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News, Nuggets & Longreads 20/09/2014

West Germany, München, Oktoberfest, Bier Tent, September 1978, by Barbara Ann Spengler, from Flickr under Creative Commons.
West Germany, München, Oktoberfest, Bier Tent, September 1978, by Barbara Ann Spengler, from Flickr under Creative Commons.

Here’s our usual Saturday morning round-up of links to accompany your steaming Weiβwurst and refreshing urn of breakfast wheat beer.

→ For All About Beer, Patrick Dawson exposes the strange world of enthusiasts willing and able to pay ‘soul crushing’ prices to drink super-rare vintage beers, and how they go about sharing these ‘ghost whales’ with each other:

For a beer to be deemed a ghost whale, it must not only come from a deeply respected producer, but also have a scarcity that limits remaining bottles to numbers you learned to count to in kindergarten. These extraordinary near-extinct beers, such as the original ’03 batch of Cantillon’s cloudberry masterpiece, Soleil de Minuit, or Lost Abbey’s for-friends-only Veritas 005, can fetch over $4,000 apiece among private collectors.

→ Rob Lovatt, head brewer at Thornbridge, explains why the Derbyshire brewers aren’t rushing to put their beer in cans.

→ Pete Brissenden has continued his blogging frenzy in the last week. Read the whole lot, but especially this post on ‘intrinsics and extrinsics’. (Pete works at Meantime Brewing and this post, we think, reflects the personal philosophy of its founder, British craft beer pioneer Alastair Hook.)

Alan ‘A Good Beer Blog’ McLeod opines on consistency as sameness — a new kind of blandness. Much as we like our beer clean-tasting and relatively reliable, we think he makes a good point about where ‘big craft’ is at.

→ Paul Bailey (no relation) has been writing a series of long blog posts about British family breweries and, more specifically, his personal relationship with them over the course of the last 40-odd years. This piece on recent Champion Beer of Britain winners Timothy Taylor is especially good.

→ A slight piece, but interesting because it exists: wine writer Will Lyons praises real ale and recommends three bottled bitters in The Wall Street Journal. (His choices are odd.)

→ We were strangely captivated by this series of articles by Janis Blower for the Shields Gazette recalling ‘the beer boats’ which transported beer by sea from Scotland to Tyneside between the 1920s and 1950s. ( 1 | 2 | 3 )

→ The Beer Nut has been in Bamberg where he captured this ironic image:

J. Wilson at Brewvana liked Brew Britannia:

This book really delivered. I saw familiar threads of information, but Boak and Bailey really fleshed out the details for someone like me, who possesses only an American’s cursory knowledge (despite paying attention like a fairly high-functioning beer nerd) of what was really happening on the ground in England all these years.

And we think Phil did too. He’s certainly urging people to buy it.

10 replies on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 20/09/2014”

I did like it!

(Don’t worry about part 2 – you won’t agree with it. Less “why did we write that?”, more “why doesn’t he write his own beer book then?”)

Well, to be fair the ghost whale chasers are deluded affluent people. “Just imagine coming across Picasso’s first commissioned work or discovering an original copy of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1”? How about trying to find the juvenilia of stamp designers… or maybe the test models of radial tires.

Wouldn’t it be nice if folk could write about topics like this without the fawning, tiresome and needy adjectives? Sad but, as we see so often, the publication benefits from the inflating of the topic beyond all sense of proportion. After all, no one wants to read Pencil Collector Monthly. The topic is important because it is made important.

We didn’t read that piece and think: “Wow, those guys are cool — we should be more like them!” Quite the opposite…

I know. But didn’t you find the article extremely poorly written? I was also thinking how tiny the circle of valuation in these sorts of situations. It’s a handful of people passing the same money in a small circle. If they decided to reduce the value to a tenth of the numbers stated above, it’s just a matter of consensus. But use of the whale imagery from Moby Dick is the best bit. That book us a damning portrayal of misguided values and pointless effort.

“But didn’t you find the article extremely poorly written?”

Er… nope. What am I missing?

Told us these guys exist (we didn’t know); told us how they go about doing their thing (interesting); with reasonably clean and easy to follow prose. (Might have made it a little less colloquial in places if I’d been editing.)

There’s even, actually, a message we can get behind: beer, however rare, is for drinking.

Glad you two have been enjoying my look back at the old family brewers. There’s more to come, when I get time to edit and update my ramblings of 20 years ago. At the moment though, I’m very much tied up with ordering the beer for a local CAMRA festival. It’s a much smaller event than the Winter Ales Festival, but I know how Tandleman and his team must feel in ensuring these events happen, and are a success.

Alan — I don’t think we read Dawson’s piece as fawning. Not challenging, as such, but he doesn’t conceal any of the facts we need to conclude that those guys are weird and their hobby, even if we were rich, isn’t what we would call fun. I actually thought he was being a little sly in describing them as an ‘elite’, but perhaps I’m giving him too much credit.

If we’d did think it was fawning, we probably wouldn’t have past the first paragraph.

EDIT: Its inclusion in our round-up just means ‘worth a read’ — we’re not declaring it award-winning genius or anything!

I am quite fine that you are not vouching for it and agree that it deserves inclusion in the Saturday List. I do think it misses the obvious point of the phoney valuation and trips over itself and a stack of thesauri to associate closely (and even over-ripely) with the activity as some sort of haute experience of beer as opposed to a failed effort to find meaning in life. I am reminded of Victorian sports reporting.

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