Drunken Speculation

MR | Fourth Edition, September 2014

Coat_of_arms_of_the_Solomon_IslandsLast week on Drunken Speculation, we, uh…well, this is embarrassing. We don’t seem to have written anything.

To be fair, I’ve only got a handful of articles that I want to write this year but none of them are lined up and when shit hits the fan, beer blogging is the first thing that gets cut, which is the way it should be. So let’s pretend I wrote this fairly glorious review on Brewed, Crude and Bitter (which I patently didn’t because it’s on the wrong blog) because it would be a shame to quote it below and take it out of context.

Despite, or perhaps because of, a terrible week, I was still drinking beer. My Beer of the Week is the Mountain Goat Summer Ale. It’s back and this was the first time I’d seen it available – at the Archive from behind the bar. It has a much bigger biscuit malt character than I remember but it was preceded by three Pacific Ales, so my hop detection skills may have been overwhelmed.

To the Tweet(s) of the Week!

Firstly, some good news that GABS will be in Sydney. For me, travelling only half the distance, even if it is after the Melbourne festival and not part of Good Beer Week has a certain appeal to it.

This I just found amusing. Sounds better than “un-balanced American pale ale” as someone was touting a couple of weeks back.

Moving on to the other highlights from last week:

The Beerhive – A beery political question

The leadup to this election has been like no other. Dirty politics and five eyes allegations have dominated, but the resulting furor has left little room for other important questions – namely about beer.

Recently Garage Project asked the following on twitter: “Why isn’t lowering the excise rate for independent breweries with the goal of greater job and export creation an election topic?”

They have a good point. Why not? It may not be an important a question as solving child poverty or climate change, but for readers of this blog I’m sure it’s of interest so I decided to ask.

The election was held yesterday and seems to have returned the National Party to power. One thing that’s slightly off the topic but grating to me is that Garage Project haven’t explained how lowering excise rates for independent breweries will create jobs. Or if there are negative impacts on lowering excise rates that outweigh the benefits of job creation. Also, why only independent breweries? Are the multinationals not capable of creating jobs as well? Rather than achieving the lofty goal of creating more jobs, it seems the little brewery is engaging is a bit of old fashioned rent seeking – something only big business with armies of lobbyists are supposed to do.

New York Times – Pabst is Sold to a Russian Beverage Company

A Russian beverage company said on Thursday that it was acquiring the Pabst Brewing Company, which makes the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer popular with barflies and hipsters alike and other brands like Colt 45 and Old Milwaukee.

The company did not disclose terms of the transaction, but people briefed on the matter said the price was more than $700 million in cash.

The buyer is Oasis Beverages, a Russian brewer and beverages distributor. Backing Oasis is TSG Consumer Partners, an American private equity firm focused on consumer goods, which will take a minority stake.

Beervana – The Birthplace of Modern Beer

Pilsner is the world’s most popular beer, by miles and miles.  It’s made in every country where beer is allowed, and owns something like–just spitballing now–90%+ of the total world production.  It’s almost never the case that we can trace some seismic event back to a single place and know the single moment, but with pilsner’s birth, we can. No doubt everyone in blogland knows the story, but here’s a few sentences to set the stage.

Back in the late 1830s, the beer in Pilsen (about sixty miles southwest of Prague) was bad.  So bad, in fact, that in 1838, local officials rounded up 36 barrels of the stuff and dumped it.  For the most part, Czechs made ales then, but they were aware of lagers and wanted some of their own. Local burghers–citizens with special rights to brew–decided to take action.  They hired a local architect and sent him off to Munich to learn about how lager breweries were built, because they aimed to step up their game and make it as well as the Bavarians.  To make sure the beer was properly made, they even hired a Bavarian brewer to make the beer.  As a final touch, they built a kiln at the brewery “equipped in the English manner” that could produce pale malts.

This is Why I’m Drunk – Identity Crisis: The Rita-ization of Heineken

In recent years, Heineken has fallen on hard times with an American audience, which, in its move toward craft beer, has left the green bottle of the Dutch brewing company behind. Sales of Heineken have continuously fallen in the U.S. over the past decade, with one estimation of a drop of one-third. In addition to problems with the “classic” Heineken brand, Heineken Premium Light is a failed experiment, ranking 17th in light beer dollar sales, and Amstel Light, owned by the company, has fallen off the map so drastically in the last few years it’s not even considered worth tracking in sales analysis.

This is in spite of relative success elsewhere in the world, where the brewer still performs well in Europe and the UK. But in a beer world that is continuously expanding and innovating, America is still a “beacon market” by the company, even if Heineken may be considered a stodgy, European relic trying to be seen as hip and popular to an ever-changing consumer base.

And therein lies the company’s main problem and what’s holding them back from finding a solution.

Total Ales – The Brewery That Cried Hells

The further I delved into this mess the more I began to believe that Camden were in the right and that Redwell were taking advantage of previous mistakes. Camden’s dispute with Weird Beard (that also involved BrewDog) made all three breweries look bad but on this occasion the consumers rallied behind Weird Beard and Camden earned the bully-boy reputation that Redwell have used to their advantage on this occasion. In my opinion this is now water under the bridge, mistakes were made but in the end the name of the offending beer was changed.

Redwell are no stranger to legal disputes themselves having had a wrangling with Red Bull who wrote a letter asking Redwell to change the name of their brewing operation. Redwell took this to the national media with accusations of corporate bullying and Red Bull eventually backed down with Redwell’s own profile being raised significantly.

I might have a glass of beer – If Scotland goes independent

It was a time of confidence and record-breaking sales of beer, despite early signs of economic decline. S&N demolished the old Fountain Brewery in Edinburgh and built a vast new complex in its place to produce more and more Tartan Special and McEwan’s Export, believing the thirsty long-haired young men in denim who still poured in and out of the shipyards and steelworks every day would be there for ever.

If you think much of the culture of beer drinking is macho now, you should have seen Scotland in the 1970s. I am reminded of a throwaway Billy Connolly line from a routine about going to house parties: “You’d better get some Bacardi – there might be women there.” This is actually quite revealing: it tells us both that women didn’t drink beer, and that it was not unusual for a drinking party to be an all-male gathering.

I’m not particularly timely in sharing this, as Scotland has decided in the negative but there’s more than just the independence debate as this post shines a light on recent Scottish beer history.

Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog – The Village Inn, 1944

He doesn’t, however, advocate total abstinence — the dignified enjoyment of a ‘pint of cider or bitter beer’ meets his approval — but there is a sense that he sees serious boozing as a distraction from the really important functions of a pub: political debate, gossip and the playing of traditional games. Many village pub landlords, he observes, are teetotal and regulate the drinking of their customers.

The greatest threat to the integrity of this institution — he keeps using that word, and it’s an interesting one — is the influence of outsiders…

Pivni Filosof – This is perhaps my last word in “Craft Beer”

Unfortunately, some people in the industry have used those attributes as some sort of foundation to build an “us vs them” rhetoric that, instead of sticking to “we are good and our products are great”, will point, disproportionately, to “they (the big brewers) are bad and their products are crap”, creating in the process the mythology of a revolution, a movement that expects everyone to believe that a nano-brewery in North Carolina, Sierra Nevada, a brewpub in Wyoming, a neighbourhood bar, a liquor store, and the consumers are all in the same thing together, and that the consumer is in the front-line of “the war against crap beer”. And they’ve been successful in that, too, not only thanks to the people on the other side of the counter selling that tale, but also thanks to not few writers and bloggers—buying is not quite enough, you must evangelise the masses, spread the gospel of craft beer.

Other highlights were:

Anything I missed?

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