CBC Prince Edward Island posted this photo on Facebook. Click on it for a bigger view. It's from Lisa Arsenault of Summerside who captioned it "How East Coasters deal with 7' of snow!" I was saying how maybe I should check out my own backyard this weekend. I said that earlier before I saw this photo. Haven't been out there for weeks. My backyard. Hope the shed's OK. This winter's been too long but that image up there reminded me of what getting hammered by the snow is really like. When I lived in PEI once I went looking for my car after a two day blizzard. Then I realized I was standing two or three feet above it. I am now in the even "beer can't help me now" phase of the season. Glad that it's just me.
This is likely the least exciting picture visually I have posted around these parts. But its content may place it among the most interesting. Click on it for the larger version. That's a couple paragraphs from a 1931 financial statement for E.P. Taylor's nine month old firm, the Brewing Corporation of Canada. Taylor played a greater role in restructuring Ontario's brewing industry from the 1930s to the 1970s than anyone else. We discussed him last December but it is worth reminding ourselves about one of his governing principles. We face, as Jordan notes, a supposed renewal of our retail trade in beer, a brave new future with beer being sold in a few grocery stores. We may, however, be facing the prospect of not obeying only some little discussed cultural factors but baggage left behind after the old man made his billions, moved on and died.
You see a few references to payouts. We are told that the executive officers enjoy large remuneration. Also a dividend of $90,000 was paid but unwarranted ensuring the shareholders were happy even as, we learn elsewhere, the firm suffered total losses on $496,000. The financial statements disclose these decisions because they are submissions to the bank lending Taylor and his firm money to raise the overdraft from $80,000 to $130,000. This bet on Taylor's future was backed by his access to English investors but still was quite extraordinary given this passage in the financial statements which we quoted in Ontario Beer:
He is a very young man but quite capable,although probably not thoroughly experienced in the manufacture of beer. However, we think he has good organizing ability and is capable with lots of self confidence in the eventual success of this organization.
What all this illustrates for me is something I think was given to Ontario at its birth in the 1780s and lingers on today. We love a controlled aggregation. Ontario was established after the American Revolution as something of a utopian Tory colony which was supposed to prove that prosperity followed when a well conceived plan was followed through by a compliant populace obedient to their governing betters who ensured, in return, a supply of good things including beer. With the coming of the madcap liberties under the Victorian era, commercial opportunity in brewing expanded but it was soon stalked by another set of betters in the form of the temperance movement. This guiding principle of the growing God-fearing middle class made gains on economic liberty through the latter end of the 1800s to the point it were the most powerful political force by the First World War. The imposition of Ontario's tepid form of prohibition during the conflict lasted until 1927 when the concurrent stink of corruption brought in liquor control system we live with today with its abiding interest in ensuring the many are, again, guided by the benevolent hand of the few. The few now being semi-bureaucrats heading heading up semi-governmental agencies.
What does that have to do with E.P. Taylor? Well, like others well situated at various points in Ontario's history - from Richard Cartwright Jr in the 1790s enjoying the liquid rewards of his riches to the international conglomerates which own The Beer Store today - Taylor knew that Ontario and its beer buying population was too valuable a resource to let it have its own way without the application of a little profit making control. See, he may have carried the baggage for a large chunk of the 1900s he did not pack the bags. And because of the cultural acceptance of this sort of thing, because that is part of what makes Ontario Ontario... I do not expect this to change. So, when I read that out betters are planning to add a whole 300 extra retail licenses for a population of over 13 million, well, I do not expect great change. I do expect great financial reward for those granted the power to sell. And I do expect existing interests will likely be respected. No one will suffer the undoubted societal confusion caused by imposing the broad-based forms of beer retailing common in all our neighbouring US and Canadian jurisdictions. We shall be saved from all that. Anything else would be unOntarian.
I used to post regular bullet pointy points every Friday morning on my other blog... back when I kept up my other blog. I like this irregular bullet pointy points idea better. It's a lazier approach yet it surprises with delight. Maybe. There is so much about beer thinking that reminds me of "≅" as much as anything. I presume it's the alcohol and the money involved. Or maybe its better to say the scale of the alcohol and the limits on the money involved. Things are not as they are stated, are they. But that is true of so many things. For example, I was struck at last week's beer fest by how much drunkenness there was and, given the venue, so much potentially questionable decision making about driving. Should we even wonder there isn't an honest underlying structure to the discourse? Maybe disjointed links are all we have. And Mr. Chimp Head. That and 47 versions of the same book starting with a chapter on the ingredients of beer and another at the end about pairing beer with food:
=> There is lots of speculation in Toronto's news media about the upcoming provincial government's budget and the seeming likelihood that some sort of increased competition is coming to the retail beer market. In a city of 125,000 people where I live, there are only seven or eight places to buy a six pack. Think about that. I suspect if only 300 licenses are going to be issued for the whole +13,000,000 residents of Ontario that there will soon be only eight or nine places in my town to buy a six pack. What a wonderful world that future shall be.
=> You want green beer? Have a green beer. Who cares? Who cares what you drink? Can you imagine caring what other people drink? Do they care if you put flavoured coloured crystals in your water as well? Not really. It's sad that people think they should spoil the fun of drinking green beer if that is how you have fun once a year maybe a handful of times between birth and death. Drink your damn green beer. Fight the power.
=> Ed makes an exceptionally good observation about the shift from revolution to commercialization in his review of the book Britain's Beer Revolution: "Being written by Roger Protz, CAMRA stalwart and sometime editor of Socialist Worker; and Adrian Tierney-Jones, beer writer and paragraph break hater, I was intrigued to see what line they would take on this "revolution"." It's a good honest review.
=> The April edition of The Session may be the least... complex... telling... compelling yet. But, as always, it's what people do with the question that is worthwhile.
=> The reaction to the realities of normal trademark application processes is one of the new extra sadder things recently seen with good beer. Seems to me that starting a brewery with a broad generic self congratulatory name like "innovative" does pose extra challenges when later seeking to later trademark it. Would you expect a new startup somewhere to call itself "Off Centre Brewing" unopposed? You might guess so from Sam Calagione impersonating Bill Murray in Caddyshack rambling about law 'n' stuff while drinkin'. But be honest. It's not likely, is it.
There you are. Another 40 minutes of blood, sweat and tears expended to advance the whole discussion imperceptibly forward. Or maybe just to shift it slightly to one side or the other. I call that victory. Or just a rehash. Or at least a blog post.
I have to say. I didn't expect it. Don't get me wrong. I have known for a long time that I love neighbourhood bars in the US. I spent a great summer evening a decade ago with pals of a pal in Maine watching the All-Star game in a place down by the working wharves. The place was the shape of a cinder block and was made up entirely of cinder blocks. I drank Allagash White and then PBR before the money ran out. I love the idea of walking down the block to a place for a beer even though it does not exist in much of Canada outside of the cities where green things don't grow. Doesn't exist in much of any place where the planners have played a role. But there it was. And there I was, too.
The photo above is from the end of the bar at the Allen Street Pub in Albany, New York. That's it. If I was a cheese eating school boy, I might insert some sort of pretendy disclaimer but let's be honest - free beer is "money + alcohol" innit. Paul gave us the run of the taps though I hope the tipping went some way to match the beers poured for us. There is no avoiding the history of the western world. The bar is owned by Craig's pal of decades. Paul. The place opened right after prohibition ended and sits among houses on a side street. A municipal planner's nightmare. It's filled with local memorabilia with a definite lean towards Albany's history of military service. It's also filled with folk from nearby having a beer. Normal. Beer in a normal place.
Here's the thing. Over the few hours we were there I came to the understanding that this was one of the greatest times in a bar I have ever had. It was perfect. It was so perfect that while one in our group was keen to take me on at an argument about craft beer, I realized I was sitting in a dark tiny pub in a foreign land sucking on a rosemary laced saison as Led Zep's "Kashmir" roasted out the speakers. While, yes, dark and tiny it could serve as a test site for the Bose speakers Paul had installed. The narrow bar had five distinct spaces: cans in the rear, the cooler with its kegs and bottles, back of the bar plus the old bar top and the new one. If you look at that photo above you will see the division. Before he took it over and expanded, the tavern was just that bit at the front - maybe 18 by 30 feet tops. When we got in the place, we grabbed the back bar with its four seats. The front two-thirds of the place was already well settled by guys drinking macros or a shot or both having a good Friday night. Mere feet away I was having a pint of Black IPA with a balancing splash of brown ale handed to me. And then something else. Again, let's be honest: I was not conflicted. I had given in. Only an idiot wouldn't.
What did it all mean? It was more like a village pub in some place where I have family in Scotland than most places I had been in North America. Think I had only seen a place this small on this side of the Atlantic maybe in Newfoundland. No dive and not even a joint. A place in the neighbourhood. Normal. Three beer engines, too. He plans to add more. Paul is even running a cask festival in a few weeks. I expect to be in Canada when that is on. Probably in my basement watching TV. A couple of bus rides away from the next nearest good place to hang out. Thanks a lot, fifty years of urban design.
I had not expected to make myself into a book fair carny but forty-five quiet minutes into the four hour book booth manning at last weekend's NY State Brewers Association Festival I looked at Craig and said something to the effect of "we better think of something quick or we are going to hate each other around three hours from now." It's not that the fest wasn't swell so much as it was a beer fest, not a book fest. So... I stood up and began to shout "GETCHA BEER BOOKS... GETCHA BEER BOOK HERE!!!" until I was quite hoarse. Sales picked up rapidly. And they continued to pick up as folk drank more beer. So, two tips for the beer book selling public for the price of this one post: (i) act like an idiot and (ii) act like an idiot in front of folks getting drunk. Which leads me to a few other thoughts:
=> "To grangerize: to illustrate with material taken from other published sources, such as by clipping them out for one's own use." Isn't this what beer blogging really is?
=> Thirty-four dollars and ninety-nine cents!?!? I am sure some young aspiring consulting craft beer mixed revenue dreamer has a grab bag of cliches by which such things are justified but... thirty-four dollars and ninety-nine cents!?!? Seen at the Cicero, NY Wegman's grocery store.
=> Chad was more sensible. He had some beer, too. I just shouted a lot.
=> I consider the fear of sweetness and the denigration of crystal malt to be hallmarks of this era which shall be mocked in the new future after the paradigm collapses. But I can say that about a lot of things.
=> I have no idea about how many pubs or taverns represents a crawl but some people have very fixed ideas. Having done one, as one must, by taxi in Toronto in the last year I would accept a walking four-stop crawl in two small neighbouring villages myself.
=> Words that beer bloggers might have recently chosen not to use: intended, unravelling, instantly.
=> My answer? Use the machines - whether you own them or not? You're a "brewery" while the others can use "brewing" or "beer company" or something else.
There. Monday notes. It's thawing out there. We are a long way from warm but the dripping roof has created the driveway trickle which leads to the gurgling roadside drain.
We are asked to write about up and coming beer destinations for this month's edition of The Session but I wonder if I'm living the rougher and readier reality. Beer travel? From what I see it often includes some sort of relapse into undergrad lifestyle. I am having bit of a creeping feeling that this two star hotel on the old four-lane route out of Albany, New York might be serving that up for me this weekend. But the room ain't bad and soon pals will arrive. The solvent againt will prove to be the bond.
See, as I mentioned, I am attending the New York Brewers Association fest and conference at some other fancy pants hotel without $38 CND rooms. And to be fair I got this deal in Hotwire weeks ago. But it illustrates one of two ways beer and travel interact for me. I go to beer events or I find beer wherever I go. I have never traveled to find only beer. But that was covered in Session #93 four months ago. Not to mention sorta during Session 29.
Beer destinations? You may want to have a good look in the mirror if you dwell too much on the idea. You will find good beer on life's highway if you are good at noticing stuff. You will also find other good stuff if you keep you eyes open for that as well. And if you don't want your grand children to think you were an alcoholic back in the day get some photos of that stuff, too, when you travel. Travel gives you perspective. Or at least it should. Jeff knows. Go hicking in Franconia and you'll find some good beer along the way. And, if not beer, wine or rum or even a nice cup of tea. It's a big world out there. Don't let the grandkids down.
Publicans are being urged to share their views on the use of online review websites like TripAdvisor as part of a government backed probe on the impact of the sites. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) - the government's business watchdog - has launched a consultation on the sites as a result of concerns regarding their trustworthiness and impartiality. The CMA will investigate specialist review sites, web blogs, video blogs, social media, trusted trader sites, retail platforms and retailers' own websites. It will also look at the roles media companies, online reputation managers and search engine optimizers play in helping businesses promote themselves and manage their image in relation to blogs and review sites.
I typed that quote out by hand to make sure we were reading the same thing. See, the Morning Advertiser has this widget that blocks copying but here in Canada - being a freer more confident land even if laden with poorer marmalade - we have rights to quote bits of copyright work for criticism or review which seems quite apt with this article. So let's have a bit of a critique and review, shall we?
Let's be honest. What isn't stated and should be equally followed up if the media are going to advocate for resorting to the use law to inquire about such things, is what role the well funded pub owners and breweries themselves play. Having had masses of beer delivered to my house over the last decade along with masses of invites to clinky drinky events as well as the odd junket - as any decent beer writer has - one is well aware of the keen interest bar owners and breweries have in building and maintaining a happy and even merry relationship with those in the media who discuss their beers positively. Many a free beer has also been passed across the bar to me once someone spills the beans, sometimes not even me. I often decline and lay down the sordid lucre - but actually understand the accepting soul may be then offered something called collaboration which sounds far too earth for a Dudley Do-right like me. An actual news source that was giving the reading public a full 360 degree description of the situation might mention that. So why are only publicans being reported as being urged to comment but not beer writers or others aware of these common pub and brewery incentives? Takes two to tango, no? Sometimes apparently more if we use all our fingers and toes and include the distracted press.
This is the point where I claim purity. Fully. Fundamentally. Every good beer blogger knows the line. I may have received these gifts by FedEx but, as with Christ's beneficence offered through the holy sacrament of communion, I approach each chalice with pure intent and leave fully pardoned. To celebrate this, I am sipping a glass of La Formidable, a juicy 6.9% beer recently couriered to my house by Beau's All Natural, operators of "B-Side Brewing" which is an interesting portfolio of beers they are brewing here under license and with participation of brewers from outside of Ontario. I even can identify the lovely lass who directed the beer my way. The thugs in vans won't get the name, though... not immediately at least. [Run!] Jordan gave the beer a review, too. I can't match his sense of 1980s TV sci-fi cartoon-isme but suffice it to say that when I consider this a lot like Headstock but different, too, that is a fine thing. A very fine thing. Maybe with a bit more of this and a little of that but it's like comparing Jimmy Cowan to Paul Coffey in a way, no? Where Jordan notes clove, I get a bit of minerality like a Urzinger. But that is him. And me. I mean some one person has to actually taste the stuff, right? Of course each view will differ. As long as, you know, the blogger doesn't just cut and paste the PR content emailed along.
Morning Advertiser by comparison? One has to acknowledge that the full of the publication begins "The Publican's..." so there is a choir to be sung to, isn't there. There are denominations and congregations. God's house has many rooms. Does that make excuses? Perhaps. But does it also open up the question of the role of trade publications in "trustworthiness and impartiality" within the beery discourse? Why not? If we are going to go about investigating things, why not? Glass houses.
This weekend will find me at Albany attending the New York State Brewers Association second annual Craft New York Brewers Festival. The most exciting thing is that it is being held at a place called The Desmond Hotel. It is exciting because I love 1960's first wave ska and, according to my notes, every band had to have a guy called Desmond in it. At least the great ones did. I am going to head south for the first time since September to man a chair at a table to see if I can help Craig spread the good news about our history of Albany ale as folk spin around the dance floor to these sorts of song stylings.
The Craft New York Brewers Festival will bring together 40 New York Breweries (and brewers) from every region of the state featuring up to 90+ hard to find and award winning beers. To make this very special event more exclusive, we will feature food sampling and pairing from local Albany restaurants and food vendors to go along with each brewery attending at no extra cost! This is a great opportunity to meet the NYS brewers that make the beer, and the owners of the local food scene in the Capital District that are such an important part of the community.
So, what do I do with the opportunity? I am not all that keen on fests as drinking sessions but I do look forward to having some decent conversations with folk in the trade. Its tied to the Association's winter meetings. What to do? I might ask for a glass of gin. I might try an informal survey on what beer to pair with Anjou pears. Always wondered about that. Perhaps I might inquire as to what business strategies they have to better support better arm's length beer business writing. Might expect the answer to be "what the hell is that?!?" though, mightn't I. Frankly, the real question I want answered this weekend is whether anyone has been subject to section 3.11 of the NYSBA's bylaws: Membership in the NYSBA, may be revoked by a majority vote of the Board of Directors for non-payment of dues, conviction of a felony or crime of moral turpitude, or willful violation of any other provision of the By-Laws of the NYSBA.. Crimes of moral turpitude? What the heck is that? Wonder if any of the members know. Might walk around asking members if they know anything about that. Perhaps it has some thing to do with unholy collaboration projects. That sort of thing. Evil.
Say hello if you are around the Des. After 8 pm, I understand, known as El Des.
See that? Click on the image and you will see it better. That is a word search for the word hop[pe]s in English language texts from a site called Early Modern Print: Text Mining Early Printed English which explains itself as follows:
Early Print offers a range of tools for the computational exploration and analysis of English print culture before 1700. Early Print offers a range of tools for the computational exploration and analysis of English print culture before 1700. The site was designed to help scholars make sense of the incomparable textual archive produced by the EEBO Text Creation Partnership, consisting of a set of transcriptions of the first two centuries of English print. While EEBO-TCP provides access to a massive collection of texts that promises to transform the way scholars approach this period, it also presents significant technical and conceptual challenges. The relative accuracy (given its scale) of the EEBO-TCP corpus that makes it such a valuable resource for scholars also makes it complex for computational analysis.
Got it? Yikes. It appears to be a far more complex version of the New York Times search tool that is so useful in confirming how late "craft" beer came into accepted usage. Except, this fun widget focuses on texts from 1480 to 1700. I am still having some problem figuring out how to properly run searches given all the swell code that can be used to run searches. But when you do, you get wonderful - even if possibly misleading - results like this one confirming that "hops" or "hoppes" came into far more common use on a very particular date roughly around 1518. Look at "ale"! I am sure folk more clever than I may make more interesting use of it so let me know what you find. Be careful. Remember that around 1577 "biere" was a common spelling. Have a go. Meanwhile, I wonder if anyone mentioned "craft beer" during that era...
This week's craft beer tantrum has come in reaction to a very well written personal essay attacking a number of specified effects of craft beer snobbery. In particular, strong reaction has come from the mixed revenue stream writer / consultant / appearance fee good beer personality seats in the audience. I have absolutely no idea why this column caused those in the front pew to reach for the book of common prayer to announce "click bait!" as one. But it does make one sad given how this exemplifies at least part of the state of critical thinking about beer these days. Makes one wonder what that agenda behind the Sturm und Drang is all about. Consider this passage from the impugned opinion piece:
When I go to the pub I want to talk to my friends about their lives, our jobs, politics, funny things we saw on public transport that day. Ward says that “craft beer is a conversation”, which really gets to the heart of the matter: I don’t want to have a conversation with my beer, I want to have a conversation with my mates. Combined with our loose culture of buying rounds, this “beer-as-backdrop” phenomenon is why it’s important for tap beers to be sessionable and relatively inexpensive. Beer blogger Martyn Cornell’s exploration of sessionability pinpoints the crucial difference between a “craft beer” kind of beer and what I, from an Australian perspective, would call a “normal beer”...
While Martyn has not entered into the "clickbait-clickbait" din, he has disavowed the citation on a Facebook comments thread. Which is unfortunate. Because what is described is a perfectly reasonable and attractive experience of beer. Who would want to see that imposed upon? Hmm? What's that? Not good enough for some? Why? I don't know. Not sure they do. Frankly, the knee jerk reaction has gotten to be such a matter of rote. There is a such race to post something righteous on Twitter that actual reading of the text in question seems to be optional.
Which, without getting into the bushes too deeply given how little I care about the uni-clique¹, let's think about two things Boak and Bailey have noted lately. First, during the craft beer emo-crisis of a few weeks ago (they are coming so fast and furious that they seem to be the hallmark of 2015's discourse) they noted of another article: "It actually made us laugh; the author writes with flair; and, unlike other pure clickbait articles (‘craft beer sucks and people that drink it are dicks’) it has an argument." Then, last week they wrote the following in their discussion of the London-centricity of the UK's good beer discourse:
Where there is a gap in regional coverage is, unfortunately, the blogoshire. A few years ago, beer blogging was all but dominated by Leeds. Now, Leigh Linley has taken a job in the industry and temporarily put his blog on hiatus; Zak Avery posts infrequently (though it’s always good when he does); while others have moved to other parts of the country, had children, or otherwise run out of steam. By their own admission, Birmingham bloggers Dan Brown and David Shipman are both ‘semi-retired’. And our favourite Bristol beer blog hasn’t posted since 2013.
See, it is not just that blogging is dead but as a prominent beer writer has confided this week, we lack those now who "stir the pot occasionally. Lord knows the readers could use the perspective." Which makes me wonder.² A long time ago the happy land of beer blogging suffered an outrage - the invasion of pro writers pretending to be bloggers. We found a measure of peace. But then beer bloggers went off in a few directions in the last couple of years. Too many for the available cash decided to make a living out of it. From that we have received many interesting books and articles but we have also witnessed the rise of the mixed revenue stream writer / consultant / collaborateur / appearance fee good beer personality chasing the tail of craft. We then have also seen, as B+B said, the loss of interest by the pure amateur out of boredom at, I suppose, the now dull lock step cultish homogeneity of the scene due to the previous group separating off. And we still have those game actual professionals who actually do well thought out, critical and carefully presented writing about good beer. What a business. What a state of affairs...
Does one despair, fight the power or make pitches to the patient but not infinitely resourced opportunities for a beer writing cheque? Not sure other than I am sure it is all more to be pitied than scorned. By the way, I hope you disagree.... which would require you to make up your mind independently and not follow someone else's agenda like a drunken lemming. See what you can come up with. Make Stonch proud.
¹ Which reference may actually qualify me as a "clique baiter"... neato ...
² See Mr. Chimp Head up there? That is the "Al is wondering" icon if you haven't picked that up yet.