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."


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Stan Hieronymus -

I agree . . . but (you knew that was coming) who defines imitation?

Is it the addition of a little corn? Hardly new, and Spotted Cow, a beer you admire, is made with a bit of corn.

Is it the use of hop extract? Maybe that is OK, but what about hop oils or other "downstream" hop products?

Sorry, I'm better at the questions than the answers.

Steve Anderson -

This is hyperbole, right? Just because you don't like the final product, doesn't mean that the process isn't authentic. Unless you're talking about alcopops, which I don't think you are.

Pivní Filosof -

Nice issues raised by Stan.

Anyway, here in Czech beer community an expression is catching on to define those beers that aren't brewed as they should be "Pivní Napoj". The closest translation I can think of is "beer flavoured drink", as opposed to just "Pivo" (Beer). For example, Bernard would be "Pivo", Staropramen is a "Pivní Napoj" I love Czech language.

Alan -

Good points. Last I checked, Stan, corn was food. Or is it - shouldn't a plant be able to reproduce itself to be natural? Are we clear that hyper refined corn syrup stripped of most of its components is not real? Isn't that like hop oil?

I also think this is different from just "organic" as that is already so troubled a term.

Steve, not hyperbole as production and final product are too closely joined. I like yeast in my beer, for example. It's full of the good stuff that people claim makes beer good for you but in most cases it is removed.

I have access to one recipe of a craft brewer that includes Breakbright Super Tablets kettle coagulant and Yeastex. Why are they needed? How many use these and other things beyond the hops yeast malt and water we are all implicitly offered by the term "craft beer"?

The removal of natural whole ingredients by filtering, chemical additive and refinement of ingredients is within the range of activity that leads to "real" or "craft" beer. When I move to thinking about industrial marco imitation beer, I really do wonder how much it is like "Gin Lane", stripped of food value, imbued with science.

And I like Miller High Life as much as the next guy, Steve, so this is not about snobbery.

Stephen Beaumont -

Provocative as ever, Mr. M -- hey, if you're going to call me "Mr. B" I can tit-for-tat -- and as much as I don't want to, I'll bite.

As Stan rightly pointed out, who defines imitation? Back when they still talked to me, and before they became MolsonCoors, Molson execs informed me that they had over time removed preservatives from virtually all their brands, opting instead for close filtration or pasteurization. And one of the world's classic ales, Westmalle Tripel, has for years been made with hop extract, since long before some people started to dump on it for "not being as good as it used to be."

A beer like Edelweiss Snowfresh, which I've seen beer geeks coo over and which contains glucose/fructose and flavourings, is more to my mind "imitation" than is Molson Canadian, even though I wouldn't welcome either to my beer fridge.

Alan -

I just think Mr. B has such a nice ring. I think of you in a bowler hat and spats whenever I type it. Pouring 1920s cocktails.

I am not really trying to "define" something to the point it could be a label on a beer can ("contains 100% imitation beer") so much as explore the idea. There is that idealistic level that we can ask whether hop extract is better than hop leaf. That is almost an ethical question. But then there is the question about the substance of the hop leaf that I think Pollan is getting at. I think yeast in the bottle is the more obvious nutritious aspect of beer which suffers from production methods but are there also intrinsic aspects of the leaf that the oil lacks?

We might ask whether this causes flavour loss but we might also ask if there is an actual implication on nutrition. We like to throw around the line "beer is food" but if it is then we have to consider its wholesomeness. That leads us to whether all processes and production methods in brewing and in the production of its ingredients are as richly wholesome as they might be, as full of micro-elements as God intended when he brewed the first batch... cause it was Him, right?

Again, this seem separate to me from the "organic" discussion though related.

Martyn Cornell -

I find myself curiously unwilling to put the Mark of Cain on macro-brewed beers by calling them "beer-flavoured drinks" or "imitation beers" or whatever - I know it's not meant to be, but I fear that such a move will appear to the vast majority of beer drinkers as geeky snobbery, the same as if Robert Parker and his like started referring to the more mass-market products of E&J Gallo as "imitation wine".

And one man's ""Pivní Napoj" is another's perfectly acceptable hot-day coolant: it always amuses me to see PF and other Czech-based beer bloggers slag off Staropramen, since in the UK, Staropramen is still so much better than most of the other lagers available.

Alan -

Isn't more ecumenical than that? There might be perfectly good macros that use ingredients which are less refined than others and processes that maximize (or at least do not minimize) nutritional value. Filtering and pasturization are two I can think of. Are there other processes that kill off the good of beer whether it is made in a big or little pot?

For the record, I like Staropramen in a can like I like Miller High Life.

Velky Al -

The Staropramen I drank in the late 1990s in a little bar near the Central Library in Birmingham was one of the best beers I knew at the time, just as I loved a pint of Caffrey's down at the O'Neill's on Broad Street. For fear of sounding as though I am about to dash off a letter to the editor, Staropramen is significantly the worse off for "modernisation".

However, to call it an imitation beer is just plain daft. The near evangelical fervour with which some people slag off beers using fermentables other than malted barley basically bows to the slighted shrine of Reinheitsgebot as some kind of gospel truth.

Humans have always made alcoholic beverages with whatever was at hand, hence the early colonial brewers use of maize and pumpkins to make something boozy and good. It is always funny to see how the all malt fundamentalists then go and worship at the shrine of Trappist beers, despite the use of brewing sugars as adjuncts.

There is always a question of context, so Staropramen is pants in the Czech Republic because there are far superior products available. Having said that, having lunch with Evan Rail in a dingy Staropramen pub beloved of Ron Pattinson was one of my beer highlights of 2009. Context.

Ilya Feynberg -


BRILLIANT POST! Seriously...wonderful. Oh man, just think if this is something that can truly be brought out into the open. I would LOVE to pick a fight with the big commercial corporate "breweries". Perhaps if someone has a $100 million advertising budget give me a shout! ;)

But seriously, I agree with the post entirely. Although it's not the laws that need to be changed in my opinion it's the perception of the consumer on what makes a beer, well a real damn beer. Generations have been put off real beer and towards whats popular on TV and the club crowd.

I promise you this, have many people taste say something like a DogFishHead IPA, and they'll wonder what was that interesting fizzy bitter drink you just had them taste. It's experience and perception. More and more people are growing up today and reaching drinking maturity with this warped idea of what a real beer really is.

In my opinion, our new found beer culture in the states is right along the likes of our wonderful new found corporate American fast food crap diets.

Just my two cents, and seriously brilliant post. For me, it hits a personal note.

P.S. I do still think that Coor's light's etc have their place and I'll have one from time to time (rarely), I just don't think they should be labeled as and perceived as beer. ;)