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.

Alan -

[Note: a comment appears to have been lost at the top of this thread, no doubt a victim of the spam war of 2014-15.]

Umm... well... no... there are as many techniques all you all have forgotten as brewers and along with them those flavours. Pour me a fern ale and then you may have a point. Control the stages of decomposition and master the flavours of stale and you may have a point. Plus if you make a statement like this, have a citation. Otherwise this is modernist lore. Like one of those 1930s futurist movies.

Alan -

Didn't I linky that one up there?

ethan -

Citations? I don't know what you mean, but to take the instance I mentioned specifically, I believe Sierra Nevada's Torpedos are designs of their own.

This debate is really going down on Jeff's blog, so I won't restart it here. But I guess I am not sure what you're trying to defend- that Albany Ales probably tasted like Firestone Walker or something? There just seem to be all kinds of more than citable reasons why that's probably--but of course not definitively---not true. Brewing records just don't give you the same thing as records of sensory analysis, and even those have both synchronic and diachronic properties which make them hard to relate to a present palate, in my opinion.

Alan -

So when you come along and say "um...no" you do so while realizing you don't understand the question and don't understand the resources available to answer the question? Then you say because someone else is in the conversation you won't be bothered to engage?

ethan -

Oh, I suppose I am engaging after all ;)

But I do take that to somehow be the crux of the arguement, and I certainly disagree

You have:

Differences in hop chemistry knowledge (e.g., understanding components like humulones, linalool, mycerne, and the like), the result of more advanced assaying techniques such as mass spectrometers and gas chromatographs

Better storage of hops, for example nitrogen filled barrier bags, and better drying and pelletizing technologies and procedures

New extraction technologies, for those who chose to use hop oil directly-and more do than you think.

New production equipment like Torpedos and techniques such as post boil whirlpool hop-bursting and understanding the relationship between temperature and dry hop character/extraction, or the relationship of fermentation factors with aroma, flavor and bitterness expression.

As a brewer, it is hard to imagine that these older beers could show the same kinds of aroma and flavor expression- bitterness, yes, perhaps. But we understand finer points regarding flavor and aroma now that have unquestionably created a "modern" American IPA, all before taking modern hops cultivars into account- which it's hard not to, as advances in barley growing and types and harvesting, and malting and hops husbandry certainly also all drive the evolution of 'styles,' or whatever we deem them.

Alan -

I was thinking about this today, too. I wonder if you are expressing the 1% of the 1% view, that of the keener brewer. I mean I hate to break it to you but I don't care about much of that. You are describing a technology that is pretty much beyond the perception of a well experienced beer person like myself. The maximization of extraction or the hybrid action of a hop to another 0.027% is too inside baseball. Plus it is just an alternative. You can't imagine what former brewers could do because you don't know, have not explored it. You seem to assume, being the progressive technologist, that new and shiny is better. At this point is is clear that a new note from a new hop is about as much about brewing as adding a syrup might be. None of which equates to skill or pleasure. It's futurism. And we know what happened to them.

Steve Wright -

"Brewing records just don't give you the same thing as records of sensory analysis, and even those have both synchronic and diachronic properties which make them hard to relate to a present palate, in my opinion."

The description of flavour, the entire idea of complex flavour descriptions and a referential vocabulary to achieve it is an astonishingly contemporary construction (see for a great exposition of this http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~hsdept/bios/docs/shapin_Tastes_of_Wine.pdf on wine - I am currently working on some of this for beer)

Brewery records however do contain a lot of information for recreation and experimentation with consistency whilst the shifts and changes in how we describe flavour, even once standardised by Mielgaard in the 70's, give something different, unstable and far far more historically contingent.

There is also something deeply odd in a historic sense that you *should* extract as much hop as you can - throwing a historic idea of balance that goes far back into Gallenic ideas out the window - is itself a very strange pursuit of a particular faddishness. Newer is newer and bigger is bigger but neither should be confused with "better", conflating the two is a trick of a certin view of modernism.

Aleksei Saunders -

I'm not sure I understand, as a (home)brewer, why it would be hard to imagine older beers showing similar aromas and flavour expressions as current beers.

If anything I can imagine beers flavours from the past blowing our minds. The beer "culture" in North America appears to be just "discovering" the addition of all kinds of materials. Fruits, grains, herbs, spices. This has been done before (sorry Alan, no citation) - brewers brewed with gruit long before hops came along. Fruit may have provided the earliest sources of yeast for fermentation. We're re-examining barrel aging, wild fermentation, etc, etc. I'm not sure we're breaking new ground so much as "perfecting" the ability to control the factors.

I'll concede that preservation has improved so that the tastes are more "locked-in". But improving stability is not the same as inventing "new" flavours. History has running ales, aged ales, blended ales. There is the potential, certainly, for similar taste profiles to what we're seeing now.

I also think we're beginning to believe that understanding something leads to finer creations. I'm not sold on the idea that that is true. How does a gas chromatograph improve flavour?

Brewing and beer is a wonderful thing because it is part science and part art. You can understand it all, all the kettle reactions and water chemistry and fermentation science and sanitation and still make shit beer.

You could also have the most tenuous of grasps upon it all and make wonderful elixir.

This shouldn't really become a competition with the past. There isn't anything to gain from such pursuits and besides, until your brewery regularly runs a 610,000 L fermentor I think the past has you beat.

ethan -

"You seem to assume, being the progressive technologist, that new and shiny is better. "

Well, I do not assign it a value such as better, only different. I am pretty sure everyone always loved drinking whatever they had over... well, nothing, or tea.

Alan -

Note: claims to status based respect over merit based ones have flopped regularly since the Duke of Wellington was PM.