News, nuggets and longreads 29 February 2020: Mindfulness, mixed fermentation, Magee

Here’s everything on beer and pubs that grabbed our attention in the past week, from mindful drinking to robotic noses.

First, an interesting bit of news: Beer Advocate, the business built around rating beer that isn’t RateBeer, has been acquired by the people who own beer ticking app Untappd. As Todd Alström, Beer Advocate co-founder, writes:

We’ve been struggling to keep the lights on for over two years, and we still face some challenges, but I’m confident that this is the best path for all of us. Next Glass is committed to not only helping BeerAdvocate, but passionate about protecting and cultivating our unique culture, identity, and community… I also have a lot of respect for what Greg Avola, Untappd’s Co-Founder and CTO, and team have built over the past nine years, and this next chapter is a great opportunity to explore new features and opportunities.

This is more evidence that global craft beer, as an industry, is now well into the consolidation phase.

A brain.

For Vox, Derek Brown has written about how ‘mindful drinking’ has changed his life and enabled him to continue a career in booze while curbing the worst of his relationship with alcohol:

Alcohol isn’t really all that good for you. It certainly wasn’t always good for me. Though I used to joke that without it I wouldn’t have a job, friends, or a hobby, I now teetotal most of the week and drink cocktails, whiskey, and wine infrequently… Everything about that goes against the way I make my living as a spirits and cocktail expert, author, and bar owner. I don’t think everything we do has to be “good for you.” Neither should everything we do lead us down a fiery path of ruination. Lately, I’m more than content with a few fingers of bourbon followed by a drink without alcohol. And, when I indulge, it’s still with the guardrails on.

A pint of porter at The Good Measure.

On a related note, Mark Johnson at Beer Compurgation isn’t buying into the idea of non-alcoholic beer, because it simply doesn’t give him the three-pint buzz he requires:

I take a seat at the bar, order the bottled non-alcoholic beer offering and settle in for at least the next hour as per… Less than ten minutes in I can tell that something isn’t right. The surroundings, scents, atmosphere and voices are all familiar. The beer has a surprisingly decent bitter finish to what I am used to in the low-alcohol style. It is slightly thinner in body but in terms of taste is more than acceptable for this slightly-dryer-than-December January… What it isn’t satisfying though is that usual post work desire for relaxation. I am still agitated in my bar seat; anxious as ever. My eyes are skittish. I’m neither comfortable in conversation or just staring at my phone in solo bliss. I quite fancy a cigarette for the first time in about seven years.

Macro shot of text and diagram: 'Yeast'.

For those of us a bit out of the loop, there’s something very handy about this survey of UK brewers engaging in mixed-fermentation from Anthony Gladman for Ferment, the promo magazine of a beer subscription service. As those of you who read our monthly newsletter will know, though, we’re of the view that finding a niche is a canny move, not an act of maverick madness, so we’ll have to gently disagree with this statement:

Brewing like this is definitely not a commercial decision. The beers may command a high price but require more time and effort to make and occupy a tiny niche at the top end of the market. If anything it’s a vocation. But then brewers are every bit as susceptible as drinkers to getting swept up in wild beer’s romance.

A nice cow.

Joe Tindall at The Fatal Glass of Beer has made the move from vegetarian to vegan and has some thoughts about what that means as a beer drinker:

To be clear, I don’t really care if breweries make beers that aren’t vegan, if that’s what they want to do. But Ritchie Bosworth, head brewer at Coventry’s Twisted Barrel brewery, suggest there’s no need. “In IPAs/Pales, lactose is only really used to balance beers that have been badly designed in the first place, with sweetness required to balance an excessive use of hops,” he writes in an email. “In most cases, these pale beers are too vegetal/bitter to drink without the addition of lactose to balance them out.” All of Twisted Barrel’s beers (and all food served at their taproom) is, and always has been, vegan.

A snippet from the Lagunitas blog.

Like us, Jeff Alworth is fascinated by the human side of brewery takeovers – what goes on in the minds of people who sell their small, independent babies to massive multinationals? In his latest post he asks a particularly good question – whatever happened to Tony Magee of Lagunitas?

A few years back, Lagunitas founder Tony Magee started an odd series of blog posts on Tumblr (remember that?). They were rambling but didactic—and inconclusive. He made a lot of strong statements, but it wasn’t clear what he was saying. At the time, craft beer was at the height of its ascent, and Lagunitas had grown to become one of the largest craft breweries in the US… The blog, curiously, now features photos of women’s feet, but the Wayback Machine has all the original posts. They started before he announced that Heineken would acquire half the company, and appear to be a kind of pre-justification for why a sale to Heineken would actually be the apotheosis of craft evolution.

A nose.
SOURCE: Alexander Krivitskiy at Unsplash.

From Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer, news of an ‘electronic nose’ capable of identifying potentially off-putting  aromas in beer:

This e-nose is a small circuit board that measures gases emitted from beer. It uses machine learning (magic words which we’ll get back to soon) to determine if a beer has unwanted aromas. The gases include carbon dioxide, ethanol, methane, hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, ammonia and benzene… The electronic nose has also been used by the researchers in conjunction with biometric indicators such as heart rate, body temperature, brainwaves and facial expressions to gather more information from consumers while tasting a product.

He goes on to explore the various ways AI is being used to analyse and categorise beer, including an algorithm that “can already predict the score a beer will receive at with 80% accuracy based only on the compounds (in other words, without tasting)”.

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s Thursday round-up.

One reply on “News, nuggets and longreads 29 February 2020: Mindfulness, mixed fermentation, Magee”

“Brewing like this is definitely not a commercial decision…” There has never been a comment so fully contradicted by the same brewery owners when they speak privately as opposed to publicly.

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