A Good Beer Blog


Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


Comments are locked. No additional comments may be posted.

Stan Hieronymus -

Having defended the Big D within the last week I think it is also fair to say that D is not always appropriate (and I can't think of any time a beer should taste like a bowl of theater popcorn).

So, and you know how I like the wine analogies, I point to this:

Drink globally to ward off 'cellar palate'

Connect the dots.

Keith Brainard -

So do you think that the New England brewers just don't include a diacetyl rest in their fermentation schedules? Why do you think this would be a New England characteristic?

Fatman -

Point about diacetyl is that:

a) it can be generated by infection
b) it's difficult to control

so brewers rightly abhor it. It may be a 'regional taste' in the NE US but even Yorkshire brewers have seen the light.

Alan -

Back from the road:<ul><li>Fatman, many of the most talked about experimental beers these days have flavours that are otherwise generated by infection. To quote Papazian (I think) it's not off, it's Belgian! I don't know what Yorkshire brewers are chasing but maybe it's an abandonment of their own taste.</li><li>Keith, it's a New England and NE US flavour due to the history of the regional development of craft beer (from a Yorkshire tutelage, no?) and the track of the use of yeast as part of that development.</li><li>Stan German hops are not always appropriate.</li></ul>None of these appear to be definitive observations, even though they are true - but aren't also just the past accusations against buttery goodness? What I am suggesting is that they are as much a NE US ale marker as any other marker of style. What makes it that the style is poo-poo-ed other than slavish adherence to a format that disrespects the diacetyl's delights?

Ethan -

the deeper question is whether, in the US NE, 'diacetyl' is pronounced with emphasis on the second third syllable.

I prefer the latter.

Alan -

Me, I am just happy I spell it 95% right 95% of the time. I have no idea how to pronounce it so I have chosen "<i>die-ASS-it-all</i>" as it is the most immature way possible.

Swordboarder -

It's an off flavor. That means it's a flavor that is not desirable in regular consumption of beer. That doesn't mean it's not part of a beer's flavor profile, but certain things can be part of a beer's flavor profile and still not be considered desirable. Skunky can be considered part of the Corona's flavor profile. Oxidized can be considered part of a number of craft brewery's flavor profile because they don't have the equipment or know how to measure dissolved oxygen.

I'll put it another way. If you were to split off a batch of beer before and after the diacetyl rest, you would like the the one that went through the rest better.

Alan -

"...<i>It's an off flavor. That means it's a flavor that is not desirable in regular consumption of beer</i>..."<p>That is sorta the point. If you like it, it isn't an off flavour anymore than smoke is an off flavour for Bamburg, even if it would be a howler in a English pale ale. Given the number of long standing and successful craft brewers of New England and into the mid-Atlantic who design their beers with diacetyl, how can it not be seen as a regional characteristic? Slaves to style may not be pleased but obviously the customers are.

Alan -

Hey - here is Lew in 2001 on the question, including this comment:<blockquote class="smalltext">Diacetyl is the boogeyman of American beer knowitalls. "Pah, Ringworm, butter beer!" they'll spit, and turn away in disgust. Yet these same people will lap up Sam Smith ales, which are brewed with a similar strain of yeast and also touched with diacetyl. And Ringwood's diacetyl output is easily controlled. Bob Johnson, the head brewer at Magic Hat, another big Ringwood-yeast brewery, has it down. "We do diacetyl rests. We have full fermentation in 2 or 3 days. Then before we chill it, we let it just drift [in the tanks] for 24 hours. Any post-fermentation diacetyl will dissipate at that time, and that's the beauty of open ferment: it will dissipate." It's not the yeast; it's the brewing. </blockquote>

Swordboarder -

I would appear that Magic Hat is attempting to remove as much diacetyl as possible, why would they do that if it was a good thing?

Also do you suggest that Corona drinkers are connoisseurs because they like skunky beer?

Alan -

Holy Frig! Are you trying not to get the point? Just because you love to lick the style guide you have to come to some appreciation that that does not mean your taste is the be all and end all. Obviously Magic Hat, Shipyard, Middle Ages and all the other diacetyl brewers could change how they brew - but they don't and the customers keep coming. Calling that good brewing business an error is like calling sour beer and error or highly hopped beer an error.<p>But before you respond, please make sure you check with a bunch of other style guide huggers as you better make sure you have the authority to have an opinion.

Swordboarder -

I'm pulling your argument further than you wanted to take it. You're suggesting that brewing diacetyl beer is a good thing. It goes against conventional brewing knowledge. I'm suggesting that skunky beer is a good thing. This also goes against conventional brewing knowledge. Both are good brewing business.

What you are suggesting is that going against conventional brewing knowledge can be a good thing, I am not denying that. I am saying that an off flavor is an off flavor, regardless of if you like it or not. If I brew with wine yeast, it will produce off flavors for my beer. It may end up very tasty, but that will not be coming from beer qualities.

Alan -

For you to do what you are suggesting you need to do, you have to produce a list of craft brewers whose intended output is skunky and place those brewers in one region. You can't. "Off flavour" is only a flavour you do not like or one you are told not to like.<p>IwinIwinIwinIwinIwinIwinIwin!!!!

Stan Hieronymus -

Sorry. I messed up.

I meant to quote this part:


Then say "Is that any way to conduct a blog?"

Alan -

I find my simmering immaturity to be both a charm and one of the cornerstones on my never ending search to discover new ways to be somewhat wrong about most things.

Stan Hieronymus -


I'll take my chances you won't take your ball and home . . . or confuse me with mention of German hops.

Andy Crouch has a nice discussion about Ringwood yeast and diacetyl in the "Good Beer Guide to New England." Too long to go through the whole thing here, but he does mention the concept of "terroir" and house flavor specific to individual breweries as they pitched, re-pitched and re-pitched this yeast. A point for you.

But not everybody in New England uses Ringwood yeast.

And it's not unique to New England. It is the "house yeast" in Colorado Springs, for instance.

A brewery here in Albuquerque uses Ringwood in its most popular beers. If they are rushed (in other words, demand is surpassing supply) then you will get a little diacetyl, and that's not particularly good for these hop accented beers. The brewer is not happy.

As I said at the top (and elsewhere in beer blogdom), diacetyl adds to my drinking pleasure in some beers, but "wallowing in buttery goodness" would surely be too much for me.

As a matter of fact, although I don't think style guidelines are relevant here, they do account for diacetyl in many "styles."

And speaking of style guidelines, I don't see any references in Swordboarder's post to style guides.

Alan -

I didn't see much of any reference there. Just references to "conventional" for what that is worth.<p>That all do not use Ringwood forming diacetyl in the NE and that Ringwood forming diacetyl elsewhere is not the point. There is a commerical success in the region for a flavour that wizards would tell us is off. In a time of brewing experimentation with every bacterial burp and fart being on the table, this one taboo lingers despite its traditional roots and its wide spread acceptance in certain parts. Time of CAMDA to join CAMWA.

Stan Hieronymus -

<i>I didn't see much of any reference there. Just references to "conventional" for what that is worth.</i>

Right, but you wrote: ". . . you love to lick the style guide." You are attacking him for something he didn't introduce.

And now you are after the "wizards."

Who are these wizards?

Stonch, are you around? Are the pub drinkers of London seeking "buttery goodness" or is there such a thing as too much diacetyl?

Alan, you are correct to be offended by the knee jerk reaction from those who would call all diacetyl bad - but it looks as if you have gone to the other extreme.

Alan -

That is only if you are following the argument. So to summarize:<ul><li>It is not knee jerk. It is taboo.</li><li>It is a taboo disproved by a regional taste for it proven by commercial craft brewing success.</li><li>It is a taboo framed by style guides which discount commerical and popular approval.</li><li>Those style guides inform those who oppose breach of the taboo despite commercial and popular success.</li><li>Lickery of authority is exemplified by holding on to a taboo. ["Lickery" by the way, is an entirely proper usage from my experience of web design - one licks a lovely icon - and not meant to be particularly offensive, just a notch above "huggery."]</li></ul>And you can't ask Stonch anymore on the validity of the NE USA regional support for diacetyl based on the English scene than you could ask a Baltic porter fan in Finland his opinion, based on his local standards, of West Coast US brown porter scene. No such homogenized standards exist.<p>Again, this is inordinate reliance on "what should" be over "what is." That is called "magic" and that is wizardry because it means making something what it is not. Otherwise what you are really saying is "oh, those poor stupid New Englanders and Yorkshiremen with their bad buttery breweries". The same could be said of traditional lambic brewers and other overhoppers of the west coast and their foul over the top tastes. But it isn't because those, too, are regional scenes...but not ones labeled with taboo. <p><small><small><small>IwinIwinIwinIwinIwinIwinIwin!!!</small></small></small>

Stan Hieronymus -

Whoa - you need to hang out with a more tolerant beer crowd.

Alan -

"...a more tolerant beer crowd..."

What do you mean? I am suggesting that there is a great intolerance not in the particular but the general. If you could point me to an example of the disproof of this, it would be handy but people forget the idea of the homebrewing-sourced style guide for judging is a phenomena of the last 30 years. By comparison, have a look at Ron's recent posts setting out descriptions of lost Victoria forms of beer, many of which would be taboo as well if the modern homogenizators of style had their way.<p>So, to be clear, it's not my level of tolerance that is behind any discourse on diacetyl taboo.

Stan Hieronymus -

A small percentage of people I hang out with have a passing knowledge of beer styles, and the number who even know such a thing as style guides exist is quite smaller.

I would point you to them.

Alan -

Oh, I entirely agree with you there - this is solely a matter within the beltway of the chattering class.

Stan Hieronymus -

Oops. I would point you to the large percentage who are not the small percentage ;>)

Swordboarder -

Style guidelines are irrelevant to this discussion. As I said before the beer is better with a diacetyl rest. It could be argued that some styles are more prone to diacetyl, but that does not mean it is desired in any way, shape or form.

Also any beer in a clear or green bottle falls under the skunky category, craft, import or domestic. (Unless they're using tetra hops)

Alan -

Oh, I thought you were commenting on this thread. You are just making disconnected points - like rambling haiku. That's fine but it's starting to look like anti-diacetyl spam.<p>[Ed.: <i>edited for niceness.</i>]

Swordboarder -

Ouch, and that was edited for niceness. :)

Seemingly disorganized thoughts is my downfall. I could write a whole story and leave out the main character, which is why I'm not a writer.

I can see that this discussion really isn't going anywhere (though probably should have considered that when you posted IWINIWIN). You seem to be ignoring the most valid point I have, which is that the beer is better when it has undergone a diacetyl rest. That is what makes it an off flavor and not a flavor. You can disagree because you seem to be in love with the flavor, but I have to fight you tooth and nail. If it ends up in the acceptable category, then the standard deviation changes and allows beers high in diacetyl to become more commonplace. When that happens drinkers won't like it, and some of them will turn their backs on craft beer or beer in general. I don't want that to happen.

You win.

Alan -

We need to call a truce. So try on this. My point is that this is a flavour that is present in popular craft beers and should not be called and error. You say it is an error and that every beer is improved by its absence. I point out the success of the breweries that use it proves the customers but that those are separate...<p>So call it a New England / Yorkshire pale ale and it will have its separate category! We both win.