There was a lot of good reading this week so it’s a bit of a bumper fun summer special today, covering everything from consistency to country pubs.
First up, for Draft magazine Zach Fowle explores the growing popularity of seaweed beer. Our first instinct was to bracket this with, say, moon-dust beer, as silly and gimmicky, but there seems to be more thought behind this particular trend:
David Carlson, owner of Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. in Belfast, Maine… says Sea Belt has become one of his most popular beers; he brewed it five times last year and is trying to build up to making it once a month. What’s behind the sudden desire for—or, at least, acceptance of—seaweed in our beer? Hard to say, but it may be tied to the rise in the popularity of gose, the saline German ale that helped the American palate become accustomed to saltiness in beer.
(Via Kate Bernot @kbernot.)
From Emma at Crema’s Beer Odyssey comes a reminder that we are all alone in the universe, experiencing the world in our own way, able to relate to each other only through a collective lie. That is to say, she has realised after years of confusion that she tastes diacetyl as vanilla:
While I’m getting my head round the idea that my vanilla = everyone else’s butter a couple of previous episodes of ‘funny tasting beer’ come drifting back, where pale ales and IPAs tasted of vanilla to me but not to anyone else. I even know someone who won a medal for a homebrewed saison that tasted like cream soda to me. I knew it didn’t taste right at the time but I couldn’t have said what the specific fault was then (other than saisons shouldn’t taste of cream soda, obviously). But I could now… At this point I should mention that before I switched to a career in biomedicine I used to work in a QC/chemical analysis lab at Yoplait Dairy Crest where I was known as a bit of a vanilla super taster – I am very sensitive to low levels of vanilla…
Scofflaw Brewing of Atlanta, Georgia, went viral in the last week or so as reported here by Jim Vorel for Paste Magazine:
Scofflaw is one of the young stars of Atlanta’s beer scene, having gathered a huge amount of hype for a company that hasn’t yet celebrated its one-year anniversary… But there’s always a flip side to such stories, and according to many Scofflaw drinkers, the pressing issue is consistency and replicability of the company’s flagship beers such as Basement IPA. This is nothing surprising for a young brewery to deal with… What is uncommon is a brewery reacting to those types of concerns with combative words and upturned middle fingers. That’s what Scofflaw did via Facebook yesterday, firing off a post that has lit up the Atlanta craft beer scene and ignited debate on both sides…
What Scofflaw said, to paraphrase, is that complaints about consistency are unfair; that customers who don’t like their beer how it is should drink something more boring and commercial; and anyway, ‘I am not a professional, I am a fucking scofflaw’.
Of the various ‘takes’ this story prompted we particularly enjoyed this from Josh Weikert at Brew Simple, reflecting on a wider attitude problem in brewing:
At a certain brewpub I used to visit a couple of times a year there was a disclaimer on the beer menu that went something like this: “If you have any questions about a beer, ask your server, because we don’t accept any returns if you don’t like it.”
I understand the impulse… [but] I still think it’s a stupid thing to do. First, what’s it costing you, really? Cost per ounce, especially at a brewpub, is pretty low, out the door. More importantly, though, by getting your $6 on that pint you won’t take back you’re probably costing yourself business, too. Enjoy it – you just lost the $300 that person will now spend down the street over the next year.
And isn’t it possible that at least one of those people is right, and there’s something wrong with that beer?
The latest piece from Mark Johnson at Beer Compurgation doesn’t explicitly mention The Scofflaw Affair but certainly echoes it: ‘All We Have is Our Reputation… So Pick Up Your Crap Beer and Make it Better’. His point, in brief, is that some breweries are in denial about the fundamental mediocrity and/or inconsistency of their beer, which does them no good in the long run:
Recently I was in a pub where they had a beer on keg I’d had just a fortnight before… The beer didn’t taste awful or off, it was just entirely different to what it should have been… The next week I returned and that beer was still on. I asked the same person behind the bar about it. “Yes, we got the brewers themselves to taste it and they said that whilst it was different it still tasted fine and as it should. They won’t take it back so I’ve got to sell it.”
So it will sit there on the bar. A beer that nobody has complained about but nobody is particularly enjoying. The pub will be forced to try and recuperate the money paid for it whilst selling a beer they don’t particularly want to. Meanwhile the brewers earn a reputation amongst the drinkers of the beer that some of their beers are poor.
Dave S has been thinking about the beers you really see on British bars in 2017 and concluded, we think rightly, that one particular growth category is being overlooked by the commentariat:
[A] new new wave of keg beers… are appearing on the bars of vaguely upmarket real ale pubs. Mostly from traditional family and regional brewers, they range from meek golden ales to full-fledged American pales, although they seldom go far past the magic 5% barrier beyond which lies loopy juice, and while they’re often accomplished bits of work, there aren’t many of them that’d pass for Beavertown or Magic Rock. There are precedents here in Adnams’ Spindrift and the like, but it seems to be over the last couple of years that they’ve really taken off… Not quite craft, not quite trad, this sort of thing is middlebrow, and doesn’t get anyone much excited… So the interesting question here is who, if anyone, is actually drinking them, and what purpose they serve for the pubs that stock them?
We’ll sling in a nugget of info here: when we asked the landlord of a not-especially posh pub for a half of one of these big-regional keg IPAs a while ago he said, ‘Oh, you don’t want that — no-one drinks it, I only have it because the brewery basically pays me to take it with the rest of my order.’ Make of that what you will.
Paul Bailey (no relation) at Bailey’s Beer Blog (this is confusing) has been reflecting on the kind of pub that is being rescued and revived, despite the tough climate for pubs generally, in his part of Kent:
[These] three pubs have become ‘destination’ eating places, and one is also a thriving hotel. Whilst traditionalists might bemoan the fact they are no longer the simple country alehouses they once were, the fact they are still open and are continuing to welcome both casual and local drinkers, is definitely worthy of applause.
Attempting to be constructive and playful at the same time Alec Latham at Mostly About Beer has imagined a reinvented Great British Beer Festival — the CAMRA World Beer Festival (CWBF):
The cask beers are dispersed amongst all the others. They form virtually the entirety of the bitter stand, most of the pale ale, half of the IPA and roast barley bars but none of the sour, Lambic, Lager or Brett bars. This helps people put cask beer in its place and it’s an education – the comprehension that cask favours some beer kinds but isn’t suited to others… In the programme, a rundown is given of each bar: Bar one, for example, celebrates spontaneously fermented beers – historically the first beers ever made before yeast was properly harnessed and cultured – hence its first position billing on the itinerary.
This is an interesting idea. We might have a go at our fantasy GBBF next week.
Can you bear to read yet another article about New England IPAs? If so this frank front-line reflection from journalist Dave Patterson for Maine Today is the one:
The idea for this column was first conceived when Connecticut’s Two Roads Brewing started distributing Two Juicy to Maine. This double IPA has the label ‘New England Style IPA’ on the can. To my palate, Two Juicy was wildly underwhelming with muted flavors and a cloudiness that didn’t result in a full-bodied mouthfeel. A New England style-IPA should make you believe in a higher power; this one does not. It’s fine, but we should demand more from a New England-style IPA. It might not be Nickleback, but it’s how we eventually get to Nickleback.
(Via Liam Barnes @LiamapBarnes.)
This short post from home-brewer Kat Sewell contains an interesting detail that might inspire some copycats:
Anspach and Hobday kindly gave me a sample of their Funky yeast strain. This is a strain their brewer, Dylan, has built up using various bottle dregs.
And, finally, here’s the worst of pub-going in 2017 summed up in a single Tweet: