News, Nuggets & Longreads for 13 May 2017: Butter, Brussels, Belfast

The logo of the Barth-Hass hop company in Tettnang, Germany.

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the last week, from buttery Czech beer to South African hops.

Max ‘Pivni Filosof’ Bahn­son uses a report of a vis­it to a Prague bar to make some obser­va­tions about trends and local tastes:

Most peo­ple describe diacetyl as but­tery, to me, cheap mar­garine melt­ing is a more accu­rate descrip­tor… and this beer smelled like plen­ty of it, and didn’t taste much bet­ter… If you fol­low the com­ments of the local beer intel­li­gentsia, you might get the impres­sion that diacetyl-laden beers have become a scourge, to the point that Jiří Kaňa wan­dered in Pivní.info whether 2016 wasn’t the year of diacetyl. And yet, that man sit­ting at the table in the oppo­site end of the room was clear­ly enjoy­ing Pres­i­dent 12°, and was prob­a­bly in his fourth glass by then.

Goose Island on sale in Brussels.

The Beer Nut has been writ­ing up a recent trip to Bel­gium from which we get this post observ­ing the arrival of mul­ti­ple taps of non-Bel­gian beer in Brus­sels:

Pre­vi­ous­ly, the selec­tion on offer was almost exclu­sive­ly Bel­gian. I don’t recall for­eign beer fea­tur­ing at all until the Delir­i­um Café opened its Hop­py Loft exten­sion a few years ago, and it was always a nov­el­ty, very much out­side the main­stream. Then I guess you had Moed­er Lam­bic Fontainas, still res­olute­ly local but with occa­sion­al guest beers from abroad. And then Brew­Dog arrived with an out­let push­ing its own wares along­side the Bel­gians. It still did­n’t feel like Brus­sels had any real inter­est in import­ed beer until my last vis­it a cou­ple of weeks ago. The most shock­ing fea­ture was the Goose IPA taps, pop­ping up like mush­rooms in the most unex­pect­ed places… Some­thing has shift­ed and in this case AB InBev are doing the push­ing.

Brussels Beer Project brewer Antoine Dubois, and founders Olivier de Brauwere and Sébastien Morvan.

Very much relat­ed is a piece from Will Hawkes for Beer Advo­cate about the grow­ing influ­ence of out­side cul­tures, and espe­cial­ly the Lon­don brew­ing scene, on young Bel­gian brew­ers:

A vis­it to Malt Attacks, a bot­tle and home­brew shop on the ele­gant Avenue Jean Vold­ers in the Brus­sels neigh­bor­hood of Saint-Gilles, makes his point clear­ly. Opened by Antoine Pier­son in Octo­ber 2014, it sells Bel­gian beer (but not Trap­pist ale) along­side offer­ings from around Europe, par­tic­u­lar­ly Scan­di­navia and the UK. One day in ear­ly Feb­ru­ary, there were two draft beers avail­able from the growler filler (the first, Pier­son says, in Bel­gium): Wild Beer Mad­ness IPA and Mag­ic Rock Mag­ic 8 Ball Black IPA, both of them brewed in Eng­land.

(Dis­clo­sure: we’re some­times paid to write for BA.)

Video screengrab: Jim Caruso.

Here’s some­thing thought-pro­vok­ing: US cen­tre-right news and opin­ion magazine/website Rea­son has a sym­pa­thet­ic account of the legal bat­tle around Fly­ing Dog’s Rag­ing Bitch from a con­ser­v­a­tive free-speech per­spec­tive. It is built around an inter­view with the brew­ery’s boss, Jim Caru­so, an avowed lib­er­tar­i­an, avail­able as video, or pro­vid­ed as raw (occa­sion­al­ly incor­rect) tran­script:

And for us, our mar­ket­ing is built into this label. If you ban my abil­i­ty to express my mes­sage, whether it’s a polit­i­cal mes­sage, cit­i­zens unit­ed, whether it’s a mar­ket­ing mes­sage and idea, you’re effec­tive­ly tak­ing part of my iden­ti­ty away. This is unac­cept­able, so it went to [Alan Gura], a hero in Lib­er­tar­i­an cir­cles. Took our case, went to the ninth cir­cuit, sixth cir­cuit in Cincin­nati. After sev­er­al years the opin­ion was in our favor. And the minor­i­ty opin­ion went so far as to say, ‘Yes, and they clear­ly vio­lat­ed your First Amend­ment right so go back and set­tle.’… We did… this was nev­er about the mon­ey. We were award­ed dam­ages, obvi­ous­ly a lot went to legal fees. The rest went to form the First Amend­ment Soci­ety. This was nev­er about the mar­ket­ing, it was nev­er about pub­lic­i­ty.

The sto­ry about AB-InBev’s con­trol of the sup­ply of cer­tain vari­eties of hops grown in South Africa blew up in the last cou­ple of days after this Tweet:

It’s anoth­er front in the ongo­ing bat­tle between those who believe Big Beer is attempt­ing to crush, crip­ple or oth­er­wise coun­ter­act small­er inde­pen­dent brew­eries, and those who are more prag­mat­ic. Jamie Bogn­er’s account for Craft Beer & Brew­ing is illus­trat­ed with a pho­to of some hops IN A POOL OF BLOOD:

Giv­en this sit­u­a­tion and what they’ve just done, I wouldn’t be sur­prised if [buy­ing out oth­er exclu­sive hops vari­eties] isn’t one of their tar­gets,’ says [hop bro­ker Greg] Crum. ‘They have the mon­ey to buy out the guys who own the patents [on cer­tain hops vari­eties]. And if they buy up enough craft brew­eries who need these hops, they may look to con­trol the [hops] mar­ket again.’

Mean­while, the per­pet­u­al­ly lev­el-head­ed Bryan Roth has bro­ken this sto­ry down, con­clud­ing that it’s a storm in a pint pot:

If I’m trans­lat­ing num­bers cor­rect­ly, the Inter­na­tion­al Hop Grow­ers Con­ven­tion esti­mat­ed the entire South African hop crop at 1.9 mil­lion pounds in 2016. It is project to drop to 1.56 mil­lion pounds in 2017. There are 1,047 acres of hops expect­ed to be har­vest­ed in South Africa this year, or a stone’s throw away than the acreage of only Cas­cade grown just in Ore­gon in 2016… Is it unfor­tu­nate that Amer­i­can brew­ers won’t be able to get aro­ma hops like South­ern Pas­sion from South Africa or alpha hops like South­ern Star? Sure. But these are vari­eties to play with, not with which you build a port­fo­lio of brands.

(But it’s worth not­ing, as a sign of how fraught things are as much as any­thing, that some have ques­tioned Roth’s objec­tiv­i­ty because he writes for Good Beer Hunt­ing which has/had var­i­ous con­nec­tions with AB-InBev.)

Final­ly, this is a real high­light of the week which deserves the widest audi­ence pos­si­ble: footage of the com­pli­cat­ed way Guin­ness porter used to be served record­ed at the exact moment it went extinct in 1973. This real­ly ought to inspire some exper­i­ments.

25 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads for 13 May 2017: Butter, Brussels, Belfast”

  1. I too noticed the encroach­ment of Goose IPA taps when I was in Bruges a cou­ple of months ago… and it felt down­right weird. There were bot­tles of IPA and Honkers ale in the super­mar­ket too and they seemed to be pret­ty pop­u­lar. It’ll be inter­est­ing to see how the rumoured bar they’re to build in Brus­sels will go down with locals and tourists alike.

    Also I find it weird that the fact a tal­ent­ed and objec­tive writer like Bryan comes under fire because he posts some­thing incred­i­bly thought­ful on his OWN BLOG but writes for GBH. The fact here is had Bryan want­ed to get paid for that piece he could well have pitched it but decid­ed not to. This weird spec­u­la­tion that ABI has any influ­ence on the GBH team is a lit­tle tire­some to be hon­est. We work like any oth­er pub­li­ca­tion: we have ideas, we pitch them to our edi­tor Austin Ray, we pro­duce them, we pub­lish them, we get paid. At no point in this cycle does any­one out­side of GBH influ­ence the edi­to­r­i­al team and if it turned out there was we’d prob­a­bly get fired. So please, stop with the “GBH are in the pock­et of ABI” spec­u­la­tion. We’re just try­ing to make good stuff and earn a liv­ing here.

    1. So please, stop with the “GBH are in the pock­et of ABI” spec­u­la­tion. We’re just try­ing to make good stuff and earn a liv­ing here.’

      Who’s that addressed to?

      We can’t *not* acknowl­edge the con­nec­tions when we’re shar­ing mate­r­i­al from GBH though I don’t think the way we do it counts as speculation/accusation. It’s legit­i­mate for peo­ple to ques­tion writ­ers’ moti­va­tions and bias­es so they can decide who and what to trust; we expect peo­ple to do the same with us.

      1. It was aimed at you guys. I don’t see why when link­ing to a piece from his own per­son­al blog Bryan’s rel­a­tive objec­tiv­i­ty based on who else he might work for needs to be called in to ques­tion. He also writes for Beer Advo­cate and AAB but you did­n’t feel the need to men­tion either pub­li­ca­tion? Those guys take mon­ey for ads too! It’s all rel­a­tive.

        1. That’s just sil­ly. Of course the mon­ey flow con­nec­tions to writ­ers are impor­tant to under­stand. To say oth­er­wise is naive or worse.

          1. Thats exact­ly how any rev­enue even­tu­al­ly works (adver­tis­ing the most tra­di­tion­al form of it). By that log­ic, any mag­a­zine sell­ing ads, or earn­ing any rev­enue asso­ci­at­ed with the indus­try they report on, is like­wise com­pro­mised. Fine by me if you’re a fun­da­men­tal­ist in that way, but that’s the extend­ed log­ic of your con­cern.

            And like every oth­er pub­li­ca­tion, we inten­tion­al­ly iso­late our edi­to­r­i­al team from that part of the busi­ness.

      1. Here’s how Octo­ber works, with regard to your valid con­cern.

        Conde Nast is the pub­lish­er. One of the investors is ZX Ven­tures (ABI’s ven­ture group).

        Conde cre­at­ed Octo­ber through their Slow Motion cre­ative stu­dio (which is basi­cal­ly an inter­nal group made up of Pitch­fork peo­ple).

        To make the site both inter­est­ing and inde­pen­dent, they hired GBH and Beer Graphs (Eno Sar­ris) to run edi­to­r­i­al out­side of the busi­ness (which includes a num­ber of ini­tia­tives, includ­ing con­certs, small events, fes­ti­vals, etc.).

        So, while ABI may be a start-up investor, they have no con­nec­tion to the edi­to­r­i­al team what­so­ev­er. None of use have inter­act­ed with that group, nor received any input from them. In fact, and most crit­i­cal­ly, there is a legal­ly enforce­able con­tract that says ZX is not allowed to even send us an email with sug­ges­tion of a top­ic. If they do, the breach the con­tract. That agree­ment was para­mount to this ven­ture get­ting off the ground with the intent of pro­duc­ing inde­pen­dent edi­to­r­i­al and build­ing a busi­ness that may, and like­ly will, live beyond its ini­tial ZX invest­ment. It’s up to the busi­ness side of Conde how they man­age that invest­ment, or invest­ment fro other/future par­ties. Edi­to­r­i­al has no input or dia­log either way.

        Hap­py to clar­i­fy any oth­er ques­tions.

  2. How dis­ap­point­ing that’d you’d give in to the “many peo­ple are say­ing” con­spir­a­to­r­i­al device that plagues our polit­i­cal dialogs these days, choos­ing to spread innu­en­do and rumor about one of the best writ­ers in the US (whom GBH is lucky to have the con­tri­bu­tions of). Our world is so eas­i­ly con­nect­ed – you can sim­ply ask him about his (lack of) con­nec­tions to ABI, his work­ing role at GBH, and any oth­er poten­tial­ly com­pro­mis­ing rumors. Same for GBH. I’ve extend­ed the offer of clar­i­fy­ing these issues mul­ti­ple times over the years and you’ve nev­er once respond­ed with inter­est, seem­ing­ly pre­fer­ring the optics of inno­cence based in igno­rance that enable you to make such dam­ag­ing innu­en­do from a dis­tance.

  3. Why does it sur­prise you in any way, you hav­ing explained that the big brew­ery con­glom was an investor, that peo­ple dis­count your rep­u­ta­tion accord­ing­ly? I don’t sub­scribe to the “there­fore Evil!” Stuff but it is a rea­son­able response to take you with a grain of salt even as the love­ly beer porn pass­es by one’s eyes.

    1. I am not sur­prised that peo­ple are skep­ti­cal of Octo­ber. I am always hap­py to explain how that works, know­ing that invest­ment and edi­to­r­i­al struc­tures are unfa­mil­iar to most peo­ple who have not worked pro­fes­sion­al­ly in that realm.

      I AM sur­prised that Boak and Bai­ley would con­tribute to the igno­rance rather than the enlight­en­ment of their audi­ence, how­ev­er, by link­ing to unfound­ed tweets as if that’s evi­dence of any­thing more than rumor-mon­ger­ing. That’s how you build con­spir­a­to­r­i­al oppo­si­tion to a top­ic based on noth­ing but the idea that “many peo­ple are say­ing.”

      1. Well that’s just a bit of self-aggran­dize­ment show­ing. Who are you and yours not to be dis­cussed? What places you all in a spe­cial spot that the opin­ions of oth­ers are not to be not­ed? It’s just part of the pub­lic dis­course. Find­ing “con­spir­a­cy” in that is a bit weird. This is how it real­ly works. That Roth bit about SA hops? Pret­ty obvi­ous point. No one thought oth­er than it was a trick­le. Pump­ing it up like its Pulitzer mate­r­i­al, how­ev­er, seems to me part of the GBH spheres tac­tics to, as Matt has point­ed out, build brand. Good for all you all, seri­ous­ly. But then the pumped up pro­file is open to review. It’s nor­mal. Where’s the cri­sis?

        1. No one here has pumped any­thing. In fact, I did not even men­tion it, nor him, in that response. Any­one IS free to say any­thing. And they are like­wise open to being call to account for their freely-shared opin­ions. Espe­cial­ly when they are pub­lished and giv­en fur­ther cre­dence on respectable blogs like this one.

          1. See, you have to pay more atten­tion to how you are per­ceived. Pump­ing is the word. There is a big dol­lop of style, tone and puff pieces you put out that I can’t get past. This is cycli­cal in craft. You did­n’t invent any­thing but the stance is self evi­dent. I think it is a clever stance for the goal you seem to have set for your­self. I toyed with the idea myself over a decade ago when I had con­tribut­ing authors from around the world. When I got brew­eries to send box­es of beer or oth­er good­ies one way or anoth­er. I had anoth­er sort of rep­u­ta­tion in ways as chal­leng­ing, too. Comes with the ter­ri­to­ry of set­ting out your inten­tion and approach to the sub­ject mat­ter as you have. Pre­tend­ing that this is ad hominum miss­es the point. Oth­ers frame your rep­u­ta­tion. And mine. And that in itself is sub­stance.

          2. Con­sid­er­ing our rep­u­ta­tion oscil­lates between “sell­outs” and “hip­ster craft beer blog­gers,” where we either write the most “bal­anced and. ought pro­vid­ing” pieces, or “puff pieces.” Those oppos­ing view­points say a lot more about a polar­ized read­er­ship than our mer­it. I don’t think try­ing to con­trol our rep­u­ta­tions has any return on the invest­ment of time it would take to align those frac­tur­ous groups. That’s a reli­gious war we have no side in. I do, how­ev­er, make an effort to cor­rect some­one’s erro­neous facts as it per­tains to our busi­ness and edi­to­r­i­al struc­ture.

            For the rest, the con­tent will con­tin­ue to speak for itself, whether per­ceived as dri­v­el or crit­i­cal read­ing. We have no inter­est in adapt­ing our work to suit either side of the bat­tle we’re not par­ty to, or oth­er writ­ers like your­self for whom our exis­tence seems end­less­ly antag­o­niz­ing. That’s your own per­son­al bat­tle and the the­ater for that war is appro­pri­ate­ly in your mind, and your mind only.

        2. In any event, I think it would be far more con­struc­tive to debate the con­tent of an argu­ment rather than the integri­ty of the writer. That’s an old debate trick meant to under­mine a per­fect­ly valid and debat­able argu­ment when the oppos­ing view has noth­ing of sub­stance to say.

          1. LOL! Don’t be sil­ly. You have your niche and your plan. Fine. But you are com­ing across now like the kid who gets the short end of the play­ground treat­ment say­ing “at least they notice me.” Trust me. I don’t think you are the evil empire but your approach is a long way from inter­est­ing to me. You should­n’t care.

  4. Blimey. You go out for a cou­ple of hours…

    I don’t know what to say, real­ly.

    Just to be absolute­ly clear, when we describe Bryan as ‘per­pet­u­al­ly lev­el-head­ed’ that’s very much a com­pli­ment – per­haps even an endorse­ment. But we saw that response to his Tweet and thought it was inter­est­ing in its own right because it reflects, as MK points out, a cer­tain con­spir­a­cy world view that seems to be in the air. And I guess it’s worth point­ing out that we use the word ‘some’, with a link to one exam­ple, rather than say­ing ‘many peo­ple’ as you sug­gest­ed.

    On the more gen­er­al issue of our repeat­ed men­tion­ing of GBH’s AB-InBev con­nec­tions… Michael, I’m not sure how much more gen­tly or polite­ly we can do this with­out just stop­ping out­right, which is per­haps what you’re after. You’ve explained on your web­site, and in mes­sages to us, how it all works and, after all that, it still sounds to us like ‘con­nec­tions’ to AB-InBev, which we there­fore feel oblig­ed to men­tion when we’re link­ing to some­thing post­ed by GBH that relates direct­ly to AB-InBev or the pol­i­tics of big beer vs. small. But we can’t give over 800 words each time unpack­ing all the detail; but we have in the past, as above, linked to your own post explain­ing it all, which seems fair to us.

    We have some sym­pa­thy with your sit­u­a­tion and under­stand that you might feel embat­tled. But, seri­ous­ly, we’re not attack­ing you. We keep link­ing to GBH sto­ries, even though this kind of telling-off is rather a dis­in­cen­tive to engage at all, because they’re inter­est­ing. We’ve been crit­i­cised for that, too.

    If as you sug­gest this is any­thing like a ‘respectable blog’ it’s because we fret and ago­nise over how best to be fair and objec­tive. I dare­say we get it wrong some­times but it’s not thought­less and, I hope, nev­er mali­cious.

    Again, blimey.

    1. Many peo­ple are say­ing” is not quot­ing you, it’s quot­ing Trump and his method of under­min­ing con­struc­tive dia­log by refer­ring to ran­dom Twit­ter users or fic­ti­tious peo­ple alto­geth­er, as though those unfound­ed claims from the inter­net are some­how the oth­er side of a non-exis­tent argu­ment that’s para­mount to the con­tent of the argu­ment you’ve linked to.

      All it does it is belit­tle the debate and cast doubt on some­one’s integri­ty. If some­one Tweet­ed about B+B’s pos­si­ble ties and influ­ence, how­ev­er untrue, link­ing to that as some sort of con­tri­bu­tion to the dis­cus­sion would be at odds with both the con­tent, the argu­ment, and all his­tor­i­cal evisence to the con­trary.

      In this case, we’re tak­ing about an inde­pen­dent free­lance writer in Bryan Roth, who wrote about a post on his own blog, and the con­tent of which had noth­ing to do with GBH. The impli­ca­tion of this undue influ­ence is thrice removed at best, and being sub­stan­ti­at­ed by a per­son who has lit­tle to no knowl­edge of the accu­sa­tions being made.

      Per­haps the agony employed toward the intend­ed objec­tiv­i­ty is over-devel­oped to the point of under­min­ing it.

      I say all this on behalf of Roth’s ster­ling rep­u­ta­tion, not GBH. We’ve done our own work to keep that non­sense at bay and sim­ply point to the same post you did.

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