News, Nuggets & Longreads 14 July 2018: Cain’s, Keptinis, Craeft

Turks Head pub signs.

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that inspired us to hit the BOOKMARK button in the past week, from pubs to hazy IPAs.

But let’s start with some items of news.


Illustration: intimidating pub.

For Original Gravity Emma Inch has written about the feeling of being on edge in pubs, even if nothing concrete happens, because of a sense that people are just a little too aware of “what makes you different”:

Throughout my drinking life I’ve been asked to leave a pub on the grounds that it’s a ‘family friendly venue’; I’ve witnessed a friend being ejected for giving his male partner a dry peck on the cheek; I’ve had a fellow customer shout homophobic abuse in my ear whilst the bartender calmly continued to ask me to pay for my pint… Once, I had to shield my face from flying glass as the pub windows were kicked in by bigots outside, and I still remember the sharp, breathless fear in the days following the Admiral Duncan pub bombing, not knowing if it was all over, or who and where would be targeted next.


Brewing keptinis.

Lars Marius Garshol is back with another wonderful post about farmhouse brewing, this time focusing on the specifics of how the Jančys family in north east Lithuania goes about brewing keptinis, a dark beer made with loaves of malt baked in the oven:

Now it was time for the mash to come out of the oven. The top of the mash was covered in a hard, dark brown crust. Some of the liquid had boiled over the side of the box, run down the side, and congealed in a hard mass at the bottom. I broke some bits off the top crust and tasted them: massively sweet and toffeeish, with notes almost like honey. They actually tasted like really sweet and good cookies… And now I realized what was going on and why Vytautas’s beer had tasted so different… Schwarzbier, porter, dunkel, stout, and all the other blackish beers are made from toasted starch, but keptinis is made from toasted sugar. It’s a different kind of dark beer.


A choice of beers.

We watched with interest via Twitter as beer writer Robin LeBlanc took part in a recent experiment by Canadian supermarket chain Loblaws, undertaking several shifts as an in-house beer aisle advisor, which experience she has now written up in a reflective blog post:

So hey, honesty time, macro beers did sell really well there and often sold out. But that didn’t mean that no one who picked up their weekly sixer of Coors were uninterested in the idea of a craft beer. In fact, the big thing that seemed to get in most people’s way was that they couldn’t navigate the number of styles to find something that matched what they liked about the macros they bought, often resulting in buying a beer that was wrong for them and creating a bad impression of craft.

There’s some useful insight for retailers and brewers in there.


A milk carton of IPA.

Paste  has published notes on its now regular epic taste-off of American IPAs which this time took in 324 examples of the style. (Link to mobile version; wonky formatting, but all on one page.) There is also a companion piece by Jim Vorel reflecting on IPA’s place in American beer culture in 2018, called ‘Hazy, Sludgy, Juicy and Confused’:

It may feel like hazy IPA has completely taken over the segment, but any beer store with a wide selection is still going to be carrying crystal clear, bitter, West Coast IPAs as well. Look harder, and you’ll even find some malt-forward IPAs in the mix, along with a smattering of niche selections. You’ll find some wild IPAs with brettanomyces. You’ll find some fruited examples, and some spiced examples. You might find some bleeding edge stuff, like the aforementioned brut IPA. And of course, you’ll find IPAs that blur the lines between distinct substyles—clear IPAs with modern, ‘juicy’ flavor profiles, and vice versa. To act as if the entire IPA segment has been taken over by a single fad at any given time is a gross overgeneralization.


Tools.

Jeff Alworth has been reading books that aren’t about beer, which is something we strongly recommend. In a blog post this week he took Cræft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts by Alexander Langlands as the jumping off point for reflection on ‘craft’ — not in the superficial Define Craft Beer sense, but in terms of how people relate to the products of their labour:

For Langlands, cræft is the knowledge that resides in the body. As we do a thing repeatedly, we begin to develop mastery; our bodies, after a thousand repetitions, know how to do a thing. This is the central point of Cræft: the wisdom and skill come from the body and mind of the craftsperson, not a machine… The distinction between a tool, which allows the craftsperson to wield power and “kinaesthetic sensibility,” and a machine, which removes them, isn’t incidental–it’s the essence of cræft.


Close-up shot of Fourpure Pils.

We really have all but run out of interest in reading about Beavertown-Heineken but Mark Johnson managed to prod us from our ennui with an interesting observation about that and the Fourpure acquisition. Why on earth, he asks, with typical vigour, do people keep insisting that Big Beer getting involved increases choice, when it doesn’t?

I keep hearing people say things such as “Oh imagine being able to get Black Betty (a 7.4% Black IPA) at a music festival.” I am imagining because fantasies are fun. Your big business has no interest in such a beer. You will see one or two of the most basic styles begin to appear a little in supermarkets with the name they want to peddle the most prominent word on the can…. It is three years since Camden Brewery sold to AB Inbev… Three years since big business apologists told us we would have access to better beer in more places… but I have seen Camden beer on tap – outside of beer focused bars – once in a pub where I was attending a family meal, and I’m not even sure that wasn’t before 2015.


And finally, something grimly inevitable: surely people wouldn’t name beers after the Novichok nerve agent so much in the news lately, would they?