Monday, January 16, 2017

Why it's time to ‘just say no’ to cask ale.

British beer writer Pete Brown was, until 2015, the author of The Cask Report, a yearly analysis of the state of the business of cask ale in the U.K., sponsored by the British brewing community. Here’s Pete Brown, today in 2017, in an essay entitled, “Why it’s time to say no to cask ale,” published in the Morning Advertiser:

I have a terrible confession to make — terrible for someone with my CV anyway. I've mostly stopped drinking cask ale. [...] I've had enough of :
  • Bar staff saying 'it seems all right to me,' or 'well, no one else has complained,' when I take a pint back to the bar and patiently explain that it's laced with diacetyl.
  • Being told that the beer is supposed to be flat and dead because that's what real ale is like.
  • Taking back hazy pints and being told it's supposed to be like that because it's craft beer.
  • Pints that are not off, or infected, or hazy, but just dull and sub-par, whether because the beer is tired or because it's not finished its cellar conditioning and shouldn't be on sale.
We're always saying cask ale is special, unique, a cut above other beer, that it requires more care and attention. If you're not prepared to treat it like that, you're not supporting cask ale - you're wrecking it. [...] Do yourself, your customers, and cask ale brewers a favour and stop selling it.

For Pete Brown, of all people, a partisan of cask ale, to confess, “I’ve mostly stopped drinking cask ale,” is a disconsolate and shocking thing indeed.

How NOT to tap a cask (of cask-conditioned ale)
How NOT to tap a cask (of cask-conditioned ale)

And, I’m afraid that I’m 90% there with Mr. Brown when it comes to cask ale in the U.S.

Here's my bill of particulars. When, instead of producing cask-conditioned ale as the freshest and most vibrant it can be,
  • American breweries, too often, toss 'shit' into their casks, not because they should, but because they can;
  • American breweries, too often, rack unfinished beer into a cask and call it cask-conditioned;
  • American ‘craft’ beer bars, too often, toss casks onto a bar and serve them unattended for days;
  • When American cask ale, too often, is warm, flat, infected, crud-speckled, amateurishly prepared, and horribly served...
Why should I waste my dollars on that? Why, indeed, when I can enjoy a well-crafted beer ... on draft?


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: The Breweries of Great Britain & Ireland, in 1958.

The Breweries of Great Britain & Ireland (1958)

In April 1958, British newspaper The Times published a month-long special supplement.
It offers a comprehensive survey of the very varied aspects of beer, from barley to consumer. ¶ Beer is known as Britain's national beverage, and this volume contains something of interest to most people.

In 1960, The Times compiled the articles, publishing them in a standalone book, Beer In Britain. The map is from that book, long out-of-print. Like the book, many (most) of the breweries depicted are now long gone.

Beer In Britain


Monday, January 09, 2017

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 51/52, 2016.

A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
of news of beer and other things.

Weeks 51/52
18 - 31 December 2016

  • 31 December 2016
    To keep 'atomic' clocks synchronized with Earth's orbit, one 'leap' second was added to the last day of 2016, at 23:59:60 Coordinated Universal Time (CUT).
    —Via AFP.

  • 31 December 2016
    Scientists have measure gravitational waves for the first time. That, and other findings of science in 2016.
    —Via Daily Kos.

  • 27 December 2016
    Seventy-five years after Imperial Japanese warplanes destroyed the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and drew the United States into World War II, a Japanese leader —Prime Minister Shinzo Abe— visited the site of the attack and offered condolences.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 26 December 2016
    Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors, Ulysses Management, Fireman Capital: the business of U.S. big beer and big 'craft' in 2016.
    [Anheuser-Busch InBev], the other existing U.S. brewer that did multiple deals in 2016 was Lagunitas Brewing Co. It formed “partnerships” with Petaluma, California, neighbor Moonlight Brewing, Texas-based Independence Brewing Co. and Southend Brewery & Smokehouse in South Carolina. Compared with deals announced in prior years, most of these were for relatively small companies. The largest brewery to sell all or part of itself was Brooklyn Brewery, in which Japanese giant Kirin bought a 24.5 percent stake. Many foreign brewers, like Kirin, remain interested in expanding their businesses and investing in the U.S. craft segment. There could be many similar deals where this one came from.

    Financial entities also expanded their ownership of U.S. brewers in 2016. Early in the year, Ulysses Management added to its prior purchase of Southern Tier Brewing Co. by acquiring a majority of Victory Brewing Co., forming a company it’s calling Artisanal Brewing Ventures. And the group backed by Fireman Capital Partners and led by Oskar Blues Brewery added Cigar City Brewing Co. to its arsenal of commonly owned craft brands. A number of other smaller breweries also completed transactions this year, with buyers varying from local media and restaurant companies to even-smaller breweries. An average of two deals per month hit industry headlines during the first 10 months of 2016. No single deal shifted much more than 0.05 percent market share between U.S. brewers. But taken together, this one massive deal and many smaller ones contributed to ongoing fundamental shifts in the U.S. beer industry.
    —Via All About Beer.

  • 25 December 2016
    Vera Rubin, who transformed modern physics and astronomy with her observations showing that galaxies and stars are immersed in the gravitational grip of vast clouds of dark matter, has died at 88. Dark matter, which hasn't been directly observed, is now known to make up 27 percent of universe — as opposed to 5 percent of the universe being normal matter. Dr. Rubin's scientific achievements earned her numerous awards and honors, including a National Medal of Science. Having suffered gender discrimination in her field, she was a lifelong champion advocate of women in science.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 25 December 2016
    George Michael, the English songwriter who was one of pop's reigning stars, dies at age 53.
    —Via New York Times.

  • Kettle whirlpool
  • 24 December 2016
    A casual observation by Albert Einstein would lead, years later, to the innovation of the wort clarification whirlpool at Molson Brewery, in 1960.
    —Via Ed's Beer Site.

  • 24 December 2016
    Gold, frankincense, and myrrh? The Earth's last wild frankincense forests, in Somalia, are threatened with extinction.
    —Via Associated Press.

  • 24 December 2016
    Lost among details of [Japanese brewery and soft drink corporation] Asahi buying Pilsner Urquell [from SABMiller] is the fact that the parent company now effectively has cornered the market on Saaz hops.
    —Tweet via Bryan D. Roth.

  • 23 December 2016
    The U.S. abstains from a United Nations Security Council resolution criticizing Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories. The abstention from the U.S. was a rare occasion where the U.S. did not protect Israel from criticism on the international stage. The U.S. has previously vetoed thirty resolutions regarding Israel and Palestinians.
    —Via The Atlantic.

  • Diane Rehm retires radio program after nearly four decades
  • 23 December 2016
    Ending a run of more than thirty years on the air, Peabody-award-winning talk show host Diane Rehm ends her news and public affairs program broadcast over National Public Radio.
    —Via NPR.

  • 22 December 2016
    Glühwein: Mulled red wine, Austria, during the Christmas season. Warming and festive.
    —Via Dave McIntyre, at Washington Post.

  • 21 December 2016
    Mumme: the original winter warmer? A German beer "to be eaten with a knife and fork,” dating back to the late 1400s.
    —Via George Rivers, at Beer Strength Matters.

  • 20 December 2016
    Ken Grossman —owner of Sierra Nevada Brewing— and his wife, Katie Gonser, give UC Davis Brewing Program at the University of California Davis a two-million endowment, providing for an endowed Brewer position dedicated to mentoring and managing students and teaching assistants, maintaining the campus brewery and its equipment, and assisting in teaching brewing classes.
    —Via UC Davis.

  • 20 December 2016
    A Los Angeles, California, bar is selling Colt 45 40-ounce bottles, in brown paper bags, for $15 a bottle. And people are buying.
    —Via Food and Wine.

  • 20 December 2016
    Obama permanently bans offshore oil and gas drilling for large swaths of Alaska's Arctic and East Coast's Atlantic seaboards.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 18 December 2016
    A bubbly effect of global warming? Southern England is now producing critically acclaimed sparkling wines.
    —Via Dave McIntyre,at Washington Post.

  • 17 December 2016
    Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, inventor of lifesaving technique for choking victims, dies at 96.
    —Via Washington Post.


Saturday, January 07, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Farewell, 44.

Farewell, 44.

White House photographer Pete Souza poignantly posed this image of the 44th President of the United States, President Barack Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama, gazing at the Chicago, Illinois, skyline, as the conclusion of Obama's second presidential term was drawing near.

Wistfully, I and many Americans thank the Obamas for their eight years of White House service to our nation, and wish them a hale and hearty future.

And, you know, '44' —President Obama— is the nation's first President, since George Washington, to brew beer. He is the only President ever to do so at the White House —our first Brewer-In-Chief.

His successor-to-be will not. '45' is a lifelong teetotaller.

White House Honey Porter

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: 2016 retrospective

Two for beers

Every Saturday, I post a photo to this blog. (Yes, today is Wednesday, but bear with me.)

Cleverly (to my mind), I call this practice the Pic(k) of the Week. Each week, it's a photo (or, should I say, digital image) usually taken (or created) by me, and usually (but not always) with a good (or bad) fermentable as subject. That is some significant hedging. I am not a photographer; (to paraphrase the old pharmaceutical ad campaign) I only play one at YFGF.

Today at YFGF, I've posted, in thumbnail fashion, the entire fifty-two-entry rotogravure for 2016.

Thirty-two of the fifty-two photos I selected were of beer in some fashion: ten were at breweries, of which five were brewpubs. Three of the photos were brewers working. Another one was a smart-dressed Pabst man at a minor-league baseball game. Only four were of beer-and-food. One of those was of beer IN food; another was a beer lunch in a hop field in the U.K.: an example of a photo not taken by me, but of such a stellar scene that I secured permission to re-post it.

Five photos were nostalgic: from my former bailiwick. Three photos were baseball related. One photo was taken at a jazz performance, and tangentially baseball-related. A few went to the dogs. One was vehemently vegetarian.

I selected no pictures of cask ale for inclusion last year. That's a sad first for me, a cask ale nut. Over the year, I simply didn't encounter any good cask ale in Atlanta, Georgia (other than a few imported UK-produced pints at a local cask ale festival). That's a topic for another day.

So, take a look, below. Click on a thumbnail to view the image in its full size accompanied by its backstory. (By the way, all of my photographs and images, whether anointed for inclusion here or not, can be seen at Flickr, all thirty-five thousand of them.)

This Saturday, 7 January, I'll post a new Pic(k) of the Week, and the series will begin anew for 2017.


Pic(k) of the Week: 2016 retrospective

New Year's c. 2008 Beer, hand, & questions Snowy Wisconsin night (01) One-hitters Steaming Sweetwater (03)
Anheuser-Busch InBev in Cartersville (01) Cheese plate with beer Hop Slam on deck Leaving on a jet plane (01)
Please don't kink the hose. Conversation amidst the barrels Bullsh*t! An orgy of orchids
Orpheus masher (02) Pondering beagle Sunday's Kölsch Pepper disses salt Mr. PBR (02)
A silo for 5 Seasons. I Am Not A Nugget (04) Two sours & a stout Success & dejection
Beware of Snakes in Garden Hang on little tomato Weizen al fresco Stout-marinaded Grilled Veggies (01)
Flags in window Hank Aaron at The Ted (01) Summertime refreshment Pigtail pour Lake House in the biergarten
Sunset at Navy Pier In front of Ale Asylum Meet the Scofflaws Beer on ground
#YeastNeverSleeps City scene with truck Got beer? Hop-pickers' lunch
Beer & bop Briarcliff Pumpkin Patch 'Craft' beer spies of 1982? Tie-dyes
Things Are REALLY Getting Bad Fog over downtown Twisted lights Torched Pils & Pie
"I Hate Everybody!" Max Lager fermenters Brewer at work, even on a Friday night Santa's Cheer Beer Our Special Ale 2016