. those other newsletters. It's actually interesting. And anyway I take comfort in Canadian law that lets me post the content of others for matter of review and, especially, given I am citing and quoting for purposes of exploring an idea I am also comfortable that I could not be giving offense. But I did not ask permission. Out of a principle founded on the marketplace of ideas.Which is an interesting turn of phrase. The marketplace of ideas. There has always been a sort of an Edwardian Olympics aspect to writing about beer - particularly since the advent of blogging over a decade ago. It has gurgled beneath this topic without the manhole covers ever being lifted. Because good beer is an accessible joy juice topic it invites amateur hobby writing interest. Because it is pleasant and compelling it drives the dreams of frustrated careerists. And because beer generates great gobs of money, it's as ripe for allegation that the left pocket has been as directly sewn up next to the right pocket as any topic this side of knitting blogs - those hellholes of graft and corruption. Which is the core of the second ethical challenge: great opportunity lays all about us. And - given great names in beer writing have accepted exclusive sponsorship and content creation contacts from large breweries - not a hypothetical. So, they often write disclosure statements as Ray and J' rightly encourage. Great. If you had subscribed to the B+B newsletter you'd even know which great examples of these statements they linked to. I pass on spilling the beans on that. Not because they are not good examples but because they are just the start of your job as reader. What is great about these disclosures is they are big red flags with the words "Start a'Judging NOW!!!" pasted upon them. See, once you know who took the Carlsberg money or the flight to an personal attendance with Jim Koch then you know why the articles that follow are so often plump, dull and somewhat smarmy. Hone[...]