News, Nuggets & Longreads 4 February 2017: Lexicography, St Louis, Ateliers

Here’s all the beer and pub writing that grabbed our attention in the past seven days from different ways to say you’re bladdered to mysteries of the American palate.

First, for the BBC’s cul­ture pages, lex­i­cog­ra­ph­er and broad­cast­er Susie Dent con­sid­ers the 3,000 words in the Eng­lish lan­guage to describe being drunk:

The con­coc­tions those knights dis­pensed fill an even rich­er lex­i­con, veer­ing from the euphemistic ‘tiger’s milk’ to the bla­tant invi­ta­tion of ‘strip-me-naked’. Add those to the 3,000 words Eng­lish cur­rent­ly holds for the state of being drunk (includ­ing ‘ram­squad­dled’, ‘obfus­ti­cat­ed’, ‘tight as a tick’, and the curi­ous ‘been too free with Sir Richard’) and you’ll find that the only sub­jects that fill the pages of Eng­lish slang more are mon­ey and sex.

(But has she quite got that bit on Bride-ale right?)

Barmen pouring IPAs.
SOURCE: Jeff Alworth/Beervana

These next two posts need to be read as one piece. First, Jeff Alworth argues – per­sua­sive­ly, we think – that the rea­son IPAs are so dom­i­nant in US craft beer is because it’s the first beer style Amer­i­cans can real­ly call their own, like jazz and com­ic books:

Amer­i­cans are find­ing their palates, which is a sign of matu­ri­ty. This is not a new point here at the blog, but it’s becom­ing more point­ed. When a coun­try devel­ops its own beer cul­ture, diver­si­ty declines. This is why Bel­gian and British ales don’t taste the same, nor Czech and Ger­man lagers. Amer­i­cans have found their groove, and it is lined with the residue of sticky yel­low lupulin.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 4 Feb­ru­ary 2017: Lex­i­cog­ra­phy, St Louis, Ate­liers”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 5 November 2016: ‘Chavs’, Antics and Dirty Tricks

Oof, it’s a big one today, taking in everything from sabotage anti-marketing to the origins of Gold Label barley wine.

John Holmes of the Sheffield Alco­hol Research Group has writ­ten on his pri­vate blog about the trou­bling impli­ca­tions of an updat­ed take on Hog­a­rth’s ‘Gin Lane’:

The mod­ern pas­tiche gives us an obese moth­er, mouth wide open, burg­er in one hand and phone in the oth­er while her baby shares her chips. The baby is in a one­sie with ears while the moth­er is dressed in leop­ard-print leg­gings and a top so small that only anatom­i­cal­ly-dubi­ous draw­ing pro­tects her decen­cy. In com­bi­na­tion, these styl­is­tic choic­es seem designed to define the woman as, for want of a bet­ter word, a ‘chav’ and it is hard to escape the sense that we are intend­ed to both judge and blame her for being in a dis­gust­ing state and, worse, for inflict­ing the same des­tiny on her young child.

Detail from Bourbon County label.
SOURCE: Goose Island, via Chica­go Tri­bune.

Josh Noel at the Chica­go Tri­bune, author of a book about Goose Island brew­ery, was­n’t sat­is­fied with the vague­ness around the ori­gin date of Bour­bon Coun­ty Stout and did some dig­ging which proved that brew­eries are often the worst sources when it comes to their own his­to­ries:

Leg­end says that the industry’s first stout aged in a bour­bon bar­rel was ini­tial­ly tapped in 1992, at Goose Island’s Clybourn Avenue brew­pub… Even the bot­tles say it, right there in the brown glass, between the words BOURBON and COUNTY — ‘Since 1992.’… But on the eve of this year’s release, I’ve con­clud­ed that there’s almost no chance that Bour­bon Coun­ty Stout came into this world in 1992. Dozens of inter­views and hours of research point to the first keg of Bour­bon Coun­ty Stout being tapped in 1995.

The Ravensbourne Arms.

Lon­don-based pub group Antic is fas­ci­nat­ing and weird­ly opaque – we’ve nev­er man­aged to get them to respond to queries by email or Tweet for starters. For 853, a web­site about local issues in South East Lon­don, Dar­ryl writes about their weird antics (heh) with regard to the Ravens­bourne Arms in Lewisham and how the col­lapse of local jour­nal­ism has removed a key ele­ment of scruti­ny:

Lewisham Coun­cil grant­ed plan­ning per­mis­sion for flats above the Ravens­bourne Arms as well as devel­op­ment of sur­round­ing land twice, in 2014 and August 2015… The appli­ca­tions don’t men­tion the pub itself, but this should have rung alarm bells. Hous­ing above pubs can be a way of secur­ing the future of a venue (the new Cat­ford Bridge Tav­ern will have flats above it). But such devel­op­ments are also a very good way for devel­op­ers to shut down the pub itself – these are cas­es that demand vig­i­lance… The appli­cant was giv­en as “Antic Lon­don”. There is no com­pa­ny of this name reg­is­tered at Com­pa­nies House in the UK, nor in Jer­sey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 5 Novem­ber 2016: ‘Chavs’, Antics and Dirty Tricks”

Magical Mystery Pour #10: Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale

The second beer chosen for us by The Beer Nut (@thebeernut) is Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale (7% ABV) from Michigan, USA. We bought it from Beer Gonzo at £3.70 per 330ml bottle.

Magical Mystery Pour logo.We were vague­ly aware of hav­ing heard of this beer but point­ed­ly did­n’t look it up before tast­ing to avoid skew­ing our judge­ment any more than nec­es­sary.

On open­ing the bot­tle, we were treat­ed to a won­der­ful fruity, flow­ery aro­ma, like some­thing on the air in an sub-trop­i­cal orna­men­tal gar­den. It looked beau­ti­ful in the glass, glow­ing orange with a rock-steady head of whipped-white foam. Alto­geth­er appetis­ing.

The head on a glass of beer.

The first taste elicit­ed invol­un­tary expres­sions of delight: Ooo, cor, blimey, phwoar! Which we guess answers the fun­da­men­tal bina­ry ques­tion about whether we liked it or not. It took us back to a decade ago, expe­ri­enc­ing absolute delight as we tried one Amer­i­can IPA after anoth­er at The Rake in Lon­don’s Bor­ough Mar­ket, mar­vel­ling at beers that seemed heav­ier, rich­er, sweet­er, more bit­ter and more intense than any­thing we could find on draught in our local pub.

Close-up the aro­ma sug­gest­ed not flow­ers and fresh fruit but pipe tobac­co and boil­ing mar­malade. There was some­thing old-fash­ioned about the whole pack­age, which brought to mind a his­tor­i­cal recre­ation we’ve enjoyed a lot on more than one occa­sion, Clus­ter’s Last Stand.

The bit­ter­ness seemed high com­pared to some sim­i­lar beers we’ve had, a sort of dry­ing blast over the tongue at the end of each dip, but it con­veyed a sense of sol­id matu­ri­ty rather than show­boat­ing X‑TREME-ness.

Anoth­er beer that we thought of was Fuller’s Vin­tage Ale – an odd leap, per­haps, but there you go – which led us to a con­clu­sion: Two-Heart­ed is like an Eng­lish bit­ter boiled down to con­cen­trate. We know that Gary Gill­man (blog­ger and some­times com­menter here) and Nick (most­ly on Twit­ter) are in the habit of let­ting down pack­aged beer to recre­ate the effect of cask ale so decid­ed to fol­low their lead and dilute a sam­ple of Two-Heart­ed 50/50 with tap water. This was rev­e­la­to­ry, even though it did­n’t taste great in its own right: reduced in inten­si­ty, it did indeed resem­ble, say, Young’s Bit­ter, or Har­vey’s Arma­da IPA.

We were very impressed with this beer and would drink it again. It’s not cheap but it’s not out­ra­geous­ly expen­sive either and we could­n’t think of many British beers that pro­vide this par­tic­u­lar kind of jam­my, chewy, juici­ness at a low­er price. (Sug­ges­tions wel­come, of course, but think orange, mar­malade and tof­fee rather than man­go Cham­pagne.)

Tast­ing done, we looked it up, and found felt slight­ly embar­rassed not to have tried it before: it’s regard­ed as a clas­sic by many and (obvi­ous­ly) some peo­ple think it is over-hyped. It’s rat­ed as world class by Beer Advo­cate (dis­clo­sure: we’ve done paid work for BA mag­a­zine) and has a per­fect 100 high score on Rate­Beer.

Reviews on both sites talk about pineap­ple, man­go, cit­rus, pas­sion fruit, pine and all that Amer­i­can-hop bag­gage, none of which we picked up – it’s as if they were describ­ing a dif­fer­ent beer. That made us won­der if the jour­ney across the Atlantic, per­haps via main­land Europe, and six months in the bot­tle (ours was pack­aged in Jan­u­ary) had tak­en the edges off this appar­ent­ly leg­endary beer in a way that just hap­pened to real­ly work for us.

Yes, that’s right: our new favourite beer style is Staled Ware­house IPA™.

Pleas­ing­ly, The Beer Nut’s own tast­ing notes from 2011 seem to match ours. (This is a strange­ly rare occur­rence.)

Consistency, Quality, Conspiracy

At the end of 2015 American consumers began to complain that bottles of Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout and Bourbon County Barleywine didn’t taste right, and were ‘gushing’ – that is, exploding out of the bottle on opening.

The brew­ery recalled the lot and began an inves­ti­ga­tion. Now, six months on, the brew­ery has revealed its find­ings: there was an infec­tion of Lacto­bacil­lus ace­to­tol­er­ans.

We had­n’t been fol­low­ing this sto­ry par­tic­u­lar­ly but when Tom Cizauskas Tweet­ed about it, it caught our atten­tion. First, it prompt­ed us to think, ‘Huh… Isn’t the idea that when brew­eries get tak­en over by AB-InBev their qual­i­ty con­trol is meant to get bet­ter, their beer more con­sis­tent?’ (It’s a stan­dard com­po­nent of the ‘I’m glad about this take-over’ stance.)

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Con­sis­ten­cy, Qual­i­ty, Con­spir­a­cy”

Magical Mystery Pour #5: Ruhstaller’s Gilt Edge

Magical Mystery Pour logo.We asked noted beer writer Joe Stange (@Thirsty_Pilgrim) to select our second batch of Magical Mystery Pour beers and he said yes. Well, actually, he said:

  1. Oh I like this. It’s like your friends actu­al­ly let­ting you play DJ at a par­ty.”
  2. You know, it’s very tempt­ing to troll you with the six worst beers I can think of.”

But, after fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion, he decid­ed on an entire­ly dif­fer­ent theme: lager. Specif­i­cal­ly, he chose a mix of Bel­gian, Ger­man and Amer­i­can beers, some that he knows well, oth­ers about which he is curi­ous, all of which we then pur­chased with our own cash from Beers of Europe.

First, we tack­led Ruh­staller’s Gilt Edge, a 4.8% ABV, vague­ly-her­itage‑y Cal­i­for­nia gold­en lager. Joe has­n’t tried it but says:

This one comes all the way from Sacra­men­to at 42 IBU. I hope it’s drink­able. The labels on these revival­ist Amer­i­can lagers remind me of cur­rent gen­er­a­tional tilts toward things like beard oil and cow­boy rye whiskey. I expect a bar­ber shop quar­ter to appear when you drink this.

It came in a 330ml can that cost £3.49 – not an out­ra­geous price but not cheap either, espe­cial­ly for what you might call a basic beer style.

Ini­tial impres­sions, even before open­ing the can, were mixed: on the one hand, the label was glued to the can which, with UK beers, we have tend­ed to regard as a bad sign. On the oth­er, we’ve rarely seen more infor­ma­tive blurb:

Labelling on Ruhstaller's can: hops, barley, etc.

There does­n’t seem to be any­thing to hide here which is reas­sur­ing, even if we don’t actu­al­ly have any idea whether those are par­tic­u­lar­ly great vari­eties of bar­ley, or if these farms are any­thing spe­cial.

After pour­ing, we could but mar­vel: it looked so pret­ty. The head was as stiff as beat­en egg-whites and the body of the beer, pale gold, almost seemed to give off a light of its own. (Although, to be fair, this is also true of, say, Stel­la Artois.)

Ruhstaller's in the glass on a beer mat.

The aro­ma was restrained – just an appetis­ing wisp of herbs and cit­rus peel.

The flavour had a few stages: first, that crusty bread savoury-sweet­ness we asso­ciate with decent Ger­man beers, then a brief appear­ance from that twist of cit­rus, fol­lowed by – oh, blimey! – a crush­ing mon­ster truck of unchecked bit­ter­ness. The first few sips were almost chal­leng­ing, tip­ping way over from crisp into harsh. But the more we drank, the less that both­ered us. Our palates adjust­ed to this new real­i­ty, just as the shock-induc­ing cold plunge at a spa gets to be fun after a while. We began to think that, yes, we’d like a few more of these in for the kind of hot day we’re sure is on the way, when the back of the throat demands some­thing with real bite.

It’s typ­i­cal­ly Amer­i­can (if we can indulge in some stereo­typ­ing) in its bold­ness and frank­ness, but that does­n’t mean it’s unsub­tle or sil­ly. There are no grape­fruits here.

If you think lager is bland, or you think Jev­er and Pil­sner Urquell aren’t the beers they used to be, give this a try. It might just be the jolt you need.