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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Chris -

I think it's about finding that balance between meaningful and utterly useless. New ingredients, techniques and methods will yield beers that taste different than beers of the past have. I think it's quite right to categorize accordingly, but it gets tricky. You don't want to rigidly conform or force a beer into an already-existing beer style for the sake of organization, and at the same time you don't want to subdivide so many times to the extent that the resulting styles are meaningless or useless. I think we've yet to locate that balancing point, is all.

Joe Stange -

So there is something new under the sun, after all.

Will -

Albany Ale... has everyone else given up on that? I'm still trying to get access to some brewing logs of the period, though would it be safe to assume that Albany Ale is just another name for Burton ale; or some type of strong-cream ale? I got the ingredients to resurrect this beer, including the original hops, though I'm still looking for that elusive recipe.

Alan -

Will - not safe at all. There is plenty of reason to consider it a stand alone that was not sufficiently recorded. The malt you have and the yeast you have and the hops you have are likely all wrong simply because they are lost. I might be wrong but that is the point. No record, not recipe, no style left to recall.

Joe: all things old are new again... especially if I can get some fern malt

Gary Gillman -

What I find interesting though are the many connections between historical and modern brewing. E.g. I was just reading in Frank Faulkner's brewing text from the late 1800's where he contrasts London and Dublin porter. He states the Dublin style was a mix of matured stout, mild (new) stout that was "clean", and "heading" or half-fermented beer added to condition the beer (to produce the thick head that is ancestor to today`s nitro version). For London Porter, he states it is practically all mild with no "acidity". I can get a good idea from this what the beers were like, when you add to it that brown malt of the day was kilned with wood fires or a mix of coke and wood. (Contemporary malting manuals make this clear).

I've had many beers today which fall into these various categories. Cascade is new to be sure (from 1972 IIRC), but 1800's accounts in England complain that American hops have a taste of "pine wood" or ``blackcurrant``. A piney taste is characteristic of many U.S. beers today.

I agree that we can never know for sure, but I feel you can often infer what beers were like from extensive reading in period s and (to me) often they sound similar to various kinds of craft beers available today. There is always a limit to be sure. Did chocolate cran-apple brown ale exist in 1870? Maybe not, but then too given the 1000's of beers made in the beer-brewing countries then, perhaps something like that was a local specialty in Vermont or Kent, England, who knows... There were certainly cherry ales in England according to the late historian and food writer Dorothy Hartley. It's not such a hop skip to what sounds like a modern concoction if, say, some mixed it with porter.


Gary Gillman -

Just another example, Alan. I was looking at online sources to find out what people think blackcurrant tastes like. One description said it was like a combination of a flowery and musky taste. I've had APAs (lots) that taste like that! We have modern varieties of malt and hops, but I wonder if there are imperishable characteristics of soils - terroir in a word - that impart certain qualities that don't change despite the genomic make-up. Same thing for hops in England. Goldings have existed for hundreds of years under the same name, I'd think it reasonable that they taste pretty much the same now as in 1850 (or close enough).

Then too historical recreations of beers are increasingly available, and these, while often (not always) excellent, often resemble craft beers I had in numerous places.

But we will never know for sure and I offer all these thoughts with that acknowledgment.


Will -

Good points Gary. Beer is not so ethereal that the ingredients used in its production just up and disappear when someone stops brewing a particular style. Malt and hops do change over time, though the basic properties/flavors remain the same and can be replicated to a sufficient degree. I am pretty sure that the english cluster and humphries hops I have in my freezer are going to be similar tasting to the same hop varieties that were growing in the same field, 100 years ago. And actually, black currant is a pretty good description of their flavor. They are a bit "catty" too in larger amounts.

How then can we say something like Albany ale is lost? We know the ingredients they would have used to make it - pale, amber, or brown malts, or a combination thereof - maybe some wheat, though unlikely, and local hops. And unless they were dosing the beer with so much salt that it made it taste so different than anything brewed before it, again unlikely, we should be able to make an educated guess of what the beer was like. Until we find the brewing logs, we don't know for sure, but "lost"... I'm not buying that.

Alan -

I am not disagreeing with you, Will, as by "lost" I do not mean lost forever. More like the Amazing Grace of Beer. Maybe these are "hidden" styles. I do want my fern ale.

Plus, there were clearly many brewers making strong pale ale with local ingredients in Albany so there is reasonable argument for a range of flavours. Wheat is actually more than likely given references in the 1700s but you are right - there is a hope and it sound like your hope is stronger than mine at the moment.