Interesting to see that "craft beer" is such a post-2007 term - and one that has never quote achieved the heights that "microbrewery" did in the late 90s. "Gourmet beer" never did nuttin' for no one. Thank God. Glad to see "good beer" has the staying power that simplicity and accuracy assures. Play this game yourself.
Boak and Bailey asked themselves a mid-year, mid-life question: what do they like now? Sounds like a good idea. I'm just getting over a five week run of creaky ailments that have given me a new appreciation of my insides so this is just the thing for a third Monday evening in July.
First, I checked the evidence. What is really in my stash? Wine. Mainly red wine. Spanish Bierzo. French Côtes du Rhône-Villages. The local Prince Edward County whites. Vintage port. Ürziger. I buy Ürziger primarily to say the word. Quickly. Over and over. Back in the back, there's beer, too. Don't get me wrong. Two types. Beer for now and beer for some time one day. I hide Fuller's Vintage Ale on myself. I hide some from myself. A few final bottles of weird stuff. Funny what ends up back there in the dusty dark damp. I ended up giving away those Stone 5-5-5, 11-11-11 beers. Couldn't be bothered. Sorta dumb project, wasn't it. I tend to have around five cases of beer for another day and a couple for now. More and more, they are getting nudged by cider, too. So, fact established, I like a wide range of wines, beers and ciders.
Second, I like staples. I got some APAs and some IPAs. I don't buy collaborations or other special beers anymore. Too over priced. Too risky as to whether they are any good. Your experiment in brewing and price points? Someone else can be your guinea pig, thanks very much. Poor pleasure likelihood level. PPLL is bad. Abt 12 has a low PPLL. Its PLL is awfully high. So I have a few of those at all times. You never know when Ron might show up. Fact.
Third, my beer selections out might be bland, too. Last few weeks I've had a Brooklyn Summer, Saranac PA, Syracuse PA, Sam Adam Summer and a big Labatt Light. Why? It's summer of course. BBQ beers. Salad beers. Just back from baseball beers. We are spending 12 days in Scotland next month and I am hoping to sip the local equivalents if it's hot. As I eat langoustines. Or deep fried haggis. Who wants to think about drink too much when it's 30C? That's why the good Lord made Pimms and Cinzano. You throw in this juice or that, piles of fruit and cucumber spears. Mint leaves from the garden. It tastes like you intended. Another fact.
Fourth, when I don't have something I mostly dream of cider and perry these days. Oliver's aged perry from England. That one with the caged cork from Lebanon, NH, Farnum Hill. Of course, I can't buy them here. And I won't be in Albany until the autumn comes, the next nearest supply depot. Until then you take what you can get. I was liking Stutz cider from Nova Scotia fine but the local government store didn't keep buying it, preferring the sugar added, mass produced "premium" ciders to the real stuff. Maybe I can find some real stuff when I am over in Jefferson Co., NY on Wednesday. There's a lot of that when you live where I live. Scrounging. Stockpiling. Daydreaming. Planning. There is no denying the truth.
Sound dull? Check back when it's sweater weather. Even here by the big lake, I don't really even want a Belgian beer until it gets below 15C as the high late afternoon. Complex is over-rated when it's hot outside. Like a lot of things. Rebuilding fences. Mowing. Weeding. Painting the steps. Hedge clipping. Replacing... that something out there in the sun that's packed it in, too. Yish.
What a minefield this beer presents me. Not only do I know and like the brewer but his mother lives nearby and his auntie works where I do. How could I possible give an opinion unbouyed by positive thoughts? Then again, it's not like I am all Jim-junkety or anything. No need to stop using the bathroom mirror. Then, besides that, there is the question of what others might think of me - which can be odd and disconcerting - not to mention likely wrong. How dare I try something not conservative? But more importantly, what does it mean about this style? What does this beer in this place and time mean?
You will recall the the best expression of what style is was Jackson's first go at it, before he went bad Aristotelian creating the mess we live with today. Originally, a style of beer was stylized after an example, a great beer. I think it is fair to say that practically speaking that example is the Weihenstephen Berliner Weiss I wrote about for Session 19 - if for no other reason that for a long while this was the only example you were going to lay your hands on in North America. That is until micro went craft. So, is this homage or dommage to the style? Should I care?
The beer pours an effervescent clear light gold. No head at all. On the snort, you get apple cider and cow poo of the nicest kind. In the mouth, a light and lightly astringent texture holds flavours of apple, meadow grass, minerals like a good Mosel, fresh lemon juice, a little cream of wheat like a good gueuze and a little little something vegetative like fresh cabbage or cauliflower. A really lovely sipper and at 3.8% a beer you can sip for a good long time.
What a relief! No ethical qualms!! Priced at $7.95 for 750ml, this is about twice as much as the brewers hefty IPA Headstock, one of the best values in beer in Canada. The BAers give it lots of positivitay... which is good.
The scene: It is later in the afternoon on a Saturday in summer. Alan sits on a stool hunched at the dark end of the bar back near the hallway to the bathrooms. His face is bathed in the blue glow of the iPhone screen into which he stares. The bar room is busy but he does not notice. Only his fingers move across the little screen. An nearly empty pint glass sits by his right hand.
ALAN: Sure, Curator. Same again. Large glass, please.
BARTENDER: (pours beer sets down pint glass two thirds filled) Remind me why do you call me that?
ALAN: (looking up) You don't really care, do you?
BARTENDER: Not really. Just makes you sound a bit weird and pompous.
ALAN: (face in screen again) Better me than you, brother... (mumbles to himself as he thumb types) Sandwich tongs! Yes! That's it. (makes little snorting sound.)
Alan sits up, stretches and drains half his two-thirds of a pint of something strong and brown and Belgian.
ALAN: Was Max in today?
BARTENDER: (pausing to think for a second) Nope. Not that I can recall.
ALAN: (draining half remaining half of his two-thirds of a pint, digging for his wallet) Who's playing tonight?
BARTENDER: Against El Glorioso?
BARTENDER: No idea.
ALAN: You, you are a beautiful man... (stands up, drains his glass) Catch you later!
I have had a bit of a odd bug for the last while. Not something that I would get into in great detail but for some reason this story about one aspect of the brewing in Vancouver caught my eye:
The region wants bylaw changes that could force brewers to pay to deal with organic matter produced through fermentation, saying many of the new businesses are pumping out more than just great suds. "Part of making beer is the waste products are very organic and have quite a high strength from a sewage perspective," Fred Nenninger, a manager in Metro Vancouver's wastewater division, said. According to Nenninger, the organic waste produced by beer brewing is tough to treat and contributes to odour and corrosion in sewer systems.
As you will recall, the student union of UBC installed a brewpub and identified a strategy around wastewater in its study 'An Investigation into the Implementation of a Brewpub at the New Student Union Building" which recommended installation of an on-site separator. It was described as "decanters and separators operating continuously that are efficient in clarification and separation" and also "energy efficient" as well as "efficient for removing the residues, solid wastes, and the cleaning agents of storage tanks." Sounds touchy-feely-green but the issues are real. At a 2013 conference, Deschutes Brewery of Oregon explained how they actually have two streams of waterwater that they handle separately - with even the lighter stream still being held in a tank to be released more slowly overnight into the waste water system. The same conference seminar saw a presentation from a municipal official that illustrates how hard brewing is on a wastewater system and also mentions a surcharge that was levied on breweries which chose to do no on site separation, leaving the municipal system to deal with the discharge. Conversely, one California municipality in 2013 promoted itself as a craft brewery destination due to its capacity to accept high strength waste due to sizing for a macro industrial brewery located there.
But it can also get snappy out there. In 2012, another brewery in Blanco City, Texas faced the opposite reality. Much unhappiness was expressed at the meeting of Council when a local ordinance was put in place to require pre-treatment rather than build a new facility at the expense of all taxpayers. Which makes sense. Why shouldn't the full costs of brewing be placed on the bottle or glass of beer?
Another day another sixteen century reference to beer that has me puzzled. This is an excerpt from an account of the voyages of John Davis who sailed both in the eastern Arctic of what becomes Canada in the 1580s and also in the tropics on spice trade expeditions around the turn of the century. This passage describes the stay Davis and his crew had waiting in August of 1599 for a king on the island of Sumatra to decide whether to given them a cargo of peppercorns:
The two and twentieth, I went to the King early in the morning, who did use me very friendly. I stayed with him foure houres or better, banqueting and drinking. After an houre, he Davis his caused the Sabandar to stand up, and bad me likewise men with stand up. The Sabandar tooke off my Hat, and put a Roll of white linnen about my head ; then he put about my middle a white linnen cloth that came twice about me, hanging downe halfe my legge, imbroydered with Gold : then againe he tooke the Roll from my Head, laying it before the King, and put on a white garment upon me, and upon that againe one of red. Then putting on the Roll upon my Head, I sate downe in the Kings presence, who drank to me in Aquavitae,* and made me eate of many strange meates. All his service is in Gold, and some in fine Porcellane. Hee eateth upon the ground, without Table, Napkins, and other linnen. Hee enquired much of England, of the Queene, of her Bashaws, and how she could hold warres with so great a King as the Spaniard? (for he thinketh that Europe is all Spanish). In these his demands he was fully satisfied, as it seemed to his great good liking.
The three and twentieth, the Prince sent for me ; I rid to his Court upon an Elephant : hee used me exceeding well. Excessive eating and drinking was our entertainment...
* Aquavite was a beverage made of beer; it contained a large proportion of "hope" and was well fermented.
A beverage made of beer? I added the quotation marks around hope. Was that "hops"? I had always assumed that the stuff called aquavitae was hard liquor, as we used to say back in the Maritimes - distilled spirits to all you all. I ran into this term in the research for Upper Hudson Beer when in the diary of Robert Jeut, one of Hudson’s crew, the first night of drinking in the Albany New York area on 20 September 1609 is described. Jeut states that Hudson wanted to determine whether the chief men of the area of Albany had any treachery in them. He gave them so much wine and "aqua vitae" that they were all merry but drink was strange to those hosted by Hudson. Things must have gone well as two days later, the Mahicans returned with gifts of wampum belts as well as a platter of venison.
Was aquavitae on these voyages strong hoppy beer? Hudson appears to have a small cask of strong beer on his final voyage to the Arctic in 1611 when he is set adrift to die as his mutinying crew immediately drain it when they are rid of their wacko of a captain. This note from 1653 seems to give the answer. It is a distillate of beer or wine. Twice or thrice distilled of you start with beer according to the instructions.
So I was rightish and wrongish. My favorite beery reference in the Davis records is this one which describes something definitely wrongish: "We had of them some 10 or 11 Tonnes of beere for the Victory; but it proved like a present purgation to them that tooke it, so that we chose rather to drinke water then it. Yikes.
I had three beers over the weekend. A Brooklyn Summer ale at the Hops Spot in Sackets Harbor, NY with lunch Saturday. A Saranac Pale Ale at the Chiefs - Paw Sox game that evening. A Syracuse Pale Ale at the Dinosaur BBQ with lunch the next day. Burger. Pizza slice. Pull pork and brisket. What is not to like? Nothing.
Two Shaker glasses and a plastic cup. With the family surrounded by happy strangers each time. Stayed off the highway, took the ten car ferry to the USA then traced the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. Lots of tattoos. Hipster tattoos at Sackets and then working joe tattoos further south. Central NY must be a tattoo hot bed. Or it's just affordable art. The big guy at the end of the aisle with the 15 month year old toddler had a few. He was pounding Buds and loving the game. No bugs. No wind. No humidity. Two triples, a few home runs. An out at home. Ended up 6-6 in the ninth with the home team winning on a walk off walk. Four straight balls ended the three hour game. "I fucking love this!" the big guy said out loud to the night, or just our section. Fireworks at the end of the game and ice cream sandwiches on the way home in the dark.
The server at the Dinosaur late the next morning had more ink. And Amy Winehouse eye makeup. Called the lad "Little Man" which I assured him and his sister who was making fun that when the Amy Winehouse biker lady with the tattoos calls you "Little Man" it's a good thing. The air was still early summer perfect. You could smell the BBQ blocks before you saw it. Sat outside in the shade watching the biker guys drink their beers and laugh. The SPA had good manners. Tasty but not intrusive. Went with the Tres Hombres platter just fine.
It's that time again. The monthly edition of The Session. Beer blogging boys and girls gather 'round the coal fired ISPs throughout the world to share their thoughts on a topic. This month our host is the Pittsburgh Beer Snob who writes:
At many points in history you can look back and find alcohol intertwined. A lot of times that form of alcohol is beer. Beer is something that connects us with the past, our forefathers as well as some of our ancestors. I want this topic to be a really open-ended one. So, it should be fairly easy to come up with something and participate. If you were among any readers I had when I posted most of the time you have a very good idea of where I might be going with my post when the time comes. The same doesn't apply to you. Do you want to write about an important beer event with great historical significance? Famous figures that were brewers? Have you visited an establishment that has some awesome historic value? Maybe a historically-themed brewpub? I wouldn't be surprised to even see a few posts on Prohibition. It doesn't really matter when it comes to history!
History is good. I am actually of the opinion the best histories of beer and brewing are yet to be written. But I also believe the best beer writing, thinking, constructs, descriptions and criticism are all a fair ways off, too. We wallow in times of self-satisfaction. Would you just look about you at the works so far, Ozzy?
Anyway, that being or not being the case, what to make of the state of brewing history? I have written a bit of my bit to be sure but I am still not satisfied. I have come across beer in the Arctic in the 1570s, the 1670s and the 1850s. Fabulous facts. Beer for those living on the edge. Why? Because it kept them alive. Happy and alive. Billy Baffin, that giver of what I think the most Canadian surname, on his fifth voyage in 1616 got into a real pinch and had to hightail it to an island off Greenland and make a tea to keep he and his crew alive:
Now seeing that wee had made an end of our discouery, and the yeare being too farre spent to goe for the bottonie of the bay to search for drest finnes ; therefore wee determined to goe for the coast of Groineland to see if we could get some refreshing for our men ; Master Hei'bert and two more having kept their cabins above eight days (besides our cooke, Richard Waynam, which died the day before, being the twenty-six of July), and divers more of our company so weake, that they could doe but little labour. So the winde favouring us, we came to anchor in the latitude of 65° 45', at six a clocke in the evening, the cockin eight and twentieth day, in a place called Cockin Sound. The next day, going on shoare on a little iland, we found scuruy great abundance of the herbe called scuruie grasse, which we boyled in beere, and so dranke thereof, using it also in sallets, with sorrell and orpen, which here groweth in abundance; by meanes hereof, and the blessing of God, all our men within eight or nine days space were in perfect health, and so continued till our arrivall in England.
God is good, indeed. Beer is a bounty that is provided to us for health and joy and the lessons of history prove it. Yet, history also proves the wages of not only drunkeness but seeking out the best and brownest. Beer is neither benign or neutral but a powerful tool. That is what history teaches us. It can trace empires for us. Fortify a frontier. Collapse a region. Give hope. And bring despair.
Many moons ago, I read a lot of Ivan Illich's writing. And George Grant's. And stuff by Bertrand Russell, Simone Weil and H.L. Mencken as well as anyone else it seems who were quite happy to tell you the general assumptions about anything were pretty much wrong but, one way or another, how it was also OK because the alternative, one way or the other, was the better place to be anyway. I think about these sorts of writings when I do my work as a lawyer or as a foster parent. I think about these things when I choose what I am going to do with my time and my money. As I smoke BBQ and daydream. The result appears to be living like you are at your cottage as much as possible while focusing on what's useful and helpful. Works for me.
So... I've been thinking a bit about craft beer and, how shall I put this... how little I like it. I love good beer and good company in a good tavern - don't get me wrong. It's just that the layers and layers of craft are building up to the point it's all getting both a bit boring and a bit confusing. Which reminds me in particular of Illich. Consider this from his 1977 essay "Disabling Professions":
Merchants sell you the goods they stock. Guildsmen guarantee quality. Some craftspeople tailor their product to your measure or fancy. Professionals tell you what you need and claim the power to prescribe. They not only recommend what is good but actually ordain what is right. Neither income, long training, delicate tasks nor social standing is the mark of a professional. Rather, it is his authority to define a person as a client, to determine that persons needs and to hand the person a prescription. The professional authority comprises three roles: the sapiential authority to advise, instruct and direct; the moral authority that makes its acceptance not just useful but obligatory; and charismatic authority that allows the professional to appeal to some supreme interest of his client that not only outranks conscience but sometimes even the raison d'etre.
Sounds a bit much to think about seeing as we are only talking beer, right. But then Jeff praises professional judges, Boak and Bailey face a beer that smells of "manure with a hint of bile" and (I think) Stan is seeing patterns that leave him reminding himself to follow his own interest. I am not going to pursue this very far tonight so much as to put it on the table and think about it for a bit. I like the merchants of beer just fine. Also, the guilds-folk and craftspeople - as in those artisans who craft something - if you can find them out there making good beer. I like all those people just fine. But consider the one craft brewer who recently disparaged another for that brewery having design staff. Was he just being bitchy or tellingly blind to his own comparable failings, most notably found in the glass of fruit flavoured "saison" that tasted like a discount lollypop. It was an amazing "judge not lest ye be judged moment" for me.
An accusation tantamount to pointing and calling out "professional!" by one similarly besmirched and reeking after wallowing in the same bog.
Nine years ago, back around those heady days of political blogging, I wrote a series of posts on a fictitious Atlantic Canadian separation movement focused on a mde-up new capital called Tantrama City. One post set out details of the Canada Day celebrations under the new governmental order and featured the photo of Neil and Larry above. I have no idea who these guys are but I love it. It may be the most Canadian image I have ever seen. The nutty bow ties in the national colours, Neil's boring earnest shirt and Larry drinking a Bud. And the fact they don't give a crap and are just having a good time.
Is there a Peru Day or a Norway Day? Canada Day is such a politely bland concept but, this being a confederation with lingering prickly regional identities, it suits us. We are the country that cancels recreations of historic events. Why recall past unhappinesses? What we remember in particular is the formation of one semi-autonomous colony out of three in 1867 (or was it four... Canada was sort of split into Canada East and Canada West but had formerly been separately Lower Canada and Upper Canada from 1791 to 1841), two of the invitee colonies not joining in until six (PEI) and eighty-two (Newfoundland) years later. My particular part of the nation remembers the events with mixed emotions.
So, on this we day celebrate the fourth version of Canada after the one that was otherwise a bit chunk of New France up to 1760, then the one with the Upper and the Lower, then the one that didn't work from 1841 to 1867. And maybe the one from 1763 to 1791, too. OK, maybe this is the fifth Canada. Most of all we recall the man who is attributed with bringing the four colonies together, Sir John A MacDonald. Larry and Neil might well have been making a joke or two about him - as the founder of a large part (but not all) of our current constitutional structure (yes, it is a bit messy) was a bit of a drinker. A bit of one. Consider this description of one of the planning sessions from the pre-Confederation years:
"...The Council was summoned for twelve and shortly after that we were all assembled but John A. We waited for him till one - till half past one - till two - and then Galt sent off to his house specially for him. Answer - will be here immediately. Waited till half past two - no appearance. Waited till three and shortly after, John A. entered bearing symptoms of having been on a spree. He was half drunk. Lunch is always on the side table, and he soon applied himself to it - and before we had well entered on the important business before us he was quite drunk with potations of ale." But, after two and a half hours of debate, the wound up their discussions of the constitutional changes and agreed on the course to be followed..."
So, we are a nation imagined and brought into being by a drunk. That is the story we are told. Historian Ged Martin in 2006 published this detailed study of the record of Macdonald's drinking patterns which both confirms the fantastic level of consumption, his personal struggles as well as the possible causes. It is a very sympathetic piece. If they read it, I am sure Larry and Neil would like him more... and raise another beer to the nation imagined mid-spree thanks to potations of ale. They'd probably raise an American one come to think of it. But only if it was the nearest one. We are not that fussy.