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Lessons learned from a ‘pisshead anecdote’

Not long after Dan Carey of New Glarus Brewing returned from a trip to Germany in 1997 during which he was able to buy a beautiful copper clad brewing system because consolidation squeezed some breweries out of business he made an interesting observation.

He suggested that perhaps the United States was simply ahead of the curve in the middle of the twentieth century (in 1950 the top ten breweries accounted for 38% of production and by 1980 for 93%, with seven of those ten breweries soon to disappear). As America underwent a brewing revival other countries felt the pain of consolidation that had already swept through the U.S.

I thought of what he said this morning when I read this:

. . . the brewery’s owner told how today’s big brands took advantage of the situation to to expand in such a brutal way. They had a huge advantage, they were able to guarantee consistent quality. Many of the regional breweries weren’t in a position to do that. During the previous four decades hardly any investment had been made on their equipment and technologies. So people got used to drinking the brands that to this day enjoy an enormous popularity without realising the gradual drop in their quality.

Today, regional and micro breweries are slowly gaining more market share . . .

The country in question?




The Czech Republic.

Thoughtful commentary about beer culture that could be applied in how many different countries? From Pivní Filosof-Beer Philosopher — go read it.



Can you ‘nail’ a Belgian style?

Dan CareyIn all fairness to Todd Haefer – who writes a Beer Man column that appears in many newspapers part of the Gannett chain and already catches enough grief for some of his comments – he didn’t write the headline and the term didn’t appears in his copy, but here it is:

Beer Man: New Glarus nails the Belgian style

The headline made me giggle. Haefer is writing about New Glarus Belgian Quadruple, part of brewer Dan Carey’s “Unplugged” series. Quadruple is simply a word you don’t hear Belgian brewers use. It became a term of convenience – meaning dark and very strong, ala Westvleteren 12 or Rochefort 10 – after Koningshoeven began shipping LaTrapppe Quad to the United States in the mid-1990s. That Trappist monastery is located in The Netherlands.

So not only does the headline insinuate that any style is something so specific that it can be “nailed” but that a Belgian brewer or consumer would cotton to the idea.

Speaking of styles serves many good purposes, but testifying for the other side here is Carl Kins, a Belgian beer enthusiast who has judged several times for the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup. “We Belgians do not like categorization that much. Whether it is strong blonde ale or abbey style is not very relevant, as long as the beer tastes good,” he said in the chapter called Matters of Style in Brew Like a Monk.

Last week Stephen Beaumont wrote about this beer and Enigma, another in the “Unplugged” series. Spend a little time with his descriptions and it becomes apparent that Carey is more focused on “nailing” a great beer than capturing, or recreating, a style.

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