Beer by Design

One of the good things to come of 2020 is that Pete Brown wrote two books! The second is all about branding. Beer by Design talks about design from the marketing and appreciation angle. That last part is key because you can have an effective design but it I should just a literal flash in the pan. The examples shown in the announcement post alone are really cool to look at. Put this on your Christmas list.

For the Defense

This is a very thorough dismantling of a word through the lens of marketing, economics, history, philosophy and even social media. And I dug every moment because it did not play favorites or set- up straw men to easily knock down. This is rigorous and since I recently watched Hamilton, it made me think of the Federalist papers a bit.

Brown starts with using a (5) part definition of a craft brewery written by Dan Shelton of Shelton Brothers. Those qualifications were ingredients, methods and equipment, spirit, control and ownership structure. Which is probably too much to have to apply to each and every brewery. By the end, Brown has whittled and refined it into (4) comprised of skill/creativity, quality, autonomy and motivation. Bigger ideas but also simpler to understand in my opinion. With only motivation being somewhat opaque.

Some other cool ideas that I ran across:

Skilled craftspeople are considered less than a typical pencil pusher.

Workers should also spend time thinking and thinkers spend more time working.

Craft is a moving target

The concept of under erasure. Where a word is inaccurate in explaining or describing an idea but is also necessary so it is shown but crossed out.

If you haven’t noticed, I highly recommend buying this. Worth every penny.

The Art of Beer

Regular readers will know that I buy pretty much any book that U.K. writer Pete Brown does, and he has one project about ready for sale and another in the pipeline.

The self-published, Craft: An Argument, will be published on June 25th in England and hopefully the same day or soon after for us in the US.

The next in line is a CAMRA published book,  The Art of Beer will be “about beer design and packaging, published by CAMRA Books in October 2020.”

Brown has marketing on his CV so this won’t be just a picture book. Expect some history and marketing insight from someone who has been around the British beer industry for some time now.

Book Review – Miracle Brew by Pete Brown

I Kindle’d up this book with a bit of wariness. The weakest part of most beer books is the discussion of ingredients and how-to brew but Pete Brown has done a well-executed deep dive into historical fact and straight up fun facts in his book, Miracle Brew.

Here’s a couple of the fun facts:
“…in French, wine is masculine and beer is feminine.”
“So there’s a cloud of booze at the centre of the galaxy, just hanging in space…”

There are anecdotes about Michael Jackson, yeast banks and old time hop picking summer “vacations” in Kent that really flesh out the main sections of Malt, Water, Hops and Yeast. You learn about each of the ingredients but not in a stuffy way. It feels like a good museum exhibit where you go from one painting to the next with a guide explaining each one.

I was a bit flummoxed by the ending though which had to alternative takes on the Reinheitsgebot. That and a shooting whilst visiting Munich really put a pall on the book that was not there before. Primarily that is due to me and the shooting and bombing that seem to be nearly everyday here in America. But it seemed out of place. A late tie it up with a bow kind of diminishes that downer but not really.

But overall, this book really delivers. Not more so than in the old adage that Brown relays, “We don’t make beer; we simply gather the ingredients in the right place. The yeast makes the beer.” Brown has certainly gathered the ingredients in Miracle Brew.

A Book & A Beer – The Apple Orchard by Pete Brown

When I hear that Pete Brown has a new book out, it goes on my radar to read as soon as I can. He has the ability to be folksy and technical and to cut through the noise surrounding a topic. Be it IPA history or Shakespeare’s Local.

The history of how apples spread across the country is a fascinating one followed by the fascinating topic of how to graft an apple tree to make sure you get the same type of apple, as is re-creating heritage apples and creating new apple varieties.

I mean who amongst us knew that apples basically migrated from Kazakhstan? I liked that the book was structured to follow the growing season and that each chapter had such tidbits of information. Once I grew accustomed to the fact that this was more of a shallow skim across the world of apples with some deeper dives, the book grew on me more and more.

For someone with little knowledge of apples barring a few trips to Oak Glen here in SoCal, this book provides a lot of fun facts.

To drink, well, it’s obvious ain’t it?

Golden State Cider
“Mighty Dry is a champagne-like cider that pairs perfectly with any moment of the day. It’s just dry enough. It’s perfectly balanced, and crispy (if not crispier) as biting into a freshly picked apple.”

101 Cider House
Scrumpy, the flagship cider is their hazy meets barnyard version

Reverend Nat’s
“My newest release is Revival Hard Apple and I couldn’t be more thrilled to share it with you. I start with a secret blend of Washington-grown apples and add piloncillo, dark brown evaporated cane juice, purchased direct from Michoacan, Mexico. I ferment this dark base to all the way to dry using two exotic yeast strains: a beer yeast known for the round mouthfeel in Saisons and a rarely-used secret culture which produces aromas of pineapple, guava and peaches. This cider is brilliantly golden in color and deeply complex while remaining subtly familiar, with just the right amount of sweetness and acidity to be an everyday beverage.”

What are You Drinking?

Readers of the blog know that I am both a big beer book fan and a big Pete Brown fan. And now he has a story to tell and he has chosen to use Unbound which is basically a book Kickstarter and the premise is simple…

“Beer is traditionally made from four natural ingredients: malted barley, hops, yeast and water, and each of these has an incredible story to tell.”

I am looking forward to this coming out.  A layman’s take on the ingredients and the people behind them should have contain some golden nuggets of beer information.

Shakespeare’s Local

How does this sound for beer and history. (Two great topics to me)….
“Welcome to the George Inn near London Bridge; a cosy, wood-pannelled, galleried coaching house a few minutes’ walk from the Thames. Grab yourself a pint, listen to the chatter of the locals and consider this: who else has made this their local over the last 600 years? Chaucer and his fellow pilgrims almost certainly drank in the George on their way out of London to Canterbury. Shakespeare may well have popped in from the nearby Globe for a pint, and we know that Dickens definitely did. Mail carriers changed their horses here, before heading to all four corners of Britain — while sailors drank here before visiting all four corners of the world… The pub, as Pete Brown points out, is the ‘primordial cell of British life’ and in the George he has found the perfect case study. All life is here, from murderers, highwaymen and ladies of the night to gossiping pedlars and hard-working clerks. So sit back and watch as buildings rise and fall over the centuries, and ‘the beer drinker’s Bill Bryson’ (TLS) takes us on an entertaining tour through six centuries of history, through the stories of everyone that ever drank in one pub.”

Click HERE to learn even more about the pints that flowed at the George

Beer Academy

Readers of this blog will know that I frequently post about beer-y items that Pete Brown has talked about previously and today’s post is no exception. We head to Canada and the Beer Academy.

According to their website they are “a small-batch craft brewery, a tasting room and beer shop, and an inviting beer café where guests can relax with their favourite pint. The venue also features an experiential event space that includes a sensory tasting bar, a beer-lover’s library, and a tribute to the history of the world’s greatest beverage.”


The Firkin for September 2012

Pete Brown author of the upcoming Shakespeare’s Local amongst other great beer books posed the question, “How Many Beer Bloggers Does it Take to Screw in a Lightbulb?” It was good for some laughs. My favorite one-liner was “Is it an artisan produced bulb, or mass produced yellow fizz of light?”

Despite the fact that tongue was firmly in cheek for many responses it got me to pondering why beer blogging has a less than stellar reputation. I know that blogging in general is considered less noble pursuit and more navel gazing. But why is everyone who blogs about beer painted with the same brush of disdain?

Granted, since I blog about beer and have gone to two of three beer blogger conventions and am part of the Los Angeles blogger group makes me a little touchy on the subject because I am being stereotyped along with everyone else. I have the mentality of a newspaper that publishes something slightly anti-Republican and gets slapped with the “lamestream” media tag.

Part of the problem lies with people who think that beer snobs and beer bloggers are one in the same. Whereas in my interactions with bloggers most are of the geeky Comic-Con variety and not the beer whale hunting, non pilsner drinking up turned nose stripe. So that is an issue that beer bloggers are going to have to tackle in the future. How to tell the origin story of beer bloggers and show that we are a fun lot to have a beer with.

Another part of the puzzle is an inherited problem from doing blogs. They are not a business. They are a passion. And usually a one person passion at that. Imagine writing a newspaper article or magazine piece without any editorial assistance. Of course errors are going to happen. There are probably enough grammatical issues on my blog alone to raise E.B. White from the dead and then put him back in his coffin. Until there is a HuffPost of craft beer, this will remain. Again, we bloggers need to either ‘fess up to our literary shortcomings or sell it as what makes our blog a personal and honest stop on the ale trail.

The one thing that I think will really break the logjam is that if a really wide variety of people start, continue or change the focus of their blogs to topics dear to their heart. Be it beer cocktails, women and beer, beer in out of way spots in the U.S., sports and beer or writing just about Belgian beers. This will break the mold and force readers and commenters to re-think what a beer blog is supposed to be.

Even if nothing changed, there are a wide variety of beer blogs out there today that need to be critiqued on a blog by blog basis and not just rejected out of hand. You wouldn’t review a movie you hadn’t seen and the same applies to craft beer blogs.

Session # 63

This month is being hosted by Pete Brown and here is the topic at hand….
“My approach to beer writing is by no means the only approach, but I write to try to encourage other people to share the simple joy of beer as much as I do, to switch on people who drink beer but don’t particularly care about it that much, to suggest to them that there’s so much more they might enjoy. No one says you have to do it this way, and no one ever made me the spokesperson for beer. It’s just how I decided to write, in the same way others decided to write in an opinionated way about what they love, and what they hate.

So in that spirit, my choice of topic – with 62 topics already covered – is this: simply, the Beer Moment.

What is it?

Well, what is it to you? What does that phrase evoke for you?

That’s the most important thing here. Switch off and float downstream, what comes to mind? Don’t analyse it – what are the feelings, the emotions?

I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot recently, because I’ve been talking about it to various people who are working hard to try to improve the image of beer in the UK. Because whether we articulate it or not, whether we drink vile, sunstruck Corona or barrel aged imperial stout brewed with weasel shit, it’s about the moment far more than the liquid itself. The only people who disagree with me on this are people I wouldn’t want to share a beer with.

The moment – for me – is relaxation, reward, release, relief and refreshment. It’s a moment to savour, a moment of mateship, potential, fulfilment, anticipation, satisfaction, and sheer bliss.

It’s different from the moment you drink wine or spirits – it’s more egalitarian, more sociable. It’s not just about the flavour, nor the alcohol. It’s about the centuries of tradition and ritual, the counterpoint to an increasingly stressful life, and the commonality, the fact that it means the same thing to so many.

At least – I think it does. What does it mean to you?”

There are so many individual moments related to specific beers or brewery tours or craft beer events where it seems like time stops and all of the thoughts pinging around my brain, all of the stresses and world events are shut down and focused on the here and now. Probably akin to meditation if I had the patience to practice that art form.

That pinpoint of time, to me, is not limited to craft beer. It is embedded into life. Some last longer and either “embiggen” the soul as the Simpsons would say or make my heart grow three sizes in the words of Dr. Seuss.

Unfortunately, the watched kettle does not boil (to keep using allusions) and to expect or try to manufacture these “moments” decreases the chances of experiencing one. Barring sunrise at the Grand Canyon or being courtside for a Portland Trailblazer NBA championship which are flat out automatically awe inspiring and thus “moments”.

But back to the point before I wander too far off. Filed under great beer moments in the old memory cabinet is a sub-folder that I treasure the most. Those magical beer surprises. Be it stumbling upon an old train station in Leipzig and having my first Gose or sitting on a bus near Greg Koch as he texted Sam Calagione. But the one surprise that I sometimes look too hard for is when a beer hits that sweet spot and all of the flavors and aromas just explode and all I want to do is buy a case of the stuff that minute.

The most recent example of that is Wookey Jack from Firestone-Walker. I am not a big Black IPA fan. Nor do I have a horse in the naming race that is attached to the style. But I had seen it recommended and Firestone-Walker is no brewing slouch so I popped the cap and was greeted with a big vegetal, grassy, grapefruit rind aroma. My first thought was that it was just too much. But I bravely soldiered on. And for about five sips, that burst of aroma calmed and the rye spice and citra hop lept to the forefront and I was stopped in my tracks. The cat, the TV and the nightly chores all faded to white noise and I was in the eye of the moment.

The last tastes did not reach those sublime heights as the maltiness chimed in and pushed the lemon and spice to the side but for 1/2 a bottle that beer was golden.

There will be more moments like this in the future and I will remember each fondly for that fraction of peace that was given.