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Monday links: The culture & business of beer


Talking Pride Over Pints
Pride is an important part of what Robin LeBlanc says here, but so is this: “Longtime readers will no doubt agree with the fact that I see beer as exceptional background material to significant social goings-on. It’s the people you’re with that are more important than what you’re drinking, though it helps if the drink is good enough to help enhance the situation from behind the scenes. For the most part, beer should pleasantly accompany the night and not demand your attention if you don’t want it to.” [Via Torontoist, h/T Alan McLeod, among others]

Piero Rodriguez, MIA Beer brewer, killed in car crash.
It makes me sad I never heard of Rodriquez before he died. “And he was punk, through and through, from his tight pants with combat boots and T-shirts with obscure band names, to his taste in music. At MIA Beer, he set up a pair of turntables between the brewery and the tasting room, where he could watch over his gurgling beer boilers and spin everything from the Ramones to the Clash, not to mention a host of insider-only bands.” [Via Miami Herald]

Stout Decline: Guinness Slides in Popularity, Status.
So how are Guinness sales in the United States these days? I’ve recently wandered into several St. Louis taverns/pubs I don’t frequent, trying to settle on what to write about for The Session #113. I’ve seen lots of Guinness handles, and for that matter more drinkers choosing Guinness than, say, Ballast Point Sculpin. But I’ve also been in places that previously had Guinness on tap and it is no longer there. What does this all mean? [Via All About Beer]

What We Mean When We Talk About the ‘Death’ of Flagship Beers.
[Via This Is Why I’m Drunk}
Death of the Flagships: But Why?
[Via Stouts & Stilettos]
Is The Age of the Flagship Beer Over?
[Via Bear Flavored Ales]
And you thought “Brexit” was the story you couldn’t escape last week. This is an important business story if you are in the business. Thus ultimately it has implications for consumers. But as I just mentioned, I’ve recently been looking at draft selections at many taverns I don’t regularly frequent. This is obviously St. Louis specific, and to places where people gather just to talk, or sometimes because it is the best place to watch Jeopardy or the Cardinals or football/soccer or whatever on the TV. It is a small sample, and we’re not talking about what’s going on in grocery stores, convenient stores, and liquors store, where most beer is sold. I wouldn’t claim is represents the “other 99 percent” but it does fall outside the 1 percent that Bryan Roth (first link) writes about.

So what did I see? The Urban Chestnut tap handle is going to pour Zwickel, the Schlafly handle Pale Ale, the Civil Life handle American Brown, and so on. And there may well be buckets full of ice and Bud Light on the table. It’s not exactly the same everywhere. For one thing sometimes these breweries will have a second handle. And a can of 4 Hands City Wide sliding across a bar top is more noticeable than a bottle of Stag being jammed into a koozie. But there’s still a time and a place for the familiar.

Why you can’t get a pint in a beer bar anymore.
Another business/consumer story. If you make it to the end you’ll read Jeremy Danner talking about the Midwest, specifically Kansas City. It’s the same on the other side of Missouri, the neighborhood spots mentioned above almost always serving beer in pint glasses or “cheater” 14-ounce shakers — even beers you’ll get a smaller measure of if you visit the brewery. Jeff Alworth is also quoted at the end, but no mention of his honest pint project. [Via Washington Post]

How the sounds you hear affect the taste of your beer.
Didn’t Pete Brown already tell us this? [Via Washington Post]

11 jobs in the beer industry guaranteed to make you jealous.
Maybe not all 11. I don’t want to be the person “Upping America’s koozie game with one-size-fits-all beerwear.” However, given that Jared Williamson tweeted “Funny, production shift brewer isn’t on this list” a few examples why not: profiles of Jared, Jonathan Moxey at Perennail Arisan Ales, and Andrew Mason of 3 Floyds Brewing. Not the sexiest jobs going. [Via Trillist]


The Weird World Of Expensive Wine.
I’d be inclined to cross out the word “weird” and replace it with “terrifying.” “Maybe you can actually taste the money.” [Via FiveThirtyEight]

Demystifying Terroir: Maybe It’s The Microbes Making Magic In Your Wine
Wait, bacteria and fungi may affect the flavor? Have they heard about this in the Senne Valley? [Via NPR]


As usual, click on the date to read the thread.


Some Monday beer links that just read better


Why Czech lager is just better.
Joe Stange has written a love letter to Czech pale lager. It is wonderful and were I a Czech pale lager and he followed this up with a proposal of marriage I would accept. I cannot argue with much in it, but I do have a problem getting past Exhibit No. 1 — that “It just tastes better” — which also became the headline for the post.

I read this Saturday morning, sitting on our back patio after a bit of yard work and before the sun reminded me it was summer in the city (cut The Lovin’ Spoonful). The evening before we walked three short blocks to have dinner at Manchester Public House. The first beer I drank was Katy from 2nd Shift Brewing, currently made several miles west of St. Louis, but soon to be produced 1.3 miles up the road from MPH. The second beer I had was Odinson from Modern Brewery, a few hundred yards more along the road.

I would be delighted if MPH were to offer a fresh Czech lager on tap — OK, that’s a fantasy — but it wouldn’t taste any better to me than those two local beers did Friday evening. [Via DRAFT]

Crafty Beer Girls.
A report from the front, with more reports if you dive into their blog. [Via Salt Lake City Weekly]

Beer and (industry) loathing with Stone Brewing’s Greg Koch.
Koch’s answers to Jason Notte’s questions are not always straightforward, so put your translating and thinking caps on. And there’s also this. I’m a fan of beer and music analogies, but sometimes I’m not sure how well they work.

As we move through this, there are going to be some people who are thrilled with our decisions, and there are going to be some people who are going to want us to not change. They’re going to want us to come out with our second album again … and then again … and then again. And we don’t want to come out with our second album again. We want to come out with new albums and make new music …”

[Via MarketWatch]

World’s oldest beer brought back to life, scientists claim.
Scientists claim? What is this, skepticism? This story popped up everywhere last week, and this was the most in depth version. It seems brewers/scientists are attempting to take history recreations to a new level these days. And I’m not sure how we might measure if they are succeeding. [Via Catalyst, ABC Australia]

Soured: Craft Beer’s Misplaced Obsession With Bugs and How to Deal With It.
Josh Weikert’s rant was provoked by beers he tasted during Homebrew Con, both from homebrewers and commercial breweries. I didn’t seek out sours during Homebrew Con, so I can’t comment on their quality there. He wrote: “The sour beer I’m drinking these days isn’t good. When sours were much more rare in the marketplace, I’d say that three out of four were definitely worth a try, and even that fourth was usually good-but-not-what-I-wanted.” My experience past and present has been different. When sours were less abundant there were still plenty that would take the enamel off your teeth. While there are still too many of those a larger percentage of brewers have figured out what they are doing. There are still plenty of examples of poorly made beers, but that is because there as so many more overall. [Via Beer Simple]


The 2016 MW examination papers.
If you write about wine there are a year’s worth of blog topics here. And I agree that Question A1 on Theory Paper 5 is a great one: “‘The consumer’s limited knowledge is a blessing for the wine industry.’ Discuss.” [Via Jancis Robinson]

Delusion at the Gastropub.
[Via The Baffler]
The Fed Is Worried About Worker Productivity.
[Via FiveThirtyEight]
From the Baffler: “Viewing our foodie status as a badge of honor makes sense only if we’re prioritizing food advocacy—from promoting sustainable farming practices to reducing food waste to embracing and popularizing more sustainable crops to making healthy food more affordable to the poor—over our indulgence in wildly expensive plates of exotic fare.”

I’ve been repeating something Left Hand Brewing co-founder Eric Wallace once said for almost 20 years ago: “The large brewers are not tooled to do what we do. They’ll have to build less-than-efficient breweries to make beer like we do.” I like this idea. But sometimes I remember there’s a downside to inefficiency. It wouldn’t be much of a world if we rewarded only the efficient, but there’s the quality of my life, the quality of your life, and the quality of the life of the guy down the road to be considered.


Click on the date to open the thread.


Monday beer links: Who should be mayor of Homebrew Con 2017?


U.S. craft beer pioneer New Belgium has some lessons for old Belgium.
I’m am going to cheat and flip right to the end: “The consumer really has started to be the person asking for new beer. I always used to say: ‘We’ll make it, they’ll drink it anyway.’ It was brewer-led brewing. Now it’s more consumer-led.” [Via MarketWatch]

14 Breweries Split from Colorado Brewers Guild.
Some numbers might add context. This group includes Colorado’s five largest small brewers (small being every brewery other than the massive MillerCoors plant in Golden and the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Fort Collins). Those five (New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Left Hand, Odell, and Great Divide) produced about 70 percent of the 1,775,831 barrels of beer Colorado’s craft breweries made in 2015. Avery (52,805 barrels) and Ska (32,187 barrels) are the largest breweries that did not join the group of 14. [Via Porch Drinking]

Postcard from Forchheim, Upper Franconia.
“Sadly, younger Germans are less interested in traditions like Stammtisch and Frühschoppen, or less able to keep them. I worry that in 20, 40, 60 years these things become mere anecdotes: My opa used to drink there every Sunday morning.” [Via DRAFT]

A craft beer revolution brews in Paris.
Yes, your first thought might be, Not another craft beer in Paris story. But I find it interesting to consider what it can mean to be local in the twenty-first century, no matter the location. [Via SFGATE]

Craft Beer Drinkers are Interested in Healthy Habits and Alcohol Abstinence, Nielsen Survey Finds.
Introducing The Weekend Warrior Craft Drinker. [Via Brewbound]


Wine Critics – Everything Old Is New Again.
Beer drinkers who know of Pliny the Elder the Person mostly do so because of Pline the Elder the Beer. But his influence on wine is somewhat larger. And not only because he wrote things like this: “The wine produced (nascitur) at Signia—useful as an astringent because it is just too harsh—counts as a medicine.” [Via Huffington Post]

Into the tall weeds of the critic: Kramer and being “captious.”
“I guess I’m thinking politically — critics are rather like politicians running for office. You have to talk, talk, talk to convince people to listen to you and believe in your views.” [Via Steve Heimoff]


I pass this along because Minneapolis-St. Paul is hosting Homebrew Con in 2017. The first time I saw Steve Fletty in Baltimore this past weekend I told him I think he should be declared the official mayor of Homebrew Con next year. A grassroots movement seems in order.


The beer stories you might have missed last week


Inside the Underhanded Effort to Unseat Craft Beer in Seattle.
A serious bit of reporting. “No one familiar with Seattle’s beer industry thinks that AB is alone in the kinds of practices uncovered by LCB investigation. With more violations expected to be announced later this year, it’s possible that craft brands could be implicated in similar schemes. But the details revealed by the state, paired with AB’s growing influence over the distribution networks smaller breweries rely on to reach customers, do provide a clear picture of the kind of cutthroat deals that go into delivering a pint to your hands, often at the expense of small, independent producers.” [Via Seattle Weekly]

On Disclosure and Early Reflections of Being a Freelance Beer Writer.
I find this statement deeply troubling: “The notion of integrity in journalism is flawed.” It opens the penultimate paragraph, which includes more disturbing suggestions. I don’t want to get into a pissing match, so I will simply point to the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics. It makes it pretty clear why integrity still matters. [Via Total Ales]

Why Is the Smithsonian Collecting 50 Years’ Worth of Beer Artifacts?
American History Museum Smithsonian food exhibitAs the photo I took Saturday at Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History illustrates wine has a head start. But this Q&A with Susan Evans McClure, the Smithsonian’s Director of Food History Programs, indicates how wide sweeping its collaboration with the Brewers Association will be . “So, we’ll be looking at advertising, agriculture, industry, business history, community and all of these strands that people might not even think are related to brewing. I’m particularly interested in the agriculture stories of brewing. How does the farmer who feeds spent grains to his cows relate to the fact that Americans are drinking more craft beer? That, to me, is a much more complex story of American history.” [Via Punch]

The Great American Beer Brawl 2016.
Serious Eats invites “beer experts and aficionados from around the country to state the case for their favorite beer towns.” The seven featured are New York, San Diego, Denver, Asheville, Portland, Tampa, and Burlington. There’s also a poll in which readers can vote for their favorite. When I last looked “other” was winning. Fun to compare to a list from 2000, when in an interview in Westword magazine the late Michael Jackson listed seven cities. They were (west to east) Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Denver, Austin, Philadelphia, and Boston. [Via Serious Eats]

Frothy Minnesota market might not bear much more craft beer.
On any given Monday I could link to multiple “craft beer bubble” stories. I promise not to, but this is well reported and on a local (well, state) level. “It’s not my fault that there are 100 breweries in Minnesota. But brewers get angry when I tell them their beer is not as good as the ones already on our list.” [Via StarTribune]

Selling Millennials Through Myths & Lies (Part 2 of 3).
Since I linked to millennials and beer last week, might as well make it wine this week. [Via SBV Wine]


Oh, what the heck, most bubble talk. Click on the time/slash date to read the conversation.


Monday beer links: History and dive bars


Mega-merger? How About No?
As the headline suggests, Lew Bryson makes his position clear. “One company. Thirty percent of world beer sales. About half of world beer profits.” [Via All About Beer]

Budweiser and the Selling of America.
About those cans labeled “America” … “Today the difference (you might call it an innovation) is that this newer imaginative product sells us—some of us—to ourselves, not to the rest of the world, and is maybe, in this way, evidence of an increasing confusion over our national identity.” [Via The New Yorker]

Remembering the forgotten (and then drinking it).
A Beer Museum Could Open In Chicago With A Brewpub & Rooftop Bar.
[Via Eater]
The Sensible Regulation Of Beer In New Netherlands.
[Via A Good Beer Blog]
History. Lots of it in the first link. The second link is to a project that will “launch a fundraising campaign this year” so some skepticism
is OK. And the third is an example of history done right. To return to the first and re-configure one of Joe Stange’s sentences: “Many (amateur historians) are shedding light on primary sources and questioning the validity of others—and, I believe, that’s what historians are supposed to do,” but “their rigor varies widely.” I apologize for coming across as a curmudgeon. However, even though there is arguably more well-documented research into the past being posted on blogs than in print publications (“Journal of the Brewery History Society” excluded) there’s something to be said for peer and technical review. Been there, made those mistakes.

What’s Happened to the Great American Dive Bar?

Walking through any city center, however, residents might be led to believe that dive bars are still alive. These faux-dive bars, where imbibers have the option of sipping on a $6 Lagunitas draft, can easily deceive transplants and tourists looking for a real down-and-out drinking experience. From a visual appraisal, they have the cliché signs: neon Budweiser signs, an LCD electronic jukebox on the wall, and maybe some specials for $2 PBRs. But Jeremiah Moss, author of the blog “Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York,” describes them as harbingers of fabricated cookie cutter sameness that derives from the neo-liberal, winner-take-all mindset permeating cities (see: yuppies shrieking with glee at the opening of an artisanal coffee shop, cocktail lounges playing Top 40 hits, kitschy diners serving $13 alcoholic milkshakes).

[Via Easter]

The Bar Where Nobody Knows Your Name.
Related. [Via Punch]


If you click on the date you’ll see a longer thread. I pass this along for two reasons. First, as a bit of disclosure. I was one of the journalists who attended at the expense of the Carlsberg Foundation (a plane flight, two nights lodging, a fancy dinner that the crown prince attended).

Second, Joe Stange asks an interesting question. Is have this little calculator in my head. In this case, the foundation conducts research in all aspects of brewing. Much of this is shared. I know how expensive it would be for a laboratory to do research about the biotransformations of various hop compounds that result from different yeast strains. (In other words, what different hop aromas occur in beer fermented with a yeast used at Fuller’s than one used at Lagunitas? And what changes when you replace Centennial with Mosaic?) I doubt I can find out the total cost of the project, but I will ask. Because I am pretty sure it would pay for a chunk of hop/yeast research.

We all have our priorities.

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