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 -

Should also be required for anybody writing the "history" of IPA for the back of a label (or a brewpub menu).

Alan -

Yes! That is a good point. Maybe, as with Cicerones and beer waitering, we need to create a masters course in beer-label-ology.

Jeff Alworth -

That pale malt thing isn't so bad, methinks. There were "wind malts" and apparently the Egyptians sun-dried their malt, too. (An unchecked fact I toss out.) But I think we can sometimes let technical accuracy obscure meaning. Coke was a big deal, and improved techniques allowed for lighter malts that people were really using. It was a big enough deal that what we think of as pale ales weren't really getting made until those techniques came along.

I'm ready to be skewered for this--corrected--but it seems we've gotten a bit pedantic about it.

Alan -

Actually, if I were to be a pedant on something it would not be over pale malt. There is nothing I have read that tells me coke radically increased the percentage of pale malt so much as it was part of the revolution of scale, centralized production and maybe even preserved it given the shift in fuel sources away from bio-mass. It certainly did not represent the invention of pale malt.

See, I understand access to coal and coke were technically limited in the 1600s generally as its there were no steam pumps yet - meaning it was all surface mining and controlled by landowners at a scale that did not yet allow for wide ranging export. These were just not as common fuels as they would become in the 1700s. Combine that with the brewing and malting still also awaiting urbanization, centralization and production at scale and you have not a matter of a technique not yet coming along but industrialized brewing as we know it not yet coming along.

So, when we have descriptions of how to make pale malts in household guides like the one I cite, we have to remember there are just not the other scales of manufacture occurring in the 1500s and early 1600s. We have to obey the chronology in that respect.

Jeff Alworth -

The word "obey" makes me disobey. I've always been that way. Therefore, I reject the thesis and declare Mitch's history kosher!

Alan -

Give me another 57 or 98 minutes. I have another 1,500 words on pressures related to coke in the late 1500s.

Can't help you with your obedience issues. Just remember the line from electricity interconnection agreement negotiations: you have to obey the electrons.

Mitch Steele -

Thank you for the very thoughtful review. As you mentioned, I tried very hard to make sure my facts were correct before going to editing and publishing, and I appreciate your perspective.
Regarding Pale Malt, I found some references to sun and wind dried malt, but I really think the industrial revolution, and the growing influence of using coke as fuel drove the "widespread" growth of pale malt, so that was my focus. Certainly pale malt was brewed with before, but on a pretty limited basis, maybe?
I remember Alastair Hook at Meantime told me a story about a very hoppy, pale beer brewed many hundreds of years before the "advent" of English Pale Ale, in Europe. I looked hard to find an official reference to that beer, and came away empty handed, unfortunately!
I love learning more about brewing history, and I thank you for the points you've made here!

Alan -

Hey Mitch! Thanks for popping by.

My suspicion is that pale malt made with coke mirrored the industrialization of brewing. Prior to industrialization, folks were making the stuff and brewing the simplest beers and ales there were but there is no evidence that there was a lack of the taking of pride in good quality work - it's just that it is cottage production or home production rather than commercial production at a scale. So, when you look at the outfitting of ships in the 1600s, as in the Hudson Bay in the 1670s or, oddly, the Hudson River in the 1670s the process of beer making is both simple and pale is valued.

And if this is a process of beer brewed for a group of people known to the brewer and there is a chance and to make it less fouled by smoke, well, the person who knows how to do that is going to be given the task.

None of this makes you wrong or me clever. I just think we have yet to establish the implications of the transfer of brewing from the household / cottage scale to the early industrial one.