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Taking beer seriously in this week’s links


Living with Beer and Mental Health, Part One: Geoffrey Did it Wrong.
Expect to feel uncomfortable reading this, whether it is because this story is so private and honest or because of what it leaves you thinking about. Before you begin, understand a) it is 2,328 words by my count, and b) there are paragraphs like this: “I often wish my Dad had died but he has proved himself immortal. I never thought I’d share these stories before his own obituary but I find it prudent to share them now. If you ever feel you don’t have control over your drinking, if you ever begin to do it to guide you through every day, if you ever feel that you HAVE to drink for whatever reason that is, then seek the help you may need. It could really be the start of something serious that won’t just destroy your own life but all those around you who love you.” [Via Beer Compurgation]

Still Not Backing Down For Four Hundred Years.
There’s already been plenty of chatter about Budweiser’s #NotBackDown Super Bowl commercial (40 0,000 views on YouTube for the full versionbefore the game even started) and we can expect plenty more on Twitter, in blog posts, and in online publications. Alan McLeod’s post will be the best single thing you read. I spent considerable time the past year scrutinizing what was going on in American beer the last 400 years, but through a different prism. Different enough it will take a full post to explain. So it’s not the best single thing you will read because I agree with it, but because these are things you should be thinking about. Agreeing is not required. So even though Alan describes Budweiser as “unpleasantly bitter” (huh? bitter?) take him seriously. [Via A Good Beer Blog]

The Unsessionability of Session IPA.
[Via Pencil & Spoon]
Defending the Session IPA and the American Palate.
[Via All About Beer]
Mark Dredge’s thesis, put forth a couple of weeks ago, is pretty straightforward: “I’ve never tasted a Session IPA that’s sessionable in the British sense and they are almost ironically unsessionable; too dry, too bitter, too intense in aroma and flavour – they are unbalanced towards the IPA instead of the Session.” And Jeff Alworth’s reply, “We want them ‘unbalanced toward the IPA'” is equally straightforward. “We” being Americans, and both writers acknowledging differences in culture and palates. But to really understand the cultural differences, read Tandleman’s comment.

Burgundy vs. Champagne: An 18th Century Flame War.
This discussion is not nearly as civilized as the one between Mr. Dredge and Mr. Alworth. For instance, “The wine of Reims is thin, not quite wine-flavored, and acid, which, like most other white wines, has the strength to make urine, but very little to nourish & to warm.” [Via Gargantuan Wine]

#Indie Beer – How the American Beer Scene and The Protestant Reformation Actually Have a lot in Common.
[Via Literature & Libation]
Indie Beer and the Importance of a Name.
[Via BeerGraphs]
There was more back-and-forth on Twitter about the term “Indie Beer” than there were blog posts (or I missed them) than in the beer blogosphere. So maybe we will be spared endless discussions about possible definitions. It does provoke interesting thinking, a) being the analogies from Oliver Gray in #1, and second the conclusion Eno Sarris draws in #2: “There was a reason we started calling some music indie. There was a reason certain crews stopped using that term. There was a reason we started calling beer craft. There is a reason for some to stop using that term.”

Office Space: Did a loss of authenticity doom the Rolling Rock brand to failure?
[Via Reading Eagle]
Bruce Springsteen, ‘The Ties That Bind’, the Working Class, and Authenticity.
[Via PopMatters]
Indeed, discussions about authenticity and beer or brewing can make our heads hurt. But since we just dippied into the Indie music world . . . Was Rolling Rock authentic for you (even if you didn’t like the beer) before Anheuser-Busch bought the brewery? And does considering the relationship between art and authenticity tell us anything about beer? You are not required to care about either, but I spent a fair amount of time thinking about what brewers creating in writing the first chapter of Brewing Local (now working its way through the production process). I wish I’d read the second linked story first.

Working class beer is not a myth, but sometimes it feels endangered. So maybe an art/music analogy tells us something. “Art is the wrench in the gears of authenticity’s easy association with working class music. It creates contradictions and layers of meaning, complexity and ambiguity, and mistakes, misfires, but it’s also how a real voice for the working class can exist in popular music, and most importantly, how that music can be more than the singer’s voice, more than the critic’s voice, more than official history’s voice. If we stop being obsessed by the authenticity of the artist, we might discover the truth in what he says.”


Session #108: Let it snow

Road to Bend, Oregon

The SessionThe theme for The Session #108 today is “Snowed In!”

We didn’t get a lot of snow when we lived in New Mexico — after all, it is the high desert — and we don’t get all that much now in St. Louis. If you can walk to a brewery in 20 minutes you are not snowed in.

But I can see where host Jon Abernathy is coming from. The top photo was taken on a drive from Corvallis, Oregon, to Bend, where Jon lives, in late March. It was raining in Corvallis.

The photo at the bottom was taken in Durango, Colorado, less than a four-hour drive from our NM home when it wasn’t snowing. On the weekend this was taken it had been a harrowing drive north on a Friday, but on Saturday about three feet of snow that had fallen in the previous five days awaited. Daria and Sierra put on their skis. I put on snowshoes. Nice work if you can get it.

Later we drank Modus Hoperandi IPA and Steel Toe Stout from Ska Brewing. They pair well with snow.

Pabst beer, Durango, Colorado


Beer links: Treasures from Fred, and what’s this about Indie Beer?


An #mssfred gem ~ original hand cut charts for Mashing Notebook.
Fred Eckhartdt presentationTiah Edmunson-Morton has begun posting images and documents from Fred Eckhardt’s papers. For instance, there are the original construction paper paste-ups for “Mashing for the North American Home Brewer,” an article that was first published in the Amateur Enologist in fall 1973. And a report written by Charles Coury about Cartwright Brewing, reviewing his experiences and lessons learned, as well as forecasting great future successes. Oops. [Via Oregon Hops & Brewing Archives]

Selling Grant’s Farm.
Definitely one for Pocket. Very long and St. Louis and Busch family centric. Just so you know. “Since his death, the empire that Gussie built has been dismantled, piece by piece. The brewery sold the Cardinals. In-Bev swallowed the brewery. Busch Gardens and SeaWorld were cast off. Grant’s Farm is all that’s left. Soon, it too will be sold. The court will decide to whom, starting on March 28. That would have been Gussie’s 117th birthday. When the beer baron wrote in his will that ‘it is impossible for me to anticipate all of the circumstances which may arise in the future,’ he couldn’t have been more right.” [Via St. Louis magazine]

Brasserie de la Senne — A Renaissance Grows in Brussels.
“But as the pendulum swings, many newer Belgian brewers are questioning the country’s traditional ways of brewing, eager to pave a path of their own. Yvan de Baets is one of those brewers.” A bit of disclosure: Yvan is a friend and wrote the foreward for Brewing With Wheat. [Via Good Beer Hunting]

Craft is dead. Now we drink Indie Beer.
Once again this week, I broke links into business related and other. This one bleeds into business, but it is also about the relationship between consumers, producers and beer itself. It is also interesting to see the tearm “Indie Beer” crrep into the conversation. Sam Calagione at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has been using it for quite a while. [Via San Diego Reader]

On Wine. A Tragedy.
“Please do not assume that your new found knowledge is somehow absolute. Don’t assume that your finely honed palate is better than another’s. Definitely do not assume that your ideal wine is everyone’s ideal wine. It isn’t. We all have very different palates, cultural histories, childhood memories and favorite meals. We are not the same. There is no perfect wine. There is no right wine.” [Via Huffington Post]


The Future of Craft Beer, According to Cicerone Founder.
Eno Sarris storifies a series of tweets by Cicerone founder Ray Daniels, one of the early ones being “But with huge brewer population, I believe fundamentals of brewery business change for most.” [Via BeerGraphs]

Numbers and Context Behind Beer’s ‘Next Frontier’
“On average, more than 93 percent of production from breweries making more than 15,000 barrels annually is distributed at the wholesale level and 42.7 percent of that beer travels out of state.” [Via This is Why I’m Drunk]

Short’s beer coming to Chicago as brewery ends Michigan-only stance.
So much for “Michigan Only, Michigan Forever.” “We’ve always thought Michigan could consume all the beer we could create, but in the last couple of years so many breweries have opened and Michigan has such a vibrant scene. The question became, did we want to make less beer or go into more markets?” [Via Chicago Tribune]


There are 42 beer categories at the Minnesota Mashout homebrew competition. There were five judges for best of show. You do the math. Stewards needed to fill 210 glasses. That took longer than it did to pick a winner.


Session #108 next week: ‘Snowed in’

The SessionI’m headed to Minnesota in a few hours for the Minnesota Mashout. Last time I was there I am not sure the temperature got about zero the whole weekend. This week it looks downright balmy.

But it will still give me a chance to think ahead toward The Session #108: “Snowed In!”

Host Jon Abernathy writes: “The theme is “Snowed In,” and I want it to be open-ended. It’s the first week of February—we are solidly in the grip of the winter, which means hunkering down from the cold and, depending on where you live, waiting for warmer days to thaw out the ice and snow. But perhaps it’s one of those winters, where the snow starts falling… and falling… and falling some more, and the next thing you know, schools are closed, there’s four or more feet of snow on the ground—and you are effectively snowed in and not going anywhere.”

He includeds plenty of potential topics and writes “this doesn’t have to be confined to only beer blogs; let’s see if we can incorporate some other social media as well. Facebook? Write a post or post a picture, and tag The Brew Site and/or post on my timeline. Instagram? Post a picture of your snowed-in beer and tag brewsite and make sure to hashtag #thesession. Twitter? Same deal, tag @brewsite and hashtag #thesession. Pinterest, Snapchat, something else? Be sure to let me know with a comment and a pointer!”


Beer links and questions: Are smaller breweries winning or losing?


Can Big Beer Really Make Great Beer?
[Via Punch]
Meet The Brewer Who Could Create the Next Bud Light.
[Via Wall Street Journal]
Bud Sour Ale Must Be Stopped.
[Via Gizmodo]
Lisa Derus, who does PR for Anheuser-Busch, had a really good week. Both Punch and The Wall Street Journal profiled Research Pilot Brewery brewmaster Rob Naylor. So I guess he had a pretty good week as well. On the other hand, Adam Clark Estes, who wrote the opinion piece for Gizmodo, seemed to be in genuine pain.

In the Punch article, Aaron Goldfarb asks the bar stool topic question that’s been around forever. It requires defining “great” and it seems he and I would not agree. He writes, “Great beer is bold, it’s risky, and it’s usually challenging. It takes drinkers places they’ve never been before—it’s not just a facsimile of something that has already been proven ‘great.'” Arguably this is just me choosing a beer that is not “great,” but I don’t always wants a beer that is bold, risky or challenging. More important, though, part of what makes a beer great is not that it takes me some place I’ve never been before but that is comes from a place (where I may well have been).

However, not just a facsimile of something that has already been proven “great” rings true for me. By chance, Thursday (the day both articles popped up online) the monthly meeting of the St. Louis chapter of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas was at Anheuser-Busch. As the stories note, the Biergarten at the brewery now has a single tap for one of the Underground Beers. We were in a separate room where Naylor, who is the outgoing president of the chapter, had six Underground Beers on tap along with Shock Top, Bud, Bud Light and other familiar choices. One was an IPA, and chances are pretty good there won’t be an A-B IPA soon — they own plenty of breweries already selling lots of IPA. None of the other five tasted like a gimmick. And, back to important, none of them was derivative. I’m lousy at predictions, so I will leave it at that observation.

America now has more breweries than ever. And that might be a problem.
Also last week, Jeff Alworth pointed out that in 2005 breweries that produced 15,000 barrels or more made 64% of what’s classified as craft beer and in 2014 they made 79%. That doesn’t look all that great for smaller breweries, does it? But Alan McLeod offered an ugly diagram (his words, but I don’t disagree) and concluded, “Craft as they describe it might well be over. It’s certainly not rising. The small and confident are. The macro industrial buyers of big craft are.” [Via The Washington Post]

Golden Road Brewery founder on why the brand was sold and what’s next.
“We didn’t have a single conversation about selling the brewery before August [2015],” said founding partner Tony Yanow. “There was not a thought about selling until then.” [Via Los Angeles Times]


Inside the world of beer league hockey.
Beer league hockey is a real thing. And it turns out St. Louis is getting a hockey-themed brewery, Center Ice Brewing Co. [Via DRAFT]

Humulone for the Soul — Cloudwater Brew Co. in Manchester, UK.
“This semi-large startup brewery model that’s fairly common in the U.S. is practically unheard of in the UK. And the trouble with us Brits is that as soon as we see one poppy growing taller than the rest of the crop, we want to cut it down to size.” [Via Good Beer Hunting]

The Bermondsey Beer Mile.
“With lots more beer to come I decided not to finish this one, which did lead to the idea of using a scientific system for scoring the breweries. As with pubs, it would be a binary system, with 1 for if the beer was finished, and 0 if it wasn’t.” [Via Ed’s Beer Site]


Twitter has also told me Jeff Alworth has an article in the current All About Beer magazine about the Reinheitsgebot, which you’ll hear lots more about in 2016 because its 500th anniversary is a big deal. But the mailman hasn’t delivered by copy. (Click on the time stamp to read more of the thread.)


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