I have to admit, I am very entertained by 'draught' cans. The pop, the schnick, the whoosh. Guinness, for example, has done this for a few years, which adds a nice head to the beer, Murphy's Irish Stout and Boddington's Pub Ale too. I don't know exactly what that little ball does, but it does pour you a foamier beer.
Last May I reviewed Belhaven Scottish Ale, and enjoyed it quite a bit. Belhaven does have a slightly different line for export from what they sell in the UK, and now their Scottish Ale comes in a draught can. Last May I said the Scottish Ale reminded me of a porter, I could swear this stuff is a whole different creature. This guy pours with a nice fluffy head and deep amber color, seemingly without hops and very malty. It reminds me, actually, of Boddingtons, except darker color, more malty and tastier. More expensive too, and a lot more expensive than the same Belhaven in a bottle. My wife says 'it hugs your tongue', probably because dinner was spicy, and I say this is a great beer but - as I might say with many beers - a few more hops couldn't hurt.
A few weeks ago I noticed that Arcadia Publishing had some titles relating to beer. I like these books which are essentially collections of old photos, press clippings and diagrams of very specific topics. In upstate New York, for example, you can pretty much find a collection of your town or county or another major aspect of the history of the community like the Erie Canal, the first title I bought. Each book is a solidly bound trade paperback, filled with over 200 black and white pictures like those you see here below taken from Brewing in New Hampshire of the Frank Jones Brewery of Portsmouth, dating from about 1901. Click on them for a bigger view.
After taking notice, a quick email to the publicity department landed me three very topical titles: Nashville Brewing, Brewing in Cleveland and Brewing in New Hampshire. Each book has has a brief introduction which sets the stage for the 125 or so pages of photos with captions that follow. In Nashville Brewing, for example, the reader is advised that the book focuses on the history of Gerst Brewing from its predecessors starting in 1859 to the 1954 closure of the brewery as well as the revival of the name as a modern craft beer pub. In Brewing in Cleveland a history of the whole town from the first industrial brewing of 1832 to modern brew pubs is covered.
These books add as a great adjunct to the other histories of beer we have covered here, whether it is the story of the German lager barons in Ambitious Brew or the golden era of canned brew in Great American Beer. They fill in the gaps and perhaps sometimes challenge the interpretations found in other books. More importantly they give you the visual context. These particular photos of bottling from 106 years ago, for example, make me grateful for public health regulations in food production. Each book is a worthwhile addition to any beer book library.
Yesterday The Globe and Mail ran a story about something being done reflecting the new world order in which beer is the new wine - a beer and cheese tasting in Vancouver:
"It's something that's not done," he says. "But beer and cheese is a great combination because they're so different. A lot of cheese has a grainy, salty content to it. The beer helps bring that out. I'm trying to keep cheese interesting."For those who are keeping track, this is not really all that new as beer and cheese tastings have been happening all over the place. Recently, for example, I've received word of tastings going on at DiBruno Bros in Philadelphia who also sent me a few pcitures of their place. The next event is being held on Friday, 9 February at which Rogue Brewery will offer tastes of their unusual and excellent beers handcrafted in Oregon. DiBruno's tells me: "this promises to be an impressive list of big dark beers and big cheeses." Last weekend Di Bruno featured the beers of Sly Fox, one of Pennsylvania's great craft brewers. Heck, even grocery stores and community colleges are running tastings of local craft beer.
Somewhat oddly, the Globe's story features a place where the beers highlighted include a can of Guinness and other Euro-macro-brews like 1516 (or maybe this 1516 - we aren't told) and Stella. Except for a dislocated paragraph about recommendations from Ontario Craft Brewers, the Globe's story features some great cheese with some pretty ordinary beer. Why is that? Why in Canada can't we recognize the excellent and craft-made over the popular and mass produced yet when it comes to beer? While our media tout the mass marketer, it is left to quality brewers like John Graham at Church-key to spread the gospel with events like his Spring revivals where local produce is matched with his ales.
By the way, if you are near Philadelphia and interested in contacting DiBruno Bros for a reservation, call them at 215-665-9220 ext. 237. Feel free to post about any other events like this in the comments.
Somewhere on this map Callahan's was just 40 years old.
During the past year I’ve been writing about the Long Island craft beer scene. While I don’t propose to give that up, I plan on doing something a little different in the coming year: I’m going to adopt a nearby bar as “my local” and I’m going to become a part of the regular crowd (where they like it or not) and write about that experience and what I see happening in the bar.
It’s hard to pinpoint where I got this idea, but it might have been when I was reading Travels with Barley by Ken Wells earlier this year. Wells was on a quest to find the best beer joint in the country. His descriptions of life and character of the bars he drank in probably oiled the wheels and started me thinking about bar or pub culture. Observing pub culture was certainly one of my goals on my recent pub tour of England.
Instead of following Wells’s meandering path from the head waters of the Mississippi all the way down to New Orleans (with occasional side trips to Portland, Oregon) in search of the ideal beer joint, I plan to stay put and drink beer in one place. Basically, I’m adopting “a local.”
I struggled with whether I should actually identify the true name of my local, but in the end I decided that the actual name of the pub does not matter. Thus I selected the name, Callahan's, as a convenient shorthand for my local.
There are several places I could have selected has my local; however, Callahan's is probably the most interesting drinking space within a two minute drive of my house. Callahan's is in a 150-year-old building, a historical landmark in our town, and the interior of the taproom shows all the signs of it's rustic, colonial origins.
The other reason that Callahan's is attractive to me is that the group of locals, or regular patrons, seem to be really nice folks. In fact on one of my first visits to Callahan's one of the locals included me in a round at the bar. Of course, I did the right thing and bought the next round. It's precisely these sorts of interactions that make pub-going interesting and social.
I hope you will bear with me over the coming year as I periodically take you to my local, Callahan's, and give you a beer nerd's glimpse at another beer culture that we "sweater and beard"-types don't usually see.
Well I'm off to Callahan's for a pint of Blue Point Toasted Lager. I'll be back soon to let you know how it goes.
From last month's troublesome shipment.
Deep cherry red amber ale under the slimmest of foam and white rim. Thick and still ale, almost syrup. Masses of resinous green and bitter tea, candy caned hops with a line of chili hot heat over rich candied fruit malt - peach, cherry, pear - with something of a nod to old baseball glove leather. A fist to the face of a beer. Fresh hopped 10.5% barley wine.
The BAers love it, though with some reservations.
An interesting if small hullabaloo of sorts has arisen in the beer world, or at least the US web-based part of it.
It all began yesterday when the Pittsburg Tribune-Review published a column by Mike Seate entitled "Beer snobs forget the true meaning of beer" in which he makes various complaints about beer nerds and the craft beer movement including a perception that there has been a related increase in prices and, in relation to the places where beer geeks gather,
...these places are usually dense with bearded guys in tattered wool sweaters who can rattle off the complex brewing methods of odd brands the way Star Trek enthusiasts can speak fluent Klingon.Todd Alström in his blog post¹ "Beer snobs forget the true meaning of beer?! Or ..." after a bit of slag, wonders if the noting of craft beer at all is a good thing while noting that issue relating to price. And then a whack of comment makers then pick up the slagging. The column and the post by Todd A' are then picked up by the Brookston Beer Bulletin¹¹ and its post "The True Meaning of Beer?" which picks up on the slag but to be fair suggests "there are probably many millions of people who are afraid of better beer just the way Mike Seate is". Then, the Internet being what it is, further links and slag and posts ensue...like this one.
What makes me join in is that idea of meaning...not to mention that question of price and the label of "beer snob". I was recently asked about my relation to beer as an interest and wrote the following in response as part of a larger private communication:
For me brewing is at its heart transactional and any relationship for any member is based on the consumer and the marketplace. So a relationship with the brewer is key for any consumer or a consumer group. It is also about hospitality and conviviality, ancillary aspects to the transaction. The greater the distance between the brewer and the consumer, the less likely the exchange is going to work for both...In Ontario, we have a huge distance. We suffer from a lack of local support such as you would see in a Syracuse or Portland Maine and we also lack a broader consumer awareness like you see in the UK in large part due to CAMRA. For me, the US scene is better as it sees the entire marketplace as its opportunity - not the CAMRA-like achievement of rare understanding or for that matter the...US Drinking team sort of thing. This requires feeding information (not to mention money) back to the brewer and that will best occur in a hospitable convivial relationship...When I think of what I have written above, I am aware that it shows I am as concerned with the sweatered (or, worse, the bejewelled) snob as much as the swilling oaf. Just to be clear, the day my favorite rarer craft beers go up in price due to snobbery's reach is the day I am a sadder beer nerd. And in addition to the price issues related to snobbery, there are the sorts of off-putting "closed club" aspects of the hobby. Pete Brown in Three Sheets to the Wind does note the off-putting nature of the "sweaters and beards" some associate (fairly or unfairly) with some CAMRA members as well as the related defensiveness he also discussed in his interview with us here last September including this:
...it is much more like a fan relationship for me now that I think of it. I am exceedingly fond of honest committed brewers. And part of the underlying thing for me is that the consumer and the brewer jointly face the problems of government regulation and corporate monopolistic trade standards imposing themselves on what is actually a basic form of creation and consumption. That is the stuff that I was referring to, the good stuff - not in cardboard boxes.
The biggest problem is that CAMRA hardliners interpret any criticism of CAMRA as a criticism of cask ale, which is not only wrong, it's breathtakingly arrogant, and kind of stops any really useful constructive debate from emerging.So, given the concerns, is there something to the column Mike Seate wrote? Is it perhaps the case that we do not like as beer nerds to look at ourselves as beer nerds but some sort of evangelists surrounded by fools or at least the unheeding doomed? If so, what does that mean for our understanding of the meaning of what we beer nerds are doing?
Update: Stan has added to the conga line.
¹ which is not of course a blog post as Beer Smack is not a blog.
¹¹ which is also not a blog but rather a bulletin despite also being reverse chronological, accepting of comments and all HTML linky all over the place.
How to get to Lviv
In the Kyiv Post (my usual source for all beer related news from the Ukraine) there is a story about a beer drinking trip to Lviv, the city they call the Vienna of the Ukraine, including this scene when you enter one restaurant:
...there is a young man dressed as a monk watching a 20-liter cauldron full of foamy porter, steaming but not boiling, so that all the alcohol doesn’t evaporate from the drink. Every restaurant guest is invited to stop by and try it. To me, the hot porter appeared to taste much better than its more traditional, icy version. The flavorful drink was spiced with cinnamon, cloves and dry lemon peels. To make the taste thicker still, the "monk" added honey to the beer. "This is a cure for everything," he added, possibly meaning the cold?Apparently, the oldest brewery in Lviv dates from 1715, there is a beer festival there in June and people put ads for the Ukrainian beer Lvivske on You Tube...maybe because they were Ukrainian employer of the year. The BAers are less interested in giving awards.
I received this book in the mail last week from Turner Publishing and I think it makes a good addition to the beer library. In a nutshell, it is a coffee table book with black and white photos of thirty great bars in the Big Apple. Some are historic places like McSorley's Old Ale House, with those famous dusty chicken wishbones over the bar left by those regulars who joined up but couldn't return from WWI to claim them, to the Bridge Cafe which has pretty much been selling beer since 1794. Other places are famous speakeasies of the prohibition like Chumley's or former dives that are now filled with celebrities hunting for and hunted as shabby chic like the Parkside Lounge. For each place, you get a few serious black and white photos and a couple of pages of back story and anecdotes. Not a huge about of text but that's is not the point.
You can check out some of these places on the Old Bars pages of the ever excellent Forgotten New York...including an excellent shot of those dusty wishbones at McSorley's. It is difficult sometimes, especially in light of websites like Forgotten New York to consider the place of the coffee table book - that big hardcover that sort of lays around there for you when you are also sort of laying around. But you really can't slob out on a sofa with the laptop like you can with book like this and that is what a book like this is for. So who do you buy it for? Some relative you have to visit from time to time to park over there so you have something to flip through. You, if you have a cottage, or the person whose cottage you hit a couple of times a summer so you flip through it there. Maybe for your sofa. Wrap it up nice.