This was a real surprise. A bottle quietly sitting in the stash as those around it slipped away, often left unnoted from banality. Clouded light amber ale under a fine white swirled head. A simple beer with a focus on malt...ok, and the yeast, too...but it's buckwheat malt. The malt has a strong graininess but also autumn apple. The yeast provides cream and nutmeg spice. Soft water gives a richness to it all and a slightly steeled hop and corriander provides the structure. The buckwheat dryness is like a Canadian stock pale ale but the rest is all Belgian. Very interesting and worth picking up again.
Pattinson, meanwhile, has been tearing apart the lazily accepted history of porter, stout, and mild...using great drifts of data he's collected from brewer's logs. He's a self-admitted obsessive about this stuff, but the results he's getting make me very glad he's taking the time.It seems to me that Ron's work exemplifies that beer blogging has taken a step into that much heralded next level of blogging - that promise of Web 2.0 that the intermediary of the expert will be unseated by the evolution of direct knowledge. Of course that is usually all bunk fed by internet consultants (this is my favorite Web 2.0 commentary) but in this case it may actually true...if you accept that Ron, a man without a book (yet), is not an established expert. Generally, I do not accept that thems-with-books are necessarily of a different class than thems-without. Many factors take part in that. Plus the job of getting a book out carries its own perils and pressures as (fellow and rightfully awarded Lew-seal-of-approval winner) Martyn Cornell noted to me back in 2003 after I asked where all the footnotes were in his book Beer: The Story of the Pint:
Mmmmm - trouble is, the general feeling in the publishing world is that footnotes equal elitist-looking equals lost sales, except if they're jokey asides as per Pete Brown's book. This may be wrong, but it's what publishers think. The aim of Beer: TSOTP was to try to appeal both to people, like yourself, who already knew a lot about beer and brewing, and also to people looking for a Christmas present for Uncle Ernie (since by getting them to buy the book, I and the publisher make more money ...), hence no footnotes so as not to put off the Uncle Ernie crowd. However, to make up for this a little, I tried to make the bibliography as complete as possible, and also chapter-specific, to help people track references down.I like how that observation sums up some of the issues related to traditional paper publishing but I think it is fair to say now, four years on, that we may be in a new period of flux and transformation in terms of both new access to media and a rapidly growing interest in information about beer and beer history as well as the desire to hear as many voices about beer. I think we can safely call this "The Neato Age Of Beer."
That being the case, two things have come together recently that I think you need to be aware of to make the neato-ness of your experience most neato. With these two things, you too may delve into the world of primary data about beer and find out a few things that beer historians less complete than Martyn might have left you wondering about. First, Google somewhat recently added news archives to the searching you for any topic you wish. If you search Google News for "beer", you will see to the lower left a number of time spans listed so that you can now search for stories about beer in, for example, just the 1920s. This was great but once you looked there you found most of the news items were pay per view. But no longer since The New York Times recently released its archives back to around 1850 to the public for free. As a result, while there are still many subscription only archives for other papers, you can now find stories like this one about beer gardens in the City in 1873, a New York phenomena that still continues. You get a .pdf of the original story as well and, as shown above, in the original font - neato yet still very clear. This is the sort of resource Martyn is discussing using at his excellent blog but it is more The Times of London he uses and access is not so fully available over the internet.
So get at it. If you have read a history of beer - or anything for that matter - and left thinking that the author has compromised, has been compromised by the publishers or they just didn't get the point...go find out for yourself. As Ron and Martyn point out day after day, it is mainly about the quality of the data you rely upon.
The view at Clark's if you stumble and almost fall
OK, OK. I'm just going to the Carrier Dome with Paul from Kingston to see if Syracuse can actually beat Buffalo in NCAA Football Division 0.988876 but after that Clark's, The Blue Tusk and stuff like that. I'll be the one spending Canadian dollars like they are worth 1.025 US. If you are in the neighbourhood, let us know where the cooler class of stamp collector might hang out.
Good thing, too, as while I am obviously having a lesson in UK culture these days here at beer blog HQ, in large part at the direction and correction (youch!) of Stonch as well as from Paul's festive posts, there is so much more to learn. And even with all that quality contemporary English fluid anthropology, this story remains a bit odd to me - a town council in Lincolnshire considering installing a beer celler in its town hall to stop wasting the stuff:
More than £1,300 of town council money is being poured down the drain each year – in stale beer. The amount of drink wasted at the Festival Hall has emerged as a justifiction for turning old public toilets into a cellar. Steward Karen Richardson said that increasingly bookings were cancelled because of bad beer but that a cellar would undoubtedly help.While cellar work does seem to be a big issue in the town, I am not sure why the local council has so much beer and why it goes bad. But the real story (and a bit of a hint) may be that the town is allegedly the scene of one of the greatest boozy pop tunes of the last 50 years:
The 1973 Elton John hit "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" is rumoured to have been inspired by the Aston Arms on the market square although there are similar claims for pubs in Louth and Grimsby (all places where [song]writer Bernie Taupin once lived).You know, that is almost a dollar per resident per year of lost beer and given that it might have been the site of such a crucial event in beer and music, one you would hope the community would get behind the plan. You know, maybe they could even spend a little less on the closed circuit surveillance of each other...though given the song maybe that is as good a use of public funds as any.
But I still don't really understand why the beer is going bad.
Her: I sure hope no one mentions this ever again.
Him: Me, too. How unlike us. Best to bottle it up. Pass me another.
An interesting combination of two of my interests may well come together in Nymburk, some 30 kilometers east of Prague, where a brewery, Postřižinský Pivovar, helps continue its story as a local brewery, how the brewery altered the life of an author - and how the brewery itself became a character in the life of the community through the author:
The brewery, operated by brewing firm Pivovar Nymburk, has strong historical and literary connections with Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal, who was raised in the brewery grounds and wrote "Postřižiny" (Cutting It Short) about his childhood encounters with the brewery workers. The book was made into a hugely successful film in 1981 by director Jiří Menzel, who recently adapted another Hrabal work, "Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále" (I Served the King of England). The brewery now uses the literary connection with Hrabal as a marketing tool, and the writer’s amused face stares out from the labels of most of the bottles of Postřižinské Pivo sold in the Czech Republic.
That speaks volumes for me...but sadly more over what is not than anything. We in the English speaking world are so concerned about avoiding making connections about beer and locality and community that we forget that our behavior must seem fairly bizarre to other cultures. Just from my own experience I can think of a bar owning pal who was barred by the local regulator from selling a drink he had come up with that referenced Anne of Green Gables. Recently we've seen some US states call out the lawyers and tribunals to keep Santa off beer bottles. Heck, in the chapter of the upcoming book Beer and Philosophy that I penned I noted that the law of New Brunswick barred representations of beer in family situations in advertising. We can't make fun of fictional characters or even describe what actually is - because to do so we point out there is beer in our lives. Because that would be, I guess, dangerous.
And yet we do all this despite knowing we all have tales of our own how beer characterized the community. I can only speak to my Maritime Canadian youth but we all heard how Moosehead's Dartmouth brewery had the free tap for those working on the floor and wondered why we didn't all drop out of undergrad and apply for a job. We knew teetotaling farmers with the case in the barn. We knew the ties between Halifax's Keith brewery and the VE Day riots when the youth of the town invaded the place and drank the brewery dry, likely some knowing relatives - maybe those above - who had some stories. We even watched ads just a few years ago for Alpine beer and how it was not worth making a career for yourself away from home because you might not be able to get your brew...and probably knew people who likely took the advice.
In many ways, beer frames (or at least colours one corner of) what you are and what you could be expected to be....but you really shouldn't talk about it. Beer is such an interesting touchstone for our collective denial of what we are. Far better to focus on what we think we should be. Somehow it exemplifies all the danger in life we were warned of - even though we happily live it with anyway. Weird stuff.
What beer to drink with baseball? Triples, of course. Or tripels or, like this one from New Holland, trippels.
Black Tulup comes across as vegetative bubble gum. A bit of a shock after that Tripel Karmeliet [which will not go reviewed] and its echos of Hungarian Tokay - honey, almond, that sort of thing...but in an easy sort of way that went very nicely with the first roast chicken of the fall. It gets very high BAer regard. [OK, I kinda of reviewed it.]
No, this one is different - a syrupy golden amber ale, it's head a snow white foam and the thinnest rim. Plenty of hop but a bitter weedy green and twiggy sort of hop. The fruit is difficult to peg: cantaloupe and pear? Difficult to peg because of the overriding vegetative thing from the hops leading to notes of...carrots and spuds? I ended up bailing on this bottle, something I was quite surprised I was having to do as this was my first New Holland brew. There is some concern shared also amongst the advocatonians.
More tripels here.
I was going to cheat on you, have a beer and not review it but this 5.5% Belgian pale ale is too good not to note. A massive rocky off white head sits over dark straw ale. The malt is all pear juice - quite extraordinary. It has a great French bread crust texture as well as some fine lacy faded hopping giving a twiggy and slightly green aspect accentuating the pear from the malt. The yeast gives a clove tang that you expect in a hefeweizen.
This is the first Leifmans I have had which, at its base, is not a Flemish brown. $5.99 CND for 350 ml at Marche Jovi in Gatineau, Quebec. A very smooth and likable pale ale and a good first introduction for any newbie friends to Belgian ales or even the sort of flavours you could encounter in a hefe. Too bad the 8% of BAers who reject this one seem to have expected another sour Flemish brown rather than focusing on what this beer is in itself.
As mentioned in a previous article, I delighted in trying new wheat beers on our holiday in Alsace this year. And whilst bieres blanche are readily available, I suspect that blonde beer is probably more popular in France. A popular blonde in Northern France and certainly one of my favourites is Grimbergen. It's a sweet, not bitter, well-rounded beer. Imagine how pleased I was to discover in a supermarche just as we were about to leave Alsace a new beer to me, Grimbergen Blanche. I purchased a case and looked forward to getting it home to try. I was not disappointed. As I've said before Germany produces the best wheat beers. Most Belgium brews of this ilk tend to be insipid affairs that are best avoided. But the Grimbergen offering is one of note. It is light in colour and floury of taste and texture again it has the characteristic sweetness of a Grimbergen, sherbet like but without the citric tang. You wonder why anyone would want to drink Hoegarten wit when you can have this far superior beer. Grimbergen blanche, check it out.
Last weekend we had a trip to France. It was a quick hop under the channel and a short drive down to the Cote du Picarde/Baie de Somme area. But once we were the other side of the channel we stopped in at Cite Europe – a big shopping complex designed to attract the British shopper rather than the local audience – and headed for the large Carrefour supermarche to stock up on a few goodies. Guess what? Those goodies included Grimbergen Blonde and Blanche – the temptation is to bring back loads but I think I was fairly restrained 1 case of blonde and two of blanche!
Another one to try, especially when the weather turns this fall, is the Any Port in a Storm -- 2 ounces LBV port in 12 ounces of Imperial stout (I used Victory's Storm King when I developed it, hence the name.) Pour one and watch your fears and prejudices melt away...I've parked a quart of Dragonslayer to test that recipe...but DJ Mixmaster SB's use of port got me thinking about sherry. One of these days I am going to start A Good Sherry Blog as it is one of my other obsessions, the other yeast based drink. And it got me thinking Flemish brown, too. A little wood, a bit of acid, rich yeasts and each of a certain age: that's a beer that could take on a fortified wine.
So here is the Walnut Brown by Williams Humbert, a 19.5% reasonably sweet oloroso with Liefmans Kriekbier, a cherry flavoured version of Goudenband. The proportions are a good splash of sherry with a better good slug of kriek. Hmmm...this is ok...the sour of the Flemish brown works with the sweetishness of the sherry with plenty of nuts and Christmas cake fruit and even a orange juiciness that comes out of the combination that is really there in neither alone. And the head goes weirdly rocky...lumpy even. Nice. This experiment is a go. The combination softens the Liefmans sourness while enriching the overall palate and strengthening the drink. A good cocktail for Yule.
What to call it? I call it #1.
So it's been ten months since I got the case of Fred with the crap cap job. Rather than complain - or recap - I loaded them up with weight and have been sipping them quite happily as the days became weeks and then months.
The beer has settled down a bit. Rather than pour an explosive head like illustrated from last December. No, it now pours a civilized deep glowing orange amber with a rich, fine lacing head that resolves to a rim and foam. I have to admit that this is one of the best beers I have ever had, with the 10% heat, the vigorous and complex hopping joining in with the rough rye to create a framework in which the raisin, apple, pear, fig and a whack of other flavours are bursting to get out. A bridge of rich spiced yeast joins it together.
Bird watchers say the bobolink sings like it has more notes than its throat can hold. This beer is a little like that. Not one BAer put it quite that way - but they like it.