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Session #113 announced: Pub observations

The SessionBoak & Bailey are asking bloggers to “take a notebook to a pub or bar — any one you fancy — and write a note of what you observe” for the 113th gathering of The Session (July 1).

Their inspiration is The Pub and The People, published in 1943.

What should you be looking for?

  • How many people are drinking?
  • Which beers are on tap, and which are people actually drinking?
  • What are they eating?
  • How are they passing the time?
  • What are the topics of conversation?
  • How is the pub decorated?
  • How many TVs are there and what are they showing?
  • Are there pot plants, parrots, spittoons?
  • How many smokers are there? And vapers?
  • Is there a dartboard, pool table or quiz machine, and are they in use?

And the point? “As a chaser, after your observations, write whatever you like spurred by the idea of ‘The Pub and The People’. Really, whatever you like, as vaguely related to theme as it might be. Or instead of making any observations, even.”


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: Sahti, hyperlocal, millennials, hoplore


Sahti – What Can We Learn From a Farmhouse Brewer?
There’s a lot here. For instance: “Since house strains for baking and brewing could have been the same, I have been testing how the traditional sourdough starters ferment sahti. So far I have been able to revive one functional brewing strain from a at least decades old baking strain. This particular strain delivers surprisingly neutral malty taste. I will continue to hunt and test traditional baking strains and hopefully in future I encounter more distinctive strains.” [Via Maltainen, h/T @larsga]

Two Brewers Admit Their Methods for Haze.
On the subject of sourdough strains, the “wild” strain at Scratch Brewing in southern Illinois is in fact its sourdough starter. To use it directly means adding a bit of flour to beer, which sometimes settles out (with time) but other times does not. But I am having a problem wrapping my head around the idea of adding flour to beer for the sake of appearance. Haven’t they heard of Tanal A? [Via BeerGraphs]

We’ve seen the future, and it is hyperlocal craft beer.
This leaves me wondering how hyperlocal and the Next Big Thing coexist. “The whole craft beer market has taken on a certain Silicon Valley (or Kendall Square) vibe. You can see the parallels in Lamplighter. They’ve spent years building their product in dorm rooms and basements. Their market is young, desirable, and growing. They think their product — the sours and Brett-fermented beers — has the potential to be the Next Big Thing. And, without having tasted a drop of their beers, droves of hopeful employees are e-mailing them about job openings, happy to start at the bottom if it means a toehold in the industry. In other words, they sound like your typical new Cambridge business: a hot, young startup.” [Via Boston Globe]

Is It OK Not To Be OK With Brewery Takeovers in 2016?.
So after the hyperlocal brewery that captured your affection grows into a local brewery, then a regional brewery, and then a regional brewery big and popular enough to be acquired . . . what next? The straw man that Boak & Bailey mention, that might be me. At least sort of. I am less focused on whether the beer changes than on what happens to the local connection. [Via Boak & Bailey]

Your Handy Guide to Explain Why Millennials Are So Important to Beer.
If you don’t understand why brewing companies big enough to have marketing budgets want the attention of drinkers of prime consumption age then this is an excellent primer. Ultimately, at least we hope, there has to be more than a marketing message. And if people who have been assigned to this demographic put value on local (there’s that workd again), racial diversity, religion, gender equality, those are things that are hard to fake. [Via This Is Why I Am Drunk]

Living in Isolation: How Elitism is Alienating Macro Beer Fans.
This may be true: “Craft beer fanatics are now considered so insufferable as to have developed into a recurring punch line on television shows. Want to signal to the audience that a character is an unbearable jerk? Put a six-pack of fancy beer in his hand as he walks into the party. Worse yet, have him try and offer one of his high priced beauties to another character and then watch him get flatly rejected.” But television is not real life. And I’m not convinced that it is the “Bud bashing” that offends real people, but the whole idea that beer is so frigging important, because it isn’t to them. [Via Beer Advocate]

Hoplore, a defense of stories.
The question that Tiah Edmunson-Morton asks here isn’t that different from one journalists also need to consider. “There is a bit to pause and think about here: being a participant observer. For her that meant participating in the Agrarian hop harvest as a volunteer and being hired by Agrarian as a paid employee, but also working at Independence Heritage Festival and and doing a community survey. I often feel this same distance as an archivist working with living and evolving social, cultural, agricultural communities. I go to festivals or on tours, but I always have a certain ‘documentarian’ distance. I might attend, but as the curator of this archive do I actually participate?” I wrote about Tiah has year for DRAFT magazine, and in reporting the story I talked to Paul Eisloeffel of the Nebraska State Historical Society, who is an advocate for proactive collecting. “It is important for archivists to be able to look at what’s happening in a culture and start collecting now,” he said. But the act of collecting itself has the potential to change what happens going forward. Tricky balance. {Via thebrewstorian]

The five tribes of US wine buyers and the ROI of social media.
Are beer tribes any different? [Via Harpers]



Yes, there’s a hop named after Frank Zappa

What’s this about a hop called FZMR2?

It has a “peppery citrus and melon” character according in a story about how the collaboration process involved in creating the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic beer (Pat-Rye-Ot) in the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America 12-pack.

It is described as a wild hop found growing in New Mexico, which is not quite correct. It is a cross between neo-mexicanus varieties collected in the wild, then bred in the same manner as hops are elsewhere. Medusa, the hop in Sierra Nevada’s Wild Hop IPA, was “born” the same way. Details here.

Todd Bates, who did the breading, explained that FZMR2 came out of the “Frank Zappa breeding group, which are an F2 generation of a breeding between Multihead (Medusa) and a nice Rio (it’s own breeding group) male, and this is plant 2 of the FZRM group.

“Why the Zappa name? Well, I do love and respect Frank Zappa’s music. I grew up on it and still love it, but that’s not the only reason. I looked at how people have historically named hops. Early on, it seemed the place the hop came from gave rise to the names, out of some form of respect of place. Later, I saw names of hops being after the researchers that developed a given hop, a sort of respect or self lauding gave importance to a person’s name. Later, I saw people naming hops all kinds of marketing names meant to look cool on a label, or attract a brewer/hop buyer. I wanted a different type of name for a hop. With music and beer being so intricately linked, I wanted to honor and show respect to a great American musician by putting that name to a hop, that will go on a label, and I wanted that hop to kick ass like an American musician, and Zappa was the clear winner of my choice. Zappa rules!”

Eric Desmarais at CLS Farms in Washington’s Yakima Valley began growing rhizomes he acquired from Bates in 2011. Desmarais has only an acre of FZRM2, and Sierra Nevada bought the entire 2015 crop, but it appears to be agronomically superior to Medusa. If it continues to grow well, and if drinkers respond positively to it (Pat-Rye-Ot it its first real test) then Desmarais will expand acreage in 2017.


One related note: I’ll be hanging at Right Proper Brewing in Washington, D.C. on June 7. That’s the day before the National Homebrewers Conference begins in Baltimore. I’ll be brewing a beer with Nathan Zeender in the morning, and we plan to include Medusa hops in the recipe. Stop by the Brookland (production) facility in the afternoon for something of an open house. You can buy me a beer and shoot the breeze. If there is enough interest, Nathan will even be giving tours.

The Session #111 recapped, #112 announced

The SessionHost Oliver Gray has recapped The Session #111 (part one, and awaiting part two), and in the process noted that rather than calling what he was experiencing a mid-life crisis perhaps it should be called a mid-hobby crisis.

And host Carla Jean Lauter has announced the topic for The Session #112 on June 3 will be “The Other Beer Economy.”

Growing alongside of the boom of breweries are many small businesses that are supporting, or supported by the craft beer industry. Maine is now home to a malt processing facility, and several hop farms. There are multiple beer tourism-focused businesses that help connect visitors to the state’s best beer offerings. There are companies that create beer-related apparel for beer fans, some that have designed unique bottle openers and manufacture them in-state. Maine is also home to a company that manufactures and installs brewing equipment, and another whose sole mission is to clean the lines that serve up that beer to thirsty beer fans.

I would suggest that Ben Keene, managing editor at Beer Advocate, might be mining Session #112 for ideas. BA has an occasional “Will Work for Beer” feature (disclosure: I’ve written a couple) that covers basically the same territory.

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