So if the proper response were to actually ask "why have so many news stories avoided questioning her claims as they would question her targets in the food industry?" then (A) will people be all that happy when criticism of other folk writing about beer arises, and (B) will people be all that happy when "targets" in the beer industry start getting questioned?
I am late. Boak and Bailey asked us to post longer reads and I am late. I suggest someone confer with my creditors to explore coping strategies. I mean, I have been away and it has been summer and I have, you know, been away. And, while I was away earlier this month, the book Craig and I wrote was published: Upper Hudson Valley Beer. Not the most dynamic of titles we would admit but one does not always win one's negotiations does one. My preferred alternate was Upper Hudson Beer: A History of Albany Ale and Its Caskmates. Mumble that to yourself once or twice as you order the book or borrow it from a library.
I have discovered something in writing these books and thinking about the ones to come. I really like the Baroque experience in North America. Not that I would want to live then but the little considered pre-Revolutionary experience is, well, more neato than the relative quiet would have you think. In terms of beer, this has translated into statements to the effect that there is no record or that it would be impossible to recreate an understanding of what role beer or what it tasted like. For me, this is a call to arms. Or at least fingers click-clacking on a keyboard. When someone says something is unknown and unknowable I tend to think that means that it is just unresearched. What we have discovered in relation to the Albany area is in fact that there is a lot of information about this stuff and a lot more to be researched. It's true of all of North American brewing, too. Beer did not start with the introduction of lager over here and lager did not defeat the influence of ale brewing on contemporary brewing. So, the job of the Albany Ale Project continues even though the book - or rather the first book - is out. To give you a sense of where it all is going, below and as my contribution to the #beerylongreads project, I give you a late draft of the bit from UHVB on the first half of the eighteenth century in what was then known as Albany County, the later Baroque on this spot on the frontier of an empire or two or maybe even three.
The role of beer in the culture of Albany at the outset of the 1700s can be seen in two church events at the turn of the eighteenth century. On February 15, 1700, one of the church’s poor died. She was Ryseck, the widow of Gerrit Swart. The records of the onkosten, or expenses for the burial and ceremony borne by the community, have been retained. There were more than a few expenses in addition to the cost of the coffin and the fee paid Hendrick Roseboom, the doodgraver. In addition to 150 sugar cakes and sufficient tobacco and pipes, six gallons of Madeira were provided, along with one of rum. In addition, twenty-seven guilders were paid by the congregation for a half vat and an anker of good beer. The event seems to have been a social one. A similar table was set when Jan Huybertse passed away in February 1707. He was one of the nooddruftige, or the needy, and church coffers paid out for three gallons of wine and one of rum in addition to paying eighteen guilders for a vat of good beer. In each case, respects were paid by the local believing community with a good send off and a good drink for those in attendance.
These funerals illustrate the continuation of Dutch society well into the British era. Along with other members of the upper strata, old Dutch family breweries, such as the Ryckmans, Gansevoorts, Visschers and Van Sciacks, established in the seventeenth century continued to operate along the Broadway corridor well into the second half of the eighteenth. Brewing may have created wealth and power for these families, and by the end of the eighteenth century, all four had built on their brewing wealth, diversified and become involved in everything from lumber to politics, as often as much with New France in the north as with the British to the south.
The prominent brewer Albert Janse Ryckman was elected mayor of Albany in 1702 after serving for years as an alderman. His house was on the south corner of Hudson Street and Broadway alongside the brewery that sat on the riverfront. His son Harmanus, one of nine children who lived to see adulthood, ran the brewery into the 1750s. Even into the nineteenth century, Ryckman descendants were involved in Albany brewing. Gerrit Ryckman partnered with Lancelot Fidler, later taking the name Howard and brewed during the 1830s. Albany’s Ryckman Avenue is named for the family.
Schenectady’s Adam Vrooman, the survivor of the massacre in 1690, purchased the milling rights to all Sandkill Creek by 1703. In 1710, Vrooman’s third son, Wouter, began operating the mill known as Brandywine Mill. In 1718, Vrooman and his second son, Barent, built a brew house on what is now Union Street—sometimes called “Brewer’s Street”—where the railway met the canal. In 1724, Jan, the youngest Vrooman, joined his brother and father at the brewery and was given his own lands and brewing equipment a few years later. Adam Vrooman retired in 1726, purchasing 1,400 acres of land farther west into the frontier lands of the Schoharie to build a farm. He died in 1730, but his sons continued to brew for decades more. The geologic formation known as Vroman’s Nose near Middleburgh, Schoharie County, New York, is named for Adam Vrooman.
Of all the great Dutch brewing families, the early eighteenth century would see the Gansevoorts become the most influential, elevating themselves into the elite of New York society. Harmen Harmanse’s only surviving son, Leendert Gansevoort, would continue the family business. The brewery stood behind the house, like that of Ryckman, on the riverbank east of Broadway, then known as Market Street. At the end of Maiden Lane, the dock that reached out into the river was known as Gansevoort’s wharf. Leendert’s son Johannes would continue to grow the brewery after his father’s death in 1762. Johannes’s brother, Harmen, broadened the family business by opening his merchant’s store near the brewery. The Ganesvoorts family operated their brewery until 1805, tearing it down and erecting their hotel, Stanwix Hall, named in honor of the fort in what is now Rome, New York, that was defended by family member General Peter Gansevoort during the War for American Independence. The name Gansevoort still lives on as both a Hudson Valley and a hotel chain brand. 105
Despite Dutch political and cultural autonomy, the British were not taking an entirely hands-off approach to the Hudson Valley. Flour and bread were exported to the West Indies, and from 1702 to 1713, during Queen Anne’s War, New York State enjoyed a lucrative market for its wheat in Lisbon courtesy of British trade routes. After 1713, the settlement of the Albany region expanded, with new farms adding to the supply of grain being shipped out to the British Empire as well as the Dutch West Indies. From 1715 to 1723, the population of Albany County doubled. In 1723, then Surveyor General Cadwallader Colden submitted a report to London on the state of New York trade. Wheat was clearly the colony’s most important export. In 1737, the population of the county reached ten thousand. Brewers like Ryckman, Vrooman and Gansevoort were supplying the booming population with their hopped beers made of local wheat.
By the 1730s and 1740s, the focus of the fur and pelt trades had migrated west to Oswego on Lake Ontario with control soon shifting away from established Albany merchants to daring newcomers like William Johnson. The established elite Dutch families were enjoying their wealth as suited their tastes. From 1715 to 1745, Albany Dutch merchants commissioned a large number of portraits in a European style, celebrating their domestic and commercial stability. Paintings of the Gansevoort family show men and boys without wigs dressed simply with farms and mills in the background. Dr. Alexander Hamilton, visiting Albany in 1744, found the focus on wealth obsessive: “They spare no pains or trouble to acquire…their whole thoughts being turned upon profit and gain.” The lack of literate society was noted as well as the habit of heavy drinking. Hamilton remarks that they were “toapers” and “bumper men” for whom the act of punning was considered to pass for wit.
The Visschers also continued brewing into the eighteenth century. By the 1720s, Bastian Harmanse’s son, Teunis Visscher, had joined the family business, learning the trade from his father. Teunis ran his family’s brewery on Market Street for more than fifty years. In 1756, Bastian Visscher, Teunis’s son, followed in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, but like many of the other early Albany brewers, he began diversifying into other business ventures, most notably construction. Bastian Vissher became a notable revolutionary, advocating for American independence in the 1770s. Sometime during the 1730s, the Wendell family, relative newcomers to brewing, opened a series of mills and a brew house along the Beverkill Creek, near what is now the basin of Lincoln Park. This area became an Albany landmark simply known as Wendell’s Mills and operated almost to the turn of the nineteenth century, although it is unknown if the brewery did as well.
During King George’s War of 1744–48, Royal Governor George Clinton was obliged to pursue war efforts against New France. This raised conflict with the Albany merchants, led by James DeLancy, who held strong trade ties with Montreal. Harmen Gansevoort was one of these merchants, taking payments mainly in grain, along with some furs and pelts. Much of the grain may have ended up being brewed into beer by his brother, Johannes. As the midcentury passed, the family’s fortunes were less and less tied to brewing, even if Johannes had amassed a considerable fortune himself. Among the silverware often acquired as a means to both save and display accumulated wealth, the now elderly patrician Leendert Gansevoort had a silver tankard for his beer that was deeply engraved with the family’s coat of arms on its front and his own monogram on the lid. It stayed in the family for five generations until, in 1901, it was placed in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
When Swedish botanist Peter Kalm traveled through both New York and New France around this time, he kept a detailed diary. It was filled with observations on the state of the economy and society in each region. In the region of the Upper Hudson and Albany County, one of the main things he noticed was the wheat:
They sow wheat in the neighborhood of Albany, with great advantage. From one bushel they get twelve sometimes; if the soil be good, they get twenty bushels. If their crop amounts only to ten bushels from one, they think it very trifling. The inhabitants of the country round Albany are Dutch and Germans. The Germans live in several great villages, and sow great quantities of wheat, which is brought to Albany and from thence they send many yachts laden with flour to New York. The wheat flour from Albany is reckoned the best in all North America, except that from Sopus or King’s town, a place between Albany and New York. All the bread in Albany is made of wheat…They do not sow much barley here, because they do not reckon the profits very great. Wheat is so plentiful that they make malt of it.
The midpoint of the eighteenth century finds the Upper Hudson and Albany County growing in both prosperity and population based largely on the expansion of the wheat farming and the exporting economy. The Dutch culture remained strong and, to a large degree, autonomous. Changes were coming, however, that would see the introduction of a stronger British presence that at first was welcome but soon became the cause of division.
This is a pretty interesting bit of news in the New York Post:
The scientists discovered the glass “California Pop Beer” bottle on Bowery Street near Canal Street, where a popular beer hall, Atlantic Garden, bustled in the 1850s, scientists said. “It’s a light summer drink, slightly minty and refreshing” said Alyssa Loorya, 44, president of Chrysalis Archaeology, which headed the project. The beer is infused with ginger root, sarsaparilla and wintergreen oil, and other herbs, giving it a one-of-a-kind kick, Loorya said.
If the beer bottle collector nerds are to be trusted, California Pop Beer was produced as Haley & Co. Celebrated California Pop Beer out of Newark, New Jersey... but apparently sometimes in New York as well. The archaeologists reproduced the beer based on research that led to finding a patent for the stuff. I suspect that. I suspect something about it all. I am suspicious. Seems a bit weird that you would get a patent for a beer when every other brewery in the world relies on and has relied on trade secrecy as opposed to a patent telling the whole world about what goes into the bottle. Fortunately, someone in the Google Borg decided we should all have access to patents so we can have a look at what went into this stuff at least in 1872. Hmm.... not really beer. A yeast and an extract of wintergreen, sassafras and spruce are prepared and then, if I read correctly, they are combined with "ten gallons of water one hour, after which seventy pounds of granulated sugar". Or maybe 105 gallons. Yum? Does it matter?
What is most interesting to me is that this is an example of a second half of the 1800s popular beverage. It relies upon the word "beer" but really is more like a an alcopop or cooler. It comes from a time when, like today, purity is less important than flavour. It also plays upon California in the branding right about when Quinn & and Nolan in Albany, New York were advertising their California Pale XX and XXX Ales. Maybe California was just neato right about then. I like the idea that spruce is part of the taste profile. An old regional favorite flavor that you can learn more about if you BUY THIS BOOK. Oh. That was a bit gratuitous, wasn't it.
Never mind that. The point remains. The past is a foreign land and so were their drinks.
The Golfer's Rest in North Berwick, East Lothian. When we sat down on the bay window sofa cushions, I said to the kids "now, this is a pub" by which I meant a space that had the feel of a shared public rec room combined with a well managed courteous corner store. With beer. There are analogies to North American spaces but they don't always have strong drink. The nearest comparison in Canada is more the Tim Horton's coffee shop in a small town than a bar. Places where all sorts of people meet. The guys at the bar were discussing their latest golf games as well as great golf moments. No different than a bunch of rec leaguers anywhere. I wish I had a pub like this in my life.
A bit of a photo essay. To help me think about the things I liked on the trip as well as the things I thought about. This being a family vacation centered on visiting more family, there was not all that much bouncing around my brain about beer, frankly, but there was a bit. I can't get over how good it is to have flavorful reasonably bodied hop-shy beers of under 4% readily available. For me, the only measure of strength is milliliters of pure alcohol in the glass or bottle in front of me. Having the option of a 500 ml or pint of roughly 20 ml strength beer is a treat. Deuchars IPA at 3.8% kept my attention a couple of times as did the lowly rated EPA I had with my Balmoral chicken at a pub on Rose Street in Edinburgh called 1780. It was great to have a glass of beer then continue with the unending march that was the holiday. Made me wonder if the current US trend towards low alcohol high hop beers is a last ditch effort to avoid the difficulty of making the lighter UK style beers that more people would likely find attractive.
I am not sure that I like sparkers all that much but it was not a strong impression for me. I have come to think that I don't really yearn for more Wetherspoon experience. The rules were too much for me. The numbered tables. Maybe my brief experience was not representative so consider that should you actually ever make the mistake of relying on my view. I did learn I like Timothy Taylor. I had three pints over the time I was there. I passed up a very good glass of Côtes du Rhône Villages to have another pint with my lamb chops. Yet, I also had a very good pint of Carling. I was so surprised I had another and confirmed my impression. Was it the company of my cousin-in-law Jim and the chat with his pal the owner at the Ye Olde Anchor, built in 1707 in my mother's hometown? Who knows? It was a rich experience walking around the streets, seeing pubs like the one grandfather barred my cousin from taking my brother to in 1977. And the one that was the start and finishing place of a majestic 14 hour bender with another cousin in 1986. Or was it just the fact that in all these settings the beer was not the primary function of what was going on. I did, after all, see BrewDog in Edinburgh and passed it by - not out of disinterest as the fact that, as was often the case, there was likely another better thing to do. In that case, The Holyrood 9A was the better thing.
What did I learn? I learned that I might want to change a few things but that I come from people from a great place and also that I am lucky that my parents decided to make the jump across the ocean, too. I also learned that it's only twelve hours door to door. A taxi, a plane, another plane, a bus, a train, a bus and a half a block's walk in fact. Thinking already about a repeat soon.
By the second week, I've given up on most places listed in the guides like The Malt Shovel as there are rules against kids even in their mid-teens coming into some pubs that have me befuddled. I never inquired so I might be entirely wrong about the place. Some pubs like The Ship Inn in North Berwick are good for families until 8 pm. Others like The Abbotsford on Rose Street in Edinburgh are fine with the family upstairs in the restaurant but not downstairs in the bar. One Wetherspoons had so many rules (give the man your table number and your pint may arrive in twenty minutes... but only if you are in that room with the 14 year old) that I thanked them and left. Fortunately common sense reigns at the Old Clubhouse in Gullane where Timothy Taylor flows even if through a sparkler. Up there with The Holyrood 9A as best stops so far.
The Ship Inn was all sparklers, too. The pub sat in a dark red sandstone building on corner a few blocks back from the shore, tenament style, apartments upstairs, established 1895. Big windows and a few picnic tables out front under shady tree... well, shady when it's not raining. Inside, dark wood and comfortable leather benches and arm chairs. Friendly service but they appeared to have never conceived of hot chocolate and Baileys. It was, you know, raining. It was remarked upon a few times by the staff. Said they would add it to the drinks list. Being Canadian seems a natural thing, having eight months of winter and all. Three hand pulls of local beers along with ten or so taps, mainly from larger breweries. Large selection of bottles, mirrored shelves. Open central space by bar. Tip jar. Tipping is interesting. Neither encouraged or refused. Asked in a few places and consensus is 10% is appreciated but not expected or demanded. Uncle and I both agreed upon the Broughton IPA - which came in at 5.5% even if on sparkler. Creamy mouthfeel, pronounced chewy hops.
That's all for now. The train is approaching the sunny Clyde the noo.
Made it. Fourteen hours door to door to Uncle and Auntie's. Next day? Children down to the pub. Well, a pub. The Holyrood 9A in Edinburgh's Old Town. It's warm. The warmest room so far. Williams Caesar Augustus is a tasty pint. Very full for what would be a light beer at home. Tropical hops, sure, but a good malt backbone balancing them out... well, almost. A venison burger is coming. Half the tables, like ours, have happy kids.
Fabulous news out of England for those few remaining beer drinkers who enjoy the taste of beer:
With much of the harvest already in store, Robin Appel Ltd suggests the low nitrogen levels required by ale brewers have been achieved, with an average of 1.37 – 1.40 per cent against a five-year average of 1.65 per cent. Yields of Maris Otter barley, which normally average two tonnes per acre, look like running at nearer two and a quarter, with good harvests reported from Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Yorkshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Cornwall. Maris Otter is winter-sown, and the damp winter and wet May have ensured good yields. A disease-free growing season has meant the highest ever planted area looked the best in years.
Granted, this might not be of much interest to those watching the North American adjunct market, those day trading in the cherry syrup markets and watching the after hours stemware trading but this should be good news, shouldn't it? I remember my first bag of Maris Otter like it was yesterday. While other pale malts smelled of grain, this was all summer fields and scything maidens. We cross the big water soon heading to hang out with family for a bit on the sunny south shore of the Firth of Forth. While there, I hope to avoid all contact with DIPAs, miss every bourbon barreled apricot saison and dodge all the pop star brewers. But, with any luck, there shall be the fermented steepings of Maris Otter with nary a cicerone in sight. Can it be done?
And, just to be clear, I have no plans whatsoever to visit the beer can tree of Aberdeen.
Some fret in recent days again about the number of US breweries as Stan summarizes neatly in his regular Monday links post. I don't find the discussion that vital given the source of the data so my only contribution was left with Mr B:
I would be more interested in craft sector total product stats than the number of breweries given the advent of the nano. Another 1,000 nanos will have little effect compared to ten more big craft branch.
Because we have no independent consumer-based interest group in North American and very little by the way of independent craft brewing business journalism, these sorts of numbers - 3,000 breweries! 20% of the market by 2020 for craft! - is all industry marketing nonsense or, rather, manipulation. It's like "collaboration" beers. People still seem to think these are not branding exercises with the sole goal to rake in cash. I know, we still like to pretend that (i) this is not business and (ii) the breweries are run by benevolent elves who only have the buyers interest at heart... but that is foolishness. Honestly, if beer didn't have alcohol in it do you think any buyers would believe this stuff? If you have doubts, note that in the recent crowd sourcing fiasco, the price dropped from $50 to $30 within a blink of an eye. How could that be? I think of all these things as falling under the same lesson the single preciously boxed beer teaches us. Adds nothing to the taste but 15% to the price.
I was standing again in a CNY shop yesterday and never before was aware of the price divide in good beer. There are craft brewers who make a $8.99 six-pack of astoundingly good quality and there are those who make $16.99 six packs of similar astoundingly good quality. They are inseparable products except perhaps for the degree to which the higher priced product is buttressed up with branding, package design, silly ideas like best before two weeks from now and other inventions created to separate the gullible from their money. I laughed out loud I am sure at the $29.99 being asked for this beer. Fortunately, it was gathering dust as no one was taking the bait.
What to do in such times? First, understand you are being taken advantage of by the unscrupulous sector of craft beer. Second, educate yourself and support those who reject this shameful tactic. Third, appreciate that even in messages like this there is an intention to sway how you approach the purchasing decision to your detriment. You may need to go back and read the posts and comments here and here from years ago to see where this all sprang from. It is all so unnecessary for the well informed good beer fan. There is such an amazing selection of great beers at reasonable prices which give the brewer a generous reward for their efforts that there is no need to find oneself at the short end of the sorts of unconscionable transaction being offered by some. We are lucky to live in such times.
Making well informed decisions about the best value for your drinking dollars is not easy in a marketplace where contesting the wisdom of the branding consultants is frowned upon. Gird yourselves well if you decide to take on the role of independently advised beer buyer. Be prepared to be told you do not and cannot understand, that there are costs which are hidden yet add 10% to 40% to your bill. Be prepared to be staring at six-pack in a gas station that says you are not worthy and think "screw off, loser" as you pass it up for something local, fresher, better tasting and cheaper.
Have you ever drank a beer that became a battle, more than an enjoyable experience? Maybe a beer that was far bigger than you had anticipated? Something you felt determined to drink, just so you can say you conquered that son of a bitch, and you are all that is powerful. Or perhaps it is something that is just so bad, all you want to do is slap it around a bit. Or maybe you were on the verge of passing out, but you just wanted that one last beer, and the valiant struggle between taste bud fulfillment and the velvety embrace of sleep that ensued.
That's quite a range of beery unhappinesses. Can I go there? Well, it's coming up on eight years since I wrote the "unripe Annapolis Valley Gravenstein green apple of my Nova Scotian youth gone mad with aspirations of manure pile. Quite plainly watery at the outset then acid and more acid...then one note of poo." That all sounds so much more appealing to me now. Forty-three has nothing on fifty-one. I generally don't write bad reviews of beer though I did pour out one of the earlier Allagash wine barrel efforts. Not to make the breweries look good or anything. It's just dull to get worked up about this bottle or that when the whole of the craft thing is so bizarre. Bizarre enough to make me write a book about it with Max.
I suppose over time I might have the reputation as something of a neg. Or at least a nag. But for the most part, I like good beer. I drink way less than I used to and am pretty pleased to have lived through a few passing fads. Triple IPA stupidity is pretty much done. Food and beer pairing is a bit wide leg jean now. Even gateway fruit flavoured "saisons" may have had their day now that the newbies who gravitate to them have turned to beers that taste like beers or - as often as not - turned to the next fad drink. People of beer are slowly but surely migrating back from the cliff edge and finding more and more time for well made beers of moderate strength that explore the water, the hops, the yeast and the malt. Good thing, too, for however many gaks I pour out, however many new adventures for Al and Max I have sketched out... beer is pretty good stuff. Why else would I have bothered with it?
So far, my favourite review of The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer² had been Stan's in which he asked the very apt question as to who exactly Max and I thought might buy the damn thing. Good point. But has been ever so slightly nudged into second place by this extremely long review which I can only make some sense of through use of the Google Translate's version from the original Swedish. Consider this:
It is no ordinary fiction book, then, but rather an imaginary journey through space and time. A fictional dialogue, mostly between Max and Alan, with literary ambitions. And with juicy box kicks directed at everything from "brainwashed ölnördar" to "CAMRA-Taliban". With beer constantly foaming around loose jaws, they end up in some mysterious ways in different times and places. Or, taverns, pubs, taverns, beer cellar and brew pubs most. They are discussing beer and health, hangovers, samarbetsbrygder, class perspective and eighty memories. They meet with students, doctors, hipsters, PR sliskon, brewer, fuzzy craft beer aficionados and a foul-mouthed Ron Pattinson . Most of all eyes the craft beer culture at the seams. Without mercy. It's damn refreshing to read. The book has received its fair share of proofs miss as misspellings, missed letters, etc., have easily overlook when they are similar to the aroma of a hop bomb with a morning fart, quoting Thomas Hardy and spurting out the quote that "barrel aging is to beer what make-up is to a woman. "
That is pure gold! Don't get me wrong. I understand this is not how the original reads in the original language but there is something so lovely about a review of our headlong romp though time and space that itself is weird. I wish we had discussed eighty memories. Maybe we will next time. You know, it is only our day jobs that keep us from such interesting writing. And I, if we are being honest, err... I have a confession about the typos. I love them. I recall saying "screw it, let's get it out" which, if you think about it is what a lot of... OK, some... craft brewers do all the time. So it works. Or it is a structural representation of our disdain. Or something. But back to the review. Think upon this:
Max and Alan gets called ölgurus and their reaction is almost something of a mission statement: "not so much gurus as observers." And that's exactly what they are. Observers. They may seem judgmental, but it's just a reality they depict. Their reality, certainly, but also a reality that can be difficult to see if you are in the middle of it. Think about it. Turn the gaze inward. Was a little self-critical and, not least, dare to have a critical attitude also such a thing called craft, micro, craft. There is much bullshit in the industry, to use the book's parlance. So clearly. Everything is not black and white. We should not dumb down ourselves or allow ourselves to be exploited "in the name of witchcraft."
Witchcraft? Why not? We ölgurus transcend these sorts of things, don't we. Anyway, if you like the book or you didn't that is not really the point. I love the fact that for a few it was the cause of reflection or even frustration and confusion. Well worth the effort. And if you are typo resistant, go to Lulu and get a paper copy there as I understand that 98% of the typos were removed from that version... for the sensitive amongst you.
²[...cough...] cult classic [...cough...]