Monday, September 19, 2016

The Price is Too Damned High!!

With the searing heat and humidity of the central Virginia summer finally starting to dissipate, Mrs V, myself, and our friend Dave went for a walk in the Shenandoah National Park on Saturday morning. Before meeting up with Dave we popped to our of our favourite drinking holes for breakfast, and despite the earliness of the day (it had just gone 8am) I had a couple of pints to wash down the tacos with.

Given that all but 2 of the taps were pouring Ballast Point beers it was evident that the pub in question had very recently had a 'tap takeover', or 'illusion of choice' as I now call them. Snide comments aside, my couple of pints were the Longfin Helles and a very delicious beer it was too. I heartily approve of the growing number of helles lagers that seem to be popping up on brewery products lists of late.

There was another reason I plumped for the helles...can you guess what it was from this picture?


Yep, $2.50 for an imperial pint. Call me cheap if you wish, but it was simply too good a price to overlook, 40oz of beer for less than 16oz of some of the other beers on the list, and even a few 10oz options. Sure it helped that the beer was just the kind of thing I like drink, even in the morning.

Looking over the rest of the price list, I couldn't get away from the idea though that the price of a pint of craft beer is getting ridiculous, especially when you compare the price of the Longfin with that of the California Kölsch right above it, $7.50 for 20oz. Given the similarities between the two styles of beer, why would a retailer charge three times as much for an additional 0.7% and 5 IBUs worth of beer?

The kind of beer that normally fills that budget slot in this particular pub is something like PBR or National Bohemian, so perhaps there is a pervasive bias against pale lagers, and by extension pale lager drinkers.

What it really means most likely is that the price of craft beer is too damned high and retailers are gouging their customers left, right, and centre whilst prancing about in artisanal fig leaves.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Beer Snobs Are the Worst

Words fascinate me, the stories they tell, the culture they reveal, the way they change through time, how they can be used to comfort, heal, wound, and destroy. Whoever came up with the old rhyme that 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me' was an idiot. Words are, whether spoken or written, the most powerful thing the human race have ever created.

Etymology, the study of the origins of words, is one of those areas that I find particularly fascinating, and a word whose etymology is deeply interesting is 'snob'. According to a folk etymology the word came about in the great public schools of England, places such as Eton and Harrow, where the boys of non-noble families were listed as being 'sans noblesse', abbreviated as 's.nob'. Sans noblesse itself derives from the Latin 'sine nobilitate', in both cases means someone who is without nobility. Whether or not the folk etymology is correct is another thing, and according to the Oxford Dictionaries it isn't, the true origins being a term for a shoemaker's apprentice, however the point remains, a snob is one lacking in the traits usually associated with nobility, as opposed to traits associated with the nobility.

Unfortunately this lack of nobility is all too evident among the self styled beer snobs of the universe. When I worked in the Starr Hill tasting room you could usually rely, at least once a shift, on some gobshite spouting off about stuff he clearly knew little about, especially when it came to brewery relationships with bigger brewing companies. At the time Starr Hill had a distribution deal with Anheuser-Busch, which many an ignoramus took to meaning AB owned Starr Hill, and thus how could any of us truly love beer and work for an AB shill - usually they never saw the irony of their drinking in the brewery, but blinkers are a powerful device.

I have mentioned in previous posts my disdain for the ridiculous, and often vitriolic, comments made on various social media outlets about the purchase of Devils Backbone by AB-InBev, but a post by DB brewmaster Jason on Facebook caught my eye this week, I repeat here verbatim and with Jason's permission:
"I apologize for this beer realm rant, overt eyes - I don't care what your opinions are about ABI buying Devils Backbone Brewing Company but please don't come into any of our locations and impose your world view upon my co-workers. Please do not be rude to them and please do not act like you are all knowing about their situation. This is their work space and where they make a living. This is not a hobby or a diversion for them, unlike your visit. This is what we do! 99% of my co-workers had no idea about ABI purchasing DB. As soon as I was looped in, I ADVOCATED for it! ME, I did. I will debate anyone about this. Please direct your arguments to me. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but please do not be rude and callous to my co-workers. The ones with the strongest feelings are often the most ignorant. I don't expect to change anyone's minds but I can & will certainly make them look likes asses. It is so easy to do. Believe me. Case in point, on an un-related FB post about Goose Islands Bourbon County Stout someone suggested (with all the certainty in the world) to expect a cheapening of ingredients. Which in particular? Which malts & hops, what process?? The answer is that person was talking out of his ass like it was gospel but none of it is true. Yet confident to post such un-truths he was.Thousands of people toss that crap out there. Question the blanket statements. It's sad, dangerous, and distasteful, that people talk about peoples professions and livelihoods with such authority while knowing very little about it. If you are a beer aficionado, enjoy your hobby but please think twice about trying to bring other peoples businesses down with vitriol. This is our livelihood and you know less than you think. Trust me. I've been brewing for a LIVING for 20 years and I know so much more about beer, brewing, and the industry than most of you self satisfied, beer snobs. That is a FACT! Sorry to end on a negative note but god damn, what does it take to house train people these days? Why don't we speak about the things we know, celebrate the things we love, and think twice about chiming in on all the other shit?? Beer snobs are the worst thing about craft beer. Hands down."

I heartily agree with everything Jason says here. Beer geeks, lovers, appreciators, yes be that absolutely, Don't be a beer snob, and most definitely don't be a jerk to people at their livelihood.

Friday, September 2, 2016

#TheSession 115 - The Write Rail


Goodness me, where did August go? Seems like only yesterday I was hosting the 114th Session. For number 115 Joan of Birraire asks us to:
talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene.
I want to start by stating the obvious, I love books. Whether we talking about beer book, historical novels, works on literary theory, scientific theory, or theology I have a constantly growing library that no Kindle or e-reader could ever replace. I have a near constant stack of about 7 books on the dresser on my side of the bed as I finish the top one, a new gets added to the bottom, or the middle. I read somewhat voraciously, any opportunity to read is seized upon.


Joan's theme though is specifically books about beer, and naturally I have a fair few, most that I use as reference books for my homebrew. Ray Daniel's 'Designing Great Beers' is an essential source for homebrewers in my world. Sure the history side of things can be questionable at times, but the analyses of various styles is very helpful when I am in the process of creating a recipe to try out. Just as valuable is Ron Pattinson's 'The Homebrewer's Guide to Vintage Beers', and while I have only brewed a straight up version of 4 or 5 of the beers there, I use the book again as a reference, looking for patterns in behaviour that I can interpret in my own brewing. The third in my triumvirate of regular reference reads for brewing might come as more of a surprise given how rarely I brew Belgian style beers, but Stan Hieronymous' 'Brew Like A Monk' is great reading.

When it comes though to beer books that I enjoy reading purely for their own sake, there is one writer that for me stands head and shoulders above us all (and admittedly I am stretching the definition of 'book' just a bit here), Evan Rail.

It may be that I am slightly biased given that Evan and I shared many a pint when I lived in the Czech Republic, but whether directly writing about beer or not I thoroughly enjoy reading his work. Evan's Kindle Singles are the kind of writing to which I can really only aspire, often witty, deeply profound, and drenched with experience. The singles 'Why Beer Matters', 'In Praise of Hangovers', and 'Why We Fly' are all wonderful, and the half hour or so it takes to read each one is to lose yourself for a bit as Evan draws you into his world.

Given that it is Friday, go download those three of Evan's titles on Amazon, sit with a pint or two of your favourite beer (it really doesn't matter what) and discover, or discover again, a fantastic writer.