News, Nuggets & Longreads 03/01/2015

Ah, the first Saturday of the year — so full of promise, a blank slate upon which— [SPILLS COFFEE OVER DESK] Oh, bollocks. 2015 can get bent. Now here’s some poxy links.

Michael Kiser’s piece on what 2015 might hold at Good Beer Hunting (the slickest beer site around) is well considered and thought-provoking. For example, why is Gose suddenly ‘a thing’‘, and why now?

Because internet… Ideas for new beers are coming from all directions as consumers are able to share their niche finds more readily over Twitter, Untappd, and forums. Brewers uses these tools too, some on a daily basis. The result is a sort of shared un-conscience among beer drinkers and brewers as to what the next cool beer might be.

→ Yesterday 95th beer blogging session prompted some interesting responses but this from Maureen Ogle, noted historian of American beer and other industries, is a corker:

The modern beer industry in the U.S. promotes a party line that runs more-or-less like this: … We’re friends, not competitors. We love fine beer. We care more about beer than profit. We’ll never sell out.… In my opinion, based on research that I conducted for Ambitious Brew, we can trace the origins of that party line to a single person: Charlie Papazian.


→ Anthropologist Krystal D’Acosta, writing for Scientific American, considers the history of ‘food porn’ and what it means in the age of social media. (Via BoingBoing.) A lot of what she says also applies to beer, and especially ‘craft beer’:

It’s okay to be a foodophile. It’s okay to indulge in exotic ingredients. It’s okay to showcase your culinary attempts. All of these things send the message that you understand what eating well means, just as you understand what an indulgence is when you share that fried Oreo you snagged at a local fair. We share food porn to affirm that understanding. We are showing off.

→ The Wall Street Journal covers the row between Belgian brewers and contract/gypsy outfits who merely design beers, leaving others to ‘‘get their hands dirty’. (Via @TheGuestAle.)

→ Saved to Pocket this week: Martyn ‘Zythophile’ Cornell edges every closer to the truth about the origins of Fuggles hops, thanks to the increasing availability of digitised historic newspapers and family records.

There are now a hundred Micropubs in the UK with more on the way. This is a phenomenon our Brew Britannia supplement in the summer will need to cover.

→ Via @PhippsNBC here’s that alternative definition of IPA we’ve all been looking for:

4 replies on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 03/01/2015”

The odd thing for that Papazian thought for me is I see no evidence for it. The securing of established financial interests of long standing US craft brewers and, particularly for Papazian, protection of individual status is worked directly into governance structure of the centralized Brewers Association which then layers itself with blankets of the “don’t worry be happy” stuff. I am sure the guys rowing the galley ships were often told by their governing officers similar tales between application of the lash. It’s just Macdonald’s “I’m Loving It!” When writing our histories, we were struck by how closely US craft paralleled the rise of the eastern U.S. Ale magnates in the mid 1800s as well as the advent of aggregation from the 1890s to prohibition. Wealth requires this sort of control if succession by the next generation is to be avoided.

There’s something in it, I think: breweries which have built their success and reputations on being ‘good eggs’ suffer backlash *hard* if they do anything too overtly ruthless or self-serving, and gain cachet from being seen to help and support their peers by, e.g., supplying hops during shortages.

Values *are* brand in many artisanal/indie ventures.

Certainly an interesting observation, at any rate, that Papazian gave birth to the rhetoric, even if it sometimes rings hollow.

I wasn’t really describing the indie / Artie breweries but the large businesses which both manage the discourse and produce the bulk of “craft” beer in the US. But it’s that skill and focus they have achieved in maintains (i) the appearance of not only “value” despite things like Rogue’s track record with employees and (ii) the facade of small scale that is the sector’s masterpiece. Other submissions to The Session mention a gap when it comes to independent economic analysis of the industry. I suspect were that to develop you would see significant pushback from big craft. You know, if the large industrial brewers were to actually focus their resources on the craft sector an open discussion of the nature of the brewing business might actually be one of their most compelling arguments: “same beer, twice the price… so who is pocketing the money?”

Couple of thoughts on the GBH thing (since they don’t do comments)…
i) On the “local vs native” thing, the examples of truly “native” phenomena seem pretty unconvincing. I mean, wild yeast and barrel ageing are interesting for sure, but it’s hard to think of anything comparable for West Coast IPA (even though that’s an example that he uses) or Black Country milds or Yorkshire bitters. A much stronger argument for “nativism” is that the people who produce something best will often be the people who’ve been immersed in it (not literally) for some time rather than the ones who have been interested in it for a few years. I’m not sure why he doesn’t mention this here, particularly since he basically makes the same point in the context of
ii) European IPAs. Surely the reason that Europeans are interested in producing west-coast style IPAs is precisely, as he puts it, that “any IPAs these guys have at home are likely months old and half-baked.” This is an example of a sort of beer-tourist cultural colonialism that gets my goat quite significantly – the idea that while I like to have a choice of the widest possible range of world beer styles – imported if they travel well, locally recreated if they don’t – everyone else should basically shut themselves off from all of that stuff in order to produce something interestingly local for me to try when I want to.

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