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Pay no attention to the man with the big moustache

Jim Boyd, Roy FarmsI apologize, because what follows is strictly American hop industry inside stuff. But I’ve reached the hops section of Miracle Brew: Hops, Barley, Water, Yeast, and the Nature of Beer, which has left me a bit giddy.

In the introduction, Pete Brown writes, “I’ve made it very easy for you to dip in and read first about the ingredient that interests you the most, which is probably hops, but I wouldn’t recommend that.” So I started with barley, read about water, and now I’m surrounded by hops. And page 245 a bigger-than-life character is introduced. Pete never gets around to using his name, but industry types will recognize who it is immediately. And the whole exchange makes me laugh.

Excerpt from

If nobody adds the name in the comments I will in the next day or two.

While you are here, a reminder you might want to sign up for Hop Queries, a newsletter that should appear in your email box once a month. It will contain more useful information than the identity of Giant Moustache.

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Two essential beer books remain essential

How to Brew - old and new

“Brewing technology does not stand still.” – John Palmer, 2017.


Author John Palmer prefaces the fourth edition of How To Brew with an explanation of not only how it is different than the version published 11 years ago, but why. He wrote the first edition, which appeared online in 2000, for people brewing beer in order to enjoy styles that otherwise were not available. In contrast, “Today’s homebrewer is brewing for the pure pleasure of creating a beer, rather than to fill a void in availability. Therefore, my focus in this latest edition is to help you understand how to brew the best beer.”

How to Brew is one of two thoroughly revised essential beer books published this spring. The mission of the other, Tasting Beer remains the same. “In a concise and visual way, this book aims to introduce you to the wide world of beer and to give you the tools to understand and, more importantly, enjoy it,” author Randy Mosher writes on the second page of each edition. He also provides more tools, and more visuals. The beer aroma spiral on the right is an example. If you’ve ever spent time with the Beer Flavor Wheel you know it is complicated and focuses as much on faults as words that help you identify the aromas and flavors you like. I prefer concise and visual.

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A journalist, an entrepreneur and a sociologist walk into a bar

Untapped: Exploring the Cultural Dimensions of Craft BeerPete Slosberg devotes a chapter in Beer for Pete’s Sake to his brewery’s battles with Anheuser-Busch. He tells a series of amusing stories, including one pitting his dog, Millie, against Budweiser’s Spuds MacKenzie, and in each of them Pete’s Brewing Company was David. Anheuser-Busch was Goliath.

In the early 1990s Pete’s was the second largest of a new wave of breweries that had outgrown the micro tag and now were described as craft. Its sales peaked at 425,000 barrels in 1996, but it was still the second largest craft brewery in 1998 when the Gambrinus Company bought it. Slosberg remained for two years and it would be another dozen before the brand eventually died. On the jacket of the book, published in 1998, he is described as “a brewing maverick, a brilliant entrepreneur, and iconoclast, and a marketing icon.” As important, he took “a path that led him from (my emphasis) a corporate career to doing what he loves.”

This was, and in many cases still is, a familiar story. Hate your job? Become a brewer. This is an example of why J. Nikol Beckham writes in a new collection of essays that “the microbrew revolution’s success can be understood in part as the result of a mystique cultivated around a group of men who were ambitious and resourceful enough to ‘get paid to play’ and to capitalize upon the productive consumption of fans/customers who enthusiastically invested in this vision.” The title of this fourth chapter in Untapped: Exploring the Cultural Dimension fo Craft Beer is a mouthful: “Entrepreneurial Leisure and the Microbrew Revolution: The Neoliberal Origins of the Craft Beer Movement.” Not surprisingly, there’s a considerable amount to define and discover en route to Beckham’s conclusion.

It is worth the time to get there, because it broadens our understanding of the culture and business of beer— where its been, where it is, where its going. In Untapped’s foreword, Ian Malcom Tyson writes, “As sociologists examine these trends, they bring insights that journalistic interpretations often gloss over. They provide nuanced answers to far-ranging questions of how seemingly commonplace products such as beer can have such a fascinating esoteric heritage.” As a journalist I am sure how I feel about that, but I appreciate reading what somebody else sees when they tilt the glass sideways.

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If Alanis Morissette were a beer, [fill in the blank]

Make what you will of this (because the point is not to discuss Alanis Morissette’s music), think of a beer from the 1990s and rewrite the sentence in your head.

Most of the top music from the 1990s, such as say Alanis Morissette, would sound current if released today, a sign of cultural stasis in what was once a highly socially charged and rapidly changing sector.

Untapped: Exploring the Cultural Dimensions of Craft BeerContext: “Once We Listened to the Beatles. Now We Eat Beetles” at Bloomberg, which Tyler Cowen pointed to (“Food has replaced music as culturally central, at least for America’s professional class”) at Marginal Revoluation. Best to read the original article, but the juicy comments are at Marginal Revolution.

More context: I’ve just started reading Untapped: Exploring the Cultural Dimensions of Craft Beer, which is thoroughly engaging and should reframe a lot of conversations about beer, pre-Jack McAuliffe or post. As a journalist I’m not sure how I feel about this from this from the foreword — “As sociologists examine these trends, they bring insights that journalistic interpretations often gloss over” — but the sentence provides a reader with a good idea what to expect.

Premise: Beer is food.

I’ll leave you to consider the question at the top — cultural stasis/beer stasis ~ 1995/2017 ~ “IPA? What’s with all this bitterness?”/”IPA? Where’d all the bitterness go?”

Instead I direct you to Erik’s comments (and not only because he too wonders how current Alanis Morissette sounds).

Music stopped being culturally significant when we stopped listening together and instead had complete autonomy and privacy in our musical choices.

Food is still somewhat aspirational – most of us can’t afford to eat at the best restaurants in the world, or to find authentic versions of traditional foods around the world, nor do we have the skill to perfectly recreate it. That makes food a challenge and makes it the stuff of legend and fantasy. It is also something we still tend to share with others.

Just more to think about as I make my way through Untapped (no that Untappd).

But is ‘juicy’ a flavor?

The best read post here, on an cumulative basis, is “Words to describe the beer you are tasting.” From nine years ago. Quite honestly, readers arrive via a search engine, read that post, check out nothing else here, and leave. The point is they are searching.

Flavor MapThey might be better off forking over $16 (plus shipping) to buy their own Beer Flavor Map. You can read more about it here. It works like this: flavor is broken into three color-coded categories — Taste, Aroma and Mouthfeel. Within each there are sub-categories, so under Spicy you will find licorice, clove, cinnamon, etc.
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