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A-B buys another craft brewery


All About Beer Magazine coverA Single Word: The Case for Beer.
At the outset of 1997, in his regularly appearing column in All About Beer Fred Eckhardt asked the question, “What is ‘craft beer’?” It was a topic discussed often by brewers that seldom showed up in print. In fact, in the first of a lengthy two-part interview with Charlie Papazian and Michael Jackson about the past the future of beer included in the same issue as Eckhardt’s column and the words craft and beer never appeared in tandem.

It was possible then and it is possible now to write about beer without using the term “craft beer.” In his column in the 35th anniversary issue of the magazine landing in mailboxes right now, editor John Holl explains why the magazine is now (and has been for about a year) using a single word — beer or brewery — whenever possible. It doesn’t mean you’ll never see the term “craft beer” in All About Beer. There are times it is useful. When writing here I always ask myself if the adjective “craft” is necessary, and sometimes I include it. I wrote an article for the 35th anniversary issue about the etymology of the term. My brain is still recovering from the research. [Via All About Beer]

A-B To Buy Brand With Tagline: ‘Corporate Beer Still Sucks’.
Elysian and AB/InBev: Greed, Overweening Ambition, and the Whoring-Out of a Culture.
Why AB is Buying Up Craft Breweries … and Why You Shouldn’t Be Too Concerned.
Will this continue all year — a big story every week that lights up social media, discussion boards? [Via Ad Age, Beeronomics, and The Pour Fool]

The PC: Ripped straight from the pages of an Onion satire: “13 white males not really so eager to discuss issues like racism and sexism.”
When Roger Baylor speaks his mind it often is not possible to offer a concise summary. Just go read. [Via the Potable Curmudgeon]

Faith Seidenberg, 91, Dies; Took On McSorley’s, an All-Male Haven.
“One frigid January night in 1969, Faith Seidenberg vividly recalled a few years later, she and another woman, shivering ‘as much from fear as from the cold,’ boldly swung open the double doors of McSorley’s Old Ale House in Manhattan, which ‘had withstood for 115 years the entry of female customers.'” It did that night as well, but not for much longer. [Via New York Times]

Why Beer Experts (Don’t) Matter.
Bryan Roth adds some perspective to last week’s discussion about experts and expertise, in a polite way. “The impetus for this piece, as I point out early on, is simply to provide another viewpoint that still ends at what I consider the same finish line.” [This Is Why I’m Drunk]

Research report: hop picker wages in the 1930s & 1940s.
Labor shortages are becoming an issue for hop farmers in the Northwest. When I visited the Oregon Hops & Brewing Archives last summer, Tiah Edmudson-Morton and I talked about it would be great if somebody did an in depth study of hop picking labor practices. Just a suggestion for those of you dying to write something I want to read. [Via the Brewstorian]


On beer experts, plus the value of skipping the comments


1- With 600 bottles of beer on the wall, how can a staff keep up? Taste, talk and learn.
2- Why beer experts matter.
3- “Expertise is key, not the ‘experts’ – personifying a body of knowledge just limits it.”
4- Is It Even Possible To Be A Beer Expert?
As I have mentioned in the past, I save stuff to Pocket through the week, then sometime during the weekend pick what to post here, and occasionally try to add an original thought. So the top story hit my radar Tuesday, and it had me thinking about some of the things Jeff Alworth discussed in No. 2 (spotted Wednesday). The Twitter thread initiated by Alan McLeod (No. 3) quickly followed, resulting in interesting exchanges first between Alan and Lars Garshol, then Alan and Jeff (disregard me popping up along the way). Figuring I would get this post out of the way early Saturday turned out to be a mistake, because no sooner did I think I was done than Alan posted No. 4.

Because I need to clear my head for important matters like trivia tonight (Saturday, as I type), I will be brief. In the midst of making a point, Alan kindly writes, “If I want to know as much as I can know about hops, I ask Stan.” If that’s a good idea, it’s because I understand I am not an expert on hops. I am pretty good at identifying expertise, but I try not to over rate it.

Of course, now we are a long way from No. 1 and the opening paragraphs of No. 2 — helping the person sitting in front of 50 beer taps make a good choice. But consider the seemingly simple questions along with the complex. I once had a math teacher who told us, “If you can’t solve the problem, find one you can solve.” And not to be pushy, think about it the context of what Alan has to say in his conclusion, that “This essay is in no way intended to be a sword of Zorro moment, a triumphal flourish in which the topic is summed up so completely you need not think further.” (My italics.) [Via The Washington Post, All About Beer, Twitter, A Good Beer Blog]

How craft beer has set struggling pubs free from the nachos.
Here’s what Pete Brown wrote on Facebook: “Great article about how independent breweries are helping revive pubs, followed by comments from ignorant twats complaining about beards and arguing the toss about the meaning of craft beer…” And I am reminded that I am sad Don’t Read Comments hung it up. [Via The Guardian and Pete Brown]

“December, 1919.”
Oliver Gray announced two projects this week and I’m not sure which is more ridiculously ambitious, or this: “Instead of following the traditional path of writing a whole manuscript, editing it, and sending it off to collect rejections from publishers, I figured I’d do what I (like to) do best, and blog the story. Or serialize it into 52 parts. One chapter a week, every Wednesday, for a year. Around a thousand words per chapter, give or take a plot point or two.” [Via Literature & Libation]

Q&A With Beer Mile World Champion James Nielsen.
Breaking Down the Winning Beer Mile Strategy.
Lots of numbers in the second post, as you’d expect from BeerGraphs, but somehow not this key consideration: “If you’re drinking four beers, right off the bat you have 48 ounces of liquid in your stomach, so you have to be able to contain that. And generally there are between two-and-a-half and three liters of carbon dioxide in each can, so you multiply that by four, and you have approximately 10 liters of carbon dioxide to contend with. If you warm up the beer, the majority of the carbon dioxide will come up to the top, so when you crack it open you get as much of the carbon dioxide out as possible. And on that last lap, you’re trying to burp out as much of that carbon dioxide as you can while you’re running. You’re just so full.” [Via RootsRated and BeerGraphs]

Lagunitas drops lawsuit against Sierra Nevada after Twitter backlash.
The year is off to a great start for any sociologist out there writing a grant to to study Craft Beer (maybe that should be all caps). First the Jim Koch dustup and now the IPA trademark showdown. As much as I loved the headline “Beer lovers torpedo Lagunitas lawsuit against Sierra Nevada” I’m not going to repeat last week’s mega-links and so refer you only to this interview with Tony Magee. Like his book, proof that he is a business genius. [Via Chicago Tribune]


I finally found a ‘best beer’ list I can endorse


Wasted: How the craft-beer movement abandoned Jim Koch (and his beloved Sam Adams).
Sam Adams and Why We Need To Stop Listening to Hipsters.
What’s the difference between craft beer snobs and Kopparberg drinkers?
BREAKING NEWS: Jim Koch talks shit on emerging breweries, gets the Heisman by a Hobo Lord.
The drift from the Pangaea of craft beer.
Andy Crouch’s profile of Jim Koch proved quite a way to start the year, didn’t it? His four thousand words were followed by maybe hundreds of thousands more. In blogs. On Twitter and Facebook. On discussions boards. So four of the more interesting followups are listed here. I have nothing to add. You are welcome.

The ghosts of brewing past, present and future.
Don’t know how many of all those words you waded through, but it might be time to rest your eyes with these lovely old photos. Extra credit for the succinct prose. [Via SC Times]

The Definitive ‘Best Beer of 2014′ List. Really. Kind of.
The Internet is a very good place when you can ask a question you are too lazy to answer yourself and somebody else is willing to do the work — apparently Bryan Roth enjoys this number crunching. I know this is not consistent with my feud with lists, but consistency is overrated. [Via This is Why I’m Drunk]

Is winemaking an art or science?
Terroir has so far eluded science. But that may be about to change. And many places will be avidly watching this science. As climate change plays havoc with existing wine growing regions, new contenders to the wine industry – such as China – will stand to gain from demystifying the secrets of fine wine.” I love firm answers about why the [fill in the blank – grapes, hops, barley] grown here don’t taste like the [fill in the blank] grown there, but I’ve become comfortable with the idea that there is also something about place that is not so easily explained. [Via COSMOS]

This Beer Algorithm Will Select Your Next Glass.
I wrote this story, but even if I hadn’t I would have linked to it anyway. It’s going to be a battle for these guys to keep their database up to date with all the beers that are out there — in fact, they surely won’t. But their approach is what interests me. Analyzing beers using a liquid chromatography mass spectrometer eliminates a giant wild card — that people perceive odor compounds differently. That’s why you might suggest I’ll like such-and-such beer because of a orange marmalade aroma you smell, only to see me turn up my nose when all I smell is cat piss. [Via All About Beer]

How much are words worth?
Following up on The Session #95 (beer books) and the Craft Writing: Beer, The Digital, and Craft Culture conference almost a year ago in Kentucky with a reality check about the writing business. Here’s a numbing examination of what magazines pay for the words within them: “The total market for long form journalism in major magazines in America is approximately $3.6 million. To put it another way: the collective body of writers earned less than Butch Jones, a relatively unknown college football coach, earned in a single year.” [Via Scott Carney, h/T]

* Note: Scott Carney has followed up on that post with one called “Crowdsourcing Journalism Rates” and puts this database online.


In NOLA, ‘city beer’ brewed with magic

Some times I have so much fun doing research I feel a bit guilty. Unless I can convince myself that magic is somehow indigenous there’s little chance New Orleans “city beer” is going to make it into “Indigenous Beer: American Grown.” So I’ll just share this passage from “Germans in Louisana” now:

Before the 1850s a beverages called “city beer” was consumed by the common man in the saloons and restaurants of New Orleans. This concoction was made according to a secret formula from fermented molasses and vermouth1 but contained no preservatives. Consequently it would spoil during transportation and had to be drunk soon after it was brewed. Beer drinkers added syrup to mitigate the herbal taste and were known to suffer violent hangovers if they over indulged. It was the custom for the oldest boy in German families to fetch a bucket of beer at the end of the day to be drunk with dinner.

In 1845 the first city brewery appeared in New Orleans, on Philip and Royal streets, owned by Wirth and Fischer. A local German newspaper described the product of this Stadtsbreuei (city brewery) as made of magic and big barrels of sugarcane syrup mixed with Mississippi River water. Despite the popularity of city beer in the German community, the brewing business was hampered by the necessity of drinking the beer on the day it was brewed.

You read that right: magic is listed as one of the ingredients


1 In another book (“The German People of New Orleans 1650-1900″) says city beer was “a molasses brew and wormwood.”


‘Guardians of the Temple of Brewing Culture’

Boak & Bailey follow up on the Wall Street Journal’s story about contract brewing in Belgium (“In Belgium, Battle Builds Between Brewers and ‘Beer Architects”) by examining what the requirements might be for a credible beer architect. Their list:

– has a qualification from a great brewing school;
– has worked hands-on in breweries;
– has studied hops, malt, yeast and water in the laboratory;
– knows the history of beer and its place in culture;
– pays painstaking attention to detail and
– has a well-trained palate and excruciatingly good taste.

They also introduce the term “ghost brewed” — which seems like it should be useful in this argument that is never going to go away.

One bit of disclosure. I made my bias obvious when Joe Stange tweeted “Beer ‘architects’ is utter bullshit. Any asshole can think up a beer idea and google a decent recipe. Only brewers make them drinkable” and I replied “It insults both real brewers and real architects.”

Now onto the rest, which goes beyond who conceives the plan for a particular beer (but feel free to let that “ghost brewed” idea rattle around the back of your head). Who physically makes the beer matters. To me. Maybe not to you. And apparently not to Sebastien Morvan, one of the principals in the story. I don’t mean to get all touchy-feely on you, or hipster-foodie (think of the couple in Portlandia who take a look at a free-range chicken’s “papers” before ordering). But there’s an acquired level of skill involved, and a respect for the process.

As I already wrote, I am biased going in, but this was also my takeaway from two books last year: “We Make Beer: Inside the Spirit and Artistry of America’s Craft Brewers” and “The Brewer’s Tale: A History of the World According to Beer.” The title of the former gives away its intent. In the introduction of the latter, Williams Bostwick writes, “Because if beer’s essence can be dstilled to one idea, it’s this: beer is made.” Some parts of this book can feel a little forced, which could be a function of trying to spin the history of the world around beer, but when the narrative revolves around the process of making beer then it’s a five-star book (currently 8 for 8 at Amazon).

An accredited beer architect presumably would know just how to do this. Morvan doesn’t exactly come across thinking he needs to.

He creates beers with the aid of mass tastings, crowdsourced recipes and Internet forums. And then he gets someone else to brew them. “I get frustrated at people acting like the guardians of the temple of brewing culture.”

“Guardians of the Temple of Brewing Culture” sounds like my kind of summer movie blockbuster, preferably starring Ralph Fiennes.


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