While I was happy to be corrected (again) by Stan last month on the state of beer journalism, one does like to see it in forms where the story is based on new angles and less on relationships. So, happy was I to read Crystal Luxmore's piece posted in the Old and Stale this afternoon developing the idea of beer and terrior but doing so a bit more specifically than I have seen, using Canada to frame the context:
New Brunswick’s barley is said to have “wet feet” because of the East Coast’s rainy days, unlike the dry, cracking Prairie soil where most Canadian malt is grown. And so when brewmaster Liam McKenna created his Yellowbelly Pale Ale using only “Maritime malt,” he says he could taste the difference. “Maritime malt has more proteins than a Prairie malt so you get these nutty, strawberry flavours in the beer,” says McKenna, brewmaster at Yellowbelly Brewery and Public House in St. John’s.
I have to admit I believe in terrior, the idea that your food can reflect the soil it comes from. Sadly, little comes from one patch of soil anymore. Well, except at my house. I have the same variety of carrot out on the front lawn as well as in the backyard patch. Their tastes differ mainly because I have not yet, even after five years, moved enough dirt around and not yet fed it enough lamb poo and not yet double dug in enough compost. For 99.99999% of beer, malt is like my carrots. And Canada is the bulk barn when it comes to malt. Remember that when someone offers you a US craft beer. It's all terrior schmerrior for the most part. But there's a claim to be made of that 0.00001% of the malt that's able to be used and then is used to showcase the effect.
Yet Crystal (remember her?) does not stop at malt in her brief piece. She covers water, yeast and hops, too, in a neatly succinct piece drawn from interviews of brewers and the obligatory Globe and Mail quotation from a US based Phd in something. What does it lack? Well, corroboration for one thing. Could we please have comments from consumers confirming the claims of vendors have any merit? Trouble is who would one ask? Beer thought is a shoal of troubled waters when it comes from independently corroborated information. Someone is either a beer writer pitching a competing idea, juggling the need to please three sources of beer income or was once married to the person who wrote the book from which the idea in the story is nicked. Or you are Jordan. No matter. Beer is a pleasure trade with few kicks at the can offered who would put things plainly. And we all benefit from those who take a good honking wail at the can when it's within a boot's reach. As in this case.