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Archive | August, 2011

Are weird beers part of the ‘attention economy’?

Today at Grantland, Michael Kruse examines how those wild and wacky uniforms have helped turn the University of Oregon into a national college football power.

. . . the head of a think tank and a visiting scholar at Berkeley’s Center for Research on Social Change gave a wonky talk at a conference in Cambridge, Mass. “We are headed,” Michael H. Goldhaber said, “into what I call the attention economy.”

Economics is the study of the allocation of resources that are scarce. These days, more and more, information isn’t scarce. Stuff isn’t scarce. What’s scarce is attention. The companies that win in an attention economy are those that win the eyeballs of people who have too much to look at. Too many ads. Too many screens in too many places. Too many games on too many channels on too many days of the week.

“This new economy,” Goldhaber said in Cambridge in January 1997, “is based on endless originality.

“If you have enough attention,” he added, “you can get anything you want.”

The uniforms got the attention of talented high school football players from across the nation. That’s where the story begins and ends, but there are other things to consider along the way. These are relative to beers that are different; weird, wacky, extreme if you like, but maybe only as different a pumpkin beers.

At times this might be a little unsettling.

“If attention is now at the center of the economy rather than stuff, then so is style,” UCLA professor Richard Lanham wrote in The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information. “It moves from the periphery to the center. Style and substance trade places.

“Push style to the extreme,” Lanham wrote, “and it becomes substance.”

I can’t decide if this sounds like an endorsement for extreme beer or an Onion headline.

Book review: A Pisshead’s Pub Guide

“Those were the times when I thought ALL Czech beer was great. That slowly started to change, but I would still drink pretty much anything that was brewed in this country.”

– Max Bahnson

Prague: A Pisshead's Pub GuideThere is much more to Prague than beer, but for a beer oriented visitor there never seems to be enough time to discover all the pivo the city has to offer.

Sure, start with a pilsner, because when you order a pilsner in Prague it will be Pilsner Urquell. That’s the law. And many, probably most, tourists leave town happy to have enjoyed what beer experiences luck gives them.

Then there are the rest of us. We want to know about Výcepní Pivo and Ležák — “Hey, these aren’t listed in the Official Beer Geek Style Guidelines (ABGSG)” — and the yeasty difference between Nefiltrované and Kvasnicové. We want to know the best places to drink in situ; the best revivalists beers featuring pilsner malt and Saaz hops as well as cutting edge beers (stouts and IPAs in Prague, indeed).

We need books like Evan Rail’s Good Beer Guide Prague & the Czech Republic and Prague: A Pisshead’s Pub Guide by Max Bahnson. I’ve previously recommended Evan’s book, and in suggesting that Prague is a two beer guidebook city must include a small disclaimer related to the Pisshead Guide.

When he was writing the book, Max sent me some sample pages. I enthusiastically endorsed the content and the style. It would be a dirty trick for me to turn around and criticize it now. But honestly, I can think of only one thing I’d change. It would be cool if the hand-drawn maps were on napkins or coasters you could rip from the book.

I expect a guide book to be easy to read, long useful information and amusing. Because this book is organized by pub crawls it can take an extra few minutes to find a single destination, and an index would help. But how much you enjoy the Pisshead Guide really depends on if you enjoy the writing. I do, and originally pulled out some quotes from the book to illustrate. Then I realized it is better to suggest you visit his blog and read at least until you’ve come across a paragraph or three that you figure would piss off somebody. Then you’ll have a better idea if this book is for you.

You can buy it here.

Four pounds of beer conversation starters

Oxford Companion to BeerCan you imagine two wine drinkers sitting in a cafe arguing about monoterpenes1 and asking the bartender to drag a copy of The Oxford Companion to Wine from the the bookshelf to settle a bet?

Me either. However, I can envision The Oxford Companion to Beer on top of a bar, it’s otherwise elegant cover a bit beer stained.

Amazon reports the book will be available Oct. 7, but editor Garrett Oliver will be signing copies the week before at the Great American Beer Festival.

Pre-publication promotion states “this book is the perfect shelf-mate to Oxford’s renowned Companion to Wine and an absolutely indispensable volume for everyone who loves beer as well as all beverage professionals, including home brewers, restaurateurs, journalists, cooking school instructors, beer importers, distributors, and retailers, and a host of others.” More details are at

I have not seen the list of more than 1,100 entries, but the preview includes topics such as Acetyl CoA and Breweriana; pretty diverse before we even leave the Bs.

Last May, I suggested that every blogger should own Brewery History, No. 139 because it is full of thought-provoking topics. It might take a while to digest Companion to Beer when it arrives — the 960 pages weigh in at four pounds — but it obviously will be packed with a heck of a lot more conversation starters . . . and let’s hope the definitive information to end the conversations that get a bit tedious.

1 I just flipped open a page and pointed my finger. Funny that we’d expect to see turpenes covered in this book as well.

Putting the Dutch in Dutch Porter

I’m not sure if “A Practical Treatise on Brewing, and on Storing of Beer; Deduced from Forty Years Experience” by William Black, published in London in 1835 will make the bibliography for “For the Love of Hops,” so I am passing along this little story now.

It comes from a short chapter called, “The Flavour of London Porter.”

No single house can imitate the different flavours of all the great London establishments; but the flavour of any particular house can be easily acquired. By the way, talking of flavours, I must take the liberty of relating an anecdote which is said to have occurred during the last century.

A Dutch house was at that time in the practice of getting whole gyles of porter brewed on purpose for them by one of the great houses of London. On one occasion one of their clerks was in London at the time of brewing, and went to see the process. He unfortunately, poor fellow! tumbled into a copper of boiling worts, and before he could be got out again was actually boiled to death. The gyle of beer was sent to Holland, and turned out to be very good.

The next batch sent, however, did not turn out so well, and the Dutch house complained of it, saying it had not the same flavour as the preceding gyle. The answer returned by the London house was, that they had no means of giving them precisely the same flavour, unless they would send them over another Dutchman. So much for flavour.

How can Dutch Porter not be a recognized style?

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