So it’s that time of year again; the nominal end. I’m coming to you now — with some difficulty, since there’s an unresolved glitch in my blog software and the app-plus-tablet workaround is clunky enough to spawn whole new profanities1 — from an excruciatingly welcome holiday. 2014 turned out, shall we say, sub-optimal in a number of ways from trifling to towering. Grand plans were, as a result, sidelined momentarily or thwarted entirely and it proved tricky to find the brainspace and the peculiar timing required to get much done here.
But no matter, right? Because you’ve all been reading Dylan’s ‘The Bottleneck’, and Jase’s ‘Brew Hui’, and Jono’s articles, and Dominic’s rants, and — I could go on. Any number of things through the year reaffirmed the notion that (to invert Hunter’s Maxim) beer people are good people2 and kept me interested, enthused and passionate about this stuff as a topic, a subculture, a pass-time — and an enjoyably-elaborate way of lightening the wallet and filling the bladder — even as I’ve been bystander more often than partisan. I’m also stubborn enough, and sufficiently unfazed by deadlines, that I’m happy just transferring most of 2014’s To Do List over into next year, anyhow.
However you choose to mark the calendar-change this evening — if indeed at all — I hope you have excellent company, delicious solids and liquids to enjoy, and that your next twelve months are an improvement on the last, whatever kind of baseline they proved to be. And if you’re out and about, be extra nice to your bar staff; odds are they’re overdue a good break. Cheers!
1: Though it’s still awesomely futuristic, I have to admit even as I write-off proper linkages and footnote formatting as utterly beyond me. Sorry, style-guide pedants; I hope you still count me as one of you and it only took me 12 days — nary a blip, in geological time; let’s have some perspective, here — to find and (it seems!) fix the bug, and regain finer fiddly-bits control. ↑ 2: With special mention to Emma and George, who first transcend “beer people” and then also belong in the smaller-still “best people” category. ↑
Following straight on — after a quick re-play of the introduction, thanks to some clever editing by George — from last weekend’s episode, we’re delighted to present the second half of our Very Special podcast takeover on Women & Beer, by women, drinking beer. Megan, Beth, Hayley and Steph continue their conversation, covering topics as diverse as canned beer, food matching, ‘extreme’ beers, festivals, labeling and tastings — as well as discussing the potential need for (and nuances of) dedicated women’s groups in the community, the role of (and need for) overt feminism in the beer business.
Massive thanks to all four of our substitute hosts; I’ve really enjoyed listening to these episodes and hope you all have, as well. George and I will be back behind the microphone soon, and should also have something to share from our Beervana Sessions, shortly.
The show opens with the discussion of Beer Of The Week #2: Renaissance ‘Bloody R.I.P.A.’, which was opened at about 24.30 of part 1. Beer of the Week #3: Rodenbach, from a can, appears around 6.00 into this part. Beer of the Week #4: Almanac ‘Barrel Noir’ takes over at 29.00, and then — getting close to threatening our standing record of six, set with Stu McKinlay — Beer Of The Week #5 Mikkeller ‘Brunch Weasel’, finishes things off from about 52.00.
For a Very Special episode, George and I relinquish the microphone entirely to four of our friends. We’d wanted to dedicate an episode entirely to ‘Women & Beer’ for some time and eventually realised that we were sufficiently blessed for potential guests — and also sufficiently lacking in personal experience, for obvious reasons — that a takeover episode made all kinds of sense.
It feels strange to show-note an episode I didn’t make, so I’m going to leave this one mostly un-annotated, other than the following little details:
Comments are, as always, welcome here or on the Beer Diary’s Facebook page. In addition, all four substitute hosts are active on Twitter: Megan, Beth, Hayley & Steph. If a reference needs clarifying, a correction submitted, or any such thing, you are particularly spoilt for ways in which to have your say.
Beers Of The Week in this part are: #1 Panhead Vindicator (at around 1.30) and #2 Renaissance Bloody R.I.P.A. (from about 24.30).
So,1 as may or may not already be obvious, Beervana is nearly upon us. As it does every year, now, it’s brought a swirl of beautiful madness with it — the City is brimming with beer geeks and the calendar is crammed with things for them to over-occupy their time. Working in the beer business, though, can complicate the enjoyment of this week a little precisely because there is such a glorious mountain of stuff going on. Spare an extra thought for your barpeople; they’re likely pulling long hours and achingly envious of your ability to flit from spot to spot.
There’s a lot going on in my little corner(s) of the industry, as well: flinging beer hither and yon — slowly driven bonkers by the cautious ordering of restaurants unaccustomed to the enthusiasm of the beer-drinking public this time of year, and so requiring re-up after re-up — and lending a minor hand in the pile of other projects entailed by a day job at a brewery that goes utterly batshit on the eventsand special releases fronts. So I’m mostly hanging out for the festival itself, since I’m missing out on most of its satellites.
And I am, admittedly, superkeen. I stand by my sympathy for people who’ll now skip Beervana — feeling it’s outgrown them or they’ve outgrown it — in this rich ecosystem of ours, but I always enjoy it as pilgrim, participant, hypercritical observer, and raving evangelist. And as performer again, this year, with the Beer Diary Podcast: Live! on each evening, which should be buckets of fun — and the audience is open to all comers.
This is the big week in beer, in New Zealand. It’s our Christmas. Imagine how run off your feet you’d be, if you were an elf, and bolt that to the giddy excitement you felt when you were a kid. It’s both at once, and it’s bloody marvellous. Bring it on.2
1: If this post’s title earworms you as quickly and strongly as it did me, I make no apologies. ↑ 2: Meanwhile, I should reiterate that the placeholding ‘Station Ident’ idea is one shamelessly stolen from Honorary Friend Of The Show Warren Ellis. If you’re not reading his notes at morning.computer, you’re missing out on some of the best short-form stuff around. (And that really is a valid URL, now; the third age of the internet is really going to be strange.) ↑
An episode with no beer. Well, none were consumed — out of a vague nod to Dry July, but more a result of us both being in losing phases of the age-old battle of Monkey v Microbe. We ponder Dry July, as a charitable enterprise (we’re unconvinced) and (much better) a way for people to test and/or manage their relationship with one of humanity’s favourite drugs. Meanwhile, we drink some worthwhile non-beers,1 and I have a little ramble on the social history of tea and coffee and whatnot. And an episode this time of year wouldn’t be complete without a looking-forward toward the beer awards and Beervana.
Speaking of which — we’re going to be recording two episodes at Beervana itself, and you’re more than welcome to join the audience as we talk beer with some special visiting guests. Attendance is free and there’ll be Beers Of The Week for all. We’re on at 8pm on Friday, 7pm Saturday.
(4.00) Botswanan of the Week: Mma Rmotswe. The books are formulaic but enjoyable, and I thought the TV series was particularly well done. I’m sure I’m slightly biased because the author is also a big name in bioethics, but still.
(4.30) Beverage Of The Week #1: Gingerella. Tasty stuff indeed.
(22.50) The Beer Diary Podcast: Live! Friday at Saturday evening, no cover charge, with guests and beers-of-the-week for all. Should be a lark. Come along, if you’re in town and attending Beervana — and tell your friends.
(23.40) Beervana exhibitors. Australians aplenty, plus lots of new faces. But absolutely no Boundary Road / Independent / Asahi, for an apparently-hilarious reason. And a reminder about Beer Festival Economics.
(32.00) The rich ecosystem of festivals. You do see a few people wondering if Beervana isn’t for them anymore. To which I say 1) it’s possible that your tastes have changed more than the festival has, and 2) that’s not really a problem; there’s still so much for you to go to and go bananas about.
(33.00) The new ‘beer manufacturer’ award — overdue, and missing the point.
(38.00) Bouquet & Brickbat / Tip o’ the Hat & Wag o’ the Finger: We really do need a name for this segment; suggestions welcome. I keep getting stuck on ‘Cheers & Jeers’, but there’s probably something better lurking somewhere in the æther. But anyway — Yay Tuatara, for doing Interesting Things. (The new CEO is Richard Shirtcliffe, but he’s formerly of Phil & Ted’s; same industry, broadly, better name.) They’re obviously looking to restore their ‘Wellington’ cred and their ‘cool’, but that’s not a bad goal. And — Boo Dominion Breweries / Heineken global for using the same (bad) joke on two different billboard campaigns, and for the world’s worst mixed pack.
(48.50) Recommendations:Tuatara ‘Black’ — I’ve still only had the ‘Toasted’ one, but hear good things about the coffee and chocolate incarnations. It is worth noting, though, that they haven’t “re-brewed” Delicious Neck, it turns out; they’ve re-blended it — whether for reasons of deadline and schedule or just lack of inspiration, I hear the What We Do In The Shadows tie-in wasn’t a custom brew, but a blend of existing stock. Tasty, all the same, but still. Also Big Awesome Trappist-y Things, and Hallertau Funkonnay. And: #freshisnotbest; build a cellar.
(52.00) Friend Of The Show: As noted in the last episode, it seems Wil Wheaton did get his beer from us, which is awesome. For this week: Warren Ellis — creator of a bajillion things, almost too numerous to list, that we’re mutually hugely fond of.
1: It took me forever to find a non-beer photo in my collection. That coffee was me on my way to the Winter Ale Festival, last year, which I photographed on a ‘real’ (i.e., film) camera for the first time in years. Hence the terrible shot. Despite being an avid consumer of tea and coffee, I guess I don’t make an ‘occasion’ of it often enough. I should get out more — and take my camera with me. ↑ 2: On a hunch, I did actually contact Roy Morgan Research concerning the above-linked paper wherein ciders allegedly ‘overtook’ RTDs in popularity / consumption. And yes, the data was purely unmoderated self-reported numbers from asking people “Have you bought a cider?” in the relevant time period. The real lesson — since Rekorderlig, Wild Side, etc., etc., are all thought of as ciders by most people when they’re anything but — is that the industrial manufacturers have been successful in their bid to ‘re-brand’ their RTDs. ↑
Feminism, as they say, is1 the radical idea that women are people too. By very simple extension, women can be beer enthusiasts, bar owners, beer writers, and brewers. There’s a lot more to say on the subject, obviously, but it’s not really my gig to hold forth given my obvious lack of lived experience — a Very Special Podcast Episode was recorded this weekend which will probably elaborate thereon, instead, and that reminded me about this tasty beer and its somewhat-unusual context.
LBQ — that is to say, Little Beer Quarter; a well-established bar here in town which happens to be owned by women — was hosting a mini-tap-takeover by Moa, a company with something of a well-deserved reputation of boorish, sexist and otherwise-bigoted marketing. The high-water mark, such as it is,2 was perhaps their relentlessly shitty IPO document, but their offenses — both stunningly major and perplexingly minor — would probably be just too depressingly exhausting to fully catalogue. Their outright dismissal of women as potential consumers (nevermind investors or just non-ornaments) sees them fail at the earliest possible moral hurdle and earned Moa a spot on my own personal (and mercifully short) Boycott List.
The tension here — that between the character of the bar and of the brewery3 — was noted a fair amount online, with many surprised that LBQ would give Moa the oxygen, after freely taking (gentle) jabs before. Personally, it was admittedly gratifying to be reminded that I wasn’t alone in holding a grudge. A lot of people will independently bring up their history of appalling marketing and cite it as a reason for not buying their beer, skipping their offering at a festival, or not going to an event of theirs. We are, after all, enjoying a preposterous embarrassment of riches in our options in the beer world, so it’s relatively easy to boycott something for over a year and not really feel like you’re missing out at all. Consumer choice wide enough allows consumer judgement on any criteria they feel like applying — which is precisely how things should be. Moa, it has to be said, had been keeping their heads relatively low, lately;4 it looks like they thought they could just slink away from their prior bullshit and have everyone quietly forget about it — and it looks like they were wrong. Re-starting with a sincere “we screwed up — we acted gross, and we’re not going to do it again; we’re actually mostly going to get out of the way and let the beer speak for itself” could do a lot.5 They’ve conspicuously failed to make any kind of attempt in that direction, and that’s unfortunate for all concerned.
And maybe LBQ were still giving them a nudge in the ribs even as they hosted this perhaps-premature event, because on the afternoon of the takeover, they announced that they’d tapped a keg of the Beer Baroness-brewed edition of ‘Unite’ Pale Ale, the International Women’s Day collaboration beer. So I had that, for my own point-making circumstantial reasons, but I’ll eagerly have it again for its inherent deliciousness because it was just splendid. Nice how that works out, sometimes. A zippy little sessionable pale ale, it was very much My Thing — and a fresh batch is reputedly On The Way. The titular Baroness is Ava Wilson, who is also the manager of the ridiculously wonderful Pomeroy’s Pub, convenor for the NZ chapter of the Pink Boots Society (soon to have its inaugural meeting, and the mothership of which organised the global brewday), seminar-wrangler for the Great Kiwi Beer Festival, and an all-round superawesome individual. If you, like Moa’s marketing suits, live in the same country as Ava and you still don’t think women could be “beer people” then I submit that you are an ignorant retrograde.
I would at least hope — in a rare fit of optimism — that the craft beer ‘community’ was on the whole a welcoming, safe, and enjoyable place for women to be. Better than ‘the average’ (non-beer bars and festivals, the public at large..?), maybe, somehow. But it’s a long way from perfect, and every awful bit of sexist branding,† all the tired old stereotypes and presumptions that never quite die (see, e.g., how often people think “girly beer” might actually be a category, and what it’d consist in, and why), and every crappy bit of treatment women still endure in bars — they’re all worth calling out and resisting. So yes, among my self-chosen descriptors, I’ll wear “feminist”6 as happily as I do “beer geek”.
Original notes: Beer Baronness ‘Unite’ Pale Ale 17/7/14 @ LBQ, amid a Moa tap takeover, so at least partially for irony + point-making. But the thing itself hardly needs an excuse; really nicely zippy + zesty hoppy little 4% thing. Not hugely weather-appropriate, but the bar is super cozy anyway. Lots of interesting reactions to this event, but my take is just that it’s premature. Apologetic fronting-up, then the charm offensive and re-focus on the beer.
1: If I felt like quibbling — and, let’s face it, I basically always do — I’d say “begins with” rather than “is”. But it’s a damn fine slogan, and at least damn close to the mark. ↑ 2: With “water” in a decidedly euphemistic sense, let’s say. ↑ 3: “…or at least its marketing department”, as the usual caveat goes — including from me (e.g., footnote 1 in my post on the IPO itself). And while it is true that the beers range from fine to great and the brewer himself is indeed a lovely chap, there comes a point where something goes on long enough and everyone involved really is at least a little bit culpable by association. ↑ 4: Well, other than hiring Shane Warne to front their product in Australia. Which makes little goddamn sense for several reasons, not least of which the boofhead reputation he’s transparently struggling to shake. Against their otherwise softly-softly tactics of late, I’m pretty much at a loss to explain that one. Perhaps it’s a mistake to try to attribute a rationality behind it at all; it might just show their instincts. ↑ 5: Just because someone will always come along and set a worse example, I suppose it’s at least a relief they aren’t just trying to obliviate their past misdeeds and erase them from the record (except for one example that we’ll get to later…) — unlike WilliamsWarn, whose foray into #everydaysexism was made all the sadder for their reaction to criticism. ↑ 6:Simplicter. I was in the habit of saying “~ ally”, but I’ve lately been convinced otherwise. ↑ †: Coincidentally, in the inadvertent extra delay in getting this online, the guys at the Ale Of A Time podcast uploaded an episode wherein they also address the sexist branding / beer-naming problem. So at least it’s getting a little more air and pushback — though I take a stronger line than both of them. ↑
I’ve been meaning to re-read Alice Galletly’s marvellous ‘Beer For A Year’ for ages. Despite best intentions, my own output is still at a low ebb — you should see the brimming Drafts folder I have on here1 — which often prompts me to go back through things I’ve enjoyed reading and which spurred me to write more. I bring up certain B.F.A.Y. posts regularly as I hack away at something vaguely related — but it’s high time I enjoyed it properly again: chronologically and cover to cover.
And in one of those marvellous coincidences that my brain seems enduringly capable of creating — where procrastination leads to eventually-excellent timing — I started re-reading Alice’s first post with my coffee this morning: bang on its three year anniversary.
So in lieu of umpteen neglected Sunday Readings, I gift to you 365(+) posts of excellent ramblings; wherein an ‘outsider’ with a wonderfully unpretentious enthusiasm undertakes a Herculean task, repeatedly doubts her wisdom for doing so before [SPOILER ALERT] ultimate triumph, instantly falls into an excellent system of hypothetical-relationship-based beer taxonomy, and myriad other delights. I’m less than a quarter of my way through the re-read, but loving it all over again already — it’s well suited to binge-reading, with that same joy in overdose and thematic overload you get from wallowing in a whole season of a favourite TV show.
1: I mean you actually should. As in, I’m trying to finish them off and get them publishable, I really am. You’ll have to excuse some fairly dated references in the mix. But I suppose that’s always been my thing, in a way. It turns out even self-imposed deadlines make that delightful wooshing sound. ↑