Top Menu

Archive | Musing

Is beer as good as it’s going to get?

Windows at Louis Mueller's in Taylor, Texas


How I pick the links to include here:

– Wednesday morning I received a press release about chef David Chang’s bit of silliness in GQ about “fancy beer.” Friday morning I received a press release about Garrett Oliver’s response, also in GQ. No need to bother with this pissing match. You’re not going to miss it.

– Tuesday morning, because I roll out of bed rather early, Dan Paquette’s Monday night into Tuesday morning rant was near the top of my Twitter feed. And the story sped ahead from there. The ratio of words to actual information was rather high and only by chance did Twitter point me to an interesting (though anonymous and unsubstantiated) post 10 pages into a Beer Advocate discussion. In my youth I was a newspaper city editor. I’m pretty sure that we could have found a way to report this as a local story. It would have taken both feet on the street time and some forensic accounting. When I see a proper story I’ll be sure to link to it. Waiting for that link.

– Although I suspect I’ll be waiting for that particular link a while, Saturday morning Zak Avery used the topic as a jumping off place for an entirely different discussion. Drop that one into Pocket.

Craft Beer in a Post-Craft World. One of Avery’s takeaways is “Beer isn’t going to get any better than it is now” (it appears three times in boldface). In part that’s because it is really good now. I understand what he means when he writes “the technology of craft beer – focusing on quality and flavour without cutting corners to maximise profits – has reached endgame.” But I don’t agree that it won’t get better.

As I type this I realize it could be an entire post, but I’ll try to be unusually concise. Granted, “good enough” and “better” are moving targets. But how do you know that something better won’t come along? I had conversations with people just two weeks ago in which they guaranteed me that Firestone Walker Pivo Pils was the best pilsner-type beer they’d ever tasted. And it hasn’t been in bottles two years.

This isn’t about a quest to find the best pale ale, the best weissbier, the best porter; or even a desire to always be tasting something new. Beer is food, and that means there are more than 3,000 (a lot more, given the freedom many breweries extend multiple brewers) beer chefs operating in the United States. I’m happy enough to think that I’ll never find commercially smoked brisket better than at Louie Mueller’s in Taylor, Texas, but there are times when I might enjoy brisket more someplace else. And I really like sitting in Louie Mueller’s (those are Mueller’s smoke-stained windows at the top).

Avery accurately describes “post-craft era” as a buzz-phrase. I like it. It drew me to his post (Boak & Bailey used the phrase “post-craft world” back in May, but I was in Brazil and missed it until now). In an email not long ago Vince Cottone, who gets credit for giving us the term “craft” brewery, wrote that he was disappointed the term “industrial brew” (which he wrote about at the same time 30 years ago) didn’t get any traction. I’ve been having conversations with brewers about post-industrial beer and post-industrial brewing and although they humor me there is the chance this is only something I’ve made up.

It works better if you don’t aim for a specific definition (sorta like “craft”). But the idea is that brewers at businesses interested in operating on various levels of scale now have the technology that resulted from the R&D very large brewing companies could afford. So we can have beer that is not designed for the broadest audience and shipped all over the face of the earth, but still “cleaner, more consistent, more reliable, less of a lottery.”

The discussion about good, better, best, fantastic, life changing, and so on is a different one. Avery has given us a lot to think about. Makes you wish we didn’t have to wait 112 days between posts. If only because this one also hit the on switch for Max Bahnson.
[Via Tasting the Pith]

So You Wanna be a Brewer? 20 Real Facts About Working in a Brewery. Since I might have hijacked Zak Avery’s idea to make my own point, here’s another reminder that brewing is a business.
[Via Queen City Drinks]

Farmhouse ales of Europe. “Farmhouse ale lives in many more places than people have been aware of.” Wow, what a list. Do we call these indigenous?
[Via Largsblog]

If Everyone Else Is A Beer Expert – Why Not Me? Proof that you can make a point in a lot less space and in a far more amusing way than me.
[Via A Good Beer Blog]

Could Budweiser be better than craft beer? When I posted this on Twitter complained they’d just wasted two minutes of their life reading it. Consider yourself warned.
[Via The Drinks Business]

The Uncritical Embrace of Craft Beer? Also got dissed for posting this link on Twitter. “Did you mean to make me lose that time?” It is long, and it is a topic already discussed at length, but something people are still figuring out. And relevant, I think, to The Session #90 Roundup.
[Via a Tempest in a Tankard]


Because we still don’t need ‘Over Analysis Syndrome’

Matt Van Wyk’s post about “Over Analysis Syndrome” almost nine years ago when he was still brewing at Flossmoor Station in Illinois remains just as true this morning. My brain might be wired funny, but I thought of it when reading what Michael Baumann wrote at Grantland.

Just when the sport has been studied and scrutinized and quantified to within an inch of solving it, something bizarre and beautiful, like these Royals, comes along.


The purpose of drinking?

Cask beer, London


Crowd Control: A History of Bar Etiquette Because, can you resist a story with a quote this honest? “The purpose of drinking is to get as drunk as you can without ruining it for other people.”
[Via Punch]

How your local IPA is quietly becoming a leading economic driver in Oregon. A closer look at how the Oregon brewing industry produces $2.83 billion in total economic impact. I like this bit about Block 15 in Corvallis: “Tart cherries come from The Cherry Country near Salem, raspberries from Denison Farms in Corvallis, peaches from Olson Family Farms in Salem, strawberries from Stahlbush Island Farms in Covallis and grapes from Left Coast Cellars in Rickreall.” Ingredients from places familiar to people who live and drink in Corvallis.
[Via 1859]

Beer judging considered harmful. SPOILER ALERT. “So the lesson is: just because you can recognize the chemical and know that it’s sometimes a problem, don’t automatically assume something must be wrong with the beer. Something may be wrong. Or the butterscotch flavour from the diacetyl might actually make it better.”
Via Larsblog

Beer, beer, everywhere … Stop me if you’ve heard this one: “An American walks into a British pub and
[Via Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog

The 40pc leap in capacity at the Doom Bar brewery and the 2014/5 Cask Report. Up front there is the fact that Doom Bar had become a brand one tenth the size of Carling lager. and Martyn Cornell writes: “That might not sound much, but blimey, there’s not been a cask ale brand with that kind of clout in the market for decades.” Beyond that, a summary of the latest Cask Report (kind of a state of the union for real ale in England).
[Via Zythophile]

Concrete Beach Brewery Will Teach You To Love Craft Beer. This is a story about Concrete Beach Brewing in Miami, funded by Alchemy & Science, the collaboration between Alan Newman (ex-Magic Hat) and Jim Koch of Boston Beer Company. You’ll likely take away something different from this article than I did. When I got to the part where the manager of the “Social Hall” said “My first beer ever was a Michelob Ultra” my mind shut down. Wasn’t Michelob Ultra invented like three years ago? (Correct answer is 2002.)
[Via Miami Eater]

John Hickenlooper, Party of One. I’m not sure who you think the best known person brewer-type in American beer is, but Hickenlooper’s place in the post-MaytageMcAuliffe American brewing world is pretty well established and as governor of Colorado he might be a recognizable at Jim Koch. This profile of a guy who keeps his promises points out, “He even fits the zeitgeist—the microbrewery owner who throws an annual tech and business summit to foster Colorado’s start-up scene, the fellow you might have seen strumming a banjo on stage with Old Crow Medicine Show.”
[Via The Atlantic]


Can you explain multivariete beer to me?

Because I was immersed in the insular world that surrounds the Great American Beer Festival I did not participate in The Session #92: “I Made This.” But I thought about the topic several times, like when Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper — addressing brewers before awards were handed out Saturday — said that he had begun homebrewing in 1971. The GABF has become crazy big. It will be even bigger next year, as in 90,000 square feet bigger (how many more breweries might be pouring beer hasn’t been determined). It’s easy to get lost in the forest of beers, but in the midst of this madding crowd there were still plenty of people who spoke with pride about what they’d made. That’s why I keep going back. Anyway, if you are looking for beery links, start at Pintwell.

Young Drinkers Have Abandoned Big Beer – Can It Be Saved? A report from the National Beer Wholesalers Association annual convention in New Orleans, which plenty of brewery representatives at the GABF attended just before heading to Denver. I’m skeptical about this “product life cycle theory” (or maybe it is an example of what happens when a brewery starts making products instead of beers). And isn’t it time to quit saying “not your father’s beer”? Mothers drink too.
[Via Advertising Age]

Multivariate Beer. Using beer to understand data. It’s a little complicated, but in the resulting recipes “More hop aroma represents higher employment.”
[Via FlowingData]

German Pilsner. Ron Pattinson digs into the history books to examine how/when “pilsner” came to describe something other than a Bohemian-Austrian beer.
[Via Shut Up About Barclay Perkins]

Beer and environmental policy entwined. A report from a second-year student of the Bard Center for Environmental Policy interning with Sun King Brewing in Indianapolis.
[Via Poughkeepsie Journal]

Want to Find Out Where Your Fruit Was Grown? Good Luck. It isn’t news that “Big Ag” considers the path from field to supermarket a trade secret. You better believe that the largest breweries in the world know all the origins of their raw ingredients. That’s been less true of smaller breweries. But little things can be important – like how many times and with what insecticides a particular hop field was sprayed.
[Via Mother Jones]

North American Guild of Beer Writers online magazine winners.

The NAGBW writing contest winners were announced at a small gathering Friday in Denver. A complete list should be posted soon at the guild website. Meanwhile, here are links to the online magazine winning stories because — I guess this should be obvious — they are online.

1. The Death of Hunahpu’s Day, by Gerard Walen (All About Beer Magazine)
2. Headbangers Brew: A History of Heavy Metal and Craft Beer Collaborations, by Austin L. Ray (First We Feast)
3. A Brief History of Sour Beer, by Christian DeBenedetti (New Yorker)


A lot about beer, written in a lot of places


Last week Jeff Alworth, Boak & Bailey and Alan McLeod posted thoughts on beer writing, interesting on their own and further provoking interesting comments. Then McLeod followed that up with a must read. (Really, go read it.)

Most of the time, the links I post here are to stuff I read during the week and think you might have overlooked. This week, I tweaked that a bit and focused just on publications that are not beer-specific. That’s because these days I can walk into gas station/convenience store smack dab in the middle of Missouri and choose from dozens of fancy beers. That’s one of the reasons there’s a lot more being written about beer these days in a lot more places and in a lot of different ways.

So Long, Shaker Pint: The Rise and Fall of America’s Awful Beer Glass. This story may or may not contain anything you didn’t already know, and that is the point. This is news to CityLab readers.
[Via CityLab]

Red Brick Brewing Company Turns 21. A long read, north of 4,000 words, and excellent. On the one hand, a 21st anniversary story seems pretty obvious. On the other hand, it is Red Brick, a brewery that long ago was less interesting to write about than a slug of new ones. In fact, its beers weren’t that good. That’s changed. “What many had considered a long-dead, irrelevant brand is experiencing a renaissance amid Georgia’s greater craft beer boom.”
[Via Creative Loafing]

Pliny the Elder: A case study in scarcity marketing. From those guys you listen to on public radio.
[Via Marletplace]

Wine execs concerned about growth of craft” beer, specialty spirits. It is business story written for a newspaper audience (and its online readers, of course). It talks about “millennial exploration.” Shouldn’t publications, and individuals who want to write for those publications, recognize those millennials sometimes want a different sort of writing?
[Via The Press Democrat]

Mexico’s Craft Beer Scene Is Exploding. In this case you have Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin Brewery writing a column, called Nomadic Brews, each month for Munchies, which is part of Vice Media. “Every month, we’ll check in with dispatches from Jeppe’s travels around the world, as he brews in places like Mexico, Taiwan, and Brazil.” Added to remind us all it is a brave new world.
[Via Munchies]


Powered by WordPress