Out of the loop

A milk carton of IPA.

I ended up sat in Bottles & Books on my own on Friday night, hovering around the edge of a conversation about beer that made me feel totally ignorant and out of touch.

Bot­tles & Books is our local craft beer phan­tas­mago­ri­um, with fridges full of cans, a wall of bot­tles, and a few taps of draught beer served by the third and two-thirds mea­sure.

On Fri­day, the dis­cus­sion turned to IPA, and it was when I heard this sen­tence that I knew I was out of my depth:

Brut IPA died a death fair­ly quick­ly, did­n’t it? And NEIPA just tastes a bit… old fash­ioned. It’s all about the Hud­son Val­ley style now.

Hud­son Val­ley? Is that a region? Yes, but it’s also a brew­ery, as pro­filed in this arti­cle, which has a head­line appar­ent­ly designed to annoy con­ser­v­a­tive beer geeks who already think brew­ing has been fatal­ly com­pro­mised by the ama­teur ten­den­cy:

Hud­son Val­ley Brew­ery Makes Beer Based on Instinct, not Instruc­tions

Sour IPA is, I gath­er, the long and short of it, and sure enough, when Jess and I went to the Left Hand­ed Giant tap­room yes­ter­day, there was one on the menu.

We gave up try­ing to stay on top of trends years ago but there was some­thing intox­i­cat­ing about all this new infor­ma­tion, all the names and details, that made me think… Should we try?

The odd edu­ca­tion­al eaves­drop­ping ses­sion prob­a­bly would­n’t do us any harm, at least.

News, Nuggets and Longreads 23 March 2019: Choice, Cycles, Cask 2019

Here’s everything in the world of beer and pubs that struck us as noteworthy in the past week, from AB-InBev to Samuel Smith.

Hol­lie at Globe Hops, a UK beer blog that’s new to us, recent­ly went back to Not­ting­ham where she stud­ied and noticed that many of her favourite pubs had tons more choice in their beer ranges, but some­how less char­ac­ter:

My brow fur­rowed. I strug­gled to artic­u­late how it felt to me like some­thing had been lost from the place, even though all that had real­ly hap­pened was that more options had been added. I’d loved the pub for pre­cise­ly its niche; the reli­a­bil­i­ty of excel­lent­ly kept Cas­tle Rock ales, the chance to try the brewery’s sea­son­al ranges, and guest ales from oth­er small local brew­eries, such as the fan­tas­tic Spring­head. But now there was a smor­gas­bord of choice that was almost dizzy­ing. I quick­ly realised the prob­lem; were it not for the recog­nis­able brick walls and beams lov­ing­ly dec­o­rat­ed with pump labels, I could be any­where. The pub had retained its charm, but the bar choice had lost its accent.

(Via Peter McK­er­ry | @PeterMcKerry.)

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets and Lon­greads 23 March 2019: Choice, Cycles, Cask 2019”

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

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.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 14 July 2018: Cain’s, Kep­ti­nis, Craeft”

American vs. British Beer in 1996

GABF 1996 logo.

In the autumn of 1996 Britain sent a delegation of beer experts to judge at the Great American Beer Festival: Roger Protz, veteran beer writer; Alastair Hook, pioneering UK lager brewer; and Sean Franklin, generally reckoned to be the first British brewer to make a feature of American Cascade hops.

All three con­tributed to an arti­cle in tech­ni­cal trade mag­a­zine The Grist for November/December that year. Protz com­plained that the cold Amer­i­can beer gave him gut-ache while Hook reflect­ed on the logis­tics and cul­ture sur­round­ing the event. But Franklin’s com­ments, which focus on the dif­fer­ence between British and Amer­i­can beers in those days before ‘craft beer’ was the phrase on every­one’s lips, are the most inter­est­ing.

He judged the Märzen, robust porter, Eng­lish bit­ter and bar­ley wine cat­e­gories, not India Pale Ale as you might assume from read­ing this:

In ret­ro­spect I saw four com­mon denom­i­na­tors. First because the Amer­i­can small brew­ers are much more into bot­tling than we are, the beers, in the main, looked very good. Sec­ond­ly, as you’d expect, there was a lot of Amer­i­can hop char­ac­ter in the beers, plen­ty of grape­fruit, flow­ery cit­rusy aro­mas – Chi­nook, Cas­cade and Cen­ten­ni­al. Lots of very char­ac­ter­ful, drink­able beers. Third­ly, some of the Amer­i­can beers have more ‘weight’ to them than UK beers. Cer­tain­ly to give a bal­anced beer at the US serv­ing tem­per­a­ture the beers need to be big­ger in ‘weight’ and char­ac­ter than our own. Fourth, and most impor­tant, most US micro­brew­eries now see beer as a ‘qual­i­ty’ prod­uct. They have pro­ject­ed  fash­ion­able edge onto their prod­ucts. The qual­i­ty match­es the mar­ket­ing.

Cold, weighty, char­ac­ter­ful, per­fumed… It’s easy to under­stand how that turned the heads of British beer drinkers, and brew­ers. And even if the details have changed and new styles have emerged it still feels like a fair sum­ma­ry of the dif­fer­ences between Amer­i­can beer in gen­er­al and the more tra­di­tion­al British approach.

Birth of the Beer Can, 1935

In the week that Thornbridge announced it would begin canning beer after years of resistance we happened across an amusing article on the same subject in a 1935 edition of the New Yorker magazine.

It appeared with­out byline in the ‘Talk of the Town’ sec­tion in the issue for 30 Novem­ber and begins like this:

We resigned from the For­eign Legion last week and joined the war between the beer-bot­tle peo­ple and the beer-can peo­ple. It is a lot more fun. We spent the entire week teas­ing bot­tle men about cans, and can men about bot­tles. “Is it true,” we asked Mr. Hop­per, of the Con­ti­nen­tal Can Com­pa­ny, “that glass is a bet­ter insu­la­tor than tin?” “Is it a fact,” we asked Mr. Nor­ring­ton, of the Glass Con­tain­er Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­i­can, “that beer in Con­ti­nen­tal Cans is how beer ought to taste?” “Is it true,” we asked Mr. Odquist, of the Amer­i­can Can Com­pa­ny, “that the use of the can is com­pli­cat­ed by the uncer­tain vicis­si­tudes of inter­na­tion­al trade and ami­ty?” We even called up Rup­pert’s and asked them if it was a fact they were still put beer in fun­ny old-fash­ioned bot­tles, instead of in “keg-lined cans” that have that “fresh from the brew­ery” fla­vor. They got so excit­ed they made us come up to the brew­ery and take a blind­fold test to see if we could tell draught beer from bot­tled beer. We failed, time and time again, time and time again. Gol darn, we’ve had fun late­ly!

Continental Can Company ad, c.1935.
SOURCE: Pin­ter­est, unfor­tu­nate­ly; prob­a­bly from a mag­a­zine like Col­liers which we know ran ads with this copy in 1935.

The arti­cle goes on to describe attempts by the var­i­ous dif­fer­ent can man­u­fac­tur­ers to talk down each oth­ers prod­ucts as resem­bling toma­to tins or oil can­is­ters respec­tive­ly.

Bat­ten, Bar­ton, Durs­tine & Osborn joined on the side of the can, and pre­sent­ed us with twen­ty-three rea­sons it is bet­ter than the bot­tle, includ­ing Rea­son No. 13: “The house­wife is used to the can.”

It was dur­ing this peri­od of intense com­pe­ti­tion, the arti­cle sug­gests, that the ‘stub­by bot­tle’ was invent­ed as the glass answer to the can’s com­pact form, but there were dirty tricks, too:

The can peo­ple, hear­ing that glass men were open­ly brand­ing a can-open­er as a “dead­ly weapon,” devel­oped the “cap-sealed can,” which opens just like a bot­tle. The bot­tle peo­ple, a lit­tle bit sick of some of the extrav­a­gant claims of the tin folk, qui­et­ly placed chemists at work, with a view to show­ing that the can group is a bunch of liars.… It’s hard to know whom to believe. Cham­pi­ons of the can say that light hurts beer. The glass peo­ple say that’s non­sense – heat, not light, hurts beer.

An advert for Keglined cans.
1935 adver­tise­ment for Keg­lined cans. SOURCE: Archive.org.

There’s some sur­pris­ing­ly detailed tech­ni­cal talk about lin­ing for cans, too, designed to pre­vent the beer tast­ing metal­lic, with one man­u­fac­tur­er imply­ing that their lin­ing was sim­i­lar to the resin pitch used in beer kegs, which, as the New York­er glee­ful­ly points out, it real­ly was­n’t.

It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to read some­thing from a moment when the can had yet to prove itself:

At present, most canned beer is sold in the South; but Con­ti­nen­tal now has a con­tract with Schlitz, and Amer­i­can with Pab­st, so Mil­wau­kee is now begin­ning to can its brew. So far, no New York brew­ery has gone over. Piel’s and Rub­sam & Hor­rmann are blos­som­ing out with “stub­bies,” the new-day bot­tle. The steel indus­try is count­ing on 1,500,000,000 beer cans in 1936.

As we know, the can cer­tain­ly did take off, and after decades of asso­ci­a­tion with the most com­mod­i­fied of com­mod­i­ty beer, has had a strange resur­gence in pop­u­lar­i­ty and cred­i­bil­i­ty in just the past decade. And yet more or less the same crit­i­cisms are voiced and the same claims are made – “cools faster” says the 1935 ad above, and that’s still a major sell­ing point today. It’s a sign of the times, though, that dis­pos­abil­i­ty, a key ben­e­fit in 1935, has been replaced on the check­list with recy­cla­bil­i­ty in 2018.

For more infor­ma­tion the devel­op­ment of beer can­ning in the US check out Keg­lined, an entire web­site ded­i­cat­ed to that very sub­ject. Main image adapt­ed from this scan by ‘Bil­ly’ at Flickr.